In the bathroom, a steady stream of cold water gushed out of the showerhead.
It was early summer, and the weather was starting to turn warm. Most people would deem it still too early to be having a cold shower, but the boy standing under the showerhead remained as red as a lobster despite the icy water.
The weather might not have gotten hot yet, but one had to understand that the heat on the bed was usually independent of the weather. Not even the coldest day could quell the flames of desire stoked within its sacred boundary.
So, Roel could only resort to artificial means to cool himself down.
It was just a pity that the cold water couldn’t wash away his memories, so it was unable to put out the heat.
Lilian’s towel had loosened earlier due to Roel struggling during their embrace. She did react swiftly to grab the end of the towel to cover her body, but ironically, her reaction only made the visual impact of the slip-up even more powerful.
Roel felt like he had seen something yet not really so. She barely managed to cover up her important parts with her swift reaction, but the knowledge that the only thing standing between the two of them was a flimsy towel was frighteningly tempting. He felt something tugging at his heartstrings.
On the other hand, Lilian’s face immediately turned bright red. She had never had a relationship of any kind with a man, and being abruptly exposed before Roel in such a manner left her in a fluster. She readjusted the towel in a panic, hoping to cover more of her body, but her flustered movements were hardly helping at all; if anything, it only made things worse.
At this point, Roel dared not stay in the bedroom anymore. Without further ado, he grabbed his loose clothes tightly and dashed into the en-suite bathroom.
“I-I’ll go wash up!”
He made his escape frantically, but while closing the door to the bathroom, he unwittingly turned around and ended up seeing Lilian’s back. Her beautiful curves under the soft glow of the morning sun were a critical hit to him.
A-ah… Senior is really beautiful.
Roel soaked himself into the warm bathtub and rubbed his own face to wake himself up.
Should I say as expected of the imperial bloodline?
Similar to the thousand years of lineage in the Ascart House, the Ackermanns with an even longer history have been in a cycle of marrying attractive spouses and giving birth to attractive children to the point that physical attractiveness is encoded straight into their DNA sequence.
Her body is as alluring as a carefully sculpted masterpiece, making it nigh impossible to find a flaw in her.
For a brief instant there, Roel actually was relieved by his regression.
If their bloodlines had resonated as strongly as they previously did, Roel might have caved in right there and ‘grandly’ accomplished the mission his ancestors had entrusted him with.
He couldn’t tell whether it was just his imagination or not, but he had a feeling that Lilian’s attitude toward him had changed subtly.
Their earlier interaction didn’t exactly feel out of place, but it also felt like something had changed. He couldn’t put his finger on what it was, but the comfort and warmth he used to feel around her had somehow turned into embarrassment and nervousness.
“Is it because of the changes in my body?”
Roel looked at his reflection in the water, as well as his little hands that were beneath it.
Going by the laws of cause and effect, the likely cause behind the change in their relationship was the regression of his body. He was aware that Lilian was a brocon who was fond of adorable stuff. But somehow, the notion that Lilian’s attitude toward him had only changed because of his appearance left him feeling a little downhearted.
Is it just because she likes my current form? Doesn’t that mean that once I change back… No, what am I thinking of? We aren’t in that kind of relationship.
Roel splashed water on his own face and evicted those thoughts from his mind. With a sigh, he rested his arms and chin by the side of the bathtub.
Even as he tried to turn his thoughts away, he wasn’t able to drive off the heaviness in his heart.
It feels like our relationship is changing.
This realization left him feeling slightly worried.
Unbeknownst to him, a black-haired woman under the same roof was also contemplating the same issue.
Roel’s feelings for me must have started changing.
Lilian looked at the creased bed sheets in front of her, relieved that she didn’t give in to her temptation last night. Without a doubt, that was the correct decision to make.
Most long-lasting relationships thrived on stability, be it kinship, friendship, or romance. Once the dynamics and the nature of the relationship between two individuals had been decided, it would be hard to change it anymore. That was also the reason why old friends found it hard to become lovers no matter how close they were.
Change and instability are frightening; humans instinctively shun them.
Instead of introducing a new variable that could ruin their existing relationship, most would choose to back down.
What if my confession gets rejected? What if we can’t even remain friends afterward?
These worries forced a person to remain at the status quo, such that he could only remain friends with the person he loved, cursed to never be able to speak his feelings aloud.
There was no doubt that Roel and Lilian harbored deep feelings for one another, to the extent where they were willing to put their lives on the line for each other. However, it hadn’t been long since they met, so the two of them hadn’t developed standard dynamics in their relationship yet.
This was a huge relief to Lilian.
If she wanted to make a move, she had to do it now before Roel enshrined their relationship as kinship. The longer she dragged it out, the lower the chances of success.
But at the same time, she could tell that Roel was someone who was very conservative with his relationships. He was the kind of person who would take a passive stance in his relationships and go with the flow, allowing his stream of consciousness to guide him. He might not even understand his own feelings.
It wouldn’t do for her to go aggressively at a person like that; pushing too hard would only make him retreat into his comfort zone. She had to alter the dynamics of their relationship step by step. Even Artasia had advised her not to get too anxious.
Thus, it was of paramount importance for her to keep the intensity of her ‘attacks’ in check.
“This is only the start. I’m still a long way off from success, so I mustn’t let my guard down!” murmured Lilian as she began planning her next move.
Meanwhile, Paul and Geralt had just returned to the Azure Manor after undergoing the laborious process of handing the evil cultists over to the academy and recording their testimonies.
It should have been finally their time to relax and take it easy—they had barely slept a wink over the last few days as they had been camping at Fulte’s Stop in preparation for the raid against the evil cultists—but to Geralt’s confusion, Paul insistently dragged him into a private room, saying that they needed to talk.
… What’s there to talk about between two guys?
Geralt was utterly bewildered by how secretive his roommate was being. The two of them headed into the dining room, and Paul closed and locked the door behind them. However, Paul’s eyes started to swim around nervously, seemingly not knowing how to raise the subject.
“Hurry up and spit it out!”
Geralt was too tired and exhausted to beat around the bush with Paul. The latter hesitated for a moment before finally speaking up.
“There’s an extremely important matter concerning big brother Roel that I need to discuss with you.”
“About our chief?”
Geralt heaved a sigh of relief upon hearing Roel’s name. He walked over to the dining table and served himself a cup of tea.
Haaa, you scared me there. I thought it was something important, but it turns out that it’s just about our chief? Our chief is a reliable and meticulous person, so what could possibly happen to him?
With such thoughts in mind, Geralt took a sip of tea.
“Actually, big brother Roel and my imperial sister eloped last night. What should I…”
Before Paul could finish his sentence, Geralt had already spat out the tea in his mouth, forming a beautiful manmade rainbow across the dining room. He stared at Paul with eyes widened in disbelief while coughing violently.
“Cough! W-what did you cough say?”
“I said that big brother Roel has eloped with my imperial sister. I really don’t know what I can do to help them at this point.”
“You must be joking! Our chief is not that kind of person! Stop spouting such nonsense!”
“It’s my imperial sister who proposed it. She’s pregnant.”
Geralt was utterly dumbfounded.
The room plunged into a discomforting silence.
An instant later, Geralt dashed off without any warning. But Paul seemed to have predicted his reaction in advance as he darted forth and firmly grabbed onto his legs, not allowing him to get away.
“Wait, Geralt! Where are you going?”
“Let go! You freaking dunce, let go of me! I’m going back to Pendor!” shouted Geralt.
I’m not going to stay in this dastardly place for even a second longer!
His survival instincts compelled him to get as far away from this place as possible, so he tried his best to shake off the stubborn man who was clutching onto his legs. It was futile though.
After a long session of grabbing and kicking and wrestling, the two of them finally collapsed weakly by the wall, gasping for air.
Geralt’s face was despairingly pale.
“An illegitimate son like you dares to get involved in this sort of stuff? Do you understand how severe the implications are?”
Geralt grabbed Paul’s collar frenziedly, trying to educate the man who was still living in the fields a year ago.
Elopement was not rare in the circle of nobility, where political marriages were the mainstream. It typically wouldn’t cause a huge stir, but that depended on who the eloping couple was.
Lilian Ackermann was the only eligible successor to the largest empire of humankind, a person who was destined for greatness.
Roel Ascart was the successor to a powerful marquess house, not to mention that he was in a close relationship with the successors to the Saint Mesit Theocracy’s Xeclyde House and Rosa Merchant Confederacy’s Sorofya House too.
“Do you think that no one would try to look for them if those two eloped? I dare bet my head that their pursuers will go as far as to flip every inch of soil on the Sia Continent to find them!”
“T-then… Should I remain silent?”
“Do you think that’d work? You were in the underground wine cellar back then! It goes without saying that you’d be viewed as one of their accomplices. That means that I’d also…”
Speaking up to this point, Geralt’s mind finally cleared up. He knew that it was impossible for him to wash his hands clean of this matter anymore, so he began to ponder hard for a way to mitigate the adverse impacts as much as possible.
If this incident were to be classified as a ‘missing person case’, it’s likely that the Austine Empire, Saint Mesit Theocracy, Rosa Merchant Confederacy, and Ascart House will dispatch their men to look for them… but it does seem possible to avoid two of them.
“We should inform Your Highness Nora and Miss Charlotte about this matter. They aren’t in an official relationship with Roel yet, so I reckon that they’d give up once they hear that Lilian is pregnant. That should reduce the number of pursuers by half, thus greatly mitigating the severity of the incident,” Geralt proposed.
“But what if they refuse to give up?”
“Hah, is that even possible? You also know what political marriages amongst nobles are like. Our chief’s value would be greatly lowered once he’s no longer the successor to the Ascart House. Political marriages are all about benefits! Feelings have no place whatsoever there,” declared Geralt grandly.
His hatred of political marriages had blinded his eyes, but Paul, who had seen how Roel interacted with those two ladies, couldn’t help but feel that things wouldn’t go as planned… but it didn’t seem like there was a better option here.
“We don’t need to tell them in person. An anonymous letter would suffice. Haa, this is the only thing we can do for our chief.”
The two self-proclaimed loyal brothers immersed themselves in what they thought were feelings of camaraderie before swiftly getting into action.
Their quills looked as sharp as knives.