Still, he was a good and affectionate child, Elise mused silently. The Argan Emperor hardly warranted such a strong reaction. Her thoughts swirled within her, vanishing unspoken.
In that brief moment, Elise forgot her own commitment not to recklessly broach the stories of Argan and Andrei before Rezette. Andrei wouldn’t have wanted her to engage in idle gossip with the Van Yela knights about him. She glanced down, her gaze avoiding Rezette’s eyes, and apologized. “I’m sorry, I didn’t think about it.”
Rezette’s response was brief. “Yes.”
An odd feeling washed over Elise afterward. She looked at the man with a finely chiseled jaw before her and suddenly remembered. That’s right, he was the Grand Commander of the Van Yela Army. They had only crossed paths on the battlefield a mere four months ago. Until then, and more accurately, until they reached the capital, they had been unequivocal adversaries. She, a knight of the victorious nation, and he, a princess of the defeated one. This realization scraped at Elise’s heart, inflicting a deep ache.
If only she could trust him wholeheartedly, if he were the one she needed without even contemplating the possibility of Genovia Irrien…
A heavy silence descended upon them as they stood face to face. The stillness was broken by an unusual question from Rezette.
“Elise, what is my name?” he inquired.
Elise was taken aback. “What?”
“My name, please say it.”
“Rezette…?” Elise called his name again, her voice tinged with uncertainty. Only then did Rezette’s furrowed brow relax slightly. He extended his hand, and Elise hesitated for a moment before accepting it.
Rezette guided her back to the bed and offered her a fork. Elise shook her head. “Rezette, I’ve eaten enough.”
“Please, have a bit more,” Rezette insisted.
“A newborn baby will eat more than you.”
“…Am I going to be fed all day long?”
Elise shot him a skeptical look.
Rezette, who watched her with a patient expression while Elise furrowed her brow, added calmly, “Eating more during the day will help you endure the night.”
“What do I need to endure at night…?” Elise muttered in confusion.
“You need to endure me.”
“Endure you?” Elise’s eyes widened as she unconsciously echoed his words. Could it be?
His large hand, previously gentle as it stroked her silky hair, now cupped her cheek. Rezette briefly examined his right hand, which was touching her, his deep blue eyes briefly registering a sense of satisfaction.
His touch grew more daring. Rezette’s thumb brushed Elise’s nose, trailed her dimpled chin, and lightly traced her parted lips.
“Now, you won’t be able to resist even if you want to. Even if you say you don’t like it in the middle, it won’t make a difference.”
Elise let out a soft sound, her response a mixture of surprise and anticipation.
“Tonight, I won’t let you look at me like this.”
Elise swiftly lowered her gaze, comprehending the significance behind the man’s actions and gestures, regardless of any concerns about touching her. He didn’t plan to stop midway, as he had before. It appeared that he was finally following through on his declaration that this time would indeed be the last time he delayed his commitment.
Elise’s cheeks gradually tinged with a blush. An unfamiliar emotion, a blend of tension and apprehension, constricted her chest. Rezette enveloped her trembling hand, kissed her palm, and held it close.
“I’ll briefly go to the castle below for the evening. I’ll be back at night,” he stated.
On this particular day, his gaze was unusually intense. The intensity of his gaze felt as if it could pierce right through her, more explicit and heated than ever before. Elise was startled, and Rezette’s tone grew gentler.
“Stay awake,” he said.
Elise nodded meekly. “…Okay.”
“In any case, I’ll rouse you even if you doze off.”
His tender words had an oddly calming effect on her, setting her heart aquiver. Elise gave a faint nod.
Reflecting on the moments when he had touched her, a profound tremor began to stir within her.
Tonight… at last.
Her mouth grew dry, and her heart raced relentlessly. A potent mix of apprehension and excitement pulsed through her veins. The way he looked at her, his unyielding touch on her palm—Elise couldn’t help it; she finally closed her eyes.
A premonition coursed through her that, after tonight, their relationship would undergo a profound transformation. It left her feeling somewhat uneasy.