Iris was stunned for a moment, pondering if this was a dream. The cold wind softly brushed her face then dispersed. By then, it transpired to her that this wasn’t a dream, an illusion, or a hallucination.
“Why are you-!”
“Because you sent a letter to the King.”
“You didn’t get the King’s edict?”
“I did. You’re going to banish me to the woods.”
Cadere, who fixed her gaze at the garden, whipped around and eyed Iris. Iris squinted her eyes, to catch Cadere’s expression who had her back facing the sun. Although it didn’t work. She couldn’t see what kind of expression Cadere had or what was swirling inside her black eyes right now.
“If you had told me, I’d be happy to walk out to the woods.”
“Don’t utter lip service using your own mouth.”
“I’m serious. I can make your wish come true. Definitely. That’s why, mother, just name it. What should I do for you?”
‘Liar. The Princess whispered a blatant lie to me. Who’s the one who acted however she likes so far? And now she’s going to listen to everything I say?’ It was something that wouldn’t even make Iris snort.
All of sudden, she remembered the voice of a poised Knight through the crack of the door yesterday. No doubt, he informed the King that the Princess had been waiting for him. Iris was curious what conversation the two of them had and why did the Princess come here. ‘But well, what can I do even if I find out?’
The King clearly called her ‘Iris A Eckebrecht’ yesterday. Even though she was no longer an Eckebrecht, he still firmly regarded her as that. A tidal wave of mockery washed over her. She couldn’t return to her original kingdom; the Parviz people didn’t know she existed. She was sure what they knew was the Queen’s seat was still vacant. ‘If that’s the case, who knows I’m here? Some deities? The servants and maids in this palace? Then… where on earth do I belong to?’
Iris relaxed her stiff body and took out a renunciation card she was familiar with. Even if she learned something more than this, there was nothing she could do here. Even livestocks lived more freely than her. That’s why it was easy for her to just give up. She convinced herself by saying that living as a doll didn’t sound bad.
“Don’t make that face, mother. It breaks my heart.”
“I don’t want to talk to you. Go back now.”
“I’ll go to the woods. I won’t appear in front of you. I’m here to say goodbye, so don’t be too angry.”
Iris halted when her body was about to lay down. Unlike usual, her calm voice was laced with sincerity. At that moment, a certain emotion that resided secretly in the corner of Iris’ heart flared abruptly. Iris opened her mouth and sputtered out incoherent words.
“I was so angry back then… No, I mean if you insist…”
In the end, she spouted nonsense things. Iris herself couldn’t even comprehend why she couldn’t get the words out while she hated Cadere so much to the point she wished to never see her face, slapped her face every morning, and got antsy when she couldn’t banish Cadere to the woods.
Maybe, just maybe, Iris might expect Cadere to come to this palace at will even if she did that. Then, ended the day like per usual which received Cadere’s help while at the same time loathing, rejecting, and ignoring her.
So of course it was natural for Iris to expect so, given how Cadere acted. However, not this time. Cadere had her own reason that Iris unfortunately didn’t know unless she took a peek at her mind. Therefore, Iris was flustered at her hidden feeling that suddenly surfaced and refused to acknowledge the unexpected answer.
Seeing Iris pursued her lips, Cadere tilted her head and changed the subject like it wasn’t a big deal. This was also different from usual.
“Mother, you are… too kind. I’m worried because you’re very kind to me who deserve a punishment.”
“…Do you know which forest I asked?”
“I heard it’s the Silent Forest. Don’t worry, I’ll be fine. I just want to make you happy. If that’s what you wished for, I’ll happily oblige.”
Open and close, Iris’ mouth repeated the motion. The plea of “Don’t go, Princess,” on the tip of her tongue was suppressed very hard so as not to get blurted out. Iris corrected her awkward posture and searched Cadere’s face. She still couldn’t see her face clearly. No matter how much she scrunched her eyes, she realized it didn’t bring much difference, making her stare intently at Cadere. They looked at each other for a long period. The silence was heavy, but no one dared to comment on it.
An unknown bird flapped its wings passionately as it returned and sat on the railing. As on cue, Cadere slowly took steps forward to approach Iris. Clack, clack. Everytime Cadere’s pointed heels stomped the floor, it made a crisp sound.
Cadere sat on the bed. Finally able to see her face properly, Iris observed it attentively. Her face was as white as now as usual, eyes resembling the night sky twinkled brilliantly, and red lips tugged upwards. Then… Her eyes drew to the red line scored on Cadere’s white neck. It looked like someone wrapped her neck with a rope. Considering the thickness, it looked thicker than the rope so it didn’t feel right to conclude it as that.
“Your neck. Who dares to-”
“Mother, give me your hand.”
Iris noticed that Cadere intentionally cut off her words, but didn’t point it out. She unconsciously put her hand on Cadere’s palm. It registered to her a tad late yet she didn’t want to pull it out. Cadere would really go to the Silent Forest this time. She didn’t want to give a cold shoulder before she left.
Cadere held Iris’ one hand with both hands and lowered her head to kiss the back of her hand. Seeing the thick lips pressed against her hand, Iris’ face somehow heated up and her heart beat loudly. While she was a princess in Eckebrecht, many kissed the back of her hand, but this was the first time she felt this way. She couldn’t stay still, for some reason she breathed heavily, and her empty hand twitched.
As her lips were gone from the back of the hand, Cadere smiled with a slightly red face.
“May I send a last good-bye?”
“Isn’t that enough? You’ve to go now.”
“Since this is going to be the last time, let me fill my greed. So then I’ll stay away. Do forgive me…”
About to tilt her head, the hand that was grasped by Cadere was pulled in with a great force. How could Iris not be surprised when she fell helplessly in Cadere’s arms? Iris was trying to withdraw quickly, but Cadere dipped her head, not giving her time to do so.
Later, their lips met.
And sweet breaths tangled together.