Predatory Marriage — Chapter 102. Hunting With The Barbarians (2)
Translator: Atlas / Editor: Regan
Leah realized that Ishakan was walking calmly toward her, somehow looking more imposing than usual. He wore hunting clothes, and it was strange to see him carrying a quiver and a sword at his waist, but they suited him well.
Behind him came the Kurkans he had chosen to accompany him on the hunt. There were five in all, including Haban and Genin, but there was one in particular that she had never seen before. A male Kurkan with long hair tied back, brushing his waist, and a tattoo on his skin that extended from the edge of his eye to his cheek. His eyes were long and thin, and his lips curved slightly in a smile.
Before Ishakan reached Leah, another figure appeared to greet him. Blain had been checking his horse, but moved to intercept, and the two men stared silently at each other for a moment. Blain was the first to speak.
“Thank you for agreeing to hunt with us today, sir,” he said.
Cerdina stepped out of a tent, dressed in a simple and comfortable dress very similar to Leah’s. She looked around with sleepy eyes, but composed herself gracefully at the sight of Ishakan and approached the king.
“Long time no see,” she said. “How have you been?”
The Kurkans stared at her as if she were a particularly interesting creature, intimidating stares that didn’t make Cerdina hesitate in the least. She only smiled kindly, and Ishakan smiled back.
“Thanks to Estia’s hospitality, my stay has been very comfortable.”
Though the luncheon he had attended had been ruined, no one mentioned that. Everyone smiled and talked as if nothing had happened. In society, yesterday’s enemy could easily become a friend today. But no matter how often such situations occurred, it was always strange to witness them.
Leah was the last to approach. She had planned to greet him simply and turn away immediately, but she doubted Ishakan would allow it. As she approached, the Kurkans shifted their eyes to her, and Ishakan looked at her calmly, smiling.
“Princess.” Unconcerned as always with others around him, he spoke softly. “Would you like a particular animal? I’ll catch it for you.”
She was about to respond, but someone else spoke first.
“My sister will hunt for herself.” Blain grabbed her tightly by the wrist and pulled her back, putting her behind him. “You don’t have to do anything for her, sir.”
Ishakan’s attention was not on Blain. His eyes were focused on Leah’s wrist, glaring at the harsh grip that held her. Slowly, dangerously, his eyes shifted to Blain’s face.
“Crown Prince, what are you so afraid of?” His lips curved in an empty smile, and his eyes glittered, cold and ominous. His voice was calm, but piercing, as he challenged the prince. “Do you think I’m going to capture and marry the princess right now?”
Anyone listening could tell he was trying to provoke the Prince. Blain took a deep breath, trying to contain his irritation.
“Why should I be afraid?” He retorted. He could keep a smile on his face even when he was angry. “You have come to Estia personally, with the intent to sign a peace treaty. I assume you won’t do anything to start a war.” His voice was as chilly as the winter wind. “You should not covet what another possesses.”
Ishakan considered these words, and then gave a short laugh. Leah glanced at Cerdina. The queen looked happy. Normally, she would be provoked by any display of thoughtlessness or disrespect to her precious son, so it struck Leah as strange. Uneasy, she kept an eye on the Queen.
Ishakan also glanced at Cerdina, smiling.
“Really, now…I think this is going to be a fun hunt,” he said. His golden eyes glinted, sly and enigmatic.
“I can’t wait for it to start,” Blain replied, and Ishakan turned away. Blain watched Ishakan’s back before he turned away as well, dragging Leah back to his camp. He released her there, continuing his preparations for the hunt, testing his bowstring and examining his horse’s saddle. He didn’t look at her until he finished.
“Leah, the handkerchief,” he ordered.
Silently, she offered him the handkerchief she had brought. It was not a significant item, just something she had found by chance around the palace, and though Blain must have known this, he accepted it without protest. He didn’t care where it came from, the important thing was that she was giving it to him.
“Do you want a deer’s horn?” he asked, tying the handkerchief around his wrist. “Or a fox tail?”
She knew her brother would keep bothering her until she chose something, so she answered automatically, without enthusiasm.
“I want the fur of a fox,” she said.
But the first animal that came to mind was not a fox, but a wolf. The beast that reminded her of Ishakan. Immediately, she shook the thought away.