Erna, who fell asleep only late at night, woke up much earlier than usual because of a nightmare that haunted her dreams.
She couldn’t remember what the dream was about when she woke up, but the memory of being chased by something and the fear she felt still remained clear in her heart.

‘A very large beast must have been chasing me…’

She stared blankly into the air and pondered about her strange dream.
In the end, she quickly got up and sat on her bed.
Turning the lamp on the bedside table, the warm light diluted the darkness helping her see the table clock that showed that it was still less than four o’clock.
Staring blankly at nothing for a while, Erna gave up on going back to sleep and decided to get out of bed.
After getting dressed and tidying up the bed, the dawn began to arrive gradually.

She stood in front of the window and looked down at the neatly partitioned garden.
A rural field, which was supposed to be dyed red with poppies in full bloom at this time of year in the past, emerged above the former flower field.
It suddenly felt strange to her that the water lily pond and the orchard beyond were now full of tall stone buildings.
Frequent moments of blankly reminiscing about Buford occurred to her lately, probably because of the familiarity brought about by her encounter with Pavel.

Erna stood in front of the window for quite some time and turned around as if trying to control her weakening heart.
Normally, she would have spent her time making flowers while waiting for the other residents of the mansion to wake up, but today, she barely had that kind of motivation.
Suddenly, the thought of going for a walk appeared on her mind as the pale morning light seeped through the gaps in the curtains.

Finally deciding on what she wanted to do, she began to move diligently; she braided her long hair, put on a bonnet, and brought out her gloves.
Normally, she would have chosen her lace gloves that were adorned with beads on the wrists area, but today, she decided to wear something different and opted for a pair of plain gloves.
Staring at the gloves on her hand, the memory of a certain prince who had done a terrible thing to her most cherished gloves appeared in her mind, making her feel resentful once again.
With her hand that was clad in unadorned gloves, she habitually rubbed the back of her hand. 

Erna made a rational conclusion that today’s flower quota should be reduced a little.


Erna, who finally finished her preparations after attaching a large flower pin to her shawl, sneaked out of the bedroom quietly.
The Viscount said it would be unwise for a noble lady to walk outside the house without a maid, but she felt that it was still too early to wake Lisa up.
She had already mastered the geography of this area after staying here for so long, she believed that she could now take a walk by herself.

Successfully escaping from the Hardy Mansion without waking anyone up, Erna looked up at the starry morning sky while catching her breath.
The street was still dark, but not as scary as she thought and she even felt more comfortable now than in the middle of the day which was full of passersby.
Additionally, she had more freedom to see her surroundings because there were no gazes staring at her.

With thoughts of sending a letter to Pavel, she slowly started walking down through Tara Avenue.
There was an address written in his letter that she had brought from Buford, so she thought that it would be ok to visit him in person.

‘Wouldn’t that get Pavel in trouble?’

When she remembered her only friend, who kept his distance while being conscious of people’s gaze for her sake, her troubled heart felt relieved somehow.
It was then that she suddenly became aware of a bum lying down the street.

Erna, who had unintentionally turned her gaze toward the clock tower, let out a small scream and stepped back from shock.
In the distance, she could see a man lying on the railing of the large fountain at the center of the square.

Turning her head away from the sight, she decided to get away as quickly as possible.
However, she suddenly felt an ominous feeling and decided to turn around.
The man, who was completely lying down as if dead, had his arms drooped under the railing.
It was really obvious that the strange man was absolutely unconscious.

She looked around the empty square, and began to approach the fountain cautiously; she could now see him better with their distance shortened.
He was a tall man with a head full of blonde hair with his arms mostly covering his face, which made her unable to completely see his features.
Additionally, she could see a strange-looking golden object rolling around at his feet.

In a crime novel published in the newspaper Lisa brought to her a while ago, Erna had seen a sentence describing a similar scene.
It was a novel about a detective who checks the body of a man who died after being attacked by a monster in the middle of the night.

Was this man attacked by a monster?

Frightened by her thoughts, she hurriedly ran to the vagrant.

“Hey, are you okay? Can you hear me?” Standing a step away from the man, she asked nervously.
The man, however, didn’t even move.

“Are you sick? Are you hurt? Should I call the police?” When she finally took the one last step towards him, the man lowered the arm that was covering his face.

Fortunately, he didn’t seem to be dead, making Erna sighed from relief.
However, she quickly regretted her choice which was swept away by unnecessary worries and sympathy when she met the man’s gaze that was now staring at her.
The unconscious vagrant lying down was the very man he never wanted to meet, Prince Bjorn.

Erna hurriedly backed away, but Bjorn’s movements of grabbing her wrist were a little faster as usual.

“Erna Hardy?” He sighed and slowly called her name.
Only then did she understand why the prince was lying in the square like this, a strong smell of alcohol that could give her a headache was wafting from his body.
Just smelling it was enough to make her intoxicated.

“Why is Miss Hardy here?” he asked, groaning while still holding Erna’s wrist.

“Put my hand down! Or else I will scream!”

“I asked you why you are here.” As she struggled to pull her wrist out, his grip only grew stronger.

“This is the square, not the Prince’s estate.
I could go anywhere I want!”

“…I guess that makes sense.”

He nodded while slowly getting up to sit down on the ledge of the fountain.
When he saw her bright red face standing in front of him, he unexpectedly burst out laughing.
The stars shone above his head when his consciousness clouded, and now Erna Hardy was here in front of him.

For a while, he thought that he was just hallucinating.
With the time so early that the sun was still rising up and in a place outside like here, it was impossible to meet Lady Hardy.
However, the Erna in front of him was definitely the real Erna, and he suddenly felt the situation unbearably funny.

“Let me go!” As he struggled to regain consciousness, she roared once more.

“If you need help, I will call someone.
So please, let go of my hand…”

“Hey, Miss Hardy.
Do you really want to sell yourself to me?” Bjorn, who was exhaling slowly with his head bowed down, asked in a low-pitched voice. 

“… … I beg your pardon?” Erna, who had been fussing while waving her arms, became calm at the moment she heard his question.

When the lady who asked him with an innocent face came into his view, he couldn’t help but laugh.
It was because the lady, who talked about making a reasonable deal with him a few days ago, was now chasing after his back.

“Are you going to visit your lover even after the rumors about us spread throughout the kingdom? It’s not that I don’t understand you, but isn’t it too blatant of you to do something shameless like this so early in the morning.
What do you think, Ms.

“I understand, this conversation is just plain rude and unpleasant.
Please let me go now.”

“If you want to make a deal with me, you have to bargain first, you know.” He staggered and stood up to face her.

“How much?”

With his eyes closed, he softly asked.
His gray eyes, that were unusually clear despite him being drunk, gleamed in the faintly bright dawn light.

“Let, go..
me… … .” She couldn’t speak properly and only let out a moan-like sigh.
Meanwhile, he took one step closer towards her.

“Tell me how much it is.”

For the first time, she realized that all senses could be paralyzed due to too much anger thanks to the prince’s insults.
She should have poured out some curse words, but no voice came out of her throat as her mind went blank and the pain in her wrist slowly faded away.

“I don’t want to have this insulting conversation with you anymore.
Please stop.”

Erna barely managed to speak after a while.
Bjorn, who was gazing at the distant sky, slowly lowered his gaze and met with her gaze once again, his eyes held an indifferent look.

“So what if you don’t like my words?”

“You should know when enough is enough.
Aren’t you being too rude?” She screamed in a rage.

“So you’re telling me you know how not to cross the line?”

He calmly asked her with his lips in an obvious smirk.
For a moment, the words she wanted to say got stuck at her throat, making her unable to answer his question.

How could such a messy prodigal son become the crown prince of this country at one point!?

She was shocked by that fact to the point of making her dizzy.
Meanwhile, Bjorn, who wanted to say something again, slowly closed his eyes.
When Erna felt something strange, it was only after his already staggering body had tilted sideways.

Surprised by the sudden turn of events, she instinctively supported him but it was impossible for her to endure the large frame of a drunken man with her petite body.
Their bodies were tangled together and rolled on the floor of the square at the same time.

Half conscious due to the fall, Erna realized that she was now lying on the cold stone floor only after the bright dawn sky came into her eyes.
Additionally, the cursed prince was lying on top of her.
The breath he exhaled tickled her neck and his tight body was very hot and rigid, making her feel threatened.

“Sa-, please save me! Help me!”

Barely coming to her senses, she screamed with all her might and started to struggle.
However, no matter how much he pushed, the unconscious Grand Duke wouldn’t even budge just a bit.
Suddenly, the sound of footsteps approaching from afar could be heard.

“Go away! Let go!”

Erna slapped the prince’s shoulder and back with her clenched fist but Bjorn, who wanted to open his eyes for a moment, lowered his head once again.
Even in the midst of this unfortunate incident, the prince did not let go of her wrist and as his hot, soft lips brushed the nape of her neck, her face crumpled slowly as if she was going to burst into tears soon.
Meanwhile, the footsteps of the approaching people became more and more clear.

She turned her head in fear, trying to find anything to help her out of this predicament.
Picking up the golden object that had fallen near was an instinctive choice, as there was no rational judgment left in her head other than the desperate feeling that she had to do something.

“Let go of me! Please let go!”

She struggled as she swung the trophy she was now holding.
Her desperate movements pushed the hem of the dress up to her knees, but she didn’t have the energy to worry about it for now.

“Help me!”

With a scream that grew sharper, Erna started slamming Bjorn’s back with the trophy without mercy.
At the same time that Bjorn opened his eyes to the pain that had grown to overcome his drunkenness, the sound of footsteps from those who approached where they were suddenly stopped.

“Your Highness!” Surprised by the absurd sight, the Grand Duke’s driver and attendant shouted.

With a frown on his face, the Grand Duke let out a groan and turned around.
As he flopped down on the ground, Erna could finally stand up while tightly holding his trophy she used to beat him in her hand.
Seeing her current state with barely focused eyes, a new smile spilled from Bjorn’s lips.

Erna, who refused the help of the attendant, took a breath and stepped back.
Tears seemed to fill her eyes, but she did not cry since crying was something she was fed up with.
Instead, she shot a gaze filled with hatred back at him

While the coachman and the attendant raised his tired body upright, Erna quickly turned around and started to run away from him once again.
The sound of her heels from her frantic running echoed throughout the stillness of dawn.

“That’s… … A- Are you okay, Your Highness?”

The attendant, who was looking at him with a strange gaze, asked stammeringly.

Bjorn, however, closed his eyes slowly without answering.
When he opened his eyes again, Erna had already gone to the other side of the square, the ribbon tied to the end of her braided hair fluttered as if it was a pair of wings trying to lift her petite body.

The last thing he saw before losing consciousness again was the golden antler still in Erna Hardy’s grasp.

His bounty gleamed beautifully in the bright morning sun.


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