Chapter 1

***

 

“I don’t love you anymore.”

 

She never imagined that she would say this…………

 

She felt the freedom, as if she was completely free from him.

 

At Rodelia’s calm tone, who looked refreshed, Kane widened his eyes as if doubting his ears.

 

“It can’t be……! You’re lying because you’re angry at me, right? You said you loved me!”

 

“I did love you.”

 

“…”

 

“However, it was only small.”

 

Kane’s eyes, which had never been shaken under any circumstances, swayed like a stormy sea, but she didn’t feel guilty for hurting him because she had just given back exactly what she received.

 

“Don’t lie to me!”

 

“Don’t scream at me!”

 

She was no longer swayed by him. That fact freed Rodelia completely.

 

Even to herself, only meaningless glances passed beyond the surprisingly cold voice, and the low, faint sound of shoes shattered the quiet stillness.

 

At the end of Kane’s gaze, a man walked slowly through the corridor filled with impermanent darkness and stood next to Rodelia.

 

As if to mock Kane, the man hugged her waist and smiled. 

 

“Rodelia, no way……..!”

 

Leaving behind Kane’s look of disbelief, Rodelia slowly shifted her gaze to the man next to her with a smile on her lips, as if she was looking at her beloved one.

 

“Kane, I don’t have any lingering feelings for you anymore.”

 

Kane’s expression began to distort indescribably at Rodelia’s attitude, which seemed to have no emotion.

 

“So….”

 

“…”

 

“I’ll never come back to you.” 

 

Rodelia smiled more brightly than anyone else and held the man’s big hand tightly. Cerdian Eisen, the man of many rumors.

 

He was the only savior who took her out of the endless nightmares she was swimming in.

 

***

 

Rodelia Florence was the perfect empress and beloved wife.

 

She had always been, and she believed she always would be. She had earned the love of Emperor Kane and the support of the people, so there were no common concubines that had plagued the previous Empresses. All she had to do was produce a successor and all would be perfect.

 

She was sitting by the window of the Empress’s palace, which overlooked the capital of the Thebes Empire, drinking her tea leisurely. It was her first day off in a long time, and she wanted to go out, but the maids desperately tried to stop her from catching a cold, so she had no choice but to agree to just enjoy the breeze.

 

Humming and nibbling on a cookie, Rodelia came up with a plan for her future child.

 

‘I hope my first child will be a daughter.’

 

Letting out a small laugh, she put down her teacup. Just looking at her like this, she resembled the appearance of a noble lady of her age.

 

She had to hide herself behind her position as Empress, and when she had time to herself, she often showed this kind of free figure, a secret appearance she had never shown even to Kane.

 

Suddenly, she remembered that she hadn’t had many encounters with Kane lately. Looking at the beautifully blooming pink cyclamen, Rodelia felt sad.

 

‘No matter how busy you are with work, you don’t pay much attention to me, do you?’

 

Deciding to go see Kane right away, she stood up from the window and adjusted her disheveled appearance.

 

‘No, I shouldn’t disturb him when he’s busy. What if he can’t concentrate on his work because of me?’

 

However, Rodelia, thinking of Kane’s recently emaciated appearance, sat down by the window again, muttering. It was the beginning of winter, so the breeze was cool, and the fallen leaves dancing between the winding streams was truly spectacular.

 

She was a little disappointed that she couldn’t see Kane on their third wedding anniversary, but other than that, it was a perfect day.

 

That was, until her head maid of honor, Viscountess Cohen, came out of the blue with the news.

 

When Rodelia put down her teacup, stretched, and went to her study to read, Viscountess Cohen came into her office with a serious look on her face.

 

“…… Empress.”

 

“Yes.”

 

The Viscountess was a woman with a stubborn expression. But today, for some reason, there was a hint of anxiety on her face that was unlike her.

 

She tried hard to hide the signs like biting her lips and avoided eye contact with Rodelia, but she couldn’t hide the anxiety that leaked out.

 

What on earth could she be hesitating so much? Could it be that she was going to ask for a great favor?

 

The Viscountess moved her lips as if she was about to speak, but only looked at Rodelia. She was very tense and a cold sweat broke out on her forehead.

 

Rodelia looked down at Viscountess Cohen, who was shorter than her, with a worried look in her eyes.

 

“You look so gloomy, is there something wrong?”

 

“….”

 

“I’m fine, so tell me. I’ll help you if I can.”

 

“No……….. Your Majesty, it may be a false rumor………”

 

The Viscountess stopped again in mid-speech.

 

When Rodelia smiled gently at her as if she was okay, the Viscountess, who wiped off the cold sweat on her forehead with a chubby hand, took a deep breath and continued to talk.

 

“I don’t know what happened, but a rumor has spread throughout the palace that Princess Eisen has been coming and going from the Emperor’s bedchamber.”

 

After hearing the news, her neatly tidied eyebrows were distorted, and with a dumbfounded look on her face Rodelia asked as if she couldn’t believe her ears.

 

“What……?”

 

She believed that she must have heard it wrong. She wanted the Viscountess to quickly answer that it wasn’t so.  But despite Rodelia’s earnest pleas, there was only a silence between them. 

 

Soon the low sigh of the Viscountess echoed throughout the room.

 

“I’m sorry to be the bearer of such news. Your Majesty.”

 

Rodelia’s heart dropped.

 

The wind, which was blowing coolly and tickling her cheeks, quickly turned into a blade and stabbed her flesh, and she heard the Viscountess’s cautious voice in a determined tone, as if she was pronouncing a death sentence.

 

It was a perfect day, but it was only a kind of prelude to the tragedy. A device to make the tragedy even more horrific, so to speak.

 

“Well, it’s just a rumor. Right? The imperial palace is full of all sorts of ridiculous rumors.”

 

“Your Majesty, this is …………..”

 

She didn’t want to believe it. Viscountess Cohen held out a crumpled piece of paper in her hand to Rodelia, who was pacing around, unable to sit still with anxiety.

 

She took the paper with trembling hands and looked down at it.

 

But she couldn’t make out what was written on it, because the written letters filled the paper tightly and erased everything.

 

Why did she give her such a piece of paper?

 

Rodelia’s questioning gaze went to the Viscountess, and she pointed with her eyes to what was written at the bottom of the paper. Rodelia’s brow furrowed, her gaze turned to the paper again.

 

<Today again, Princess Eisen entered His Majesty’s bedroom. The Empress doesn’t know yet. Shouldn’t we tell her?>

 

<No, she will be hurt. She’s a fragile person.>

 

<You’re right, it’s better to hide it. Who is the opponent? The Princess of the great Eisen, so if maids like us spoke without knowing our position, we wouldn’t have any bones left.>

 

Rodelia’s limbs trembled in shock. She tightened her grip on the note, but the moist, wavering gaze went to the Viscountess. 

 

“The note is from a maid in the imperial palace.”

 

Viscountess Cohen’s miserable voice spread through the air.

 

Their notes were simply information sources that could find out everything about the Emperor. However, just because she was a maid in the imperial palace did not mean that she knew everything and could be trusted.

 

Rodelia decided to check it out herself.

 

She trusted Kane completely. She tried to sound as calm as she could, and she spoke in a rather strong voice.

 

“Let’s go to the Emperor’s office.”

 

***

 

The way to the Emperor’s office was quite a challenge.

 

The palace servants even sighed as they glanced at Rodelia and whispered. 

 

Was it really a fact that she was the only one who didn’t know?

 

Come to think of it, she realized that this has happened often recently. Maybe they were signaling her to notice.

 

‘No, Kane wouldn’t do that to me.’

 

Rodelia ignored their stares and looked straight ahead.

 

From now on, rumors like this should be widespread, but as an Empress, she must not be swayed by something as mere as this.

 

Rodelia gritted her teeth to hold back her tears.

 

Her precarious gait, as if she was about to collapse, felt quite heavy. 

 

When she arrived in front of the Emperor’s office, she exhaled and nodded to the servant. It was a signal to let the Emperor know that she had arrived. 

 

Shortly, the huge mahogany door creaked open slowly. In the dimly lit room, the full depths of Kane’s face came into Rodelia’s swaying vision. 

 

Reflected in the faint lighting, his eyes were blank and his face was noticeably gaunt, as if he had lost weight without knowing it. There were unorganized papers lying here and there on his desk. 

 

“Kane?”

 

As soon as she saw his pale face, she forgot the purpose of her coming here. Rodelia, unaware of the stares around her, strode closer to Kane, who seemed to have become a different person over the past few days.

 

“What’s going on?mAre you sick or something? Why is your face look so bad?”

 

All the time she was close, Kane’s eyes grew sharper, but she didn’t care. It was at that moment that his health was of utmost importance to her right now…It was the moment she reached out and touched Kane’s cheek.

 

With a dull thud, her hand was pushed off coldly. 

 

“Huh?”

 

This couldn’t have happened. Rodelia stared blankly at her drooping hand and looked up at Kane.

 

“It’s nothing serious, so don’t worry about it. By the way, what happened to you coming without any notice?”

 

Kane’s cautious voice was terribly dry and cold. His cold eyes frowned as if he had touched something foul. Then he took a handkerchief from his pocket and quickly wiped his hands and then threw it on the floor.

 

It was the first birthday present Rodelia gave Kane after they were married. It was a handkerchief that she had painstakingly embroidered all night, though she was not very good at it. 

 

[Well, people can’t be too perfect. So you’re more attractive.]

 

In the past, Kane mumbled as he accepted the handkerchief, words that had made Rodelia dizzy. He saw the messed up embroidery and teased her with his adorable eyes. Nevertheless, it was such a precious handkerchief, and now he was treating it like it meant nothing to him. Her head went blank.

 

“…Empress!”

 

Looking blankly at the handkerchief lying on the floor and recognizing Kane’s voice calling her, Rodelia finally broke through her reverie.

 

 “Yes…?”

 

“What the hell are you doing? The next time you come to me, I want you to give me some sort of warning beforehand. I’m not a free person.”

 

The Emperor who had been so kind and warm to her was no more. It was only when she saw Kane’s cold voice and dry expression that she realized it. 

 

Until now, she had dared to deny and not believe everything that informed her of his change of heart, but his heart had already left her…An embarrassing silence followed. Even the servants hesitated, sensed the chilly atmosphere and left. 

 

‘Word will spread widely…’

 

Sighing at the sight of them, Rodelia turned her gaze to Kane. 

 

”I just stopped by to check on something….”

 

With a trembling voice, she struggled to spit out words, and decided to retreat.

 

“But…since Your Majesty doesn’t seem to be in a good mood today, I’ll come back.”

 

Rodelia hurriedly changed her words.

 

The words came up to her choked throat, “Did you have a mistress?”, but she couldn’t get it out.

 

Because she wanted him to tell her himself, but she didn’t have the courage to ask or listen.

 

In fact, how should she deal with it if he told her he had a woman and won’t treat her like he used to? 

 

“Right, see you later.”

 

Kane met Rodelia’s wavering gaze and spat the cold words with a cold expression.

 

He acted as if he couldn’t talk about anything because it was his private life.

 

‘So you, don’t bother me anymore’……….. his voice seemed to echo in her ears.

 

“What do you mean next time? The noble Empress has come all the way here, so I think it would be better to check.”

 

As Rodelia turned to walk out, unable to reply, a seductive female voice echoed silently through the air.

 

She was able to discern immediately who the owner of the voice was.

 

Does it have to be this cruel?

 

She didn’t want to face his lover like this.

 

Her whole body went rigid.Rodelia, who grabbed her trembling hands and shifted her gaze towards the source of the voice, discovered the existence she had been struggling to deny and laughed in vain.

 

“Princess Eisen….”