The hunting contest came to an abrupt end.
Rodelia swallowed her embarrassment and returned to her palace.
Her maids approached her to support her, but she said she was okay and sent them back. It was better to be alone than surrounded.
After she sighed, she began to feel a little pain in her frozen feet.
Although the days were getting warmer, the winters in Thebes were harsh. After the sun sets, the surroundings rapidly freeze.
Whenever she exhaled, a white breath leaked out.
It was only when Rodelia finally arrived at a place where there were few people, could she relax the steps she endured to keep upright.
[What is this unsightly gait of the empress? I wish you’d walk properly in consideration of my reputation.]
Kane’s last words pierced her chest. As she moved her limp steps, she chewed through what had just happened again.
[Empress, are you asking me if Grand Duke Aizen is safe?]
It was truly a humiliating question. She couldn’t respond to Kane’s absurd remarks earlier.
She literally only asked if anyone else had been injured. Words she had spoken from her point of view as Empress.
She only had the Imperial Family in mind, however, he interpreted the question in a completely different way. That is, he took it as a completely personal question.
[Why would the Empress!]
So Rodelia decided to stop talking to him. Talking to Kane in the current situation was like explaining an adult problem to a child.
…She couldn’t understand Kane more and more.
Today, the distance to the Empress’ Palace felt unusually long. Rodelia raised her gaze to the sky.
The sun had since gone down and a red sunset was in view.
Wasn’t it just like this when she met Cerdian? The weather was a little warmer than then, but the atmosphere was the same.
‘Come to think of it, among those who went into the forest, it was only Cerdian that I didn’t see….’
[I don’t know what happened to that Grand Duke Aizen b*st*rd.]
It was then that she became bothered by Kane’s last words.
It was funny that she was worried about him now, but it was true that she was a bit anxious.
Perhaps the handkerchief she had given him harmed him. Maybe something wrong had happened to Cerdian.
The last glimpse of his faint smile lingered as a fragment of memory.
I must find out news about him.
Returning to the Empress’ Palace, Rodelia locked the door with an order to not let anyone in.
After confirming several times that her door was locked, she turned around with a hardened face.
“How did you get in?”
She pointed towards Cerdian, who was sitting comfortably on her couch as if it were his own residence.
How surprised and embarrassed she was.
She almost screamed when he greeted her on the terrace. She discovered Cerdian at the same time that she decided to find out about him.
“I came on foot.”
But even in this situation, he acted playfully.
Whilst he maintained a light tone and behavior the whole time, cold eyes that could pierce someone followed her.
Of course, she didn’t know what kind of emotion had settled behind them.
However, Rodelia was not calm enough to accept his mischievous demeanor or to understand his hidden meaning.
“Are you okay?”
Even so, she couldn’t quite comprehend herself, who was uttering such nonsense.
He had carelessly entered the Empress’ room without any regard for the circumstances, yet there was this contradictory feeling of being angry at him and relief that he was safe, gradually leaning towards him…
She was afraid that she would one day be swallowed by it all.
“As you can see.”
Rodelia, biting her lips at his answer, went to the window and drew the curtain. She then grabbed Cerdian’s arm and pulled him into a corner.
She was afraid that the light would reflect his silhouette on the curtains.
The faint light of a candle on the night table cast a shadow on his face. Rodelia, who was staring at him, reached out to his cheeks.
Confused by the sudden situation, Cerdian pulled away. However, his tone was still playful.
“Aren’t you suddenly being too aggressive?”
“I’m not joking. You were not unharmed.”
What the hell is this woman talking about?
A little while ago, as he was returning to the Empress Palace, he found Rodelia on the terrace with a worried face, so he hurriedly climbed up.
Of course, he had figured she would be mad, but all of a sudden she was worried about him?
Who the hell should worry about who?
Shouldn’t you worry about yourself first? Cerdian’s gaze turned to Rodelia’s feet.
Even from a distance, her limp gait was noticeably annoying. She walked with such a pained expression then hid it and worried about others.
Does this woman not know how to take care of herself ? Otherwise, what kind of life has she been living?
Cerdian’s forehead narrowed with unexplained displeasure.
“Is now the time to worry about me?”
Perhaps the situation inside her boots would be dire. It must have been like this for quite some time, but it was fortunate that she didn’t get frostbite in this weather.
“You are hurt.”
But Rodelia did not answer and was still worried about him.
Her fingertips went over his cheek.
Cerdian felt a stinging pain at that moment. It must have been the fragments that splattered from the hunting grounds a while ago.
What’s the big deal?
A small scratch like this was no problem.
“…This is nothing.”
“Are other places okay?”
If he hit the hand on his cheek right now. Then it would be.
His body was stiff and motionless, as if he had lost his will. Rodelia’s unique body scent and her sweet voice felt exceptionally thick today.
Cerdian unknowingly chewed the flesh inside his mouth. He struggled to suppress the moan that was trying to come out through his teeth.
He was powerless as he looked through this woman’s deep eyes. Facing his pathetic situation, Cerdian admitted.
He rationalized that he wouldn’t offend her as he was just a person welcoming his own companion, and knew that he could never treat this woman badly. Things that he thought were going to go his way are slowly changing.
He still didn’t know the essence of this feeling, but….
To Rodelia, it was completely dried up.
Rodelia sat on the sofa and looked at Cerdian silently. To be precise, Cerdian was kneeling in front of her and was gently stroking her feet.
It was a really embarrassing situation.
In Thebes, even between married couples, it is uncommon to show bare feet. How much worse would it have been if her feet were messed up by frostbite?
She refused, but he insisted that it was okay and sat her down on the sofa. Rodelia bit her lip as she looked at Cerdian’s large hands that were clasping her frozen feet.
“Truly, I’m fine now….”
“It’s not fine.”
Cerdian said indifferently and applied ointment to Rodelia’s feet.
The hand was meticulous and clumsy, and it was the first warm touch she had ever received, so her heart ached.
When she said that she just needed hot water, he flatly refused. It was in the hopes that Cerdian would leave soon.
“It’s not ugly at all.”
But he sat himself down and took off her leather boots. And just like that, he spit out words that shook her heart again.
Without knowing how much her heart fluttered or how she felt whenever she heard these words.
“It must have been painful, but you didn’t get any help; why did you come alone?”
I am the Empress of Thebes. I always have to look perfect.
Rodelia repeated the words that she couldn’t get out of her mouth, in her mind.
“You can’t show your pain, and it’s something that the Empress must do?”
But Cerdian always sees through her. With a worried expression on his face like this, her heart swelled.
“I wish you could say that it hurts rather than holding the pain in.”
He said to Rodelia who had no answer. His gaze was still on her feet.
“When you want to cry, just cry.”
Rodelia’s hoarse voice made Cerdian raise his bowed head. Then his red eyes, hidden under his silver hair, turned to her.
“I thought something had gone wrong because of the handkerchief I gave you….”
“So you were worried?”
Cerdian’s low voice mixed with laughter broke the still air.
He thought she would say, ‘No,’ with a smirk, but Rodelia nodded her head slightly.
Have you become honest? Or are you starting to get more and more concerned now?
He didn’t know which of the two, but it didn’t feel bad. Cerdian chuckled.
“Is it because it symbolizes death? It’s all superstition…”
“It’s like a talisman for me, so that’s okay. By the way, it feels good to hear that the Empress was worried, but I wonder why your feet are like this.”
“Can you tell me?”
Why was Rodelia Florence, who hardly showed any gaps, so drenched?
Cerdian waited for her answer as he looked into her eyes. And the truth that came out of her mouth made his mood plop to the ground again.
“When I heard the news that His Majesty was injured, I ran…”
This woman, who smiled bitterly and revealed her secrets, and him wanting to get closer but being blocked by the man named Kane again, as well his emotions drowning in the gutter…
Cerdian couldn’t understand it all.
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