Tristan’s voice trembled with anger, but it wasn’t easy to stop laughing after seeing his wet hair and eyebrows sticking to his face. She finally managed to stop laughing and lightly brushed her eyelashes with her fingers.
“Do you know how you look right now, Your Highness? Just like a soaked rat.”
Tristan watched Eliana, who was holding her stomach and laughing innocently. He wiped his wet hair back and wiped his face underneath. Then, he looked at Eliana with dark, sunken eyes.
“You, close that mouth of yours.”
His voice was low and breathy, Eliana froze slightly. Tristan’s expression had become so serious, and suddenly, she felt breathless.
With just one more step, Tristan’s foot would touch Eliana’s toe. Fearing his approaching presence, Eliana hesitated and retreated backward.
Her back hit the wall. There was nowhere else to retreat. Even if she tried to escape sideways, there was no gap to be seen. Why was that? Has Tristan’s body become this big? Since when? He trained in swordsmanship every day, but his broad shoulders, twice the size of Eliana’s, were intimidating enough to overpower most men.
“Why are you like this.”
“How should I deal with you, who dared to mock me.”
She looked up at Tristan while taking a breath. Was he always this tall? It had been a long time since we danced together at a party and I had never been this close to his face. Eliana tightly gripped the opened front of her dress for no reason. There shouldn’t be any problem, but still.
“I’m not laughing at you. It’s just so funny… No, not that… I’m sorry.”
It was too close. Her vision was becoming blurry. Swallowing nervously, her throat felt dry with tension. She awkwardly turned her head and avoided Tristan.
Tristan leaned against the wall, placed his hand on it, trapping Eliana in his arms. Then he raised his gaze from the hand covering her chest and met Eliana’s eyes. Both of them were startled as their eyes met.
Seeing Eliana’s flustered and uncertain state, his sharply defined face and jawline tilted slightly at a leisurely pace. And as if disinterested but finding something fascinating, as if seeing something for the first time in the world, he silently observed her with a lingering gaze.
“Are you trying to seduce me?”
“If you’re seducing me, I could go along with it. Are you okay with that? It doesn’t matter to me, though.”
“Don’t say strange things and just leave, now.”
Eliana tried to hit Tristan’s arm and step aside. She forced her voice, not revealing her trembling heart. The feeling of her whole body burning must be from being in a hot bath like this. As the air became stuffy, she hurriedly turned around to escape, but suddenly her body flew up in the air and spun around.
Not knowing what was happening, she was bewildered for a moment, but regained her senses and found herself embraced in Tristan’s arms. His hands tightly held her waist. Their bodies pressed tightly against each other, making a rustling sound with each breath.
Twisting her body, trying to escape, Tristan tightened his grip on her waist. The more Eliana moved, the more she stimulated Tristan. Their bodies rubbed against each other, and the front of her robe opened, revealing half of her chest. Despite wearing an evening attire, Tristan could feel Eliana’s body clearly.
It was as if sparks were flying. Eyes that made it seem like something would happen at any moment. Without saying a word, it seemed like he knew what he wanted. Then, at some point, Tristan’s gaze returned.
“Do you seduce other guys like this?”
His words creased Eliana’s brow.
“Seduce… Who seduces whom?”
“Don’t you realize that when you act so innocent, with that look on your face, that gesture of wanting me to do something to you, it makes a passing dog want to eat you?”
Eliana’s anger surged at Tristan’s words, her breath becoming rougher. Salt was poured into the wounds she received from this man. It hurt, and she wanted to inflict the same wounds, but she didn’t know how. How can I make this person feel the same pain and suffering as I did?
“If you don’t care about me, why do you even bother? I don’t care who the prince is with or where he rolls around. So, don’t worry about it, Prince.”
Tristan’s jaw tensed. He wanted to properly inform Eliana, who spoke recklessly, that she was someone’s fiancée. Even though he told her to leave the palace and even slapped her right before his eyes, he couldn’t explain the feeling he had now, that Eliana must still be his fiancée. Twisting his lips, Tristan spoke with a sinister smile.
“I suppose you’ve been having a little fun without me knowing?”
In an instant, Tristan grabbed the edge of her robe and thrust his hand into Eliana’s thighs.
Eliana struck Tristan’s cheek in an instant. The slapped cheek quickly turned red. She didn’t want to think about the aftermath. No matter what punishment comes from this incident, she won’t regret it. It’s better to show contempt towards Tristan here and now than to endure everything.
“How dare you lay a hand on a Prince?”
Tristan’s grip around her waist tightened, almost painful now, but Eliana didn’t back down.
“Even if I was playing, I wouldn’t have played as much as the prince. Get your hands off of me, you filth!”
“That’s why you should have left immediately!”
Tristan tried to remove the thin robe Eliana was wearing.
“No! Don’t! Stop!”
Eliana pushed Tristan’s shoulders with all her strength, but it was all in vain. Tristan’s body was hardened through exercise, strong enough to break rocks barehanded. The knot on his waist came undone, causing the robe to open wide, but Eliana continued to struggle relentlessly.
Tristan crossed Eliana’s flailing hands, holding them together as one, and pressed her against the wall. Helplessly overpowered, Eliana trembled with humiliation. But oddly enough, as Tristan looked into her eyes that seemed ready to devour her, his body reacted.
‘Ha! Am I crazy? Looking at this countryside woman!’
To get an erection from seeing Eliana. I couldn’t admit it. It feels like something inside me has become a complete mess. But if there was just one reason that could make him admit it, Tristan felt like he could accept Eliana right now.
“Tell me one thing you can do for me.”
Tristan lightly brushed Eliana’s lips with his thumb. The heat emanating from Eliana’s red face warmed Tristan as well.
“If you marry me, you will become the prince’s wife and the duchess. Outside the imperial family, you will be the highest-ranking woman. So, what can you do for me? Just one… tell me one thing.”
Tristan desperately spoke in order to find a reason for the changes happening in his body and heart, but to Eliana, it sounded different.
To Eliana, it was nothing but mockery and scorn that she had heard for the past two years. No matter if it was a commoner or a noble, as long as they didn’t have wealth or honor. But Eliana was a poor commoner who had nothing, neither this nor that, just living in the small province of Yust by sheer luck, becoming the prince’s wife. Like a snake in the grass. That was Eliana.
“I have nothing.”
‘Ha! I’m the fool for hoping.’
Tristan let go of her hand. As a result, Eliana’s strength waned, and she flopped down on the floor. He glanced briefly at Eliana, who had sunk down, and began wiping his face and head with a towel.
“Because I have nothing. Is that why you hate me?”
Now Eliana felt resigned. Since entering the palace, she had tried to live more nobly than the nobles themselves, adhering to the set rules without a single deviation. But for what?
Eliana always asked herself before falling asleep. Was it for the Emperor, who had treated her as his daughter-in-law? Or was it because she wanted to become the princess? No, it wasn’t. Eliana simply wanted Tristan, who despised her, to look at her with care. It seemed unlikely, but that was all.
“I never hated you, and I never liked you.”
Eliana tightly shut her eyes at Tristan’s words. His statement that he had no feelings for her stung even more than if he had said he disliked her.
“The wedding date will be set soon. Before that, you should speak to His Majesty the Emperor. Say that you cannot proceed with this marriage.”
“If you return to Yust, you will be generously rewarded. If you wish, I can also look into finding you a husband.”
Eliana bit her lower lip firmly.
“No, I’m not a beggar. Although I may be a commoner, I’m certainly not a beggar. And it’s even more so not because of any reward.”
Tristan threw the towel onto the floor. Eliana looked down and saw the towel haphazardly thrown.
“If you don’t like it, there’s nothing I can do. This is your last chance. Think carefully and make your decision.”
Leaving Eliana behind, Tristan went out. As soon as Tristan opened the door, Sienna rushed in.
Unable to take her eyes off the towel that seemed to represent her own state, Eliana sat there with a vacant expression and a look of despair.
“Miss Eli… ana… Are you okay?”
Seeing Eliana with eyes devoid of life, Sienna’s eyes filled with tears.
‘Tommy! I’m going to marry that prince I saw last time.’
‘Eliana, that can’t be true. Why are you suddenly saying such things?’
‘I think there was a connection between Emperor and my father during the war. Tommy, I’m going to the palace.’
‘Eliana… Are you sure you’ll be okay?’
‘Yes. Our family’s situation will improve. Maybe my father will receive a noble title and an estate. Then you’ll feel more comfortable too.’
‘And you’re okay with marrying a man you’ve just met without any concern?’
‘Tommy, when I first saw the prince, it’s true. Although he was a stranger, it felt like we had known each other for a long time. It wasn’t unfamiliar. Strange, isn’t it? Is this what it means to fall in love at first sight?’
Tommy, I miss you Tommy. I want to go back to my hometown and meet old friends. I miss Tommy. I want to go back to peaceful Yustr. Now it’s harder to hold on.
* * *