In Grandel, finding someone unaware of this would be a rare occurrence. They were the descendants of Inashio Conrad and Hugo Bellator, the heroic founders of Argan who began their lineage as the left and right arms of the Argan imperial family.
Genovia pressed on, “Why did these families, who were expected to meet their end when the Emperor swore allegiance to the Gallian descendants, opt to flee instead?”
A heavy silence settled in the surroundings. Dark clouds drifted over, shrouding the moonlight, casting an even deeper darkness and hush over the area. The man’s expression blended into the shadows.
“The Argan people will undoubtedly strive to reclaim her. She is their legitimacy and justice,” Genovia declared, her voice reaching even the forlorn figure huddled within the carriage.
“For those who were taken by savages, there may still be a glimmer of hope. Rumors about the Princess’s whereabouts are rampant in the south, my Lord.”
“In fact, some say she’s been captured by Ugel, while others believe she has met her end at the hands of the Warlords. Opinions vary! Not only the scattered Argan people but also the allied nations in the south are all abuzz with it, my Lord. It’s quite audacious to suggest that our Princess is held captive by the uncivilized and ruthless northerners.”
Ruben and Isaac exchanged apprehensive glances. They knew they couldn’t allow the lady to continue speaking. Unnoticed, a triumphant smile spread across Genovia’s face.
“The war is far from over,” Genovia cackled. “What do you think Elise would say if she found out?”
Silence hung heavy in the air. The night sky was slowly veiled by heavy clouds, with the pale crescent moon seeming to dangle like a hook. From the figure shrouded in shadows and the scent of blood, there was no response for a prolonged moment.
Genovia began to chuckle softly, finding amusement in the situation. “I thought so.” Her eyes, glinting like deep blue lightning bolts, cracked open slightly. “Do you think Elise knows what kind of person you truly are?”
Ruben urgently tried to pull Genovia away, signaling to his fellow knights. “My Lady, it’s time to stop…” he warned. However, the chilling voice that had remained silent until now overpowered the knights who were attempting to intervene.
Rezette, who had acted without hesitation, took a decisive step forward. In an instant, he roughly pushed Ruben aside and seized Genovia by the neck with his right hand.
Gritting his teeth, he retorted, “Do you think it’ll change just because Elise knows?”
Rezette’s hand was a formidable sight, covered in dark, unyielding scales that extended from the back of his hand down to his fingertips. Meanwhile, Genovia, her throat punctured by the beast’s long, sharp claws, let out a piercing scream. But Rezette remained unfazed, his composure unwavering.
“Regardless of what you may have conveyed to her, or what she’s been told in return, it’s of no consequence. I’ve made that abundantly clear.”
His once calm blue eyes now crackled with relentless flashes of lightning, their narrowed, dangerous gleam undeniably intense. His constricted pupils flickered with a menacing fervor. Behind Rezette, Alfred emitted a strained noise.
“Your Highness, this is the Lady of Irrien!”
If the duke harmed the Lady Irrien, it could potentially ignite a conflict over the territories of Norella and Rotiara. The emperor was keen to avert any clash among the formidable Gallian powers.
“Can you at least consider moving this outside of Rotiara…? If the territories descend into chaos… And yes, the Princess will become even more anxious!”
“Shut your mouth, Alfred, unless you want to share her fate.”
In the unrelenting grip of Rezette, Alfred’s face turned a pallid shade. Genovia, strangled by the neck, writhed in agony.
“If you… end my life… your wife’s deceit… will be exposed… Your Majesty’s guards…”
“As long as I don’t surrender her to you.” Rezette twisted her neck and advanced toward the carriage, dragging Genovia, who writhed in torment.
Rezette was no fool. He understood the necessity of not dealing with Lady Irrien within the confines of Rotiara Castle. Doing so would merely furnish his step-brother with an excuse to meddle in Rotiara’s affairs, and perhaps even compel Noyer to personally intervene.
In that case, there was no need for anyone to enter the castle. Elise could be discreetly hidden away from prying eyes. Concerns about the emperor and Irrien could be set aside.
The hubris of humanity led them to believe he’d stand guard as Van Yela’s unwavering sentinel, silent and loyal, bound by the emperor’s will until his last breath. But such assumptions could prove troublesome if he chose to reveal his true intentions.
“Take the report and return to Opel. No need to linger,” he instructed curtly.
At the report’s conclusion, Rezette included a stark message: never send guards to Rotiara in this manner again. What Noyer would receive was his brother’s stern warning, left on the lifeless woman’s body.
With a brusque motion, Rezette deposited the coughing woman in front of the carriage, as if discarding her. Genovia’s body collided with the carriage door, causing it to teeter precariously.
Once seated, Genovia gasped for breath and clutched her throat, where the lingering traces of common magic still gripped her. Even though she had been released from Rezette’s grasp, the constricting sensation lingered.
In the midst of her agony, her vocal cords seemingly squeezed, Genovia trembled. Yet, there was an odd smile playing upon her lips.
“At last, your true nature is unveiled…. Ah, Elise. Are you watching…?”
Almost in response to her words, a faint sound emerged from the woods, resembling the scurrying of a small rabbit or mouse, hastily retreating from the scene.
Rezette’s brow knitted in suspicion. Could it be? With a swift motion, he flung open the carriage door.
But to his surprise, there was no one inside.
Genovia chuckled, despite her coughing fit.
“Ah, I should’ve seen her face…”