Chapter 76.1

Elise nestled halfway into the undulating ripples of his chest. Amidst the bitter herb fragrance lingering in the air, her own scent seemed almost concealed. Rezette gently cradled Elise’s chin with his fingertips, coaxing her to lift her head with the subtle strength of his guiding hand. Leaning against the bed at an angle, he gazed wordlessly at her. From a distance, Elise’s cheek gradually warmed as she faced him.

Observing the man before her, she thought, ‘I’ve never seen him like this before.’ His typically ice-cold gaze, armed with resolute determination like a frozen lake, now bore a languid gleam. The usually neatly swept black hair, which unveiled his entire face, was partially scattered over his forehead. Rezette casually brushed aside the disheveled strands, but a few still lingered over his eyebrows, hinting at a change that intrigued Elise.

Elise had never seen him this disheveled before. Perhaps that’s why the blossoming affection between them, exploding like a burst of spring, still seemed somewhat subdued. It was not an icy barrier but a burning flame and a dizzying lightning.

Yet, Elise vaguely thought that maybe this unpolished appearance was closer to the true nature of Rezette Kyrstan. He didn’t seem like the person she usually saw. It was not an icy barrier but a burning flame and a dizzying lightning.

Rezette kept his eyes fixed on her as he turned his head to release the lingering smoke from his mouth, revealing the distinctive aroma of a bitter medicinal herb in the air.

“It’s medicinal smoke,” he stated, and Elise, eyeing the vapor cautiously, saw him lower his head, lightly brushing his lips against her nostrils.

“It’s harmless. Would you like to try?” he offered, and after a moment’s hesitation, Elise nodded. This experience reminded her of a time in a distant west region of Grandel when Andrei had procured a similar remedy for her inability to swallow anything, not even medicine. Medicinal herbs rolled in broad leaves, set ablaze, and inhaled – a practice reminiscent of what Rezette was proposing.

Inhaling the offered fragrance, Elise recognized it instantly.

“Ah, Valerian….” she murmured, familiar with the calming effects of the herb she knew well.

Elise, too, had once relied on it consistently, requiring careful consumption. This herb was the same one she had ingested by the handful during the fifteen years when she sought to end her life quickly. During that time, she confined herself to her bedroom for six months, undergoing a detoxification process.

The effects were swift. The tense and taut nerve strings remarkably eased. Despite being aware of the potential harm of overuse, Elise, in need of relief, took a few more sips.

Rezette, seemingly approving of her actions, gently stroked the back of her head. This delicate touch contrasted sharply with the man who had been rigid and unyielding just moments ago.

It was a paradox. Everything seemed contradictory.

Elise’s gaze wavered as she studied him.

Which version of him was real?

Was it the quiet and chivalrous persona he displayed? Or the raven’s nature, driven by the need for something precious and gleaming, as Genovia Irrien suggested? A merciless assassin, as the world labels him? The emperor’s relentless enforcer? The animal that pursued her relentlessly through the night?

He was a complex individual. Rezette Kyrstan had always been that way. Yet, why does even her heart struggle to comprehend and remain unsettled?

Do I resent you…? Elise wondered.

Undoubtedly, there was a hint of such a sentiment. It wasn’t solely because of his rough embrace. Initially, it had been somewhat disheartening and vexing that he remained silent about the news from the southern part of Grandel.

However, as their gazes locked in this moment, even the bitter emotions seemed to dissipate. Given that their relationship lacked a foundation of trust and loyalty from the outset, the absence of a profound sense of betrayal became apparent.

Elise scrutinized his handsome face as if it were a sculpted masterpiece, studying it for an extended period. Although Rezette merely gazed at her without uttering a word, he refrained from posing any direct inquiries. Instead, he intermittently smiled and lightly poked her left cheek, seemingly curious about the intense scrutiny she was subjecting him to.

This smile was a rare sight, one that he seldom revealed. His eyes softened, as though beholding a particularly endearing child. Despite everything, he wasn’t someone to despise, and Elise sensed a warmth creeping into her ears. 

Even though he had brought her to such a wretched state, with tears and suffering, she couldn’t harbor any hatred for him.

Was it the lingering effect of the medicinal smoke? Occasionally, he did present an impressively noble facade. Yet, a subtle sadness lingered, creating an inexplicable emptiness.



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