Lots of love to Caca for the kofi <3
This chapter may have content that is vaguely disturbing and triggering for some. If you’re uncomfortable with abusive words and treatment, I suggest you skip this.
I raised my eyes, trying to breathe.
Izek was looking at me with his head tilted to one side. His red eyes glinted. “You’ve got a weird look on your face.”
‘I told you to stop crying.’
“Well, forget it. Come here for now.”
‘Come here, you impudent b*tch.’
I followed him blankly. The eyes of the horses standing on the right side in the dark stable shone when seeing their master.
Laughing eyes. Animals that laughed while I cried.
“Can you hand me one of those?”
‘Bring that to me.’
I swallowed nervously and looked back. A bag of carrots and apples and some whips hung on the wall.
“That’s the only way to handle these stupid snobs.”
‘There’s only one punishment I can give to a stupid woman like you that doesn’t know her place.’
I paused for a moment and made eye contact with the stallion in front of me. The horse stomped on one foot and let out a disapproving snort.
It felt like I was slowly burning from within.
It’s all right. It’s all right. I was the one that said it was fine. I am fine. I can get through this.
“This one only looks like he has the nastiest temper out of all, but surprisingly…” Izek, stroking the stallion’s nose, stopped. “… What are you doing?”
Why was it all the same everywhere? Please, please just let me live.
I approached him with cold sweat and repentance on my face. “I-I’m sorry. I ha-have committed a… grave s-sin…”
“It’s all my f-fault… I didn’t know w-what to do and… and acted p-presumptuously… I-I am hopeless.”
He stood still and stared. His ruby-colored eyes looked a little numb somehow.
They slowly slid down from my face to my trembling hands. His gaze became very sharp. “I guess horses eat whips as snacks in Romagna.”
Hiccups kept rising up my throat. He snatched the whip from my hands and threw it over his shoulder to somewhere I couldn’t see.
The deafening sound of it hitting the ground made me flinch violently and the stallion whom it had almost smacked, neighed in annoyance.
The loud neighs rang in my ears and hiccups kept pouring out.
I was trying to cover my mouth with both hands, but he grabbed them swiftly and forced them down. The stone-cold look on his face was brutal.
“Why did you bring that?”
“T-That… There w-wasn’t, hic, anything else… If you tell m-me where the rest is… I will b-bring them…”
“What am I supposed to do with the things you’ll bring?”
“I-I’m sorry, hic, f-for wasting your time… I didn’t m-mean to—Hic, I know I did wrong.”
“You did wrong…”
I couldn’t look him in the eyes and I couldn’t breathe. “E-Everything… I did, hic, I did everything w-wrong, I—”
“No, it’s fine. It’s fine. Stop talking. Damn it!”
I shuddered and shut my mouth. Izek let go of my hands as if burned, took a step back, and watched me in silence for a long time. The silence seemed to last forever.
There was this look on his face which I had never seen before. His eyes bore into me, as if he were trying to see into my very own soul. This uncharacteristic countenance of him left me disturbed.
“Why did you stop breathing?”
“O-Oh, yes, hic, to s-stop the hiccups…”
I took a long breath through my mouth, following Izek’s rising chest. The hiccups eventually came to a stop. Instead, my legs lost their strength and gave away, and I sank to the floor. My husband looked simply dumbfounded.
You’re driving me crazy, his eyes seemed to tell me.
He lifted me up like a sack of potatoes. Ah, I’ve become a mouse again.
It was dizzying to be in the air like this. And I was also annoyed with myself. I was always scared for no reason. It was not a big deal. I was just supposed to endure the same thing like I always did. So why were my legs so weak?
Come on, get a hold of yourself and get back into your role.
“I was… a little dizzy. I didn’t do it on purpose.”
“I never said you did anything on purpose.” That familiar frown greeted me. “Damn it. How can you go to the party in this state?”
“I’m sorry. I was just… a little out of my mind. I was thinking maybe I could get to know the people here…”
“The people here already know you.”
He took a few steps back after he put me down gently. Then he bent over, grabbed an apple from the basket, and handed it to me.
“You said you’d bring it. My horses are as snobbish as their prices, so you need a good ransom.”
I see. His horses were snobs. So he was telling me to bring them an apple—Ah, why didn’t you tell me so before!
I felt relieved and embarrassed at the same time.
I was glad he was not vexed, though. I needed to stay a little more alert from now on. Izek didn’t like crying, so I should be careful to never show him a sight like that again.
“Can I ride your horse?”
What, you wouldn’t be angry if I used something of yours?
I thought it was ridiculous, but of course, I didn’t show it. “Really?”
“… Yes, really.” He shook his head, face tilted to the side so his eyes wouldn’t lose track of me.
“Won’t the horses be uncomfortable with someone else riding?”
“These guys won’t even recognize their own master if you give them an apple.”
I trudged closer to the stallion Izek was facing. The black horse was massive and the muscles on him were firm. He looked very proud and arrogant, just like his master. When I gently offered him the apple, his eyes glinted with satisfaction.
“I-I’ll give you this, so be nice to me.” The horse answered me with a snort and devoured the apple within a second. The beast looked gentle, somehow.
I could still feel Izek’s eyes examining the sides of my face.
Why was he looking at me like that? What was he thinking? Was he interested in me feeding his horse?
“I think he’s pretty majestic.”
“You seem to like him,” he said quietly.
“Yes, he’s sweet.” I had managed to raise my hand and stroke the stallion’s nose, like Izek had done earlier. This horse wasn’t that bad at all.
“Let’s go then.”
The stableman that had run away earlier came running back. He looked a little flustered, but when Izek gave him a nod, he immediately grabbed a saddle and approached the horse.
“She’ll be riding with me.”
Cedric wasn’t able to hide the perplexed look that came to his face, but he asked no questions.
As for me, my eyes nearly popped out of my head. “Are you sure?”
He didn’t answer.
“Are you really going to take me there?”
“What I really mean is…” He sighed as he ran his fingers through his hair, thinking of what to say next. “I don’t do anything on the Sabbath anyway, so it doesn’t matter.”
“But you said you were busy earlier.”
“I was mentally busy.”
What the hell was this guy saying? Haa, I had to admit, he wasn’t like what I had expected. The arrogant Paladin who, in the beginning, didn’t even want to be in the same room as me, was now having a conversation with me—major progress, if I said so myself.
I would have to continue trying like this, so that he wouldn’t lose his interest in me.
The foot of Lake Greyleo, where the party took place, was lively and noisy. Young lords and ladies, dressed in light equestrian clothing, were mixed together, flirting and enjoying late lunch at the tables scattered throughout the area. The sky above us was a peaceful blue, untainted by clouds. The atmosphere was very romantic and beautiful as I gazed up.
… Of course, the romantic atmosphere was soon shattered.
“Whoa, sh*t, what the hell is that?”
“Hey, can you see that too?”
“Oh, yes, I can see it too.”
“Is this some hallucination spell?”
“I don’t sense any magic.”
Husband, I don’t think I’m the only one that thinks you’re more like a devil than a Paladin. Your friends are about to pull out their swords and charge at you.
They were either cursing at him or taken aback. One man fell off his saddle after seeing us and I saw someone spurt juice out of his mouth and suffocate from coughing too much.
Izek had completely destroyed the good atmosphere, but he didn’t have the sense to be embarrassed. He drove his horse forward, paying no heed to anyone, and approached the table where Ellenia was sitting with a group of women. In contrast to the shocked expressions of those around her, Ellenia calmly greeted him with her characteristically indifferent face.
“What’s the occasion, Brother?”
“It’s always been up to me to handle the things you’ve done.”
He jumped off the saddle, and then they immediately start a family fight? No, you guys…
“Don’t blame this on me.”
“I’m not blaming you.”
“Then, what did you want me to do about it?” The tension in the air rose as Ellenia’s voice grew taut.
“I don’t remember asking you to do something about it.”
“It would be better if you’d just stick to your original intentions.”
This fight didn’t make any sense, but neither sibling was backing down.
“If I did that, what were you going to do?” Izek scoffed.
“Don’t be sarcastic. At least I’m grateful, unlike Father.”
“Yeah, I’m well aware that you are the only one in this family with a conscience. So why don’t you stop trying to pick a fight? I’m starting to get pissed off.”
Why were these two so suddenly fighting out of nowhere… And what about? I understood Izek being like this, but Ellenia as well? If they fought out in the open in front of everyone, it would look like I was the root cause of this mess!
Freya, who was sitting next to Ellenia, hastily stood up and got in between them. One hand on Ellenia’s shoulder, who sat ramrod straight in her seat, and another hand on Izek’s arm, who was looking down at his sister arrogantly. Freya’s violet eyes were filled with worry.
“Stop it, both of you. This isn’t something worth arguing about. Iz, since you’re here, you should enjoy the party with your wife and leave quietly, right?”
Despite the friendly scolding from his childhood friend, this b*stard didn’t budge at all. Ellenia wasn’t either, her own eyes looking up at her brother, indignation written on her face.
To try and put an end to this suffocating atmosphere, I tried to jump down, but my legs had grown numb from sitting in the saddle for so long. And so Izek, quickly stretching out his strong arms, grabbed my waist in front of everyone.
T/N: In case y’all didn’t understand, the italicised sentences in ‘’ were flashbacks.
Ed./N: For anyone that is confused on what they were arguing about—Ellenia is annoyed with Izek for his change in attitude towards Ruby. His “original intentions” were to never have anything to do with Ruby and leave her completely in Ellenia’s care, but he’s confusing everyone around him with his change. Especially with what he’s done today: rolling up to the gathering together with Ruby on one horse, saving her face in front of all the young aristocracy, and basically showing everyone that she holds his favor—a miniscule amount of favor, but favor nonetheless. In addition to that, Ellenia and the household servants that she is in charge of as Lady of the House carelessly neglected Ruby the day she came to see Izek at the Port. She was left unattended while sick and arrived in town with no escorts, so Izek is rapping her on the knuckles for not doing her duty (which should actually be his duty as Ruby’s husband, lol).