The princess smiled brightly once more. “I understand what you mean, Sir Kyrstan. I am sorry that you had to leave before we could discuss it further.”
A sense of discomfort settled within Rezette’s chest. He had always assumed that the princess, with her sense of honor, would choose death over life. But now, she was seeking to preserve her own life, and the discomfort burned within him like smoldering embers.
The princess sighed softly and whispered, “But now that you are by my side, Sir Kyrstan, please do not leave my side for even a moment. I beg of you.”
“If it is an order, I will obey,” Sir Kyrstan replied.
“I apologize for imposing upon you like this,” the princess said. “But I must ask it of you nonetheless.” Rezette suppressed a moan as the princess took his hand and pressed a kiss to his rough knuckles, a gesture of respect and appreciation from a lady to a knight, or from a master to a servant. “According to the lord’s words, I am a person who will die at any moment, so this gesture is enough for me,” she continued.
Their eyes met, and Sir Kyrstan saw the princess’s blind faith that he alone was her salvation, an arrow that he knew he could not deflect. It was a pitiful, unrequited hope.
“Please take care of yourself,” Sir Kyrstan said, unable to say anything more to the princess as he turned away from her blurring golden eyes and pulled his hand away from her.
However, just one week later, the discomfort that had been stagnant within him began to grow. The princess, who had seemed as though she would die at any moment if he left her side, suddenly fell ill with a high fever.
The Archduke of Kyrstan’s discomfort towards Elise was subtle, but not lost on her. However, Elise was not greatly disappointed. In fact, she had not meant to try and convince him in the first place.
His defenses were not something that could be easily breached. He had certain vulnerabilities, but also areas that were impenetrable. Emotional appeals and clumsy temptation would be useless against a man who was both principled and rational. Besides, it had always been questionable whether Rezette saw her as a woman at all.
The journey to Van Yela was a slow one, made even slower by Elise’s injury. Even if she had been able to ride a horse at full speed, the journey would have taken over two weeks. But with her injury, there was no way for her to pick up the pace.
Nearly three weeks had passed since Elise was captured by the Van Yela Imperial Army, and for all but the first five days, Archduke Kyrstan was absent from her side. Elise never left his side, whether it was afternoon, night, dawn, or morning.
At one point, the Archduke attempted to assign another knight to Elise, but she silently picked up a dagger and made it clear that she did not want the company. However, as the two weeks passed, Elise no longer needed to cling to the Archduke’s side. Before her shoulder wound could even heal, she was struck with a terrible fever.
The man who touched Elise’s forehead with his hand sighed softly. “The fever doesn’t seem to be subsiding.”
Elise barely opened her eyes and muttered, “It’s always been like this. I get really sick with a cold sometimes, but this time it feels like it’s going to be even worse…” She trailed off as she coughed.
Elise was not physically healthy. This was something that Andrei had worried about since she was a young girl. Her stamina was weak, and even her immunity was significantly lower than that of most people. Her recovery was also painfully slow. If she fell and scraped her palms or broke a bone, it would take a long time for her wounds to heal. Even a mild illness or cold would linger for weeks.
There was nothing wrong with any of her organs, but it seemed like she was constantly battling some form of illness, as if it were a never-ending struggle.
The man quietly placed his hand on her forehead to check her fever and let out a shallow sigh.
“If you stay this close, you’ll catch my illness…” Elise said.
“I’ve never had a cold in my life,” the man replied, a reaction that seemed to suggest he had heard it all before.
Elise burst out laughing. “Well, good for you. You must be very strong.”
Even though her body was aching, she felt good. Had she not caught a cold, she would not have been able to observe this man so closely for long.