Chapter 22

***

 

“You know what I mean, don’t you? You are the Empress, so you know well. I believe that you will behave properly.”

 

Rodelia didn’t talk anymore.

 

“I understood.”

 

Rodelia responded indifferently, and Kane clasped her hand tightly. His warmth was transmitted through the skin. However, her cold heart did not warm up easily. It was just stuffy.

 

Lately, whenever she talked to Kane, she felt as if there was a thick wall between them.

 

Why was this? Was it because she no longer had any expectations of him?

 

Otherwise, unbeknownst to her, her feelings for Kane might have waned a bit.

 

After a few moments of silence, Ferna informed them of the guests’ position. Rodelia made up a benevolent face again. As Kane had said, the role of Empress had to be done well.

 

The sound of fanfares rang across the wide hall. Then the trumpets sounded a few times, and the drums also sounded a few times. With a clang, the large central door began to open.

 

The first delegation to appear were the people of the Silver Kingdom. At the head of the group was Prince Gray Howard, with his bright red hair like Sola’s, walking with a lithe gait.

 

His copper colored skin, characteristic of the Silver Kingdom royalty, contrasted well with his white uniform. His strange appearance was also enough to catch people’s gaze.

 

“Gray Howard……”

 

Kane groaned. His expression became even more intense.

 

“You’ve got to make this work. It’s your fault that things turned out this way.”

 

Kane blamed Rodelia. They had talked about this incident, but he still scolded her.

 

Kane disliked Prince Gray more than anything, to the point of grinding his teeth. Kane deliberately crossed his legs when the kingdom’s delegation approached. It was clearly an act of disregard for the kingdom.

 

A long red carpet laid under the podium. Prince Gray, who stopped walking, paid his respects.

 

Was it because of Kane’s preconceived notions? Rodelia thought the Prince’s appearance was somehow vulgar.

 

“It’s been a long time. I see the beautiful Empress has become more beautiful.”

 

Prince Gray did not seem to care much about Kane’s attitude. Rather, it only provoked him.

 

Rodelia’s brows twitched slightly.

 

No matter how much they hated each other, Kane was still an emperor. Wasn’t it common to please each other on the outside?

 

Prince Gray, however, seemed to have no intention of doing so at all. Frowning, Rodelia stared at him, and Prince Gray met her eyes.

 

It was a sickening gaze, but she couldn’t make it obvious. A smile softly creased his mouth, and he said sarcastically,

 

“I wondered why I was invited, and I was really surprised. Of course, the Empress was considerate enough to send me the invitation.”

 

His sharp eyes were quite frightening.

 

Rodelia somehow could see why Kane disliked him so much. The rising tension hardly seemed to go away.

 

“If you knew, you should have refused the invitation.”

 

“There is no kingdom that would dare to refuse Thebes’ invitation. Isn’t that so, Empress?”

 

“…… then I hope you have a good time.”

 

Why did he always call her? Rodelia did not want to continue talking to him.

 

She didn’t know if it was because of the way he looked like Sola, but she felt uncomfortable.

 

Prince Gray smiled, as if amused by Rodelia’s reaction, and began to say something meaningful.

 

“The Empress is just like her father.”

 

Even though the tone was not very high, the voice was still somewhat hair-raising.

 

“What are you talking about?”

 

“Did I say something misleading? I meant the Empress has a good personality.”

 

“…….”

 

“Do you always suppress your emotions that way? I guess that’s why you became Empress.”

 

Prince Gray rubbed the ruby ring on his ring finger slowly and gave a lax smile. There was a certain sneer in his voice.

 

“Prince Gray, what a rude thing to say to the Empress.”

 

It was rude to interrupt a conversation between an Empress and a noble guest, no matter how much of an emperor Kane was. However, the Prince was such a low-grade person so Kane had no choice but to step up.

 

But it was an official sitting and he couldn’t get angry outright, so he just had to warn him in a low voice.

 

“From my point of view, I can see that you are shivering with fear that you will lose the Empress’s position……” (Gray)

 

Rodelia gripped the hem of her dress tightly. It was a shame that the enemy prince she just met knew about that fact.

 

Everyone knew that Kane had a mistress. So it was not surprising that the foreign envoys heard about it.

 

But hearing it from someone’s mouth was embarrassing. Rodelia’s face gradually turned white.

 

“I think you should close your mouth.”

 

“Oh, I misspoke, didn’t I? I’m sorry. The Empress looks pale, so let’s stop here.”

 

He drove Rodelia to the corner. Her expression turned cold at his rude words.

 

Rodelia exhaled a deep breath to calm herself down. If she continued to speak, it was bound to get ugly for all those present at the banquet.

 

“By the way, Prince Gray.” (Cerdian)

 

She did not want to take advantage of anyone’s weakness in this manner, but it seemed like it was time to take advantage of the story Cerdian had told her.

 

At the time, she didn’t understand why Cerdian suddenly mentioned Prince Gray, but now she understood.

 

‘Perhaps he knew Prince Gray would behave like this.’

 

Rodelia returned with a rather resolute expression, a smile on her lips.

 

“Ask for forgiveness, I will accept it. I’ve heard a lot about you, but you’re not polite.”

 

“The Emperor must have said bad things about me, I see.”

 

Prince Gray’s eyes twitched. He didn’t seem to mind at all. But his eyebrows didn’t stop raising finely.

 

Rodelia did not miss that point. She straightened her posture and continued to scratch his nerves.

 

“Well, you don’t have to worry about me, Prince Gray, because you’re the one who seems to be in danger.”

 

“What do you mean?”

 

“I think you know better. I’m sure the lack of courtesy is your true nature that you can’t hide from…….”

 

When Cerdian first told her about the Prince, she thought he was only joking. Part of her was suspicious, wondering how he could have known something that Kane didn’t even know.

 

“What did you say now?”

 

However, from his reaction, it seemed that the information Cerdian gave her was not so wrong.

 

For a moment, Prince Gray’s gaze deepened. His facial muscles stiffened. The corners of his mouth, which he had forced up, cramped, and his tightly clenched fists trembled.

 

She didn’t know how Cerdian knew so much about Prince Gray, but according to his words, Prince Gray was the illegitimate son of the Silver Kingdom.

 

“No, I misspoke. You should go now. I can’t spend all my time welcoming only the Silver Kingdom.”

 

And she did not want anyone to know that fact.

 

Even though the Prince tried to humiliate Rodelia, it was him who was defeated.

 

****

 

Once the welcoming of the delegation was over, the cheerful music ended, and once again the musicians busily flipped through the music sheet.

 

It was soon time to dance, as they rechecked their instruments and tried to match the melody.

 

Taking a breath, Rodelia stepped off the podium, escorted by Kane.

 

“Will you dance to the first song with me?”

 

Rodelia looked a little surprised. It was an unexpected proposal.

Of course she didn’t even expect it from the beginning, because Sola will come and interrupt them.

 

“Okay.”

 

She replied in an indifferent voice.

 

But for some reason, when the music started, Sola didn’t come. 

Rodelia looked around, but not a single strand of her red hair or the hem of her black dress was visible.

 

Checking behind the curtain, Cerdian had also disappeared.

 

‘Where did the siblings go?’

 

Rodelia frowned as she thought, and Kane held out his hand.

 

“Why do you look like that?”

 

“Where did the Princess go?”

 

“Now, I want you to focus only on me.”

 

“…….”

 

“In the meantime, your dancing skills didn’t decrease, did they?”

 

Kane made a silly joke, but Rodelia did not hear it.

 

Kane took her hand and walked to the center of the hall.

 

The first tune was a waltz.

 

Rodelia placed her one hand on Kane’s shoulder and held his hand with her other hand.

 

 

As she moved her body to the sound of the music playing, familiar faces caught her eyes. The fluttering of her dress came into view. Everyone from the attendants to Sola’s people seemed to be enjoying the banquet.

 

It filled her heart to see them enjoying the banquet, shelving her personal feelings. In any case, it was only natural, since she hosted all the banquet.

 

“Now you know why I hate that man.”

 

While Rodelia was dancing without saying anything, Kane quietly spoke to her.

 

“Yes, of course.”

 

“By the way, he suddenly turned pale.… Was it because of what you said?”