Predatory Marriage — Chapter 91. Gypsies (2)
Translator: Atlas / Editor: Regan
Count Valtein had become a strong advocate for friendly diplomatic relations with the Kurkans. Leah praised his hard work and gave him a leave of absence. The man needed a few days off after what he had been through.
Together, they had decided not to increase the number of Kurkan hostages they would keep as bargaining chips. More were unnecessary. Unlike his predecessor, Ishakan was a king that went out of his way to protect his people. Leah suspected that Ishakan would accept a deal even if they only had a single Kurkan.
Of course, with that in her favor, it made it much easier to commit to a peace treaty. Leah was working hard to end the negotiations favorably, and while this was stressful enough, she always had other concerns.
The atmosphere in the royal palace had quickly soured. After Cerdina flaunted the purple silk dress that she had stolen from her, Leah ordered Countess Melissa to ignore the theft and effectively sweep it under the rug. But it wasn’t because she intended to do nothing. With no investigation and no known culprit, the princess’s ladies-in-waiting began to eye each other with suspicion. Those who truly served Leah took it upon themselves to discover the detestable traitor.
If matters escalated and someone was proven guilty, then Leah would have to intervene. The thought of a traitor bothered her, but the discord among her ladies-in-waiting was even more troubling.
Suddenly, Ishakan’s voice echoed in her thoughts.
—The queen is a Tomari.
When he told her that, it left her speechless. Ishakan had laughed.
—Do you want to know more?
Stunned, Leah nodded. She had almost spilled her cup of tea, her insides tight with tension.
—I will tell you in the future, he said lightly, and maddeningly. Maybe you should use this as an excuse to see me again.
He had predicted exactly what she would do. After their first night at the inn, she had been determined to never see him again, but somehow he always anticipated her and blocked every escape. And she had had no choice but to return the palace, with all her questions unanswered.
Of course, it was possible that Ishakan had lied, but they had not been discussing formal negotiations, and it had clearly not been a joke. The fact that Kurkans had had multiple altercations with Gypsies recently lent further credence to his claims. Gypsies were nearly as despised as Kurkans. Nobles would not accept intermarriage with Gypsies; it would be like marrying a Kurkan. If Cerdina was really of Gypsy descent, it could upend the royal household and even upset the succession. If Prince Blaine had Gypsy blood in his veins, it might be enough to keep him off the throne.
But as intriguing as all that way, Leah knew better than to make an issue of it now. She needed more information first. But it kept swimming to the surface of her mind. Even as she prepared to leave, she was thinking of Cerdina, replaying previous events in her mind and assimilating it with this new information.
“Princess,” Countess Melissa said impatiently, “Are you sure you want to see him again?”
The question stopped Leah in her tracks.
“I’m afraid he’ll do something to you again.”
“No. I don’t think he will. But I admit I can’t be sure.” Leah turned to the Countess. “Please, stay by my side.”
“Of course,” the Countess replied, her fists clenching with determination. Leah smiled, and they moved on together. She needed to meet someone to do, but she couldn’t trust her other ladies-in-waiting. Only the Countess was permitted to accompany her to the main palace where the nobles met.
At the main palace, the nobles greeted Leah and she returned their courtesies polite, scanning the crowd. It only took a moment before she found the man she was looking for, surrounded by a crowd and chatting happily until he sensed Leah’s gaze.
She moved toward him. His expression shifted at her approach, bewildered that she would come to him so openly, until she stopped directly in front of him. That he dared to stare at her was rude and disrespectful, but everyone nearby was doing the same. Leah had never been the first to approach him. She spoke first, leaning toward him.
Leah began to walk towards the man. As she got closer, the man’s expression became more bewildered. Even after she caught up with him, stopping her steps right in front of his eyes, he continued to stare at her in bewilderment. His gaze could be considered rude and disrespectful, but the other nobles around her looked at her in the same way, astonished. Perhaps because Leah had been the first to approach.
“Are you busy?”
The man looked at her as if his soul had left his body. “Oh, I’m not busy,” he stammered.
“Then, let’s talk for a moment, Byun Gyeongbaek of Oberde,” she said politely.