Chapter 52 : Blue Shards

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As her head was being stroked, she seemed to fall asleep.

Before she knew it, Natalia had fallen asleep again in Alejandro’s arms.

Really, this fellow.

Alejandro muttered his dismay to Natalia in his mind.

She was always so defenseless.

He wondered if she had already forgotten about the fact that she was kidnapped by him to be brought here.

“…”

After gently retrieving his arm out from under Natalia’s head, he stood up from her bed and left the bedroom.

Then, after his gaze wandered a bit, he muttered, “Come out,” without focusing anywhere. 

“You’re here, aren’t you?”

There was no reply to that.

But Alejandro didn’t care, and continued.

“I knew you were following me the whole time… just come on out.
I need to talk to you.”

Still, the room remained silent.

Alejandro took a self-defense knife from his chest.
Then he opened the door, aimed it at Natalia, who was sleeping in bed, and opened his mouth again.

“Should I proceed on throwing it?”

“…wait.”

A man then appeared as he spoke.

He is a tall man with a thin but well-muscled body.
His eyes are fixed on Alejandro without averting their gaze.

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“…what do you want to talk about?”

“Are you from the shadow guard of the Marquis Reinalpha family? That man has become quite attentive, hasn’t he?”

“…no.”

The man shook his head.

Alejandro’s eyes widened in surprise at his words.

“Not that man? Then you… don’t tell me you’re working under the Marquis of Strydom, are you?”

“…”

The man’s eyes widened in surprise for a moment when he heard the name of the family, but as expected he did not say anything. 

Still, he took this silence as an affirmation.

Alejandro nodded his head affirmatively.

“So the Strydom family interfered this time, too, huh? I knew something was wrong.”

“…I’d like to ask you something too.
About the story you told to the young lady a few minutes ago.”

“Ah.
You’re talking about the fact that time went back? No, that’s not it.
The part about her killing your young lady?”

“…it’s not a very good joke.”

“Haha.”

Alejandro was surprised to hear this line of words delivered with such reluctance.

“Well, you are free to believe what you want, so judge as you wish.”

After a brief laugh, Alejandro continued with a straight face.

“I knew that the Marquis of Strydom had laid their hands on me, since I was certain that Beatrice also had her memories… I had thought it was strange since the entrance ceremony.
It was different from the last time.”

“…”

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“Ah, yeah, yeah.
I wanted to ask you about this place.
Have you reported it yet?”

“Ah, just a few minutes ago.
I had been keeping an eye on you for a while, thinking there was a chance you might try to escape, but I decided that there was nothing to worry about.”

“I see.
Well then, I’d better get going.
I thought I could stay with her a little longer.”

“…you’re not going to run away, are you?”

“No, I just want to go somewhere.
I have no intention of running away.”

“…”

The shadow guard looked alarmed and stepped back slightly.

“It’s not far from here.
You can follow me if you want to keep an eye on things.”

“…then this young lady.”

“I’m going to let her sleep here.
Help will be here in a little while anyway, right? Then it’s okay to just leave her alone here.”

“…”

Without waiting for a response from the shadow guard, Alejandro turned on his heel and opened the bedroom door.

He approached the sleeping Natalia and patted her head one last time.

“Natalia.”

It was a quiet and small whisper.

“He said your prince will be coming to save you soon.
It seems that you still can’t manage on your own, the same as before… no, you were able to move at this stage, so that means you’ve made some progress.
Oh, and I won’t apologize for the pendant.”

Alejandro then dropped his lips to Natalia’s cheek.

“…so long, my little princess.
I wish I could have stayed with you forever, but this is goodbye.”

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Rembrandt and his team rode their horses to Alejandro’s hideout, which they had identified through information from the shadow guards.

There was no change in the weather in the center of the capital city, but it seemed to have rained on the outskirts of the city.

It seemed to have ended shortly and the roads were not so muddy.
In fact, this level of muddiness made it easier for them because there was no dust.

The destination was a small wooden house quietly built near the border of the capital, further into the forest behind the villa where Alejandro lives.

It was late afternoon when Leopoldo, Rembrandt, a few shadow guards, and private soldiers arrived there.

The shadow guard reported that Natalia was still safe, yet Leopold’s expression was tense and stiff.

However, when they arrived at the house, they found that there was no shadow guard waiting there.

Driven by anxiety, they went inside, but the house was empty.

Neither Alejandro nor Natalia were there.

There were no signs of people anywhere, although there were signs that someone had been there and used the place, such as sleeping quarters and tables.

“…Unukan, Lestrade, search the perimeter of the house.
Nicholas, you’re on guard duty.
Leo, you and Ron will look inside the house with me.
Even if he escapes, the shadow guard must have left something behind.
We’ll find it.”

Holding Leopold’s arm as he tried to run outside in the darkness, Rembrandt gave instructions to the shadow guards and private soldiers.

“Shadow guard…?”

“Ah, I’ve put a shadow guard on that guy.
He’s the one who called us to tell us where he is.
If Alejandro and the others have moved somewhere, he must have left something somewhere to let us know.”

“…I, see.”

Leopoldo grunted, clutching his hair in frustration.

“I really… I’m no match for Rembrandt, no matter how far I go.
I hate myself for being so dumb.”

“Comparing yourself with others is futile.
Compare yourself with your past self.
Then you will see that you have changed a little.”

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“Eh?”

Leopold looked up to see Rembrandt staring straight back at him.

“I hear you did a great job on this undercover operation.
Even to the point of getting ripped to shreds as bait.”

“…no, I wasn’t aiming to be a decoy.”

“I know.”

Rembrandt chuckled at his awkward answer.

“Well, still, you did your best in your own way, didn’t you? For the sake of the woman you fell in love with.”

“Well, that’s…”

“You’re still not good enough, but you’re better than how you used to be.
That’s good.”

Leopold nodded awkwardly, and Rembrandt continued, “But.”

“If you still intend to take the girl, you need to convince your parents, not push them.
They don’t like her from the start, and now that she’s been kidnapped, she’s damaged goods.

If you can’t protect her, it’s much more loving to let her go than to get her hopes up.”

“…I’ll think about it.”

“Ah, you do that, and don’t bother me anymore.
Even if there was a reward, I would never do it again.”

Despite his coldly uttered words, his mouth is gently arched.

When Leopold’s shoulders finally relaxed, Ron, who had been searching the room, came downstairs with something wrapped in a handkerchief.

“Rembrandt-sama.
It was on the floor near the bed.”

Leopoldo saw it and turned pale quickly.

It was a shard of shattered blue glass.

It was something that Rembrandt, who handed it to Natalia as an errand boy, as well as Leopold, remembered.

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