Chapter 13.1

The princess trembled as she spoke, her voice barely above a whisper. “I can tell you what kind of abnormalities and changes are happening in my body and where they are located.”

Noyer leaned forward on his throne, his eyes narrowed. “Can you swear before the gods?”

“I swear,” the princess replied, her voice stronger this time.

“And this is not just a temporary measure to avoid execution?” Noyer demanded.

“That is for Your Majesty to judge,” the princess said, her eyes filling with tears.

The room fell silent except for the distant tolling of a bell. Twelve times it rang, signaling noon. The execution was scheduled to happen at that very moment, but it was clear that it wasn’t going to take place. Noyer’s advisors exchanged uneasy glances, and the tension in the room was palpable.

If they didn’t execute the princess, there would be consequences. The barbarians who were her captors would be enraged and demand her release. But if they did execute her, there was a chance they would never discover the true nature of her condition.

Noyer tapped his armrest thoughtfully. “It is not for me to judge, Princess,” he said finally. “The Duke should make the judgment.”

He knew Rezette Kyrstan’s character all too well. Although he didn’t engage in the gruesome acts that rumors attributed to him, Rezette was undoubtedly cold and calculating. If something or someone obstructed him, he would ruthlessly eliminate them, be it a person, animal, or object. He never looked back once he’d made up his mind.

So, even if the princess’s words were nothing but lies, the duke wouldn’t make an appearance in this place. At best, a disingenuous statement would be issued on his behalf.

But what if there was a grain of truth in the princess’s words?

“If by some chance it’s true, this is an excellent opportunity to gain favor,”Noyer thought. The successor to Rezette Kyrstan was worth more than a mere piece of land.

So, Noyer decided to wait and see. Time would reveal whether the princess’s words held any merit.

Noyer sank deeper into his throne, the room silent save for the sound of his own thoughts. Suddenly, the door to the audience chamber swung open without warning.

Elise, who had closed her eyes in an attempt to clear her blurry vision, opened them once more to see an imposing figure looming over her. Her body began to tremble uncontrollably despite her best efforts to stay calm.

“The sound of footsteps…” she whispered to herself. Throughout her journey to Van Yela, she had rehearsed this moment countless times in her mind—what to say to gain the upper hand, how to navigate the situation, and how to answer the emperor’s questions. But in reality, those things weren’t nearly as daunting as this moment.

The most terrifying thing was Rezette Kyrstan’s reaction. How would he respond to this unprecedented turn of events?

A cold voice interrupted her thoughts.

“Have you summoned me, Your Majesty?”

Noyer straightened his back and glanced at his watch. Had only an hour passed since he rang the noon bell? Rezette, dressed in formal attire as if he was preparing to depart for Rotiara, had arrived early. Noyer had anticipated that he might not show up at all, but it seemed he was mistaken. Could it be possible that…?

“You’re likely aware of the situation. Duke, please explain,” Noyer stated. “Is what the Princess stated true?”

Rezette’s jaw clenched, and his piercing gaze fell upon the kneeling princess.

Elise struggled to withstand his stare. Even without turning around, she sensed it. His eyes reflected anger and contempt, and she couldn’t muster the courage to raise her head and confirm what she already knew.

She wasn’t scared at this point, but she found it hard to bear the disdain that had stripped away her last remaining shred of dignity. Despite the life-or-death circumstance, she was overcome with self-loathing.



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