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Leaping out of the carriage, Sigurd turned to Vikram and politely bowed to pay his respects while ignoring Nasha, who seemed like she had something to say.
“Your Highness, I apologise for my long silence.”
“Sigurd. You being healthy is of greatest importance to me.”
Seeing Vikram giving a nod in reply, Sigurd returned to the carriage for the time being, and held the girl sitting inside with both arms. He then got down from the carriage before placing the girl’s feet gently on the ground.
“Does it hurt, Julieta?”
“No. Thank you, brother Sigurd.”
Glimpses of the girl’s smile through her veil revealed her absolute trust towards her brother. Lifting up the hems of her robe, she bowed her head in a curtsy. Her gestures exuded refinement from tip to toe.
In addition to her intrinsic noble grace, her untiring efforts and diligence polished her gestures further.
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Not minding the temple knights who were sighing of admiration from underneath their helmets, Nasha curled her lips and ostentatiously latched onto Vikram’s arm. Feeling Julieta’s gaze on her, Nasha’s expression held an unmasked superiority as she placed her cheek on the Crown Prince’s arm.
“Your Highness, Lady Julieta…! Has she even followed me here to harm me? Poor Sigurd is also forced to ferry her around! Quickly return him to Melia’s side!”
“Nasha. Don’t throw baseless accusations.”
Vikram’s response to Nasha’s coquettish speech was indifferent as she clung to his arm. Nasha’s eyes grew wide at Sigurd’s frigid attitude as she had thought of him as an ally.
“Why? Did you forget, Sigurd? I was harassed by this bitch multiple times.”
“Anyone would wish to antagonise someone who needlessly follows their fiancé along. Would Nasha be alright if your fiancé, His Highness, escorted another noblewoman?”
“His Highness Vikram would never be unfaithful!”
It was precisely because he had done it in the past that Nasha was standing there.
Nasha seethed in rage all by herself as Crown Prince Vikram shifted his gaze around. Even the temple knights sensed the dampened mood, to say nothing of Lutora and Sigurd. A voice from the stairs above asked, “What happened”, diffusing the tense air.
Standing atop the stairs was a man with a slightly grave expression, Head Priest Malacia. Hearing the commotion, he had walked to the arch in the outer court from the chapel.
“Amy, Lutora. It’s alright, leave it to me. Your Highness. It is common courtesy for the royal family to inform the Shrine of a visit in advance. An abrupt visit when there is no urgent business leads to confusion for both parties. Please be more discreet with your actions. They needlessly cause turmoil amongst the subjects.”
“That, um… My apologies.”
Nasha must have unreasonably said that she wished to meet Melia. Her patience must have run out seeing countless formal requests get rejected. Then she must have decided to come to the Shrine uninvited.
Seeing Vikram not commit to his answer and replying evasively, Nasha butted into the conversation.
“Hey, why is Vikram the one apologising? Aren’t you only a Head Priest? His Highness Vikram is of a higher status!”
“Miss Nasha Laturi. It is quite evident that you haven’t learnt much from your Queen training.”
Malacia looked down on the country bumpkin who did not even understand the difference between status and power. Urging Lutora and Amy, who were flanking him on both sides, towards the outer court. He then gently spoke with a smile to Sigurd and Julieta, who were still waiting at the bottom of the stairs.
“The descendant of Sage Asbal, Sigurd Isys Asbal. The Holy Maiden, the honourable Sacrificial Maiden, Julieta O’shayne Asbal. I welcome your visit. The children were quite impatient for the day you would visit and they are eagerly awaiting your arrival.”
“I would like to show our gratitude for this warm welcome on behalf of the both of us.”
“I was quite pleased to receive your invitation.”
“The stairs leading up to the Shrine are a little uneven. Please watch your step, Lady Julieta. Take your time to climb up the steps, don’t rush. We shall return a little earlier, but… Your Highness, Miss Nasha. If you have any business, please ask prior to taking action. You are welcome to enter the chapel.”
Like a child flying into rage, Nasha bunched up her skirt with both hands and left Vikram’s side. She rushed up the stairs before stopping on the steps in front of the Shrine. Her actions did not have a shred of prudence, to say nothing of dignity. Seeing her, both the Crown Prince and Sigurd stood speechless.
Chasing after Malacia, the voice disappeared past the dragon-shaped arches.
Vikram, who was left behind, turned to look at Julieta.
Julita’s jade eyes peeked through her veil as well, peering at Vikram’s azure eyes.
The girl he had betrayed and abandoned.
The girl upon whom he and his friends had imposed the fate of death in exchange for the one he loved.
The girl he had thought of as the villain.
“It’s been a while. You seem well.”
“I am glad to hear that Your Highness is in good health too.”
“I want to apologise.”
“I heard many things. About the pain and the loneliness that you endured. I didn’t know a thing.”
“I know that you cannot bring yourself to accept my apology this late. But, Julieta-“
“There is no need, Your Highness.”
Cutting through Vikram’s eloquent excuses, Julieta’s words held an indomitable will.
“Your Highness is the one to rule over Palcemith. Please do not bother about the stones on the roadside like me.”
“How could I?”
“I am not the one who will walk beside Your Highness. It is Lady Nasha. Please leave me as is.”
“But Julieta, I-“
“I shall pray from the heavens that Your Highness’ reign be peaceful. That way, my obligation of loyalty towards the kingdom shall be fulfilled. That is all.”
The kingdom, the citizens and most importantly, the Crown Prince.
The pure wish of the innocent girl who had continued to love him.
It wasn’t something he could do, one who had trampled all over her destiny.
But at the very least, he wished to—.
“Julieta, your hand. The steps here seem quite high.”
Vikram endured a curtsy and held out his hand in front of Julieta who was dragging her feet with tiny steps.
It didn’t matter what he looked like. He just wanted to help her.
“No, Your Highness.”
However, Julieta resolutely shook her head seeing the Crown Prince hold out his hand,
“I am the Sacrificial Priestess of Palcemith. I wait for the moment when I offer my everything to His Grace Kharis. Even if the other person were Your Highness… I am afraid I cannot take the hand of anyone other than family. Your feelings of concern have reached me.”
“Julieta, come here. Take my hand. If you feel you might fall, I can carry you in my arms.”
“Well, if brother says so.”
Through her bashfulness, Julieta meekly placed her palm atop Sigurd’s outstretched palm.
Left behind, Vikram could do nothing but watch as Sigurd guided Julieta’s small frame over the stairs one step at a time.
The two climbed the stairs and were just about to pass under the arch leading to the outer court of the chapel when Sigurd, who was holding Julieta’s shoulder, turned to look behind, sending a quick glance at Vikram who was looking up at them.
The one who had competed with him in everything from sword fighting to studies, right from childhood; his greatest rival, Sigurd.
For Vikram who had no siblings, he was the closest thing to a brother, and his best friend.
The greatest knight whom he had never doubted, with whom he believed he would share his joys and sorrows while carrying the country on their shoulders.
This was the proof that a ravine had grown between the two.
Sigurd did not respond to Vikram’s murmuring and disappeared beyond the arch.
Vikram climbed up the stairs, alone, with his shoulders drooping. As he passed under the arch, a woman’s shrill voice akin to a shriek reached his ears.
“No! What is that!? Why!? I don’t believe it…!”
“Nasha! Calm down!”
“Give me back my Melia! Give her back! Disgusting!”
“Calm down! Your actions will only hurt your sister more!”
“Stop it! Right now! Release Melia from the duties of the Dragon Priestess!”
As he approached the source of the voice, he found Nasha Laturi creating another fuss inside the chapel with a crowd surrounding her.
Not minding Malacia and Lutora stopping her, she broke into the residential quarters behind the chapel. She barged into the room of the Dragon Priestess and saw Melia, who was now completely unrecognisable.
Melia would be in her senses only for the time period when her medicine (Suimo) was in effect. She would advise the commoners on their grievous worries behind the closed doors of the confession room during that time; a duty of the Dragon Priestess.
However, due to the addictive nature of her medicine, her fragile reasoning was consumed by greed.
Unlike Julieta who received confessions from girls of similar age as her, the ones who came to Melia for advice were all men who didn’t seem like they had a decent job in any manner. In the end, seeking advice was all in name and they came to hear the coquettish moans of the Dragon Priestess who indulged in pleasure day and night from the medicine behind closed doors.
Malacia and Lutora had tried their best to stop her, but giving confessions and receiving advice were the citizens’ rights. As long as the Dragon Priestess didn’t reject them, they could not prevent the visits.
Lutora was in tears as he apologised to Sigurd. Sigurd had learnt of Melia exposing her true nature once she became the Dragon Priestess from the ladies-in-waiting and the children. He patted Lutora’s shoulder to comfort him and said, “It’s not your fault.”
Thus, inside the dragon priestess’ room.
Nasha saw Melia on all fours, lapping up the bowl of the Suimo infused milk with her tongue.
Despite her degenerate expression, they still had the same face. Fear ruled her instinct as she rushed back out and despite knowing that she was inside the tranquil Shrine, she was reduced to the plight of having her shrieks resound throughout the whole chapel.
“That’s right. You have performed the duties of the Dragon Priestess in the past. It’s fine if you go back to doing it now!”
With tears pooling at the corners of her eyes, the one Nasha pointed at was Julieta, who was showing signs of surprise through her veil.
“In any case, you are going to be eaten by the dragon, right? If that’s so, it doesn’t make a difference if you start suffering from now itself!?”
“You impudent… how dare you…?”
Malacia and Lutora were dumbfounded at Nasha’s excessively self-centred words. Holding the peeling Julieta close as if to protect her, Sigurd glared at Nasha as he trembled in rage.
“Why… Why are you protecting that woman, Sigurd? Your lover is Melia!”
“Julieta is my precious little sister…! I won’t let you make a mockery out of her…!”
“Sigurd, you’re being deceived by that woman! That’s right, it doesn’t make a difference if the Sacrificial Priestess is eaten by the dragon sooner or later! The duty of the Dragon Priestess ends once the Sacrificial Priestess is eaten by the dragon, right? Everything will be solved then!”
“Nasha… Nasha. What. Did. You. Just. Say…!”.
The words Lutora spat out by grinding his teeth, did not reach the agitated Nasha.
“Let’s do that! Let us quickly feed Julieta to the dragon! Melia will be saved and the dragon that supports the nation will also have a full stomach! It’s a perfect plan!”
That cheerful voice.
Passed through the chapel to the room where the hollow-eyed Dragon Priestess was lying down.
It reached clearly.
Hasr: 4 chapters to smut \(//∇//)\
V: Go and study you aho fujo, or you’ll have nosebleeds during the exams.
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