"Is that so?"
Heinley did not try to clear up the misunderstanding. McKenna's eyes widened as large as discs. What was wrong with Heinley? McKenna couldn't fathom his thought process.
Grand Duke Lilteang simply smiled, and he remained uncorrected and ignorant even after he walked away.
"Even if you don't tell the truth about who you like, why didn't you clear up the misunderstanding?"
McKenna confronted Heinley when the two of them were alone. The knight's bewilderment was up to his chin, and Heinley grinned as he undid the buttons on his jacket.
"Who would that please?"
"First of all…me. Because then I wouldn't be so confused."
"Other than that?"
"Well, for the distant future, it would be good for Grand Duke Lilteang. He would have said less arrant nonsense in front of you."
Heinley finished undoing all the buttons of his jacket and tossed it to the side. Meanwhile, McKenna took his clothes and folded them carefully while he waited for Heinley's reply. Heinley was a king while McKenna was born out of wedlock, but he still had royal blood. However, they were used to doing this themselves, as they traveled often outside of court.
"I've thought about your advice."
"Why didn't I get rid of the misunderstanding? It's because I followed your advice."
"…When did I ever say such a thing?"
"No one would welcome a queen that brought them war."
"Y…yes. I said that."
McKenna stared at Heinley in confusion. What did that have to do with not clearing the misunderstanding with Grand Duke Lilteang? Heinley smiled, sitting on the bed with only his pants on.
"We're going to go to war, aren't we?"
"It's not a war I decided on because of Queen. At least, it wasn't the trigger."
"It is never the trigger."
On the contrary, it was the exact opposite. When McKenna was in the Eastern Empire, he thought Heinley might give up the war because of Empress Navier. Despite Heinley's constant poring over maps and law books every day, he had sent the empress secret letters for months. McKenna ended up being mistaken, however.
"But if there's a story about how I love Queen, people will always think of her in relation to war. They'll resent her as the cause of it."
"Well, I suppose."
"I don't want to entangle Queen that way. You were right. I'll leave it to someone else."
McKenna's eyes trembled.
"You're right, but…there's been a change in you?"
"You're smart, McKenna."
"You are too easy to interpret, Your Majesty."
"I'll put a shield on her so she'll be protected from slandering tongues."
McKenna was momentarily dumbstruck. He understood what Heinley meant, but he couldn't help but worry. Heinley had long been preparing for war with the Eastern Empire. In the midst of it, he met with Empress Navier and fell in love with her. Passionately. With great intensity.
McKenna didn't know what Heinley was planning next, but he didn't think that he was going to force the Empress to his side. Could that proud woman be able to accept that her opponent was also her friend?
"McKenna. After I crush the Eastern Empire, I'm going to completely fill the mouths of the people who insulted Queen with stones."
"After doing that, I'll stitch them up and make them kneel and grovel before her."
Heinley gave a wicked smile, and McKenna clicked his tongue.
"Very well, Your Majesty. However…shouldn't you be worried whether Queen Navier will accept the king of the country who attacked her?"
"Yes. Love and friendship will be shattered first…"
"You couldn't even win her heart as a prince of a country. How are you going to win her heart as the enemy king?"
"Birds dance when they court each other, McKenna. We are birds."
"A courtship dance…"
"You don't think it will work?"
Heinley was so earnest that McKenna did not know whether he was joking or being serious. McKenna turned his gaze away and lied.
"It will work. Dance well."
Spring was slowly beginning to awaken the landscape. The days weren't as cold, although the wind could still bite at the tip of one's nose.
I was reading a book by an open window. I was almost finished reading all the books Grand Duke Kapmen had given me, and this was one of three remaining left. Still, it was a pity that no trade agreement could be made with Rwibt. If things had worked out well, being the hub of trade between two continents could have brought great benefits…
'The delegation will soon return from the coronation.'
I wanted to hear straight from Grand Duke Lilteang's mouth that Heinley safely ascended to the throne.
I looked at the green leaves that were just beginning to emerge from the branches outside, and reached out and grabbed the window handle. Spring brought new warmth, but it was still too chilly to leave the windows open for a long time.
Before I completely closed the window, however, I saw a blue bird flying towards me. The bird made a circle around the window, then swooped in and landed on the window sill.
It was the other bird Prince Heinley raised. I shouted in joy at his appearance, and the bird hopped towards me. After closing the window and bringing him a bowl of water, I noticed a ring necklace around the bird's neck.
'Why is that there?'
I thought it was strange, but I didn't touch the ring and simply opened the letter from the bird's leg. The answer to my question was written inside.