༺ A Regrettable Choice ༻
Upon noticing Frey, tears cascaded down her cheeks as she stared at him blankly. Only after scrunching her tear-ridden face was she able to collect herself.
“S-So… t-this is…”
Clana swiftly wiped the flowing tears with her hands as she tried to come up with excuses, but she couldn’t conceive any words for the inexplicable situation she found herself in.
Soon, her hands began trembling as if her body had a mind of its own.
Clana couldn’t focus on anything for the past few days due to unknown symptoms and a burning sensation developing in her heart. She weakly muttered as she plopped down onto the sofa.
“Heung… So that was the truth.”
As the First Imperial Princess murmured as she stared at Clana’s meek figure, Frey inquired with a disinterested expression.
“So, what was it that you came to say? I’m quite busy right now so I’d appreciate it if you’d quickly get this matter over with.”
“I’m sorry, but it seems our conversation may be long.”
The First Imperial Princess, who managed to respond to Frey in a leisurely manner, glanced at Clana’s panicked figure before continuing.
“Though it looks like it’s not me, but Clana, who has many things to talk about.”
“Hah… Then it can’t be helped.”
Frey sighed in response to the First Imperial Princess’ words and instructed the girls to leave in front of him.
“Take Lulu and go play in the room next door. Know that whoever fights won’t get any food.”
Frey’s tone was one that didn’t seem to consider them as humans, yet the girls simply nodded with lifeless eyes.
“Lulu, let’s see each other later alright?”
Frey gently smiled at Lulu who tailed the other girls out while donning a pale face. After watching the girls leave, Frey’s expression hardened as he questioned the First Imperial Princess.
“Now, what were you trying to say?”
“Ah, that’s right. Regarding the request for assistance from the Cloud Kingdom, you’re aware of the secret meeting that took place at today’s birthday party, correct?”
“Well, I came to inform you of the meeting venue.”
The First Imperial Princess explained her motives and stared at Clana who slowly raised her hand and flicked her fingers.
“Ah, p-please wait a moment.”
However, when nothing but a faint flicker of light materialised, Clana repeatedly flicked her fingers in embarrassment.
After numerous flicks, Clana managed to summon a canary which flew over to Frey and perched on his shoulder. Clana tried to maintain a calm expression as if she never struggled to summon the bird as she spoke.
“T-that bird will lead you to the venue of the secret meeting.”
“That’s right. You simply have to follow the bird to the meeting. Now that I’ve informed you of everything I had in mind, I’ll be taking my leave.”
“You’re leaving already?”
Frey asked with a puzzled expression as he watched the First Imperial Princess stand up to leave. The corners of her lips curled up from observing Clana.
“Ah. There was another topic I wanted to discuss… but it doesn’t seem necessary anymore.”
The First Imperial Princess then added one final comment with a wink.
“Please continue to do as you’ve currently been doing so, Frey.”
“Huh? What do you me–…”
Confused by what she said, Frey attempted to question her, but the First Imperial Princess left the room with a wave of her hand.
A long silence ensued in the room in which only Frey and Clana remained.
“…Have you been well?”
Frey tried to put on a calm expression and break the long silence by asking me how I was. I immediately responded negatively. Frey sighed and asked another question.
“So, what did you want to talk to me about?”
“First, I’d like an explanation for the girls who left earlier.”
When Frey calmly asked me what business I had with him, I demanded an explanation for the previous spectacle. Frey responded to my inquiry brazenly.
“Isn’t it obvious? They’re my slaves.”
Hearing his shameless response, I began to question him coldly.
“There’s going to be a meeting regarding the slave market soon, yet here you are, treating girls our age worse than slaves.”
“And? What about it? Are you going to try to kill me or something?”
As soon as I heard Frey’s sarcastic remark, I felt a burning sensation in my chest. This had become a common occurrence in the past few days every time I thought of his voice.
‘I-It’s starting again.’
My hand hidden beneath the table began trembling again. No matter what methods I used to stop the trembling, it just wouldn’t stop.
“It’s just a joke. Why are you overreacting?”
“…I’m not in the mood for jokes.”
Frey seemed to be teasing me so I raised my voice to retort.
“You! What did you to m-…”
“Oh right. I have a gift for you.”
However, he interjected and handed me a box as my words remained stuck in my throat and vanished.
“Take it. It’s a gift of reconciliation.”
Frey called my name, but I was trapped in thought with my head down.
‘I’m sure of it… Frey did something to me.’
For the past few days, I’ve been unable to rid my mind of thoughts of him.
Not only that, my chest would become warm and my hand would start trembling with even the smallest thought of his face or voice.
At first, I suspected I might have fallen in love with him but I’ve concluded that it’d be impossible.
I hated him enough to want to murder him, so there’s no way I’d suddenly like him in the span of a single night.
Only one reasonable answer remained.
Frey must’ve done something to me out of spite.
‘Just now… he asked me “Are you going to try to kill me or something?” Yeah, he must have…’
Did he perhaps find out about my plan to kill him and prevent such an outcome from borrowing the Demon King’s power to take revenge on me?
No, even if he didn’t find out about that plan, he had many reasons to make me suffer.
He was a guy who said he’d play with me before leaving me behind at the previous ball.
“I won’t open the box.”
I replied coldly after arriving at such a conclusion.
“Did you think I wouldn’t know? That box definitely contains something that would strengthen the curse you placed on me. Am I wrong?”
Frey’s face became puzzled as he listened to me.
“If that wasn’t the case, you wouldn’t have a reason to give me a gift. Come on. Say something.”
“I told you. I want to reconcile with you.”
I felt anger surging up.
I hated the Frey who was trying to give me a gift that was obviously clad in dark mana and I desperately wanted to kill him.
Yet, my heart kept racing and my hands continued trembling.
It’s as if my mind was telling me to despise him, but I couldn’t find it in my heart to do so.
“I got this present after requesting assistance from Kania so it would obviously contain some lingering traces of dark mana. You’re making a big deal out of nothing.”
“Don’t lie. Did you think I wouldn’t know you did something to me?”
Frey continued to maintain a brazen expression on his face. I spoke as I held out my trembling hand.
“My hand trembles whenever I see you… no, just thinking about you is enough to make it like this. Why is it like this?”
Frey seemed momentarily flustered and something snapped within me in that instant.
“Take that gift back. I don’t need anything like that from the likes of you.”
“Can I take that as a refusal to make up with me then?”
Frey shrugged his shoulders after questioning me. He then continued to speak to me.
“I thought I would be able to make up with you.”
“That’s not happening.”
I stood up with a deep frown and expressed my feelings.
“I really despise you, Frey.”
“Is that so? But I like you.”
“Stop with your bullshit.”
“I really do.”
Frey continued with a composed demeanour.
“I’m not sure why your hand trembles and I can assure you that it’s not my doing.”
“How long are you going to keep up this facade…”
As I was about to erupt in rage, a sudden thought crossed my mind. I began to reflect on the situation I was currently in.
‘Surely, something’s off.’
His flustered expression is suspicious. It’s not the usual shameless face he wore when he gets caught doing something bad, nor was it his usual cruel face. It seemed that he was genuinely flustered.
Most importantly, I couldn’t sense any evil intent behind it.
If his expressions until he took out the present were his usual shameless ones when performing an evil deed, the expression just now was one that seemed indicative of his worry for me, just like that time.
‘Wait, ‘like that time’?’
My racing thoughts came to a stop as a word crossed my mind.
What is ‘that time?’ Has there been an occasion in which Frey worried for me? No, there shouldn’t be any reason…
“Anyways, you’re saying you don’t want this gift, right? Then, just leave.”
“Until the very end… you’re really not going to tell me what you’ve done to me?”
“Like I said, I didn’t do anything.”
I stared at him in bewilderment as he pointed towards the door with an exhausted look. I wanted to protest but I hurriedly moved to leave when I felt my hand begin to tremble.
“Are you really not going to take this?”
Right as I grabbed the doorknob, I heard Frey’s voice and my hand began trembling again.
“I-I don’t want a gift from someone like you.”
In order to hide my trembling, I replied sharply and hurriedly left the room.
“Nice, did you ruin your relationship with Frey?”
As soon as I exited the room, a person whose face was covered by a bridal veil grabbed onto me and whispered.
I turned around in surprise and recognized the face behind the veil.
“Judging from your expression, it seems like you successfully ended your relationship with him.”
Roswyn winked and continued whispering.
“Then, let’s begin the operation right away.”
“Of course we have to do it now. Heartbroken men fall easily to temptation.”
With that, Roswyn started heading towards Frey’s room with a radiant smile on her face.
“Hm? What’s wrong?”
I suddenly stopped her when I saw her walking.
Why am I acting like this?
“N-no, it’s nothing… no, wait. So…”
“Huhu, don’t worry.”
Noticing my indecisiveness, Roswyn lifted the corners of her lips and reassured me.
“I’ll perfectly erase Frey from your life.”
Roswyn opened the door and naturally entered Frey’s room.
Watching the door close with a thud, Clana started to nervously linger near the door.
“Why am I acting like this… Just why…”
She tried meditating with closed eyes, took deep breaths, and even bit her nails, but her anxiety persisted.
Unable to get rid herself of her anxiety, Clana began walking elsewhere.
“It’s for Roswyn’s safety… Just in case Frey crosses the line.”
Clana arrived at Frey’s veranda and began resonating with the canary that previously perched on his shoulder.
She had never shown Frey her ability to summon the canary before. She had first summoned the bird back in the past when she was lonely and wanted someone to converse with.
Convincing herself that she wouldn’t get caught, Clana connected her senses with the canary and began observing what was occurring in the room.
“Frey, why do you look like you’re about to break down and cry?”
“Just… something unfortunate happened.”
A slight frown emerged on Clana’s face as she watched Roswyn ask while stroking Frey’s shoulder.
“Did you perhaps get dumped by Clana?”
“No… it’s not that. I was just trying to make up with her…”
“Is this the gift you tried to give her to reconcile with her?”
Roswyn tilted her head in puzzlement as Frey spoke with a sullen expression.
“Roswyn, would you like to have it instead?”
“I’d be glad to. I’m happy to receive any gifts.”
“…Even if you have to date me if you receive that gift?”
As Roswyn was talking about gifts with sparkling eyes, Frey grinned and looked at her.
“So? Do you still want it?”
“It’s a joke. I’ll get you a better gift the next time I visit the Intelligence Guild so…”
“I’ll take it.”
Frey shook the box in front of Roswyn before sullenly trying to put it away. He became flustered however, when she snatched the box from his grasp.
“W-Wait. Why are you taking the gift?”
“Heung… The gift wrap is quite luxurious. It must have been difficult to acquire.”
After interrupting the dumbfounded Frey to compliment the gift wrap, Roswyn scanned their vicinity awkwardly.
‘T-That gift wrap is…’
Clana murmured with a pale face as soon she watched Roswyn snatch the box.
‘That could be dangerous…!’
Clana clearly felt dark mana emanating from the box. Roswyn would be in danger if she unwrapped the gift.
“I-If you open that…”
Clana hurriedly tried to take control of the canary as the thought of Roswyn being in danger emerged in her mind. Unfortunately, she could only turn away with a pale face when solar mana refused to materialize in her trembling hand.
“Oh my, what’s this?”
Clana bit her fingernails in anxiety as she was about to barge into the room. She unknowingly but down violently as she watched Roswyn reach into the box.
“This… Did you prepare this for Clana?”
“No, just… it was on display in front of the flower shop… and how are you able to touch…”
“Are you lying in front of me? How adorable.”
What came out of the gift box was not a clump of dark mana, a spell scroll, nor a cursed necklace.
“Just from the fact it’s a Canaria flower… and a yellow one at that, it’s obvious you purchased this specifically for Clana.”
It merely contained a yellow Canaria flower.
Clana watched them through the canary’s eyes and muttered in a trembling voice.
“That, that can’t be…?”
This was the moment Clana felt something was amiss.
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