Elise let out a groan as her body writhed in the uncomfortably compromising position. “If you keep moving like that, it won’t be good for you. Endure it,” Rezette instructed in his deep voice, offering no sympathy for her discomfort.
Despite her obvious confusion and distress, Rezette remained still as he watched her with a calculating eye, finding a strange satisfaction in her valiant effort to endure his instruction.
Though he had no intention of engaging in any carn*l activities with an unarous*d woman, Rezette couldn’t deny the primal heat that burned between them. He had always been drawn to shiny things like a crow to a piece of silver, and Elise was no exception.
The most beautiful thing I’ve ever had, he mused, stroking her delicate neck with gentle fingers, infusing her with a warmth that belied his usual stoicism. He played with the tangled curls of his long hair, caressing them idly as he watched her with hooded eyes.
He couldn’t help but feel a twinge of regret, knowing he could not fully indulge in her lest his touch break her delicate form. So, he contented himself with these stolen moments, lost in the ecst*sy of their shared heat.
Finally, he closed his eyes, and Elise’s innocent face was alight with a deep, primal pleasure that left him feeling strangely fulfilled.
A week had passed since the journey had halted, but now, thanks to the advanced team’s preparations, the group was ready to resume their travels to Rotiara. Elise spent most of her time cocooned in the comfort of the carriage, but occasionally she joined Rezette on horseback to take in the sights and sounds of the journey.
They were traversing the northern region of Grandel, where the landscape transformed from towering mountains to rolling valleys that shifted and changed each day. Eventually, they left behind the rugged terrain, and the vast plains of Rotiara unfolded before them. The journey from Van Yela had taken over two weeks, and the anticipation of their arrival was palpable.
“We’re almost there!” Ivetsa exclaimed excitedly, flinging open the curtains to reveal a breathtaking wheat field that glistened in the morning dew. Elise was captivated by the scene, which until now she had only seen in pictures from her homeland of Argan.
As they rode through the expansive plains, small farms nestled among the towering pine trees caught Elise’s eye. Peasants toiling in their fields paused to bow their heads in reverence as the procession of knights rode by. The arrival of the lord was imminent, and the recognition of the duke at the forefront of the procession elicited cheers from those who knew him by sight.
Ivetsa’s voice pierced through the quiet carriage as she excitedly gestured towards the east. “Your Highness, look!” she exclaimed. In the far-off horizon, the castle’s sand-colored walls rose high into the sky, and the turrets that dotted the skyline looked as if they could pierce the heavens.
The castle of Rotiara, where Elise was to seek refuge temporarily, paraded its magnificence in the bright daylight.
Even in the desolate north of the Grandel continent, there were lands that were blessed with abundant riches.
Among these was Rotiara, a land steeped in mystical power passed down from ancient times. It was said to be the most powerful country in the history of the north, thanks to its vast natural resources and strategic location.
To the north, the rugged Grenthern Mountains and dense forests extended far into the horizon, while to the south, the fertile plains of the Lorene River stretched as far as the eye could see. This region was the largest producer of grains in Rotiara, and its granaries were the empire’s main source of food. The area was warm even in winter, making it one of the most valuable and prosperous regions in the empire.
But like other blessed lands, Rotiara had suffered for centuries from invasions by nomads and neighboring countries who coveted its fertile plains. It was only 15 years ago that the emperor of Van Yela handed over control of Rotiara to Grand Duke Kyrstan, who finally brought peace to the land.
As the carriage passed through the lush fields and farms, it entered the interior of the fortress walls and headed north, towards the towering mountains. They passed through a bustling city that could rival the capital of most small countries, before finally arriving at the duke’s castle.
The fortress was a testament to centuries of warfare and was protected by three lines of defense. The carriage crossed the first drawbridge and continued its ascent, climbing higher and higher towards the castle gates.
The carriage continued its journey through the castle, passing the residences of the servants and knights until it reached the third drawbridge. As it crossed, the grandeur of the duke’s tower revealed itself, towering over the surrounding walls.
A line of servants stood waiting for the duke’s return. At the front of the line stood three key figures of Rotiara Castle: Alfredo, the overall steward, Sobeul, the Duke’s performing aide, and Lady Petisson, who oversaw the affairs of the castle with Alfredo.
Alfredo, Sobeul, and Lady Petisson scrutinized the carriage with stern gazes. News of their master’s imminent return from the capital had reached them, and two weeks had already elapsed since they received the news. The reason for the delay sat in the carriage behind the duke himself.
Though their thoughts were alike, they differed in their details.
“How could he marry without any political considerations for Rotiara?”
“With the workload in the office, he can hardly indulge in his newlywed life.”
“What kind of woman could make our lord, who was so loyal to the emperor, take her as his wife, even if it meant going against His Majesty?”