She had later learned that the duke had departed Norella without waiting for her to regain consciousness. She had belatedly discovered that after he had wrestled control over his inner turmoil, he had become even more unpredictable than before. But…
Did she truly hold any significance to him? Would he have rejected her so harshly if she had meant something to him? She would have preferred a rough embrace over being cast aside. She had abandoned her dignity as a lady and approached him with nothing but innocence and passion. Yet, all she had gained in the end were scars etched across her body and the memory of being pushed away, leaving her soul embittered and steeped in humiliation.
The fact that the duke had shown no interest in her filled her with a seething anger.
“In Van Yela, am I considered the most beautiful? What’s your opinion?” she asked, her gaze searching for validation.
“Yes, indeed,” he replied.
“Do you truly believe that with your own eyes? Am I the most captivating woman you’ve encountered?” She pressed, a hint of insecurity tainting her words.
“It certainly appears that way.”
“You’re not deceiving me, are you?” Her tone quivered.
“There’s no reason for me to fabricate the truth needlessly,” he calmly assured.
Why had he uttered those words? It might have been better if he had remained silent.
“Do you have any intentions of becoming Irrien’s son-in-law? My father can be persuaded,” she inquired further.
“I have no such intention,” he responded.
“Why not?” Her voice wavered.
“Lady, you are not a suitable match for someone like me. I implore you to seek a man who aligns better with Irrien’s status and wed him,” he explained firmly.
Why did he have to articulate those sentiments? It might have been better if he had refrained from speaking at all.
“Why did you offer me flowers?” she inquired once more.
“His Majesty required someone to present the flowers during a ritual, and you happened to be present. It held no profound significance, so please do not read too much into it,” he explained matter-of-factly.
“Nevertheless, the flowers were truly exquisite. Thank you,” she replied with a touch of gratitude.
And now, a young woman on the cusp of adulthood had allowed herself to be swayed by his words all too easily.
Even after these events, when they reunited at the emperor’s birthday celebration a few months later, the duke’s words to Genovia remained cold and admonishing.
“Please refrain from such heedless actions in the future. You must now comprehend that meddling without justification can only yield undesirable consequences.”
Had it all been a mere illusion? Was it truly so effortless for him to dismiss it all?
Before the man, who maintained his apology with a frigid demeanor, Genovia quivered with emotion. Reckless actions. Undesirable consequences. In the end, all that had transpired between them amounted to nothing more than Genovia’s humiliating unreciprocated love.
She had believed she was receiving in kind what she offered, but it had all been a self-delusion. From the outset, he had never harbored any intention of granting her anything in return. The realization was mortifying, and it wounded her pride deeply. As she confronted his icy countenance, Genovia felt utterly exposed.
The scars left by Rezette Kyrstan on that fateful day haunted Genovia even in this moment. She couldn’t help but hiss, “Don’t mock me,” clenching her fist and directing her glare down the corridor. “What kind of love do you possess? What do you truly understand?”
He was a man who couldn’t perceive the emotions concealed within expressions, touches, or even the occasional glance. He simply articulated what he observed, listened to what he heard, and acted without considering how his words might be interpreted by others. In this manner, he had unintentionally insulted Genovia.
To be so guileless was a flaw in itself. If she didn’t demand accountability in this way, her pride wouldn’t permit it. Thus, Genovia stiffened her resolve, projecting an image as though she had turned her back on societal norms, as though she had cast everything aside.
“Perhaps there’s truly something awry within my mind,” she mused aloud. She extended herself fully, pushing the embarrassing memories that had unexpectedly resurfaced into the recesses of her consciousness. Instead, she dwelled on the sight of the man and the woman she had witnessed just a few hours prior, particularly the way Rezette had gazed at Elizabeth.
So tenderly. How could he? How could he?
How could he display such affection when he wasn’t even human!
However, Genovia soon lifted her head, determined. “No, no… No, that’s not it. That can’t be it.”
It wouldn’t be unreasonable to believe that a dragon, vastly superior to humans, could learn to experience emotions. So, was even that seemingly unshakeable man’s emotional fortress starting to crumble?
“Ha… Haha!” Genovia erupted into manic laughter. “Did you honestly believe I’d just stand idly by and watch? Oh, please, don’t make me laugh…”
Rezette Kyrstan would never find love in his lifetime, she resolved. No matter who held a place in his heart, she would stop at nothing to eliminate that woman from his life. Whether it required temptation, confrontation, interception, or sweet persuasion to draw her away from his side.
As a consequence, he would never be the object of anyone’s affection. This way, that demigod would remain an intellectually incomplete being until his last breath. It was the last vestige of pride that Genovia Irrien was determined to safeguard.
“Elizabeth Aseica…” Genovia repeated that name, her green eyes glinting like a hidden crocodile lurking in murky waters.
Yes, Elise. You must find a way to escape from here, even if it’s for your sake.