A heavy carriage drew the coffin that was draped with a black flag.
Knights led the procession.
Citizens lined the streets and sang dirges as the funeral carriage pulled the remains of Maximilian Del Ihar, the respected Duke of the North, through the thoroughfares.
Duke Maximilian Del Ihar was dead.
Everyone was in shock that he had been murdered by drinking poison intended for the Emperor.
The sound of heavy military boots filled Etaire Street.
Once someone started the song for the dead, it spread like wildfire throughout the entire capital.
“How sad, young Master,” said Pepe, wiping her tears.
Through her room’s window, Lia looked at the funeral procession as it crossed the city.
Lia had spotted Claude just a moment ago, on a horse, leading the way.
The night the Duke was on death’s door, Claude came to Lia covered in blood.
He hugged her for a while and stayed quiet and still.
His breathing calmed.
He left only when he heard the sound of a bell—the bell that indicated that the Duke had finally succumbed to death.
The only thing that was left was the scent of flowers that had been crushed.
Lia could neither ask him anything nor console him.
Just thinking of letting loved ones go, hurt her heart and made her sad.
She couldn’t even guess what words other than sad could describe it.
Especially since she’d never experienced it.
“I’m going to the Academy.”
Even during all this, Lia went to the Academy daily.
Many nobles were terrified of such an atmosphere at the Capital and returned to their territory, but the high nobles’ children stayed and studied.
There were rumours.
Naturally, at a time like this, there would be rumors.
Some said that the Duchess kept fainting or developed a speech impediment; others said that Marquis Shelby was arrested by guards.
Lia went to the stable after the class.
But Claude and Wade’s horses weren’t there.
She felt odd.
Since the ruler of Del Casa changed, there was chatter that there would be a bloodbath.
The people in the North, if Claude really had declared war as was rumored, would start taking refuge to the South.
There was already an atmosphere of war around the Empire.
Won’t I be able to see him She didn’t even get to say her goodbyes.
Lia hated him.
The man who took her first kiss even though he thought she was a man.
She wasn’t particularly scared of Claude but her body trembled whenever a touch with an odd hand brushed her.
When their lips had touched, she couldn’t think.
She hung onto him like she was on the edge of a cliff.
Lia rubbed her dried lips.
Tears were coming for no reason and her heart was trembling. Is this normal What is the reason for my heart hurting whenever I think about him Is there something wrong with me
She came out from the stable feeling low, took her books, and went out the front door of the Academy.
Her heart felt tight, like it needed oxygen.
At the front gate was Joseph, the horseman, waiting for her.
But then, she saw a man sitting on a bench across from him, feeding the birds.
Lia kept staring at the face that somehow looked familiar.
The middle-aged man had white hair and dressed stylishly.
He walked across the road with light, elegant steps and approached her.
“It’s been a while, Sir Canillian Vale,” he said to her, smiling politely.
It was Frank the tailor who had made her uniform.
He was so beloved by the Emperor that he was given a cottage in which to live within the Palace walls.
“Sir Frank! Hello,” she said, surprised.
Lia smiled brightly to hide the darkness on her face.
“You don’t look too well, Sir Canillian.”
“Is that so”
“The life of a noble isn’t easy.”
Lia understood what he meant and scoffed.
Of course, Frank knew that she was a lady.
Was he that quick-witted
She wanted to thank him for helping her despite knowing her true identity.
“Sir Frank, that day—”
“I have something to give you,” he said, cutting her off.
He took a letter out from his pocket and gave it to her.
Lia’s eyes narrowed as she spotted the red wax that sealed the envelope.
This seal was unlike the one on the letter that was given to her by a custodian the other day.
“Don’t open it right now.
Open it when you feel ready,” said Frank.
Lia’s hands were about to open it, but then froze.
“What is this, sir—”
She felt agitated.
The kind smile didn’t seem unfamiliar for some reason.
“There is a map in there,” Frank explained, “to a place that contains someone for whom you are looking.
However, that place is very dangerous.
You shouldn’t go in half-hearted.”
Lia clenched the envelope, her sweaty hands causing the seal to adhere to her clammy palms.
A carriage pulled up alongside them.
Frank started to board, but hesitated in order to speak to Lia.
“I kept your secret, but now it’s your turn to keep mine.
I trust you, Miss Canillia Vale.”
With that, he boarded the carriage, still as relaxed and calm as ever.
The carriage pulled away.
Lia’s face was stern and she bowed her head.
She noticed the envelope in her hand was crumpled.
What is this Why now
Her overgrown hair tickled her chin.
The moist wind wrapped around her.
As she raised her head, her face went from stern to determined.