It would be infinitely better to be punished directly by the countess’s wickedness. Making up her mind, Emma faked a pitiful face, and turned her gaze downwards. Then, she spoke towards Cleve.
“I wouldn’t dare ignore your sincerity, sir,” she softly said. “However, I want to be taught how to drink properly by a senior noble, so I hope you will be generous. May I? I beg of you.”
“…if that is what you mean, Miss Herman,” he replied. Cleve took a step back with a bitter look on his face.
The one whom Emma wanted to receive a drink from was none other than Countess Karina, and Cleve had nothing else to say since she was the master he was serving.
“Thank you for understanding.”
After Emma slightly bowed her head to him as courtesy she walked straight between the tables. Looking unshaken, she made her way to the top where the countess was seated.
“I ask you to please be generous with my learning. Lady Karina.”
Karina’s eyes squinted disapprovingly as she watched Emma courteously lift the hems of her dress. Her cold, green eyes studied Emma, like the sinister look of a snake staring at a baby mouse. Earlier, Countess Karina had planned to accuse Emma of being a loose and l*wd woman. Since her plan had backfired, she must feel annoyed. Yet, Emma knew Karina had to be vigilant because there were many people watching.
She put on an elegant mask as usual as the sides of her mouth twisted upwards. “All right. Since I started it first, I guess you’ll be taught by me. I almost completely forgot about it; thanks for reminding me,” she said almost dully.
After those chilly words, Countess Karina snapped her fingers at a servant for a fresh bottle of wine to be brought to the table. “Shouldn’t I pour this new bottle in clean glasses?” she said. “Ahh, I ought to since you’re new to this.”
Scarlet-colored wine flowed from the bottle the servant had opened. In only a few seconds, Countess Karina’s empty glass was now full.
“Okay. Drink,” she said.
“Thank you,” Emma replied.
Emma bent her knees slightly as she received the glass from her. Thankfully, the glass was only one-third full, so she didn’t spill it. This alcohol, however, was coming from the countess, whose intention was twisted. Emma couldn’t tell what Karina had done in advance, but judging from Karina’s proud expression she could see that she had done something to the drink.
The moment she nervously placed the wine glass on her lips, Emma realized her hunch was right. The deep aroma was much different from the usual scent of wine; this was something she’d already smelled before.
For a brief second, Emma glanced up and studied Countess Karina’s complexion. She was watching Emma with interest, twisting the corners of her red lips with a sullen face. The entire dinner hall kept an eye on Emma’s every move. A bottle had been opened for her sake, so Emma couldn’t just back off easily or hope for some stroke of luck.
She set the glass back on the table after downing it in one gulp. Karina clapped her hands elegantly, a posture that couldn’t be easily imitated. The pretentious smile on her face was brimming with satisfaction.
“Good job. I hope you continue to lead a life full of fine drinks,” she commented.
Emma stepped away from her after expressing courtesy. Then, Karina leaned back her chair, her expression that of concern. “Now that you have succeeded at your first glass, take your time and enjoy the next one,” she said, her voice sounding almost like a ghost in Emma’s ears.
Emma looked calm, walking towards her original seat, but deep inside, her knees trembled and her ankles were weak. It felt as if she were walking on a cotton ball. Her head was spinning and everything in front of her was white. However, she didn’t try to show it as she calmly sat down.
She tried her best to show off a composed attitude, straightening her back and clamping her fists over her knees, but her insides, which had already reacted to the strange concoction, felt as if shaken up as if there was a strong storm inside her. The burning energy that began to accumulate in her body gathered under her navel. She trembled slightly at the unpleasant sensation that began to bloom. It didn’t stop there.
Countess Karina was merciless with her enemies.
Emma squeezed her hands together. The heat rose from under her collar bone, filling the back of her nose. She felt herself lose breath, her forehead heated up. Hot blood circulated quickly through her veins and spread all over her body. When she pressed down on her chest, she could feel her heart beating rapidly. Her palms were already soggy with sweat, as if trying to cool her heated body. Her spine tingled.
‘The concentration of the alcohol is strong.’
It was the same concoction from the cabin. The sweet and subtle scent that she had tasted there last time was expertly mixed into the wine. As if it’d been prepared for times like this. A subtle heat soared between her thighs, her stomach gurgled. Thump. Thump. Her heartbeat beated erratically despite remaining stationary. The sound of her pulse echoed in her ears.
‘I can’t believe she would stoop so low…’
Emma clenched her jaw in agony. Countess Karina’s hand was as evil as the infamous fairy in the Perrigans, who was said to have been good at fooling humans.
‘…this is hard.’
As she was biting her lower lip, the hot breath inside her mouth heated her inner cheeks. It seemed like the heat was hovering even right below her eyes. While she was struggling to control her body that was burning inside, three knights, whom the countess was glancing at, began to talk to Emma frantically.
“Miss Herman, how was the alcohol Lady Karina gave you?”
“It really is a precious bottle of alcohol.”
“Have you dropped by the wine cellar in the basement? The mood there is amazing. Perhaps because of the cool temperature, the place makes me feel calm. It’s a good spot to enjoy a drink or two.”
“Why don’t we go to the winery together and celebrate your first drink today, madam? Lady Karina will permit us.”