When Poliana visited the emperor, Master Chail gestured to her to come closer before she entered his room. Poliana walked up to him, and Chail whispered to her ear about what happened earlier.
"His highness almost collapsed this morning."
That morning was just like any other day. Lucius the First got up early and exercised before having his breakfast. He then went to work as usual. Then suddenly, he grabbed the back of his neck and groaned as if in pain. Something like this never happened before and even the calm Master Chail thought he was going to have a heart attack.
Poliana's eyes widened, "Is his highness ill?"
Lady Rebecca fainted because of her high blood pressure recently, and now the emperor almost collapsed too? This couldn't be happening. Poliana thought about bursting into the emperor's room immediately, but she took a deep breath to calm herself down. She decided that she needed to get more information from Master Chail.
Master Chail replied, "It's not that he's ill, Marquess Winter. I think his work is stressing him out. Some of his projects must not be going as well as he hoped. His Highness must've called for you because he wants to make himself feel better, so please do your best."
"What about Sir Ainno? Oh, I guess he is very busy, huh? Hmm… this isn't good. Alright."
Poliana nodded confidently and Master Chail nodded in return trustingly. Usually, in this kind of situation, it was Sir Ainno who was called in. However, Sir Ainno, who led the First Division, was extremely busy getting his unit ready for the upcoming journey to Nanaba. His division was going to be responsible for the overall protection of all the travelers, and this meant that Sir Ainno had no time to have a leisurely meal with the emperor. This must've been why Lucius the First called Poliana to spend some time with him.
Poliana took a deep breath before walking into his room. Most of the time, even when Lucius the First was extremely upset or tired, he rarely showed it to anyone. So for him to act this way… This was a very worrying situation. Poliana's concern grew by the second.
The servants at the door announced Poliana and opened the door per Master Chail's order. When Poliana looked up, she saw that the emperor looked much thinner than the last time she saw him. Lucius the First greeted her pleasantly and Poliana replied worriedly, "Your highness! What happened? How is it that you look so tired?!"
Poliana couldn't even greet the emperor properly because she was so worried. Unfortunately, she wasn't overreacting; Lucius the First indeed looked very upset. His beautiful green eyes looked so lonely and his usually straight confident chest was slightly hunched. The emperor, who always looked like he would lead a million men with his charisma, looked tired and ordinary, making Poliana's heart ache terribly. She felt her eyes watering.
What happened to her emperor since the last time she saw him? She should've and would've heard about the emperor's deterioration, but Poliana had no idea.
'Did someone prevent this information from reaching me? Or did his highness worsen this morning?'
Just what was it that bothered her emperor so much?! Whatever it was, Poliana was willing to risk her own life to destroy it. Poliana kneeled in front of the emperor and exclaimed, "Your highness! What is it that worries you so much! As your knight, I, Poliana Winter, will give up my life to destroy your enemy!"
It was an excellent and very knightly oath to the emperor. Lucius the First looked at her affectionately and waved his hand.
"It's not like that. Let's just eat."
Lucius the First asked her to take a seat at the table. As she watched him, Poliana became even more concerned. Usually, when a knight gave an oath like this, the emperor responded in the similarly gallant way. It was a source of amusement for him.
Poliana wondered, 'Is something really wrong…? W-wait a minute! Is this about Lady Rebecca fainting? Did he call me here to reprimand me?'
Poliana was impressed with how fast the emperor received the information on what happened to Lady Rebeca since it just happened only a moment ago! At the same time, Poliana couldn't help but feel guilty.
She knew that Lady Rebecca did not like Frau, yet she still relayed the story about what happened last night. It was all her fault that Lady Rebecca fainted. Poliana admitted that she was indeed guilty.
Poliana was supposed to protect the ladies, but she ended up harming Lady Rebecca, who was also pregnant with the emperor's first child. Poliana felt her guilt stabbing at her heart.
It was best to apologize as quickly as possible. Poliana stood up and said to the emperor, "Your highness, it is my fault that I caused Lady Rebecca's blood pressure to go up."
"Her blood pressure?"
"Isn't that why you called for me today?"
"Why would I call for you for something like that?"
Poliana looked at him in confusion. Why wouldn't he call for her regarding his wives? Suddenly, Lucius the First burst into laughter. His whole face shook as he laughed loudly. The emperor replied, "I asked you to come because I wanted to enjoy a meal with you. It has been such a long time since we spent some time together."
So this was a social visit. Hmm… But even so, Poliana was still very worried. She wanted to help him in any way possible. Poliana asked him in a serious tone, "Your highness, if there is anything you need, I will do it. For you, there is nothing I wouldn't do."
"I… know that very well. Your loyalty to me always makes me sad and happy at the same time, Sir Pol."
The emperor was so sad that he ended up blurting out his true feelings. Poliana was confused, "Pardon?"
"I was just joking. Why would I be sad when you are so loyal to me?"
He knew that he couldn't tell her the truth, so Lucius the First pretended that he was just joking. The emperor felt even sadder in his pathetic situation. He untied the entire continent, but in front of this woman, he was so helpless.
'But she can never know.'
The emperor wanted the continent, so he took it. He also wanted the woman sitting in front of him, and if he tried, he could have her too.
But Lucius the First would never take her because she was too precious to him. Because she was so important to him, he had to hide his feelings. After the Stra's phantom pregnancy, Lucius the First decided that he was being disloyal to his wives by having feelings for Poliana. This was why he tried his best to avoid her.
To his disappointment, Poliana looked perfectly peaceful. It was obvious she had no idea how he felt about her. Poliana was clearly worried about him, but there were no romantic feelings on her face. She still did not see him as a man.
Poliana sometimes worried about Lucius the First's eyesight, but to the emperor, it was Poliana's eyesight that needed to be checked. She was sitting in front of the most handsome man in the kingdom, so how was it that she could act so nonchalant and comfortable? He was doing a good job of hiding his feelings for her, but didn't they say that love was the hardest emotion to hide? How was it that Poliana didn't notice how he felt?
Even his wives, after spending many nights with him, often said to him about his good looks. They were always impressed with his beauty. Even the elderly women sighed with desire when they saw their emperor.
His love for her was deepening day by day. His desire for her was increasing; it was distracting him from his work.
Lucius the First gestured for her to begin the meal. The knightess was not a picky eater. Even in front of the emperor, Poliana ate comfortably and well. She also ate very fast like she was being chased. This was a bad habit she developed from spending so many years in the war. Eating faster than the emperor was considered rude, but Lucius the First didn't care. He loved to see her eat, so he just watched happily.
She had the bread baked this morning, some root vegetable and ham stew. It was a humble meal considering it was for the emperor, but this was necessary for him because his lifestyle has become sedentary. For Poliana, however, it was not enough. She thought secretly, 'I'm going to have to have another lunch after this.'
Poliana quickly emptied her dishes much faster than the emperor. As Lucius the First continued to eat, she wondered about what she should talk about to make the emperor feel better. After a while, she asked him, "Your highness, have you decided what you would like to hunt at the National Day hunt?"