Translator: thursdays Editor: thursdays
The servant hesitated for a moment. It had been according to the Emperor’s will that he delayed announcing Raphael’s presence.
“What are you doing.”
As Cayena stopped smiling and turned cold, the servant had no choice but to go to the Emperor’s chambers. It was better for him to inform the Emperor of Raphael’s request for an audience than it was to deal with the fuss if he dared to ignore the princess.
Raphael watched this series of events suspiciously. Though Cayena frequently acted out to get his attention, this was the first time she had actually helped him.
Was she doing this so that she could bother him again?
But Cayena seemed to act cautious after she gave the order to the servant. She seemed reluctant to even meet Raphael’s eyes.
How strange. He was usually able to read her clearly, but Raphael couldn’t sense any intent behind her action.
It was like her favor just now did not have any ulterior motives.
“Then, I’ll leave it at this.”
Cayena left the waiting room, taking her ladies-in-waiting with her. It was clear to everyone in the room that Cayena was obviously keeping her distance from Raphael.
Raphael nearly called out to Cayena. He looked at her with a slight frown as she passed by, feeling odd.
Then, one of the Emperor’s attendants called out to him.
Only then did Raphael turn away from the door through which Cayena just left.
“His Majesty is resting right now, so you will have to call on him again tomorrow,” the attendant said awkwardly.
Raphael’s retainers, who had been in the waiting room with him, were deeply angered.
“Are you telling the truth? Her Highness just left his room!”
They looked at the attendant ferociously and clenched their fists.
Raphael ordered them to cease their murderous aura.
“We are in front of His Majesty’s room. Do not raise your voice.”
To roam the battlefield meant becoming familiar with murder. The servants, who had just faced their potential deaths, sighed with relief.
They thought it was fortunate that Raphael was a gentleman, but their thought was a short-sighted illusion.
In fact, Raphael had nothing to lose from this scenario. He had a significant amount of power, and he was not interested in the quarrel over the throne.
‘Emperor Esteban should know that I am not taking a side with either faction.’
And the Emperor couldn’t be this stubborn forever.
Raphael was only being lenient now as he did not want to bother with it.
“Then, I’ll be back,” he said.
The attendant nodded his head, wiping away the cold sweat from his brow with a handkerchief.
“Yes, yes. Please come back later.”
Raphael walked out of the waiting room, but then stopped in his tracks.
Cayena had been waiting outside for him. Ah, he knew it… He had wondered why she had retreated so mildly earlier.
“As expected, the Emperor did not meet with you.”
Cayena’s complexion was still poor, not having recovered fully from the poison’s effects, but she had still stood in the hallway to wait for Raphael to come out.
What noble behavior this was. In fact, the court ladies who were waiting on her looked to be overwhelmed with shame.
Only one of her ladies-in-waiting, the one who was closest by her side, appeared unbothered.
Raphael’s gaze quickly looked around their surroundings before settling back on Cayena. But the look in her eyes was unfamiliar, somehow.
“Since it’s turned out like this, would you accompany me for a cup of tea?”
Raphael would usually have turned down her offer without a second thought. He still would have, if it wasn’t for what she said next.
“I think I could help you with some of your troubles.”
“…I don’t know what you mean by my troubles.”
Cayena’s eyes widened. “Really?” she said.
Raphael’s aides cleared their throats, enchanted as they were by her lovely appearance.
She continued, “It’s closely related to the reason you wanted an audience with His Majesty.”
‘She knows why I want to see the Emperor?’
Raphael wanted to meet with the Emperor to request military rule over the west in return for his contributions to the war two years ago. It was an authority that could only be granted to a duke, but Raphael had his reasons for wanting this.
‘She would have no idea that I’m trying to avoid pressure from my family to get married.’
It hadn’t been announced yet, but the Duke and Duchess Kedrey were in the midst of a divorce.
Raphael’s mother, Noa Kedrey, was someone who was raised to be a wife, not as the successor to the ducal line. There had been no need, as she had had two older brothers.
The previous duke had never thought that both of his sons would die in the war.
Because of that, he hurriedly welcomed Leo Francis as his son-in-law. However, Leo Francis cheated on his wife before Raphael even came of age.
Since then, he had been at odds with the proud Duchess Noa.
They had been unable to part ways because Raphael was too young to take over the dukedom, but now, they were quietly filing for divorce.
Raphael’s mother did not want to give her husband any alimony. And, considering Leo Francis’s incompetence, it was possible for Raphael to succeed as the duke immediately.
However, Raphael first had to be unanimously recognized as the next head of the household by his family’s vassals.
There was only a slight problem.
Rumors of Raphael’s sexual orientation, specifically regarding the possibility of heirs, had been secretly circulating among the vassals.
It was because he had never even held a woman’s hand in his 23 years of life.
Nobles who wanted to use him had pushed women into his bedroom, but Raphael had coldly turned them away.
This rumor had reached Raphael’s mother’s ears as well. She had been pushing him to marry in order to dispel the scandalous and groundless rumors that had attached themselves to her son.
Raphael did not want to marry, though, so he wanted to ask the Emperor to recognize his military conquest over the western territory, an honor that would only be granted to a duke.
Raphael thought that with that authority, the vassals would acknowledge him as the next head of the household.
How could Cayena help him with that?
But Raphael could feel weight that he had never seen before behind Cayena’s blue eyes.
He had a strong intuition that he should accept Cayena’s invitation.
“Thank you for the invitation.”
Raphael approached Cayena’s side to escort her, and Cayena placed her hand on his arm.
“I’ve got just the tea for the occasion. I think it’ll suit your tastes.”
Cayena conversed with him nonstop without saying anything of substance.
On the surface, it seemed that Cayena had only made another attempt to interact with Raphael, as she always did.
But something was strange.
Cayena often talked rudely in her speech. She ignored common courtesy and talked about sensitive issues, asking bluntly about marriage, property issues, and such. But now, she was talking about the weather, standards for tea leaves, and how to make delicious tarts—though where she had learned the recipe, he had no idea.
‘Is she trying to lighten up the conversation?’
Looking at the relaxed countenance of her ladies-in-waiting, Raphael was convinced of it.
Cayena came to a stop at the garden on the path to her palace.
“The sun feels nice today, so I’d like to drink tea in the garden,” she said.
“I’ll go prepare it now, Your Highness.”
Cayena dismissed all of the ladies-in-waiting except for Vera.
“Now, I suppose we should finish discussing what I had mentioned.”
Raphael thought of what she had said earlier about his troubles.
What sort of solution would the princess come up with?
Cayena opened her red lips.
“Since my lord is at that age, your family must be fussing over your marriage, correct?”
Raphael started to think that she was going to say something deluded again, like proposing to him.
It wasn’t just that he was personally reluctant to marrying her. It was also that he didn’t want the Imperial family and the Kedrey duchy to merge. Both were already too powerful, and it would be difficult to make sure that the interests and power of the two families remained separate.
“You already have a marriage partner, yes?”
“A marriage partner?” Raphael was confused.
“Ah,” Cayena said, covering her lips. “Is it that you don’t know yet…?”
“…What do you mean?”
Cayena smiled brightly.
“Then, I can tell you something useful about your marriage partner.”
The Kedrey duchy was the ruler of the western part of the Empire. The militant family was the only one in the Eldaim Empire that had nearly enough power to rival the Hill family.
As such, the family’s only son, Raphael, was like a highly coveted fruit.
Cayena smiled at Raphael, who seemed sour about the concept of marriage. She wasn’t sure if he knew of his own worth.
‘How typical of the male lead.’
While reading the novel, Cayena had learned about why Raphael had never courted anyone before. He simply didn’t feel affection toward anyone. The words “attachment” and “affection” were merely uncomfortable annoyances to him.
People said that Rapahel was well-mannered, but it was more due to a mental disorder than his personal disposition.
“A noble daughter who would be suitable as the lady of the house…”
Cayena’s face turned pensive for a moment, as if she was trying to recall.
“There’s Dolores Avon, for one.”
In the novel, that young lady had actually sent a portrait of herself to Raphael’s home.
“She’s very skilled at embroidery and playing the piano. But she faints at the sight of blood—what will she do in the rough western lands? It isn’t as if you can simply leave your wife behind in the capital.”
Also, who knew what would happen if he married a complete stranger? She moved onto another candidate.
“Rita from the Brukin family may be a better fit, in that case, as she once trained as a knight. Unfortunately, she lacks knowledge and wisdom. She’s also rather violent.”
Raphael quickly realized what both women had in common right away.
“Both are from powerful families that have yet to choose a side with a successor for the throne.”
Cayena smiled and praised his intuition.
“As expected, Lord Kedrey is very clever.”
Cayena calmly regarded Raphael, who was older than her, as if he were her younger sibling. Everyone was speechless, at a loss for words. But this attitude suited Cayena, strangely enough.
“Furthermore, these are all women whom you will be able to marry within two years.”
Raphael focused on the ‘two years.’
‘Cayena’s coming-of-age will happen soon, but she’s recommending different marriage candidates?’
Maybe this meant that she did not want to marry him anymore.
Raphael began to find this conversation quite interesting.
 There are different ways to interpret this: Raphael may have been perceived as gay or asexual. The original text is unclear on this matter.
 Though unidentified, the disorder in question may be ASPD, or antisocial personality disorder. You can tell by its English name that it does, in fact, have to do with one’s personality—but, well, we probably shouldn’t look at webnovels for medical accuracy.
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