Chapter 51 – Don’t Cry, Queen (2)
Because Queen had burst into tears and flew away, I decided to visit the southern palace myself.
‘It’ll be fine as long as I don’t stay too long.’
I want to thank Prince Heinley for the cake anyway, but I was mostly worried about Queen.
“Oh my. Empress Navier.”
A knight of the Western Kingdom was astonished when he saw me. I was in front of the quarters where Prince Heinley was staying, and another knight with blue hair came rushing towards me. He recognized me, but more than that, his gaze indicated that he seemed to know something. My ladies-in-waiting knew that Prince Heinley and I exchanged letters, and there had to be someone on his end that knew about me as well. Still, I had to guard myself to those even close to the prince, so I smiled faintly at him.
“I have a message for Prince Heinley. Is he inside?”
“I’m glad you came. I was worried because he came here crying.”
“…The prince came crying?”
“I’m sorry? Oh, no, not the prince, the bird. It’s a bird. The prince’s mean bird came crying.”
The blue-haired man added that the prince never cried, then hurriedly knocked on the tightly closed door and shouted.
“Prince, Her Majesty the Empress is here!”
About three seconds passed. I thought I heard a loud noise from inside, perhaps something like falling furniture, but then it was silent. I looked at the blue-haired knight to see if everything was alright, but it seemed unperturbed by the loud noise coming from the room. A few minutes later, the knight opened the door after a signal that it was okay to come in from the inside.
I slowly entered the room, curious to what that was all about. Prince Heinley’s room was clearly of the southern palace, yet it was somehow unfamiliar. His scent lingered faintly in the air, and there were unusual items scattered here and there. Prince Heinley, standing in the middle of the room, was the most familiar thing in this strange space.
“I’m sorry. I had something else to do…”
As I quickly looked around the room and stared at him, the prince smiled and kissed me on my hand before stepping back.
Something else—did that mean he was washing up? It looked like he had hastily thrown on his clothes. He usually had nary a wrinkle on his carefully selected attire, but he looked rather rumpled at the moment. I could see his skin peeking through the loose buttons of his shirt, but it would be awkward if I pointed it out. It wasn’t like there weren’t people that wore their shirts like that.
I turned my eyes on the prince’s face, wondering whether to ignore it or point it out, only to see something that caught me by surprise.
His eyes were red and there was a wetness on his eyelashes. It was obvious that he had been crying a little while ago.
‘I shouldn’t have come. This was bad timing.’
I awkwardly turned away my gaze. Did he cry while taking a bath? How embarrassing it must be for him to visit so suddenly. I was truly sorry.
“Did you receive the cake?”
However, because it was strange to have a conversation without looking at his eyes, I finally turned my head again. Prince Heinley was staring at me with moist purple eyes. I heard that animals often take after their master. Was this the reason? Suddenly I realized that Prince Heinley’s eyes looked very similar to Queen’s.
“Oh no. Did you not get it?”
It wasn’t until the prince questioned me again did I manage to shift my focus away from his wet eyes.
“I received. I just wanted to come here to say hello and thank you.”
“Thank goodness. I was worried Queen wouldn’t deliver it properly. ”
“Yes, it looked a little heavy for him to carry.”
“I wanted to take it myself, but Queen insisted on carrying it himself…He’s unexpectedly strong, so don’t worry.”
Prince Heinley gave a languid smile, but his eyes were still misty, making him look less arrogant and proud than usual.
“Would you like a cup of tea? Oh, was the cake delicious?”
“It was delicious. Did you make it yourself?”
“It’s a hobby. I even have my own kitchen in the West. Are you good at cooking?”
“I’ve never done it before…so I don’t think I am.”
“I have heard that those who can cook and those who can’t are made for each other. I suppose that means the Queen and I are meant to be.”
That story was unfamiliar to me. I looked at him with a frown, and he turned red and scratched his nose.
“I suppose the saying doesn’t cross countries.”
“I suppose not.”
“Is there something you wanted?”
“I…Your Highness. I wanted to see Queen.”
“Queen? Why so suddenly…?”
“He was crying so hard when he left. I’m worried about him.”
As I spoke, I paid attention to signs that Queen was somewhere in the room. However, I could neither hear nor smell a bird. Prince Heinley smiled awkwardly.
“There’s nothing I can do. Queen went hunting.”
” I don’t know exactly what he went hunting for, but he goes out alone to fly in the capital.”
“Did he come in crying?”
“Somewhat? But he was quite alright.”
The blue-haired knight was worried that Queen came crying, but Prince Heinley said otherwise? I couldn’t help but be curious, but Prince Heinley looked calm. If the owner said it was alright, then it had to be. I nodded reluctantly.
“I see. That’s a relief.”
I nervously brushed the skirt of my dress. There was nothing else I had to say. I said, “I’ll see you again,” and glanced towards the entrance as a signal that I wanted to leave, and Prince Heinley quickly strode forward to open the door. He didn’t stop there however, and followed me as I stepped outside. I looked at him curiously, but he simply smiled and asked me which direction I was going.
“So how was the gift?”
I pointed to one direction, and Prince Heinley fell into step beside me. When I glanced back briefly I spotted the blue-haired knight, who ducked his head hurriedly when our eyes met. I turned my head around again.
“Queen? Was the gift not to your liking?”
“Oh, I liked it. Thank you, Prince Heinley.”
“Wasn’t it too much?”
How did he know that? I looked up with a start, and Prince Heinley explained with a faint smile.
“I was a little worried. Of course, I am friends with you, but we haven’t known each other for a long time. I thought you might feel burdened.”
“I hope you don’t feel pressured. The western kingdom is a jewel capital and many of the mines are owned by the Imperial Family. ”
Feeling relieved, I nodded, and the prince smiled and placed one hand on his chest.
“Thank goodness. I was worried.”
“I can see why you’re mistaken to be a womanizer.”
“It’s because you’re friendly and caring.”
“… I’m not a womanizer, Your Majesty.”
“Of course I believe that.”
“You shouldn’t completely believe this face.”
Well, at the New Year’s celebrations he had laughed when I said I didn’t believe the rumors he was a womanizer. He smiled awkwardly, and murmured in a gloomy voice.
“It’s because of my friend. He truly is a flirt.”
“You heard of him?”
Is there any noble who hadn’t heard rumors of the two of them? But instead of being honest, I asked more questions about the Duke Elgy.
“Duke Elgy recently came to the southern palace. Did he say he liked it here?”
After he arrived, most of what I heard about him had to do with him and Rashta. It was said he often accompanied Rashta, and there was no mention of Prince Heinley, who was supposed to be a close friend. That was why I questioned Prince Heinley, to know if he and Duke Elgy had a fight.
Prince Heinley’s expression subtly shifted. I stopped walking for a moment in worry, and Prince Heinley stopped as well.
“As a matter of fact, Your Majesty, I have a favor to ask of you.”
He completely sidestepped my question.
“What is it?”
“I’ve been worried about how to say it. Now that you brought it up, I think I’d better ask for a favor.”
“Stay out of sight from Duke Elgy.
What did you mean by this? I looked up in amazement, but Prince Heinley looked more serious than ever.
“Can you do that?”
“Any woman who gets entangled with the Duke Elgy is doomed to unhappiness.”
“Sometimes he’s like a living cursed doll or a real ghost story. If you catch his eye…”
Was this a joke? A form of flattery? I smiled, but Prince Heinley lowered himself slightly so that his brilliant purple eyes were level with me.
“I’m telling you, please. Never, ever look beautiful in front of him.”