Mommy Villainess Chapter 4
4 Pull And Push Dance
AFTER Tilly showed her face to her fellow nobles, she sneaked out of the Eclipse Ballroom the royal palace where banquets hosted by the royal family are held with the "props" she prepared.
She didn't want to waste her time in the ballroom because she knew Kiho wouldn't be there. After all, the Black Serpent Knights operate in the dark. That means the squadron are guarding outside the palace to make sure that no assassins could break in.
The "visible" royal guards were the ones in-charge of guarding the palace and the guests inside.
[If my hunch is right, then Kiho must be in that place.]
By that, she meant the hidden pavilion in the middle of the maze garden.
In her past life, she ran away from the palace the night that she was supposed to meet Kiho for the first time. She hid in the giant maze and ended up lost. While desperately finding a way out, she discovered a hidden pavilion. There, she cried her eyes out and bargained with herself. She made a vow that she would marry Kiho if he found her.
And he did.
After they got married, she asked her husband how he found her that night. He said that he wasn't really looking for her. Apparently, the pavilion just happened to be his favorite hiding spot. According to him, he would go there every time the emperor would force him to show his face in a banquet.
[Ah, sweet memories.]
She smiled when she reached the hidden pavilion. In her first life, she would often go there to drag Kiho back to the banquet because she didn't want to be the only married lady without a spouse. That was how she became familiar with the maze.
"My lady, this place is off-limits."
She froze when she heard Kiho's familiar husky voice behind her. Gosh, she didn't even notice his presence until he spoke.
[He's the captain of the Black Serpent Knights indeed.]
She took a deep breath in before she turned around to face Kiho.
The breath she just took was blown away instantly.
Kiho looked absolutely gorgeous in his official military uniform. The black tunic jacket with velvet collar and cuffs fit him well. Plus, his golden one-shoulder cape made his overall outfit look extra chic!
[He's so handsome.]
Under the moonlight, Kiho's amber eyes glowed and turned into a pair of beautiful golden orbs. As soon as recognition crossed his eyes, his face instantly lit up. "The lady with a crab mallet."
[That sounds like a good title for a fantasy romance book.]
Tilly couldn't help but giggle at the cute nickname he just gave her. "Good evening, Captain."
"You're a noble?"
She just smiled as a response. It's not like she can lie to him. The invited guests for tonight's banquet are composed of higher-nobles. "I apologize for trespassing," she said politely to change the subject. "I didn't know that the maze is off-limits."
He looked like he had something to say but then, his gaze shifted to the basket that she painstakingly carried around.
[Thank you, Isabella.]
She made Isabella wait at the secret passage she discovered a while ago. When she sneaked out of the palace, she met up with her maid to get the basket from her before she ran towards the maze garden.
"If you don't mind my asking, is that a food basket?" Kiho asked before he looked up at her face. "Did you take out some food from the palace to eat here?"
[He's still as crude as ever.]
"A gentleman should feign ignorance at times like this, you know?" she teased him. "But to answer your question, yes. I brought some food from the banquet to eat here."
Well, that was a lie.
The food didn't come from the banquet. She asked the head chef of House Prescott to cook a variety of seafood for her. Fortunately, there are lobsters at the banquet earlier.
"May I know why?"
"It's uncomfortable to eat seafood in the presence of other nobles," she told him. "You may not know this because you're a man. But the ladies of our empire were taught from childhood that eating at a banquet isn't good for their image."
Now she wasn't lying.
She still clearly remembered the etiquette that she was taught at such an early age. According to her teachers in the past, men don't like women who eat a lot especially in the presence of other nobles.
[It sucks but in this world, women are raised to please men. Well, that still kind of applies to the modern world. It's just that the empire has harsher standards that the ladies must follow.]
"I'm not a noble but I understand you," said Kiho in a somewhat gentle tone. She didn't know if it was just her or if his face really softened up a bit. "I'll pretend that I didn't see you here. I'll guard the area while you enjoy your meal, my lady."
"Wait," she said. "I think I'll just leave."
"I don't want to be involved in a rumor with you."
"I heard it at the banquet," she said coyly. But of course, that was just a part of her acting. "Apparently, the captain of the Black Serpent Knights is engaged with the daughter of House Prescott."
"You know who I am?"
"I can see your crest," she said while looking at his snake-shaped brooch. Only the captain of the Black Serpent Knights was allowed to wear that even in her past life. It was a common knowledge among nobles. "I heard from the ladies at the banquet that the captain of the Black Serpent Knights is engaged to the daughter of Duke Prescott." She looked up at his handsome yet stoic face. "Captain, please forget about my proposal. I'm taking it back."
Kiho's stoic face finally cracked. He was usually emotionless but right now, he was frowning and he wasn't even trying to hide it. "My lady, may I know your name?"
"You just gave me one," answered Tilly with a smile. "I'm giving you the permission to call me the "lady with a crab mallet," Captain."
"KIHO, are you ready to meet your fiance?" asked the emperor with a playful grin while he was having tea on the sofa. Silver hair, red eyes, skin as pale as the moon those were the three physical attributes that the royal family members possessed. Ah, he should also add youthful look in the list. Members of the royal family would stop aging at their mid-twenties. "I heard Lady Prescott is a beauty."
Kiho didn't feel the need to respond to His Majesty who was obviously having a good time teasing him. He just remained standing in front of him with his hands on his back.
He was summoned by the emperor in the royal family's private parlor. There was a parlor for the guests but the immediate royal family had their own room to relax in. He was only allowed inside because he was the emperor's personal knight.
"You're the only person in the empire who will dare to ignore me," Emperor Aku said with a chuckle. Then, he gently placed the cup on the table before he turned to him. "Kiho, your mind seemed to be wondering elsewhere."
"Your Majesty, I met her again."
The emperor's red eyes sparkled in a mix of curiosity and excitement. "The dark-haired woman you met at the port town is a noble?"
He nodded before he spoke again. "Your Majesty"
"No," the emperor cut him off with his sickeningly sweet smile. "I will not allow you to break off your engagement with Lady Prescott. If you do that, you will ruin her honor as the daughter of a duke. Forget about me me who chose Lady Prescott as the woman of the prophecy."
The sarcasm wasn't missed.
[Argh. His Majesty doesn't want to take responsibility even if he was the one who insisted that the lady who had the darkest hair in the empire was the woman in the prophecy.]
"I'm sure you're not that selfish to do that to an innocent woman, Kiho," Emperor Aku said, obviously trying to prick his conscience. "I know that you never asked me for anything but don't put me in an awkward position."
[Then you shouldn't have asked for Duke Prescott's daughter's hand in marriage for me. Which I never asked you to do, by the way.]
"Oho, I know that look," the emperor said playfully. "I can tell that you're putting the blame on me in your head."
He only responded with silence.
"I'm doing this for you, Kiho," His Majesty insisted. "Duke Prescott is the highest-ranking noble that has no heir apparent yet. In our empire, women are not allowed to inherit a noble title. So unfortunately, Lady Prescott can't become her father's heiress."
[If you think it's unfortunate, then change the law. You're the emperor, aren't you?]
"Oho. You're probably badmouthing me in your head," the emperor accused him.
Well, Kiho didn't deny it.
"You're a mean bastard," His Majesty said while gently shaking his head. "Anyway, if you marry Lady Prescott, you'll inherit the duke's title. Let's be thankful that Duke Prescott doesn't have bias against commoners. It's very rare for a higher noble like him to accept a commoner in their family. But I guess the duke recognizes your skill as the Black Serpent Knight's captain."
[Don't make it sound like I begged the duke to let me marry her daughter, Your Majesty.]
"I want you to have more power to protect yourself, Kiho," the emperor said in a serious voice. "If you really want the woman you met at the port, you can just convince him to be your mistress later. It's normal for nobles to have a lover anyway."
He frowned at that. Maybe it was because he wasn't born a noble. But he didn't like most of the things that the nobility do especially those who were in the upper class.
"You're the only friend I consider in the whole empire, Kiho. We grew up together so it wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that I see you as my younger brother," Emperor Aku said in a somewhat gentle yet sad voice. "I'll make you climb up in the high society even if you hate me for it."
He knew that His Majesty was genuinely concerned of him, and he also vowed his loyalty to the emperor. But for the first time in his life, he wanted something so bad for himself. He was willing to risk his life to get it.
To be with the lady with a crab mallet.
"What do you like about the lady at the port anyway?" the emperor asked, curiosity visible in his eyes. "This is the first time I saw you interested in another person."
"Her eyes," Kiho answered. "She knows who I am but she doesn't look at me with fear or disgust. I like how clear her eyes are."
[And how she eats well, and her love for seafood, and the fact that we both have crab mallet, and that she's beautiful.]
Ah, it seemed like he liked her more than he thought.
[Is this what they call love at first sight?]
"Oho," Emperor Aku said in surprise. "Kiho, this is the first time I heard you talk that much in a while. Those were the longest words you've said this year. You usually just say five to ten words when I talk to you." When he didn't react, His Majesty groaned in frustration. "What should I do? Now that I've seen how serious you are with the port lady, my heart is wavering."
"It wouldn't be a problem if Lady Prescott breaks off the engagement herself," Kiho said in a firm voice. "Is that right, Your Majesty?"