Elise rolled her eyes. “The world is indeed filled with danger.”
“That is especially true for you. Everyone, turn around,” Rezette commanded with a voice that resounded like thunder. The knights, including Ruben, swiftly obeyed and pivoted on their heels. Meanwhile, Elise remained bewildered as Rezette scanned her attire with his scrutinizing gaze.
Her grip on the reins loosened as she took a step back, inadvertently revealing glimpses of frills and smooth, fair skin that shouldn’t have been visible beneath her ordinary clothes. Rezette’s expression turned stern.
“Have you been roaming around dressed like this all along?”
“What?” Elise noticed where his gaze was fixed, causing her cheeks to flush like ripe apples. She hastily readjusted her shawl, covering her collarbone.
“Actually, I hadn’t intended to go outside…”
“Ruben, fetch my robe,” Rezette commanded, cutting off Elise’s feeble excuse. Ruben hurriedly dashed into the castle to fulfill the request.
Attempting to regain her composure, Elise hastened to explain, “The people in the castle rarely see me. They are accustomed to seeing me in simpler attire, so it wouldn’t strike them as unusual…”
“Your Highness,” Rezette decisively interrupted, making it clear that he didn’t consider it a valid excuse.
While in Argan, the princess had the freedom to dress as she pleased, and the lower ranks would discreetly avert their eyes. However, in this enemy territory, numerous individuals scrutinized her every move with curious glances. The mounting annoyance became unbearable, prompting Rezette to strike with a cold and resolute tone.
“You are only allowed to appear dressed like this in front of me. Otherwise, it is not permitted.”
“What?” Elise’s voice held a tinge of surprise.
“Or only in front of the maids who attend to your bedtime.”
Unless all the men in the castle were blind, they would have undoubtedly noticed. Rezette swallowed the words that nearly slipped out from the tip of his tongue. The mere thought of men’s gazes lingering on the slender ankles peeking out from beneath her hemline or catching a glimpse of the delicate texture beneath her shawl made him increasingly uncomfortable.
“…It doesn’t really matter.” Elise, for some reason, responded coldly, averting her gaze.
“They won’t spare a glance in my direction as they’re all busy. Just like you are,” Elise muttered under her breath, biting her inner lip. Her frustration was palpable. However, Rezette gently used his thumb to brush her lips, preventing her from further injuring herself.
“If that were the case, would I have entered an area where men would talk, openly declaring that I’m mad? I understand that level of humiliation as well,” Elise continued, her expression hardening in an instant. “It’s not a big deal. Nightclothes are just clothes.”
“You’re aware that this is a place where men converse. Why did you come knowing that?” he questioned. His voice, unfortunately, carried an unnaturally sensitive tone, overshadowing the restraint he had previously displayed.
“Is this a place I shouldn’t have come? Then you should have informed me,” Elise responded, her tone laced with defiance. Rezette saw no need to offer a reply, and Ruben quickly interjected to come to her defense.
“It’s my fault. I assumed you wished to meet Her Highness, so I brought her here without considering the implications. I apologize.”
Ruben Diark, come to my office later,” Rezette commanded.
“What? Wait a moment…!” Elise, startled, grasped Rezette’s arm. Though his demeanor suggested he was about to scold Ruben, from her perspective, he had merely accompanied Elise into the castle. If that was considered a fault, then so be it!
However, Rezette swiftly draped the robe over Elise, causing her to fumble and miss her opportunity to speak. It seemed like a clear statement, indicating that he was no longer willing to listen to her. Finally, Elise’s rebellious spirit ignited.
In a burst of frustration, she impulsively removed her hood and turned to face Ruben. “Ruben, when will you show me around outside the castle?”
“What? Oh, well…” Ruben stuttered, caught off guard.
“You said you would guide me. I want to go with Ivetsa. Can I request an escort?”
Partly fueled by anger, Elise locked eyes with Rezette, displaying her determination. “Do you truly believe that exploring the territory is one of the things I am forbidden to do? Grand Duke, if you do not possess the authority to dictate my companions and escorts, then tell me so. I have no intention of insisting.”
Rezette quelled Elise’s rebellion by swiftly and silently carrying her into the castle, allowing no room for further protest.
Once they arrived at his office, he offered no explanation for his absence from her bedroom or his deliberate obstruction of the staircase leading to his office.
“If he refuses to answer every time, he might as well remain silent…!” Elise suppressed her anger, keeping her frustrations inward.