Chapter 1. Prologue
What was the beginning?
Was it the Defense Treaty of Hildes? Raha’s illness? Jamela Winston’s blue eyes? Duke Esther’s suggestion of marriage?
Retroactively, Karzen stared numbly at the trees in the garden, which were turning green little by little.
“Have the carriage ready.”
“Yes, Your Majesty.”
“And to the Princess.”
The maid, who had followed Karzen to the garden to see him off, closely listened.
“Tell her I have left.”
“I will relay the message.”
Karzen rode to the main palace in his carriage. When the chief chamberlain saw the emperor returning alone after going to pick up the princess, he was inwardly perplexed, but asked without showing it.
“There is still quite a bit of time left before the concert starts, Your Majesty. What shall we do?”
The chief chamberlain immediately ushered Karzen to his seat.The palace concert to be held in two hours was a kind of tea party. As it was held by the royal family in the imperial household, only a few noble guests were invited to enjoy it.
The attendants, who were quick to notice that the emperor’s mood was somber, very carefully brought him a cup of hot tea. Karzen did not reach for the tea. He leaned his back against the backrest and looked coldly at the empty orchestra seats.
The half-closed door opened and a familiar voice was heard.
Karzen shifted his gaze.
“Why did you leave without telling me?”
Raha was not so stupid as to fail to interpret his intentions when she heard that Karzen had come and gone. She was still receiving the emperor’s love. If she hadn’t come, well, perhaps three of the imperial court ladies-in-waiting would have died today.
“From afar, you looked busy.”
“I wasn’t busy. I was surprised when I heard you came.”
“I had time to visit you, so that’s fine. Come here, Raha.”
The chamberlain standing outside quietly closed the door. Inside were several servants. In a large quiet and dim hall, Raha walked toward Karzen.
Karzen, who was leisurely admiring her steps, grabbed Raha by the wrist and pulled her with great force into his arms.
It happened in a blink of an eye. Karzen sat Raha on his thighs and then continued speaking in a soft tone.
“I have been too busy working. It’s been a long time since I’ve been alone with you.”
“Yes, it has, Karzen.”
Raha’s answer was gentle as always. At that moment, the orchestra that had been invited to rehearse before the main performance came up.
They had already heard from the attendants and were not surprised to see the emperor and the princess already seated. To be precise, they were trying very hard not to look at the two.
Karzen didn’t care much.They were not nobles anyway. It did not matter what they saw or heard. After a few instructions that hid the conductor’s nervousness, the music began to play. As expected, it was of a fine caliber befitting a palace concert. Sweet melodies that stimulated the ears began to fill the quiet hall.
Amidst all this, Raha sat quietly. As usual.
Karzen looked down at her, with Raha locked in his arms. Her ears heard the performance, but her eyes did not.
Eyes that scattered strange light like jewels made Karzen feel an abnormal thirst every time. The Princess had a way of looking at things and people in a certain way with her blessed eyes.
How much he wanted to touch her. Or to pluck out her eyes or strangle her.
Karzen’s gaze turned toward Raha’s lips. The scene of Raha kissing the royal lord’s neck came to his mind again.
Do you want to try to kiss me too?
Instead of talking, Karzen moved his hands slowly. The hand that was moving as if trying to grab her slender neck untied the ribbon that was tied around her neck. The cloak that Raha was wearing dropped down her shoulders in a slick motion.
She did not even bat an eye at the cloak as it floated to the floor. Karzen’s gaze was simply fixed on Raha. He brushed her hair away and passed it over her opposite shoulder.
Raha’s white neckline was full of red marks. It looked like it had been a lot of licking and sucking.
Karzen nuzzled his lips against Raha’s neck. Raha didn’t make the slightest movement, even though his breath tickled her neck. It was just this reaction that happily misinterprets all of Karzen’s actions as familial affection.
If it were not for the reaction conveyed by the eyes of the heir, Karzen would have been completely fooled. The naive twin knew nothing and would have just trusted him like a dog wagging its tail.
Who was it that these damn blue sky eyes were protecting?
Was it you, Raha?
Karzen nearly burst out laughing. He had lived on the battlefield, so the deserted appearance of a blade cutting his skin was not unfamiliar to him now. It felt like it would make the downy hairs on his entire body stand up a little more, but Karzen didn’t remove his lips from Raha’s neck.
He would stick out his tongue and lick it, and Raha, who was extremely disgusted with himself, would shove the horrible phantom pain down her throat.
It was then that Raha, who had been quiet for a long time and seemed to be quiet forever, opened her mouth.
“You can’t do this anymore.”
The conviction clearly evident in her voice made Karzen a little suspicious, forgetting his earlier sneer. It was the first time Raha del Harsa had ever made such a comment at his touch.
“What do you mean no? Raha. Why not?”
Before Raha could reply, Karzen felt someone was standing very close to him. Due to the rejection in Raha’s eyes that drifted throughout her body, due to the sound of the instrument ringing in his ears, he realized one step late.
The moment when Karzen lifted his head from Raha’s neck.
Someone pulled Raha out of his embrace.
Karzen stood up almost reflexively. It was the first time in his life that someone had dared to take something from his arms, and the first time in his life that Raha had been taken from him in this way.
A voice that sounded like it had been carved out of a sword rang in Karzen’s ears.
“You are deeply compassionate toward my rightful wife.”
The king’s brother of Hildes looked at Karzen with just that much coldness.
And so did his aide.
Shed did not take his eyes off Karzen, keeping Raha standing in front of him. For the first time a man had dared to hold Raha near his arm in front of him, and for a moment Karzen almost reached for the sword on his waist. But there was no sword. This was not a battlefield.
However, Shed seemed to immediately recognize the slightest movement of Karzen’s hand. Karzen’s mouth gradually began to twist.
“What do you mean by that? Royal Prince.”
“Literally what I said. I don’t know if you heard.”
Karzen heard that Severo was grabbed by the neck by this royal lord. He didn’t hear the details, but he guessed Severo had looked at Raha lustfully to be grabbed by the neck like that.
Karzen raised his lips.
“Do you mean that I have overstepped my bounds in my affection for my twin?”
“I mean that I appreciate it. I mean that I am grateful to you, as an affectionate brother of the Princess.”
If only they could package that desire in terms of consideration.
Shed removed his gaze from Karzen. He turned to the cloak lying at his feet. He didn’t bother to bend down and pick up the cape again. He took off his own coat and wrapped it around Raha’s shoulders.
“Don’t you want to sit out there where it’s cold? Raha.”
The words he produced were too perfect, even though he looked like he was going to chew Karzen.
Raha was very confused from the moment she was taken away from Karzen’s arms and stood by Shed.
But not showing emotion was one of her specialties, and she also knew what to reply now.
Shed spoke gently.
Shed did not return Raha’s smile in reply, but at least he had put away the look that would have killed Karzen immediately. He gave Raha a full embrace.
Then, without a word, he plopped down in the seat next to Karzen. It was not the wrong seat. It was the place allotted to the Princess’s betrothed, and to the noble guests of Hildes, which was now classified as the highest of all the allies of the Delo Empire.
This would certainly be an easier place for the nobles who would soon be entering to see.
Wherever they looked, it would appear that the royal lord, completely enamored with the princess, would be happy to warm the seat.
Raha was wrapped up in a coat, but even that would look different in the eyes of the nobility.
It was somewhere between the courtesy of a gentleman and the love of a future husband.
But as Raha, who was being held, she could not know the fact that the latter was by far the heavier of the two. She slowly lowered her eyes. Karzen was still standing, his eyes fixed on the couple. No, perhaps he was imagining killing Shed.
Who would be the first to choke in this frozen air? The orchestra? The servants? Or the nobles who would soon come? Suppressing the desire to be held in Shed’s arms forever, Raha smiled as usual.
“Go warm up the seats for the other nobles. Put out a few more stoves.”
Raha beckoned to the servants, and the breathless servants came running quickly.
“Where is Lady Jamela? Bring her here.”
*Shed did good!