Chapter Twenty-One: The Taste of Chamomile

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[I have ongoing school mocks therefore i was unable to update "the golden rose" for some time. I apologise for the delay. Please continue to support "the golden rose" as always. Without further ado, here is the new chapter!]

My heart pounded in my chest. The once brash and vociferous sounds from my surroundings no longer reached my ears and the piercing stares no longer mattered. I felt heat transmit from his lips to mine and course down my entire body, sending shivers down my spine. I shuddered as he dug deeper into my mouth and my whole being. The tingling sensation within me grew, with no end in sight. My knees gave in as his fingers tightened around my curves, pulling me closer and supporting me against his sturdy frame. In that moment, as our warmth, our feelings and our emotions intermixed with each other, I truly felt alive. There was only once I had experienced a similar feeling and a similar adrenaline rush, when my eyes had fallen upon Raelia for the first time after my time travel. My vision grew hazier by the second. However, as I gazed into his clear, blood red eyes glistening with determination, both my clouded vision and judgement were made translucent.

Why are you having such thoughts, Eli? This is simply a show, an act. Pull yourself together!

Our lips parted. The aftertaste of the kiss was that of the chamomile tea we had sipped in the afternoon together. A fleeting feeling washed over me. A feeling of wanting more.

Uken was furious, "What do you think you are doing?!" which required my immediate attention.

"Ah...we just recently professed our love for each other so we are quite passionate," I provided an excuse.

Although our kiss had concluded, Duke Zenos's affection had yet to recede. He held onto me tightly, his hand not budging an inch from my waist. This only managed to evoke further rage within Uken.

"I believe our talk is over. Guards, please see our guest away," I swiftly ordered.

Obediently, they dragged away a reluctant Uken whose distant calls could be heard, "You think this is the end?! Just wait and watch! I will tear down the façade you both have put up in the name of love!"

Raelia, equally unsettled by the incident, shouted, "Sister! How can you treat Young Lord Uken like this? Even if he means nothing to you right now, he was once your fiancé!"

I turned to face Raelia, my eyes sharp and my tone cold, "My dear little sister, perhaps...are you shouting at me? Watch your words. Young Lord Uken, as you just said, means nothing to me now."

Taken aback by my sudden words, Raelia was rendered speechless.

I beckoned to Raelia's personal maid, "Today's events seem to have taken a toll on Raeli's health. Escort her back to her room properly."

As if I had read her mind, Raelia quickly took ahold of her maid and disappeared into the hallways of the Rosario Mansion.

"Well that was an eventful evening," Duke Zenos stated with a chuckle.

Why am I remembering the kiss now?!

My face flushed red, I replied, "I have caused you a whole lot of trouble today. I wished for your first visit to my estate to have been more peaceful. I deeply apologise for this huge racket."

The amusement in his eyes palpable, he responded, "It's not a big deal. Peaceful is another word for boring after all. You don't need to feel apologetic for this as we will soon be family."

Does he never get tired of this sentence?

I regained my composure and put on a poker face, "Well then, it is late into the evening so let me escort you back to your carriage."

"Yes, after you," he answered.

As we arrived in front of the carriage, Duke Zenos mentioned, "Ah...the main reason I came today was to deliver this to you."

He handed me a letter from his coat pocket. It was sealed with a stamp in the shape of a sun, the royal family's symbol.

My eyes inspected the letter carefully, "What is this?"

"The invitation to the Royal Ball," he declared.

The Royal Ball, an annual ball held by the Royal family where they flaunt their power and riches to nobles who may procure thoughts about a rebellion, if any exist. It didn't hold a significance in my life before the time travel but this time around it's different. The Royal Ball is the perfect stage for my act. All kinds of influential people will be present who will be the audience to my role as the kind and generous Saintess. If I am lucky, I might even hit the jackpot by finding the person who used Raelia as their pawn. All in all, this ball is nothing but beneficial to me.

A wicked smile found its way across my face, "It's almost that time of the year..."

Duke Zenos stared at me, "A letter for you and your family should arrive by tomorrow at the latest, I suppose. Although the ball is a hassle, if you want to go then I will go too. The Emperor is already aware of our engagement and is expecting us to attend together."

"That is inevitable," I replied.

"On that note, would you give me the honour of escorting you to the Royal Ball, Eli?" he asked, knowing the answer beforehand.

I looked up to meet his sincere eyes and as if possessed answered in a heartbeat, "It would be my pleasure."

"Then, I will take my leave now," he said.

"May the Spirits bless you," I replied.

He flashed one last smile in my direction and vanished into the carriage.

The next few days went by quickly as my maids and I were all absorbed in making preparations for the Royal Ball.

"I will make you the prettiest bride!" Mariah had repeated for the hundredth time even though I had told her it was not my wedding but just a simple ball.

The excitement was visible in everyone's eyes, especially in Raelia's. Uken had finally accepted her as his partner for the ball after her thirty fifth try. It was bound to happen as except for her no other woman wanted to have him, a rejected former playboy, as their escort.

I sought out Madam Rovelia, who had stitched my coming of age gown, once again to weave me a dress for the Royal Ball. The day of the ball arrived and the end result was beyond my expectations. If my coming of age dress symbolised the dark night sky filled with stars then this dress was the morning sky adorned with a glowing sun. The amber coloured dress shimmered in the light and gleamed in the darkness. The dress hugged my curves perfectly. It had a long cut neck and the bottom of the dress reached to the tips of my toes. A thin piece of see through, golden coloured clothing fell from my shoulders and flowed down my back, to reach the floor like a cape. My crimson hair was left untied as it swayed at even the slightest movement, as if fire had come to life. The look was elegant yet fierce.

"Miss, you are the most beautiful bride!" Mariah rejoiced.

I glanced at Mariah, "For the last time, I am not getting married! It's just a ball."

The shock of telling her only a few days before the ball that I was going to attend it, might have had a more severe impact on her than I thought.

A servant knocked on the door, "Duke Zenos has arrived, Miss."

"Oh! The groom is here!" announced Mariah loudly.

I didn't have the energy or the time to correct her again.

I smiled confidently, "Well then, shall we go greet the groom?"

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