Chapter 12

Translator: Alice

Editor: SoaringPeaches

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Huge thanks to K for the kofis! (2/3)

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A woman with a slender physique briskly walked on the grounds. Her long hair was neatly braided, and she wore a dark blue uniform adorned with numerous medals on her chest.

 

Her name was Michele, and she held the esteemed position of knight directly under the Grand Duke.

 

In their culture, the name Michele was typically associated with men. Those who knew her only by name often expressed surprise upon their first encounter. Many questioned how she attained her position as a woman. Thus, Michele often found herself overlooked or openly ignored.

 

Still, Michele paid little attention to the opinions of others. In her heart, she believed that it was only important for her master to recognise her skills. Besides, the chatter would immediately die down after witnessing Michele expertly handling her guns.

 

Like everyone else, Michele wanted someone to notice and appreciate her.

 

That someone, of course, would first and foremost be her master. The second one would be none other than Eileen.

 

She first met her when the girl was a youngster, working as a maid in Cesare’s palace. She was only ten back then, with chubby cheeks and squeaky footsteps wherever she went. The cuteness overload was too much for knights’ to bear. 

 

Michele watched her blossom into the beauty that she was today. Just remembering her childhood, her shy smiles and rings made from wildflowers made her soul burst with affection.

 

To her, Eileen was like a daughter, or a little sister that she helped raise with all of her heart. The other knights and soldiers serving under the Grand Duke agreed with this sentiment. Eileen was loved by all and cherished as if she were their own.

 

“Where’s Eileen?”

 

Michele questioned them as soon as she spotted Lotan and Diego in the banquet hall. When Michele heard that Eileen was at the banquet, she hurried to get there, but unfortunately, she arrived too late.

Diego chuckled softly as he watched Michele anxiously pacing while searching for Eileen. Lotan, though appearing stoic at first glance, couldn’t conceal the slight twitch at the corner of his lips.

 

“Where’s Eileen? And you two…”

 

Michele’s impatience bubbled forth as she prodded at them.

 

“Did you ask her to dance? Without including me?”

 

Diego crossed his arms, raising an eyebrow in response.

 

“What did you expect? You should’ve hurried up.”

 

“…Ah, f*ck. You b*stards.”

 

With a bitter curse, Michele’s shoulders slumped, her freckles almost seeming to droop along with her sorrowful expression. Her voice wavered with a touch of despair.

 

“You b*stards have no loyalty. I specifically asked you to save me a dance.”

 

“The poor subordinates were eager to ask the lady to dance, who are we to refuse them?”

 

“You should’ve put my name down instead of yours!”

 

“Come on, have a conscience.”

 

While Diego and Michele bickered, Lotan stole a glance at the wall clock. It was time for them to return from the greenhouse, but they were running later than expected. With His Majesty the Emperor’s expected arrival, being tardy would be inexcusable.

 

‘Let’s wait 5 more minutes.’

 

Setting his final deadline in mind, Lotan intervened, separating Diego and Michele, who were still grumbling.

 

“What about Senon?”

 

“Not yet. It seems he won’t be finished today.”

 

Michele replied with pursed lips. Recognising that her tardiness was due to work, Diego attempted to offer comfort in a softer tone.

 

“Hey, you gave it your all.”

 

“F*ck off.”

 

“…”

 

Diego, feeling dejected that his efforts to console her had failed, looked back at Lotan with an aggrieved expression. But Lotan couldn’t take Diego’s side either, as he proudly held his position for the third dance.

 

Lotan, pretending to cough for no reason, tried to lighten the mood by suggesting that they all visit Eileen’s house later.

 

Suddenly, a loud bang echoed through the banqueting hall.

 

The sudden noise shattered the serene ambiance of soft music and quiet conversation. The startled guests quickly identified the source and erupted in screams of terror.

 

Bursting through the banqueting hall doors, today’s protagonist, Cesare, made a dramatic entrance.

 

Covered in blood, he strode into the hall, leaving crimson stains on the pristine marble floor with each step. A drip, drip, drip of blood fell in his wake.

 

His red eyes gleamed under the chandelier, revealing the thrill of carnage within.

 

Cesare’s presence overwhelmed the aristocrats of the Empire, whose greatest hunting successes were typically small forest creatures. The sight made it difficult for them to breathe. Only later did they realise that he wasn’t alone.

 

Cesare held the hand of a young woman as he entered, her face drained of colour. She seemed to be more in custody than in escort. Yet the Grand Duke handled her with utmost courtesy. 

 

The young lady, dressed in a peculiar manner, wore an elegant yet fashionable gown that followed the latest trends.

 

But her face, obscured by bangs, framed by glasses, with no trace of make-up and her hair pulled back roughly, exuded a sense of old-fashionedness not seen in a decade.

 

Those who were inwardly surprised by her identity remembered her as the daughter of a fallen noble who had been surrounded by the Grand Duke’s soldiers earlier.

 

Yet they found themselves unable to mock her as freely as before, restrained by the Grand Duke’s firm grip on her hand.

 

Cesare stopped in the centre of the banqueting hall with the lady in tow, gazing silently around the room. His piercing gaze fixed on the nobles of the council.

 

Those who met his eyes seemed to turn into stone statues. After a moment of silence, Cesare spoke with a sigh.

 

“I appreciate your intentions to congratulate me on my victory, but…”

 

Running a hand through his blood-soaked hair, he asked,

 

“Isn’t this a bit excessive?”

 

There was no immediate reply. The hall fell into a silence so palpable that the trickle of cold sweat could be heard. Cesare, seemingly enjoying the chilly atmosphere, offered a faint smile.

 

“I am well aware of your sincere intentions, so I shall repay shortly.”

 

He declared with a cool demeanour and a dazzling smile,

 

“You can look forward to it.”

 

With that, Cesare turned and left, the Grand Duke’s soldiers marching in tow. Even after they had all left the banquet hall, a long silence remained.

 

***

 

It happened when Eileen was eleven and Cesare was eighteen years old.

 

On that particular afternoon, Eileen and Cesare indulged in tea time within the serene confines of the Prince’s palace garden. Eileen eagerly shared her newfound knowledge from The Great Encyclopaedia of Plants, a gift bestowed upon her by Cesare himself.

 

In the midst of her animated explanation of gymnosperms and angiosperms, a servant appeared with a second cup of dried marigold tea, a floral tea known for its healing properties.

 

Eileen prepared to take a sip when Cesare gently intervened to stop her.

 

“Eileen.”

 

Cesare’s voice was soft as he grabbed her wrist and ordered her to put down the teacup.

 

Eileen tilted her head in confusion at Cesare’s interruption. Cesare offered her a biscuit instead, before instructing the servant to drink the tea.

 

“Drink it.”

 

The servant’s expression instantly fell, his body shaking as if struck by a sudden chill, before he collapsed to his knees in despair.

 

“Your Highness…!”

 

The servant begged for mercy, but Cesare, unmoved, simply smiled down at him.

 

“I commanded you to drink the tea.”

 

There was a chilling calm in Cesare’s voice as he continued.

 

“I did not ask for your forgiveness.”

 

Desperation clouded the servant’s eyes as he hesitated to comply. With Cesare’s knights standing by, the tea was forcibly administered, leaving the servant convulsing and foaming at the mouth.

 

When the ordeal was over, Cesare ordered his men to remove the incapacitated servant. Turning to Eileen, he casually remarked,

 

“It seems our tea is spoiled. Would you like a biscuit instead?”

 

Caught in a whirlwind of emotions, Eileen held the biscuit in her hand, her mind reeling. Despite Cesare’s expectant gaze, she remained frozen, her mouth agape…

 

Finally, tears welled up in Eileen’s eyes, to Cesare’s panic. He tried to comfort her, aware of the distress he had unwittingly caused.

 

What unfolded was a harrowing incident between two people who were still learning about each other’s world.

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Notes

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