Chapter 85.1

It was too late for Elise to feign sleep. She hurriedly whispered through the doorway, her voice tinged with urgency, “For now, Barnon, go home. And in the future, don’t venture so perilously close to the Archduke. His wisdom surpasses what you can fathom.”

Elise moved to shut the door swiftly, but Barnon intercepted, gripping the doorknob from the other side.

“Stay away? We’re exploring ways to extract you from Rotiara, Elizabeth. Even if it means plunging into full-scale war with him….”

“Don’t be absurd. I can’t bear to lose anyone else.”

“Then you’ll be at his mercy for years! I won’t leave you stranded in enemy territory, and the Emperor doesn’t wish for that either!”

“I don’t care. Just knowing Andrei is alive is enough. I’ll find a way out.” Elise clutched the delicate personal shawl draped over her chair. “You mentioned a connection between Andrei and me. There must be a solution, and I’ll explore every avenue. But once the investigators return, I want you and your brother beyond the borders of Van Yela as swiftly as possible.”

She closed the door without waiting for Barnon’s response, shutting out his desperate calls from the other side. Swiftly, she turned to the opposite door, determined to buy him enough time to descend safely. Pulling her shawl tightly around her, Elise stepped into the dimly lit hallway, only to encounter a man already halfway up the stairs.

Rezette’s eyes widened at the sight of the disheveled Elise.



Elise rushed towards him, embracing him around the neck before he could ascend further. The step provided the perfect vantage point to bury her face in him.

Fortunately, the search hadn’t yielded significant results. Ruben and Isaac, stationed on the first floor, caught their master’s gaze and hurriedly exited.

Rezette gently stroked the back of her head as he held her.

“You’re not sleeping,” he muttered.

“I woke up a little while ago, and you weren’t there. I panicked and went searching for you… I didn’t mean to cause another accident.”

“I didn’t mean to blame you.” Rezette’s tone softened from earlier in the evening, and he turned his head to kiss Elise’s ear. “Our work is finished. Let’s head back inside….”

Just then, the disconcerting sound of something crashing echoed through the room.

The sudden tumult sent a shiver down Elise’s spine, her senses heightened with dread. Rezette’s brow furrowed in concern.

Before Elise could voice her unease, Rezette decisively pulled her away, flinging the door open. The room, exposed to the howling wind through the wide-open window, displayed the aftermath of a chaotic scene with something splattered on the wooden floor.

The open window creaked ominously, broken vases scattered across the table and floor like a macabre tableau.

As Rezette surveyed the disarray, Elise found it difficult to catch her breath. Her eyes darted to the corner, where just minutes ago, she had been conversing with Barnon. A side table, pushed aside to open the door, remained neglected, and the curtains’ hems were disturbed.

Just as Rezette was about to shift his attention to the window, Elise threw herself into his arms.

“I-I want to sleep.”

With no time to choose her words carefully, Elise rose on her heels, pressing her lips to his. Their kiss was a brief connection, the proximity heightened by his shorter stature.

“I had a dream… a nightmare. I don’t want to go to sleep alone again. Can’t you stay with me until morning, like you did yesterday?”

The urgency to keep him from turning away consumed Elise’s thoughts. She swallowed nervously, her plea escaping her lips.

“Hold me, now, please.”

Doubt clouded his blue eyes, creating fractures like a fragile glass wall.

“You want a hug?” Rezette asked.

“Yes, because I’m cold…”

“You’re cold…”

“I’d like you to warm me up, won’t you…?” Elise already knew Rezette wouldn’t refuse. The man let out a resigned sigh.

“Do you realize how demanding you can be sometimes?”

Lowering his lips, Rezette gently kissed the bridge of her nose. The nape of her neck tensed, as if her lips might be devoured in a passionate embrace.

With a firm grip on her waist, he lifted her and laid her on the bed. But before the back of her head touched the pillow, her body jerked to the left. Elise, now with her face buried in the pillow, let out a small scream and clutched at the sheets.

Oh, no…!

Attempting to lie on her stomach, perhaps to keep her bruised back and butt off the bed, she found herself in an awkward position she hadn’t yet grown accustomed to. Unable to see his reaction from her prone position, she was apprehensive about the drawn curtains hiding any telltale signs.

“How many times have I told you I don’t like it like this,” she protested.

“It’s also one of your favorite things to do.”

“I don’t…!”

“I’ve already told you many times that there’s no point in lying to me.”



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