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1542-chapter-50

“It’s the fourth day since we escaped the dungeon. This is my guest room in my palace.”

“This is the first prince’s palace?”

I looked around the room with fresh eyes. It was my first time in the prince’s palace.

I knew he rarely stayed here, but somehow I felt traces of Claude’s presence around me.

“Yes. Despite all the rumors, I am still a prince, and saving a royal family member is a significant merit. So, per the custom I brought you to the palace and had you treated.”

His eyes grew darker.

“People said you should stay in the main palace because you are a precious benefactor, but that wouldn’t do.”

I recalled something I had pushed to the back of my mind and forgotten. Before Claude went to Medina, he had been wary of assassination attempts from the empress’ side. We also needed to find out who was behind the suspicious events in the dungeon. There was a lot to discuss. I sighed deeply and decided to think about it later.

“Adrian himself treated you. He has powerful holy powers, so we thought you’d wake up soon. But since you didn’t wake up for four days, many were worried.”

He cleared his throat briefly.

“I was worried, too.”

He avoided my eyes and turned his head, fidgeting with his hands. His neck and ears were turning red.

For some reason, his behavior stirred something deep within me.

The small, insignificant sound of his cough.

His shy avoidance of my gaze, moving restlessly.

His flushed, fair skin.

All of this warmed me inside.

Sunlight poured through the open window. A gentle breeze softly fluttered the white curtains, caressing me and tickling the ends of my hair.

I had survived. I was no longer in the cave.

Claude was alive, standing before me.

“I’m glad we made it out together.”

I spoke sincerely. For the first time in my life, I felt that living was a blessing. I smiled without hesitation, a bright smile without any shadows.

Claude had been looking away and mumbled something under his breath as if agreeing.

Finally, our eyes met directly.

At that moment, shock washed over Claude’s face.

He froze, unable to move, and then, unsure of what to do, he covered his face with his hands.

The skin not hidden by his hands turned a deep red.

“Your Highness?”

Why is he acting like this? I asked, puzzled.

“Are you feeling unwell? Do you still have lingering effects from the ordeal?”

As I said it, I thought it could be true.

I hurriedly reached for the bell to call someone.

“No! No… it’s not that. I’m fine.”

He stopped me swiftly, still covering his face with his hand.

“Are you really sure you’re okay?”

I asked in a doubtful voice. He repeatedly rubbed his face and sighed.

He was restless, shaking his legs, and clenching his fists as if trying to suppress something within him.

Finally, after some time, his trembling subsided. His voice, now calmer, came out softly.

“Yes… I’m really okay.”

“Maybe you were poisoned or cursed in the dungeon.”

I asked worriedly. That dungeon was incredibly suspicious. It was full of things that shouldn’t have been there and events that shouldn’t have happened.

It wouldn’t be surprising if new kinds of poison or curses were discovered there.

However, Claude shook his head.

“No. I also received treatment from the priests. They said there’s nothing impure or harmful left.”

“That’s a relief, but…”

I tilted my head.

Then why did his face turn so red suddenly?

Could it be because he’s hot?

But the breeze was pleasantly cool.

As I looked back and forth between the open window and his face, Claude cleared his throat. His face had calmed down a bit, but it was still incredibly red.

“Um, how about you? How are you feeling?”

“Didn’t you see the examinations? Both the priest and the healer said I’m fine.”

Oh, I remembered and added.

“Ah, you must have come in after that. As I said, I’m fine.”

“No… no. Yes, I heard them.”

“Then why did you ask again?”

He continued his strange behavior.

He stood up as if he was about to leave the room immediately, but he couldn’t take a single step and sat back down several times.

“You’re acting really strange, Your Highness.”

His sudden, unrecognizable behavior was unsettling.

“…‘Your Highness’, you say.”

As he kept rubbing his face and hair and pressing his eyelids with his palm, he stopped and repeated the phrase. I was startled and asked.

“Is there a problem?”

His voice came out slowly.

“No… why do you call me ‘Your Highness’?”

“Well, because you are Your Highness…?”

Was this some kind of riddle?

But it seemed like I was the only one puzzled by his question.

The person before me was now interrogating me as if he had no doubt about what he was saying.

“Sometimes you call me by my name. Just now, too. Claude. And I called you Khalia.”

“That’s just how the conversation went… But usually, I should show proper respect to Your Highness. It’s the right thing to do.”

“No, it’s not right. Why is it right? It’s not right. It can’t be right.”

He mumbled to himself like a madman.

“How about this? Let’s start calling each other by our names. And speak comfortably.”

He suddenly lifted his head and declared. My voice was filled with astonishment.

“Really?”

“Think about it. We protected each other’s backs in a dangerous dungeon and risked our lives to save each other. Where can you find such a close relationship? How can we call each other ‘Your Highness’ and ‘Miss Estelle’ so formally? It’s impossible. Absolutely.”

He went on at length about why we should call each other by our names and be friendly.

It reminded me of a conversation in front of a mansion on a similarly nice day.

“You said we were ‘parallel lines that will never meet,’ didn’t you?”

“…”

“Since when do ‘parallel lines’ become close and call each other by their names?”

“…”

“What else did you say? ‘Unnecessary sentiment’? ‘Unnecessary emotions from meddling too much’?”

Watching the prince’s face turn red, blue, and pale in quick succession was amusing.

The unfamiliarity, worry, and suspicion I felt from his strange behavior began to fade.

I still didn’t understand, but it was somewhat amusing now. I leaned back against the soft pillow and watched him suffer alone.

To be honest, I had no objection to calling him by his name and speaking comfortably.

I already felt a deep closeness to him. He was the one I had confessed all my deepest secrets and feelings to.

To help him escape his misplaced self-denial and guilt, becoming close was essential.

But for now, I wanted to tease him a little. His earlier claims back then were annoying and bitter in hindsight.

I waited, curious about how he would respond. Finally, after struggling, Claude lifted his head.

His eyebrows drooped.

“Let’s do this.”

“Please, tell me.”

“I take back what I said earlier.”

“You mean about calling each other by our names?”

I was slightly disappointed, thinking he was backing out so easily.

“No.”

He seemed to have made up his mind. His eyes had a peculiar gleam.

“I’ve been cursed in the dungeon. A curse that will cause great trouble if I don’t call the person who saved my life by their name and speak comfortably. It’s a very serious matter.”

His words were so outlandish that I was at a loss for words. Now, it seemed that the strange look in his pale blue eyes was madness.

Despite my silent, questioning gaze, he persisted.

“A curse undetected by the priests, how terrifying is that? I just realized I’m afflicted by this curse. It can’t be undone. You saved my life, so you must take responsibility for this, too.”

“Your Highness…”

“Oh, I feel pain in my chest. Is the curse manifesting? Stop! Stop calling me that. It makes my heart ache.”

Pretending to clutch his left chest and bending over as if in pain, he looked so ridiculous that I couldn’t help but laugh. I collapsed onto the bed, laughing.

“Haha, what are you doing!”

My hair fell over my bowed body, and my still-recovering body trembled. I laughed so hard I nearly cried.

“Stop laughing like that…”

“Pardon? What did you say?”

The remnants of my laughter lingered. I managed to sit up and wipe away the tears. He mumbled something beside me.

“Nothing.”

He mumbled again, burying his face. Was his face really turning red because of a curse?

It was clear he was pretending to seek my permission, but his continuous strange behavior was worrying.

“So, what’s your answer?”

Claude hurriedly hid his words and urged me.

As I was about to reply, his posture caught my eye. His hands, resting on his knees, fidgeted nervously. His legs were shaking slightly.

“In front of others, we’ll act like our usual selves, Claude.”

“For now, I’m satisfied with that.”

Unlike my smiling face, his expression showed some dissatisfaction, but he quickly agreed. The trembling in his limbs stopped.

As I watched him with amusement, there was a knock on the door.