Chapter 4

***

 

In the cold wind, the heat rose on her cold cheeks. Rodelia was embarrassed. She wanted to hide somewhere. Her spirit, which she had struggled to keep in check, once again processed like a thread.

 

‘As expected, he knew everything. He knew everything but he asked.’

 

Her lips were dry and her throat thirsty. Rodelia clenched her fists in shame.

 

”I didn’t know that Grand Duke Eisen knew so much about the Empress’s personal business…..”

 

Had the rumor started among the servants? Did Sola have already spoken ill of her in front of Cerdian?

 

‘You must have laughed at me…’

 

The best course of action in the current situation was to just back away. Biting her lower lip, Rodelia lowered her head.

 

If it had been someone else, she might not have been this embarrassed, but he was Sola’s brother. It was partly because she had flamboyantly ignored the warnings he’d given her in the past.

 

If she had listened to his words properly, she probably would not have been this sad. Rodelia had to suppress the overwhelming emotions that were welling up in her.

 

It took a lot of effort for her to make eye contact with him again.

 

She thought he would say “You should have listened to me,” or “That’s nice!” or something that would hurt her feelings.

 

But what came out of Cerdian’s mouth was unexpected.

 

 

“It’s not the Empress’s fault, so why are you lowering your head?”

 

She gradually lifted her anxiously wavering gaze at his calm voice.

 

A disturbed mind was bound to weaken. Her heart stiffened again at Cerdian’s words.

 

“It is not your fault that the emperor’s mind has changed.”

 

‘It’s my fault.’

 

She had always believed that everything was her fault. Obviously, Kane changed because of her submission. Didn’t Kane deny it, and Sola also said so.

 

But Cerdian had told her it was not her fault, as if to comfort her.

 

Why on earth would he do that?

 

Did he come back again to comfort her?

 

But Cerdian was the flesh and blood of Sola, who took Kane. Why would he give her such a favor? Was it because of guilt?

 

Rodelia’s brows visibly narrowed.

 

She had never received a favor without a price in her life. And even to her father, the Marquis of Florence.

 

Thinking that Cerdian was obviously hiding his true intentions, she asked suspiciously.

 

“Do you really think so?”

 

“Of course.”

 

As if to look into her anxious mind and soothe it, his voice was determined without shaking.

 

But her deep sense of caution was still there.

 

Rodelia, who couldn’t let go of the doubt, looked at Cerdian as if she wanted an exact answer. Eventually, with a meaningful smile, he answered.

 

“It’s all the emperor’s fault. Because he’s that kind of man.”

 

Rodelia’s brow furrowed deeply.

 

It’s the emperor’s fault. It’s Kane’s fault.

 

Then, with a hot breath, the pining she had been holding back boiled over.

 

Cerdian’s warm comfort was a trick to separate her and Kane; he meant to break down her wall of doubt.

 

With this, the doubt that had been lit from the feet up quickly rose to the chin and became the name of conviction.

 

Cerdian Eisen was an obvious enemy.

 

He made it sound like it was no big deal, like he was just trying to comfort her, but it must all be a carefully calculated answer.

 

A sharp voice came from between Rodelia’s lips as she considered what his true intentions might be.

 

“I don’t know.”

 

But didn’t he say it’s just a small favor, so there’s no need for her to be so cautious?

 

[There isn’t a person in the world who would show such unrelenting favoritism to someone who has no ability or use for it as you do, young lady.]

 

It couldn’t be.

 

Rodelia gave a small shake of her head. Like her father, the Marquis of Florence, had said, she was just a useless person who could never be loved by anyone, a being who should never have been born.

 

She never thought she’d see the day when words that hurt her so much when she was a child would come in handy.

 

Her head grew cold.

 

Cerdian was just Sola’s flesh and blood, nothing more, nothing less. It was obvious that all of these actions were part of a plan to separate her from Kane. 

 

She felt pathetic because she was shaken by this for a while. She couldn’t let herself be swayed by him, who might possibly look out for his sister. She had to make up her mind.

 

 

“…… Grand Duke, this is the last time I will tolerate your rudeness. Please step back.”

 

Rodelia let out a firm and dry voice. Cerdian’s expression wavered for a moment as he was waiting silently.

 

“Cerdian.” (Cerdian)

 

But the shaking was short-lived, and what came back was his abrupt reply.

 

Rodelia was puzzled at his words, as she had no idea what the hell he was talking about.

 

As if he didn’t care about her reaction, he raised his red lips smoothly again and said in a low voice, 

 

“My name is Cerdian.”

 

He scrutinized it again, low and grave. It was as if he was asking her to say his name.

 

He seemed to have no intention of leaving until he heard the answer he wanted. Rodelia straightened her back and faced him.

 

“Yes, Grand Duke Cerdian.”

 

Was she in a hurry or was her voice hoarse? Cerdian gently pulled his closed lips up in satisfaction.

 

His smile was coldly beautiful, but arrogant. Perhaps that was why the feeling of rejection came over her like an instinct. Rodelia took a deep breath in to calm down.

 

“Grand Duke, this is between me and His Majesty…..so it’s between husband and wife. It’s not something the Grand Duke has to care about, so don’t worry about it.”

 

Rodelia could have simply responded calmly, but she deliberately pushed him away coldly. She was fiddling with her sleeves to hide her nervousness.

 

The sound of her dress rustling in the wind echoed through the air.

 

He dropped his gaze on the sleeve for a moment, as if noticing her uneasiness, then made eye contact again and slowly opened his mouth.

 

“But if you need help, just let me know. I’ll always be your two hands, or all, if you ask.”

 

Cerdian’s sharp eyes narrowed much more.

 

“Anytime.”

 

He spoke slowly with a friendly smile on his lips. She felt somewhat numb and almost lost strength in her legs.

 

But she didn’t want to be caught swaying, so she averted my gaze and answered.

 

“I appreciate your concern, but I won’t get any help from you.”

 

“I understand. You might think I’m untrustworthy. Is it because I’m Sola’s brother?”

 

He replied nonchalantly, as if he had expected such a response from Rodelia.

 

“You know well……. Do you think I would believe you, Sola’s brother?”

 

“I hope you do believe me. Only if you do, the Empress won’t be hurt anymore.”

 

Hurt? She already had enough pain. She wondered if this was a warning of greater things to come, but after daring to ignore it, she spoke in a decisive tone.

 

“His Majesty’s and the Princess’s relationship is merely a passing breeze for a while. His Majesty will surely come back to me again, so don’t worry. Your concern is gratefully accepted.”

 

“…….”

 

“I’m not sure what ulterior motive the Grand Duke has for doing this to me, but …….”

 

She didn’t want to be so harsh to someone who was treating me favorably, but she couldn’t trust him. Rodelia just kept her tone cold and continued to speak plainly.

 

“Do you think the position of Empress is so free that I am swayed by such feelings?”

 

Outwardly, she looked perfect, but her trembling was not hidden even in the darkness.

 

She never thought that a situation that didn’t go her way could stimulate her mind so much…

 

Cerdian’s expression crumpled and he loosened the blue cravat that was tied on his neck.

 

It certainly didn’t seem like a big deal. Because ever since he first met her, she had been ridiculously avoiding his gaze.

 

He had heard that she was quite a wallflower, unlike her cold appearance. She was the perfect woman for the position of Empress. He had high hopes for her, but he was disappointed.

 

He knew that rumors were not worth believing. In fact, it was only her appearance that had been devalued.

 

He wondered what was so difficult about winning over one woman who was on the edge of a cliff.

 

He was confident that she would come to him quickly, but he soon realized that his thinking was arrogant.

 

 

The woman named Rodelia Florence hardened her face and took a step back even though he thought she might fall for it.

 

It was as if she knew he was someone who instinctively must be avoided, no matter how much he pretended to be kind and acted in a way that didn’t match his true nature to sway her heart.

 

Thinking that she was a woman of mischievous intuition, he hardened his expression and remembered the day of his coming-of-age ceremony .

 

[Companion? Who do I need something like that?]

 

Cerdian had never thought of getting married or dating. For him, love was an incomprehensible feeling.

 

He had never learned such a feeling. His parents had married and given birth to him in order to continue the line of the Eisen family.

 

He didn’t think it was a big deal to say that the survival of the family depended on him.

 

He didn’t have a grain of affection for the Eisen, so it was none of his business what happened to the family.

 

He had no desire to live until he felt a deathly agony wracking his body.

 

He wanted to die and be rid of this crazy pain…….

 

It was a curse. A curse that came down on the Eisen family. In order to maintain the power of the Grand Duchy, he couldn’t just take his own life.

 

‘Why me of all people?’

 

Cerdian stopped walking and closed his eyes in the pain that was rushing in again.

 

“Rodelia Florence.”

 

He lifted his eyelids slowly and spoke her name in a low voice, the name of the only daughter the Marquis of Florence cared so much about.

 

He must hold the Empress of the Thebes Empire, the Jewel of the Empire, in his hands if he was to quell this unending pain.

 

Cerdian chuckled to himself.

 

‘Rumors of human hunting are not a misnomer, either.’

 

It was as if he was now laying the foundation stone for the hunt for Rodelia.

 

‘She is an interesting woman.’

 

She was more difficult to deal with than he’d expected, but there was something about her that stimulated him subtly.

 

But that was all. Rodelia was just a necessary means to an end, nothing more, nothing less. It could only be used and discarded once it had served its value.

 

Cerdian thought of her pure, shining, young, green eyes, and before he knew it, he was on his feet again, calm and collected.