“The physician must have informed you already, but you won’t be able to see me during this period, Your Highness. Probably won’t last more than a week, even if it takes longer.”
“…You had promised that once I put on enough weight, you would proceed without delay.”
“I understand that gaining twenty pounds in such a short time is unlikely. If you maintain a diligent eating routine while I’m away, things should still proceed as planned.”
“Seems like you’ll come up with another excuse next time.”
“I hope you understand that this isn’t my preference either.”
With a gentle movement, Rezette brushed Elise’s hair from her neck, revealing a faint mark of a hickey that was gradually fading. Even the slightest remnant seemed to trouble him. A soft sigh escaped Rezette as he gazed down at her.
Every morning, without fail, he came to check the mark on her neck. It seemed he was still preoccupied by the traces he had left there. Yet, a minor blemish like a hickey should have been easily dismissed.
Rezette took a moment to neaten Elise’s tousled hair before drawing her in, this time holding her by the waist.
“Do you still experience those nightmares?” he inquired.
Elise remained silent, a slight sense of childlike petulance in her demeanor.
“You had a peaceful night’s sleep.”
“I don’t have them anymore,” Elise replied, her head shaking slightly. It felt as if she were playing at being childish. She longed to ask him to stop mirroring Andrei, to stop feigning concern and pretend worry. To end the persistent intrusions into her mind.
You had said we merely needed to fulfill our respective ends for this to be a marriage, and yet…
“You can simply rest. Should nightmares persist, request sleeping aids from the physician. And if you find yourself with leisure time, the study or office can be your refuge,” continued Rezette.
Once I’ve savored good meals, enjoyed peaceful slumber, and basked in half a year devoid of worries, what would you do if I vanished without a trace?
With every promise broken, hope withered, and a facade of plunging her into desolation, Elise found herself compelled to pursue an alternative course. She must harness her magic skillfully, effect an escape before the emperor’s forces close in.
“While I’m away, I’ve instructed the knights not to roam the tower freely. If you want to go outside the castle, cover your face like the last time, and be sure to have an escort. It would be preferable if you waited until I returned, but I don’t want to restrict you that much,” he said.
Elise remained silent.
“It means you can do what you want, but never be alone.”
In her mind, she knew, but still…
“Elise, you have to answer.”
Suddenly, her thoughts went blank. Her heart drummed, unabashed. How peculiar, this flutter only at the sound of her name escaping his lips. Would it not be simpler if his demeanor toward her were colder? Were he to seethe and adopt an air of indifference, her own stance could harden. And yet, his genuine concern, his earnest demeanor – they unfailingly drove her heart into retreat.
He was merely a man bound by the role he must play before the princess. This she grasped vividly.
Indeed, a month had transpired, and the apprehension that initially gripped Elise had considerably ebbed. The days spent secluded on this uppermost floor had gradually distanced her from the real world. Perhaps Rezette had proffered her counsel, but of late, even Lady Petisson seemed to ease her watchfulness. Even Andrei had ceased to haunt her dreams.
So I find myself ensnared in the serenity of this place.
What if I don’t want to leave even when autumn comes?
“Your Highness, are you alright?” Rezette inclined his head, seemingly scrutinizing her countenance. Elise’s voice trickled forth in a hushed cadence.
“If you’re not going to be kind to me even in the autumn, spare me these pretenses.”
“Pardon?” Rezette furrowed his brow.
“You said that once. That I know nothing, that I’m ignorant about the world.”
A sigh of confusion wafted from above. Rezette eased his arms from around Elise. She pivoted, met by the bewildered face of the man before her, seemingly adrift for words. Uncharacteristically, he appeared taken aback, his gaze inspecting her.
“Just a moment, Your Highness. Why are you saying this now…”
“It’s not that I’m saying it. I’m just naturally a bit like a blank page… If someone pushes me, I’ll get pushed. If someone deceives me, I’ll believe them. And then…”
When you show a kind light, I get completely dyed in that color. So if you’re not going to be on my side, don’t bother paying attention to me like this. That’s what I’m saying.