Chapter 14

 

***

 

“So if you want me to come, tell His Majesty to come in person.”

 

“…….”

 

“Now leave.”

 

Rodelia’s cold gaze entered Ferna’s murky brown eyes. The Empress, who had been so compassionate, gave off an air of intimidation that had never been seen before.

 

‘Is it because she’s Marquis Florence’s descendant?’

 

Ferna retreated in fear.

 

“Don’t you hear the words, “Get out”?”

 

“Huh? Yes…….”

 

He couldn’t help but reply, confused by the fact that he’d backed away without even knowing it himself.

 

After Ferna left, Rodelia subconsciously fixed her expression brighter. She invoked a kind of defensive temperament that prevented her from looking sweet, but it made her feel even more unhappy.

 

“Your Majesty, I’m afraid something will happen to you if you continue like this. Why don’t you go out to dinner pretending that you can’t win? Ferna’s expression was unusual earlier. It’s the same as the last time we had the invitation list incident.”

 

“That’s right. The emperor has not said anything, so it seems that he intends to let it go. After all, he is a very capable chamberlain. I guess it’s a casual thing.”

 

Baroness Verna hesitated and expressed her opinion. Other maids also expressed their sympathy.

 

They felt that if Rodelia continued to disobey the Emperor’s orders, 

she would not receive even the basic treatment of the empress.

 

If that was the case, the position of Empress’s chambermaids would no longer be beneficial.

 

Viscountess Cohen and Baroness Verna had been serving the Empress for a long time and would not betray her, but the other servants were different.

 

Once Rodelia’s position was weakened, the servants would no longer stay with her. Baroness Verna thought.

 

‘’I see……”

 

Rodelia understood Baroness Verrna’s thoughts.

 

“You’re right. I still have people to take responsibility for.”

 

Noticing the anxiety of the maidservants, Rodelia nodded her head.

 

She knew that the role of “Empress” would take precedence over “Rodelia Florence” again. The Empress was a person who should not show her emotions recklessly.

 

Rodelia looked out the window with a complicated look in her eyes.

 

***

 

Cerdian’s gaze slowly shifted along Rodelia’s hand.

 

He traced along the hand that was holding the fork and stayed on her red lips.  

 

Rodelia dutifully ate her meal with not a minute’s disturbance in her manners.

 

Surely she could feel the gaze on her.

 

She wondered if the Grand Duke was fine or pretending to be fine after she told him to stay away from her.

 

Probably the latter.

 

However Cerdian was thinking about something else. He was strangely annoyed.

 

‘Has she been eating properly?’

 

Her skinny wrists, visible under her sleeves, also scratched his nerves.

 

Perhaps that was why he spoke impulsively.

 

“Is there anything bad going on?”

 

Cerdian’s arrogant voice echoed through the quiet hall. The solitary gaze, which had never once turned towards him, finally followed.

 

“You look very pale, Empress.”

 

Rodelia’s forest-like eyes were quiet.

 

“…… I’m sure the Grand Duke knows that better than I do.”

 

The dry voice came back, but it didn’t matter.

 

“I’m not sure.”

 

“…….”

 

“I don’t know.”

 

The fact that even an emotionless gaze was directed at him was in itself very comforting.

 

Cerdian laughed at the increasingly insistent gaze.

 

With a graceful hand gesture, Rodelia set down her fork and met his gaze as if she was trying to read his thoughts. A strange atmosphere flowed.

 

“It does not seem to be the time for the Grand Duke to inquire about the Empress’s well-being. Besides, the Empress does not seem to be comfortable with you.”

 

Kane, who was watching Cerdian with an unpleasant look, cut off the flow between the two in a hard tone.

 

Cerdian’s gaze, which had been fixed on Rodelia, shifted to the troublesome interrupter.

 

The edge of Kane’s mouth twitched slightly.

 

Cerdian knew that look well. It was the look of someone with obsession. His parents had that look.

 

But they didn’t know what it was exactly that they desired.

 

‘You (Kane) chose power, but you can’t give up Rodelia Florence?’

 

Cerdian lowered his gaze at the plate in front of him, as if he couldn’t stand the fact that Kane was the only one who could say anything about it.

 

He looked at the steak that had so much blood on it and thought.

 

‘He’s more greedy than I thought…’

 

“So I guess you’re more of a problem here, Grand Duke.” (Kane)

 

‘You’ve gone too far.’ (Cerdian)

 

A fine wavelength arose on Cerdian’s face, as still as the dawn air.

 

‘It’s not a good look to try to have something you don’t deserve.’

 

“Are you mocking me now?” (Cerdian)

 

Cerdian, recognizing Kane’s voice with anger in it, asked, still placing his gaze on the plate.

 

“Of course not.” (Kane)

 

‘I’m feeling pretty bad right now.’ (Cerdian)

 

Laughter started to flow out, an emotion Cerdian hadn’t felt in a long time. A different emotion from earlier was in his red eyes.

 

The strangely weary voice, the way he looked past Kane to Rodelia, a longing was reflected in his casual gaze…

 

A streak of blood popped and swelled on Kane’s neck as he understood the gaze.

 

“….. Anyway, since it’s between the emperor and the empress, it’s not something for the Grand Duke to care about. I appreciate your concern, but let’s leave it at that.”

 

Kane’s voice was stuck in Cerdian’s ear as Kane tried to appear nonchalant.

 

“I just thought the Empress’s expression was suspicious and as a good friend I was a little concerned, but your reaction was terrible.”

 

Cerdian smiled crookedly.

 

“You shouldn’t have created an uncomfortable position with the mistress, even for the sake of saving face. You didn’t think much.”

 

Cerdian tilted his head. His low voice that dared to cut the emperor’s words even contained a condescending taunt.

 

“You have nothing to worry about, since the Empress is not the kind of person who cares about such low-grade feelings, and therefore low-quality jealousy.”

 

Kane averted his gaze and lifted his fork again. It was also a silent warning, “That’s enough.”

 

Cerdian was curious. How far would such an emperor show his true feelings? So he thought he’d provoke his pride a little more.

 

“Your Majesty.”

 

The low voice rang out again, and Kane frowned, setting his fork down. He cleared his throat a couple of times to tell Cerdian to stop.

 

The sight was very funny. The taunting Cerdian slowly opened his mouth.

 

“You have a tendency to make decisions on your own, don’t you? Well, that’s a good thing for an emperor. Because that is how an emperor is supposed to be.”

 

“…….”

 

“But that’s not how people feel.”

 

When he saw Kane’s face turning red with anger, Cerdian added.

 

“Even the emperor can’t control a single moment of emotion and raise his voice like this.”

 

“What……?”

 

“It’s as if you’re jealous.”

 

Kane’s face flushed with embarrassment. Cerdian’s words seemed to get to him. His face stiffened further at Cerdian’s subsequent words.

 

“But the emperor is of noble blood and would not be jealous of such frivolity and vulgarity.”

 

“…….”

 

“There are many eyes here.”

 

Cerdian’s cold gaze turned to the attendants around him. They bowed their heads, their whole bodies trembled as if the leaves on the trees were shaking. 

 

Perhaps when the feast was over, the attendants would have their tongues cut out or lose their lives.

 

This was to prevent words about the emperor who was beaten by the Grand Duke from leaking out.

 

This was the method of Kane Bayard, the most powerful emperor in the Thebe Empire’s history.

 

Would Rodelia Florence know this cowardly emperor?

 

 

“Isn’t that so?”

 

Cerdian’s gaze remained distant the entire time, directed at Rodelia. Kane, who was even angrier at the sight, eventually raised his voice.

 

“Do you think I’ll cut you some slack because you’re Sola’s brother!”

 

Rodelia shook her head at Cerdian, not wanting him to offend Kane any further, but it didn’t matter to Cerdian whatsoever.

 

Cerdian continued to speak slowly, a sneer on his lips.

 

“I’ve never asked for Your Majesty’s consideration.”

 

It was an obvious disregard for the emperor.

 

“You……!”

 

Kane, no longer able to hold back his anger, kicked his seat and stood up.

 

The only sound in the quiet, still hall was the clatter of chairs hammering on the marble floor.

 

Kane walked with large strides to the corner of the hall.

 

The sound of metal meshing against metal as his body shook echoed. In one fluid motion, Kane drew the sword from the statue of the knight standing in the hall.

 

Up until that moment, Cerdian was still relaxed. He even gave Kane a pity look as if he was looking at a child.

 

It was only a moment later that Kane, further exasperated by his attitude, approached him and pointed the sword at his neck.

 

“Grand Duke.”

 

“Yes, Your Majesty.”

 

There was no fear, no respect, much less courtesy in his voice.

 

Kane gritted his teeth.

 

“Do you think I will cut your throat with this sword? Tell me.”

 

The angry voice rang out quietly.

 

“May I speak frankly?”

 

“What?”

 

Kane could have plunged his sword into Cerdian, who remained unperturbed to the end.

 

“Please stop.”

 

A calm voice added to the frighteningly calm atmosphere. The two men’s gazes turned towards the end of the table.

 

“Empress? How can you ……?”

 

Kane stared at Rodelia in disbelief.

 

In any case, it was Kane who was holding the sword, so he must have felt Rodelia was on Cerdian’s side.

 

Rodelia did not avoid Kane’s gaze. Cerdian, who was staring at her, chuckled.

 

“It’s not fun.” (Cerdian)

 

A low voice, devoid of any emotion, leaked out.

 

Cerdian pushed the tip of the blade away from his neck with his long forefinger, and his eyes cold. Red blood trickled down, but he didn’t seem to care.

 

Eventually standing up, Cerdian looked down at Kane with emotionless eyes.

 

“Thank you for the welcome meal. But I can’t swallow the food at a place like this. Next time, I’ll avoid such meals. It’s uncomfortable for all of us.”

 

“Grand Duke…!”

 

“This time, I will ask the question. So how long do you think you’ll be able to keep the Empress?”

 

Gently bowing down, Cerdian asked quietly so that only Kane could hear. Leaving Kane behind him, who turned deadly pale in an instant, he took his cold steps.