An idea briefly flashed through Johannes’ mind, but he quickly dismissed it.
It seemed illogical to him.
‘There’s absolutely no chance that a tiny girl like her could’ve rescued me.
Maybe I’m still not on my right mind.
It’s absurd to even consider such notions.’
He then recalled the situation again, wondering if what he remembered was accurate, and if there’s anything he might’ve remembered incorrectly.
‘No, I remember it clearly.’ Even in his partially conscious state, he vividly remembered the sensation of hands pressing against his chest and the gentle breath against his lips.
Due to the urgency of the situation, those sensations felt even more pronounced.
‘But it simply doesn’t add up.’
Johannes turned his gaze at Marie, the maid.
A testimony of seeing no one.
Hands and lips that were reminiscent of the person who saved him.
He thought it was logically impossible, but for some reason, his suspicions grew stronger.
‘Could it truly be her?’
Meanwhile, Marie swallowed a lump in her throat as Johannes continued to look intently at her.
It felt like being watched by a predatory beast.
Frustration welled up within her as she silently contemplated, ‘Why does everything seem to be going against me these days?’
Despite acquiring such miraculous ability, Marie’s life seemed to be getting increasingly complicated.
“Miss Marie.” Johannes called out to her unexpectedly.
“Yes, Your Majesty,” Marie calmly responded, hiding her anxiety.
‘I wish he’d dismiss me already.’
However, Johannes’ words that followed contradicted her hopes entirely.
“Could you please come closer to me?”
Marie’s eyes widened, nonplussed by his request.
Johannes spoke once more, his tone softening.
“Please come over here for a moment.
I need to check something for myself.”
“……Pardon?” Marie suddenly became gripped by an overwhelming sense of unease.
Johannes offered a faint smile and said, “It won’t take long.”
Marie hesitated before taking a step forward.
It felt like walking into a lion’s den.
In her heart, she longed to open the door and flee without looking back.
But how could she do that to the man in front of her?
The gentle-looking man was the Emperor of the West Empire, while she’s nothing but a humble maid.
Although he was the Emperor of another realm, if he ordered her death, then she’d be dead.
Johannes shook his head.
“A little closer.”
“More?” She was already uncomfortably close.
“Yes, just a little further this way.”
As she took a few more steps, she reached the bed where he was leaning on.
“H-Here I am.”
Unexpectedly, as Marie swallowed nervously, Johannes did something that caught her completely off guard.
He took Marie’s hand and held it!
“Excuse me for a moment.”
“Y-Your Majesty?” Marie’s heart raced within her chest.
What’s happening all of a sudden?
“W-What’s going on?”
“Just a moment, please.”
Marie was startled and tried to withdraw her hand, but Johannes refused to let go.
As he gazed at her in silence, an unreadable expression filled his eyes.
Was it the intensity of his gaze or her own embarrassment? Suddenly, Marie’s face turned crimson.
Please let go,” Marie pleaded.
Only then did Johannes release her hand.
He apologized with a remorseful tone, saying, “I’m sorry.
There’s just really something I wanted to check.”
“What is it?” She asked, struggling to maintain her composure.
Johannes smiled and replied, “Your hands looked small and pretty.
I wanted to touch them to ascertain it firsthand.” He continued, “Indeed, upon touching them, they really are dainty.”
Marie found herself rendered speechless by his words.
Rather than causing her heart to flutter, the charming words from the handsome man gave Marie the chills.
She couldn’t shake the sense that his intentions were not as innocent as they appeared.
‘Why would he suddenly take an interest on my hand?’
In that moment, Johannes once again shifted his gaze to Marie’s face.
His eyes held an inexplicable gleam—a gaze that seemed both kind and menacing.
Just as Marie’s heart was poised to tremble anew, Johannes began to utter her name.
Suddenly, with a loud bang, the door swung open forcefully!
A deep voice loomed before them.
“What… are you doing?”
“…..!” Startled, Marie lost her balance and stumbled backward.
Even Emperor Johannes of the West Empire found himself momentarily caught off guard.
What are you doing?” His voice was full of venom.
It was Rael, the Crown Prince of the East Empire, who’s glaring daggers at Johannes through his cold iron mask.
“Answer me, Johannes.”
Between Johannes and Rael, the rulers of the East and West Empires, a heavy silence hung in the air for a moment.
Marie, whose body was frozen in shock, quickly regained her composure and showed deference.
“I greet Your Highness, the Crown Prince of the Empire.”
“Don’t stay there, come this way.” Marie was taken aback by the intensity of his voice.
‘Why is he so furious?’
It’s the first time she’d seen him so upset.
She couldn’t understand the reason, but nonetheless, she hurriedly stepped back behind the Crown Prince.
Although he’s the person she feared the most, at this moment, she felt somewhat relieved, as she wanted to escape from Emperor Johannes.
‘To think that there would come a time where I’m glad to see the Crown Prince.’
The Crown Prince, after confirming that she had positioned herself behind him, spoke to Johannes.
“I heard that you weren’t feeling well, but it seems that it was all made up.”
The Crown Prince of the Eastern Empire did not use any honorifics with Johannes—the Emperor of the Western Empire—as neither empire officially recognized each other’s rule.
Emperor Johannes chuckled and replied, “It’s good to see you, Ran.
But why are you so hostile? It’s disheartening, especially since it’s been a long time since we last met.”
“How could I be pleased when an unwelcome guest is touching what’s ‘mine’?”
Johann tilted his head.
”I’m talking about the maid.
She’s mine, so why are you casually touching her?”
The Crown Prince’s declaration left everyone in the room shock.
Johannes was stunned, and Marie, the person in question, was even more caught off guard.
‘What did he just say?’ Marie thought, feeling flustered.
Of course, the Crown Prince wasn’t wrong.
As the ruler of the palace where Marie worked, she technically did belong to him.
She thought, ‘He didn’t mean anything else, right?’
Although it was worded in a way that could be misinterpreted, surely, the Crown Prince of Blood didn’t mean anything more than that.
They didn’t have a relationship that would warrant such words.
He was probably just displeased with the rival emperor touching something that belonged to his palace.
“If it were up to me, I would banish you this instant, but I’ll refrain from doing so considering your physical condition.
However, if you wish to stay in this palace, you should tread carefully.”
Johannes shrugged and replied, “Noted.”
“As soon as you regain your strength, I want you to leave immediately.”
After saying so, the Crown Prince turned around and left the room.
Marie cautiously trailed behind, keeping an eye on his movements.
Once they’d left, Emperor Johannes let out a sigh.
“Phew, that guy’s temper is the same as ever,” He murmured with a faint smile.
“It’s quite interesting though.”
The scene from earlier replayed in Johanne’s mind.
The Crown Prince had blocked his path as if protecting the maid from him.
Considering his usual character, it was a surprising sight.
‘And claiming she belongs to him? Ran has that side to him?’ But that wasn’t the only interesting aspect.
“That maid from earlier seemed suspicious as well.” He recalled the sensation of the maid’s hand.
It was almost the same size as the hand that gave him emergency treatment last night.
Was it just a mere coincidence? “Doesn’t seem like it,” Johannes murmured under his breath.
There was no evidence and it was just a hunch.
However, his intuition, honed through countless battles, often proved more accurate than any rational judgment.
“If only I’d confirmed it by feeling her lips, then I would’ve known for sure.
What a shame.
I should’ve just gone for a kiss to find out, shouldn’t I?” Johannes grinned wider.
In fact, he was on the verge of doing so.
The nervousness she felt when he held her hand was unexpectedly adorable.
Had the Crown Prince not intervened at that very moment, he wouldn’t have been able to resist the urge to confirm his suspicions with a kiss.
If I’d gone as far as kissing her lips, I would’ve lost my head.” He smiled.
The reason for the Crown Prince’s outburst was obvious.
It’s because he’d seen Johannes holding the maid’s hand through the window.
If holding her hand alone had caused such a reaction, Johannes wondered how the Crown Prince would’ve reacted if he’d stolen a kiss.
He suddenly became madly curious about it.
I originally planned to leave as soon as my strength recovered,” He spoke quietly.
“But I guess I’ll stay a little longer.”
Marie trailed behind the Crown Prince with hesitant steps.
Now that they’d both left Johanne’s chamber, it seemed like they should go their separate ways, but there was no explicit instruction to do so, leaving her in an awkward situation.
‘Why does he seem so upset?’ Marie tilted her head.
She wondered if it was because he had a conversation with the rival emperor, but that didn’t seem to be the case.
His mood remained sour even after leaving the room.
‘Nevertheless, I should probably go back now.’ She’d already spent too much time in Johannes’ chamber.
She had tasks to attend to.
And it wasn’t just about work; being alone with the Crown Prince made her extremely uncomfortable.
Although she’s grateful for his help, no matter what anyone said, he was still the object of her greatest fear.
I’m sorry, but I think I should get back to Gloria Hall now.”
Her words made the Crown Prince come to a sudden halt.
However, something was off.
She expected him to dismiss her, but he didn’t respond at all.
The Crown Prince turned his head and looked at her intently through his iron mask.
“…Your Highness?” Marie looked baffled.
After staring at her silently for a while, the Crown Prince sighed.
“You may leave.”
Marie nodded hesitantly.
Something was unusual with the Crown Prince, but she was relieved that he’d dismissed her.
‘I hope nothing happens in the future.
I don’t want to to get further involved with Emperor Johannes nor the Crown Prince,’ she thought.
As she was about to leave, a low voice caught up. “…Be careful from now on.”
Marie turned her head.
‘What did he say?’ The voice was unlike the Crown Prince’s usual tone—it was so soft, she wasn’t able to catch it properly.
She considered asking again, but the Crown Prince had already turned his back and walked away.
She tilted her head in confusion.
᠃ ⚘᠂ ⚘ ᴇɴᴅ ᴏꜰ ᴠᴏʟᴜᴍᴇ ᴏɴᴇ ⚘ ᠂ ⚘ ᠃
t/n: count shobek was right.
if u compared rael to johannes, he’s a mere inexperienced child.
the way he analyzed & made sense of what happened to him, so astute! but how disappointing, not only did johannes harass marie, he also planned on assaulting her (‘stealing’ a kiss), like that’s so nasty.
i was rooting for u, we were all rooting for u!!!! ok fine rael was also bad for acting possessive but that’s mild compared to the former !!! this is why kiel is the fan favorite smh (im the fan)
pfft, someone has a crush.
he can’t even say something so simple like ‘be careful’ right to her face.
what a dork.
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