01. A Humble Princess (6)
He chuckled and rubbed the back of his neck with a smile.
“Prothean Caliburn told me about it. A long time ago.”
Catherine’s eyes widened.
“Father… He played this music before? When, where did you meet my father? What was he like?”
For Catherine, the story about her father was far more important than a ludicrous joke about living twice.
His slight smirk disappeared at the sight of her sparkling blue-gray eyes. From his reaction, he seemed somewhat displeased.
When she was in front of him, she trembled like a frightened squirrel, avoided her gaze and kept her mouth shut tightly, with either a gloomy expression or one on the verge of tears. But when someone else was mentioned, her expression turned as radiant as the cleared skies.
Just like when her ‘Brother’ had unexpectedly appeared yesterday.
Unfortunately, Catherine didn’t read his subtle expressions. Her heart had already started racing upon hearing the story of someone she missed dearly emerging from an unexpected place.
“This piece… It’s a song my father composed for me. He gifted me an orgel, which is the most precious thing I’ve received in my life. Though it’s broken now…”
“This isn’t a song composed by your dead father. Because he doesn’t know how to compose.”
He propped up his chin and lightly tapped his cheek with an index finger.
A deeper smile, more enigmatic than before, appeared on his lips. It was a strange and languid smile of a sated lion, yet contained the cunning of a fox. It was the same smile Catherine had faced in the shadows of the stable yesterday.
“It’s an Asekhan folk song. To be precise, a requiem.”
Asekhan, it was the word Rediots used to refer to themselves originally. Rediots who hadn’t been enslaved didn’t even know the word ‘Rediot’. However, in the Empire, the only people that referred to them as Asekhans were scholars.
“You haven’t seen it before, have you? An Asekhan funeral. It’s quite fascinating.”
The word he uttered struck the back of her head relentlessly. A requiem, of all things…
He straightened up and with the tip of his fingers, he pushed the sheet music from the piano’s desk. The paper slid off and crashed onto the floor. As her gaze followed the sheet music, it landed where she could see it.
Thud. He stepped on the musical score. The paper was inherently fragile, and so it tore apart lifelessly as soon as it was stepped on by his military boots.
He grabbed her wrist and forcefully pulled her toward him. She instinctively supported herself by pressing the piano keys, causing the piano to emit a low shriek. One of Catherine’s hands was pressed against the piano keys, while the other supported herself against his shoulder to prevent herself from falling onto him.
A bead-like water droplet dripped down from the swaying necklace. The red, cross-shaped pendant sparkled golden in the yellow sunlight that streamed through the window.
His sweet breath brushed against her lips.
Catherine swallowed dryly. The slight movement of her fragile, bandaged throat was vividly reflected in his arrogant golden gaze. Her breath entered Deimos’s mouth. Her breath trembled, just like the delicate hand on his shoulder.
“Now, answer me. Who was the first to serve you?”
“Is that really important?”
“I’m already a ruined woman. I can’t even remember when the first time was…”
From that distance, his breath tickled her sensitive skin and he whispered with an alluring tone.
“It isn’t a sin to lie. It’s human nature. However…”
He stubbornly fiddled her necklace as he observed each of her slightest movements. As his hand slowly descended toward the flame stone necklace, it lightly grazed against her bare collarbone. This minute contact caused Catherine’s shoulders to tense like a bowstring.
Just before touching the flame stone necklace, his hand paused.
He meticulously took in the sight of her reddened face.
The damp, sunset-like hair. The water droplets that clung to her dense eyelashes, almost akin to tears. A round forehead and petite, straight nose. The white bandage-wrapped throat was as slender as a deer’s, and her thin shoulders appeared ready to break.
The water droplets that clung to the pearl necklace and the cross-shaped pendant around her neck, as well as sliding between the gentle curve between the delicate lace that lined the square neckline of her dress…
Why was this woman caught in the rain?
Her body’s scent, now intensified by dampness, was strangely distracting. It was like the peculiar fragrance of a garden blooming raucously in the middle of the night.
“If you lack sincerity, it’s human psychology to get angry.”
Thump, he bit her throat. It was the same place he’d wounded her yesterday.
The sharp pain made her unconsciously dig her fingernails into his shoulder. As she reeled once again, her other hand slipped over the keys, playing a discordant note.
He wrapped his firm, large hand around her cheek and buried his face deeper into her neck. Then, he lapped more intensely at the spot, which had become more sensitive due to the wound. The strange pain caused her to twitch as if she were charged with static electricity. He positioned his mouth over that spot and as he gently bit down, she shuddered and tried to push him away.
“Wait, hngh… Your Highness…!”
With one hand on her cheek, the other was wrapped around her waist tightly, preventing any form of escape from her. The large, calloused hand around her thin, almost emaciated waist was akin to a pair of shackles.
The hand on her cheek brushed her cascading hair away tenderly. He gently rubbed the lock of hair that was much shorter than the other places, and his hand brushed down her side. She twisted her body in resistance, but it was futile.
He let go of her neck and bit her chin. Ah, when Catherine exclaimed in pain, her open lips were immediately devoured by him.
Along with a metallic taste, a warm and soft sensation invaded her mouth. What in the world was that? Overwhelmed by the shocking sensations that cascaded upon her, she writhed like a fish out of water. Every time, her fingers pressed on the piano keys under her hand, creating a cacophony.
As his hand reached her pelvis, it felt like someone had struck the back of her head. It was because she knew what would happen if his hand went any lower. A bright red flag fluttered before her eyes.
Her helpless hand finally landed on his shoulder. He seemed to find the tapping gesture rather amusing, and the lips that were swallowing hers curled up.
Finally, he released her lips and chuckled.
“It seems your words weren’t entirely false, seeing how you’re so proficient at seducing me.”
Her eyes widened when he firmly pressed his leg against her thigh. The sensation of his leg against the outside of her thighs beyond the damp dress felt excessively solid and hot.
Catherine used the hand that was on the piano keys to push on his shoulder, and tried to refocus her whirling mind.
“I, Is Your Highness… truly alright with it?”
“That I’m such an improper woman… I mean, I’m not just improper, but I’m also of mixed blood…”
“I’m quite the libertine myself. At this rate, there isn’t anyone that’s more suited to be a couple than us.”
This, This wasn’t in the plan at all.
What kind of man would favour an immodest woman? Even men who had different women to warm his bed every night still wanted a virtuous wife. That was common sense in aristocratic society.
Moreover, their relationship wasn’t between ordinary nobility; it was between the imperial family and the Caliburns. In the empire, there wouldn’t be anyone else that’s more cautious in terms of marriage…
He pressed the leg against Catherine’s body harder. Her mind, which had been spinning in confusion, suddenly stopped, and a fiery sensation surged.
“I want to try out that ‘service’ you’ve received multiple times.”
“Evaluate it. Where would my skills rank among your toys?”
He rolled up her dress.
Just as the hem reached the back of her calf, about to expose her bare calves to the air…
Bang! The door burst open. Catherine gasped and shoved him away, and he turned his gaze toward the door. Her strength momentarily drained from that sudden move, causing Catherine to stumble backward and collapse in place.
Because she suddenly fell on her behind, Ah, she let out a pain-mixed cry, but Deimos didn’t even glance at her.
A stern, soldier-like man, with short-cropped black hair and in a black uniform, stood at the doorway, gasping for breath. It seemed like he had sprinted up the tall spire in one go.
“A chimera has appeared at the boundary of the Caliburn manor.”
Sweat formed on his brow as he breathed heavily, but his words were crisp and unclouded. Dein rose lightly from his seat even before his report had finished. It seemed to be something he’d expected.
He nonchalantly passed by Catherine, who was still catching her breath on the floor, leaving footprints on her dishevelled navy dress, which was spreaded out like in full bloom.
“Has Lanius assembled?”
“Yes. You only need to issue the deployment order. As for the size of the chimera that appeared…”
As he was about to cross the threshold, he seemed to forget something and grasped the door handle, turning back briefly.
“This is your homework. Next time we meet, prepare more diligently. Understood?”
After flashing an infinitely affectionate smile, he turned away from her without hesitation.
Soon, the door slammed shut with a resounding thud.
Catherine watched the tightly closed wooden door for a long time, suppressing her laboured breath.
How much time had passed? She dropped to the floor as if collapsing.
In order to lie on her back, she, who was trembling on her arms, tried her best to turn her heavy body after completely losing her strength. She gazed at the ceiling, which was made of rough, cold gray stone, resembling the interior of a cone. Her focus blurred as she looked at the bumpy, cold gray ceiling.
Her heart was racing like this because she was scared. She had been so startled.
Yes, that must be it. Surely, that was the only reason.
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