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Chapter 9:Speculation

Eva, who had returned to her room, hugged a cushion on the bed and recalled the scene from earlier.

What was that? Lord Lucas is putting my finger in his mouth!!!

As she remembered, she pressed her scream into the cushion, unable to put it into words.

Her mind was a mess of embarrassment and a desire to know the reason behind that act.

But he was just worried that there might be a thorn in my finger. He meant no harm.

He treated me with the same concern as when a horse or a child gets hurt.

Otherwise, such actions… I can’t explain them.

While hugging the cushion and writhing, Eva’s movements suddenly stopped.

—There might be an explanation.

I’ll go to the library first thing tomorrow morning and look into it.

At that thought, the excitement she felt dwindled rapidly.

If my expectations are correct, why? Why do I feel like I’ll be disappointed?

Even though we came from different worlds from the start,

Unable to cope with her emotions, Eva lightly tapped the cushion to adjust its shape and lay down, closing her eyes.

Heading to the kitchen to have breakfast, Eva saw that Chef Jimmy and the servers were already on break.

“Good morning, Jimmy. Is breakfast for the guests already over?”

“Good morning, Miss. Today, the master and the guests seem to be heading somewhere, and they left before sunrise. I packed their breakfast and lunch for them.”

“I see.”

Come to think of it, they were talking about mine during yesterday’s dinner.

Surely Lucas went with them.

“Your breakfast is also prepared, Miss. Please enjoy.”

“Thank you. By the way, I picked wild strawberries yesterday. I want to make a pie later; is it okay to use the kitchen?”

“Yes, feel free to use it until lunchtime. It’s the season for wild strawberry pies, isn’t it? It’s your favorite, Miss.”

“I gathered a lot, so I might make enough to share with everyone. Look forward to it!”

After finishing breakfast, Eva headed straight to the library. She wanted to investigate matters concerning Raymond and Lucas.

Upon reaching the library, Eva took out a book on the history of the Dacian Empire. Settling into her favorite spot on the window bench, she took a deep breath and slowly opened the first page, reading on.

So, it was as I suspected. The emblem embroidered on that sword belt…

Raymond and Lucas must indeed be related. Lucas, despite being at the lower end, mentioned he was a member of the nobility.

Why would the two of them conceal their identities?

And Lucas’s actions—could it have been just a meal?

Returning to the kitchen, Eva began making a wild strawberry pie. She enjoyed the time spent in the kitchen, following the steps in her mind and concentrating on the meticulous process, which seemed to ease her previously troubled thoughts.

She offered the pies to the servants during their break, and carrying another one wrapped in a basket, she headed towards Roger’s cabin. While enjoying the pie with Roger and Nick, who had returned to the cabin during the break, Eva had a pleasant time discussing gardening with Roger.

Perhaps Nick understood too, as he didn’t bring up the topic of marriage again, though there were occasional caring glances.

Parting ways with Roger and the others and returning to work, Eva found herself unconsciously walking towards the rose garden.

Looking up at the arches of the rose garden, she pondered once again.

What feelings did Mother have when she created this rose garden? Did Father understand the significance of building a rose garden?

She wants to meet them. There are so many things she wants to ask. It’s daunting not knowing anything.

Sitting on a bench in the rose garden, Eva took out her mother’s keepsake necklace from her neckline. It was a garnet necklace of a deep red color, momentarily resembling Lucas’s eyes.

As she held the stone up to the sunlight, a voice from behind startled her.

“It’s a beautiful garnet.”

Turning around, she jumped in surprise. Raymond was peering into the stone from behind.

“Sorry for surprising you.”

He smiled and asked if he could sit beside her.

“Did you just come back from the mine?”

“Yes,the marquise showed some ores that could be found there. We can extract high-quality ores.”

“I heard there are some ores that can only be found in this territory.”

“I heard from Lucas. It seems that Miss Eva’s mother originally built this rose garden.”

“Yes, that’s what I heard. My mother designed it and worked with a gardener to build it.”

Eva thought she might be able to ask Raymond now, as he was looking around the rose garden with narrowed eyes.

“Lord Raymond, have you taken a liking to this rose garden?”

Eva noticed Raymond’s eyes widening as he looked back at her. (That surprised expression—it’s just like Lord Lucas.)

Though she was not at ease internally, Eva met Raymond’s red eyes without showing any signs of anxiety. Raymond, finding it amusing, chuckled.

“Yes, it’s a lovely rose garden. By the way, Miss Eva, why did you think so?”

He must be affirming this.

“Because the sword belt you’re wearing, Lord Raymond, bears the emblem of the first prince of the Dacian Empire.”

“Ah, I see. Was that something you noticed since we met in the forest?”

“I had a suspicion, so I reread the history book of the Dacian Empire this morning. When I checked the noble directory, it mentioned that the Coquinos Viscount family was originally involved in royal services, but Lord Raymond’s name wasn’t there. Instead, it was in the royal family section. I thought, for a family engaged in royal services, lending the family name to the crown prince might be a possibility. Moreover, if it’s a royal service, I thought they might allow the use of the emblem.”

Unable to contain his laughter, Raymond, still amused, was asked by Eva.

“Why not present yourself as the crown prince, and why enter the country as a viscount? If you were determined to go through as a viscount, shouldn’t you have changed the sword belt as well?”

Though he understood that concealing one’s identity as the crown prince might have reasons, the execution was flawed. The person in front of her was sharp; there must be a reason for leaving gaps. Despite knowing it was a disrespectful question, Eva couldn’t help but ask.

“There are various reasons. One of them was to see if someone would notice.”

Raymond’s tone, while laughing, changed to a more casual one. It seemed he had no intention of hiding it from Eva.

In astonishment, she gazed at the neighboring country’s first prince, who wore a mischievous smile.

“To test?”

“Only you, Eva-chan, have noticed so far. Let’s keep it a secret for now.”

“Are you planning to continue entering the capital as a viscount?”

“Yeah, that’s the plan. I haven’t met the current king of Tifris yet. I wonder if he’ll notice.”

…which means our country’s king will be tested too. The thought of being exposed made Eva feel uneasy.

Eva couldn’t help but worry about the future of this country. She prayed that the current king was a wise one.

Raymond, still wearing a cheerful smile, observed the contemplative Eva.

“It seems like you might have more questions. I’ll answer within my limits.”

“Thank you. Also, Lord Lucas… is he also a prince?”

“Hehe, why is the question marked there?”

This, too, can be interpreted as an affirmation.

“Only the emblem of Lord Raymond, the first prince, was in the history book, and Lord Lucas’s sword belt emblem wasn’t mentioned. However, the emblem of a crow is depicted on the emblems of both of your sword belts. This design should only be usable by members of the same royal family as Lord Raymond. Additionally, you both bear a striking resemblance, so I presumed you might be brothers.”

“Yeah, a hundred points for you. Eva-chan, do you know what kind of species the royal family of the Dacian Empire is?”

“Yes, I’ve heard they are vampires.”

“That’s correct. Vampires have an incredibly long lifespan, more than double that of humans. Even so, I’m over 100 years old. But Lucas was born recently. So, if the history books and the noble registry you have are old, even if his emblem explanation hasn’t been written yet, you can still deduce it.”

Raymond lowered the corners of his eyes as he spoke about his cute, recently born brother.

Recently born?

Despite appearances, Lucas seemed older than Eva.

Understanding that Raymond, who was over 100 years old, and Eva had different perceptions of time, Eva nodded in agreement.

“Did my parents know Lord Raymond’s true status?”

“Yeah, they knew. Elizabeth was a noble too.”

“I see… Lord Raymond and my mother, have both of you met in the Dacian Empire?”

“I knew Elizabeth since she was a child. She was a beautiful child. She fell in love with Klaus and got married, so last time, I came here incognito for reconnaissance.”

Raymond began telling the story with a mischievous smile.

“You’ve known my mother since she was a child?”

“Elizabeth’s mother and my mother were good friends.”

“Your mother’s…?”

“Yeah, your grandmother. Eva-chan, do you want to meet her?”

He had asked the same question yesterday through Lucas.

At that time, she didn’t know, but now…

“She disowned my mother when she married my father. Even if I were to visit now, I don’t think it would be well-received. But what concerns me is… Do you know that my mother has passed away?”

“I wonder. Maybe I do.”

If he knows that her mother has passed away, is he grieving? Does he want to visit her grave? There are so many things she wonders about. But she’s afraid of hoping too much and of being betrayed. The fear of betrayal by relatives, especially by her uncle’s family, was stronger for Eva.

A soft breeze, carrying the scent of roses, passed through the space between them. It felt as if her mother had enveloped Eva.

Eva suddenly decided to ask Raymond a question that had crossed her mind.

“Could it be… Your Highness is aware of the closed-mindedness of the Tifris Kingdom, and that’s why you move as a viscount?”

Seeing Raymond’s mischievous expression, Eva realized her assumption was correct.

“Do you know what the general perception of vampires is among the people of the Tifris Kingdom, Eva-chan?”

Of course, she knew. In fact, Eva’s different hair and eye color alone marked her as something alien. People would likely find it hard to accept a race with completely different ancestors. This country favored pure-blooded humans, which might explain why there were few citizens eager to engage with the neighboring Dacian Empire, a country of vampires, in trade and relations.

“Well, I think people have this perception that vampires are creatures that suck human blood to survive… like a kind of monster.”

Even as she spoke, she recalled Lucas sucking her blood last night.

“Quite a long time ago, when I went to the capital as a prince, just being labeled a vampire led to unnecessary fear and a pretty rough experience. This time, I want to keep being a vampire a secret for ease of movement.”

“Understood. Um, Lord Raymond, may I ask one more impolite question?”

“Sure, what do you want to know?”

“Lord Raymond and Lord Lucas… are you okay without drinking blood?”

“Hehehe. Indeed, we do drink blood at times. But, fundamentally, we can sustain ourselves through regular meals, so it’s not necessary. Our ancestors from centuries ago used to drink blood as part of their daily diet, but vampire bodies have evolved over time, and the need to drink blood has diminished. Also, you never know what kind of illnesses people might have, so it’s too risky for us. However, when we’re feeling unwell or injured, drinking blood helps us recover. In those cases, it’s often the blood of a spouse or lover.”

“I see… That’s how it is.”

Yesterday was just about him checking if there were any thorns from roses on her.

“And absorbing the vitality of rose flowers improves our condition.”

“So, in the Dacian Empire, noble houses that pledge loyalty to the royal family always have rose gardens?”

“That’s right.”

“Was this rose garden created by my mother for when members of the royal family visit?”

“I wonder. Oh, by the way, Elizabeth’s family is skilled at cultivating roses.”

—Skilled at cultivating roses.

Was her mother also cultivating roses at her family home?

“Now that I’ve rested a bit, I should get back to work before Lucas scolds me.”

Eva showed the utmost courtesy until Raymond, smiling, walked away and disappeared from view.





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