desperate, like someone trying to prove their innocence without evidence.

   “Why?” Bjorn said.
He looked down and considered Erna’s pale face, which seemed ever more pale in the coloured light of the lanterns.

   “That’s…” Erna became lost for words.

   She avoided the Prince’s gaze, for fear that he would see into her eyes and know the truth.
He would realise she planned on running away and would probably tell her father.
She had to keep her plan a secret.
So how was she going to prove her innocence?

   There was an unpleasant moment, an awkward silence, between the two as Erna warred within herself.
He is the Prince and he had good memories of Erna, she did not want to leave him with this one bad memory of her, as an inelegant and rude woman.
There was still debts to settle between the two of them and Erna desperately wanted to talk to someone about running away.

   “I…” Erna finally broke the silence with a soft squeak of a word.
“I am leaving Schuber, in a week.” Erna confessed.
“I am returning to Buford, to be with my family.”

   Erna held her breath and Bjorn looked at her with a flt expression.
He showed no sign or reaction to what she had just told him, so she continued.

   “If I had told the Princess that I would attend, knowing that I would not be going, it would have been a lie, I didn’t want to lie to the Princess.”

   “Why didn’t you tell her?”

   “I cant do that.” Erna lowered her head and her voice to a whisper.

   People started walking down the road that led to the canal, where Erna and Bjorn were stood.
That could only mean one thing, the fireworks were going to start soon.
They were the highlight of the summer festival.

   “Its…a secret.” Erna said softly, so no one could over hear.

   “A secret?” Bjorn whispered back.

I want to leave as quietly as possible.”

   “Why? Are you planning on eloping or something?” There was jest in Bjorn’s voice.

   Erna’s eyes could not hide the nervousness she felt and she swallowed dryly.
She clearly did not share the same humour as Bjorn.

   Bjorn stared blankly at Erna for a long moment, then burst out laughing.
He realised she really planned on running away and over everything else, Bjorn realised something, Erna was a simple, naive country girl who really didn’t understand how the world worked.

   Bjorn’s laughter attracted the attention of couples and groups that had gathered near by to watch the fireworks.
The world suddenly seemed more beautiful, if only in its cruel twists of fate.
Bjorn laughed at the idea of Viscount Hardy dreaming of selling his daughter to revive his fortune and status.
He laughed at all the old men rubbing their hands at the thought of getting their twisted fingers on Erna’s delicate flesh.

   Bjorn laughed for a long time, he could feel the surprised onlookers staring at him in bewilderment.
He didn’t care about them and when his laughter subsided, he looked at Erna like she was the only person in the world.
She seemed embarrassed by his sudden mirth.

   “Why would you tell me this, of all people?” Bjorn said.

   He still had a small smile as he looked down at Erna.
At first glance, she seemed timid and shy, but deep down, she was strong and firm.
Her pale face, blended with the colours of the lanterns, was cute and underlined with pouty red lips.

   “What if I accidentally mess up your plans?”

   “I know the Prince is not like that.”

   “You know? Miss hardy, you know me?”

   Even though Bjorn’s tone seemed to be spiteful, Erna could see there was still a soft smile in the corner of his lips and on his eyes.
Erna nodded without hesitation.
Blind faith seemed to be a tradition of her families.

   “Even when I leave Schuber, I will not forget my debt to you, I will pay you back, my Prince.” Erna said.

   “Debt?” Bjorn feigned trying to recall.
“Oh, that.”

   “You don’t need to worry, I will pay back every penny.
I promise, on the honour of the Baden family.”

   That name again, the woman was acting like it was her name.
It was unfamiliar, but it least it was a name that higher prestige than Hardy.
Bjorn readily agreed.
The woman’s wild plan to sell artificial flowers to pay for the debt had been working so far, would it still if she decided to run?

   A soft breeze blew off the canal and wrapped around the pair as they stood in silence, looking at each other.
Bjorn looked out over the water, following the sound of people laughing on the boats that had just set sail.
It was time to close the bet and collect his winnings.

   “Would you like me to scrub your debt?” Bjorn looked back at Erna.
“Its difficult to run away when you still have debt anchoring you to this place.
Come to think of it, that night only happened because of my rudeness.
Its not very gentlemanly to shift the blame to an innocent lady, such as yourself.”

   “But…” Erna was shocked, this was not what she was expecting.

   “Let’s make a deal,” Bjorn said with a benevolent smile.
“Afford me the honour of enjoying your company on the Abit River, tonight, and if you do, I will wipe the debt.”

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