Chapter 1. Prologue
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Raha put the necklace she wore yesterday on the chamberlain’s hand.
“Give it back to His Majesty safely.”
“Isn’t it a gift from His Majesty to the Princess? I think you should keep it.”
“He lent it to me. Don’t you think it’s right to give something as valuable as this to the next Empress?”
The chamberlain took it with a peculiar smile.
“I’ll return it well.”
Karzen didn’t like words such as Empress, marriage, or engagement. Even though Raha knew it, she brought it up. The emperor’s mood was an especially important issue for the chamberlain, who was the closest assistant. Of course, Raha also suffered if Karzen wasn’t in a good mood.
Still, it was a warning of sorts. Raha didn’t like it when the chamberlain kept talking.
The chamberlain, fully understanding the silent warning to stop, quietly withdrew.
“Princess, please come to the dressing room.”
“Time to prepare is imminent…….”
The maids said impatiently as soon as the chamberlain departed. And then Raha meekly carried on her steps. The maids, who had the Princess in front of a large mirror, moved around busily. Raha was staring into the mirror with her ocean blue like eyes. It was then…
The sound of someone walking in from behind her, step by step. She stared into the mirror. Fortunately, there was no sign of Shed anywhere.
“I was bored waiting, so I came, Raha.”
“I’ll be tight out. Take His Majesty to the parlor…”
“Is that necessary?”
Karzen sat cross-legged on the sofa. The emperor’s already perfectly dressed. The gold insignia on the shoulders shone luxuriously.
“I will be waiting for you here, so get ready.”
And the hands of the maids immediately went stiff, Raha pretended to smile as if this situation was nothing.
It was only natural, since all Raha was wearing was a thin nightgown. Even that had to be taken off in order to wear the dress.
But Raha casually signaled with her chin at the maids to continue.
“Hurry up and get ready.”
Karzen’s eyes reflected in the mirror were fixed on her. Oh, what kind of b*stard had bothered Karzen again?
Who else would upset the d*mn twin with talk of marriage and engagement?
Raha flinched with a low moan. It was because when the maids removed the undergarment that held Raha’s breasts, her nipples which were tormented all day yesterday, hurt. It was a hasty failure on the part of the maids to expose Raha’s naked body to Karzen as little as possible.
Perhaps because she was so nervous, a weak moan came out from the pain.
The problem was that the maids were holding Raha’s clothes without breathing properly.
The fact that the emperor was right behind them, watching, made them very nervous. As a result, there was only the rustling sound of the clothes.
So, Raha’s weak moan was enough to pierce Karzen’s ears.
‘Will Karzen let it pass?’
It couldn’t be. Karzen rose slowly and approached. For a moment, Raha’s spine tingled.
“What’s wrong, Raha?”
“It’s too tight, it hurts.”
Before she knew it, Karzen was standing behind her.
The maids who had been holding the clothes immediately turned pale and bowed their heads. They would be tortured with all their fingers being pierced by needles if Raha didn’t make an excuse.
Raha smiled like it was nothing.
Karzen’s fingers raked through Raha’s long hair and lifted up. His gaze rested heavily on the exposed neck. There was no trace of anything anywhere, just white, soft skin.
“You made that sound when it’s too tight, Raha.”
The tone was subtle. Karzen’s eyes were still fixed between the lines connecting Raha’s neck and shoulders. She desperately hoped that she wouldn’t get goosebumps where his gaze touched.
No, obviously it was hair-raising. It seemed like the crazy twin was trying to rub his hands over her skin.
So Raha deliberately turned her body around to face Karzen.
“I think I’ve gained weight. How do I look?”
The hem of her thin skirt fluttered lively. Thanks to Raha’s complete turn, where Karzen’s gaze had reached was another part of her body instead of her neck. A little lower and he would be where Raha’s chest was.
Then Karzen looked up and averted his gaze. Raha did not know it was a moderately gentle disguise of shame.
“I have no idea.”
Raha looked at the maids.
“How do you look?”
“You’re still the same, Princess.”
The maids hurriedly answered.
“Really? Then hurry up and get ready. His Majesty is waiting.”
Finally, the maids began to move busily again. When Raha saw Karzen, who was still snugly clinging to her back, she frowned her forehead.
“Could you please go and sit down? Your Majesty, do you want me to leave like this?”
“Oh. I can’t make my twin angry. I would be delighted.”
Then Karzen sat down in the seat again. The maid quickly brought him a glass of champagne, and Karzen sipped his drink. While being conscious of the Emperor’s gaze, the maids diligently decorated Raha.
It was only after some more time had passed that the preparation was finished.
The occasional smile was the epitome of a friendly twin. What if Karzen was like that on a regular basis?
Would Raha have just enjoyed watching her twin smile which resembled her own?
But it was okay if he did this. Karzen watched Raha with a watchful eye, though sometimes he couldn’t take his eyes off her. After he finished his calculations inside, he would let go of Raha. As long as she was able to get by like this, she wouldn’t have any problems for a few days.
So she thought it was fine.
* * *
Priest Amar couldn’t even approach Raha easily. It was a wise move. If he had walked up as soon as he saw Raha, with a look that said he had something to say, he would have caught Karzen’s eye.
Although he had come up with many suitable excuses, it was no better than a situation where he could get away with not using any excuses.
Raha, who exchanged formal greetings with Amar, took a step.
Perhaps it was because of his embarrassment about how he was found out yesterday, Amar was looking very wary today. On the one hand, it was a good thing he had managed his expression better.
If Amar was caught by Karzen, it would be really….
Really, because then the mad tyrant might cut off the limbs of the priest alive and put them in his mouth.
But judging from the nervousness of the priest, it was unlikely that this would happen. When the banquet was completely over, the priests would return to the Holy Kingdom and Raha would be confined to her inner palace for a few days, as was customary.
However she didn’t feel as bad as she normally would have. Because she had Shed in the Inner Palace. In fact, she even felt better. She didn’t know why. Was it because she didn’t have to be alone? Maybe it was because Shed’s body heat was good. It was a stranger’s warmth that Raha was not used to. Her steps were light as she thought of Shed.
That was, until just before the voice stopped her steps.
Her shoulders stiffened, and Raha slowly turned back around. A man of about thirty, whose vision was even higher than hers. It was Duke Esther, and he was staring at Raha.
It took a lot of effort to keep her voice from trembling. And for the most part, Raha’s efforts did not fail her.
“It’s been a long time.”
Unlike the other Dukes who never approached Raha alone because they were agile with their power, only Duke Esther always approached Raha at least once a year. Raha shook her head desperately.
So today …….
It was the third Wednesday of winter.
Raha’s back straightened and her gaze lowered at the same time. The dry bouquet of flowers that Duke Esther held in his hands without sincerity.
It was that very bouquet of dried flowers that Raha had received every year since she turned twelve. The orange scent, which dried up without moisture and deepened, spread gradually at the tip of her nose.
“Today is the day.”
“Yes, my sister, the day Countess Borbon died.”
Raha said without paying long attention to the bouquet the Duke was handing over.
“You can stop giving it to me now.”
“That’s not possible.”
Duke Esther spoke slowly.
“It was my sister’s will. I want to fulfill the will of my immediate family.”
The expression in Duke’s Esther’s eyes did not change as he recited. A faint feeling of tightness in his throat. But when he had first given the bouquet to Raha, anger had welled up in his eyes.
“Wouldn’t the Princess at least listen to your nanny’s will?”
Raha lowered her eyes.
“The Countess had an accident because of me.”
Duke Esther bowed her head lightly.
“She died because of the Princess.”
“If it weren’t for the Princess, she’d still be alive.”
Duke Esther bowed lightly in silence with an expression of profound ignorance.
“There was much to thank you for. Your Imperial Highness. You look as beautiful as a doll today.”
That was all. Duke Esther retreated with a graceful demeanor that did not need to be pointed out. He walked towards where his acquaintances were waiting for him.
All that remained was Raha with the bouquet of flowers that smelled like a potpourri of dried oranges.