“Your feet, they’re awfully sore.”
My feet were swollen to the point where the naked eye could see how sore they were.
Red. Just looking at the swelling somehow made it more painful for me.
“Well, it hurts now but…I’ll be fine after a night of rest.”
“You’re just going to leave your feet like that?”
A straight-faced Damian got up.
He pulled on the rope of a bell pull and a maid appeared shortly afterward, entering the room with her head bowed.
“You rang, Your Highness?”
“Bring me some hot water and a basin. A soft towel and soap as well.”
Huh? Hot water?
With that lingering question in mind, I stared at Damian.
Damian explained himself to me.
“If you leave your feet as they are, you won’t be able to walk tomorrow. I’ll have to reduce the swelling with a massage.”
“WHAT? A MASSAGE?!”
I almost jumped up from the sofa.
No, that entails Damian touching my bare feet!
Damian’s visage became rather puzzled.
“What? I’m good at massages.”
“Really? How’d that happen?”
“Well, my feet would get really swollen even when I wore combat boots.”
After a moment of silence, I yelled.
“I’m fine, I swear!”
“I’m well aware that you have a habit of saying, ‘I’m fine,’ when you’re not.”
Damian remarked sternly.
“Didn’t you see how bad it was just at a glance?”
“But still! Your Highness will be touching my feet, I don’t think that’s appropriate one bit!”
While we argued about that, the maid returned to the living room.
“Here are the things Your Highness asked for.”
The maid faithfully followed Damian’s orders; she brought some hot water, a basin, soap, and a soft towel.
No, this is too much!
My face was flustered.
“I-I’ll have to take off my stockings too…”
“How did this argument even start between the two of us?”
“We were children once back then, but not now!”
At my protest, Damian groaned.
“Then…shall I call a physician?”
“….even if you did call one, I don’t think it’s a good idea to call a physician over merely swollen feet.”
“Aargh, then what can I do!”
An irritated Damian howled.
“One, you get a gentle foot massage or two, I’ll call a physician and you’ll get treatment for your feet. Choose between the two.”
“There’s no third option? Just getting some rest?”
Damian flatly denied it.
I stared at Damian’s headstrong demeanor for a while before voicing my intention.
“Please turn around for a moment.”
“If I take off my stockings, will you give me a massage or not?”
Damian’s face turned bright red as he quickly turned around.
Oh, now you’re ashamed of yourself, why were you being so stubborn before?!
In a rush, every sound of rustling from my dress rang out in the living room. It was made worse by how quiet the room’s atmosphere was.
Every swish, whish, and rustle seemed amplified just for the sake of it.
‘Seriously, why does it have to make so much noise?’
After struggling for a bit, I was finally able to take my stockings off.
I quickly gathered my skirt and sat back down.
Damian knelt down and dipped my feet into the basin filled with the now warm water.
When I felt the warmth, the tension in my feet began to ease.
A strange sound left my lips at that very instant.
Embarrassed, I quickly closed my mouth.
At the same time, Damian shot back at me with his cheeks flushed.
“Don’t make those noises.”
“Hey, I didn’t want to, okay?!”
I lost my temper.
Damian shook his head and turned his attention back to my feet.
After gently rubbing and kneading the soles of each foot, he massaged my toes.
My eyes were the size of dinner plates.
‘Wow, this feels amazing!!’
I tried wiggling my toes.
It felt lax as the tension faded away and the feeling in my toes gradually returned.
“…you’re really good at massaging.”
“Well, I was stuck for eight years in the North. I was bound to pick up something like this, right?”
Damian said as he shrugged his shoulders at the sound of my praise.
“Speaking of which, you spoke eloquently.”
“Oh? What are you talking about?”
“When Lady Bennett picked a fight with you earlier.”
As if he could feel a hint of self-reproach in me, Damian glanced upwards.
“What’s the matter?”
“I…honestly, I’m not sure I did the right thing today.”
I dropped my shoulders in a doleful manner.
“Today was meant to be my social debut as your fiancee, wasn’t it?”
“….and no matter how irritating she was, wouldn’t it have been better to be a little more patient?”
I barely caught myself from sighing.
No matter how much Lady Bennett provoked or lambasted me, was it too far of me to respond the way I did?
Could I have handled it more maturely?
Just as I pondered on what happened with guilt, Damian interjected.
“What are you saying?”
Damian frowned as he gently put down my foot.
“I’d hate to see someone intimidate you and you do nothing about it, more so if you were to just stand there and thoughtlessly look at others.”
“So, it’s all right, you did well.”
Damian shook his head.
…I guess I was waiting for someone to say that.
When Damian said that, I felt a wave of relief wash over me.
I could smile a little.
“Actually, I was extremely nervous; I thought I was going to faint.”
“Really? You were quite articulate despite that. I didn’t expect you to include the Emperor into your speech.”
Then he glanced back down at my feet.
“Harmony between classes…”
Damian murmured before massaging my feet again.
For a moment, there was only the sound of water splashing.
After a while.
“But you know.”
I tilted my head.
Before I knew it, Damian was staring at me with an unwavering gaze.
“Even if you were one of the higher-up aristocrats or the daughter of a political opponent…”
Those golden eyes of his narrowed gently.
“I would have chosen you.”
For a moment, I bit my lip.
Damian probably doesn’t know.
…how he shocks me with what he says, most of what he says, he says without a second thought.
Damian picked up a towel and wiped my feet thoroughly.
Then he looked back up at me and smirked.
“Mmm, it’s done.”
“Ah, thank you.”
I tried to be relaxed as I softened my facial expression.
Then, Damian asked me, with concern in his voice.
“I’ve thoroughly washed and massaged your feet. You’ll also be needing help getting to your room, right?”
“No, I can walk on my own two feet.”
“I’m sorry, but I’m not letting that happen.”
Damian held me and lifted me up like it was nothing.
…after lifting me up two or three times now, I’m no longer befuddled.
I asked Damian with a gloomy look.
“Your Highness, do you enjoy holding me like this?”
“Huh? Well, I never thought of it that way.”
Damian playfully winked at me like he was up to mischief.
“I think you do.”
Like that, Damian carried me to my room.
I laid my head against his arms.
The inside of my chest felt fuzzy and ticklish, like sensation of being tickled by a feather.
A soft bed comfortingly enveloped me.
Damian, who sat me down on the bed, looked into my eyes.
“Come to think of it, you haven’t said it all day today.”
In an instant, my heart began thumping loudly.
I licked my lips a bit.
“Good night, Damian.”
With just that whisper, Damian had the widest smile on his face, like he was the happiest man in the world.
“Sleep well, Lize.”
The door closed.
After a whole day of keeping my posture upright, I lied down, or rather planted myself on the bed for a well-deserved rest.
‘I feel like my heart’s going to burst.’
My heart pounded with such force that even with the door closed, I wager Damian could hear it.
Placing my hands on my stomach, I closed my eyes tight.
Damian couldn’t take his eyes off the door for the longest time.
Does Charlize know?
How difficult it is to act so composed while in front of her.
Every time she looks up at me with that clueless face of hers and smiles softly…
‘I feel like my heart skips a beat.’
Damian ruffled his slightly tousled hair.
“*Sigh*, I’m going crazy….”
That low voice of his was filled with an indescribable ardor.
The next morning.
I was in a great mood.
Maybe because it was Damian’s massage yesterday or because I slept well without waking up one bit! Either way, I’m on cloud nine!
I entered the living room with a vibrant greeting.
However, Damian looked back at me with a not-so-cheerful expression.
“Why, why the long face?”
Damian spoke with a complicated expression on his face.
“His Majesty’s orders have arrived.”
“….His Majesty’s orders?”
I felt shivers go down my spine.
In my experience, nothing good ever happens the moment the ‘Emperor’ gets involved.
Damian handed me the roll of paper bearing the seal of the imperial family.
The paper in my hands, I busily skimmed the contents of the paper.
“Hold on? He wants me to be in charge of the memorial service?!”
I inadvertently raised my voice.
<To honor the soldiers who gave their lives in the North, Lady Charlize shall hold a memorial service.>
No, why ask me to do this?!
My mouth was agape.
No, if I’m to become the Crown Princess, I can’t speak out against it.
Still, it’s hard to believe he entrusted such a big responsibility to someone who just made her first public appearance yesterday…
Emperor, are you out of your mind?!