Did Granius change his mind because of me? Had the thought ever crossed his mind? Did he want to get rid of me?
I shook my head. Something was bothering me but I did not think this was all happening because of that. I could not place my finger on what exactly was amiss.
The Crown Prince Castor and the 2nd Prince Julian.
The relationship between the two was already in pieces.
From the beginning of the novel, Castor was already described to be a madman. That had been his identity so no one questioned why he turned out the way he did.
I hated the way <The Light of Rusbella> only began when Castor had just become the Emperor or showed scenes when he had become fully accustomed to his position.
If the novel were to introduce a madman with great presence, would it not make sense for him to have a biography? He must have been normal when he was born so why did he become a madman?
“Then I wouldn’t have to think this hard.”
Outside the novel, Castor was quite popular.
Though he was a reasonless lunatic in the novel, he was not hated. Because he was so honest and sincere in his love, people were attracted to how raw he was.
His love had been ridiculous. He had a contradicting obsession with Rusbella where he was both rough and considerate of her at the same time. His last scene as a tyrant led many to shed tears till they had a runny nose.
… What a shame.
When I lowered my head, I noticed a broken pendant. My mind was in a dazzle since I did not sleep well the previous night.
“I still have work to do.”
A year ago, entries about assassins began appearing in the diary. From that day forth, I would keep changing where I slept.
This only placed more pressure on my maids when we were already so short staffed. However, no matter how sorry I was for the maids, I had no choice even if I had to sleep in a dirty room.
Because I could not let myself get killed.
I tried to do all sorts of things to avoid being killed at night like asking Hannah to sleep together with me. Strangely enough, it seemed to have worked because I had yet to see anyone come after me.
However, something felt amiss.
It had already been a year. But the diary stated that the assassins were still after me. Even if I were very good at avoiding them, it would make more sense if I were to have met one of them by now.
‘Even if I were to sleep somewhere else to avoid it… my room should have been some signs of intrusion.’
But there were none.
As if someone was intercepting them in the middle…
“That can’t be.”
I shook my head gently.
However, a part of me was already convinced that someone else was involved.
In the end, it did not matter what I thought.
As long as I was not dying.
I was sick and tired of repeating my days.
If there really was someone or something intervening for some reason… As long as it had nothing to do with Castor and I am alive, nothing else mattered.
I placed my pen down and turned to the window. I hated this sky.
“The weather was as fine as this one on the day I died.”
Till the last day of Castor’s reign, the Empire had been blessed by the God of the Sun. Hoping for rain, I slowly lowered my head.
With a sudden gust of wind, a small seed landed on my hand.
It was a wildflower seed. This was the third floor and the window was at least eight steps away. What a peculiar situation. The seed then poked my skin as if it was using it as a nutrient to crack open and sprout.
Once the wild flower which I did not know the name of bloomed, I realised who was behind this. I unknowingly let out a smile.
It was a letter from him.
[Come find me. Immediately.]
He was calling for me.
By the time Rusbella arrived in Kaltanias, the Empire had already embraced much of the Kingdom of Walter’s culture, considering how it was such a cultural powerhouse. She had already familiar been with various parts of the Empire.
The people of the Empire would usually wear clothes that were often worn during Ancient Greco-Roman times. For women, clothes were light and more risque while for men, clothes were simple with only a layer of wrinkled cloth wrapped around them.
Some people insisted on sticking with their traditions while others preferred that of the Kingdom of Walter’s. Attires from Europe like ball gowns with puffed up skirts and suits that hugged the waist before dropping into straight trousers. I remembered how the younger generations in particular were in favour of this style which caused its own set of problems.
Because Castor, who had only cared about the Empire, had actively embraced the Kingdom’s culture after falling in love with Rusbella.
As soon as Amor saw me, he wrinkled his forehead. However, he did not make a sound and instead just mouthed his words. He seemed to be wary of anyone who might listen in.
‘We’re not alone though?’
I had rushed over but Amor was not alone. My gaze slowly shifted to the two women.
Once she saw me, the brown-haired woman widened her eyes before elegantly standing up and adjusting her gold headdress.
“Is this the lady you wanted to introduce us to?”
The lady with drooping eyes was wearing a long tunic, traditional Imperial attire, and a shawl ending at her knees.
“Of course I wouldn’t know if I were to just see her.”
At the back was another lady wearing a navy dress that matched her hair that was as blue as the Mediterranean Sea. Her hair had been twisted and tied tightly into a mesh.
Both looked to be in their early 30s while the blue haired lady looked a little younger.
I removed my eyes from the two ladies that were giving off two completely different vibes before staring at Amor.
“Brother. I’ll first give my greetings…”
I pulled the hem of my clothes slightly. But Amor pulled my hand away and I could not finish what I wanted to say before being sucked into his embrace.
“Read the room.”
He whispered softly. What? But after saying his peace, he released me from his hold.
“You look even prettier today.”
Just then, a surprisingly soft expression faced me.
“Ashley, say hello.”
He called my name affectionately and wrinkled his eyes before laughing. I was taken aback.
“I mean, shouldn’t you introduce yourself first?”
I looked at Amor and tried to ask what was going on before quickly shutting my mouth.
“She is the 8th Imperial Branch, my one and only…”
Amor glanced over before slowly opening his mouth.
His chillingly sweet voice was giving me goosebumps. When I looked up, all I saw was his sharp jawline and his long eyelashes.
“… Younger sister?”
In this atmosphere that was as thin as a fresh piece of parchment, only Amor was relaxed. The lady dressed in Imperial attire smiled softly. The lady in the dress looked uncomfortable as her expression stiffened. She even looked a little annoyed.
She soon spoke.
“So you’re saying she’s the Princess.”
“Yes. Someone whom I adore very much.”
I glanced at Amor. The more I looked at how calm he looked, the more confused I got. Under the sunlight shining through the window, his smile was dazzling. The lighting made his sky blue hair look as soft as cotton candy, making it stand out from the background.
What was going on?
Amor turned into the Amor I knew.
This was the affectionate Amor I knew from the novel… Well, I had once wanted to see him like this but not in such a fashion.
Then, Amor buried his head into my shoulders and lightly wrapped his arms around my waist.
His light voice maintained even when he was speaking softly.
“Even though I don’t say such things easily, I said I ‘adored’ her. Did you not hear me? I wanted to introduce my younger sister to you.”
His sky blue hair fluttered down. I could feel his low breaths right next to me. Though his hot breaths were tickling me, I was more distracted by his gentle pats on my back. Since I did not even understand what was going on, I could not shake him off.
His gentle breaths were alluring just like those prodigal womanisers in European movies. I could only blink at his strange behaviour.
He then grabbed his own hand and hugged my waist.
“Are you not worried about your necks?”
Amor’s voice suddenly lowered.
“Or is it because I’m not my brother, you’re treating my words as a joke?”
For some reason, the brown-haired woman was shocked and hurriedly tried to greet me.
“I-I was just surprised. I humbly ask for your understanding…”
The lady bowed her head. The headdress lowered as well and hit the ground with a clang.
“Everlasting glory to the Empire’s most precious flower.”
Her perfect manners reminded me of my own and how I had neglected my study of etiquette in favour of my survival.
“The 8th Imperial Branch of the Empire, the beautiful Princess. The wife of Duke Aventa, Leah Mirna Von Aventa, greets the flower of the Empire.”
Ah, I was not an official, I was a princess.
I laughed weakly.
The aristocracy had to mention their own families when greeting those of higher statuses. However, those were words I had not spoken in a long time since I had not studied etiquette for a while. In fact, this would be my first time giving a proper greeting officially.
“It’s nice to meet you, Honestus Aventa. I’m Ashley Rosé Auresia Kaltanias.” (1)
I gulped down.
“May the all-seeing… Jupiter look over the Family of Lions.”
The Duchess that was in the position where the sun shone most let out a friendly smile. Fortunately, I seemed to have greeted her correctly.
I could hear Amor chuckling softly in my ear.
“You did well, didn’t you?”
He smiled as he spoke.
Did he eat something wrong today? I wanted to grab him right away and ask what was going on but when Amor said something completely out of character, he felt like a different person. As if he wanted me to judge them myself.
Amor called for the woman with blue hair.
“You should introduce yourself too. You don’t want her to call you by any other name.”
He sounded as if he was treating the woman with blue hair a little differently. The way he was being uncharacteristically kind was confusing me.
The lady in the dress lowered her head before I could wonder if she had been looking at me this whole time.
“I am Alice Neber Von Nivea, the Duchess of Solletdion.”
Her movements were gentle yet elegant. Just like how she was dressed, her introduction and the way she titled herself was closer to the way Walter did things rather than the Empire.
“I-It’s nice to meet you, Duchess. Wife of Solletdion.”
The Duchess interrupted me.
“You don’t need to continue.”
“Because she’s widowed.”
The Duchess briefly raised her eyebrows at Amor’s statement but did not retort.
A widow. That meant her husband had passed away. I nodded in a daze before lowering my head.
‘Alice. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen that name somewhere before…?’
(1): not sure if the novel will explain this one day but ‘Honestus’ is latin for distinguished/honorable so you can just think of it as a form of address.