Rezette held his breath as he gently supported Elise’s waist. “About 10 pounds… no, maybe 20 pounds should do.”
“What are you talking about?” Elise asked, clearly flustered.
“If you gain just that much more weight, it should be enough,” he replied.
“Body weight?” Elise’s eyes welled up with tears. This person always managed to time things so perfectly when getting close to her. Now he was criticizing her every move, draining her energy.
“Are you really going to do it then?” she asked, hesitatingly accepting the absurd excuse.
Elise found herself reluctantly accepting it, her pride taking a backseat to her current situation. “This really will be the last time.”
“Swear on your name. Stake everything, including Van Yela and Rotiara,” she demanded.
“I will,” Rezette vowed.
With care, he seated Elise in a chair and then abruptly excused himself, claiming to have work to do in his study, before swiftly leaving the room.
With determination and forcefulness, Rezette’s retreating figure left Elise with no chance to stop him. In an instant, she found herself alone at the table, her neck still tingling with the sensation of his touch, her legs tightly pressed together, and a lingering feverish heat consuming her.
Annoyed and frustrated, Elise let out a sigh of exasperation. She glared at the plate of chicken leg meat in front of her and lifted her fork. Trying to suppress her tumultuous emotions, she stabbed the fork into the middle of the meat.
Steam billowed from the bathtub, filling the bathroom with heat. Ivetsa looked worriedly at her gloomy and melancholic master. Ever since the lunch gathering with the duke, Elise had been in a somber mood, ever since she returned to her bedroom.
“While I was helping her change her clothes, I noticed some marks,” Ivetsa confided. She pointed to Elise’s left chest and the back of her neck, where traces had appeared unexpectedly.
Now Ivetsa understood why the duke had suddenly summoned a physician. The marks on Elise’s chest could be interpreted as affectionate traces between a couple, but the handprint on the back of her neck told a different story.
Over time, the faint marks on Elise’s body had gradually darkened into bruises. Crouched inside the bathtub, she murmured in discomfort, “It hurts.”
Ivetsa concernedly asked, “Where do you feel uncomfortable?”
“My back…” Elise replied, moving her hand underwater to touch her scapula.
She wondered if he had touched this area too, but her heart raced, and she couldn’t recall if he had. Her mind was clouded with the unfamiliar sensations she experienced during their encounter.
“Oh, come to think of it, this is it,” Elise said suddenly, realizing something. One of the five magic circles that Andrei had engraved on her body was located there. She stood up in the bathtub and approached the mirror to examine her reflection.
Though invisible to the naked eye, Elise could clearly see the magic circle with her own eyes. Placing her hand behind her back, just below her left scapula, a faint bluish light emanated from the pattern.
“Thank goodness. It’s still there.” The magic circle was one of the offensive spells that Andrei had carefully placed in a location where her hand could reach in case she was bound from behind.
Her gaze then shifted down to the largest magic circle on her body, covering her spine from the center to the waist. Andrei had engraved this magic circle on her when she was fifteen years old.
Unconsciously, Elise whispered to herself, “Should I learn magic?” She sensed something changing within her body. Lately, at the age of twenty-two, she had been enjoying the healthiest period of her life. Could this mysterious transformation have anything to do with magic?
Elise wasn’t well-versed in spellcasting, but she had observed Andrei for a long time and knew how to draw magic circles. On her body, she bore the marks of the magic circles he had left behind. Replicating them wouldn’t be too difficult.
“I should try it later, when no one is watching,” she mumbled under her breath.
Ivetsa guided her back to the bathtub. “It’s cold, Your Highness. Please get back in.”
“Yeah, sure,” Elise replied, submerging herself in the warm water and allowing Ivetsa to care for her. As Ivetsa placed a warm towel on Elise’s neck, she hesitated before asking, “Aren’t you scared?”
“About what?” Elise inquired.
“These marks… they’ll soon turn into bruises. Aren’t you worried?”
“What’s the problem if they leave some scars?”
Ivetsa’s voice rose in surprise. “You shouldn’t have scars, Your Highness! His Highness probably stepped back because of that!”
“Could that even be possible? You’re saying things that contradict each other,” Elise questioned.
“Where is the contradiction?” Ivetsa replied.
“Huh?” Elise was puzzled. “Did you think I wanted to offer myself to a dragon without accepting the consequences?”
“No, it’s just…” Ivetsa struggled to find the right words.