The Austine Empire was a country that embraced conservative ideals, be it amongst its citizens or nobles, in their way of thinking or their daily lives.
The citizens yearned for the prosperity of the bygone Ancient Austine Empire, which led to them holding old artifacts and traditions in high regard. One such example was the extravagant long dresses their noblewomen wore in banquets. Admittedly, their simplified dance steps were no longer able to make the dresses flutter as gracefully as they once did, but it still remained one of the mainstream fashion wear over the last few centuries.
The same applied to male-female relationships too.
Those who were well-versed in Austine traditions would know the significance of a man and a woman sharing a bed. It was a solemn vow of devotion, a promise to marry the other party and no one else.
“We shared a bed last night.”
Those words were accompanied by a warm breath on his ear and a beautiful face that was too close to look away from. Roel’s hand inadvertently shot to his ear to cover it while hurriedly retreating a few steps away.
S-shared a bed? Why?
Was I in a bad condition then? Or does it mean that…
Many questions popped up in Roel’s head, causing his heart to itch due to a sudden influx of emotions. Even he couldn’t fully make sense of what he was really feeling at the moment. He felt worried and confused, yet, at the same time, thrilled and expectant too.
Their current relationship status was an utter mess, filled with contradictions and elements that didn’t make sense, but he found himself sinking deeper and deeper into it.
His heartbeat quickened and his face heated up. Even his breathing had become a little ragged. A doubt he harbored was swiftly taking over his head.
Does senior hope to get into that kind of relationship with me?
Roel touched his own chest to feel the burning sensation he was experiencing deep down. He blinked his eyes hesitantly before finally raising his head to ask.
“Was it because I was in a bad condition last night?”
“… That’s part of the reason,” replied Lilian.
Seemingly feeling embarrassed as well, she turned her head away and tucked her hair behind her ears, exposing her reddened cheek and neck. They looked particularly alluring.
“It was cold last night. The abrupt loss of your transcendent powers made your body extremely vulnerable, resulting in the swift plummeting of your body temperature. I-I intended to hug you to sleep in order to keep you warm, and it was then that my clothes…”
Roel widened his eyes in utter shock as his eyes darted toward the clothes piling by the bedside.
Meaning to say, senior took off her clothes and hugged me to sleep last night?
It was an unbelievable conclusion that made him gawk at Lilian, as if his brain had stopped processing from the overload of information. Seeing this, the blushing Lilian quickly added.
“But… I thought that you might hate me if I did such a thing without your permission, so I only slept beside you for the night…”
“How could I possibly hate you? … But what if I were to wake up halfway?”
Lilian was quiet for a long time after hearing Roel’s question, seemingly unsure how she ought to answer. In the end, she bit her lips and murmured out the answer softly.
“… I’m fine with it if it’s you.”
This subtle confession was the final push that caused Roel’s head to overheat. His mind blanked out and his breathing flew into disarray. The two of them looked into each other’s eyes wordlessly, and for a moment there, it felt like the only thing left in the world were their heartbeats.
“I-I’ll go wash my face!”
Unable to stand the heat anymore, Roel escaped to the bathroom in a fluster. He was so anxious that he didn’t close the door properly. Lilian stared dazedly at the ajar door for a long while before her body finally slumped weakly onto a chair.
Leaning feebly against the back of the chair, she touched her burning cheeks as she quickly tried to put a lid on her own emotions and compose herself. It was to no avail. She still ended up squirming and cringing from the embarrassment of what she had just done.
This is too embarrassing! How do people find the courage to do things like this… But at least our distance has closed up a little with this.
Thinking about Roel’s earlier reaction calmed Lilian’s furiously pounding heart a little.
Her earlier words came in the spur of a moment, but they seemed to work better than she had expected. There was no doubt that their previous sibling dynamics had affected how they viewed one another, but it seemed like things weren’t as bad as she thought them to be.
This was the credit of an ancestor from three hundred years ago. Unlike Lilian, Roel had been entrusted with a peculiar mission from the very start, so his motive for approaching her wasn’t as innocent as she thought. He did get dragged down the sibling route halfway through, but another thousand-year-old ancestor stuck a leg in and punted him out.
These interferences led to Roel's perception of Lilian as an older sister being not as strong as she thought it to be, which meant that she could push her plan forward a bit. Still, she needed to make sure to take things a step at a time so as to not undo her progress.
After a moment of rest, Lilian and Roel finally converged together once more. The air between them was quieter than usual, and they couldn’t seem to look into each other’s eyes, but the embarrassment had at least cleared up enough for them to discuss their next move.
While they managed to escape for the time being, it wouldn’t do for them to just wander around aimlessly.
“If we’re to avoid other people, should we venture into a forest or seek refuge on a small island?” proposed Roel.
However, Lilian shook her head and turned down his suggestion.
“There are advantages to seeking refuge in remote places, but it comes with the disadvantage of being easily located through divination spells. Unlike in crowded cities, our enemies would be able to encircle the area and hunt us down.”
“Yes, that’s indeed a problem.”
Roel nodded in agreement upon hearing Lilian’s concern.
Divination spells had notoriously low success rates and accuracy, but in exchange, there were hardly any means to counter them.
Roel never had to worry about being divined as those who tried to peer into his affairs would find themselves in a pleasant meeting with either a skeleton giant or a humongous serpent. They would be lucky to get away unscathed from those two, let alone gather any information on Roel.
But having lost his transcendent powers, Roel no longer had such protection.
Remote locations came with the advantage of avoiding nosey eyes, but once someone successfully divined their locations, they would swiftly get surrounded and taken down. It would either be completely safe or a huge crisis.
“It would be better for us to seek refuge in crowded places then. We can at least blend in with the crowd and make it hard for others to find us. But where should we go…”
Roel crossed his arms and began pondering over the issue. On the other hand, Lilian’s lips curled up. She walked over toward Roel, hugged him from behind, and offered her suggestion.
“What do you think about heading northward with me?”