Episode 15: Hng (2)
* * *
On his way to the drill hall, Tarkan ran into Mukali, who was coming out of the palace.
《 Isn’t today your day off?》
《 Ah, yes, you’re right. I’m just coming back from escorting the Princess Consort on an outing.》
《…With my wife?》
He hadn’t heard anything of the sort from Aristine. When they went to sleep last night, the only thing she said was that today’s dessert was really delicious.
Well, she didn’t necessarily have to report her daily schedule to him. He wasn’t particularly interested either.
《 Yes. We went to the Smithy.》
《 Is that so? Was there an issue?》
《 No, nothing in particular.》
His reply was oddly firm.
With Mukali’s personality, it wouldn’t be weird for him to talk this and that about the ‘Princess of Silvanus’ but he did no such thing.
When Tarkan stared at him, Mukali began to talk about what happened at the blacksmith forge.
What Aristine did at the smithy, what kind of things she liked, what she paid attention to, what she preferred.
He didn’t talked about any of that.
Mukali only talked about what swords he liked.
Tarkan looked at Mukali, who was happily chattering away, with dissatisfaction. He would rather Mukali told him about what Aristine went to do.
But he didn’t feel right asking about it first. Wouldn’t it look like he was very interested in Aristine?
《 That said…》
He and Aristine were partners in a political alliance. He needed to know some information. He was certainly not probing.
Tarkan inwardly mumbled such to himself, and right when he was about to open his mouth…
《 By the way, Milord.》
《 What is it?》
Upon seeing Mukali’s look turn serious, Tarkan was inwardly pleased. He figured Mukali was finally done talking about himself—something Tarkan was neither curious about nor asked about—and was finally going to start talking about Aristine.
《 Can I dare to ask about what Milord intends to do by getting a pâtissier who is skilled at making scones?》
The words that came out of Mukali’s mouth were completely different from what Tarkan expected. And in a bad direction for Tarkan too.
In the face of such a sharp remark, Tarkan kept his mouth shut.
Being simple and hot-blooded didn’t mean being ignorant. Mukali was pretty smart.
He was just tactless, and never even considered being tactful.
Tarkan didn’t know how to respond.
《 I thought you were certainly developing new battle rations but…》
《 Battle rations…?》
Tarkan couldn’t understand how Mukali got to that idea.
‘What kind of lunatic makes battle rations out of scones.’
Tarkan took back his earlier thought that Mukali was pretty smart.
Not knowing what kind of impression he had left on the lord he respected, Mukali innocently continued.
《 Yes, didn’t I miss the meeting that day? The others said that scones were going to be used as battle rations, so Milord ordered for a pâtissier.》
Tarkan’s face fell.
He thought Mukali was the only idiot, but they were all idiots.
《 But I don’t think that’s right. I am not competent enough to understand Milord’s intentions. Please tell me.》
Tarkan was silent. What the heck was he supposed to say?
《 I forgot I had something to do.》
He said and had no choice but to leave like that. He couldn’t ask anything about Aristine.
* * *
Tarkan uttered softly as his recollection came to an end.
He was going to ask for a report about this guy as soon as the sun rose. Of course, this was to make sure that his business partner wasn’t getting scammed while doing other business.
“I wonder why you’re so defensive.”
He felt annoyed when he remembered how Aristine called the man ‘hers’ and told him not to talk about Ritlen that way.
Aristine opened her eyes and turned to look at Tarkan.
‘Why exactly is he mumbling this late at night instead of sleeping?’
It seems he was still suspicious about Ritlen.
If you think about it from Tarkan’s point of view, his wife who had been confined and knew nothing about the world was going to start a business, so that was worrying enough.
“It’s fine. He’s a really good kid. Even if he’s not, I’ll handle it; don’t paint him in a bad light.”
“That’s what I mean; why are you defending him so much?”
Do you like him?
Those words rose to the tip of his tongue.
“He is my employee.”
Aristine grinned. That was pretty much what any boss would say. Aristine was very pleased with herself for saying that.
Tarkan’s expression relaxed a little when Aristine drew a line with the words ‘my employee’. Although he didn’t like that there was a possessive term attached to it. It also bothered him that Aristine looked proud when she was reminded of Ritlen.
“I have to take good care of him. He’s my first employee!”
“Mhm, the first.”
Tarkan’s hand squeezed the innocent blanket tightly.
It was annoying and irritating. Even more so because he had no idea why he felt this way.
Tarkan roughly pushed the blanket away. The shaken blanket flapped around like it was rebelling.
Aristine who was lying down quietly, looked at him in surprise.
Tarkan felt slightly better.
He didn’t know he had such a petty heart.
“What, aren’t you going to sleep? Behave and come inside.”
Aristine pulled up the messed-up blanket as she spoke. Then she pulled it open slightly and looked up at Tarkan.
As if she was saying, ‘get in already.’
Tarkan’s grumpy mood seemed to suddenly disappear as he quietly lay his large body next to Aristine. As he entered under the blanket, a warm body touched his left side.
Aristine’s hand grabbed his.
Her hand was soft, warm, and tender. Somehow, the sensation didn’t only touch him, but also his heart.
“If you think about it.”
After lying next to her quietly for a while, Tarkan opened his mouth.
“I’m your first business partner, aren’t I?”
Aristine casually replied with her eyes shut.
It felt completely different from when her eyes lit up as she talked about her first employee.
Tarkan looked her with a little dissatisfaction in his eyes, then he asked probingly.
“Then will you take good care of me too?”
Hearing that, Aristine’s eyes flew open, and she looked at him.
Why was this high maintenance husband of hers acting like this today?
She turned unto her side, facing Tarkan. Her fine, silky hair flowed as she moved, brushing past Tarkan’s neck, cheek, and shoulder.
Tarkan flinched and his fingers which were clasped with Aristine’s trembled. He glanced at her face once and quickly turned his gaze to the ceiling.
It felt strange for them to be lying down, side by side, facing each other.
“I think I’m doing my role pretty well, no?”
Tarkan slowly nodded his head.
“…Right, you’re doing well.”
Heh, Aristine snorted.
‘Of course I am. See how hard I’m working to take good care of you!’
She gave Tarkan a sullen look.
“You need to work a little harder.”
After spitting out those words, Aristine lay down again and closed her eyes.
Tarkan’s eyes flickered as he was left alone.
What does that mean?