༺ Sentence ༻
“What’s the meaning of this?”
“Pl-Please, I’m begging you… Just once… Please just hold my hand this one time.”
Clana desperately extended her hand out to me.
Her current figure seemed to overlap with how she was during my Ordeal. I recalled her hand that had become disfigured after she had repeatedly slammed it against the table.
Upon further inspection, her hand was in quite a mess right now as well. Judging from the bloodstains smeared across the floor and the handrails, she must have smashed her hand somewhere.
“What’s this? Are you trying to act like a child right now?”
“Yes… I’ll behave like a child… so please…”
My heart wavered as I saw Clana desperately beg me with her shivering body, but I resolutely clenched my teeth and tried to give her the cold shoulder.
There had only been one other instance where I had felt myself falter so much, and it was at the beginning of the previous timeline. I suppose witnessing Clana’s broken stature in the Ordeal had indeed affected me significantly.
“Oh my, what are you two doing out here by yourselves?”
As I was hesitating, I heard someone’s voice mixed with a tinge of laughter, calling out to us.
When I turned around in surprise at the voice, I saw the First Imperial Princess standing there with a smile on her face.
“Let’s chat for a moment?”
After accepting her invitation for a private conversation, I turned around to see Clana hurriedly trying to get back on her feet.
Clana momentarily stopped moving and then just plopped back down onto the ground as she heard my cold command.
The First Imperial Princess let out a soft chuckle as if she couldn’t hold back her laughter any longer and then proceeded to walk out the door with light-hearted steps.
“What’s this all of a sudden now? Didn’t you already finish your business with me when we met in the room before?”
“Oh… I just felt like praising you once more after I heard that girl surrender.”
We eventually arrived at a secluded hallway, and I looked on calmly as the First Imperial Princess turned around to face me again.
“Frey… Truth be told, I really didn’t expect much from you. I thought that even you would find it difficult to break down that strong-willed girl.”
“I would’ve been content even if you had only hindered her from the side, but… pfft!”
The First Imperial Princess seemed as though she was enjoying herself as she let out another peal of laughter. She then put a hand on my shoulder and whispered.
“I never thought you’d be able to completely subdue that unruly girl who’s constantly been a thorn on my side.”
The corners of her lips lifted to form a smile.
“She persistently used to glare at me venomously without knowing her own place time and time again. Yet, to think that I would see that same girl tremble at your orders like an obedient dog… it was truly exhilarating to watch.”
“…Thank you for the praise.”
“So, I will ask you this Frey… What do you think about becoming mine?”
“Yes, I wi… What did you just say?”
I had been absentmindedly answering her questions while letting her words in through one ear and out the other, but I had to do a double check when I heard something ridiculous come out of her mouth.
The First Imperial Princess placed her other hand on my shoulder and repeated herself in a soft voice.
“I mean exactly what I said. Become mine, Frey.”
“I want you to support me so I can become the Empress.”
The First Imperial Princess leaned in closer.
“Clana had been gathering forces under her and emerging as a new faction to threaten our older brother’s authority, but recently, her influence has been waning with her mental instability.”
“Is that so…?”
“Yes. Unfortunately, we still can’t disregard her completely since she’s built a sturdy foundation until now… But with you by my side, wouldn’t I be able to take her position for myself?”
“Just for something like that…”
“What do you mean ‘just?’ Have you forgotten your own position?”
The First Imperial Princess tapped the star-shaped emblem on my chest in emphasis.
“If I can get you on my side, I’ll not just have the Starlight Duchy, but the Moonlight Duchy as well to support me. After all, Serena is head over heels in love with you.”
“That might not always be the case…”
“So, with the entirety of Clana’s forces and the support of the two Dukes, I should be able to wholly contend with my brother. Don’t you think so?”
As expected of the First Imperial Princess. She’s quite good at coming up with petty schemes.
She had been laying low under the Crown Prince’s presence all this time, but look at her getting ready to strike as soon as an opportunity presented itself.
Unfortunately, her Goodness stat was‘-90,’ and she had already sold her soul to the Demon King. If it weren’t for these two factors, her proposal would have been actually worth considering.
“Then… what can the First Imperial Princess do for me?”
She narrowed her eyes and whispered.
“What do you think about the title of ‘Prince Consort?’”
“It’s the highest position someone who isn’t a part of the Imperial family can attain.”
My face must have betrayed how flustered I was because the First Imperial Princess stepped away from me.
“You don’t like it? Then let’s just say this conversation never happened…”
“No, I was just slightly taken aback hearing your sudden offer.”
I was rapidly trying to calculate and reformulate my upcoming plans while taking the First Imperial Princess’ proposal into consideration. At this moment, the Princess interrupted my thoughts once again.
“You can consider my proposal later. For now, I’ll give you a reward for amusing me so much tonight.”
“Yes, I’ll grant you a single wish anytime you want.”
After saying so, the First Imperial Princess turned around before continuing to speak.
“Contact me whenever you want. I’ll grant you anything you wish for as long it is within my power.”
“Thank you very much, Imperial Princess.”
“Let me know if you ever desire the position of ‘Prince Consort’.”
I became lost in my thoughts as the First Imperial Princess quietly left the secluded hallway we were in with those parting words.
‘Prince Consort my ass… You’ll probably have me assassinated not even a year into our marriage.’
The First Imperial Princess was someone who had been hiding her lust for power her entire life. Thus, it was only natural to conclude that she was someone who was capable of doing anything for power.
In the previous timeline, every single one of her marriage partners had succumbed to an unknown illness within a year of their marriage. And without fail, all of their properties and titles had been seized by the First Imperial Princess.
Besides, the First Imperial Princess was directly connected to a bad ending.
So, if there was a way in which I could manipulate her proposal as much as I can to…
My train of thought was interrupted as I felt something weird wiggling in my chest pocket.
I put my hand in my pocket, wondering what it could be, and to my surprise, it was the canary that had previously been in the room. It was hunched over and was curling into itself.
“Are you feeling cold?”
I patted the canary and figured out that it was shivering from the cold. The sun had already set and on top of that, it was raining and quite windy as well causing the temperature to plummet.
‘Come to think of it, there was a Warming Magic cast in that room earlier.’
I carefully placed the canary between my palms and headed towards the room where the scummy bastards with whom I had been hanging out with earlier were present.
“You there. Bring the Third Imperial Princess here from the veranda.”
After giving an order to the maid, I stepped into the warm room.
“How about the spot of ‘Prince Consort?’”
Right up until Frey entered the room, Clana had been spying on his conversation with the First Imperial Princess from the veranda.
Clana somehow managed to calm down her trembling hand and reconnected her senses with the canary that was inside Frey’s clothes to spy on the two, but the news of her own situation was like a bolt out of the blue for her.
The possibility that the authority and influence she had barely been able to scrape together might go up in smoke, that rumors of her mental instability were already wide-spread, and…
‘She… to Frey…’
More than anything, she was disturbed by the fact that the First Imperial Princess had held out her hand to Frey.
Not only had the First Imperial Princess broken off her engagement with Frey multiple times when they were children, she hadn’t reached out to Frey even until the end of the previous timeline.
“T-This isn’t right… this isn’t…”
However, the current reality was that the First Imperial Princess had indeed offered to join hands with Frey, and he had shown a positive reaction. And as such, Clana was going through a panic attack that was incomparable to the one she had before.
With Roswyn, Clana was at least able to cancel her commission and somehow overturn the situation, but she was completely helpless when it came to the First Imperial Princess.
Although Clana had thought long and hard on how to fix the situation, in the end, the worst possible outcome had occurred, and she couldn’t do anything about it.
So, Clana couldn’t do anything but simply watch in a daze through the eyes of the canary as the First Imperial Princess was all over Frey, before weakly dropping her head down with listless eyes.
And with rumors of her mental instability making their rounds throughout the Empire, no one bothered to pay any attention to her.
Clana, who was buried in Frey’s chest pocket devoid of all hope, raised her head in surprise when she felt something warming her up.
“Are you feeling cold?”
And in her vision appeared Frey’s worried expression.
Clana felt Frey’s touch all over her body as he wrapped his hands around her. Slowly , her cold body started warming up within his embrace and Clana ended up weakly falling back onto the ground with her cheeks flushed red.
Although she was embarrassed, she unknowingly crouched down as a pleasant warmth washed over her body.
“…Are you okay now?”
Clana was basking in the warmth of Frey’s fingers, and when she was questioned by him with a worried face, she inadvertently ended up answering.
“Seems like you’re feeling a bit better.”
Of course, the canary that was in Frey’s hands was only capable of letting out bird sounds.
“Do you want to eat this?”
Maybe it was because he had pitied the canary shivering in his hands, but Frey broke off a piece of cracker that had been on his desk and brought it close to the bird with a subtle smile.
Clana briefly hesitated when she saw this side of him, but she still carefully started eating the cracker crumbs.
“You’re pretty cute.”
Clana slightly blushed before she continued to eat the crackers off Frey’s hand.
“Your Highness Clana.”
She jumped up from her spot in surprise when the maid who had come to retrieve her came up from behind her and whispered her name.
“W-What’s going on?”
“Uh… Lord Frey is looking for you…”
“He’s waiting for you in the room over there…”
The maid looked at her pitifully as Clana let out a groan and started shaking.
It was quite unfortunate since Frey had coincidentally gently patted Clana at that exact moment..
“All right, thank you for letting me know.”
Clana quickly fixed up her expression and thanked the maid before heading towards the room with a vacant look on her face.
–Knock Knock Knock
“…Frey. I’m here.”
Clana, who was constantly wobbling around from the sensation of being wrapped in Frey’s warm fingers, finally reached the room and knocked.
As the door opened, she felt the warmth that she had felt earlier cease to exist.
“Frey, I’m sorry…”
“Be quiet and come in.”
Hearing Frey coldly dismissing her apology, Clana’s head drooped as she quietly entered the room.
“Frey… about what happened just a little while ago.”
“A little while ago?”
“Yes, about your offer to make up with me.”
As Frey silently looked at her chillingly, Clana continued with a ghastly face.
“I’ve been thinking about it, and I want to take you up on…”
“You’re too late.”
Clana closed her eyes shut and put her head down.
“That was the last opportunity. I don’t have the slightest intention of fixing our broken relationship anymore.”
“Don’t you hate me? I won’t love you either. Then it’s all good, right?”
As soon as Clana heard Frey’s declaration, her eyes lost their shine.
Frey looked down at Clana and continued.
“I’ll make you the Empress.”
It seemed as though the moon and the stars had risen to the sky in a flash as Clana’s golden eyes met his silver gaze.
Meanwhile, at the same time.
“……..Is this really my power now?”
“Can’t you tell? It’s certainly incomparable to your mana from before.”
Staring at the purple aura rising from his hand, the man stood in a daze as he faced the girl in front of him.
“Thank you… Really, thank you so much…”
“So. When are you going to start?”
“I’m thinking of starting… in a few hours…”
The girl stared at the man with her ruby eyes in interest and whispered as she straightened out her robe.
“Then, go and play to your heart’s content.”
“Thank you very much…..”
The man bowed towards the girl, and in the blink of an eye, the girl vanished. Then he slowly stood up.
“I will drag you all down… tonight.”
The scene of the ballroom where a certain party was in full swing reflected in the man’s eyes.