“Step forward from here.”
Liarte faltered in her steps. “It’s okay, just stay with me and turn, it’ll look natural.”
Michael’s hands and arms were wrapped skillfully around her waist.
Until she practiced the dance herself, Liarte was worried about stepping on Michael’s feet.
But once they started practicing, it was Liarte who would fall and hurt herself. Her foot kept twisting, and her steps would later become awkward.
Michael, who was initially surprised when she stumbled, was now accustomed to supporting her.
“It’s okay, you’re doing great for your first time.”
“It’s been over two days already, so I don’t think it’s the first time, Michael.”
Liarte was worse at using her body than she had thought.
‘I think it’s because I’m so familiar with the power of water that I have a subconscious habit of doing most things with water.’
‘It wasn’t like this before the regression.’
Of course, Liarte could be the only one thinking this.
The two of them were currently on the shore of a lake in the center of the forest.
The deep forest where the fire had started was as densely wooded as ever.
“Maybe we should just give up on the dance?”
Liarte realized that she wasn’t getting any better with practice.
The theory was solid.
If someone handed her a piece of paper and a pen, she could draw a picture of how to dance.
“It’s okay to give up, I’ll support you no matter what you choose.”
Unlike Liarte, Michael was willing to see the side of Liarte that didn’t dance well.
It felt so good to have him cling to her or hold onto her arm as she stumbled.
It was also nice to see her apologize when she stepped on his foot every once in a while.
It was a chance to monopolize Liarte’s attention, even the sound of her concern for him was muffled.
Liarte shook her head.
“No, we’ll have to practice as much as we can.”
Michael’s warm hand grew ever so slightly cooler as he continued to hold her.
“At the coming of age ceremony, everyone will be looking at me, and I don’t want to make a mistake.”
“I’ll help you then, just like the night we danced together in Elheim.”
Sure enough, on that day, Liarte looked like she knew how to dance.
Soon, an unexpected answer came from Liarte.
“But you can’t help me when I’m dancing with someone else, Michael.”
Michael’s voice lowered a little.
Did Liarte know others that Michael himself didn’t?/ Did Liarte have connections to other people that Michael wasn’t aware of?
Or was he one of the men trying to set up a meeting with Liarte by sending letters?
“I have someone in mind, of course, but it’s not Aaron and Carmen.”
“Then is it Merlin, or Walter, or Andre, or one of the Black Knights?”
Dr. John couldn’t be even considered as his opponent.
Liarte admired him a little, unaware that there was a hint of murderous intent in his red eyes.
“You have a better grasp of my relationships than I thought.”
It was true.
Michael’s attention had been consumed by Liarte.
“But it’s going to be an outsider you don’t know, Michael.”
The preparations for the coming-of-age ceremony were almost complete.
All that remained was for Liarte to dance well.
‘I keep failing now.’
She believed she would get better over time.
One option was to dance only with people from Birce, who would hide her mistakes.
As she relaxed, she remembered the painting competition.
‘Now that my painting has made it to the finals, the Duke of Haron will be looking for me.’
‘I’d been so busy, I’d forgotten to ask Merlin how the contest had turned out.’
Ever since Liarte had told them not to get involved in the competition, the people of Birce did not try to find out the results of the painting contest unless they were given permission by her first.
For some reason, she could feel Michael’s gaze on her was different than usual.
“Is the outsider, I don’t know, a man maybe?”
“Yes, although there would be a huge age difference.”
The Duke of Haron looked much younger than his actual age.
Liarte had seen him in his twenties, but she had heard that he was much older than that.
‘Perhaps it’s because being the child of a saint has given him some divine powers.’
Looking back, Michael was just smiling as usual.
This surge of jealousy surprised him.
The mere thought of Liarte seeing another man or dancing with an outsider made him furious.
If he had a gun in his hand, he wouldn’t have hesitated to shoot him.
Irrational emotions easily lead him to fall into an uncontrollable frenzy state and if Michael didn’t control his abilities, he would be doomed.
“I barely know this man, but if we can make contact, he could be of great help to Birce.”
Even before her regression, Duke Haron had helped Birce a few times.
Though it was more of a coincidence that multiple targets overlapped and moved together.
“What is he to you, Liarte?”
“Someone I wouldn’t mind having or not having.”
The Duke of Haron was not a man who would be of much help to Liarte.
His offer to restore the torch was more of a half-hearted good deed with no expectations.
“I don’t think he’s a bad person to erase a debt.”
Of course, unlike Birce, who was sure to repay a favor, the Duke of Haron was more likely to retaliate.
This was someone who would have benefited from not being turned into an enemy./ This was someone who was best not turning into an enemy.
By now, the results of the painting competition had been announced.
There was plenty of time. It was not Liarte who was in a hurry, but the Duke of Haron.
“One more dance, Michael.”
Liarte stood and took Michael’s hand.
For now, they had to practice more dances before the coming-of-age ceremony.
The Duke was in a grim mood.
In the history of the Empire, it was not uncommon for an Awakened family to go rogue.
No matter how powerful a family was, if they lost their ability, they could be destroyed overnight.
The Duke’s gates were firmly closed.
Duke Elheim looked down in despair at the cigarette he had never smoked before.
Now he had to admit it, the Duke of Elheim was no longer of the House of Water.
Perhaps the time had come to bow down and obey the Emperor.
From the hill where the duke stood, he could see people leaving through the side gates of the city.
They were the Awakened, who had lost their water powers.
Those who had dismissed the Unawakened Princess were crying bitterly when they themselves became unawakeners.
‘My head hurt and I didn’t want to think about it now.’
When will the Emperor call upon Elheim again?
Though he had lost his water powers, Elheim’s ash water was still there.
‘Was it wrong to cling to the power of water?’
Elheim had no power to protect those riches. After living as an exalted water awakener, he descended to the ground and saw the present.
Aynias walked up the hill.
“What brings you here?”
The affectionate father-son relationship of before was nowhere to be found.
Ever since the sacrifice of Hwi-Amin, the family’s already fractured relationship had been completely shattered.
Aynias didn’t bother to meet his eyes anymore.
“Did you have to do that?”
“Are you referring to what I did to force Hwi-Amin to sacrifice himself?”
Anyone who heard this would feel angry and send the Duke for a beating.
“You shouldn’t have done that, my father, the Lord of Elheim.”
The Duke of Elheim at least had a firm grip on reality.
“Aynias, you speak as if you were a pristine virtuous man.”
The Duke spoke coldly, glaring at Aynias.
“If you cared so much for Hwi-Amin, you should have used your water powers in front of the Emperor and become an Unawakened.”
The men of the Duchy of Elheim were at a loss for words at the same time.
Aynias fell silent.
“We are all in this together.”
The Emperor would try to wring Elheim’s neck again at any moment.
To make matters worse, Ninian’s engagement to Danterion has slowly faded into obscurity.
Ninian no longer visited Elheim’s estate, though she still came to visit Lianrius every day.
The Duke’s only allies were the Water Elemental King and Liarte.
But the first lord’s chambers remained closed today.
As he struggled to open the door, the Duke felt a subtle sense of discomfort.
‘I haven’t been in this room since the day the palace caught fire.’
For some reason, the door was looser than before.
The spirit stones surrounding the first patriarch’s room were also strangely worn.
‘Maybe, just maybe, this would open the door.’
‘But I’m afraid that I can’t handle that fierce water spirit king without Liarte, and I’m afraid that the spirit king is a demon.’
He did not want to go through the experience of having his life crushed by the water’s utter power again.
All that was left for Elheim was a complete downfall.
If only that child had been there.
Then a news came for the Duke that was like a blast from the past.
“Your Highness, the Duke has a message for you.”
One of the knights approached with a piece of paper. It was a rare one—one who remained loyal to Elheim itself and did not leave.
“This is what Birce has published about the former princess.”
With his house in ruins, he could hardly afford to care about Birce.
He accepted the paper with a frown.
The Duke’s face was changing, the more he read, the worse his complexion became.
By the time the last sentence was read, Duke Elheim’s face was whiter than when he feared the Emperor.
“A coming-of-age ceremony?”
It said that the coming-of-age ceremony would be held with the consent of Liarte.
A great shock spread throughout his body.
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