The Empress Returns - Chapter 17
Her blue eyes shimmered with determination as she moved. She was only stabbing a branch through the air, but her movements were so practiced she might as well have been holding a blade. Even amidst the pitch-black night, her form radiated brightly.
Lustian continued to study her from his hiding place, his pale skin making him difficult to spot. As he watched her dance elegantly beneath the moonlight, the pit of his stomach grew warm.
‘She’s not a princess but a female swordsman… So, does this mean the Koronis Kingdom sent a fraudulent candidate?’
Come to think of it, everything he had observed about her was suspicious. From the beginning, she hadn’t expressed any fear towards him whereas others couldn’t even stand straight in his presence. Hadn’t she even jumped into the river to save him? Was she really not a princess? The King of Koronis could not possibly have been so bold as to send a fake, especially considering how they had just been so brutally defeated… Did they really mean to experience the empire’s wrath once more?
‘Is she a princess? Or is she someone else? If she isn’t who she says she is, then what shall I do? Should I expose her publicly then strip her and send her away?’
For defying imperial decree and insulting the Arpen Empire’s long-standing tradition, she needed to be disgraced and have her crimes exposed in front of the masses. They had to make an example out of her for making light of the empire, and public humiliation was the best way to get a message across.
Yet, as soon as he imagined that scenario, his blood began to boil. A sense of bloodlust welled up deep inside him at the thought of anyone daring to ridicule or even approach her. His thirst for violence grew so strong that if anyone were to walk within reach right now, he would cut out their tongue and slice their head from their neck. He would gouge out their eyes for daring to lay their gaze upon this white goddess, and then he would have their corpses thrown in Judith River.
Upon realizing how his mind was quickly spiraling out of control again, Lustian grit his teeth furiously. The energy around him crackled as he was overcome with an intolerable rage born from hatred. Hatred for the god and for his ancestors who passed down this terrible curse that so strongly controlled him.
But, at the sight of Viola, his thoughts briefly calmed.
Lustian approached as if she were luring him toward her. He hid his presence as he neared her, so when she finally noticed him, she staggered backward in bewilderment.
“Ah!” she stifled a scream. “You scared me!”
Viola’s eyes widened considerably. In that moment, Lustian discovered that even yellow skin could turn deathly white.
“Men are not allowed in the Royal Villa,” Viola said, eyeing him warily.
“I know,” Lustian smiled innocently, “but I was just floating in the water. The current seemed to take me all the way here.”
Since he had no obligation to reveal his real identity to a princess whose own identity was in question, he felt comfortable telling her a bold-faced lie.
Ever since the night they met on the river, he could not get her out of his mind. She was a princess who constantly bothered his thoughts. This fixation confused him.
Viola’s nervousness was apparent. Perhaps she was flustered from being discovered. As she chewed her lower lip, he could see something red between her shapely, glossy lips. Lustian’s eyes were unconsciously drawn to her mouth. Her pink tongue was briefly visible through her parted lips.
He hadn’t even planned to touch her, but his hand seemed to move toward her chin all by itself. Was he acting on the urge to see her tongue again? Or was he just curious, for whatever reason?
As his fingers gently traced the outline of her lips, Lustian felt a tingling sensation radiating from beneath his torso. An exhilarating feeling quickly spread from his stomach to his lower body which hardened in response to the excitement. Then, he was suddenly pulled from his reverie for the second time that day and was surprised to find her pointing her branch at his chest.
“Are you crazy?” Viola narrowed her eyes at him in warning. “As if sneaking in here wasn’t enough, you’re now trying to lay your hands on me? Your actions are putting us both in danger.”
Lustian smirked. She was turning out to be quite the impressive woman. She knew exactly what her position was and where she stood in the hierarchy of the palace. He was entranced by the fire burning behind her clear irises, and he felt the urge to tease her a bit longer. How surprised would she be when she finds out that he is the crown prince? He was looking forward to their first night together and fulfilling the last hurdle of his duties… A joyful smile hung on Lustian’s mouth.
“Those who have permission may enter this place,” he said.
“I’m the Commander of the Royal Knights. I have the second-highest position in the empire, only below the royal family. ”
“… Sounds like you’re not just a commander.”
“You’re right. I’m not.”
She looked at him dubiously, and he also took a moment to consider how strange his words must have seemed to her. Lustian laughed. He was standing before her, having come out of nowhere soaked from head to toe, so it was understandable she didn’t believe his saying that he had such a high ranking status.
Viola leveled the branch at his chin this time. Instead of being intimidated, Lustian found her glare very cute. He could tell she had no clue how strong he was since he was hiding his strength. Should he release some of his energy, just to give her a taste of it? He wondered that for a bit but decided that he liked how their interactions were right now.