Chapter 24

***

 

Prince Gray’s cold breath drew near.

 

It seemed to reach me, and the cold breath of Prince Gray came closer.

 

“Or are you going to have me as your concubine? I can satisfy you well enough.”

 

“No, you are not my type.” 

 

“How can you be so sure? You will never know until you experience it.”

 

“I insist. I can’t help it if you are going to be this rude all the time. I have no choice but to reveal your secret that you have been so eager to hide.”

 

Rodelia reached out and pushed him away. How could an empress who spent her whole life pleasing others have any power, but fortunately for her, he was easily pushed away.

 

“If you can kill me, kill me now.”

 

Prince Gray laughed out loud at Rodelia’s nonchalant words. He swept his hair as if amazed and stared at her.

 

“Hmmm……. You are an interesting person. You don’t like foreigners? Surprisingly, though, we seem to match really well. In many ways.”

 

“…….”

 

“Prince Gray, what are you doing to the Empress?”

 

Breaking a moment’s silence, an angry voice was heard from the banquet hall. A few moments later, Kane emerged behind the curtain. His expression had hardened and his breathing had become labored.

 

How much of the conversation did he hear? But the probability was high that he probably heard only the last line of the conversation, since Kane was an impatient person.

 

He walked in a broad stride and stood in front of Prince Gray, glaring at him as if he wanted to kill him. Kane and Prince Gray were similar in height, so he didn’t look as petite as he did with Cerdian.

 

Kane showed signs of discomfort. His forehead was wrinkled. His gaze was fierce and deadly.

 

He was extremely averse to showing his distraught appearance to others. It was surprising to Rodelia that he would show so much emotion.

 

“Are you naive about the Thebes empire?”

 

“It can’t be. I merely suggested that the Empress should make me her concubine, since she seems so lonely.”

 

Kane’s face turned red and blue as Prince Gray picked at Rodelia again.

 

Rodelia was suddenly curious. Was it because of the mention of concubine that Kane was so angry? But the thought quickly disappeared into a corner of her mind.

 

For during the three years of marriage, he had never expressed his feelings.

 

“She wouldn’t.”

 

Everyone knew that not only Kane, but also the royal families of the Thebes Empire, value appearance the most.

 

Again, he must have been so angry not because of Rodelia herself in trouble, but at the humiliation of the empress, the emperor’s wife.

 

“If you say one more word, I will cut off your head right here and now.”

 

“I must have been joking too much, seeing the emperor is so angry. Isn’t he like a puppy who has had his treat taken away from him?”

 

“What did you just say..!”

 

Prince Gray did not seem afraid of Kane. This was possible because the Silver kingdom was as powerful as the Thebes empire.

 

“I don’t want to see relations between nations deteriorate, so I will stop now.”

 

“Put down the babbling and go away now.”

 

Prince Gray made a suitably polite gesture in response to Kane’s words, then turned his gaze toward Rodelia, who had a hard expression on her face.

 

“I will see you tomorrow at lunch, Empress. It’s a pity the emperor doesn’t know much about jokes.”

 

Rodelia did not answer him. It was only natural. She was not so open-minded as to greet the man who had just made fun of her.

 

“How does it feel to be the property of the emperor?”

 

Prince Gray whispered softly as he passed her. Rodelia frowned as if trying to understand what he was saying, and before she knew it he had disappeared into the banquet hall.

 

“Rodelia, are you all right?

 

Kane’s face relaxed and he held Rodelia’s shoulders with his hands. Then he examined every inch of her body for any injuries.

 

“……I have to go.”

 

Rodelia was shaken for a moment by his worried face. But she knew it wasn’t a concern for her, so she quickly shook Kane’s hands away.

 

She was tired. In her current state, she had no energy to worry about Kane. All she wanted to do was to quickly go into her room and rest.

 

“Where the hell all the maids had been that things got into this state. We must punish them immediately.”

 

“No, they are not at fault.”

 

Her expression hardened at Kane’s words. If he had cared even a little bit in the first place, none of this would have happened.

 

Somehow his placing all the blame on the maids made him seem hateful and cowardly.

 

Rodelia spoke in a decisive voice as if informing him.

 

“I don’t want you to say anything to my maids. I ask Your Majesty to do the same.”

 

***

 

The road to her room was very far. Of course the physical distance was far, but the psychological distance seemed several times farther.

 

Her steps were heavy.

 

She hid her facial expression, but she could not hide her mood.

 

Some nobles who had spotted Rodelia began to whisper. Among them were foreign delegations.

 

“It seems that His Majesty and the empress are not getting along with each other, as was the case when they entered earlier. I don’t see them together very often.”

 

“Yes. The emperor is with another woman. I think she’s his concubine.”

 

“I hope the Empress is not too upset.”

 

“No way. Didn’t she have another man with her earlier?”

 

“Isn’t that right? I can’t help but worry.”

 

There was laughter. They thought Rodelia didn’t understand their language, and made a big fuss without lowering their voices.

 

But contrary to their thoughts, Rodelia could understand the language very well.

 

It was the language of the small eastern kingdom of Clavia, but they had no idea she was fluent in foreign languages.

 

‘I rather wish I didn’t know.’

 

It was not something that could be questioned, however. There were many eyes around.

 

Her eyes went white and she became dazed. She was so careful not to show any expression that she felt her facial muscles were going to cramp. Her steps quickened.

 

She did not know in what spirit she had walked to the stairs. With shaking hands, Rodelia grabbed a post next to the stairs and tried to go up, but someone caught her wrist.

 

“I’ve been looking for you for a while.”

 

A low, steady voice came clearly over the noise of the banquet hall. For a moment it felt as if everything came to a halt.

 

Rodelia turned around slowly, her expression distorted.

 

Cerdian’s exhaled a few disturbed breaths. But still looking at her in perfect form.

 

“I told you to stay where you were.”

 

She knew it was not his fault. Certainly he was her partner for the banquet, but that might have been a whimsical favor of his.

 

It could be withdrawn at any time, and he was under no obligation to listen to her. Still, her resentment that he disappeared without a trace did not go away.

 

“You promised me. Where did you go?”

 

A chastising voice escaped.

 

She couldn’t define this feeling in any way, perhaps because she just faced a difficult time.

 

Cerdian’s expression stiffened when he saw Rodelia’s pale, sunken face.

 

“What’s wrong?”

 

Rodelia regained consciousness at the sound of his cold voice.

 

‘I’m insane to complain to him.’

 

Her green eyes visibly shook.

 

Cerdian’s large hand reached out to Rodelia’s cheek. Just as his hand was about to touch her pale cheek, Rodelia, who had been staring at him, turned her head away.

 

At the blatant refusal, Cerdian, who had stopped for a moment, withdrew his hand.

 

“…. nothing. I’m just a little tired so I made a mistake.”

 

“I don’t think so.”

 

Rodelia, who quickly recovered from her outburst and forced herself to smile again, as if it were okay, fumbled the situation as if it were nothing. Still, her expression was hard to unravel.

 

“No, you don’t need to be concerned. I have to go now. Have a pleasant banquet.”

 

Her whole body was exhausted. She wanted to go up to her room and take a rest as soon as possible.

 

Lifting her lips slightly to smile at Seldian, Rodelia walked up the stairs.

 

Cerdian’s cold eyes continued to follow her precarious back.

 

****

 

As I returned to her room to change and rest, the maids returned.

 

They looked worried and breathed a sigh of relief when they found Rodelia.

 

“We were horrified by your sudden disappearance, Your Majesty.”

 

“Is something wrong?”

 

It seemed that what had happened on the terrace had not yet spread. The maids were only concerned about the whereabouts of Rodelia, who had suddenly disappeared.

 

Baroness Verna came trotting over, holding Rodelia’s hand and looking her over.

 

The hand she took was as cold as ice.

 

Rodelia smiled faintly, consciously so as not to worry them.

 

“I was just a little tired. I should have told you. I’m sorry that I cut off your fun time for no reason.”

 

“Oh, my God, what do you mean! We’re glad you’re alright.”

 

Baroness Verna waved her hand and smiled sadly. It seemed that Rodelia had succeeded in fooling them.

 

“We’ll go again soon. I think it’s about time for the fireworks to start.”

 

Rodelia said quietly, looking at the clock on the wall. At her words, the maids turned to the clock and said awkwardly.

 

“Then, Your Majesty, let’s go and have a look!”

 

“Me too. My husband is waiting for me.”

 

Aden’s upturned voice was followed by a succession of answers from Baroness Verna. Then, the maids left the room one by one, except Viscountess Cohen.