Rezette gently tugged at Elise’s hand, pulling her attention away from the captivating puppet show.
“Hmm?” Elise turned to him, curiosity in her eyes.
“Rezette,” he said.
“Yes?” Elise replied, her brow furrowing slightly.
“Call me by my name. Other titles don’t sit well with me,” he explained.
Elise’s eyes widened at the unexpected request. She wondered why he would want that, especially if he was trying to hide his identity. Nevertheless, she didn’t dwell on it for long. Calling each other by their names felt like a small but meaningful way to build intimacy, and that’s why they had come to the festival together – to get to know each other better.x
Intrigued, Elise decided to try saying his name aloud, testing the unfamiliar syllables on her tongue. “Rezette,” she said softly, but the name felt slightly awkward at first. Determined to get it right, she repeated it, allowing the sound to become more familiar. “Rezette. Rezette. Rezette Kyrstan….”
Unbeknownst to Elise, a passerby who had overheard her suddenly turned to look at them. But Rezette was quick to react, silently pulling up her hood to conceal her identity.
“Rezette… Who gave you that name?” Elise inquired with genuine curiosity.
“It was bestowed by His Majesty,” he replied calmly.
Elise’s eyes widened in surprise. The Emperor of Van Yela? She hadn’t expected that Rezette’s origins would be tied to royalty. He seemed so unassuming, yet there was a regal air about him that she couldn’t quite put her finger on. To think he was the younger brother of the Fifth Prince!
Rumors she had heard in passing about his past flashed through her mind. Rezette had apparently caught the Emperor’s attention when he was a mere nine-year-old, which led him to enter the grand Van Yela Imperial Palace. The path he had walked was far from that of an ordinary commoner.
Intrigued, Elise pressed further, “Then what name did you use before meeting the Emperor?”
“I didn’t need a name back then,” Rezette replied, “it was a life where names weren’t necessary.”
Elise found this concept puzzling. “Is that possible?”
“There are those who live like that,” Rezette explained. “Her Majesty doesn’t need to know.”
Trying to grasp the complexity of his past, Elise probed, “My name became necessary only after His Majesty took me in, gave me tasks, bestowed titles and territories upon me. Even now, there are hardly any occasions where I am referred to by someone else.”
The weight of one’s name grew heavier with their position, and for Rezette, there were few who dared to utter the Duke’s name casually. So, calling him by his name was probably a way to make things easier.
Elise’s assumption, however, couldn’t have been further from the truth. Unbeknownst to her, passersby who overheard their conversation showed a subtle reverence. Rezette’s name carried significance, known implicitly across the continent, especially in their owned territory, the Rotiara. But with her vision blocked by the hood, she remained oblivious to this fact.
As they continued talking, Elise revealed a glimpse of her past, sharing how after her parents’ passing, her younger brother was the only one to call her by name. Rezette listened attentively, sensing the sadness in her words.
“And what did the Emperor of Argan call you?” Rezette inquired.
“Elise,” she replied. “Sometimes, when we were alone, he called me ‘Lizzy,’ but not too often.”
Rezette couldn’t help but linger on the word “alone,” subtly elongating the last syllable. Elise explained that Andrei used to visit her daily, and although he didn’t restrict her from going out, except when alone, he worried about her like a protective brother.
“Worried, you say,” Rezette remarked.
“Just like you. Always covering my face, insisting on going out together. Come to think of it, you are quite similar…” Elise trailed off, drawing a parallel between Andrei’s concerns and his own behavior.
Perhaps that was the reason Elise found solace and comfort in Rezette’s presence, often falling into a deep slumber feeling safe by his side. In her drowsy state, she even mistook him for someone else on a few occasions.
But a sudden realization jolted her from her reverie – the absurdity of sharing personal memories with the emperor of Argan with a possible enemy, a knight who might have caused harm to Argan’s people. Chuckling at her own irrational thoughts, she tried to dismiss them and shifted her attention to a nearby stall displaying handcrafted cookies adorned with colorful decorations and sugary fruit confit.
Unbeknownst to Elise, a subtle gaze lingered on her face, and though she noticed, she chose to ignore it, not wanting to delve into the matter any further. Meanwhile, as the duke and duchess strolled down the street, the onlookers dispersed as lurking knights kept a close watch.
Rezette couldn’t shake off the discomfort that had been plaguing him since morning. He couldn’t help but wonder, Did he deliberately prevent her from going out alone?
The faint energy emanating from Elise troubled him, as he recognized that power all too well. Initially, he thought it might be Elise’s magic, but upon touching it, he realized it was something different – a mark left by someone else on her.
The notion that someone had left traces of their magic on a princess seemed undeniable, leaving no room for doubt.
And then, there were the rumors the emperor once mentioned casually – whispers about the twins’ relationship possibly going beyond mere siblings. Although the rumors were likely baseless, it was true that their bond was far from ordinary.