TL: Zimmings, PR: Ann
“Thank you for your hard work, Your Excellency.”
<Grandrose, Duke of Pennon’s basement.>
After teleporting, Rashid Pennon emerged from the magic circle, removed his cape, and gave it to the butler.
Only Pennon’s family were permitted to use the teleportation magic circle that connected the duke’s castle, Camelie, which was located in the western part of the empire, and the duke’s residence in the capital city.
The teleportation magic circle was barely used at the castle or duke’s mansion due to how precious it was, despite the fact that it would save them time when compared to riding a horse.
“How’s the duchess?”
“She’s doing well. Does Your Excellency want to stop by right away?”
“I’m not sure.”
He didn’t know what to do. He wasn’t that interested. It’s enough that she was alive. Honestly, he didn’t care if she died.
However, he was being fickle.
Rashid sighed briefly.
His ebony hair fluttered in the wind.
It had already been 15 days since his wife fell into the river while strolling.
For a day or two, he could care about her, but on the third day he had to go to Camelie.
The Duke of Pennon’s fief was near the western border.
The mountain range on the western border was so rugged that it was isolated from the area around them.
People called the mountain range the Dragon’s Breath.
Legend has it that evil dragons in the founding myth fled to the west and built a mountain range to keep the humans from chasing them.
On the western continent beyond the border, there was a kingdom of fairies.
No living human beings have ever been there, and they also did not invade the eastern continent, so they were seperated for a long time.
Now, only the occasional flow of fairy ornaments proved their existence.
Beasts often appeared on the western border. They were called the evil dragon’s remnants.
It was rare for them to invade houses, as no one could live in areas where beasts frequently appeared.
However, the rare event has suddenly increased recently.
Rashid, as the duke who ruled over the vassals, stepped in to protect the frustrated feudal lords who had sought his aid.
Not to mention that his duties as a duke were much more important than the safety of his wife, whom the emperor gave to him.
The woman whom the emperor forced on him was a nuisance, if he was too negligent, it would be equal to disobeying the emperor, but he also had no intention of cherishing her.
Then all he had to do was treat her enough so that she couldn’t find any faults in him. Is it necessary to cherish a woman who was like a shackle to him? The decision was reasonable, so their relationship was as cold as ice.
On the obligatory visit to the duchess’ bedroom, he saw that Alyssa’ complexion was better than expected.
It was still pale, but better compared to when she lost consciousness.
“I thought you weren’t feeling well yet, but you look pretty well.”
Rashid greeted her formally.
He knew how she would answer.
He was sure that she would be flustered and apologize for making him worry.
He could imagine her clasping her hands, not knowing what to do. The blue eyes that were tinged with green would look at him with fear.
‘She’s just a normal girl afterall.’
She never really makes eye contact with him.
She was always afraid of him.
She tried to hide desperately like a rabbit being chased by a hawk.
Her fearful attitude, like the others who treated him, made her even more irritable in his eyes.
Then, he could just tell her to rest comfortably, recover quickly, and then leave. His relationship with her was simply like that.
“… Yes, it’s been a few days afterall.”
But Alyssa betrayed Rashid’s expectations.
* * *
DARKNESS settled on top of the duke’s mansion spire.
Rashid sat in the office and was checking the many documents. There was no end to the wide-ranging problems of territory and issues, even after looking at them all day.
Would he handle his duties better if he had planned for the duchy’s succession from a young age? He couldn’t undo the past, so he wouldn’t know.
Then suddenly, Alyssa’s appearance during the day came to mind.
Rashid unconsciously smiled.
Once he remembered her, he tried to concentrate on the document instead, but he kept thinking of her calm tone, sarcastic answer, and dissatisfied expression.
He was surprised when she suddenly had a nosebleed, but was relieved to hear that it’ll be okay once she rested.
Suddenly, he noticed the ring on his left ring finger. He wore it as a habit since he got married, but he felt the weight today.
What happened to the woman who was always quiet and tried to avoid him?
Rashid rested his chin on his hand as his golden eyes shone.
It was extremely rare for something unexpected to please him. But now it was very interesting that he couldn’t classify it. The rebellion without threat was fresh and surprising.
He divided the world into two parts. Yes and no, possible and impossible, O and X, good and bad, what should and shouldn’t… the last one was ambiguous, it belonged to failed missions or ones that he gave up classifying.
To him, inheriting the dukedom was possible. Killing his older brother and younger sister before, was possible as well.
It was also possible to abandon his mother on an island.
This made Rashid Pennon, the duke’s second son, the Duke of Pennon at that time.
The emperor cleared Rashid of any wrongdoing and gave him full control of the duchy. A great deal of wealth, power, and honor came into his possession.
The price for that was a firm commitment to the imperial family. The intention to strengthen control over the Duchy of Pennon by incurring debt was clear.
Use your power for the royal family, follow and serve the royal family, don’t rebel, and don’t go overboard…
The emperor’s restraint became more and more demanding, even though he’d already pledged his loyalty with blood a long time ago.
Maybe it was because he thought he was someone who could set Grandrose on fire anytime.
At first, there were protests.
However, the imperial family’s dominance over the dragon’s power was strong and stubborn.
Rashid eventually submitted to them with chains around his neck, after kneeling down at the Great War.
It doesn’t matter now.
They can do as they please.
The same was true of marrying a daughter of a count who he had never heard of before.
Rashid leaned against the chair and closed his eyes. The subtle glow of the lamp shone on him.
He liked things that could be measured. The moments that flowed as expected and did not betray his expectations were calming.
Things that didn’t, things that were beyond expectations, usually made him tired. For example, when his brother tried to kill him, his mother and sister joined the plan. It was something caused by jealousy and inferiority towards him who had the strongest dragon power.
So Rashid decided not to trust anyone.
He couldn’t trust anyone anymore.
Even those related to him by blood betrayed him, who else should he trust?
The intentions of those people who approached him were obvious.
It was disgusting to see them drooling over him, those weak bug-like humans.
Enduring it was hard. The world always let him down and life was boring.
He never hid his contempt from others, and the woman whom the emperor forced him to marry was no exception.
The duchess was a bond that couldn’t be taken off, a burden loaded with the weight of sin. It wasn’t because he wanted to, but she was someone he had to get in order to live. He just hoped that this duty would be over soon.
Rashid waved his hand and the lamp went out.
In the place where the light had disappeared, the blue night silently embraced him.
The star-studded sky slowly hid Duke Pennon’s body.
A deep, deep night ensued.
* * *
The carpet on the Imperial Palace’s hallways was as red as blood and flowers.
Rashid walked on it calmly. The emperor sat on the golden throne at the edge of the carpet, waiting for him.
The current emperor, Helios Grandia, was a tiring and troublesome man.
Ever since Rashid gained the ability to control the fire, the emperor had always wanted to know what he was doing.
The stronger his ability became, the more his obsession was.
He was so eager to keep him under control that all the women who had affection for Rashid could not surpass that passion.
“May the glory of the rose be with you. I greet the Emperor.”
Rashid knelt before the emperor. The emperor shook his arm with a grin. It was a permission. Rashid got up.
“Lord Pennon, it’s hard to see your face.”
“My apologies, I’ve been in the western border for some time.”
“I’ve heard about it. Some beast has been sighted?”
Even though it was something that happened inside the empire’s border, he talked as if it had nothing to do with him.
Rashid in response smiled slightly.
“We’ve taken the necessary steps, so it won’t be a problem for a while.”
“It’s nothing for Lord Pennon, right?”
When he answered by bowing his head lightly, the emperor chuckled. An exaggerated laugh echoed through the king’s palace.
“How’s your wife?”
Rashid knew he only cared about how he treated her.
He wasn’t even curious about her well-being.
Rashid held back sarcasm from coming out.
“She’s reserved so she doesn’t like to come out… But she’s doing well.”
“Is that so? Your wife seems to have virtues.”
“Thank you for the praise.”
“But I heard your wife had an incident recently.”
“There was a small accident, but it’s okay now.”
From what he knew, Alyssa’s maid was working diligently.
He knew it would be troublesome if she was found dead, but he let the maid do it anyway.
Those busybodies must’ve spread the rumors.
He was fed up when he remembered those people.
“That’s a relief. The empress said she misses her. It bothered me.”
“Is that so…”
Judging from her attitude, she doesn’t seem to miss her very much. What was he saying?
Alyssa only had a few friends in society. Rashid knew exactly who they were. However, it was his first time hearing that she was close to the empress. He thought it might be true, so he needed to make sure.
“Take care of her so that she won’t be lonely, isn’t she a wife who will be with you forever?”
“I will obey your orders.”
Rashid bowed his head.
That much was possible.
Rashid could easily guess the underlying meaning of the emperor’s orders.
Even if the emperor didn’t say it, he knew anyway.
He recalled his wife’s appearance.
Her coral hair, blue tinged with gray eyes, and the unfamiliar look when she was angry at his words was foreign to him, yet it strangely matched her.
It was quite strange to see her making eye contact without showing any sign of fear. She had been quiet all year, but she actually knew how to make such a vivid expression and say such a rude thing.
What more can she do in the future?
Rashid suddenly wondered about it.
Was it a temporary thing or was she hiding something behind the scene?
It was a slight curiosity that arose through the endless swamp of boredom.
Being interested in a worthless human being was unexpected of him.
Rashid felt unfamiliar with this side of his.
It was a feeling he normally wouldn’t have.
He didn’t know what made him this way.