Seeing as they weren’t wearing any gloves, their bare skin made contact with each other. It had only been brief but Lucius felt like it stretched on for much longer that he unknowingly bit the inside of his mouth.
After a while and Deatrice already walked ahead of him, the feeling of her hands on his still lingered on his palms.
A servant approached them and bowed.
“The empress asked if you would like to have some tea with her. I’ll go see you after you’ve relaxed a bit.” Then, the servant showed them where they would be staying for half a month.
There was no shortage of spacious and opulent chambers, a significant display of the emperor’s power and wealth. Their room was no exception.
But the problem is that they had only been given one room. No matter how wide the bed is, they will touch each other if they rolled over or move too much.
Lucius paid attention to mask his conflicted expression and pretend that he was unperturbed by this conundrum. But Deatrice frowned as soon as her eyes landed on the bed and turned to look at him.
Understanding the meaning behind her gaze, Lucius said quietly.
“I’ll sleep on the sofa.”
“For half a month?” She thought that the long, narrow sofa looked comfortable to sit on, but it didn’t seem like a man of his stature could lie down on it comfortably.
And yet Lucius nodded his head.
“Yes, for half a month.”
“Do as you wish.”
Deatrice showed her back to him and went behind the folding screen unreservedly.
As soon as their belongings arrived, Rosalynn and their other attendants began organizing them and swiftly brought them to the masters’ quarters where Deatrice was already waiting for a change of clothes.
Lucius saw where Deatrice had disappeared to and decided to give his greetings to the emperor before doing anything else.
The emperor was out hunting birds.
Actually, it’s a bit too artificial to call it ‘hunting’. A servant would simply hold a bird from a distance and release it when given the signal. Then, the emperor would take aim and shoot. It would be more accurate to call it ‘entertainment sports’ for crowd amusement with all those loud gunshots and hounds that are simply there as decoration.
When Lucius arrived, a dignified-looking hound stared at him judgingly, then turned its gaze back towards its master.
The emperor handed him a gun and pointed towards the field with a jerk of his head, indicating he should partake as well. Lucius bowed his head politely to show his refusal and the emperor chortled, already knowing the lad’s answer.
“Hm, you must dislike the crude scent of gunpowder on your handsome self.” he raised his eyebrows and reloaded his gun, “Your wife is waiting for you, no?”
“I do not dislike it. I simply fear that I might ruin the excitement with my inferior skills.”
Lucius answered, ignoring his question.
“Oh, enough with this gibberish.” The emperor guffawed and probed once more, “Right, are you enjoying your newlywed life?”
Lucius didn’t answer. The emperor looked at Lucius’ expressionless face and chuckled briefly, then made a gesture to a servant.
The servant raised the flag accordingly and birds fluttered towards the sky as the cages were unlatched, deafening sounds of gunfire following right after. Several light thuds were heard, and the emperor spoke as he watched his hounds bolt towards the dead birds.
“You must’ve been greatly disappointed—fighting against those beasts when you were supposed to be on leave.”
He had a slightly mischievous tone to his voice, muffled by the loud gunshots going on in the background. “Does that anger you?”
Lucius who unconsciously wanted to unbutton his clothes realized that he was in front of the emperor and lowered his hand.
“When I heard the news that you had to slaughter monsters every day, chills crawled down my spine. I know that you are a loyal subject, but even I dare not cross you when you’re mad.”
The quickest hound quickly came back, his mouth stained with blood that dripped to the ground. The emperor rubbed its head, “Worry not, I shall repay you soon enough for this inconvenience.”
Lucius stood still, but he felt an uncomfortable sensation creeping beneath his feet. Fortunately, through years of experience, flattery words seamlessly came out of his mouth like water from a spring.
“I am not disappointed, Your Majesty. It’s something I ought to do as a knight of the kingdom.”
“Oh? It’s a relief, then.” the emperor said.
But of course, he wouldn’t let him off that easily. “Enlighten me, is it worth it? Living with your new marquess? I suppose you’ve set aside your differences and have already hugged each other to sleep.”
Even as he said so, Lucius couldn’t quell the embers that were starting to burn inside him. The emperor easily noticed the change in his demeanor and smirked knowingly.
“Yes, ‘no’.” Lucius stressed.
“Good.” The amused smile remained on the emperor’s lips, but it slowly turned serious. “But if you choose to consummate the marriage, be careful. You shouldn’t have children.”
His thick fingers pulled the trigger, and a flock of birds scattered in response, smoke coming out of the gun’s muzzle. Lucius endured rounds of continuous firing until his palms were filled with sweat.
Simultaneously, Deatrice was on her way to meet the empress.
She thought Lucius would accompany her shortly after meeting with the emperor, but it seems he’d come back later than expected. Thus, Deatrice left the room, thinking she had to be there on time even if she was alone.
The way to the Imperial Palace is famous for its remarkable beauty. Open corridors overlooked the garden with masterfully carved marble statues lined up along the edges, adding to the garden’s antique look.
Because neither escort nor attendant refused, Deatrice walked slowly, enjoying the sight of the flowers in full bloom while the sun was still merciful.
Fortunately, Lucius wasn’t here. If he was, Deatrice wouldn’t have been able to do this because they’d simply bicker over the most trivial details.
As she walked, a familiar figure suddenly caught her attention.
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