I rose up with a huff. Without realizing it, I grabbed my stomach and took a deep breath. I could feel a vivid pain.
It was a dream, but why was it so vivid?
I lowered my head and looked down at the stomach I was holding tight. There was no stain, let alone blood. It was really a dream. Laughter came out in vanity.
I put my hand up to sweep my hair with all my strength, but cold sweat was sticking to my face. It hadn’t been long since I came back. What a stupid dream.
I don’t usually dream. My whole body was tingling as if I had lost all my strength. Even my pajamas got wet. I couldn’t believe I had lost my mind just because of a dream. Once again, laughter came out.
When my senses returned perfectly, my damp pajamas irritated me. I checked the towels and water cups on the tray on the night table, got my body out of bed, and took off my pajamas.
After pouring all the water in the cup onto the towel, I wiped it off roughly and went to the dressing room to change into new pajamas. Nevertheless, I felt uncomfortable again because of the content of my dream that haunted me.
“What kind of dream is that?”
Frightening dream. But what the hell am I afraid of? Even if we faced each other, it would be resolved if I said sorry. I’ve been through all kinds of things, but I was afraid of one lady?
I stared down at the bed I had been lying on for a while. I didn’t want to lie back again in the uncomfortable bed. Giving up my sleep, I pulled the curtains that were tightly shut. It was early in the morning when darkness had not gone yet.
Leaning roughly against the window sill, I sat down to feel the cool air that slowly came in through the window sill. I thought about opening the window as my mind was clearing up, but I stopped thinking about it. Because I hate getting cold. I stayed there for a long time until dawn came.
* * *
As soon as morning came, I was ordered by my mother to come to Bei. Usually, they come in person or send people at night, but this time they sent someone in the morning, so I was worried that something might have happened.
“Did Sir Shubart tell you anything else recently?”
I asked, waiting for Nina to tie the waist ribbon of my dress. Ian would have told me if something had happened, but I dared to ask. The dream I had last night seemed to be making my mind dizzy.
“No, there was none.”
“If they say anything while passing by, tell me right away. It seems they are preparing much more carefully than the last time.”
It wasn’t like they would make a rebellion, but I was still nervous. After getting ready, I followed my mother’s messenger and climbed into the carriage with Ian.
“When I have a meal with my mother, please find out the second prince’s schedule this week.”
Then we didn’t say a word until the carriage reached Bei.
“Bella, come on in.”
It was Sir Shubart who welcomed me as soon as I arrived. I thought my mother would be the only one here because Sir Shuabrt was busy with work, but it seemed the two of them were together.
“I heard Mother asked me to have a meal together.”
“Yes, she will come down soon. I have prepared a lot of things you like.”
“It’s still morning, so I don’t think I will eat much.”
“Still, it’s good to have a bite.”
Sir Shubart gently hugged my shoulder and guided me inside. I waited for my mother, sitting over the table prepared for breakfast. Less than five minutes later, my mother showed up.
“Good morning, Mother.”
My mother welcomed me in a cold tone today as well.
“It’s been a long time since the three of us gathered and ate together.”
Sir Shubart was delighted and acted as if a family had gathered after a long time.
“I told you not to talk nonsense,” Mother warned.
That’s right. My mother couldn’t stand still watching Sir Shubart, who seemed excited about it.
Slowly, hot tea was poured into the cup, and the full-fledged meal began. I cut the tomatoes and sliced lettuce while holding a knife and fork with a smile on my lips, but my whole mind was thinking about my mother and Sir Shubart.
It was rather a quiet mealtime with only the sound of the knives hitting the plate. Did they really call me here just to have a meal together? As soon as I put the sweet and sour mushroom stew with lettuce in my mouth, mother put down the wine glass she was drinking.
“How long has it been since your power manifested?”
I put down my fork and knife and wiped my mouth with a napkin.
“About a year and a half. It’ll be two years soon.”
“Use it on the first prince.”
I almost cough because of it.
“It’s going to be a fox hunt soon. After this social season is over, there won’t be a big banquet until the next social season, so now is the only chance.”
Ah, it was time for most of the nobles to go down to their estate and manage them. The next social season will be held a few months later, but it seemed too much to wait for that.
“I was so busy adapting that I forgot about it. Are you telling me to use it on that day?”
Here, to end the social season, fox hunting, one of the games for nobles, would be held from the morning until the sun sets. In the past, real foxes were hunted. Still, the number of foxes has decreased significantly, so fox-shaped signs are set up all over the forest, and the person who brought the most became the winner.
I’ve never participated in it, but I’ve heard that men and women eagerly awaited the fox hunting more than any other banquet. And after that, a big banquet would be held to play and eat all night long. I didn’t know why they said the boring banquet that day would be more enjoyable.
Even though I knew the answer, I asked. To imprint the first prince meant to get rid of the remaining one. Even if I didn’t want to hear it in person, I had to check it once.
“Why are you asking? Of course, clean the rest.”
“The second prince will not attend there.”
Sir Shubart intervened. My head naturally turned to him.
“Huh? Even the emperor attended the fox hunting.”
“It seems that the emperor ordered him separately.:
“Because he will be the last hurdle.”
The last hurdle to becoming the Crown Prince. It didn’t matter what order the emperor gave, but it was certain that he would be in danger.
Even though I knew that things had already gone awry, I felt fatigued, as if heavy stones were pressing my whole body.
“Are you also going to attend that day, Sir Shubart?”
The process will be even faster.
“Then it would be better for me to meet the first prince soon.”
“You’re going to meet him that day anyway, so what’s the point?” Sir Shubart said with a rather stiff face, whether he was worried that I would make a mistake.
“I received a present before and haven’t said thank you properly. I should have let him know that I was sick before. Wouldn’t that be natural?”
“Do it as you please. You should do it without any mistakes.”
My mother said it as she was looking at me. I didn’t know if she said that because I had been pushing Valery’s matter, contrary to my mother’s opinion.
“Of course. When did I ever not listen to Mother?”
I completely finished the meal. I even pulled out the napkin I had laced on my thigh.
“Then I should go back and prepare my mind in advance. It’s been a while since I’ve matched my clothes.”
It had been a long time since my mother finished her meal. I emptied my glass and then got up.
* * *
“Let’s go to Madame.”
As soon as I got on the carriage with Sir Shubart seeing me off, I told Ian that to Ian.
From when the carriage departed and arrived at madame, I had thoughts. How to save Valery? How to stop this? Is it really not possible to stop my mother peacefully?
The carriage arrived in front of Madame’s store when I finished thinking.
“Welcome, Lady Ariandel.”
The Madame I hadn’t seen in a long time was no different from the last time I saw her. In the meantime, there was no sign of surprise because she heard about me from Iskar and sometimes shared the news.
“You’re here because of the fox hunting soon, right?”
“Yes. Then I will leave it to Madame. I’m a little tired from this morning.”
“I understand. I will serve you tea in the meantime.”
I nodded my head roughly and headed in Madame’s direction. As soon as we got the tea and closed the door on the pretext that Madame was taking measurements, I breathed a sigh of relief.
“I think something happened to you today.”
“It’s just I’m sick of it.”
I raised the corners of my mouth and smiled.
“Why aren’t you taking your child? He’s staying in Iskar.”