Rezette fixed a penetrating gaze on the audacious lady who had boldly entered his office. There was no time for frivolous questions and answers, nor was there any inclination for such exchanges. Instead, Rezette’s mind was racing with a critical decision: should he end her life right here and now?
Rezette wasn’t one to cling to trivial matters for long. With a sharp memory, he didn’t forget, but he also didn’t dwell on matters that didn’t warrant second thoughts. Typically, it was best to address them decisively to avoid the need for further contemplation.
Genovia Irrien stood out as one of the very few individuals who had repeatedly tested his patience without incurring his wrath. Among that limited group, Emperor Noyer was another source of irritation for Rezette. But today was different. Today, Rezette felt an undeniable hostility toward the woman before him.
However, Genovia was far from a fool. She, who had effortlessly brushed off the animosity of countless men, now let out a chuckle.
“Are you planning to kill me? Within this castle where the precious Grand Duchess sleeps?”
Rezette remained silent.
“Do you believe you can carry Elise into a bloodstained office?” Genovia taunted.
“…You keep mentioning her name. It’s better if you don’t,” Rezette warned.
Genovia chuckled softly, her tone sly. “Are you attempting to play the role of a protective husband? How amusing.”
“Alfred, kindly escort Lady Irrien to her quarters. Prepare a carriage for her at daybreak tomorrow.”
“You still haven’t taken a single step back from me,” Genovia remarked with a hint of defiance.
“Lady,” Rezette warned in a low, menacing voice. “If you utter one more word from this moment forward, you won’t be walking out of here on your own.”
This time, Genovia lapsed into silence.
“I believe you came prepared for that,” Rezette remarked coolly. “You’re not a fool.”
The once-present smile on Genovia’s face had vanished completely. Indeed, Rezette’s reaction appeared excessively severe, given the circumstances. Was it merely because Elise had fallen ill? Because of a faint scent of alcohol? Because she had roamed the castle for a few days? Or… could it be that Genovia knew Elise’s secret? All signs seemed to point to one undeniable fact.
“…It appears you harbor deep affection for the enemy’s Princess, Duke,” Genovia stated, her lips twitching ever so slightly.
She had questioned the possibility before, wondering if it could be true. But now, she realized it had been a significant misconception. As soon as Rezette Kyrstan had appeared, and she saw the way he gazed at Elise, she understood. It was the same look any man would have when captivated by a woman.
It was so glaringly evident that it couldn’t escape notice. In comparison, Elise’s emotions seemed quite reserved.
“Goodness,” Genovia couldn’t contain herself any longer and began to chuckle. Her laughter was a mixture of anger and amusement as she took a deep breath.
“Be cautious,” she advised.
Rezette raised an eyebrow. “About what?”
“It’s painfully obvious that you’ve fallen head over heels for that woman. Yet, it appears the Princess herself is oblivious,” Genovia continued. “She doesn’t seem to reciprocate your feelings, does she? My, oh my, what will you do?”
It was becoming clear that this woman didn’t fit into the picture here at all.
For days, Genovia had been trailing around Rotiara with Elise. Despite her month-long stay in the castle, Elise remained guarded. The servants found it intriguing but kept their distance, refraining from approaching or offering friendly conversation. It was as though an invisible barrier separated Elise from nearly everyone in Rotiara.
“Don’t become too complacent. At the moment, she may only have eyes for you, but how long will that loyalty last?” Genovia remarked. “Is she not just biding her time, waiting for an opportunity to escape? Do you honestly believe that woman will remain in Rotiara forever?” Genovia pressed.
Rezette fell silent, every word from Genovia grating on his ears.
“Did she actually say something like that?” he inquired.
“Well, I can’t be sure. What do you think?” Genovia retorted.
“Even if she did say that, it doesn’t matter,” Rezette replied.
Genovia burst into laughter. “Ha! And why doesn’t it matter? Because you won’t let her escape? Once you have something, letting it go means losing it forever. You won’t allow her to slip away!”
“Have you ever questioned why I’ve allowed you to remain here?” Instead of a response, an unexpected question escaped from the man’s lips. But it was enough to seal Genovia’s lips shut like a tightly sealed clamshell.
“Three years ago, I contemplated the Lady’s reputation and chose to keep my silence. Even when she occasionally stirred chaos in Rotiara, I let it pass.”
Silence hung in the air.
“Fantasies come at no cost. Yet, even if I can’t fathom the embarrassment you may have experienced due to them, I acknowledge it. It’s forgivable to mistake me for an immature child.”
“Even with that said, were it not for Irrien, I would have shown you the door a long time ago.”
“I know, so stop talking,” Genovia retorted, her eyes glinting with a manic fervor. At this point, it was increasingly challenging to distinguish who among them was truly teetering on the brink of madness.
A resounding thud echoed through the office as a pair of hands slammed onto the desk, sending a shockwave through the room.