The grand duke shifted his focus back to the paper before him. Coincidentally, at that very moment, the princess sensed his gaze and raised her eyes. The shock was evident on her face.
“You avoid meeting my eyes now…” she mumbled.
Hemel and the other servants discreetly closed the office door, creating a sense of privacy.
“No need for concern,” Hemel assured.
“Is that truly the case?” questioned another.
“Yes, the Princess appears to be in good spirits, and His Majesty is also in high spirits,” Hemel replied.
A fleeting emotion, as cold and unyielding as a wall of ice, briefly flickered across the stern countenance of the grand duke. Swiftly, it was veiled, but the warmth that had lingered in his gaze was undeniable.
They exchanged subtle smiles and then moved away from the door, continuing their conversation as they walked.
“Even though she’s adorable, His Majesty should be cautious not to tease her excessively. What if the Princess becomes genuinely upset and throws a fit?”
“Indeed, if His Majesty continues to provoke her in that manner, she might change her perspective sooner than expected.”
“With the way you dote on the child, it won’t be long before the Princess’s sentiments undergo a transformation. Despite her undeniable cuteness, His Majesty should exercise moderation.”
“On another note, it’s already mid-May. It has been over a month since the Princess arrived in Rotiara.”
“Does that signify a month has passed since the abdication? It’s still not entirely apparent merely from appearances.”
“She’ll likely require another month or two to acclimate completely. As summer arrives, she will probably conceive, and the child will begin to grow rapidly. Preparations for an ample supply of herbs are in order—harvesting and drying them in advance is advisable.”
And so, in the tranquil embrace of Rotiara, time continued to drift by.
Time had swept past in the blink of an eye; it felt as though April had just unfolded its days, yet now, May was drawing its final breaths. In the northern reaches, spring had reached its zenith, painting the world with vibrant hues.
Within the sanctuary of her bedroom, Elise’s gaze met her reflection in the mirror. Her thoughts had been occupied lately, and as she contemplated, a question hung in the air: “Should I give it a try?”
Moments stretched as she held her reflection’s gaze, until a decision solidified within her. Swiftly, almost impulsively, Elise unfastened the ribbon of her dress and began to disrobe. Ivetsa, taken aback, inquired with concern, “Your Highness? What are you doing?”
“Oh, pay me no mind. I simply need to check something.”
“Shall I offer assistance?”
“Just help me with the corset, and if you could set paper and pen at the ready, I would appreciate it. Beyond that, you may take your leave.”
Elise chose to omit the unspoken sentiment: “Since it won’t be within your sight, anyway.” Elise shed layer after layer of cumbersome attire, each piece relinquishing its hold on her form. In due course, she remained draped in a diaphanous chemise, akin to the delicate wings of a dragonfly.
However, assessing her back still posed a challenge. Resolute, Elise lowered the straps of the chemise without hesitation.
With a graceful sweep, Elise gathered her long hair, cascading it forward over her chest. With this move, her shoulder blades and waist were revealed, inviting her scrutiny. As her gaze lingered, geometric patterns gradually unfurled across her pale skin like secrets whispered by the cosmos.
From behind, Ivetsa’s voice drifted in, “Your Highness, here are the paper and pen you requested.”
“Thank you,” Elise replied, her focus resolute. “Your assistance is much appreciated.”
“Should you need anything further, do not hesitate to summon me.”
As Ivetsa retreated discreetly, Elise leaned in, her form practically embraced by the mirror’s frame.
“I’m afraid it’s not displaying well,” she murmured, the hint of frustration shading her voice. Guided by the magic circle’s presence within the mirror, she traced its intricate design onto the paper. The pattern, a labyrinth of shapes interwoven with indecipherable characters, resisted facile replication. The tip of the pen roved aimlessly, wrestling to capture the arcane intricacies.
After a considerable passage of time, Elise lowered her gaze to the paper, her expression a mixture of concern and vexation.
“…Appears rather scribbly, doesn’t it?” she admitted, acknowledging the discordant outcome. The circles seemed haphazard, uneven in form, and the unintelligible characters appeared as if they were ink smears.
“I didn’t expect it to work perfectly on the first try anyway. I’ll have to observe it closely every day and make improvements,” she affirmed, her resolve unshaken. Three more circles awaited her attention. Seizing the moment, Elise chose to survey her waist. Recognizing the impracticality of drawing while standing, she draped a blanket, settling upon it.
The grand magic circle, destined to envelop her waist in its elaborate embrace, seemed more recognizable, its contours bolder and its essence more palpable. Memories of Andrei surfaced—his ease in crafting such complex engravings, almost second nature to him. He had said that he had seen countless of them since childhood, so he was familiar with them.
“This could very well be one of the things that Sameshita imparted to Gallian,” Elise mused aloud, her thoughts drifting back to the mysterious teachings that Andrei had so diligently acquired. What could have driven him to invest such considerable effort?
Engrossed in her contemplation, Elise delicately lifted the fountain pen from the paper, only to find her fingers met with a peculiar, trembling sensation. A soft exclamation escaped her lips.
There was no mistaking it. The tremor that had begun in her fingertips reverberated through her body in subtle waves, sketching an almost imperceptible circle within her very being. The abruptness of the sensation caused her to fumble, inadvertently releasing the pen from her grip. And then, wonderment overtook her as her gaze fell upon a remarkable sight.
The doodles she had etched, with their imperfect lines and disjointed forms, embarked upon a transformation of their own. What was once crooked lines straightened into perfection, distorted circles smoothed into symmetry, and indecipherable characters rearranged themselves into eloquent cohesion.