Atil looked at Lilyca, then quickly turned his gaze to Alteos.
“Is that an order”
“Then I will.”
Atil bowed his head.
Lilyca looked at Alteos in bewilderment, then Lat and finally Atil.
It seemed that she had no choice here.
Lat looked at her troubled face and nodded as if understanding, but did not take sides.
Alteos pushed her back again.
Lilyca was pushed and took a few steps forward.
‘Since it’s like this anyway.’
Then, Lilyca said to Atil.
“I look forward to your kind cooperation.”
“Have a good time.”
Lat smiled and saw the two of them off.
Lilyca sighed and followed Atil.
She asked as she walked down the hallway.
“Do you want me to hold the basket”
Atil replied briefly.
They didn’t say anything until the lake shore.
Atil made it clear that he had no intention of making conversation.
Lilyca followed him and looked up at the sky.
Atil glanced at her.
Lilyca said with a smile.
“The sky is really blue.
The clouds are beautiful and the weather is very nice.
Oh my God, the lake is so pretty.”
Bursting with admiration, Lilyca looked around.
The lake was quite far from the palace, so she had never been here.
“There are not many people.
The lake is quite wide… Where does it lead Wow, that’s an island in the middle, right There’s a small building on the island, too.
It didn’t matter if Atil didn’t answer.
Lilyca was excited and chatted while looking at the lake.
Atil heard her voice.
He didn’t think she was noisy because it was outdoors.
It was just awkward.
It has been a long time since he had heard a voice like that.
A bright, worry-free voice.
He placed the basket on the boat that was moored by the lake and held his hand out to Lilyca.
Lilyca opened her eyes wide, smiled and took his hand.
Only then did he see her face.
It was different from the face he had seen at that moment.
[NB: The moment they met.]
Lilyca said as she got into the boat.
“I didn’t ask His Majesty to do this.”
He had stood her up like that, so there was no way Lilyca would ask to meet him first.
Atil untied the rope and pushed the boat towards the lake with his foot.
Lilyca was about to say something to Atil, but was startled by the rattling boat and stopped.
Soon the boat began to move smoothly along the waves.
Lilyca held on to both sides of the boat for the first time in her life and gradually relaxed.
Atil skillfully stood and rowed, and Lilyca looked at it curiously.
“This is my first time riding on a boat.
So, this is how it feels.”
Lilyca got used to it quickly and was excited.
She slightly put a finger in the lake and pulled it out, before looking up at Atil.
Atil looked at her.
Lilyca opened her mouth candidly.
“I don’t know what Your Highness is thinking, but I’ve always wanted a brother.
When children my age and I had fights, their sister and brother always came to their help.
I’m alone, so I’ve always been envious of that.”
She smiled slightly.
“So, I was happy to have an older brother, even if it was, in reality, a cousin.
I don’t know what Your Highness’s thoughts are about that.”
Oh, there was one more thing.
Lilyca thought to herself and continued.
“I want to be close to you.”
Lilyca asked, with all her strength in her pleading eyes.
It was the first time he had heard the words “I want to be close to you” like this.
His blue eyes looked at Lilyca’s turquoise ones.
Like the emerald sea, eyes that seemed to take you to a far-off foreign country, far from here.
He had no blood relatives.
No, Alteos was there, but he wasn’t a friendly man.
So, Atil was alone.
Always, completely alone.
Atil tried not to think about it.
He tried his best, but even the words of a little girl shook his heart, just like this.
He bit his lip and changed the subject.
“My father had many brothers and sisters.”
Lilyca waited quietly for his words.
“There were six.
But when my father ascended to the throne, he was the only one left.”
Lilyca widened her eyes.
“Did everyone die”
“He must have been very sad.”
Atil laughed involuntarily.
It was the first time he heard such a thing.
Everyone paid more attention to stories such as ‘Assassination’ or ‘Fight for the throne’, but no one talks about their feelings.
“Right, he must have been.”
Atil had no choice but to answer that way.
Even if he had siblings, he couldn’t bring up the story that he was fighting for the throne, or that he was only a threat meant to be assassinated.
Lilyca pounded on her chest.
“I will not die.”
“I will never die, so don’t worry.
I will not make you sad.”
“And are you always on my side Will you come to me if you need me”
“Sure! That’s what siblings do.
If someone bothers you, I will go and punish them.”
It was funny to see a little one swearing.
“I don’t believe that.”
“But there’s no one who doesn’t need this.”
Lilyca calmly responded to the sharp spit.
Atil stopped talking.
Lilyca had her cheeks dyed red.
Words like ‘always’ or ‘forever’ may sound empty, I know that, but still.”
Lilyca jumped up from her seat.
Still, there was a height difference, so the eyes did not match, but their faces were closer than when they were sitting.
“I needed it.”
And then she added softly.
“And I believe it exists.”
Atil tightened his grip on the oar.
He wanted to believe in it too, but he couldn’t.
Atil looked away instead of answering, and Lilyca was not disappointed.
He reminded her of a stubborn stray cat.
A black cat with its tail sticking out in the slums.
A cat that is always arrogant, and is so sharp and beautiful that it will never be stoned by children.
Trust doesn’t come from just one hand held or a single word.
Meanwhile, the boat arrived at a small island.
The ropes were tossed on a stake in the dock to moor it, and the two berthed on the island.
With familiarity, Atil started walking with a basket, and Lilyca followed.
On a small island, a gazebo with tables and chairs were set up.
There, as he opened the basket and laid out the food, someone approached them.
Atil looked at the person and relaxed.
“You cannot go without an escort.”
“Well, His Majesty is always spontaneous.”
Atil sighed and introduced him to Lilyca.
“Rowin, my escort knight.”
“My name is Rowin Gray.
“Nice to meet you.”
Lilyca greeted him lightly.
She had a strange feeling.
‘I have a bad feeling out this.’
He was called Atil’s escort, but it didn’t feel right.
She heard an alarm sound in the corner of her mind.
It was strangely clear and distinct.
This was obviously a person who would cause harm.
“How did you know where we would be”
At Lilyca’s question, Rowin shrugged.
“I asked the servant.”
Atil turned his back on him and opened the basket.
Lilyca glanced at Rowin.
“They put everything in.”
Unknowingly at those words, Lilyca tiptoed and looked into the basket.
In an instant, goosebumps ran down her spine.
She saw Rowin holding the handle of his sword when she glanced sideways.
The attention of a slum child, accustomed to violence, was turned on him at once.
The sense that had always saved her was now screaming.
Lilyca’s hand turned to Atil without realising it.
At that moment, Rowin swung his sword like lightning.
At the same time, Lilyca pulled Atil with all her might.
By a hair’s breadth, Rowin’s sword grazed Atil.
A few hairs flew into the air.
If Lilyca hadn’t reached out first, it would have been too late.
Rowin’s voice was so nonchalant that Lilyca wondered if he had been trying to exterminate insects with his sword.
Lilyca jumped onto the bench and opened her arms to block Rowin and Atil.
Atil’s trembling voice came from behind her.
‘What do I do What do I do How can I outsmart a trained adult male with a sword’
Lilyca stared intently at Rowin.
“Because I served the Crown Prince for eight years, at the very least, I wanted to send you off without knowing, for the sake of it.”
“Why, why… !”
It was a squeaky voice.
“Hey, you villain!”
“Traitor! Bad guy! The worst guy is the one who thinks he has a plausible reason!! Shamelessly trying to kill a child!”
Rowin said with a tired expression to Lilyca, who was yelling at him.
“It’s like the emperor to make such a vulgar girl, of unknown origin, a princess.
The problem is that such a person is the emperor of the empire.
Now the empire is a new—”
Then something flew from behind Lilyca’s back.
The moment Rowin swung his sword and blocked it, the sound of the bottle shattered and pepper powder spread all over the place.
At the same time, Atil grabbed Lilyca’s hand and ran.
But the escape did not last long.
The moment he grabbed her hair, Lilyca released Atil’s hand.
But Atil did not let go.
He stopped, turned around and clenched his teeth.
Lilyca shouted, but Atil didn’t listen.
Lilyca was out of breath.
Her eyes went dark.
A strange crackling sound was heard.
It was physically dark in front of her eyes.
The hand holding her hair loosened, and she felt the warmth of the palm that covered her eyes.
‘What What happened’
There was the sound of a person falling.
“Both of you look fine.”
The hand that covered her eyes was removed.
As she tried to look back, a strong hand prevented her from turning her gaze.
“No, don’t look behind you.”
So, she looked up and saw His Majesty standing there.
Alteos smiled brightly.
Then, she noticed her legs shaking.
Lilyca was desperately holding back tears from welling up in her eyes.
Atil looked at the dead Rowin with a disappointed expression, then turned his gaze to Alteos.
“Me… Did you use me as bait”
The end of his voice trembled slightly.
Alteos tilted his head at that, then smiled.
Atil bit his lip.
At the same time, Lilyca shouted.
“I do not like it!”
Lilyca tried to turn around, but she couldn’t because Alteos was still holding her head with both hands.
“Hey, it’s too much to say that.
That way, like this! Please tell us exactly.
Did you use us as bait If that’s the case, I’ll be very sad and angry, but then I can ask you why, or if I have misunderstood.
But I truly hate that kind of answer.”
Lilyca, who had poured out everything in one breath, gasped and kept her mouth shut.
Atil looked at Lilyca blankly.
Alteos was silent for a moment, then said.
“No, that’s not it.”
Atil raised his head.
“I didn’t use you as bait.
It was just a spontaneous decision.
Your mother made a fuss all of a sudden.”
Then, Alteos muttered softly, “How the hell did she know…”, and continued.
“I was on my way to look for her, but when I found out that Atil was in danger, I flew here.
I came first, and your mother will be here soon.
Look, no, you can’t see it.
Anyway, I can see her on a boat.”
In an instant, Lilyca slipped and fell to the floor.
Tears welled up in her eyes.
Surprised Atil approached.
“Uhh, huuk, waah—”
In the end, seeing Lilyca burst out crying, Alteos asked.
“Are you hurt”
Atil was startled by this and knelt before her on one knee.
“Maybe something went wrong when Rowin caught her—”
All of a sudden, Lilyca hugged him.
Atil held his breath.
“S-s-scary, I was very scared, waah, waah, I’m glad, I’m glad that…”
Lilyca hugged him with a cry of waah, boo, hoo.
Atil stiffened in embarrassment.
It was the first time someone hugged him.
The child’s arms and body were surprisingly thin, and her body temperature was hot.
He didn’t like the sound of her cries.
While wondering what to do, slowly patting her back, Lilyca dug into his arms like a puppy.
Somehow, without realising it, a voice came out like a whisper.
“You said you wouldn’t die.”
At those words, in his arms, a murmur echoed, “I will never die.” Atil smiled involuntarily.
“Lily! Oh, my goodness, Lily!”
Then they saw the empress running, screaming, pale and tired.
Alteos said, “Both are fine.” He had said it, but it didn’t seem to be heard.
Embarrassed, Atil tried to push Lilyca away, but Lilyca stayed attached to him.
What should he say
How could he explain this situation to the Empress
While Atil thought about it, Lydia rushed over and hugged them both at the same time.
“I’m glad you’re safe.
That’s a relief, really.”
Atil held his breath.
A voice filled with relief, saying that he was safe now, and a hand stroking his hair roughly.
Atil, who had never been hugged by his mother, was desperately holding back tears.
Alteos said in a stern voice.
“I’m the one who saved them, but why aren’t you hugging me”
“Are you saying that now!”
Lydia jumped up from the ground and yelled.
Her angry gaze turned towards the body.
“Oh my God.
Let’s cover it right here.
It’s not good for the children.”
Lydia frowned, covering Atil and Lilyca’s eyes.
Only then did a commotion break out.
First, when they crossed to the opposite side of the boat, Bryn and Bran, who were white as a sheet, were waiting for them.
Pai stood restlessly and swept his chest several times.
Tan and Lat were also present, and they had a low conversation with Alteos.
Lydia said, patting their backs, “Come on, you two, let’s get some rest.”
After a while, Lilyca took a hot bath and sat on the comfy sofa, drinking a large cup of hot chocolate.