Since none of them wanted to fight right now, they danced a bit more before starting to gather information. Of course, to Nathaniel it was a continuation of what he'd been doing beforehand. He already knew the names and occupation of every guest by now.
When they wandered from one group to the next, Katherine saw Felix standing in a corner alone and looking depressed. She suddenly felt the urge to rush towards him and comfort him. Knowing his backstory, she felt sorry for him. However, Nathaniel pulled her back and nonchalantly placed his arm around her waist.
"What - ?!"
"You should be more vary of him. Magic researchers are very likely to be involved with the organization", Nathaniel explained in a low voice. He didn't say that it was suspicious that Felix seemed to know his magic power. He had recognized Nathaniel by name and flinched back. Besides the royal family and his own servants, this was rare. It had only been a random test when he reached out his bare hand to the researcher, but the results were more than worrying.
"Felix? In the organization?" Katherine's eyes went wide. "But he's such a nice guy!"
That she was calling this man on first-name basis, did nothing to brighten up Nathaniel's mood. His lips curled down, giving a stern image. "That doesn't amount to anything. Did he tell you what he's researching on?"
She shook her head. "He just told me he was curious about my ability."
Nathaniel halted in his step so abruptly that she felt the pull on her waist. "You told him?"
"He was wounded." To Katherine, it was a natural to help when she could. But gazing up at Nathaniel, she saw that he had his stony facade back on. "What? Am I not allowed to help?"
Noticing her annoyed tone, Nathaniel fully turned to her, placing his hands on both of her sides. "Whatever I said before, I don't want to put you in a cell. I don't want to restrict your freedom more than necessary."
Too close, Katherine thought. His fragrance of coffee and firewood entered her nose. Instinctively, her hands landed on his chest to keep the distance. Then she raised her chin provocatively. "But?"
Nathaniel held her gaze firmly. "It's a bit inconvenient. Your ability is more useful if it's kept a secret."
Katherine's stomach turned. Keeping it a secret? Again? Her hands fell down weakly. The man before her suddenly had brown hair and murky brown eyes. With a finger on his smiling lips, he said: "It's our little secret, Kitty. Don't talk about it."
"No", she whispered and backed away. "No, not again! I won't keep it a secret again!"
With a fast turn, she struggled free and ran out of the ballroom, uncaring for the disapproving gazes of the aristocrats.
"Katherine!" The change happened so fast that Nathaniel didn't manage to grab her in time. Her sudden paleness alarmed him, but even worse was that gaze. She had looked at him as if he was a monster, shocking him to the core.
However, now that she was running away, it wasn't the time to care about his own emotions. He never saw her like this before, as if she was truly scared. In a hurry, he followed her outside only to see her enter one of the public carriages.
She didn't look back once. Before he could reach her, the driver flicked the reins and the horses started to run.
With a curse, Nathaniel jumped into the next carriage and instructed it to follow her. However, before it could do so, the palace guards that had been following him in secret, blocked the road. "Stop! You can't go without company!"
"Then come in, damn it!", he yelled back and kicked the door open. They strolled in willingly, but with the loss of time and the additional weight, the horses couldn't compare to the ones of Katherine's carriage. After a few turns, they lost sight of her.
The Earl's eyes were murderous as he looked back at the guards. "If I don't find her in the palace when we reach there, you two are dead meat."
He didn't know where else she could go.
The King of the Icelands, William Icefall, rested his chin on his hands and watched the birds searching for food in between the hydrangea bushes. They chirped happily and hopped here and there, hitting the ground with their sharp beaks. If his only worry would be where to get food and build a warm nest, the King would also be happy. Unfortunately, life wasn't so simple.
He closed his eyes when he heard footsteps behind him. Since he sat in her territory, she was supposed to find him. He only regretted that he couldn't watch the birds in peace a bit longer.
"What are you doing here?" Her voice was shrill like a knife scratching a plate. "You have no right to be here after - "
"I have every right I need. I am the King.", he reminded her, already exhausted without her doing anything.
She clicked her tongue. "You are a pest, that's what you are."
"I take that as a compliment." When he was young, he thought being a king was an honor, something to long for. In reality however, it was a hassle. "Sit down, Layla, it will take some time."
As she followed the command unwillingly, her movements spoke of the strict etiquette in her childhood. She was enraged, but she didn't forget to brush her black hair back with an airy gesture. "I hope you come to tell me that you will ban this monster again. Or even better, kill him."
"He isn't a monster. I won't deny that he's dangerous, but he has done very much for the kingdom." They had this discussion so many times that he only needed to pick one of the repetitive answers now. It was boring, so he changed the topic to his main purpose. "Your head servant was found guilty of attacking a noble. I hope you can give me an answer."
The Queen of the Icelands blinked, making her snake green eyes vanish behind long lashes for a second. "What a dumb girl. But I can't understand what her idiocy has to do with me."
"She is your head servant."
"She goes her own ways, that's why I need to punish her sometimes." The Queen's gaze wandered to the ceiling of the golden pavilion, uncaring for the torturous questioning her servant might be going through right now. The toy was already broken, completely so when she had taken one of her eyes. Who could use a servant with only one eye left? She was already useless before. But maybe she should intervene to show that she wasn't easy to bully. "Who did she attack anyway?"
The King scrutinized her slowly. Because he knew how crazy she was, he sometimes forgot that she could also be smart and cunning. Her acting skills made the nobles believe in her as a benevolent mother figure, even though she didn't originate from the Icelands. He couldn't say for sure if her ignorance was only a disguise.
Watching her closely, he saw the twitching of her delicate hands as well as the dangerous glare flashing through her eyes. Hate was too simple a word for this. She was craving for his downfall, but she also knew that it wouldn't come easily. "Did he die?"
There was a short silence after the word as the Queen tried hard to control her emotions. Then she sighed and leaned back in the chair. "Such a disappointment. She should have at least planned it thoroughly."
"Do you still deny your involvement in this?", the King asked and tapped on the table with his long fingers. "We are husband and wife, you shouldn't keep secrets from me."
The Queen laughed, but there was only venom in it. "Husband and wife? Don't forget that I was the Queen even before marrying you. I only took you in because she suggested it. She didn't want us to fight."
The King sighed again. "You didn't have enough support from the nobles back then. They would have killed you both. I also couldn't have stopped them. So, don't talk like I owe you a favor. If I did, I've paid it back several times by now. I always respected you and treated you well."
The face of the Queen contorted. "Respected me? Was that what you did when you f.u.c.k.i.e.d that bitch?"