Focusing on Asha’s scent as he ran, he quickly ran into the knights.
They panicked as a burly horse ran excitedly toward them.
Duran noticed it too, his eyes widening and he took a step forward.
He tried to stop the horse by force.
“Force encircling formation”
The nearby knights formed a formation and attempted a rope capture operation.
Ultimately, Jackal was interrupted by them before reaching Asha.
The horse rebelled in such a state of excitement that the knights broke out in a cold sweat even though they tied it up tightly with ropes.
Otherwise, they would all be dragged along by the horse.
But it was then.
Asha, startled by the disturbance, ran out of the room.
As soon as Jackal saw her, he roared, raised his front legs, and struggled noisily.
His cry sounded somewhat mournful.
Duran saw some commonality in the horse’s appearance.
He recalled a man, Lycaon’s boss, reaching out one last time and calling out Asha’s name.
He raised a hand and instructed the knights.
“Let them see each other for a moment.”
“But……! If we let go now, Lady Vanessa might get hurt!”
“It’ll be fine, let it go.”
Duran spoke so calmly that the knights relaxed their grip on the rope as they swallowed hard.
As soon as Jackal was released from the restraint, he immediately rushed toward her.
Even though the burly horse was running fiercely, Asha was not afraid and just waited with open arms.
Surprisingly, the horse slowed down, and when it reached her, it gently closed its eyes on her arms.
Seeing that, all the knights’ eyes widened.
Asha hugged Sheppy and whispered sadly.
“Sheppy, did you come to see me? Because I’m imprisoned in the palace?”
“But why did you come to me like this? It’s dangerous…… If you cause trouble, I don’t know what His Majesty will do to you.”
Jackal shook his head in her arms.
He wanted to go to Karaf right now and break his ribs.
But now was the time to be patient.
He knew he had to be patient, but his heart kept getting impatient.
Asha was right in front of him, and his heart ached even more from the fact that he couldn’t reveal his identity.
Asha patted the excited horse stroking the soft fur.
With her warm touch, Jackal’s rough breathing gradually calmed down and he came to his senses.
The news reached Karaf’s ears.
He was working in the office, and when he heard the report, he laughed as if it was ridiculous.
“Is escaping a hobby like its master….”
But the expression on his face when he said that wasn’t good either.
He knew well that Asha was his most treasured possession and the only existence that made him feel free.
He felt terrible as if he had become the villain.
He was walking a tightrope when he felt within himself the evil urge to destroy her possessions and make her focus only on him, and the fear that by doing so, he would be forever hated by her.
From that day on, even Jackal was unable to go out under the supervision of the knights.
With Asha’s security tightening up before the ceremony, he had no chance to reveal his identity at all.
And if he had tried to run away alone with Asha as he planned from the beginning, he would have a 100% chance of failing.
The only way left now was to break through on the day of the flowering ceremony.
When he was worried about Asha, the door opened and a red-haired maid slipped in.
He looked up and glanced at her, then realized it was Asha’s maid.
Sonya happily greeted him.
“Lady Vanessa wanted to know how Sheppy was doing. Oh, and she told me to bring this as well.”
Sonya put down a basket with all kinds of fruit.
“She told me that Sheppy doesn’t like hay very much, so she told me to give you fresh fruit. Ah, that’s right, there are sugar cubes here too. She said that you like sweets, but sweets are hard to find, so I brought sugar cubes instead.”
Jackal lowered his eyelids.
She closely watched what he ate the day she drank tea in the garden with the emperor.
Asha was such a caring woman.
Even when she’s imprisoned, she still cares enough about him to send him fruits…
When Sonya saw Sheppy’s eyes moisten, she gently stroked his nose.
“Don’t worry. Lady Vanessa is fine. She told me that you can understand.”
Jackal answered ‘Pureung’, and put his face on the ground helplessly.
If anyone other than Asha had touched him, he would have refused right away, but this time, he stayed still and was thankful that the maid had come to break the news to him.
However, when Sonia saw that the horse responded, she widened her eyes and shouted.
“Do you really understand me? How amazing!”
Jackal just wrinkled his nose and sighed.
“Are you worried about Lady Vanessa? You look weak today. You’re not even eating the fruit you like……”
With that, he came to his senses, quickly stuck his head into the basket, and began eating the apples and corn.
He expected her to tell Asha that he was fine and was eating the food she gave him.
Sonya’s expression relaxed.
“Aww, you’re eating so well! Good job! I’ll tell Lady Vanessa that Sheppy is doing well too! So, even if you miss Lady Vanessa, you can’t run away like last time, okay? If Sheppy does that, Lady Vanessa will get worried and get into a lot of trouble. Even now, she is worried about what will happen to Sheppy.”
Jackal impulsively ran to comfort Asha but regretted it as he thought his unexpected behavior would have made her position more awkward.
Sonya waved out of the room, and soon a hawk flew through the window.
Jackal turned back into a human and read the note tied to the hawk’s leg.
It was Gabe saying that everything was ready, including the escape route and the moves.
There isn’t much time left until ‘Operation Retrieval Asha’.
Although unexpected variables suddenly arose, this incident made him feel more strongly than ever that he must rescue Asha.
Jackal responded by writing with a pen attached to the hawk’s other leg.
His gaze, as he sent the hawk back, was very serious.
* * * * *
After so many days, the day of the flowering ceremony that everyone had been waiting for arrived.
The ceremony was to be held publicly in the temple for all the world to see.
As it was her first public appearance as a butterfly, Asha got up very early to get ready.
She bathed in pearl powder to make her skin glow.
Countless servants were by her side making her pretty.
They did their best not to leave even a hair alone, constantly massaging her shoulders and legs and serving her refreshments so she wouldn’t get tired.
Asha wore an ivory-colored, goddess-like dress edged with gold to take an oath before the god Etzheim.
The light ivory loose-fitting dress flowed naturally over her body, and the sheer see-through fabric on her wrist was elegant and reminiscent of a butterfly’s wings.
“Oh my God, Lady Vanessa, you are so beautiful…….”
Sonya and the other maids couldn’t take their eyes off her. They were making a fuss about it.
A courteous voice was heard along with a knock.
“…… It’s me.”
The maids’ eyes widened.
They hurriedly moved away from Asha’s side.
Asha said expressionlessly, looking only at the mirror in front of her.
“Come in, Your Majesty.”
As soon as permission was granted, Karaf tense, a little nervous, opened the door and went inside.
He also wore ceremonial attire for the ceremony, and unlike Asha, he wore a black suit with gold trim.
Black hair and a black suit, and blonde hair with an ivory dress, the two of them looked so good together as if they were bride and groom at a wedding.
The servants looked at the two and praised them, Karaf’s shoulders lifted, but he couldn’t take his eyes off Asha’s shining appearance either.
The ivory dress dazzled in every sunlight, and her lightly braided hair shone beautifully like golden threads.
His red eyes trembled with indescribable emotion.
He believed that this day would never come.
He had no expectations after a few festivities with no butterfly.
To him, the blooming ceremony had long been a meaningless day as a formal annual event.
But in the end, he was so moved when the butterfly flew to his side, that he stood in front of Asha for a long time without saying a word.
Asha broke the silence and spoke first when she saw what was in his hand.
Karaf, finally coming to his senses, raised his hand.
In his hands, he held a wreath made of all kinds of flowers.
“I came because I wanted to put this on you.”
He placed it carefully on Asha’s long braided hair.
He pulled his hand away and couldn’t take his eyes off her again.
The beauty of the woman in front of him could not be compared to anyone, even if all the goddesses in the world descended before him.
Asha quietly asked.
“Did you sleep well last night?”
He looked at her silently, then sighed and spoke sincerely.
“…… No. Actually, I couldn’t sleep a wink.”
Karaf hesitated for a moment, then closed his mouth, then opened it again.
“After the ceremony, you can freely walk around the Imperial Palace. As of today, I’m lifting your imprisonment.”
Asha only bowed silently.
She was infinitely calm, but after not seeing her for a few days, she had a slightly different vibe than before.
Her calmness and silence made Karaf feel strange and uneasy.
He added an excuse.
“…… It was all to protect you. Please don’t be angry. From today on, you will truly enjoy only the best as Empress. I will make you happy.”
But then, the chamberlain said from outside.
“Your Majesty, Lady Vanessa. It’s time to go to the temple.”