After the baby was born, and with the weight of an uncertain future hanging over her, Elise couldn’t help but wonder if the man she had fled with would make a good father. He had initially agreed to have the child merely to evade the pressures of the emperor. Did he ever truly desire a child like this in the first place?
She pondered whether, if he could muster at least half the care a child needed, there might be a glimmer of hope. However, it appeared rather unlikely. The burning question remained – who would care for this helpless baby? Rebecca Petisson? Ivetsa? A newborn required constant nourishment and attention.
Running away with the baby seemed impractical, but abandoning the child and escaping alone was equally inconceivable. Elise wrestled with her thoughts, muttering softly, “Perhaps I can’t do it.”
The baby had committed no crime, and she refused to be the woman who brought a child into the world out of necessity and then callously abandoned it. She felt compelled to repay at least as much love as she had received from her parents and Andrei. It was her duty, and she was determined to fulfill it.
With a trembling resolve, Elise made her decision, “This is my responsibility, so I’ll shoulder it. If I have this baby, I intend to remain in Rotiara. I’m unsure for how long…”
How many years would it take for the baby to grow up? How long could she stay in Rotiara? How long should she stay by that man’s side? She knew these were premature concerns, but her desires tugged at her heart.
Because she wanted to.
Because she longed to be free of this constant anxiety. Being with Rezette made her feel whole and at peace, almost like a warm embrace. Elise was slowly finding her place in Rotiara alongside him.
“Hey,” Genovia sighed with frustration. “So, you’re telling me I should just hang around, waiting for you to raise this child for several years, and then send you back to Argan all dolled up? Are you out of your mind?”
“If you don’t like it, you’re free to leave. I don’t care what you say to the emperor.”
“Why in the world…?”
“I can wrap my head around marrying a former enemy general. If you were in a hurry to meet your doom, you could’ve perished with the rest of us. But now, you’ve not only given birth to a child, but you plan to raise it well and then leave? Is that even possible? Is it an act of kindness, foolishness, or something despicable?”
Elise fell silent, her actions, feelings, and ultimate decisions tangled in contradictions. When did their relationship, initially built on mutual gain, start to hold deeper meaning? She should have shielded her heart from the beginning, but once she’d taken him into her life, she hadn’t foreseen this future.
Genovia shook her head. “No, Elizabeth, love? Seriously?”
Now, even to outsiders, it appeared as if love had entered the picture.
The path ahead seemed uncertain. Elise was grappling with the possibility that her actions were driven by her lack of a plan and dependence on him. She couldn’t help but wonder if her desire to stay in his embrace was evolving into love.
Genovia erupted into manic laughter. “He seeks love, even from the blessings of Grandel, and the most beautiful woman in this land? Love…? Ha!” Her laughter faded, and a hint of anxiety flickered in Genovia’s eyes, as if mocking had given way to concern.
She clicked her tongue. “No, Elise. You’re placing too much trust in him. You’re making him your sole lifeline.”
Elise responded with determination, “My emotions can’t be controlled or commanded. You have no right to interfere.”
“Aren’t you curious how far Rezette Kyrstan can be ruthless? He’s not as devoted to you as you think,” Genovia chuckled.
Elise’s voice wavered as she admitted, “I never expected his devotion from the start. But beyond what you see with your eyes, he’s shown me kindness, and…”
Genovia interrupted, “Speaking with that expression doesn’t make it more believable, you know.”
In truth, Elise’s facial expression had not displayed any noticeable changes, but when Genovia observed closely, she noticed a brief hesitation. Elise quickly regained her composure, but the damage was done. Genovia took Elise’s face in her hands and whispered, “You’re merely a beautiful prize, a woman he aims to conquer, a collectible item. That’s all you are to him, pitiable Elise. I didn’t want to say this…”