Chapter 18 - Your Order
“You mean to say that you’re aware of your beauty?”
“Is it wrong if I know? Rather, it’d be strange not to know when everyone has the same reaction.”
“No, you’re right,” Kael teased and playfully added, “Then, I should see how much prettier the other areas are.”
Having kept his carnal desires in check, he was able to relax and display more of his impish nature that was usually reserved for those closest to him. Wearing a mischievous expression, in a half-serious and half-joking manner, he bent down to bury his head near Irene’s neck. However, as he approached, he noticed Irene close her eyes and stiffen her shoulders.
‘She must have been startled. I can’t believe I didn’t realize this. All that sex education was useless.’ Despite the wealth of lessons he’d received, Kael found himself floundering. Having regained his senses to some extent, he felt all a tinge of embarrassment for all his actions. ‘Seriously, I’m being humiliated for nothing because of the stupid people around me.’
Kael’s gaze passed over Irene’s skinny shoulders and down her arms. She was clenching her fist and rubbing her index finger with her thumb. Kael felt like his chest was throbbing for nothing. This wasn’t the time to be joking around. He couldn’t begin to fathom the emotions she was hiding and enduring behind the unemotional mask she wore. Letting out a sigh, he climbed off Irene and stood at the bedside. “I wanted to see you. I wanted to meet you, but not like this,” he said.
Irene slowly opened her tightly-shut eyes and asked, “Then, what should I do?”
It was faint, but Kael noticed the anxiety lurking behind her question. It felt like he’d caught a glimpse of her inner turmoil. “Lady Irene, you can do whatever you want. It’s not like we brought you here to keep you captive,” he said in a measured tone. “I simply wanted to see you one more time because you were so impressive.”
Irene clamped her mouth shut and lowered her gaze. That hadn’t been her exact question and she was embarrassed to be suddenly addressed as a lady, so she averted her gaze. It wasn’t until relief flooded her, melting the tension from her shoulders, that she realized how much lighter she felt. ‘I didn’t know that I’d get nervous about something like this.’
Up until now, Irene had always faithfully carried out her orders as a knight with little care of what might happen to herself in the process. She was insensitive towards ‘Irene’ and never cared to understand how she felt inside. However, she was now beginning to come to terms with her feelings. She began to recognize that she was merely an ordinary person who’d been thrust into an unfamiliar, perhaps even frightening situation. It was something Irene had failed to realize about herself until now, which Kael had already noticed long before. After a moment, Irene said, “Is that so? If so, there must have been some misunderstanding. Now that you’ve seen me, can I return?”
“If I say I don’t want you to go, will you stay?”
“Anything you order, I will obey.” Kael had meant his question as an obvious joke, but Irene’s eyes when she responded made him emotional. In a terrifyingly insensitive voice—cold and aching like the north wind—he ordered, “Then, take it off again.”
“I obey your order.” Irene stood up from the bed and immediately moved her hand back towards her robe. ‘Of course you’re the same,’ she thought.
‘Why is she accepting just any order?’ Kael sighed softly. Seeing Irene unconditionally obey his orders, including this ridiculous order, lit a raging fire within Kael. His simmering anger was directed towards the Theorin people who’d made her this way. Reaching out to clasp Irene’s hand as she was about to untie her gown’s knot, he spat, “Do you want to sleep with me?”
“I asked if you want to sleep with me.”
“Do my thoughts matter?”
The emptiness in Irene’s soulless voice caused Kael to break out in goosebumps. He desperately wanted to help breathe back the missing soul into her, and break the invisible chains that seemed to bound her tightly. “You know anything like this should happen with mutual intention and agreement. There’s no way you wouldn’t know that, right?” Kael said.
“The order of the empire is the order of the kingdom…”
“Are you supposed to obey all orders as a knight?”
“Following every order with all my life is the knight’s…” Irene trailed off. The more she spoke, the more miserable she felt. To feel this way from following an order when she wasn’t even a knight anymore filled her with despair. She mourned over the fact that she was just a powerless hostage.
“Irene M. Voltern—isn’t your name enough to accept who you are?” When his question was met with silence, Kael continued, “Lady Irene, it is your right to refuse to sleep with someone if you don’t want to. I don’t sleep with someone if I don’t love her.”
“Love…” Irene quickly bit the inside of her mouth as she inadvertently repeated after him. She was gripped by an unfamiliar feeling as she stared into Kael’s eyes, which reflected his firm will.
“I’ll ask again. Do you want to sleep with me?”