Chapter 20

***

 

‘Oh my god, did the reason fly away?!’

 

Rodelia frowned at what she said.

 

“I see.”

 

She regretted it as soon as she said it, but Cerdian showed little reaction. He just looked at her and answered indifferently. After seeing his reaction, she felt like she had to make excuses.

 

So, when she thought about it, this was all his fault for dismaying her.

 

 ‘I guess sometimes words come out wrong when you are embarrassed.’

 

For Rodelia, this was the situation.

 

“If there is anything the Grand Duke knows, let me know. You said you were on my side.”

 

“What is it?”

 

“Is the Princess aiming for the position of Empress?”

 

She sounded almost certain.

 

“Do you know?”

 

It was something of an affirmation. Seeing such a simple admission, perhaps Cerdian really has nothing to do with Sola.

 

“I don’t know the details.”

 

“Of course….”

 

“There’s nothing else I can tell you.”

 

He cut Rodelia off in a different, more decisive voice. He did not want her to ask any more questions.

 

Embarrassed, she turned and looked ahead, and then the low voice sounded again.

 

“But you can use me as much as you want.”

 

How dare anyone use Grand Duke Eisen?

 

Not even the emperor could take advantage of him.

 

Rodelia blinked with a furrowed brow, and Cerdian looked at her indifferently.

 

“As always, I don’t lie to the Empress.”

 

Rodelia knew that, too. He just doesn’t cheat or reply clearly, but  he doesn’t lie. But…

 

‘I still don’t fully believe it.’

 

As Rodelia remained silent without responding, one of the young attendants approached her at a trot.

 

“You must make your entrance now, Your Majesty.”

 

Kane and Sola’s entrance seemed to be over to some extent. She was too preoccupied with Cerdian to notice, but come to think of it, the noisy place seemed to have quieted down noticeably.

 

Perhaps everyone was waiting for the Empress to appear.

 

With whom will the Empress enter?

 

The questions of the ladies on such a subject were certain. Perhaps they even made secret bets.

 

When she thought of their gazes, her heart pounded like crazy. Cold sweat broke out on her palms.

 

Rodelia couldn’t hide her nervousness, holding and stretching her innocent hands.

 

‘’I will be humiliated.”

 

There was a deep melancholy in the small voice. She did not speak hoping for a reply. She was talking to herself and trying to calm her mind.

 

But a warm voice came back.

 

“Don’t be nervous, trust me.”

 

“Yes ……?”

 

“I’m confident that I’m not an embarrassing partner.”

 

 Cerdian jokingly relieved her of her tension.

 

“After today, public opinion will return to the empress. Oh, of course, rumors will become more prevalent. Please refer to that.”

 

His tone was confident, but he did not look arrogant. And the odds were pretty good that he would be right. After all, she was going to enter with Grand Duke Eisen.

 

Perhaps tomorrow, the noble ladies would send letters to Rodelia. They would be curious as to what her relationship was with Cerdian.

 

But really, the more she thought about it, the stranger it was. He was a man who had as much power and prestige as the emperor, just had never shown it.

 

A seat where he could have it all if he wanted. But with what intention to help her so much? Rodelia looked at him with an expression of incomprehension.

 

“What are you up to?”

 

“Let’s just say it is a manifestation of a pure heart that wants to be as useful as possible, since the empress is so pure.”

 

Cerdian was certainly helpful to her. But that could not be the only reason to believe him. Because his intention was unclear and he always said unknown words.

 

And he certainly had no contact with her before he became an adult.

 

In any case, as a noble lady, she was educated as such. Even though it was a political marriage, there was clearly a reason for her to take the Empress’s place, even if it was suppressed.

 

‘If he doesn’t have a purpose like Sola’s, then perhaps just for fun?’

 

He might have developed a bad hobby after being locked up in the mansion for so long.

 

‘Then I’ll take advantage of him just a little bit.’

 

Finished with her thoughts, Rodelia opened her mouth decisively, her expression relaxed.

 

“I intend to take advantage of you, just as the Grand Duke said.”

 

“As you pleased.”

 

“However, that’s it. Don’t cross the line anymore. This will be over soon.”

 

He wrinkled his brow, as if he was contemplating something.

 

“Did the emperor beg you to wait a little longer?”

 

“Did you eavesdrop on our conversation?”

 

“It can’t be. I don’t have such a bad habit.”

 

Rodelia’s expression hardened, but Cerdian continued, unconcerned.

 

“But isn’t it strange? It’s as if he wants the Empress to be humiliated, and he doesn’t even want to be your partner.”

 

“That’s….”

 

That was something Rodelia disappointed too. But she didn’t think it had occurred to her. 

 

Kane was not such a caring person. Or maybe Sola made it that way.

 

Therefore, she believed Kane would understand if she entered with others. It was better for an empress to enter with a partner than to be humiliated by entering alone.

 

She was just a little concerned about the fact that it was Cerdian. But Kane would understand. He had to. (*how naive Rodelia is. He wanted to see her to be humiliated, that’s why he went in with his concubine on the most important day of the country, so he won’t understand because he’s selfish. He basically tells her I can do anything and you can do nothing. How many times has that happened already but she is still so naive?)

 

Rodelia consciously straightened her back so as not to appear nervous.

 

“Will the emperor understand the empress if you make your entrance with me?”

 

As if he had read her mind, he said the same thing she was thinking about.

 

“Of course. His Majesty is not such a narrow-minded person…..”

 

“He is a selfish man… And……”

 

These were calm words that held down expectations.

 

He saw the nervous look in Rodelia’s eyes and smiled faintly. 

 

“You keep doubting me, and I’m very upset.”

 

“You know how suspicious that sounds?”

 

How could she not doubt him? Rodelia looked quite firm not to show any gaps.

 

“It can’t be. I am very transparent.”

 

Cerdian’s calm way of speaking made her frown.

 

She always thought Cerdian was arrogant. There were several reasons for this, the first and most significant was his perfect appearance.

 

The second was a sort of prejudice due to his lineage. It was the cruel nature of the house of Eisen.

 

One of the rumors surrounding the Eisen was that they hunted humans, which was almost an established fact.

 

It was all just a mixture of exaggerations coined to exclude the Grand House from the imperial family, but Rodelia was not supposed to know that.

 

And it was the same today.

 

Was it because he was kind, and she couldn’t tell what he really thinks?

 

“If you keep looking at me like that, I’m sad.”

 

Rodelia’s impression was deepened by his shameless attitude.

 

“You…”

 

“We really must enter. Everyone is waiting for you.”

 

Rodelia’s words were halted as Cerdian took slow steps. His calm attitude forced her to walk along his side blankly.

 

****

 

‘You must walk with grace and elegance. Do not show your heartbreak. You must be calm by all means. You must not lose your composure. You are the Empress.’

 

Rodelia composed herself many times. At this moment, it was not Kane or Sola that constricted her, but people’s gazes.

 

The look of unknown eyes staring only at her was not something she could ever get used to, no matter how much she experienced it. This time, it was even more bewildering because the majority of the gazes were a mixture of blatant curiosity and hostility.

 

Rodelia clenched her fists tightly, unbeknownst to herself. Cerdian, who saw it, bowed his head and whispered softly into her ear.

 

“I have never seen such a beautiful person before.”

 

Rodelia burst out laughing at the unexpected words.

 

“What did you say?”

 

“You.”

 

She glanced sideways at him awkwardly, and Cerdian shrugged his shoulders. But it completely relaxed her nerves. The appearance seemed quite friendly, so it was enough to cause everyone’s misunderstanding.

 

 

The ladies all began to speak in whispers.

 

“I see that the Empress has also welcomed concubines.”

 

“I can’t believe it’s Grand Duke Eisen. The Emperor and the Empress’s preference of concubines are ….”

 

 

Their last words were soon buried in the sound of loud drumming. As Rodelia descended all the stairs, two Kingsguard knights in ceremonial uniforms played the drums even louder, and the music that had been playing peacefully stopped.

 

All eyes were focused on her. Only the scuffling of dress hems, the sound of shoes, and the sound of swallowing saliva echoed silently in the central hall.

 

Another knight drummed, and the nobles greeted her with courtesy.

 

Rodelia smiled faintly and walked into the grand banquet hall with Cerdian’s impeccable escort.

 

She raised her lowered eyelashes and looked around carefully. Then, as her gaze turned toward the center of the hall, her eyes met with Kane’s.