“It’s alright,” Elise whispered, her voice barely audible. The pain gnawed at her, a persistent reminder that all was not well. If someone were to question her about fear, the truth was she trembled with it, though she’d never admit it aloud.
Today, though, a critical truth solidified in Elise’s heart. A suspicion she’d harbored for some time now had finally crystallized into certainty. Rezette Kyrstan couldn’t take her life, not even accidentally.
The memory was etched into her mind—the vice-like grip around her throat, an otherworldly strength coursing through it. But then, like a fractured mirror, that force had shattered, crumbled away.
“There was something that compelled him to halt,” she mused, the words escaping her lips as if speaking to the wind.
It had to be the ancient blood of the Great Dragon Sameshita that coursed through his veins. That forbidden essence carried within it a recognition of Elise’s lineage, a binding oath written in the very fabric of her ancestry.
And Rezette, a dragon of unparalleled prowess, stood at the pinnacle of his kind. His veins pulsed with Sameshita’s might, his connection to the taboo stronger than any other. It was the reason she dared to hope, even in the face of this reckless marriage she found herself entangled in. For within Rezette Kyrstan resided her sanctuary, an unlikely protector in a world where few were on her side.
Elise’s gaze returned to the mirror, her eyes fixing on an undeniable mark etched into her left chest. The memory surged forth—hot breath, a whisper of contact through her corset, the press of his lips against her skin. The intensity blazed in his azure eyes, an inferno of passion that had seared into her very soul.
The sensation left goosebumps on her flesh. Amidst the throbbing ache spreading from her neck, an unbidden yearning emerged, one she hadn’t even recognized until now. She found herself wishing his touch had lingered, a forbidden desire taking root.
The memory drove her to contemplate, to question. Should she, perhaps, be the one to bridge the gap? “Next time,” she resolved, “I won’t stay still. Perhaps I should touch him too—anywhere.”
Yet, the path to such desires was paved with absurd conditions that Rezette had imposed. Gain twenty pounds or more—the notion seemed improbable. Ivetsa, reading Elise’s concerns in her own astute way, blinked her sharp eyes in response.
“Your Highness, truly… I’ll bring a towel for you first. And you should see the physician as soon as possible. Please wait a moment.” With those words, Ivetsa exited the room, leaving behind a trace of her distress in the form of muffled sniffling.
“…I won’t die, Ivetsa,” Elise murmured, her voice a quiet affirmation.
Resting her head against the bathtub’s cool porcelain, she let her thoughts weave through the tapestry of her lineage. “The bloodline of Sameshita,” she mused aloud, as if whispering a secret to the water that cradled her. “It’s an ancient covenant, a sacred pact that shields the descendants of Gallian from harm.” Her sigh rippled through the water’s surface, a ripple of introspection.
Or was it, perhaps, a pact of lovers?
Upon the pinnacle of Argan Fortress, a scarlet banner danced with unrestrained fervor in the clutches of the wind. Its vivid crimson backdrop bore the image of a bull’s severed head, its gaze defiantly fixed upon the heavens—an emblem synonymous with the Ugel Barbarian Kingdom.
In the shadow of breached ramparts that had steadfastly repelled every previous assault, the heart of Grandel trembled. The fall of Argan Fortress, once deemed impregnable, whispered tales of an era’s demise. Across the land, the dominion shifted, succumbing to the grip of the advancing northern forces.
Yet, appearances can deceive.
A select few clung to a concealed truth, sheltering knowledge that the helm of Argan’s leadership had clandestinely slipped through the fingers of the marauding barbarians, vanishing into the ether.
“Vile Argan scoundrels!”
With a resounding thud, the opulent oak desk shivered, as if threatened to shatter under the weight of the prince’s indignation. The chamber that had once hosted the wisdom of past Argan emperors now metamorphosed into the council hall for the Ugel royals, this transformation accomplished in the fleeting span of months.
Prince Rihan Sihat, Ugel’s first scion, pounded the table with an unrelenting fist.
“That wily serpent, Aseica, even managed to slither away with that scheming brain of hers!”
Before Rihan, there rested a box, swathed in coarse fabric. Moments earlier, he had unveiled its contents—an act that now lingered in his thoughts. Within the four-sided wooden enclosure lay a severed head, purposefully bereft of any preservative measures. As he lifted the lid, the fetid odor of decay tumbled out, accompanied by a writhing troupe of maggots that danced upon the wind. A quick drape of cloth was all it took to quell the grotesque display.
The head belonged to Yanok Sihat, the fourth prince of Ugel. Rihan stared at the pitiable visage of his half-brother and clenched his teeth in suppressed fury.
“To imagine even the princess has slipped beyond our grasp!”
Grand Duke Kyrstan had, at last, spirited the girl away to his domain. Within Rotiara’s confines, vigilantly guarded by the Duke himself, entry was nigh impossible unless his consent had been granted. The princess had discovered an ideal sanctuary, custom-made to suit her needs. Much like his own twin sibling.