Chapter 13 - Let’s Meet Again
After eating a third of the stew and bread, her stomach had complained—it would burst if stuffed with more food.
As she put down the spoon, the man became disappointed. His face crumpled, questioning why she only ate that little. He was about to protest when Leah stood and pushed the tray toward him.
It was time to go back to being Estia’s princess.
Time was running, and she couldn’t afford to be seen in the daylight.
As soon as she set foot on the ground, her lower half stiffened and her legs trembled beneath her. Nonetheless, ?she dressed casually, as if nothing had happened. She covered her bare body, wrapping layers of clothes around her, concealing her bare skin so well it seemed enclosed by a hard shell.
After flipping over her wig and pinning the hem of her robe, Leah looked exactly the same as when she first entered the inn.
She looked back at the man. He was still sitting on the bed, watching Leah with enthralled eyes.
Approaching him, Leah dropped a gold coin on his lap and said, “I had fun.”
The man pouted at the coin, which felt cold against his skin. He calmly picked it up and handed it back. “It’s fine.” Then, his eyes crinkled as he smiled generously. “Let’s meet again, master.”
A pre-arranged wagon waited behind the inn. Leah asked the horseman for help and pretended to be a maid working in the palace.
“Please take me there.”
As soon as she hopped into the carriage, she felt exhaustion kicked in. A sound of pain escaped from her lips—her whole body throbbed as if she had been beaten.
To Leah’s horror, the horseman drove the carriage roughly. With a pale face, she closed her eyes as the old carriage heavily rattled. She was lucky enough to have eaten, though she had been vexed with the man for making her. If she hadn’t, she would have been more nauseous at this moment.
She was dropped off at the palace’s back door, where the maids entered and gave coins as payment for the horseman. She made sure that the horseman left before she started on her way.
She knew that the palace guards’ shift, routes, and stations were tightly in place. But because of this knowledge, she was able to evade them and wander around the palace’s high wall connected to a lush forest. As she fumbled and pressed down the wall, it moved inaudibly, revealing a black passage of the palace.
This passage was only one among the many secret passages of the palace of Estia. Nonetheless, these tunnels remained a top-secret kept only known to the royal family. In fact, during the occasional renovations, the workers were chosen strictly—those whose executions were nearing got to work on this passage to keep the secret from spreading.
However, as the years passed, some passages were forgotten, and so was the passage Leah took.
After a long walk, she skillfully sneaked to her chamber, and thereon, barely managed from collapsing into her soft, plush bed.
She reeked of the familiar smell of the town. Hence, she grabbed a perfume and sprayed it all over her, distinguishing the scent.
Dressed in a thin nightgown, she combed her long hair neatly and tidied up the mattress.
Rather than being spoiled, princesses were expected to be disciplined—Leah’s chamber was neatly organized. She couldn’t show any imperfection to the maids who would come to wake her in the morning. With everything perfectly set, Leah finally rested her head on the pillow.
As she looked through the window, a faint light escaped through the gap of the open drapes. Dawn was breaking in the distant sky and she would soon need to start her morning work. But for now, she needed more sleep. She must replenish her strength.
However, her mind refused to give her peace. She couldn’t bring herself to rest—things that happened just a few hours ago would suddenly wreak havoc in her head.
Specifically, the man’s image flashed in her thoughts. Now that she was no longer with him, the chilly air bit her skin. His body temperature, which had previously engulfed her, was hot enough to ignore the blankets. Because of his size, she felt that the bed in the inn was small even when they were snuggled close together.
Most of all, his rude, blunt words remained a vivid memory. His words were surprisingly vulgar, but his touch was soft and warm.
He did not treat Leah as a noblewoman. Because of that, she was able to act without any pretense, even so, act waywardly.
When she thought of what happened, she felt at ease.?When one is faithful to one’s instincts, like a beast, there was nothing to worry about…
Let’s meet again, master. His words rang in her ears.?Could it be that I might actually…see him again?
As she reminisced on the moment she spent with him and the conversations they had, Leah scornfully laughed. She found it ridiculous, her fishing for some hope that she would once more lay her eyes on him.
Like a mirage in the desert, it was an illusion her whimsical mind had created. Very soon, death would claim her; hence, she must push this budding hope to the back of her mind.
He was a man with a mysterious identity—she did not even know his name. Everything was just a wild dream.
Letting go of the man’s memories, she closed her eyes and sought warmth by hugging her soft blankets tightly in the darkness.
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