Chapter 19

***

 

The elegant voice of the empress, which was like a low-pitched recitation, had an authority that could not be imitated.

 

“Princess Eisen. This is not a regular banquet but it’s an important one to celebrate the founding of the country.”

 

“So what?“

 

“Didn’t you think delegations from other kingdoms would find it strange? Don’t you know that this could make Thebes a good prey for other kingdoms?”

 

It certainly would be like that. 

 

If Kane and Sola were to enter together, theories of dispute between the emperor and his wife would quickly circulate, and those who would take advantage of this opportunity to sway the public mind might have a hand in it. The aristocrats might even get away with it and have their business operations paralyzed.

 

“So?”

 

The impression of Sola was unpleasant and ruined.

 

She was a mistress. The mistress didn’t have to get their hands on political matters. The Empress Rodelia would take care of all the trouble anyway, so it was none of her business.

 

“That is not my job. It’s the empress’s.”

 

Sola wanted to see the Empress’ distorted face as soon as possible. She said in a more brisk voice. There should not be even a minute’s concession.

 

Rodelia’s expression hardened.

 

It was because she had not expected Sola to be so thick-skinned. If she cared about Kane, shouldn’t she not put him in trouble?

 

Rodelia’s eyes shook finely, unable to hide her frustration.

 

Sola did not miss the opportunity. Her eyes flashed up and down as if to refute the sneer she had shed.

 

“Yes, it is what I, the empress, should do.”

 

But Sola’s complexion darkened at Rodelia’s response, who once again returned the words calmly.

 

“I am in a position to defend the prestige of this country, and I intend to fulfill it fully. Therefore, I cannot give up my position to the Princess.”

 

Before this, Rodelia was a weak woman who could be crushed with a tap. But she no longer appeared that way.

 

Rodelia’s green eyes had somehow deepened and hardened as she spoke.

 

Sola had to admit. Rodelia could no longer be swayed by trivial emotional games.

 

“….. Shall we do that?”

 

But Sola didn’t show that big of a reaction. She spoke as if she was a believer. She laughed out loud.

 

It was a loud laugh, as if it were a voracious night air. It sounded like fun, but it was creepy.

 

“Your Majesty, please tell us. Can’t I really enter with you?”

 

Sola, who had returned with a cold expression on her face, looked up at Kane and asked.

 

“Uh…..”

 

Kane looked at Rodelia with a troubled expression.

 

Rodelia held Kane’s hand firmly. Her thin arms trembled pitifully. It was like a silent request, “Don’t hold Sola’s hand.”

 

It was something she had expected to some extent, seeing Sola projected so majestically.

 

She had prepared herself beforehand.

 

But isn’t there a small hope? Rodelia decided to leaned on that hope.

 

“I’ll enter with Sola.”

 

Kane finally opened his mouth to answer Sola’s question. However, Kane’s mouth did not give her the answer Rodelia wanted. 

 

The attendants looked at Kane, as if telling him to make an excuse, but even that was silenced and he turned his face away.

 

“I won’t be able to stop the rumors.” (Rodelia)

 

“I’ll take care of it, so the Empress doesn’t have to care about it. It’s my fault if the rumors spread.” (Kane)

 

Kane’s reply, as if giving up, and Rodelia lost the strength that she held Kane’s hand. Kane’s large hand fell helplessly from Rodelia’s. She held her teeth tightly together once more in a sense of loss.

 

“Look at that. We’ve wasted too much time.”

 

Sola, with a benevolent smile, locked eyes with Rodelia. Then, as if to urge Kane, she shifted her gaze to the old-fashioned wall clock on the wall.

 

“I’m sorry, we don’t have time for this. We have to go in. See you later in the banquet hall.”

 

Once again, Sola crossed Kane’s arm and turned away to make her way to the banquet hall. Hesitating, looking only at Kane, Rodelia grabbed his cuff again.

 

“Kane.”

 

With a pained expression on his face, Kane turned to Rodelia. He felt bitter to have to hurt her again.

 

He had been avoiding her on purpose because he thought it would shake his mind if he looked straight at her. However, all of the efforts came to nothing.

 

The low-sinking eyes deepened with sadness. He was afraid that her lips would say that she would not wait for him.

 

“The promise you made to me before…it’s still in effect, right?”

 

Rodelia’s hot breath and anxiety clearly conveyed. A sigh of relief escaped from between Kane’s lips.

 

“You still believe in me.”

 

The moment he faced her clear green eyes, he felt the urge to hold her immediately, but it wasn’t possible.

 

 

Kane suppressed his emotions and held Rodelia’s hand.

 

“Of course.”

 

Her expression became even a little relaxed when she received Kane’s assurance. Now, she must be content with this level.

 

‘This humiliation..…. once more, that’s it.’

 

Rodelia, who held herself together, slowly let go of Kane’s hand.

 

“Hurry up and go, Your Majesty.”

 

Solar, who was frowning, urged Kane. The steps that did not fall left heavy.

 

****

 

Only a sigh escaped Rodelia’s lips as she sat by the window.

 

‘However much, isn’t this position still a concession?’

 

A trivial thought floated through her mind.

 

It was an important banquet. If the emperor entered with his mistress, there was bound to be an uproar around the world. All interests and positions should be firmly pursued, and no concessions should have been made to the last…

 

But it was too late now.

 

The beginning of the banquet was approaching, and Rodelia became even more impatient.

 

There was no such shame if the Empress entered alone.

 

“Your Majesty, you must go.”

 

Viscountess Cohen said impatiently. Her gaze remained on the clock on the wall.

 

“…..Yes. I have to go now.”

 

It was also ludicrous not to show up at the banquet.

 

Rodelia pulled down her shawl and put on her shoes again, which she had neatly removed. As she headed for the door, the maids opened it as if they were waiting.

 

“Thank you.”

 

It was a relief that there were maids. It was the same to enter alone, but at least she didn’t have to stay in the banquet hall in a daze.

 

“I think I’ll be fine.”

 

Rodelia closed and opened her eyes to calm her beating heart. But her heart was not quite at ease. Even her feet in the high shoes felt especially heavy today.

 

One step, one more step.

 

“I’ve been waiting for you.”

 

As she took a few more steps, a low, deep voice crept into her ear. Some kind of relief enveloped her whole body.

 

She looked up and saw Cerdian dressed neatly in a black suit.

 

He was looking at Rodelia with a smile.The atmosphere was more mature than before which was overwhelming.

 

“You’re late, Empress.”

 

The voice leaking from between the softly opened lips struck her strangely. His large hand entered her field of vision.

 

‘Do you want me to grab it?’

 

Rodelia, who was struggling for some time, took Cerdian’s hand without hesitation.

 

Now was the time to put aside any kind of pride.

 

She had to do what was best for her, since Kane had said he would put away the rumors.There was no way she was going to be shamed for entering alone in front of foreign guests.

 

Her deepened eyes lifted and she quietly opened her mouth.

 

“I was busy getting ready.”

 

*****

 

Heading to the grand banquet hall was more bearable than she had expected.

 

It was a much better choice than a lone entrance, although some of the servants who occasionally found Rodelia holding Cerdian’s hand whispered secretly.

 

Rodelia decided to think of it that way.

 

How long had she walked that far down the hallway? The rustling sound became closer and closer as the banquet hall approached.

 

“How did you know?”

 

Rodelia, who hadn’t been talking, asked in a small voice.

 

There were many things she was curious about, like how Cerdian knew she was here, or did he know what Sola was planning?

 

“What do you mean?”

 

“Did you know I would be alone?”

 

Do you avoid them knowingly?”

 

“I don’t know.”

 

The way he said it in a distant tone was frustrating, but Cerdian stared at the front with a face that seemed he really didn’t know.

 

“Did your sister tell you?”

 

“The Empress still does not know, but I am not that close to my sister.”

 

Cerdian smiled serenely.

 

Rodelia glared at him for not responding properly, but Cerdian only pretended not to care and told her to hold his arm.

 

“We are almost at the banquet hall.”

 

Swallowing hard, Rodelia wrapped her hand around Cerdian’s arm. She could feel his hard muscles beneath his jacket. Embarrassed, she tightened her grip.

 

‘Have he been doing nothing but exercising while he’s been cooped up in the mansion?’ 

 

She was curious. No matter how magnificent the Grand Duke’s mansion was, would it be as free as the outside?

 

She thought it could be that way, since there would be nothing to do when he cooped up at home.

 

‘Come to think of it, he seemed strong.’

 

She was alone with my reasoning, and the lively hall became quiet.

 

“The emperor entered first, didn’t he?”

 

“…… yes? Oh, yes.”

 

Cerdian said with a chuckle, as if noticing her thoughts as she stared down at his arm.

 

This brought her to her senses, and Rodelia’s face flared hot.

 

‘What on earth was I thinking in front of people?’

 

She was too embarrassed to look up. She thought she had to say something, so she said anything.

 

“… His Majesty does not love your sister with all his heart.”