Chapter 23

***

 

“It can’t be. I’m just saying.”

 

“Well, I don’t know but that was good. Very well done.”

 

There was no way Rodelia could know something he didn’t know. Kane nodded at the thought.

 

She was upset about Kane’s subtle disregard, but she couldn’t say,

“Actually, Grand Duke Eisen told me.”

 

Fortunately, Kane did not question her further about her answer. He was offended by Rodelia’s unenthusiastic response, and the song came to an end.

 

“I’m sorry, but I have to go. Do you understand?”

 

When the song ended, Sola approached with a seductive smile on her face. Upon discovering her, Kane let go of Rodelia’s hand without hesitation.

 

With a nervous look on his face, she doubted that he was actually the person who had told her to wait. 

 

She was offended, but deliberately nodded, seemingly unconcerned.

 

“Don’t get involved with the Grand Duke anymore. You must take what I say to heart.”

 

Even up until that moment when he and Rodelia were far away from each other, Kane had not forgotten what he wanted to say.

 

****

 

Sola returned, but Cerdian was still not in sight.

 

The mood of the banquet gradually became ripe. Amidst the lighthearted music, Rodelia felt as if she was alone in another world.

 

Even more so since her partner, Cerdian, was out of the room and the maids were also enjoying the banquet.

 

Rodelia put on her shawl and went out onto the terrace to avoid an embarrassing situation.

 

A hint of sadness crossed her face as she gazed at the capital of the empire, brightly lit with colorful lights.

 

‘I enjoyed it very much…..’

 

Rodelia remembered going to festivals as a child in the cold wind. It was the only deviation from her confinement to the house.

 

As she smiled faintly and reflected on the past, a thought suddenly came to her mind.

 

‘Was there ever a time when I was happy in the palace?’

 

Of course, that was not to say that her memories of Kane were not happy. She just didn’t know if it was her happiness or his happiness because she had to adjust everything to him.

 

The feeling of unpleasantness, which she had never noticed before, came over her with a vengeance.

 

‘If it weren’t for Cerdian, I wouldn’t even be aware of these facts…….’

 

So did she live the rest of her life feeling like this?

 

“Should I thank him?”

 

Muttering, Rodelia wrapped her shawl tighter in the night breeze.

 

“Empress.”

 

Between the sounds of the brisk wind, a hair-raising voice could be heard. Startled, Rodelia turned around.

 

“Oh, Prince Gray.”

 

Prince Gray approached slowly with a twisted smile. His gaze gave her goosebumps.

 

“It’s a beautiful view.”

 

She didn’t want to exchange nonsense with him. Rodelia did not answer.

 

But he didn’t seem to want to hear her answer from the beginning, so Prince Gray didn’t show any signs of it and kept on talking.

 

“Are all the women of the Thebes Empire like the Empress?”

 

“What?”

 

“No, I am just curious. Is the prestige of the empress so important?”

 

Finally realizing what he was saying, Rodelia’s expression hardened. He was now teasing her, the Empress.

 

“You can’t even keep a lover.”

 

Her tightly knit lips began to tremble.

 

“From what I’ve heard, you can’t even say anything to Princess Eisen.”

 

Rodelia’s body stiffened. She regretted having provoked him for no reason.

 

“It’s all right. For it is also charming in its own way.”

 

Prince Gray said reluctantly, grabbing a piece of confetti that had flown in from the capital’s festival.

 

Cold sweat broke out on Rodelia’s hands.

 

The Prince let the confetti fly, and he leaned back and stared at her. Rodelia’s eyes met his, and she shivered.

 

It might have been the cold night wind, but it was the chills that gave her. There was no emotion in his dark eyes.

 

“By the way, what did you know when you said that?”

 

He called out again, leaning against the railing and playing with his long fingers.

 

“…… about what? Is this about your birth?”

 

Rodelia pretended not to be nervous, but then tightened her heart and said, with more force in her voice.

 

‘Well, you mustn’t speak so glibly about such things. I can’t even say with confidence what price I would pay.”

 

Gray looked at her with sharp eyes. He could have twisted Rodelia’s head immediately.

 

“What can I possibly do to the Empress?”

 

But Rodelia was the empress of the empire. It meant that no matter how angry he was, he could not do anything against her recklessly. In the worst situation, it could become a problem between nations and even lead to war.

 

Rodelia knew that very well.

 

She was scared, but she told herself to be confident. She looked at Prince Gray without a moment’s hesitation, and Gray calmed down and continued.

 

“I don’t know who on earth informed you of this, but I don’t think he told you to watch out for me.”

 

Approaching Rodelia, Gray lowered his head slightly.

 

“No matter what your status is, you don’t think I can handle a weak woman quietly?”

 

“What?”

 

“Just war. Do you think I’ll be afraid?”

 

He wasn’t joking. He was serious. A flustered Rodelia quickly retreated.

 

“Is birth so important in the Thebes kingdom?”

 

She could not easily understand Prince Gray’s reaction, for the Thebes Empire was thoroughly ability-oriented.

 

Moreover, to her, who had grown up preciously and had not been exposed to this kind of threat, his words were quite frightening.

 

”Prince, be careful how you act.”

 

Perhaps amused by Rodelia’s reaction, Gray let out an amused laugh for a while.

 

“Just kidding. Why are you so nervous? That’s funny.”

 

But at least she knew that he was not joking.

 

“I trust that the Empress, in her wisdom, fully understood what I was saying.”

 

“If you don’t touch me, I don’t intend to touch you either. So please be careful what you say and do, Prince.”

 

“Very well.”

 

Not wanting to talk to him anymore, Rodelia concluded the conversation, but Prince Gray did not return to the banquet hall. He just continued to look at her greedily.

 

When she became uncomfortable and was about to leave first, he opened his mouth again as if to stall her.

 

“Now I, too, would like to choose a wife from among the nobles of the Thebes Empire.”

 

“What?”

 

“Then I suppose we can pass through without any problems when we come to the concubines later. The women of the Silver Kingdom are a bit on the tough side.”

 

The conversation was not over.

 

Rodelia realized that Prince Gray had no intention of having a normal conversation from the beginning. An empty laugh escaped her lips.

 

It was a common topic among the nobility now, but she didn’t want to talk to the prince from another country she had just seen for the first time. She wasn’t going to put up with this ridiculousness anymore.

 

Her cold eyes looked at Prince Gray. But that didn’t seem to bother him. He said insulting words in a slanted manner.

 

“There was a rumor going around that the image of a woman of the empire was exactly the empress herself….not only in appearance, but in everything.”

 

A greedy, lush gaze reached her chest. Ignoring his gaze, Rodelia raised her cold hands and tied her shawl tightly.

 

“So what?”

 

“Needless to say, when someone is as beautiful as the Empress. No, in the first place, if a woman of such beauty was my wife, I wouldn’t seek a concubine.”

 

“I appreciate the compliment, but…. Prince ……women don’t like lowly men like you. I hope you will take that as a reference.”

 

Prince Gray gave an amused smile at Rodelia’s answer. With his eyes bent, he took a step closer to her.

 

“The emperor of the Thebes Empire is truly a blind man.”

 

He lifted Rodelia’s chin without hesitation. She could feel the rough touch of his hand.

 

The Silver Kingdom, where many people were skilled in swordsmanship, Prince Gray was a recognized swordsman, and his efforts were shown in his hand.

 

“If I were him, I would lock you up all your life and only look at you.”

 

“No more rudeness, Prince Grey. You’ve crossed the line.”

 

She pretended not to be upset and calmly moved Prince Gray’s hand away. He stared casually at the hand she had thrown out.

 

“How could the emperor refuse to look at a woman like this, and have a concubine?”

 

“…. what?”

 

Prince Gray’s rudeness knew no end. He reached for Rodelia’s frail shoulders. As his large hand touched the shoulder where the shawl had slipped off, a feeling of disgust enveloped her whole body.

 

It had never occurred to him that she was disgusted.

 

Cold-eyed with disdain, Rodelia glared at Prince Gray.

 

“Perhaps he doesn’t like the feeling of having such a body in his arms.”

 

With a sneer he raised Rodelia’s shawl and wrapped it around her shoulders. A blatant stare swept Rodelia’s body.

 

“If you find a good lady, please introduce her to me. Of course, she should look as good as the Empress.”

 

“…… enough, prince.”

 

Despite Rodelia’s warnings, Prince Gray’s mischief knew no boundaries. He added with a creepy smile.

 

“The Empress didn’t like the Emperor at night?”