Chapter 20.2

Elise knew all too well that good treatment from the knights of Rotiara was unlikely to come her way. After all, she had killed one of them when she was captured by the Van Yela army. Though he was a scoundrel who had attempted to rob her, he had been a comrade who had put his life on the line alongside her. Moreover, her culpability in delaying their return for a month and a half, which should have taken no more than a week, was a further blot on her name. To top it all off, it was possible that they saw her as a seductress who had ensnared the lord, much like Yanok Sihat had done. Hospitality was a pipe dream at best.

A voice cut through the air, slicing through the silence like a knife. “Ruben.” It was the Duke. The mere sound of his voice sent shivers down Ruben’s spine, and he fell silent with a dull thud. The Duke exuded an aura of power, a faint but unmistakable presence that seemed to fill the air around him. “Go and prepare the formation. When Her Highness gets on the carriage, we will leave immediately.” Ruben nodded, acknowledging the order, and stepped back, allowing Rezette to lead Elise towards the carriage.

“The mountain pass to Rotiara is rough. Even if you ride in the carriage, the journey may not be a comfortable one. We may have to change horses along the way, but don’t worry, I’ll take care of it,” Rezette informed Elise.

“Thank you,” Elise replied, grateful for the reassurance.

“There’s no need to thank me,” Rezette replied, his tone curt and clipped.

Elise sensed that Rezette was still in a bad mood, but she knew he would least cooperate with her plans, to make it all seem plausible. “Be careful not to get hurt before arriving in Rotiara,” Rezette warned.

“Don’t worry about it. Let’s make sure the journey doesn’t get delayed,” Elise replied, determined to see it through to the end.

“It doesn’t matter if the journey is delayed,” Rezette stated, much to Elise’s confusion.

“What?” Elise asked, her brow furrowed in confusion.

“Isn’t it Your Majesty who should be in a hurry?” Rezette retorted, reminding Elise that time was running out. She only had six months left to make things right.

“I will have a maid accompany you. It would be best for you to change into a dress first, as you will soon tire of uncomfortable clothes. And until I open the door during our journey, do not leave,” Rezette instructed.

“Okay,” Elise replied, as the carriage door closed with a resounding thud, leaving her alone with her thoughts.

A gentle knock interrupted Elise’s reverie. “Your Highness, it’s Ivetsa,” a voice called out.

Elise granted Ivetsa entrance into the carriage, and the young woman bustled in, cheeks flushed with exertion. “I hope I haven’t kept you waiting long. Shall I help you remove your cloak?”

Elise allowed Ivetsa to take charge of her wardrobe change. The maidservant muttered under her breath as she worked. “Honestly, what’s the rush? You should have given yourself time to change. There’s no need to be in such a hurry.”

Elise responded with a shrug. “Perhaps there’s an urgent matter in the territory. Or maybe he simply wants to make up for lost time.”

Ivetsa snorted derisively. “If a few hours were really that important, he wouldn’t have waited for you in the first place.” She peeled off Elise’s cloak to reveal a beautifully crafted dress beneath. “I worked hard on this, but he won’t even glance your way. You may seem unapproachable, but surely there are plenty of others admiring you from a distance.”

Elise offered a reassuring smile. “I’m fine as I am now, Ivetsa.”

“But it’s your wedding day,” Ivetsa protested. “The most beautiful day of a woman’s life. You should look your absolute best.”

Elise couldn’t help but ponder Ivetsa’s words. Would her husband, Rezette Kyrstan, prefer a more stunning bride if given the chance? She asked tactfully, “Men prefer the beautiful ones, don’t they?”

Ivetsa nodded in agreement, smoothing out the creases in her dress. “Yes, indeed. Men are powerless against beauty. Have you not noticed the knights who whispered your name with fervor?”

“Is that so?” Elise mused aloud.

“Of course, my lady. You’re the wife of the lord. How could they not be entranced by your charm? That’s simply how men are,” Ivetsa explained.

“But the Duke never looks at me,” Elise sighed deeply. Her thoughts wandered to the moment the Duke had kissed her, his fleeting gaze hardly meeting hers. He was a man who didn’t bother with niceties or compliments.

But as long as she met Rezette Kyrstan’s exacting standards, she was content. And even if her new life in the Rotiara territory proved challenging, at least she would have the pleasure of beholding his presence.

Elise hesitated before finally gathering the courage to speak to Ivetsa. “Could you please keep my makeup simple until we reach Rotiara? I don’t want to appear unattractive to the Duke and his people.”

Ivetsa’s laughter echoed through the room as if she had just heard a hilarious joke. “Your Highness, even if you were covered in mud, you’d still look stunning. People all over the world would see you that way. What’s there to worry about?”

Elise couldn’t help but mutter, “If only that were true.”

“But it is true,” Ivetsa insisted. “Your beauty is one of the many weapons that women possess. Wield it as you see fit!”

Foolishly, she felt a little comforted. Except that it was now her husband who renders her few weapons to no avail.



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