A typical day held its own sense of normalcy for Elise. However, Rezette’s standards always seemed to diverge from her own, and the perplexed expression on her face appeared to incite further irritation in him. Rezette clenched his jaw.
“I’ve gone to great lengths to nurse you back to health, and now you’re in such a feeble state, barely hanging on. I shouldn’t be upset… naturally, it’s not Your Highness’s fault. But…”
“I’ve never coerced you into doing anything against your will. It’s crucial that you grasp just how far removed you are from being an ordinary individual.”
It was a rarity for him to speak at such length, typically occurring when he was either very angry or deeply concerned. Elise, as a precaution, touched her forehead. She didn’t register a high fever, but after a few days of weight loss, she considered it a possible cause for concern.
“I’m sorry,” she murmured.
“I didn’t say that to elicit an apology. I’ve mentioned before that there’s no need for me to apologize for anything.”
This man never ask for her apology, even when he was angry. He was a complex individual.
Elise hesitated and shifted the conversation. “Have they apprehended the culprit who intercepted the tribute intended for the capital?” she inquired.
“We haven’t caught them yet,” Rezette responded. “You need not concern yourself with that either.”
“Is the situation complex?”
“I can’t say if it’s complex or not. We haven’t even initiated the investigation.”
“Due to Your Highness’s matters, there has been a great deal of commotion. Do you truly need to ask right now?”
Elise felt wronged. She had just awoken from a long nap, and yet Rezette was behaving like a prickly hedgehog, seemingly blaming her for his low spirits.
The man, who had maintained a stern demeanor, closed his eyes for an extended pause. After a deep breath, he spoke in a subdued tone.
“It’s been resolved. I will handle it from here, so please go inside,” he urged softly.
“Just one more thing. Are you going to send Lady Genovia away?” Elise inquired.
He appeared prepared to expel Genovia from the castle without delay. Reluctantly, Elise found herself compelled to intervene.
“I hope Lady Genovia doesn’t leave. Let her stay a few more days,” Elise proposed.
Rezette’s brow furrowed. “Are you worried?”
Elise was taken aback. “What?”
“Whatever Lady Genovia used as leverage against you, you need not heed it. Furthermore, she won’t be able to divulge what she knows to anyone.”
Elise’s countenance wavered. It appeared that Lady Petisson had disclosed everything. In truth, Elise would have heard the account long ago—how Genovia Irrien had discovered her secret and taken advantage of her vulnerability in Rezette’s absence. The notion of being exposed in such a pitiable state made Elise’s cheeks flush.
Rezette lowered his head, locking eyes with her once more. “Elise, I am here. And as long as you remain in Rotiara, no one can harm you in my presence, no matter how frequently they invoke the Emperor’s name.”
If you are so worried, should I kill her right here and then? Rezette paused briefly, searching for an alternative phrasing.
Simultaneously, Elise was engaged in her own contemplation. The truth was, her desire to meet Lady Genovia once more was not solely driven by anxiety. Elise had refrained from responding to the audacious proposition Lady Genovia had presented.
“Give birth to just one child. Give it to me, and I’ll send you back to Argan.”
She had regarded the proposal as utterly preposterous. However, with Rezette’s return, the tempest that had churned within Elise’s heart appeared to dissipate, as though it had been a mere illusion. It was only now that her rationality returned, clear and focused.
Genovia Irrien belonged to the distinguished Irrien family, and she was the highest-ranking woman in Van Yela, boasting influential connections to the Emperor. Her brilliance eclipsed the news from the southern reaches of Grandel.
Grudgingly, Elise couldn’t completely discount Lady Genovia, and thus, the more contingency plans, the better…
If it wasn’t the direst of circumstances, it would be wise to apprehend the lurking shadow. Achieving this would necessitate a confrontation with Lady Genovia Irrien, the focal point of the discussion.
However, to navigate this path, she first had to soothe the irate man before her. Elise cautiously chose her words, offering an explanation.
“I found Lady Genovia’s stories quite intriguing.”
Rezette’s face tensed.