Rezette, still holding Elise from behind, avoided showing his face to her. It felt as though they had rewound time to a few hours earlier when she had hidden inside the carriage, only hearing his voice.
Effortlessly, he removed the soiled dress. With each piece of clothing slipping from her form, it felt as though one more layer of protection had vanished.
In due course, only a delicate chemise remained on Elise’s body. With a delay, unease began to tighten within her chest. Her shoulders trembled visibly as the persistent scent of blood continued to assail her senses.
Despite having just left behind a grim act, the man still exuded his customary air of cleanliness and composure. However, beneath the surface, an unmistakable hint of blood lingered in the air, casting disorienting illusions before her eyes.
Elise had only glimpsed a fraction of the lifeless figure sprawled upon the grassy expanse, yet her fear had pieced together the gruesome tableau she had not directly witnessed. The lifeless head of the individual, laid out on the verdant field, and the man, impassive as he wiped blood from his blade.
He was someone who had remained silent about the affairs in the southern reaches of Grandel for months, despite being informed. A queasiness stirred within Elise’s stomach.
Rezette embraced Elise’s vulnerable form, her attire reduced to the slender chemise. “Were you startled?” he asked. His words carried a depth of significance, though they were not intended as an interrogation. He seemed to grasp the extent of what she had encountered outside the castle.
Elise bit her inner lip and lowered her head. “I’ve heard about your methods,” she admitted.
Rezette inquired, “From whom?”
“From Lady Pettison and Alfred… Sobeul,” Elise replied.
“You’ve said enough,” Rezette cut her off.
Elise murmured, “Don’t worry about it. You did the right thing.” Her concern wasn’t for the deceased; punishing the guilty was also a master’s duty. Eradicating the impure elements early and decisively was necessary.
Rezette noticed that Elise’s response was different from her usual willingness to be close to him. She felt as rigid as a log, a noticeable contrast to her demeanor earlier in the day. The reason behind this change wasn’t difficult to surmise.
A short while ago, he had taken several lives and engaged in a discussion about the survival of Genovia Irrien and Argan’s troops. She might have even witnessed the moment when his hands had been wrapped around her throat. Therefore, Elise’s final decision was something he had personally heard only moments earlier.
“I must heed the call, no matter when, no matter how…”
Ultimately, Rezette couldn’t deny that he had fallen into the snare of Genovia Irrien, that cunning woman. She hadn’t drawn Elise in with mere falsehoods but with stark truths.
His teeth clenched involuntarily. If he had only discerned her true intentions, he would have rebuffed her earlier, refusing to provide her with any leeway. His efforts to handle the situation discreetly, shielding Elise from any knowledge, had crumbled.
“It’s…just a matter of letting go of this misguided attachment. It’s not that complicated.”
Rezette couldn’t fathom what she needed to let go. Was it about severing emotions linked to their contractual arrangement? It seemed to align with her goal of setting things right upon hearing the news of Argan’s survivors. If she believed she could sever it easily, it was a grave miscalculation.
“Rezette, actually, I have something to say…” Elise began, but Rezette wasn’t inclined to listen, and he didn’t afford her the opportunity to begin speaking.
As she lowered her head, delicately nibbling on her earlobe, Elise had to stifle her breath. The peculiar sensation and the moist touch teasing her ear sent a momentary haze over her judgment.
“Today, we agreed to do it—ah,” Elise attempted to continue speaking, but she struggled to find the right words. Rezette’s hand, which had been encircling her waist from behind, began to wander upwards. Elise hastily closed her mouth to prevent any untimely sounds.
Clad only in the slender chemise, the warmth of Rezette’s body, pressed against her back and buttocks, felt vivid and demanding. As soon as Elise sensed his desire, she bit her lip.
She needed time to gather her thoughts. She had just discovered her path, and she wanted to carefully examine her plans for the future, perhaps even ask Rezette the questions she longed to ask.
Was he truly not on her side? How should she navigate their relationship?
However, only brief, fragmented moans managed to escape her lips.
A searing pain shot through the area where the large palm clenched her tightly. Yet, it wasn’t solely pain; an unfamiliar sensation she had never encountered before rapidly coursed through her entire body.
Elise instinctively cast a quick glance downward, her breath held. Her mind emptied.
“Rezette, Rezette…” Elise repeatedly called out his name. Her voice wasn’t just perplexed but also laced with astonishment. Rezette, with his other arm securely around her waist, whispered, “As you said, Elise.”
“There was something we decided to do today.”
The smoldering embers of anticipation that had been kindling beneath the castle blazed anew.