“Is it that good?”
Rodelia could instantly recognize who the main character of the voice was.
She raised her head blankly and stared at Cerdian who was approaching. Her full lips parted gently.
‘What are you planning?’
The noisy surroundings became quiet for a moment. She could feel that the nobles who were conversing were giving them interesting glances.
‘I expected it but it seems that the rumors have spread.’
Apparently, it was rumored that Cerdian wanted to become his paramour. Or it was exaggerated and spread.
‘I have to be careful.’
Rodelia’s eyelids fluttered shut.
How many times has her heart been swept away in surprise because of Cerdian?
But she couldn’t show it outwardly. She made up a drier expression than anyone else.
“It’s been a while, Your Majesty. I missed you.”
Cerdian spoke to Rodelia in a mischievous way as she pretended to be okay. A heavy stare followed.
Who the hell could speak like that in front of the Emperor?
The nobles muttered and began to look at Kane. As expected, his expression of displeasure suddenly hardened.
“Duke Aizen, why did you want to see the Empress?”
“Because we’re friends?”
The answer came back as indifferent as it was natural.
Friends… Hearing unexpected words, Rodelia’s eyebrows narrowed.
Of course, she had a few interactions with him however they were not to a point that he could be referred to as a close friend.
“I’m also going to get a handkerchief from the Empress.”
Cerdian’s next words were even more shocking.
She was the emperor’s woman, not a concubine, but the empress. Showing such public interest to the empress would be a provocation against the emperor’s authority.
“As a form of friendship, of course.”
As Kane’s face turned red, Cerdian added insignificantly. He was still indifferent to the gazes around him.
“A friendship between you and the Empress? That’s a little bit too much for a joke.”
Kane did not fall for his provocation. He just laughed out loud.
“Joke… It’s a joke… Really, isn’t that quite funny? It seems that you are not the kind of person who is profitable enough to build a friendship with the Empress.”
“Is that so?”
“Did you not know? If so, I hope you will understand your position well this time.”
Kane sarcastically looked down at Cerdian, unaware that he was making fun of him.
From the outside, the atmosphere was quite tense, though it was even more heated up around them.
“And what’s my position?”
“The Grand Duke would know better. The Empress may talk to you carelessly, but shouldn’t you know that she is someone you can’t covet?”
“Well… I don’t know.”
Cerdian continued to spin his words in circles.
It was certain that if things kept going like this, it would make Kane a laughing stock in front of so many people, so she had to solve this.
Rodelia inhaled briefly and cut off their conversation.
“I’m sorry for saying this.”
The eyes of the two men followed.
“There are many eyes here. Let’s move on.”
Kane, awakened by Rodelia’s calm voice, was now conscious of his surroundings and cleared his throat.
“And my apologies Grand Duke, but I cannot give you a handkerchief. I only have the handkerchief I gave to His Majesty.”
“I feel bad, but I understand.”
It was a gloomy face that did not match Cerdian. Wasn’t it strange that he felt bad about that?
Kane was satisfied with the situation. He looked up at Cerdian with a blatant smirk on his lips.
“Don’t be. There are many ladies lining up for you, so get it from them.”
Looking at Cerdian’s back, Rodelia was engulfed in strange emotions.
His expression, as if hurt, tugged on the corners of her heart.
Rodelia’s hand roamed over the handkerchief she had received from Viscountess Cohen.
‘Should I just have given it to you?’
But she was the empress.
If she had given him a handkerchief, embarrassing rumors would follow. She didn’t know how big they would get.
However, unlike rational thinking, her footsteps moved on their own.
“Then, Your Majesty, please take care of yourself.”
As Rodelia waited for the gazes around her to disappear, their attention was distracted before she was able to get away from Kane. Her steps were quite brisk.
And when she finally stopped, Cerdian’s figure was reflected in Rodelia’s sight.
He was in front of a fountain covered in moss. He seemed to be talking to something.
As Rodelia called him, his cold eyes turned to her. With him, something swiftly passed through the fountain.
It can’t be.
Rodelia slowly approached Cerdian and asked carefully.
“The one with the Grand Duke just now, wasn’t it a snake…?”
It sounded ridiculous even as she asked it herself. Isn’t this within the imperial palace? No animals could come in.
“Is that even possible? No living creatures other than humans can enter the Imperial Palace. You know that better than anyone else.”
Again, Cerdian replied firmly, as if it was nonsense.
Yes, it can’t be.
“Were you looking for me?”
As she nodded her head blankly, she came to her senses at his next question.
“Ah, the handkerchief.”
After hesitating, Rodelia took out a neatly folded handkerchief from her arms.
Viscountess Cohen had given it to her saying that she would be in need of it, and she had no choice because she needed it now.
It bothered her that the engraving was a snake, a symbol of death, but the Viscountess said that it did not mean anything bad…….
“I was wondering if this would be okay.”
He seemed a little surprised at first, but then Cerdian, who smiled faintly, said calmly.
“It’s a snake.”
“Ah, it only has a bad connotation in Thebes… In other countries, they are not considered bad animals, and in the Silver Kingdom, they are lucky.”
“I really like it.”
Rodelia had to think for a long time about what he meant.
“Because I like snakes.”
“Ah… That’s fortunate.”
What a relief.
In fact, I don’t think I hate snakes that much either.
She only had a bad perception of them for a while, influenced by Kane, who hated snakes.
With a faint smile, she cheered for Cerdian.
“I hope you win.”
The hunting grounds of the Imperial Palace were huge enough to be compared to a small province of other countries.
Because of this, it was not uncommon for the nobles who participated in the annual hunting competition to get lost.
If you follow the narrow path from the entrance to the hunting grounds, a green cedar forest spreads out.
Numerous wild beasts lurk, but no one knew exactly how many kinds of beasts there were and how ferocious they were.
Even the emperor’s safety was not completely guaranteed.
Rodelia shifted her gaze and frowned at the participants lining up in a row.
Of course, that was very rare, but one thing was…
‘The participants are a little different.’
Until last year, many middle-aged nobles who enjoyed hunting, participated in hunting competitions.
But this time, something was a little different. Except for Kane’s henchmen, Viscount Cohen, Cerdian, and a few delegations, they were all strangers.
‘They have very good physiques.’
It was strange. They looked as if they were going to battle.
Maybe it has something to do with the reason why the hunt is still unknown? Could their lives be in jeopardy?
While Rodelia was immersed in various thoughts, the loud sound of horseshoes began to reverberate through the forest, along with gunshots that opened the curtain for the hunting contest.
Flocks of frightened birds fluttered and flew over the trees. Startled by a loud gunshot, she also took in a brief inhale.
At the mouth of the forest, in the shaded area of the trees that did not reach the sun, the snow had not yet melted and the white color was spread out.
The sound of hooves sprinting to the ground gradually faded away. Soon, the participants disappeared into the darkness.
With a nervous expression on her face, Rodelia clenched her sweaty hands.
“Are you worried?”
Viscountess Cohen, who looked at her with concern, grabbed Rhodelia’s hand.
“Ah, madam… Probably. I’m kind of anxious. Whether something dangerous is happening….”
Rodelia said in a trembling voice.
She would be lying if she said that she wasn’t worried. Kane or Cerdian, she didn’t know which one to be worried about. But one thing was clear. Rodelia was now in a very unstable state.
Rodelia’s green eyes darkened as she tried hard to smile. With gentle hands, she adjusted the hem of her coat that fluttered in the cold wind.
The forest in winter, filled with the scent of cedar, was quiet. There was no sunlight, so there was an unfamiliar feeling of darkness everywhere.
Kane’s white horse, which was running strong, gradually slowed down. Aristocrats and delegations, who were scattered in different directions, flocked to the same road with him in the lead.
“Are you really saying that if we catch it, you will make a deal with our kingdom?”
“You must keep the promise that you will also raise our family again.”
Apparently, there was some kind of contract between them.
The delegation and the nobles all said what they wanted with desperate expressions, as if they had left everything to Kane.
Fortunately, Kane did not seem uncomfortable with such requests. He simply smiled and nodded his head.
“I promise in Bayard’s name.”
Kane, who was sitting upright on the horse, uttered in a confident and firm voice befitting of an emperor. He looked around at them and slowly opened his mouth again.
“If you catch it and come back alive.”
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