Elise had many options for death, but she had made a decision the previous night, wide awake, to survive no matter what circumstances she found herself in, no matter the sacrifices she had to make. The magic seal on her ankle and the mere mention of her brother’s name were enough to cause her to disappear into dust. Despite this, there was no need for her to choose death immediately. She still had a full moon before they reached Van Yela’s border.
Rezette Kyrstan was as cold as ever. “The edict from the Emperor is ideal,” said the general.
“Do I need to make a decision now?” Elise asked.
“If you need time to think, I can give it to you,” he replied.
Elise was silent for a moment before saying, “Come back tomorrow morning.”
As the general prepared to leave, Elise couldn’t tear her eyes away from his lifeless gaze, as if they had been filled with sapphires. In the world of politics, there was no man more powerful than him. He was the highest ranking member of the faction, and it was said that he would do anything for the Emperor, including picking a star from the sky. He was second in power only to the royal family of Van Yela, a formidable force to be reckoned with. His reputation preceded him, and those who crossed him knew to beware.
Elise approached him, widening her steps and getting closer to him. She looked him straight in the eye from a distance. Kyrstan, who had just bowed to Elise and was about to turn and leave, stopped in his tracks at the sound of her voice.
Elise had to try to grab the opportunity that was presented to her, even if it was a rotten deal. There was only one hope: the fact that the author was a man of principle. He would keep his word, just like Andrei would.
“If I don’t renounce here, will you take me to Van Yela and execute me?” she asked, deliberately raising her voice to hide her trembling.
“If that’s what it takes,” he replied. “Renunciation, or execution in the capital. Those are your only options. If you do not choose to renounce, I will take you to Your Majesity in Opel, the capital of Van Yela.”
“Are you serious, or are you just speaking empty words?” Elise asked, eyeing the duke as he turned his gaze towards the letter with the royal seal. He nodded gravely.
As the commander of the empire, every word he speaks carries weight and authority. Even in this setting where the emperor’s edict is being announced, his words cannot be casually dismissed as idle talk or empty promises.
Elise realized that she must die as the princess of Grandel in Van Yela. Then, on the journey there, the Van Yela army would treat her as a princess, but it was not enough. There must be a way to escape this fate, she thought to herself.
It had been five days since Rezette Kyrstan had shown his face to Elise, and she knew that this would continue for the rest of their journey to Van Yela. But Elise’s purpose was not simply to arrive at Van Yela safely. Her goal was to somehow entice Kyrstan to her side before they reached their destination, no matter what it took.
All Elise had to work with was her own body. Fortunately, as the princess of Argan, the value of her body was supreme at all times and in all places. It was a funny fact, but one that Elise was willing to use to her advantage.
She knew that she had to use every weapon at her disposal to survive this journey and achieve her ultimate goal. It was a matter of life and death, and she was determined to come out on top, no matter what the cost.
Finally, Elise spoke up. “I will not commit suicide,” she declared. “And I also know that you are obliged to take me to the capital of Van Yela without harming a single finger. Will you keep your promise?”
The man’s eyes remained silent, and he simply responded with more silence. Elise bit her trembling lips desperately, determined to see how far she could push him. She grabbed onto his arm just before he could turn away completely.
“What are you…”
Before he could finish his question, Elise had grabbed the hilt of his sword with all her might, pulling the messenger’s blade out. Her legs felt weak and unsteady. Elise pushed the blade into her own left shoulder with all her strength, feeling her skin tear and the blade deeply penetrate almost two inches, and gasped for air.
For the first time, shock filled the Archduke’s blue eyes. He shouted fiercely. “Her Majesty, the Princess!” His voice was tinged with urgency.
Elise smiled happily, the pain of her flesh being torn apart nothing compared to the satisfaction she felt. But her body couldn’t keep up with her mind, and her vision began to waver. The man quickly reached out and embraced her as she collapsed.
Elise took short, intermittent breaths. “Take me… safely to Van Yela.”
“What is this? What are you doing!” he shouted, shock and concern clear in his voice as he held Elise in his arms and examined her injuries.
“Obviously, you’ve promised,” Elise gasped out through the searing pain that felt like it was consuming her. Despite the agony, she managed to give him a relieved smile, knowing that this man would now never leave her alone all the way to Van Yela.