On the third day since Rezette’s departure from the castle, Elise found herself seated in her office, clutching a pen in her hand. Her eyes were fixed on the paper before her, but her thoughts seemed to be stuck on the first sentence. This was, after all, her maiden attempt at composing a letter.
“Are you composing a letter, Your Highness?” Genovia Irrien’s presence was truly remarkable, to say the least. Elise raised her gaze with a composed expression, observing the vivacious Irrien seated across from her. Elise leaned her arms against the desk, resting her chin upon her hand as she watched Irrien’s eager curiosity. Lady Irrien possessed a natural beauty that rivaled even the esteemed First Lady of Van Yela, yet she bore no apparent airs.
Suppressing her discomfort, Elise returned her attention to the blank paper before her. Genovia inched closer, her eyes stealing a glimpse of the letter taking shape.
“To whom are you penning this letter? The Grand Duke, perhaps?” Elise chose to ignore her companion. She had no intention of engaging with Genovia unless the woman displayed at least a modicum of respect.
Yet, it was thanks to Genovia’s presence that Elise finally managed to ink the first word onto the paper. Rezette? Elise began, using his name.
“Rezette? You’re using his name?”
However, her sentence was prematurely interrupted by an irksome voice. Genovia, bearing a condescending expression that suggested she viewed Elise as nothing more than a child, offered a comment.
“This is an official missive to the Grand Duke. Can you really use such a familiar tone? It’s acceptable to be informal when it’s just the two of you, but…”
Elise maintained her silence, allowing Genovia’s words to linger in the air.
“I always include proper titles and honors when composing letters to the Grand Duke, regardless of how minor they may seem. Even if you don’t show me respect, showing proper etiquette to the Grand Duke, your benefactor, is expected.”
Elise couldn’t help but be affected by Genovia’s words at that moment. Her remarks carried several implications: firstly, she had corresponded with the Grand Duke before; secondly, their correspondence had been more than just occasional; and thirdly, she hinted at using titles and honors in her letters…
So, in private, you address him by his first name? Elise contemplated, her gaze unwavering on Genovia’s charming, smiling countenance. She chose not to dignify these comments with a response. Engaging in a battle of words with Genovia was not her intention, nor did she wish to descend to the same level as that woman.
She watched in stoic silence, her gaze remaining fixed on Genovia. As the laughter slowly ebbed from Genovia’s face, Elise observed the tiny emerald-like eyes flicker with a hint of embarrassment. Her watchful eyes remained trained as fine lines etched themselves onto Genovia’s forehead, and her deep crimson lips, adorned in a bold shade of red, pressed together tightly.
“…The look in your eyes,” Genovia Irrien snapped suddenly, her face twisting with disdain. “So, now you’re looking down on me?” She abandoned all pretenses of politeness, directing a piercing glare at Elise.
“I hope Rezette Kyrstan would strangle you,” Genovia continued with venom in her voice. “Maybe then, this world won’t be yours anymore, will it?”
“That would be a relief,” Elise murmured absentmindedly. If Grandel were truly hers, all the current anxieties and troubles that plagued her would be rendered meaningless. There would be no one left to threaten her, and no one for her to threaten in return. What would the problem be then?
But, in reality, the world had never truly belonged to Andrei, nor had it ever belonged to Elise. However, in Genovia Irrien’s eyes, it appeared quite the opposite.
“Could you even dare to occupy the position of Rotiara’s mistress and enjoy its privileges if you weren’t married to Rezette Kyrstan and weren’t as strikingly beautiful as you are? Your airs of nobility seem quite audacious, considering your origin as a commodity,” Genovia remarked, her words carrying a sharp edge.
Elise maintained her silence, her focus returning to the quill that had been momentarily still in her hand.
“Without the Grand Duke’s protection, a woman who would have met the gallows long ago has no right to regard me with such insolence,” Genovia continued, her facade unraveling surprisingly easily. But Elise remained disinterested; she had no inclination to delve into the depths of Genovia’s intentions or motivations for approaching her.
Elise resumed her task of guiding the quill across the paper. Lady Irrien of House Irrien had arrived in Rotiara bearing an imperial decree. Since it was believed that the one who had stolen the tribute could be hiding in Rotiara, she was expected to diligently search for the culprit upon her return.
“And now you choose to ignore me? Do you even realize the expression you’re wearing right now?” Genovia’s words brought a sudden realization to Elise. Perhaps, during critical moments, Rezette Kyrstan had appeared just as she did now. Annoyance building up, relentlessly questioning him, unable to restrain herself… The only distinction with Genovia was that Elise eventually resorted to pleading.
Would she too become like that if she remained silent in this situation?