Chapter 22. Dancing with the Empress

 

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Liv was so flustered that she kept backing away. At that moment, Carius grabbed her hand.

 

Carius wrapped his arms around her waist and hands, regardless of Liv’s intentions. Following his footsteps, they began to move slowly, meeting each other’s eyes.

 

Blue eyes shone brightly beneath fine lashes. The golden insignia on his shoulders accentuated his strong physique.

 

In addition, Carius moved his body to the rhythm. It seemed to mask all Liv’s awkward movements.

 

‘I’m sure this figure naturally draws the attention of numerous Young ladies.’

 

Liv thought as she glanced at Carius and her eyes locked with his.

 

Carius stared at her, a faint smile on his lips. Then he leaned in close to her ear and whispered.

 

“Why do you keep stealing glances at me?”

 

The sudden words caused Liv to gasp and tangle in her line of motion, and she accidentally stepped on his foot.

 

“Ugh!”

 

Carius frowned in pain. That caused Liv to panic even more and step on her own dress, throwing her off balance.

 

She squeezed her eyes shut as her body wobbled against her will. At that moment, Carius wrapped his arms tightly around her waist and pulled her to his chest.

 

Liv slowly opened her eyes. Then she saw Carius’s  face looming in front of her.

 

Carius stared at her and recited low.

 

“You are beautiful. You are the only one I can see.”

 

At the end of the sweet melody, Carius gently placed his lips on Liv’s forehead and then released them.

 

Carius gently smiled as he looked at Liv. Edgar watched these two figures with subtle emotions as Liv looked at Carius, whose entire body had frozen in place.

 

Unlike the three sharply entwined gazes, the nobles watched in excitement as the Emperor and Empress’ dance reached its climax.

 

When the performance was over, they applauded the two. The enthusiastic response caused Liv to hurriedly disengage Carius’ hands.

 

“Your Majesty, people are watching.”

 

Her voice trembled as she spoke, her gaze averted, and a brilliant smile appeared on Carius’s face.

 

Liv hastily turned to avoid the scene and returned to her upper seat.

 

Carius could only follow behind her as she did so. Edgar was thirsty with a bitter feeling as he watched them from a distance, deliberately hiding his bitter grin.

 

‘How on earth did she suddenly change her mind……..’

 

It was a question he had pondered dozens of times, but in the end, he could not find the answer. He took the glass of wine beside him and swallowed it in one gulp, frustration rising from his tanden.

 

She was the one who had whispered that she loved only him with her adoring little lips. The funny thing was, he loved Liv too.

 

It was the first time his heart went out to someone else. For the first time, Edgar felt like an idiot because he didn’t cherish that heart.

 

As if to mock him, the noblewomen nearby were admiring the sight of the Emperor and Empress, and complimented them enviously.

 

“Oh my, the two of you seem to be getting along so well.”

 

“Since the Emperor wanted it so much, there’s no doubt about it. From now on, there will only laughter bloom in the imperial family.”

 

The more Edgar listened to their words, the more frustration he felt. His neck felt tighter and he loosened the top button of his shirt.

 

It was then that a glass of wine on the tray of the maid who was passing next to him came into Edgar’s view. He lifted the glass and gulped down the wine to the brim.

 

But no matter how many times he quenched his thirst, he still felt miserable and distressed.

 

***

 

Liv sat down in the upper seat and took the glass of wine next to her and drank it in one gulp. It was as if she was trying to wash away the aftermath of an earlier event. She shook her head incessantly, remembering Carius’s kiss which could not erase from her mind.

 

One of the chambermaids approached Liv with an urgent voice.

 

“Your Majesty!”

 

The maid took a moment to catch her breath, then whispered into Liv’s ear.

 

“I have just been informed that the Prince is looking for Your Majesty frantically.”

 

Liv’s eyes widened in surprise at the message about Theodore.

 

“The Prince……? What’s going on?”

 

“I don’t know the details, Your Majesty.”

 

Liv felt anxious for a moment. 

 

‘Even if the Prince is sick… If I leave the ballroom now, the atmosphere will be ruined. What should I do?’

 

She pondered for a while, but did not hesitate, and Liv eventually left her seat. She hurriedly approached Carius’s side. Carius turned around and looked at Liv. She spoke to him in a low voice. 

 

“Your Majesty, I’m going to visit the Prince for a while.”

 

Carius’ pupils dilated at her words.

 

“What’s going on?”

 

“The Prince is looking for me, so I’ll go and see.”

 

Carius gave her a curious look and quickly nodded. Liv quickly greeted him and followed the maids.

 

“I can’t ruin the atmosphere of celebrating my ascension. I’ll go quietly, so only one person will follow me.”

 

Liv hurried out, secretly taking one of the maids with her. As they left the bustling dance hall, only a quiet hush fell over the castle’s outer walls. 

 

Just then, the maid who had been walking ahead of Liv, looking for a carriage, became busy. Seeing them, the horseman rushed over. He scratched his head and spoke with difficulty.

 

“Your Majesty, while the horses were waiting in the clearing over there, the wheels of the imperial carriage suddenly burst, so I went to leave it with the repairman for a while. Please forgive me!”

 

Then the maid beside him asked in an urgent tone, 

 

“The Empress must return to the palace now. How long will it take?”

 

“I will go and prepare the nobles’ carriage. Please wait a moment.” 

 

Liv was lost in thought at the words of the horseman.

 

‘If we do that, we’ll be providing the nobles with nothing but useless gossip. What should I do………’

 

As Liv bit her lips contemplating, the maid spoke in a small voice.

 

“Your Majesty, I’ve heard that there are some emergency carriages at the back of the garden. I’ll be right back.”

 

Liv looked in the direction the maid’s hand was pointing. There, without torchlight, was the dark garden of the imperial palace.

 

Liv had no time to hesitate.

 

“No, we have to get to the Prince in a hurry. It doesn’t look like it’s that far away, so I’ll come with you.”

 

The maid hesitated for a moment, then nodded and moved in that direction. Liv hurried after her.

 

However, was it because of the gloom, or was it because of the eeriness of the dense darkness that had descended? Liv felt an unknown anxiety.

 

‘Should I have waited until the horseman brought the carriage?’

 

Feeling impatient and anxious, the sound of Liv’s shoes became rougher.

 

It was then that she heard suspicious footsteps coming from somewhere. Who could it be when there was just her and the maid? Suspecting someone was following her, Liv stopped walking. 

 

“Do you hear something suspicious?”

 

Liv asked quietly, but the maid only tilted her head as if she did not understand. 

 

Perhaps it was due to the unknown anxiety.

 

Liv stopped in her tracks, feeling that she was imagining things in the quiet atmosphere.

 

However, she felt the presence of a stranger again. It wasn’t even the sound of the maid’s shoes.

 

Liv had an intuitive feeling that someone was following her, so she stopped and turned around. The maid turned her feet to Liv’s direction as Liv became uneasy.

 

“Your Majesty, I think it’s the horseman…..ah………!”

 

At that moment, a sharp arrowhead pierced the maid’s back and she fell to the ground.

 

The maid, who was barely raising her head on the spot, collapsed forward. Liv rushed toward the maid and woke her up, but she had already stopped breathing.

 

Whoosh!

 

Another sharp arrow passed by, grazing Liv’s shoulder, and Liv fell backwards by the impact.

 

As the red blood began to flow on her shoulder, Liv grabbed it tightly with her hand. But the site where the pain finally came was not her arm, but her chest.

 

The pain was like someone stabbing her heart with a needle, but there should be no delay.

 

Liv was in a hurry to escape and her shoes came off. But she didn’t have time to worry about it, and Liv started running barefoot. 

 

Not knowing which direction to go, she first entered a small, empty building in the garden.

 

‘I have to hide!’

 

As she was quickly browsing the surroundings, she noticed a large table at the end of the hallway. But the ominous feeling she could feel straight away made her turn and hide behind a pillar.

 

Soon the sound of the assassin’s footsteps became much closer.

 

Thump. Thump.

 

Liv closed her eyes tightly and grabbed her endless throbbing heart.

 

‘My shoulder got injured, but why is my chest in so much pain…………’

 

Before she could have time to feel the pain, an eerie screeching sound struck her ears. It was as if the assassin was searching across the table. Instantly,  Liv’s legs trembled.

 

“Where are you hiding………?”

 

The low scrutinizing voice of the assassin echoed through the building. 

 

Liv panicked at the sound of footsteps slowly searching the building. Then she saw a faint light in the distance.

 

That was definitely the exit.

 

Fortunately, the assassin’s feet seemed to be gradually moving away from Liv. She instinctively felt that now was her last chance.

 

‘Please, please, please!’

 

Liv grabbed her long dress tightly with both hands. She let out a deep breath and ran with all her might towards the light.

 

The assassin noticed the noise and quickly followed her.

 

“Huff, huff, huff.”

 

There was only rough breathing as Liv ran towards the exit through the darkness.

 

“Ha…”

 

Suddenly, someone’s hand grabbed Liv from behind, forcing her to close both eyes tightly as her heart dropped.