I bathed clean and put on my pajamas before I stood in front of the bedroom I was invited to with both a pillow and Tithé in my arms.
It was long past 1 am because of the masquerade and the incident with the dungeon.
Benjamin and Ganael were smiling behind me. This was no big deal, but I was getting a bit anxious.
‘Come on in!’
Once I knocked, someone shouted back in an energetic voice. It was Christelle.
I had spent the night outdoors with her before, but this was the first time I was sleeping in the same room as her.
I cautiously opened the door.
I said a single sentence, and the little troublemakers, plus Percy, all commented before running into the room.
The four people seated on the bed got up and bowed.
I wasn’t even from here, but seeing my friends while in pajamas made me feel awkward and embarrassed.
I bowed back as Lady Isabelle de Sarnez awkwardly smiled and answered.
“It was my daughter’s idea, your highness. Thank you very much for coming.”
“Yes, ma’am. Thank you for inviting me.”
I answered in a shrinking voice.
Christelle must have noticed that I was feeling awkward as she laughed mischievously.
Eva, who was in Vice Captain Élisabeth’s arms, looked completely awake despite the late hour.
She looked ready to stay up all night, fueled by her excitement about becoming the young Duchess.
The child looked at me and proclaimed in a loud voice.
“Pajama parties are really fun, your highness. We are all partying together in our castle today!”
“I’m looking forward to it. Don’t you agree, your highness?”
Flinch. The one who responded was Sir Johann, who was shamelessly standing there with a smile on his face.
I gasped after looking at him, wondering when he showed up.
‘He has no problems being the only guy in a bedroom full of women!’
That was how the room that Duchess Cecil Blanquer had set up for Duke Sarnez and his wife ended up becoming the location of our pajama party.
The reason was surprisingly simple.
Duke Sarnez came right as the masquerade started and left immediately. This made Christelle and Isabelle so angry that they decided to stay here together.
But when thinking more about it, they thought it was too much of a waste to spend such a special day like this.
They decided to call all their friends and set up multiple comfortable bedding on the ground.
They asked the staff at the Lord’s Castle for some alcohol and snacks while they put a lot of firewood into the fireplace.
– Crack, crack crack……
The sound of the firewood cracking was nice to hear. The candles lighting up the room also added to the cozy vibe.
I held a cup of warm cocoa with both hands as I sat down, looking toward the fireplace.
Next to me were the four divine beasts and one chimney bird, all fast asleep and curled up together into one bundle.
“Then the planned opening might be pushed back to November?”
“Yeah. I hope you can go with us too.”
“I can go if his highness accompanies his Royal Highness.”
Vice Captain Élisabeth and Ganael, who were basically stuck at the hips, whispered to each other and smiled.
I had thought they were as close as siblings when I didn’t know about their relationship, but now that I do know, their level of being lovey-dovey was no joke.
‘When will our main characters end up as such a lovely couple like them?’
I stared at the Imperial Crown Prince bastard, who was now seated next to me, looking as if he was posing for a nightgown photoshoot, with a sharp gaze.
‘I’m proud of him for not missing this sort of gathering, but……’
“If you have something you wish to say, speak.”
“It’s nothing, your Royal Highness.”
‘Does he have eyes on his side or something?’
I ignored his comment and grumbled internally.
Sir Johann was using the light from the fireplace to write a letter to Gerrit.
Even Benjamin and David were enjoying themselves while drinking wine and chatting with each other, but I could only smile bitterly as the few things I managed to hear made it obvious they were talking about attending to the crown prince and me.
Christelle, who had been whispering with Isabelle on the bed, came over and plopped down on my left.
“Oh, it’s Dame Sarnez.”
Eva, who was humming a waltz and petting the divine beasts, reacted and laid down on her lap.
Christelle smiled and ran her fingers through the child’s curly hair. I asked in a quiet voice.
“What about your mother?”
“She is asleep, your highness. She usually goes to sleep early. This was already quite late for her.”
I looked at the bed in the distance and nodded my head.
Christelle started talking to Eva.
“Our young Duchess-nim. That announcement should have taken place in a much cooler atmosphere. Are you not disappointed? Please give us a comment.”
“I didn’t even expect it to go as planned. Something weird always happens when Prince Jesse is around.”
The young lady, no, our young Duchess Blanquer, smirked as she commented.
She then peeked at me and tightly held onto the hem of my pants.
She must have done this in case I was upset at what she said. I chuckled and changed the topic for her.
“The Duchess didn’t mention that Eva was blessed by the divine item. That is important information as well.”
“It was probably because of her pride. My mother is the person who protects the divine item. For her to not accurately know who received the Sacred Bow’s blessing…… ‘Gao’? (TL: A slang term in Korean to mean ‘face.’ Derived from a Japanese term) She would lose it.”
I questioned what I had just heard. I was absolutely certain that I had never used such a word in front of Eva.
I looked toward Christelle with a shocked look on my face.
She looked perplexed and quickly started rubbing Eva’s head.
‘Stop, what if she loses some hair?’
“Please go to sleep now, our young Duchess. You need to sleep well to grow tall.”
Christelle whispered. Eva closed her eyes as if she had been waiting for someone to say that.
Sir Johann put down his quill pen and put a blanket over the child.
I was sighing in disbelief, but seeing her like that made my eyes feel as if they would close as well.
I buried my face in my knees and enjoyed a few minutes of silence.
I dozed off for a minute and woke up to hear Christelle quietly talking.
“I want to get super strong and protect you, your highness, but you are not the only one I want to protect. I want my mother to be happy and for my other friends to stay healthy as well. I want things to stay like they are right now, without anything happening. But my father has kept himself, hiding in the Lord’s Castle since my appointment……”
The ground shook in the distance. Something flashed like lightning in the darkness outside the window.
The Duchess and her Knights Brigade were busy killing the hoards of demonic beasts on this rainless autumn night.
I sleepily looked toward Eva.
She was only sixteen, but she quickly fell into a deep slumber as if she was used to this kind of situation.
“I’m sure it wasn’t Mr. François. His personality is one where he can’t ever scheme. I’m sure he had a reason for why he left so early today……”
Flash. I next heard Vice Captain Élisabeth’s voice.
The cup of cocoa that had been in my hands was now placed far away from me.
Someone must have taken it out of my hands after noticing that I had fallen asleep.
I scrunched my eyes after hearing that important information was being shared.
There was no need to make it so obvious that I was not one of the main characters.
‘Please hold on a little longer, my commoner’s stamina……’
“In that case, do you think that Duke Sarnez-nim was the person who met with young master Robert?”
Ganael whispered with concern. I jerked my head up, half asleep.
It made me uncomfortable and upset that Duke Simon de Sarnez might have been at the center of a scheme that could have been related to me.
I made eye contact with Christelle, whose gaze was sinking deep down.
“You are putting too much faith in the Fleur-de-lis.”
Crown prince Cédric, who had been silent for a long time, suddenly interjected.
Christelle and I looked at him at the same time.
His orange eyes were sparkling the same way as the flames in the fireplace.
“The Captain could have lied.”
“Ah, that is true……”
Ganael nodded his head at the crown prince’s stern opinion.
That was true.
‘His accuracy is only eighty percent.’
“They said that they will be interrogating young master Robert, so why don’t we wait for the results? That question regarding the tulip concerns me, but it is possible that the young master was acting on his own. It could be possible that he didn’t follow anyone into the balcony despite looking like it……”
The young Countess spoke in a serious voice. My head nodded on its own, as it was a thought that I had considered as well.
Marquis Duhem’s face flew by through my blurry vision.
His gaze toward his youngest sister had been quite gentle, and there had been no hesitation when he evacuated me.
The Marquis was talkative, and his movements were quite exaggerated, but he was a good person.
As for Duke Sarnez……
I ran my forehead into something and groaned.
This was basically how I had been when I was on the train heading home after working overtime.
I had been very active, dancing, walking, and running,, so my stamina couldn’t last any longer.
I could hear a low sigh near my head.
In the next moment, I was laid down on a comfortable pillow with a blanket rolling over me.
I could see Christelle’s face in front of me.
‘Am I dreaming?’
“It’s not a dream. Everybody has laid down to go to sleep now, your highness.”
She read my thoughts and whispered. I seemed to have taken a catnap.
‘But why are you laying down next to me?’
“There is no room on the bed. We did this when we spent the night outdoors as well, so what is the issue?”
‘Mm, that is true.’
“Hehehe. Your highness, you are half-asleep right now, so I feel like I can tell you everything. The things that I am hiding. The things that I have not said…… You probably won’t even remember them in the morning.”
Her warm voice felt like butterflies gently landing on my ears. I slowly blinked.
“My eyes are peculiar. Actually, I do not know if it is an issue with my eyes or my brain. It is easiest to say that I see some people in 4k and some only in 480p…… But there is a difference. It is not just an issue of seeing them physically, it is the sense of their existence in my heart? Their liveliness? Something like that is different. It’s weird, isn’t it?”
“I knew you would say that, your highness. I tried not to think too much about it either, but…… Lately, it has been concerning me. Do you think that this might be a form of blessing as well? A blessing from the Blessing of the Blue Sea.”
Rustle, rustle. Someone moved by the window. Christelle quieted her breathing.
This time, she put the blanket completely over her head and whispered.
“Anyway, both my father and Marquis Duhem… Their liveliness suddenly became clear. The Marquis has always been glowing, but he was even brighter today. It could be for a different reason, but I couldn’t brush past it…… You are a special existence, your highness. Other people might not know that, but I do.”
“Nonetheless… Please don’t worry. I am right here.”
A cold finger tapped the tip of my nose before moving away. Her voice started to feel distant.
– Cruuuuuuu, cruu!
“Aigoo. I am getting up, yeeeeesir I am……”
I hugged Demy, who was pushing down on my stomach, and woke up.
Rhea and Perry were pulling at the sleeves of my pajamas.
I must have slept for a long time, as I could see the sun shining high in the sky.
I thought that my back would hurt from sleeping on the floor, but I was feeling surprisingly fine.
‘I guess even the bedding is good in a House of a Duke.’
“Where is everybody?”
I looked around and mumbled.
The fact that the fireplace was still going showed that someone must have come to put more firewood in the morning, but all of the other beddings were empty.
‘Did they not clean up because they were worried that they would wake me up?’
It felt like the one time I went to an overnight retreat with a few others and was the only one to wake up late.
That was already ten years ago, but it was a great comparison.
‘What time is it?’
Tithe was asleep, whining to one side.
I slowly got up and checked the bed to see that Eva was hugging the divine beast as she slept.
‘Here’s one more sleepyhead.’
“They kicked off all of the blankets. They’re going to catch a cold.”
I fixed the blanket for the two kids and headed toward the room door.
Isabelle and everybody else seemed to have woken up early to eat breakfast.
Percy flew over from the window and landed on my shoulder.
I slowly turned the doorknob. It felt odd.
It made sense that it was quiet since nobody was here, but it felt eerily silent.
“Wow, your highness. You are up.”
Ganael immediately greeted me from beyond the door. I seem to have caught him on his way to wake me up.
I said good morning, but the young boy looked unsettled as he responded with a ‘yes.’
I tilted my head. This kid was not a good actor, and it was always easy to tell when he was uncomfortable.
“Ganael, did something happen? What is going on? Where is Benjamin?”
“Benjamin-nim is getting your breakfast ready, your highness. And, umm……”
It was at that moment.
A shaking more than twice as strong as those of last night shook the Lord’s Castle.
I immediately hid Ganael’s head in my arms and crawled under a nearby table.
“Demy, go to Eva! You guys protect Benjamin!”
The red pandas quickly ran toward the bed and the hallway.
I heard some crumbling noises before the magic lights in the ceiling and the candles started shaking.
Clang! I heard some pottery breaking in the distance.
Someone screamed outside the window. I got chills despite it being the middle of the day.
I held Percy as well and clenched my teeth.
The terrible shaking, thankfully, did not last long.
It felt as if it lasted for two hours, but it actually lasted for about two minutes.
Everything was silent as if nothing had happened. Ganael’s gold eyes shook ominously.
“Your highness, Duchess Blanquer was unable to seal the dungeon last night. They are still fighting.”
“The Magic Tower and the Knights Brigade were not enough. His Royal Highness and Dame Sarnez headed into the mountains before the sun even came up. Vice Commander Moutet and the Imperial Guard as well……”
The young boy’s voice was shaking. I felt my blood run cold.