“She claims that she seduced you first, but I find it highly suspicious that a woman who lived under my brother’s protection in the palace and only survived there suddenly knows how to seduce a man,” Noyer remarked with a pointed finger. “Before I intervene personally and prevent our barbaric brother nation from causing trouble, I must ask you, Rezette, if you knew Elizabeth Aseica personally. I require a certain level of certainty in this matter, do you not agree?”
Noyer gestured towards the audience chamber door as the Ugel people, led by Yanok Sihat, approached with noisy footsteps. The courtiers quickly shut the door to the chamber.
“Was she a virgin, Rezette?” Noyer continued his interrogation. The conversation had taken a dangerous turn, and Rezette felt his anger begin to boil. He did not understand why he had to entertain such unproductive and impertinent questions.
“I do not know,” he replied in frustration.
Noyer persisted, “Can’t you know? There were rumors in Argan that the twins had a relationship beyond siblinghood. Or maybe before the emperor died, he and his sister…”
“Your Majesty,” Rezette’s voice was heavy with anger. It was a brazen and uncalled-for remark, even if there was no one else in the room to hear it. At the very least, the woman did not deserve such endless insults.
“Do you realize that you are insulting Argan’s princess right now?” Rezette asked sternly.
Noyer brushed off the remark with a chuckle. “If the princess lied or if the unborn child is not from your bloodline, she will have nothing to say even if she receives more insults than this. She dared to lie in front of me, after I showed her mercy to let her choose an honorable death? Then I will not hesitate to hand her over to the Ugel prince, alive and intact. She will be given over completely, without a scratch.”
Rezette already knew the fate that awaited the Argan emperor at the hands of Ugel’s warriors. He replied reluctantly, “The princess has never been with another man.”
“Did you confirm this?” Noyer asked skeptically.
Rezette hesitated before finally replying, “I do not know how she lived in Argan, but based on my personal judgment, the princess would not engage in lewd and hedonistic behavior. She would have had to comply only if her body demanded it, but with her poor health condition, even normal daily activities would have been difficult for her.”
“You are aware of the details. That’s why you keep postponing the arrival.”
Rezette remained quiet, knowing that every word he spoke could lead him further down a treacherous path.
Recognizing his stubborn silence, Noyer sighed, content with the knowledge he had already gained. “First, we need to confirm her pregnancy. We can discuss the future after that,” he said, his eyes never leaving Rezette’s face.
Rezette nodded, acknowledging Noyer’s words. Without a backward glance, he left the chamber and approached an official who bowed in recognition.
“Where is the Princess of Argan being held captive?” he asked, gripping the official’s arm tightly.
“She is in the western tower,” the official replied, his eyes darting nervously around the room.
The western tower was reserved for nobles who had committed heinous crimes. It was as if they had been thrust from the depths of hell into the light of day with a single lie.
How many more lies would Rezette have to tell before he could ensure her escape from the blade hanging over her neck?
It was a thought he didn’t want to dwell on, but the image of the woman kneeling on the ground, her body trembling, kept haunting him. Unnecessary details remained etched in his mind. Her tears flowed down her pale cheeks in an unending stream, creating ripples of annoyance. The handkerchief that Rezette had wrapped around her thin wrists had already been torn and shredded beyond recognition, yet amidst the pungent smells of iron and blood, a delicate floral scent lingered.
Her golden eyes, brimming with tears, implored him for help. They were filled with weakness and a plea for mercy.
“Just help me once.”
Rezette stood motionless, rubbing the weariness from his eyes with his hands. The woman he had once viewed as a symbol of regal magnificence, perched high above everyone else, and whom he had secretly desired to possess, had stunned him with her unflinching devotion.
“I have no regrets. Because there is no other way for me besides you.”
Despite himself, this was precisely what he had wanted.
Shaking off his frustration, Rezette turned his attention to a different direction, striding purposefully towards the western tower. As he made his way, he chanced upon a royal official exiting the premises.
* * *
A member of the Van Yela Royal Court had recently departed, and the physician who had just examined Elise arched an eyebrow.
“I have never seen someone with such a weak pulse.”
Elise feigned ignorance, but she knew better. She had been hearing this same phrase since she was young. Even back in Argan, it had been a challenge for physicians to treat her. Would she continue to exist as precariously as a candle in the wind, despite being twenty-two years old and counting tomorrow and the next day? Elise retracted her hand from the physician’s grip.
“As long as it doesn’t impede my daily life, please make a diagnosis without worrying about it,” she said.
“Yes… but it’s not easy to diagnose with just one symptom like this.”
After scrutinizing her from every angle, the physician sighed and drew a small amount of blood from her fingertip before departing.
Only then did Elise collapse onto the bed. The tension that had been building inside of her suddenly dissipated, causing the world to spin around her.
The sun had already fully tilted towards the west. By now, her execution should have been completed. The crowd that had gathered to witness her head roll would have dispersed.
However, Elise would have already activated the magic circle behind her ankle before being dragged to the execution platform. Her existence would be no more in this world, regardless of what occurred.
Tears streamed down her face.
“I’ve gained another day,” she whispered to herself.
No matter what, the outcomes would be disclosed by tomorrow at the latest.
Elise reminisced about the last person she had seen, Rezette Kyrstan, and his cold expression.
“He won’t help me, will he?” she inquired to herself, weeping uncontrollably.
“I have no desire to embrace a woman who has no control over herself.”
Although she had anticipated a frigid reply, it still stung.