Early the next morning she woke up and with a determined heart, she found herself heading to the woods… to the Tiger Forest. It was before daybreak, so the scene outside was dim, but she was able to find the place from yesterday without having to wander around too long.
Despite calling out in a small voice, her voice echoed through the dense forest thanks to the stillness all around. She could still feel Belcansus’s chilly morning weather even though she had on a thick coat.
“I am curious about something, Cobalt.”
A white fog-like condensation rose from her fine lips, and the sharp branches on the ground made a crunching sound with every step she took.
“Are you still here?”
There was a clear limit to the scope of the single small lantern she carried. Chesney hovered around the trees as she shined her way. However, she saw not a single life, except for the occasional small animals that had scampered away.
She was about to leave when suddenly, a voice stopped her in her tracks.
“What on earth kind of question do you have to ask this early in the morning?”
A presence she hadn’t felt instantly approached her from behind and pulled her back. Tilting his head down, Cobalt put his lips in Chesney’s blond hair. She was startled that she almost dropped her lantern.
“Don’t be like this. Let me go!”
As soon as she was embraced by the arms of the man who was not her husband, she quickly turned around and shoved his face with one hand. Then, she bolted away, not giving him another chance to touch her.
When she gained her distance, she managed to say, “What did you mean when you said that I am your mate?”
She thought that it might have had something to do with White’s still not coming back after the first night. No, she was hoping that it did, because she couldn’t accept that he had left her since she hadn’t been able to satisfy him during that night.
“Don’t you know that you have two mates?”
“Huh? What do you mean…?”
“Well, he couldn’t have told you that. Because then he would’ve had to give you a choice.”
There was nothing difficult to understand about Cobalt’s statement. Chesney, however, couldn’t understand a word he just said. This word mate, it was weird and suspicious. Was it because on the continent of Finn they used mateinstead of bride? Chesney knew that sometimes in mountainous areas, married couples were referred to as mates, but it was mainly used by non-human races, including elves.
“I didn’t marry you; on top of that we met for the first time ye—”
Cobalt, who gently squeezed Chesney’s jaw in his hand, gave her no chance to escape as he planted his lips onto hers.
She stood frozen in fear as soon as he pressed his soft lips and pushed his tongue into her mouth. The unusual act of swapping tongues was just as shameful as what had happened on her first night with White after their wedding.
Her demanding voice was drowned out by Cobalt’s lips and tongue. He pulled her head in harder as they both slowly kneeled to the ground.
When their lips released for a second, she turned her head as she blocked her mouth with both hands. The rising morning sun shined blissfully on her red face.
“Don’t tell me this is your first kiss,” said Cobalt.
Chesney closed her eyes for a moment to hide the tears forming in her big eyes, then she tried to hold her breath, but it seeped out. Her husband, who had touched her body without kissing once, was resentful and cruel.
“Does he not do this or anything?”
Pulling himself up first, Cobalt extended a hand to her. Chesney disregarded the helping hand and stood up herself. Then, he laughed at her as his hand retracted back to his side.
“I’m going to love you forever,” he said, tapping her shoulder and passing by her. Chesney, who could still taste the warmth of his lips, tried her hardest to suppress the urge to look back at him.
“Come by anytime.”
The man’s voice echoed in her ears.
The day had brightened up, but on the bed, there was only a small stranger lying down. Chesney stood up like a string puppet, then she went to the bathroom to splash her face again and again with the flower-scented water that’d been prepared by some royal servants. It wasn’t that she couldn’t wake up. She just felt like her feet standing on the floor and her head were sinking somewhere.
“Good morning, Your Majesty. Breakfast is—”
“Where is Emperor White?”
“I think he went out early this morning.”
It was a lie. Chesney had been awake until right before daybreak, so if White hadn’t come in by then, when in the hell did he come back and leave again?
“You don’t have to make breakfast.”
Verbally pushing the servants away, she shuffled her way toward the closet filled with her husband’s clothes. Just like the empty side of the bed, there was no sign of him being here.
Chesney changed into an old dress from her previous home that she’d never worn and wandered around the palace aimlessly. An unfamiliar life abroad, the imperial family who didn’t give anything to the Empress, evasive servants who couldn’t answer anything unless it was something essential, an unusual man who claimed to be her mate, and the strange kiss with that man. And last, the husband who hadn’t returned after the first night. Chesney’s head throbbed so bad it felt numb.
“Your Majesty, is everything okay?”
When she stumbled, a servant came running to her for help.
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