Chapter 8

Translator: Alice

Editor: SoaringPeaches

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Huge thanks to Roxypeony for the kofis! (1/3)

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“I apologise.

 

“If she asks again, simply refuse.”

 

“Yes, Your Excellency.”

 

Diego risked a quick glance at his master. It was fortunate that Cesare seemed to be in a very good mood. He must have had a pleasant meeting with Miss Eileen.

 

His Grace was not one for open displays of emotion, let alone affection. But when Cesare was with her, his demeanour would soften unexpectedly.

 

Diego looked down at Baron Elrod in disgust.

 

‘Now, what should we do with this worm?’

 

The Baron was shaken to the core when he realised Diego was watching him. He tried to put on a servile smile, but it was difficult because his whole body was trembling.

 

Cesare observed this with a slow smile playing on his lips. It was such a beautiful expression that it could not help drawing attention to itself.

 

“Coming to think about it, our guest service here was really subpar.”

 

Cesare spoke gently, as if offering him tea.

 

“Shall we sit down and talk?”

 

After removing the desecrated remains from the previous session, a slab of meat barely hanging from the chair, the soldiers forced Baron Elrod to sit on its seat.

 

“SCREEE!”

 

The baron’s hysterical screams were more like squeals, with his spit and tears mingling as if slitting a pig’s throat. His outburst was brief, though, as he abruptly clamped his mouth shut when Cesare approached him. Cesare looked down at the incontinent baron, noticing the wetness spreading once again around his protrusion.

 

“Well then.”

 

He asked the question in glee.

 

“Do you have anything else to sell, Baron?”

 

***

 

From the island’s tallest bell tower, the bell chimed, its sound echoing across the city to mark the beginning of the triumphal procession.

 

“Hold on a second! P-Please, let me through!”

 

Eileen struggled to make her way through the crowd, being shoved all around. She was only able to get a little bit closer to the front, but the men surrounding her were very tall. All she could do was peer through the gap between their shoulders.

 

Just as her feet were about to give out from standing on tiptoes, the man in front of her moved to make way for Eileen. The girl smiled broadly.

 

“Thank you very much!”

 

She now had a clear view of the march behind the women and children. It was a good place to watch the parade, even if it wasn’t a front row seat.

 

It was incredible to see so many people gather. She had always known that Cesare was immensely popular in the Empire, but this was beyond her wildest imagination. They were all there to see Cesare.

 

The crowd erupted into cheers in the distance, growing rapidly in volume. The resounding notes of the military band’s trumpets cut through the chaos. The staccato rhythm of the gunfire echoed the pounding of the drums.

 

The people waved the imperial flag and chanted Cesare’s name. The poor scattered colourful confetti from their baskets, as did the rich, with flowers and petals.

 

The entire square was painted in vibrant colours, creating a mosaic path for impeccably uniformed troops. Their disciplined march epitomised the grandeur of the Empire, a spectacle to behold.

 

Just as the excitement of the crowd was reaching its climax at the thrilling sight, the leader of the triumphal procession finally appeared.

 

Six obsidian stallions pulled a chariot that Cesare was riding in. His regalia was adorned with various orders, pinned in rows that gleamed in the sunlight.

 

Behind him fluttered his long red cloak, embroidered with gold thread in the shape of a large winged lion, the crest of the Traon Imperial Family. The lion seemed to surge and ripple with each flap of the cloak, as if in a raging flight.

 

Cesare stood as the epitome of all this splendour. It was no exaggeration to declare the man, with his cold yet menacing crimson eyes, to be the God of War Incarnate.

 

His usual beauty was often enough to distract Eileen’s thoughts, but today, as he was dressed with deliberate intent, he radiated an aura of intimidation and fear. He exceeded the expectations of the assembled crowd, causing some to faint with excitement while chanting his name.

 

All were desperate to catch a glimpse of him. Amidst the sea of people, Eileen felt as insignificant as an ant, as she too found herself gazing at Cesare, completely transfixed.

 

He seemed like a distant star in the middle of the night sky.

 

And yet it was her in the company of this unearthly being that night. They talked and laughed, caught in a moment of intimacy.

 

She still wondered if it was all a dream. It was more believable to say that it was all a product of her imagination, that she was merely deluding herself.

 

The thought of that shattered her confidence in attending the Imperial Palace banquet.

 

‘How dare I become a stain on such a shining being?’

 

Although Eileen instinctively took a step back, she was unable to retreat. Her path was blocked as she collided with the chest of the man who had given her his place.

 

“Careful there.”

 

The man steadied Eileen. She hastily apologised and pushed up her glasses, which had slid down to the bridge of her nose.

 

“I’m so sorry!”

 

“No worries. The crowd can be overwhelming.”

 

He smiled before offering kindly,

 

“Do you need some assistance?”

 

Eileen was about to insist that she was fine when the people surrounding her broke into frenzied shouts. Their shrieks threatened to burst her eardrums, forcing her to search for the source of the commotion. The sight made her mouth drop.

 

The procession had stopped.

 

Cesare descended gracefully from the chariot, his movements commanding attention. The Grand Duke’s unexpected action briefly stunned the soldiers, but they quickly recovered their composure. His Grace strode purposefully towards them with a determined expression, holding a flower that had been thrown in his direction.

 

That direction being exactly where Eileen was standing.

 

Eileen stood motionless as the stunning man approached her, before offering her the single flower.

 

It was a pure white lily.

 

The fragrance overwhelmed her, and she took it with trembling fingers. Cesare chuckled, playfully tapping Eileen’s nose.

 

“What’s with that look?”

 

Those poppy eyes always smiled at her.

 

“It’s all yours.”

 

Eileen gazed at Cesare while twirling the flower. How could he be so composed when he was the cause of all her anxiety and trembling?

 

The lily petals swayed gently with each motion. Cesare kept a neutral expression, before returning to the procession as if nothing had occurred.

 

Eileen watched as he walked away, holding the lily, before becoming aware of the crowd’s stares.

 

“…”

 

The shocked expressions of the onlookers were oppressive. She felt like she was suffocating.

 

Their covetous glances at the flower in her hand were intense. It was a gift from the Grand Duke himself, after all, and she couldn’t help but appreciate it more.

 

That was when she realised that this was going to be a big problem. The man standing behind Eileen stretched his arm, preventing others from ganging up on her. He whispered lowly,

 

“Let me take you home.”

 

At the same time, a group of men encircled Eileen. Only then did she realise that all of the tall men around her, including the kind man who gave up his seat for her, were Cesare’s.

 

If it were not for the Grand Duke’s impulsive action, Eileen would have seen the gesture as an act of kindness from a stranger.

 

Cesare’s influence was always there, even at the most unexpected times. As soon as she realised this, intuition struck her.

 

‘Did something like this really happen for the first time?’

 

She couldn’t help but feel a little frustrated. It appeared as though there was an invisible barrier surrounding her wherever she went.

 

***

 

Having returned home with the friendly escort, Eileen felt relieved. She checked around the small, two-story house, just in case her father had yet to return.

 

After having a look, Eileen sat down on the sofa in the living room. She now had to prepare for the Imperial Palace banquet, but for the moment, she didn’t feel like lifting a finger.

 

“…”

 

‘Why did you do that?’

 

Cesare must have anticipated the uproar that his actions would cause. He had purposefully stopped the march to present her with a flower.

 

He seemed to hope that all the citizens of the Traon Empire would acknowledge Eileen’s presence. And indeed, his wish will shortly be granted. Throughout the land, people will talk about the woman who received Cesare’s favour.

 

Eileen realised she had become entangled in a spider web. Everything pointed to her being the one to become Grand Duchess Erzet.

 

Eileen concentrated on the lily in her hand. She recalled the day she first met Cesare in the lily field. Nobody called Eileen “Lily” anymore. And yet, Cesare thought her to be a lily.

 

“The Prince will undoubtedly become the light of the empire.”

 

“Mother is so proud to be his highness’s nanny.”

 

“You, too, must help the Prince. We belong to the Prince, Lily.”

 

Eileen closed her eyes, recalling her mother’s voice. Intertwined in her mind were the Cesare who had kissed her last night and the Cesare who had marched in the triumphal procession today. She remembered clearly what he had said to her when he had given her the lily.

 

“It’s all yours.”

***

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Notes

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