‘What… is this.’
As he arrived at the place behind the Star Palace, Helios halted in his tracks. The scene he hoped never to see was unfolding right before his eyes.
Sera Popo had her eyes closed as she struggled, almost completely trapped within Duke Bethmann’s arms, as though she was a fragile animal caught in a snare. While dressed beautifully in the light purple dress that he had gifted her, she couldn’t even move because one of her shoulders was being held in Duke Bethmann’s grasp.
His other hand was lifted high above his head, and he was breathing roughly, threatening to hit her at any given moment.
Glaring at the duke with a ruthless expression, Helios rushed towards Sera. As he got closer, he saw that she was trembling in fear.
At Helios’ frosty glare, Duke Bethmann froze.
“Y… Your Majesty.”
With the heady stench of alcohol coming out of his lips as he spoke, Duke Bethmann’s voice had a tremor. His face turned white as a sheet, perhaps frightened.
Even before he could lay that hand on Sera, Helios grabbed Duke Bethmann’s wrist. He gripped the other man’s hand so tightly that it was a far cry from the usual polite touch he would give. Given how strongly he was gripping, the duke’s face became distorted with pain.
Helios pulled away Duke Bethmann’s wrist to remove him from Sera’s vicinity. Finally, when Duke Bethmann’s other hand loosened its grip on Sera’s shoulder, Sera looked up at Helios.
Brimmed with tears, her blue eyes were shaking tremendously. Translucent tears rose up as though they were about to fall down her long, quivering eyelashes.
Her voice always made her surroundings light up, and this lilting voice called out to him. Her alabaster skin, which had been held in the duke’s tight grasp, came into view. Red marks remained everywhere on her soft skin which those wrinkled hands had pressed down on.
Seeing these bruises that did not match her fair skin, he felt as though something was lodged in his throat—as though his fury was welling up inside him.
Expressing this anger, Helios once again took hold of the duke’s wrist with a firm grasp.
“What… What happened here was…”
Duke Bethmann slowly staggered back. Without even needing to guess, it was clearly evident that Helios was beside himself in anger.
Fear and anxiety overtook him as his lips trembled, wondering what kind of excuse he could make to soften Helios up and make the emperor feel sorry for him. However, he didn’t think that mere words would be enough.
“Duke Bethmann, you must explain to me just what is going on right here.”
It was so strange, hearing his gentle voice be mixed with such a cold, biting threat. As sweat ran down his spine, Duke Bethman was overwhelmed by the emperor’s countenance. He wracked his head for any plausible excuse so that the sharp air around the emperor would die down.
Glancing down at Sera, he struggled to open his mouth.
“Mi… Miss Sera Popo disregarded our difference in status and, and stepped on my foot…”
He hesitated and bit his lower lips. He also knew for a fact that this excuse wouldn’t work.
But he couldn’t possibly tell him the truth. He knew the emperor well—he was an emperor who would criticize the duke even more harshly regardless of his status once he’d hear that he was trying to lay a hand on a woman.
‘Her Highness Rosé bit Elijah earlier, how can I cover this up with that?’
The old duke somehow thought which of his cards could get him out of his situation. Just to get away and receive a lighter punishment for sexual harassment, this was such a shallow trick.
“Your Majesty, my son, Elijah…”
But the moment Elijah’s name was uttered, the temperature around Helios sank even lower.
“Duke, I am speaking of this only because that name was mentioned. Roseline bit the Young Duke’s arm today, correct? But do you know why Rosé bit Elijah’s arm?”
Unexpectedly, Helios’ voice growled in anger, filled with such wrath that he could not suppress.
“N… No, sire.”
Quite bravely, Duke Bethmann looked up at Helios. Unlike the low-pitched growl, there was a low hanging smile on Helios’ lips, however, his eyes were terribly frosty.
‘The emperor’s reaction means, definitely… it’s Elijah’s fault!’
He hurriedly lowered his gaze to the ground once more, deeply regretting not asking about his son’s injury beforehand. He had been so distracted by the red teeth marks on his one and only son’s arm that he didn’t even think about finding out how it happened.
“I will not be abandoning my younger siblings.”
Sounding as if he was holding back his anger, these were the words that Helios spoke, and he soon pressed his lips together in a straight line. Then subsequently, he smiled and let go of his forceful grip on Duke Bethmann’s wrist.
Starting back at Helios with blank eyes, the duke had his mouth gaping open. Just what did his son say that the emperor had gotten so angry… However, he had a guess.
‘I know you’re stupid, but how can you be so foolish.’
Duke Bethmann tried to calm the anger that soon boiled up inside him against his foolish son.
The House of Bethmann was one of the few duchies of the empire.
There was one thing that he always said everyday to boost Elijah’s confidence…
“Regardless of whether Their Highnesses are called Imperial Family members, they will soon be kicked out because they’re not His Majesty the Emperor’s children. Imperial children are each other’s enemies, Elijah. That’s why among your peers, there’s no one better than you.”
He blamed his own mouth for constantly spitting out these words, but they had already left his lips.
That foolish Elijah said those words in front of Their Highnesses!
Now, the duke hesitated. He didn’t know whether to kneel or to beg in front of Helios. It was clear that, if he so wanted to, the emperor would punish not only the duke’s heir but also the duke himself.
If he were to save his dignity here, he would lose everything he had in return.
Duke Bethmann glanced towards Sera and gritted his molars. He clenched hard and held back the urge to let out the curses that were threatening to come out of his lips.
‘I can’t believe I’m going to kneel in front of Sera Popo!’
Yet soon, he slowly bent his knees. And on the spot, he knelt down in the same way that his daughter, Lucille, did.
“Please… Please spare us, sire.”
He couldn’t believe that he was suffering such a humiliation that he had to bow his head down and ask the emperor to spare him. It was something he couldn’t accept.
“You’re mistaken, Duke. It’s not towards me that you need to apologize—it’s towards my younger siblings.”
“…Yes… Your Majesty.”
With his head still bowed, the duke replied like so. He never dreamed in his life that Helios would reprimand and criticize him, so he was both taken aback and humiliated.
“Is that all?”
“Don’t you think that Miss Popo also deserves a respectful apology?”
As though he felt no malice, Helios smiled brightly as he said this. But even as his smile was so beautiful that anyone would be mesmerized by him, his intentions were clear, ruthless. Apologize at once.
“Towards Miss Sera, I don’t believe I have anything to…”
The soft, crescent arc on Helios’ lips quickly hardened.
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