Scarlet and luminous blue eyes reflected each other’s faces.
A quiet, unfamiliar silence breezed in again.
Raytan’s breath that drifted over her face felt warm. It seemed to come a little faster than usual and slightly shake.
Sezh faced Raytan with a blank expression. The crimson eyes staring at her had a different hue from usual: they didn’t hold their usual serenity. Somehow, his eyes looked murky, like an unfathomable night sky.
Then, a large hand gripped her slender waist.
The flower fell from Sezh’s hand. The torn petals reflected in her blue eyes. She couldn’t understand it, but it felt like her pounding heart had fallen to the floor instead.
Then… A strong wind blew all of a sudden.
Surprised, Sezh let out a small scream. Raytan looked outside the greenhouse with narrowed eyes. Through the greenhouse glass, they could see the snow tumbling through the air with the howling wind.
"It snowed all day… and now the wind is blowing."
Raytan muttered a little, but Sezh only looked down at her hands without saying anything.
‘But I… did not intend to do that.’
It was the same.
It was the same as the wind that broke the window the day the coup took place.
‘So even then… It was also me…’
Something was strange. Sezh would always use her hands to create the wind since that’s how Eton taught her…
After using magic that way, she would always feel the heat at her fingertips. However, that didn’t happen now. Her whole body felt hot, as if she had used all parts of it to create the wind.
And now dizziness attacked her like what happened that day.
Sezh closed her eyes tightly and then opened them.
"Sorry, I’m sorry. You already told me to be careful…"
Sezh hastily removed herself from Raytan.
"As expected, it’s better for me to stand. I’m also heavy…"
"…I don’t mind," Raytan answered in a cracked voice.
"Sit again. You’re not heavy at all. And if you lose your balance again, it’s okay. I will hold on to you again."
‘That’s it… That’s exactly why…’
Sezh pressed down her true thoughts and swallowed the words.
She was truly bewildered and didn’t know where to rest her eyes. The blue eyes that had lost their way flickered to and fro.
"Your face is red."
"Do you have a fever?"
Raytan touched Sezh’s forehead with his other hand, and she flinched without realizing it.
In the past, Sezh would flinch whenever Raytan approached her like this. However, the reason why seems to have changed. She was scared, thinking that Raytan would be able to hear the sound of her beating heart.
‘I didn’t commit a crime, so why…’
Sezh couldn’t find the answer.
"I don’t think you have a fever. Are you cold?"
"No! I’m okay," Sezh replied determinedly.
But Raytan took off his cloak and put it on Sezh’s shoulders. It was the cloak she had given him in the past, and it was covered with Raytan’s scent: the scent of wet grass leaves. It felt familiar but also strange at the same time.
When Sezh didn’t respond, Raytan squinted at her. Sezh, who sat absent-mindedly, focused back on Raytan in surprise. What caught her eye was his necklace: the ruby necklace she gave him as his birthday present long ago.
"That necklace… you’re still wearing it."
"…It doesn’t bother me. And now I feel like my neck is empty without it," Raytan said as if making an excuse.
"But there are many other prettier necklaces. Oh, right, since Brother is a man… Not a pretty necklace, but a cooler necklace…"
She was embarrassed that Raytan, the Emperor, was wearing her humble gift.
"And also the cloak… Of course, I’m happy, but since you’re the Emperor now…"
"There must be something you can wear that’s better than that."
"I like this."
"I’m fine with these. This necklace and cloak. I don’t need anything else."
In response to his unyielding answer, Sezh only blinked, unable to find anything to say. At the same time, Raytan stared at her and then touched her nape.
"Can I buy you a necklace?"
"You are not requesting anything. It’s okay if it’s not a necklace. It doesn’t matter if it’s any other accessories. Whatever you want…"
"It’s- It’s okay. If I demand something expensive like that… I don’t think I’ll be comfortable. I will be anxious about losing it."
"If you lose it, I can buy it for you again."
"Can you stop worrying about that kind of thing? You can even fill your palace with jewels if you want."
He was a great man. Seeing as such a wonderful garden was created in a day just because Sezh said she likes flowers.
Sezh shook her head.
"I’m truly okay with everything I have. I’ll let you know if there’s anything I’d like to have later. For now, this garden is enough."
Sezh didn’t need those gems. In the past, she secretly stole Yerena’s jewels to secure a way out of the Imperial Palace, but now things have changed. Besides, she didn’t have the personality to delight in luxuries like Yerena or Lillian. Sezh thought that what she had in the present was enough.
"…Alright. We have plenty of time ahead of us," Raytan smiled lightly. "Anyway, as of now, you’re in charge of caring for this garden."
"Because you are the owner. If you don’t have enough workers, I’ll hire someone. So you don’t have to worry about that."
Honestly, it was just a mere excuse.
This garden was just behind the palace where Raytan lived. Sezh would need to visit this place often to keep the flowers from dying. Also, even if he doesn’t go to Sezh’s palace or she doesn’t come to his, there will still be a lot of encounters between them.
And, if Sezh spends her time gardening… Correspondence with Mathias Kareem will also decrease. At least, that’s what Raytan believed.
"Okay, I’ll try my best. It’s the first garden I’ve ever owned…" Sezh nodded without knowing anything about Raytan’s thoughts.
After some more time passed, the two of them left the garden.
On their way back, Raytan and Sezh walked hand in hand. Sezh got flustered again but didn’t shake off Raytan’s hand this time. Nevertheless, her heart raced uncontrollably. It beat so loudly she could hear the pounding in her ears.
Fearing that she might create another strong wind, Sezh had difficulty calming her trembling heart. And before she knew it, they had already reached the front of her bedroom.
"Get a good night’s sleep, Sezh."
Sezh took off her cloak and started to lay down on the bed. She then glanced at Raytan.
‘Today… is he going to sleep here again?’
Sezh was worried that Raytan would ask to lend her legs again.
It wasn’t because she was afraid. It’s just… For some reason, if these days continued, Sezh felt like she would fall ill.
Yes, not Raytan, but her since it seems her heart problem would continue in the future.
Raytan approached the bed and carefully tucked the blanket over her. Sezh covered half of her face with it and stared at him.
‘Is he just going today?’
As if he had already read her mind, Raytan parted his lips with a small sigh.
"I’m sorry, but I have to go back today. There are still unfinished things to do."
"It’s not something… to be sorry about."
But Sezh still nodded anyway.
"Of course, people won’t get sick just because of a narrow bed, so don’t worry about that. If you’re really worried, feel free to ask me to change it to a bigger one."
"And didn’t you see the wind blowing earlier? Don’t leave the window open. There might be a blizzard."
Only after making sure the window was closed did Raytan begin to walk towards the door.
"Good night, Sezh," Raytan said while looking back at her.
"Good… night," Sezh replied softly.
Soon the door opened and closed, and only Sezh remained in the bedroom.
The sound of footsteps echoed through the empty hallway.
Sezh guessed that Raytan would leave her palace and return to his chamber in the Emperor’s residence, but she got it wrong.
The dark hallway Raytan currently walked through was a secret passage that connected the Emperor’s palace to Sezh’s bedroom, that is, to Lize’s palace. On the day he had a strange dream, Raytan used this passage to visit Sezh.
There seemed to be more secret passages like this one, including the passage Sezh used to escape when the coup happened.
Anyway, it was ironic. Raytan couldn’t believe he was now using the secret passage that the Emperor had built to invade Lize’s privacy.
"… Ha," Raytan sneered.
‘Thank you, Brother. I’m really happy.’
Suddenly, Raytan recalled Sezh’s words and her bright smile. A faint smile appeared on his face, replacing the previous stone-cold expression.
‘I didn’t know… that you’d be so happy…’
He wanted to make Sezh smile like that as much as possible in the future; he wanted to let Sezh enjoy things that she’s never had before, and he wanted to give Sezh things that she never thought she would have in her hands.
He will always have her by his side.
Raytan then strode away. He reviewed all the things he hadn’t finished yet in his mind. Things he had to tell to do Philip separately, and the ones he had to see to by himself…
Raytan’s gaze, which had landed on the front door of his bedroom, suddenly switched to the innermost corner of the secret passage.
There was a door that he had never encountered before…
Instead of stepping closer to his bedroom, he moved to the door.
‘But there should be nothing in this direction.’
Raytan pushed the door with a puzzled look.
The unlocked door swung open with a squeaky sound.
The door turned out to not bring him to another passage but a small room. However, all he could see was darkness. Raytan approached the window and moved the dusty curtain aside. The twilight moon quickly poured into that small room.
Raytan then looked back again.
And… his body instantly froze.