Elle's forehead creased with a frown. Had Marshal just suggested closing the main branch of the orphanage? The only one the city had? Where most of the orphan children from the surrounding states were cherished and taken care of? If that branch was closed, the hundreds of children that the orphanage housed would come on the streets, and they would no doubt would have to be shifted somewhere.
And what would happen of those children? Slavery was one of the greatest and filthiest problems that had sullied the nation. The elites took pride in having absolute control on others, if not for their petty egos then to show off their affluence. If the children lost the roof above their heads, they might as well be losing their freedom.
Elle bit her tongue as she sat in her chair, making notes of the important things discussed and decisions taken. She, as a communicator and record keeper had no rights to speak up and express her opinions.
She looked at Marshal with suspicious eyes, wondering if he had something to do with the problems the orphanage was facing.
"Would you elaborate why you think as such?" Lord Damien crossed his legs and straightened his back. His fingers were interlaced and his elbows were resting on the armrests of the chair. Even through the dilemma at hand, her conscience consciously took note of how hot he looked. His hair was in a styled in a side swept notion, creating waves and that made her want to weave her fingers through them.
She felt the heat rising to her cheeks at being so close to him, in the same room as him. And something about the way he was so focused on the work at his hand and so responsible as a king and as a man was attractive to her in the primal, cave woman way. What was it about women being all gooey eyed when their men were so into their professional work or being in control of their work?
She was smitten by just how seriously he took his work. Would he took her just as seriously when it came to their relationship?
"Your Highness, as has been brought to your notice, the number of children is reducing at a drastic rate. And some children have voluntarily chosen to leave the place. Also, the children in the orphanage are not infants but of age, one has to wonder if they can call thirteen and fourteen year olds as children."
Damien hummed, as if the excuses Marshal had used could be passed as reasons. Elle couldn't help but see in between the lines.
"But that's not the issue, is it? The orphanage has less number of children can only be a good news, it means that the number of orphans has reduced. I'm concerned about the complications of the orphanage, not about it's utility." Lord Damien spoke with a hard gaze fixed on his advisor.
Marshal placed a smile on his face that Ellie recognized as that of a thief. Over her years spent on the streets she had well learnt how to identify people with ill intentions, their peternatural smiles could easily be determined as wicked. And besides, she never did like Marshal.
" Milord, I do not recall the orphanage facing many issues, just the regular. Some of the resources need to be upgraded and restocking is required." Marshal smiled.
Damien could look right through him. Something was hidden in those extremely thick and long sleeves Marshal was sporting. And in the previous meeting, Marshal had been the one to raise the issue of the orphanage. So when it came to the problems, why would he be downplaying everything.
Out of the corner of his eye Damien watched Elle, her face a mask of controlled emotions, a poker face with eyes evaluating everything. As if she was ready to speak and bombard a few questions of her own.
"I need to know what others might think of the same and since Orion" He turned to Elle, " Lady Elle, why don't you enlighten me on what you think."
His lips curved up slightly at the startled expression on her beautiful face. She rapidly blinked and her plump lips parted a little.
"M-Me, Milord?" Her voice was as surprised as her face, as if she couldn't believe she was asked for her opinion, that the mere thought that she would be considered for the royal decisions was flabbergasting, any mayhap it was. But considering that Damien often lost herself in her view and found himself in her touch, it wasn't such a bold thing for him.
" I wonder if there is some invisible twin of yours in this room whom I might be referring to." Damien loved the crimson colour that she blushed, and even more so the way she stuttered. What a pretty little butterfly he housed in his wing, so shy and openly explorative.
"My apologies, My Lord." She began, " I think I have much to ask Sir Marshal than to express upon the idea of closing the institute itself. May I be impertinent enough to question Sir Marshal, Your Highness?" He took pride in the knowledge that she asked for his permission, and not Marshal himself.
He gave her a soft smile, just the corners of his lips curving upwards and gave her a nod.
"Go ahead, Lady Elle, I would like it if you voice your curiosity. And I'm sure Sir Marshal would not mind."
Elle turned to Marshal, and when she noticed the sour well masked expression on Marshal's face, she decided that indeed she disliked Marshal.
"Sir Marshal, may I ask why the number of children is reducing in the orphanage?" She asked. Damien noticed the slight tilt of her as her eyes zeroed in on Marshal. She was looking way beyond adorable as she sat there, Damien could only wait for them to be alone.
"Lady Elle, how would I be knowing that? I am an advisor, not a warden working there. But mayhap you find it hard to differentiate, should I explain the difference? Anyhow, expecting wisdom from women never does fare well."
Elle overlooked the snide comment, it was expected that he would insult her in someway after she questioned him. There was not a single female advisor in the court, not a single female allowed to speak before a man or raise her head and meet a man's eyes. In the society they flourished, women always walked a step behind their men. Chauvinism was far away from getting eradicated.
"Sir Marshal, as an advisor who raised this issue, I thought of you as responsible enough to know of the condition thoroughly, but that regardless, that too cannot be expected as I see." Elle answered back, " Milord, a few days back on my visit to the town's square, I noticed a lot of young kids on the streets, one simply had to wonder why the population is not reflected in the orphanage. Also, from the past records I realize that the orphans are recruited within the royal forces. If that is so then why haven't the numbers of our forces increased? Neither we have new soldiers or servants nor has there any form of migration occurred. So where are the children, if they cannot be spotted on the streets as well?"
Elle spoke in a single breath and got flushed all over, her face going red from exertion. He could practically smell her excitement of having spoken to Marshal and Damien, her giddiness was palpable.
And serious were her accusations and questions.
Damien had given a thought to what happened to the orphans, but Marshal had assured him that children had simply travelled afar in search of better opportunities. That and the poverty being reduced was taken a good news.
"So children have gone missing. Is that what you want to say, Lady Elle?" Damien asked her, his eyes boring into her eyes that carried hot embers in them. She was an orphan herself, so it was obvious where her interest in the topic came from. Her compassion made her emphatic in this particular issue, stemming all her anger and dedication.
"Or mayhap someone must have made them vanish." Her accusing eyes were fixated on Marshal whose eyes stared at her with venom dripping from his eyes.
"Are you suggesting that I have a hand in them going missing?" Marshal's voice raised an octave, making a warning growl pass through Damien's throat. He would not allow anyone to raise their voice at her, she was his to scold if she ever overstepped her boundaries. She had no right yet to question the royal advisors,but he would mold her if the need ever arose.
"But I never accused you, Sir Marshal. I merely expressed a possibility. Why such outrage if you truly do believe that the rate of orphans have simply reduced than something else?"