Soft beams of sunlight filtered through the treetop canopy, casting gentle illumination on the surroundings.
Elise shielded her eyes with a hand, shifting and turning in her sleep before finally rising from her slumber.
The mattress, luxuriously cushioned and a rare treat for her within the confines of the Argan Imperial Palace, resembled her own bed. The freshly changed sheets emitted a pleasing scent of crisp fibers.
Thanks to this small comfort, she had enjoyed a deep and restful sleep after a considerable time. Although the space beside her bed remained vacant, she had expected as much and accepted it without complaint.
After tidying up with the assistance of Ivetsa, Elise intended to leisurely explore the castle’s interior, an area she had not fully ventured into the previous day. However, as she descended to the lower floor, she unexpectedly crossed paths with Lady Petisson.
“Did you sleep well?” Petisson inquired.
“Thanks to your care, I slept deeply,” Elise replied gratefully.
“It appears that His Majesty did not accompany you downstairs,” Petisson observed.
“He is resting in the bedroom, perhaps occupied with work,” Elise explained.
Petisson’s words trailed off, her gaze fixated on the retreating figure of the princess, who hastened her steps. The small ear peeking through Elise’s silvery locks appeared muted. Even at a glance, it was evident that the couple’s relationship was not particularly intimate.
Lady Petisson extended a suggestion to the hesitant princess, who found herself unsure of where to venture next.
“If you still desire to explore, allow me to accompany you,” she proposed.
Elise reluctantly nodded, acknowledging that, despite the austere appearance, Lady Petisson was the most suitable guide and stewardess for the castle.
As they traversed the castle’s interior, numerous sculptures and exquisite marbles adorned the space with a harmonious elegance. Along the corridor walls, vast tapestries depicted the vibrant seasons of Rotiara.
Elise marveled at the grandeur of the dining hall, with its immense oak table, and the well-equipped kitchen. Adjacent to the main tower, a separate chapel stood in serene arrangement.
The diligent servants, momentarily pausing their tasks, respectfully bowed to Elise. Her curious gaze lingered on a few of them.
Notably, there was an abundance of remarkable beauty among the castle’s staff. Some maids captivated Elise’s attention with their striking features, while even the ones engaged in menial chores possessed a certain allure.
A peculiar commonality emerged among them—they frequently cast sidelong glances in her direction, more so than towards others.
Was it Lady Petisson’s preference?
Elise inquired, “Does the lady choose all the people working in the castle?”
“So far, the housekeeper and I have been responsible for the selection process. If you wish, I can provide you with a list of the servants,” Petisson replied.
There was no harm in familiarizing herself with the names and faces of the castle’s inhabitants. Elise nodded, and though not visible, Petisson’s smile could be sensed. It was a subtle lifting of one corner of her mouth, conveying a suggestive meaning.
“Oh… now that I think about it, there are some individuals we didn’t choose,” Petisson remarked.
“Is that so? Who are they?” Elise inquired.
“They are people directly sent by His Majesty. Before His Grace, the Duke, embarked on his expedition last year, they used to arrive every month,” Petisson explained.
“Servants…?” Elise questioned, puzzled. While it was understandable that many people would aspire to work in a noble’s castle, why would the Emperor take such interest?
Observing Elise’s confusion, Petisson’s smile deepened. She kindly elucidated, “They were not servants, but potential candidates to become the Duke’s wife. His Majesty placed special emphasis on the Duke’s marriage.”
Elise’s expression tensed slightly, her features betraying a hint of unease.
The notion struck Elise that if these women were of noble birth, they would not have been dispatched to Rotiara as mere handmaidens. The emperor had freely sent them, encouraging them to indulge themselves. Hadn’t the members of the Assembly spoken of dragon hybrids being susceptible to desire?
Could it be that someone had orchestrated these encounters intentionally? Were dragon hybrids so eager for such liaisons?
Ultimately, it meant that within this castle resided numerous women sent as possessions for the duke. They were carefully chosen beauties, specifically selected for this purpose rather than being random selections.
A sudden question intruded upon Elise’s thoughts—among these women who had been sent, were there any whom he had intimately embraced?