Chapter 54.1

Elise appeared to have finally grasped Genovia’s true intentions. Initially, she had believed that Genovia was merely giving her a tour of the castle, feigning the desire to impress her. Genovia seemed intent on making it abundantly clear to everyone Elise’s inconspicuous pregnant belly, to fuel rumors suggesting there was no child. But there was more to it than met the eye.

It was a cunning plot to use the Rotiara people as pawns, tightening the noose around Elise’s neck, preventing her from ever finding respite. Even if the emperor were to be fully aware of the scheme and was caught Rezette Kyrstan shielding her, it wouldn’t pose a significant threat. He was the emperor’s only saving grace. However, the regular Rotiara citizens were a different story.

Could the Emperor genuinely care about the lives of each and every one of his subjects? What about Ivetsa at this very moment? What about her doctor, Freya?

No, they belong to Rezette’s people. He won’t allow innocent lives to be sacrificed like that, Elise reasoned with herself.

I should have insisted on including a clause in the contract to safeguard those who hold the secret… She regretted not advocating for their safety. Perhaps it wasn’t too late to address this now. Elise felt like a puppet with her strings cut, stumbling in various directions as Genovia continued to manipulate her.

In the beginning, the servants couldn’t conceal their curiosity, but as Genovia and Elise continued their explorations of the castle, their concern began to overshadow their interest.

“Is the Princess alright? She’s perspiring quite heavily…”

“Someone, please fetch Lady Petisson. She fainted in her office yesterday, and Alfred had to carry her upstairs.”

“If anything were to happen to the baby, what would become of them…”

“When His Highness returns, he’ll surely hold them accountable.”

The hushed voices of the kitchen staff reached Elise’s ears. She caught Genovia’s soft chuckle, who no longer bothered her, but that fleeting sound left Elise feeling even more drained.


Ivetsa cast a concerned glance at Elise, who sat in contemplative silence. Her slender fingers, elegantly arranged on her lap, quivered sporadically. The weight in Ivetsa’s heart deepened.

It had been a span of eight long days since the Duke’s departure from the castle. Initially, his words had hinted at a possible absence of up to ten days, and it seemed he intended to honor that commitment. Elise’s letter should have reached him by now, but even if it had, there was little solace to be found in a situation where his swift return was impossible. The Duke, whose madness had yet to fully recede, remained a more formidable menace than any monster.

Elise, however, appeared oblivious to her trembling state. Her distant gaze seemed to pierce through the walls of the chamber.

“Your Highness,” Ivetsa murmured softly as she knelt before Elise’s chair, her touch enveloping the trembling hand. Slowly, Elise’s wandering gaze regained its focus, and after a moment’s hesitation, she managed a fragile smile.

“I’m fine,” Elise replied weakly.

“Don’t lie. You haven’t been able to sleep, and you can’t even eat properly. This is far from fine. You’re losing weight…”

“Oh, this isn’t good,” Elise uttered softly, her voice bereft of its usual vitality.

“I don’t want to provide them any grounds, but… I fear I may need to eat something,” she continued, her words tinged with resignation.

“Please, stop,” Ivetsa pleaded. “Remember what happened yesterday when you forced it down? They’re preparing a mild white mushroom stew in the kitchen with jujubes. Please hold on a little longer.”

Elise nodded faintly. “Yes, alright.”

Nevertheless, a heavy silence enveloped Elise for a while. After she finished a bowl of stew, her mind once again drifted into contemplation before she abruptly broke the silence.


“Yes, Your Highness,” came Ivetsa’s reply.

“Even though I believed I was holding up well, there are moments when I falter like this.”

Ivetsa concealed her surprise, although her thoughts raced. Had Elise just hinted at… could it be? She’s not implying that she wishes to leave Rotiara, is she? Ivetsa wondered.

Elise mumbled to herself as if counseling her own thoughts. “It feels like everything was wrong from the beginning.”

Ivetsa remained silent, allowing Elise to continue her introspection.

“I’ve even heard such sentiments in my dreams,” Elise added, her voice distant. “But I don’t know how to leave.”

In the depths of the night, Andrei appeared in Elise’s dream, a haunting vision of his former self. One eye concealed behind a bandage, and his right arm severed below the elbow, he appeared dirtied and wretched, his form smeared with mud and straw. In this cruel manifestation of her dreams, Andrei cradled the weeping Elise in his remaining arm.



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