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Seeing Ray and Julian cozily arm in arm, Iva felt her cheeks burn with embarrassment. 




She had thought Ray was eagerly waiting for an answer to his confession. She’d planned on rejecting him, but since it was the first time she ever felt like she had the upper hand with him, she might have been enjoying the situation a bit too much. 




So seeing him with Julian felt like a slap in the face. 




In their past two lifetimes, Ray had fallen for Julian. It was only natural for it to happen in this life too. 




For Ray to forget his confession to Iva and spend happy days with Julian was the expected course of the story. 




Realizing this, Iva felt so embarrassed and ashamed that she wanted to escape the scene.




“I greet the princess and the duke.”




Iva couldn’t even look at the two of them as she greeted them.




“Young lady, you should make eye contact when you greet.”




She was embarrassed as it was, but Julian’s teasing tone made her feel a little unfair now.




If they were dating, he could’ve at least told her. Or Ray could have asked her to forget about his confession. Then she wouldn’t be feeling so embarrassed now.




“I greeet theeee princesss (I greet the princess).”




When Iva casually glanced at Ray while giving a rough greeting, his head dropped.




Seeing Ray’s seemingly apologetic behavior, Iva was even more taken aback.




“Why are you here? The imperial palace isn’t a place for you to just wander around.”




At the tone implying ‘Why are you here after the party has ended?’, Iva held her head up confidently.




“His Majesty the Emperor called for me.”




“His Majesty?”




“Yes, His Majesty personally invited me.”




Julian’s eyes sparkled mischievously as she saw her confident expression. 




Iva felt like she might have bitten off more than she could chew. 




“Did His Majesty ask about Brother Claude by any chance?”




At the mention of Claude, Ray flinched and finally raised his head. Chase, standing next to them, also perked up at the mention of Claude whom he served.




“No, he talked about our new trade deal with the Fenet Empire.”




“That’s it? He didn’t mention anything else?”




“I can’t discuss my conversation with the Emperor casually.”




The Emperor’s word was law, and every conversation with him was confidential. Even if she was a princess, there were protocols to follow. Especially with Julian, whom she didn’t trust.




Sensing her reluctance, Julian’s expression darkened slightly. 




“His Majesty doesn’t keep secrets from me. You can tell me.”




“This is a matter of life and death for me.”




“Fine. I’ll ask him myself. Let’s go, Ray.”




Julian tried to pull Ray by the arm to leave, but Ray didn’t move, his gaze fixed on Iva. 




His intense stare left Iva even more flustered. What did he want? Did he want an answer now?




Unable to interpret his look, Iva simply blinked in confusion.




“Ray. What are you doing? You’re my escort. You need to follow me.”




Seeing Ray’s unwavering gaze, Julian, clearly annoyed, grabbed Ray’s arm with both hands to pull him away.




“Princess, just give us a moment…”




“No! You’re supposed to protect me. I have other places to be.”




Good, I don’t particularly want to see this. Just leave.




But no matter how hard Julian tried to pull Ray, he stood still as a statue.




Thinking it might be easier for her to leave first, Iva suggested, “I’m sorry, Princess, but may I be the one to leave first?”




“Yes, just go.”




Once she received permission, Iva bowed quickly and grabbed the sleeve of Chase, leading him away.




Chase also bowed and readily followed Iva’s lead.




“Why are you walking so fast? You’ll trip again.”




“Just keep up. I just want to get out of here quickly. Or go see Lady Rosie!”




“My steps are slow. Let’s hurry.”




As they retreated, Ray’s fists clenched. And when he saw Iva tightly gripping Chase’s sleeve, he gritted his teeth so hard it seemed he might break them.




‘Wait for me. Just listen to me once. It’s a misunderstanding.’




Then, he heard a woman’s voice from his heart again. It was a phrase he was certain he had never heard before, but it felt deeply familiar.








Ray clutched his chest and took a step towards Iva.








Julian hurriedly held onto him.




“Princess, please give me a moment. That’s all I need.”




“I said no! If you don’t listen to me, I’ll tell Brother Claude that you haven’t been properly punished.”




The mention of Claude seemed to change things. Ray forcefully pushed Julian’s hands off his arm.




In the suddenness of the moment, Julian looked at Ray in shock.




“Do it.”








“You can tell His Highness whatever you want.”




Ray felt that if he let her go now, everything would become meaningless. He had been enduring this punishment for Iva’s sake. If it all goes wrong now, it would all be for nothing.




Without looking back, he sprinted.




“Miss Iva!”




His loud voice startled both Iva and Chase, making them flinch.




“Hey, the captain’s calling you.”




“Keep quiet and keep walking!”




“But he’s calling… woah!”




“Forget it! Just let me go!”




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