Chapter 5

***

Sponsored by Curufin 💖 (⅛)

***

 

Iker’s eyes, which were looking out the window, stayed on the sight of a certain young man leaving the mansion. To be precise, it was Elysia in the form of a young man.

 

The young lady was dressed in mending that suited her body and a deep hat, and from a distance, no one could tell she was a woman.

 

 

Iker, who had been watching her, finally lowered his gaze when she completely disappeared from his field of vision.

 

He suddenly remembered the way she waved her arms in his long, big sleeves of his shirt.

 

How cute she was with that absurd expression on her face when she did that. He was amazed that there was such a lovely creature in the world.

 

“I think my eyes are covered with bean pods.”

 

Iker chuckled.

 

He had never thought of anyone as cute, let alone adorable. But, everything Elysia did looked beautiful, even the way she ate her food…

 

Of course, before that, he had thought that she was beautiful when she didn’t change her opinion until the end at the assembly, but not to this extent. Somehow he thought he would be willing to do whatever she asked.

 

 

“The problem is that Elly doesn’t see me as a man…”

 

He knew exactly why she was doing that. She wouldn’t want anything to do with him, the right hand of the Emperor. Whenever there was a scandal, it was Elysia who got tired, not him.

 

“Even the second Prince can’t sit still.”

 

In the past, the aristocrats didn’t support anyone in particular like they do now.

 

Although they emphasized the interests of the aristocrats, they also tried to prevent the imperial power from becoming too strong and focused on debating with the Emperor’s faction to create a case that would be useful for the restoration of the Empire.

 

However, the atmosphere began to change when the Duke of Russet joined the group.

 

The Duke of Russet, who had established themselves as aristocrats to some extent, began to support the second Prince.

 

Naturally, there was a backlash. And at the center of the family was the Marquis of Camellia, who was the head of the aristocratic faction. Eventually, however, the backlash died down and most of the nobles remained silent.

 

The Marquis of Camellia died in a tragic accident.

 

With the centripetal point gone, it didn’t take long for the noble families to fall apart. As such, the aristocratic faction turned in favor of the second Prince. It was also at that time that he and the emperor’s faction began to fall out of favor.

 

Iker remembered his last encounter with Elysia’s mother, the Marquess of Camellia.

 

If the carriage accident had not ended the life of the Marquess of Camellia, along with her husband, the situation between him and Elysia might have been completely different now.

 

The former Marquis of Camellia, who didn’t like the moves of the Duke of Russet, was preparing to step down from his position as head of the noble faction and return to neutrality.

 

For this, he offered his hand to Iker, and Iker shook it as well.

 

This was also the reason why Iker did not consider the death of the Marquis and his wife as an accident.

 

It was strange. It was a sudden carriage accident right after such a big announcement. Having suddenly lost their Masters, the Camellia family made no move after that. The only news was that the title of Marquis had been passed on to their only daughter, Elysia Camellia.

 

Two years later, Elysia, Marquess of Camellia and head of the aristocratic faction, made her first appearance in the parliament.

 

Her red hair was tied up high, her eyes were raised seductively like a cat’s, and her deep purple eyes shone majestically within them.

 

The image of a young woman who had just entered the parliament hall for the first time, boldly expressing her opinions without the slightest bit of fear, was still deeply imprinted in his mind.

 

It might have been from that moment on. The reason why he kept looking at her.

 

His interest in her gradually deepened as time went by. And before he knew it, he found himself enjoying even the sharpest confrontations with her.

 

Elysia did not break her position as an aristocrat from the beginning.

 

Others didn’t seem to notice, but when a policy seemed to be for the good of the people, she would secretly retreat, pretending to be against it. It was a strangely different attitude from the aristocratic nobles who only wanted to benefit themselves.

 

”Looking at it like that, it doesn’t seem like she likes the way the second Prince and the aristocrats do things………….”

 

Perhaps Elysia, who was the head of the aristocratic faction, but was on the side of the second Prince, probably to rebuild the Camellia family, which had fallen apart after the death of her parents.

 

That was why Iker didn’t want to miss this chance he got coincidentally.

 

Until now, he couldn’t get close to Elysia because he didn’t have any personal contact with her, but now he could. So he would be able to watch over her and help her when she needed it.

 

Suddenly he remembered what the former Marquess of Camellia had said.

 

[It’s a good thing that the Duke of Deimos and the Marquis of Camellia didn’t fall silent. You can meet my daughter, the future Marquess of Camellia, later. Maybe you’ll fall in love with my daughter.]

 

At the time, he thought it was just the unfounded confidence of a mother who loved her daughter very much. But now, he felt that she might be right.

 

Iker’s lips curved softly as he thought of Elysia, who had refused breakfast with a puzzled expression.

 

After refusing both times, she finally accepted the offered meal after hearing the maid say that it would take an hour to repair her clothes. It was the recommendation.

 

Of course she wouldn’t have known. He had waited without eating because he wanted to have breakfast with her.

 

How cute it was to see her open her eyes wide in surprise when the breakfast, which even included his share of the food, was prepared……And the way she emptied all her food and covered her  face with her hands in embarrassment and groaned.

 

The rare smile that hovered on the lips of the normally unsociable man disappeared like an illusion at the sound of a knock.

 

“Your Excellency, it’s Fran. May I come in?”

 

“Come in.”

 

Iker stood with his back to the window as the door to the office opened, and Fran bowed to his master as soon as he entered.

 

“How is she?”

 

Fran answered Iker’s question with a bow of his head.

 

“I saw to it that she was safely in the carriage.”

 

“Was there any doubt?”

 

“No, she seemed to think it was just a carriage that happened to be passing by.”

 

“What about him?” 

 

“He was of interest for a while, but fortunately there was no significant activity. He seemed to think I was a visitor to the Duke’s mansion.” 

 

“Okay.”

 

Muttering, Iker turned and looked out the window. His gaze rested on a man wandering outside the main gate far beyond.

 

The paparazzi, known as “crazy wild dog,” were stationed near the Duke’s residence on an almost daily basis.

 

This nickname was given to him because once he grabbed a knight, he would never let it go and would chase and expose it until the very end. If he knew who Elysia was, he didn’t need to look at the front page of tomorrow’s newspaper to see what kind of content it would be filled with.

 

‘And she would jump up in anger.’

 

He didn’t want to make her worry. Iker, who knew her position well enough to know that if such a thing were to happen, he would have to prepare beforehand to cover it up as much as possible, turned to Fran’s voice.

 

“Your Excellency, the imperial palace has sent you an imperial physician.”

 

“The Imperial Physician?”

 

Iker’s dark eyebrows crinkled slightly. He just said that he wasn’t feeling well and that it would be difficult for him to attend the meeting today, but the Imperial Palace…

 

Fran quickly added, noticing the unpleasant expression on his lord’s face.

 

“According to the imperial physician, His Majesty is very worried.”

 

”Useless worries.”

 

“This is the first time Your Highness has taken a sick leave. The imperial physician seemed to think it was because of the foreign liquor that His Majesty gave you yesterday.”

 

It was because of the exotic liquor. Iker folded his arms and nodded lightly in acknowledgment.

 

It wasn’t wrong. Because if he hadn’t had that drink, Elysia wouldn’t have grabbed him by the chest, and he wouldn’t have been able to spend the night with her.

 

So she would have spent the hot night with another man who was not him. No, maybe she would have been bitten hard by a stray dog.

 

“I don’t feel like it, but for once I have to thank His Majesty.”

 

Smiling, Iker removed himself from the window. It was time to go pay the price for postponing the imperial meeting, albeit a troublesome one.

 

***

 

Elysia had the carriage stop a short distance away from the Camellia’s residence. If it stopped at the front gate, it might attract the attention of the paparazzi sooner or later.

 

She looked around the mansion through the window for a while. Perhaps because it was morning, she could hardly see the paparazzi that were hiding everywhere.

 

Breathing a sigh of relief, she put on her hat, which she had been wearing so that her face could not be seen, and pulled it deeper.

 

Dismounting from the carriage, she hurried to her feet towards the mansion. She felt a throbbing sensation as she walked, but it was tolerable.

 

She must have walked for about five minutes, and when she saw the main gate guarded by the knights, Elysia was relieved. As long as she could get past that door, she wouldn’t have any more problems.

 

She was in a bit more of a hurry, and her body wobbled for a moment. She bumped into a man who suddenly jumped out of the way.

 

She didn’t fall, but the hat she was wearing came off and fell to the floor. In her panic, Elysia grabbed the hat and put it on so tightly that she didn’t even have time to brush off the dirt. 

 

She covered her face with the hat again and turned her head to the man’s voice. 

 

“Oh, I’m so sorry about this. I was in such a hurry, I couldn’t see a thing.” 

 

He exaggeratedly bowed his head and apologized to her.

 

Elysia’s eyes narrowed slightly. He looked like a man she had seen before.

 

She thought it was a reporter or a paparazzi, but she couldn’t question him in this situation. Because that was as good as revealing herself.

 

“…… It’s okay.”

 

She answered like a man, keeping her voice as low as possible, and turned away quickly without looking back, even though she could sense the man’s gaze was fixed on her.

 

Even a paparazzi or newspaper reporter would not know where she went.

 

They would only think that she had gone somewhere secretive.

 

Elysia hurried to her feet, knowing that if she was unlucky, the newspaper might have a headline about her dressed as a man.

 

She passed through the main gate and arrived at the mansion in a carriage called by the knights, and as soon as she reached the parlor, she threw off the hat she was wearing.

 

“Nothing’s going right. So annoying.”

 

Elysia staggered to the sofa and lay down. Perhaps because she was tired, her whole body drooped on its own.

 

As she lay there in a daze, the memory of her time at the Duke’s mansion came back to her, and her face twisted.

 

“I don’t care how hungry I was, what a disgrace that is!”

 

At the constant suggestion of the Duke, she eventually fell for it.

 

She had accepted his suggestions and only intended to eat a little, but that resolve vanished badly the moment she put the soup, bread, and salad in her mouth.

 

It was only after she had cleaned out all the plates placed in front of her that she realized it.

 

[Looks like you are really hungry, you can have some more of my food…]

 

Elysia raised her hands and covered her red, burning face as she thought of Iker’s smiling voice.

 

“I’m sure he was mocking me. Yes, it would be funny! I told him I wouldn’t eat it, and then I emptied my plate!”

 

It had been two years since she had been struggling not to be pushed around by the Duke, the head of the imperialist faction. However, with this incident, the pride that she had been protected so far collapsed in an instant.

 

It was when Elysia, unable to contain her shame and frustration, was kicking her feet in the air. From behind her, she heard a chilling woman’s voice.