“Did you not hear me calling you? Make a snowman with me!”
Trudy slightly nodded and awkwardly greeted Khalid, then soon hung on Renato’s waist with a broad smile. Renato lightly stroked the head of the child who was acting spoiled.
“What should I do? I want to make it together with you, but I’m talking to his highness now……”
When Renato replied, Trudy’s gaze turned back to Khalid. Khalid let out a chuckle when seeing Trudy’s eyes accusing him of interrupting the child’s cozy time with his hyung-nim.
“I will go see my aide, so please spend time together until the barracks are ready.”
“No. There, Trudy. I’m sorry, but can you make a snowman with Max?”
Renato stopped Khalid from leaving and turned down Trudy’s suggestion. Although the child had a sullen expression, he withdrew surprisingly easily.
“Uhm, I see……! Then I will make one snowman for you and one for me, then show them to you, hyung-nim!”
“I look forward to seeing that. Remember to wear gloves.”
Trudy answered in a vigorous voice, then ran to Max as if he never felt depressed just a while ago. Of course, he didn’t forget to send Khalid a resentful gaze before going.
“I’m sorry, Trudy is a little shy……”
Puzzled by Trudy’s attitude, Renato apologized to Khalid and trailed off at the end of his words. Even on the long journey to the Khan Kingdom, Khalid and Trudy could not become close. To be exact, it seemed that Trudy was unilaterally comfortable and hostile toward Khalid.
“It’s okay. It seems that His Imperial Highness the 2nd Prince does not like me.”
“How can that be, it’s just because he isn’t familiar with you yet.”
“That would be nice, but…… somehow, the way he looks at me is like looking at a thief.”
Hearing Khalid’s murmuring, Renato had a startled expression. He recalled Trudy describing Khalid as a thief when he told him about the engagement.
“I’ll remind him separately later.”
Renato said with an apologetic look. He did not tell Trudy about the marriage’s real purpose. To keep a secret, the fewer people knew, the better. He also didn’t want to put a burden on the child who already felt guilty that Renato was sacrificing himself in various ways because of him.
But if the child showed hostility toward Khalid like this, it would be a different matter. Renato admitted that he was complacent. He had thought that the two would naturally get close as they spent time together, but seeing the child’s attitude, it seemed that he shouldn’t leave it like this.
It seemed he should at least let Trudy know that Khalid was on the child’s side and that Khalid was going to help Renato, even if he couldn’t explain in detail. It was not necessary for them to be close, but Renato hoped they could get along if possible.
“You don’t have to do that. In His Imperial Highness’ view, he probably thinks that his precious hyung-nim was suddenly taken away by me. I deserve to be hated.”
“Taken away…… But it’s not like that……”
Seeing Renato about to grab Trudy and nag him at any moment, Khalid tried to dissuade him from doing so. After watching for a full month, he could understand what Trudy’s feelings were and why he was behaving like this.
The child was just anxious that Renato would drift apart from him. Marrying Khalid meant Renato would no longer only be the child’s brother, but also Khalid’s companion.
“In any case, I’m glad that the sibling bond between you two is strong. I hope you will continue to be as close as you are now.”
“It’s because no matter how close siblings are when they are young, when they become adults, they tend to become distant for various reasons.”
A bitter smile appeared on Khalid’s lips. Renato understood what he meant by that. The man must have thought of his sister Maryam after seeing him with Trudy.
Will Trudy feel uncomfortable with me when he becomes the Crown Prince?
His pale purple eyes became dark. He wanted to believe that they would be different from Khalid’s case because he never had any inheritance rights in the first place, but people couldn’t be predicted.
Renato knew the cold-heartedness of power better than anyone else. It was enough just by looking at Marquis Medus and Maximo. Power sometimes turned people into monsters.
But even if that happened, Renato would not regret the choice he had made to protect Trudy now. There was nothing more foolish than ignoring the present to worry about the future that had yet to happen. He no longer wanted to regret it like in his previous life.
“Your highness, the barracks are ready.”
“Is that so? It’s finished sooner than I thought.”
Hearing Nasir’s report, Khalid looked behind. Following him, Renato also turned his gaze. Unlike the kingdom side’s barracks which were perfectly built after all installations were completed, the Empire side’s barracks were not even completed by half.
Most of the Empire’s delegation who came to the Khan Kingdom because of Renato’s engagement ceremony had no experience in camping, so they seemed to be having a hard time setting up the barracks.
“Excuse me, Your Imperial Highness.”
“May we help set up the Empire side’s barracks?”
Nasir approached Renato and hesitatingly asked. He was worried that his words might hurt Renato’s pride.
“Can you do so?”
Contrary to Nasir’s concern, Renato readily accepted his suggestion. Even to Renato who was unfamiliar with this, the barracks of the two countries looked quite different.
Compared to the kingdom side’s barracks, the Empire side’s barracks looked sloppy for some reason. After briefly comparing the two barracks, Renato found the reason without difficulty.
The barracks of the Empire, boasting a mild climate all year round, focused more on fashion rather than warmth and rest functions, while the kingdom’s barracks looked simple but had a practical style optimized for camping.
“If it’s okay with you, we will also install wood heaters that we use at each barracks. The temperature will drop considerably at night, so…… it might be tough without heaters.”
“Heaters? Isn’t that too much trouble?”
“How could it be trouble? Since you are visitors to our kingdom, it is only natural to help make the journey easier.”
“Our side is not prepared enough so we are always indebted to you, thank you.”
Renato expressed his heartfelt thanks. They also prepared in their own way, but as soon as the engagement was announced, they had to leave for the kingdom in a few days, so there were many shortcomings. They also had no idea that the climate difference could be this big.
“Not at all. We also have a few carpets left to block outside winds, so I will give them to you.”
Hearing Renato’s thanks, Nasir smiled with a friendly expression. The person who would soon become his liege’s companion was as gentle in personality as in appearance. He didn’t have an arrogant attitude and unusual pride typically seen in people with noble status, so Nasir as well as all the knights had a good impression of him.
“……This won’t do. Please share the same barracks with me today.”
At that moment, Khalid, who was looking at the Empire side’s barracks with a dissatisfied face, opened his mouth. Renato’s eyes widened because of the unexpected suggestion.
“Pardon? What do you mean?”
“I hope you don’t feel bad when hearing this. To be honest, I think you will catch a cold if you sleep in that barracks, Your Imperial Highness.”
“I will also provide a barracks for His Imperial Highness the 2nd Prince and his attendants to use. If you are uncomfortable sleeping with me, you can also sleep there.”
“You don’t have to go that far……”
Renato was momentarily speechless because of Khalid’s relentless and decisive words, then declined half a beat late. He appreciated Khalid’s kindness, but he was already indebted to him. However, Khalid grabbed Renato’s hand and gently pulled it toward him, unwilling to listen to his refusal.
“For now, please rest in my barracks until the camping preparation is complete. You also need treatment today.”
Renato was about to decline once more, but then quietly followed Khalid when hearing the man’s added words in a low voice. After telling Nasir to call Souad, Khalid led Renato into his barracks.
Unlike the outside, the barracks where the sounds of burning wood quietly echoed were warm. Renato looked inside with curious eyes. The barracks with a table, chair, camp bed, and clothes hangers with a heater in the center looked almost like a room for one.
“You can take off your robe and jacket now.”
Khalid released Renato’s hand only after entering the barracks. Then, he hung his robe and uniform jacket on the hanger in the corner and put on the cardigan someone had prepared for him.
“I can also do it……”
Khalid approached Renato again, skillfully untied his scarf, and took off his robe. Renato, who was suddenly attended to by Khalid, became restless.
Is it because he is a knight? He also felt this from the last time, but Khalid seemed quite accustomed to this, not fitting his status as a grand prince. While Khalid was putting Renato’s outer garment on the hanger, Louis followed the two into the barracks with a bag of clothes, including a sleeping gown.
“I think it would be better to change into the sleeping gown after dinner.”
Khalid received Renato’s sleeping gown from Louis, then placed it on the table so that it wouldn’t be crumpled. Seeing Renato put on a cardigan with Louis’ help, Khalid headed to the camp bed. After helping Renato with his clothes, Louis went out again so as not to disturb the two.
Khalid pressed on the camp bed with his hand and carefully checked it. The bed was formed with a thick wooden board below to prevent cold air coming from the ground, several blankets stacked on the top, and a soft carpet underneath as a finishing touch. Khalid sat on the camp bed first, then opened his arms toward Renato.
Renato briefly hesitated when Khalid called out to him. But he soon slowly approached the man. When Renato stood in front of him, Khalid reached out and pulled Renato into his embrace.
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