Head Maid Isla stayed even though it was only for a short while before she had to leave due to her duties. And as Asher fell asleep, leaving only Estelle and Nouvel standing by the fireplace, in silence.
Many things have happened after Keisha fell sick some time ago, especially the strained relationship between Estelle and Nouvel. Though Estelle stood with a calm face, it was undeniable that she was trying to hide the sour feeling that was enveloping her heart.
“It’s hard to read what’s on your mind, Sir.” Estelle, who couldn’t take her eyes off Keisha’s sleeping figure said quietly, yet it broke the silence.
These words that sounded so serene, actually hide a series of doubts, and also needles that trying to prick the other person’s conscience. Meanwhile, Nouvel didn’t say anything, not because he was out of words, but because he really didn’t understand what Estelle meant, so he just stared at Estelle in silence.
When their eyes met, it was then that Estelle realized that the person she was talking to didn’t understand the meaning behind her words.
She sighed, a mixture of relief and disbelief.
“I dare not guess what His Majesty the Emperor was thinking, but aren’t you clearly on His Majesty’s side?”
“Yes, I always am.”
And tonight, Nouvel’s voice, which usually always sounded friendly, didn’t sound so warm.; He sounds conflicted.
“Then, why you are here and not on the battlefield with His Majesty right now?”
“I’m here under—”
Before Nouvel could finish his sentence, Estelle cut him off with a rebuttal, “No, you stubbornly tried to stay in the palace and refused to join the army.”
Surprised, Nouvel turned to Estelle and gave her a confused look, as if he had been caught red-handed.
“How did you know that my lady?”
“Everyone knows about this, Sir. Especially, when your father, Duke Kellen made such a huge fuss over your decision that went against His Majesty the Emperor’s order.”
Silence. Both of them were silent until Estelle started to continue her words again, “Don’t you realized what you may suffer by deciding to stay beside the abandoned princess—”
“No-, Lady Estelle, it’s not true!” Nouvel quickly tries to refute Estelle’s words about Kieran having left Keisha, only to be denied by Estelle again.
“How are you so confident about that, sir? Even I have started to lose my confidence to believe such things.”
“Then, what about you?” This time Nouvel was the one who was questioning her. “You are still here even though you started to lose your confidence, aren’t we the same?”
“No, you are different. Rather than me, you have more things to lose; not only you but also your family will greatly suffer in politics, especially if one day, His Majesty finally comes to the decision to kick Her Highness out of the palace as well as from the imperial family registry. At the end, nothing will be left for you, but misery and misfortune.” Estelle said, she didn’t say that because she regretted her decision to enter the palace as a maid and Keisha’s nanny. How could she regret that when she did it by risking her own life to be by Keisha’s side?
Instead, she said this because she didn’t want Nouvel to have regrets later on, especially since they are not total strangers to each other. Estelle said that for someone she had shared memories with in the past, someone who was neither a stranger nor a friend, or a lover, but to an unforgettable acquaintance.
‘If only that time didn’t pass so quickly, no, if only I could stop the time at that moment, maybe…’
Estelle returns to reality when she hears Nouvel’s voice mumbled, “But I’m not so different than you…” He lowered his head, his eyes filled with mixed emotions, “I’m just… I’m just trying to keep a promise.”
For Nouvel, who only has pure intentions, he has no desire to start a fight with his father or turn his back on his master who is also his childhood friend, Kieran. He didn’t expect that to keep a promise he would raise such conflict politically and caused a rift in his relationship with his father.
“Even if you end up having to risk everything?” Estelle asked.
However, this was a promise he had to fulfill even if it meant risking his social standing as well as the right to inherit the title of duke Kellen from his father.
So, he answered without any hesitation, “Yes, this is a promise that I will keep even if I have to risk everything, including my life.”
Nouvel’s answer made Estelle turn towards him and freeze. When their eyes met, Estelle could see Nouvel’s eyes slowly turning red; Nouvel tried to hold back the emotional turmoil that suddenly came like a tsunami, he recalled that moment because for him no matter how much time had passed, or how many nights have come and gone he could never forget that day’s tragedy.
“It’s a promise made on blood and death.” Nouvel said in a choked voice, “Aren’t you here for the same reason, my lady?”
Everything was very clear to him. The reeks of blood on the battlefield, the scent of earth after the rain that came and went so quickly. In the midst of the fishy smell of blood hung in the air, Ellios Henyscira was in his arms; and Nouvel watched as the light in his eyes had dimmed and slowly fading away, he was dying. With halting breaths, Ellios was forcing himself to maintain his consciousness and as a weak, faint smile bloomed, he delivered his dying wish to Nouvel, who at that time could no longer contain his tears.
He hates to admit, it was truly an unforgettable smile. A smile that keeps resurfacing from time to time, in the form of a dream. A curse that is closer to a blessing, yet he would willingly fall into the curse’s embrace if it meant he could meet his best friend again.
Enjoy the ride~!