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Predatory Marriage

Chapter 38 As Red as Blood


Chapter 38 – As Red as Blood

At first glance, one would assume that Ishakan was a poor dancer. However, witnessing him move so gracefully with the music, made Leah think otherwise. It was as if he was taught how to dance the dance of Estia beforehand. However, Leah couldn’t stop herself from saying…

“It seems you have a knack in attracting trouble.” she said, finally breaking the silence between them. As they twirled, Leah’s skirt fluttered around her like a flower blooming before falling gracefully around her feet. At this statement, Ishakan frowned at her…

“Will you really insist on playing princess when we’re dancing?”

She fought the urge to stomp on his foot. But even if she were to put all that she had on that one mighty stomp, she doubts, with his thick skin, that he would sense she was doing it. It was like underneath his skin was his skeleton made of iron. Seeing his grin at her, Leah couldn’t help but snap at him…

“Why do you even insist on causing me trouble every time?” She asked him incredulously and he only grinned at her all the more.

“Probably because it irritates you so much.” he said smugly, and Leah stared at him with a glare.

She was still deciding whether or not he meant it or just making fun of her. Sensing she couldn’t get a straight answer, Ishakan fired away once more with a smug grin…

“Do you like your fiancé? Byun Gyongbaek?” He asked with mock curiosity as Leah’s frown only deepened the more he grinned at her.

This man, she thinks with irritation, fighting back the growing urge to cause him bodily harm. It was clear now that he was enjoying her predicament.

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“My feelings for this matter are irrelevant.” She answered diplomatically, “As a princess, it is my duty to marry him.”

“Ah you’re too kind, princess.” he mock-praised her and drew her closer, whispering to her ear. “Don’t you think you should loosen up a little?”

Leah would have preferred that he was unable to come to Estia, thus not having him around, alas, reality was not that fortunate. Instead of gracing him with an answer, Leah chose to change the subject instead.

“You dance so well the dance of Estia, how come?” She asked him.

“Ever since I was young, I’ve had rigorous lessons on what to do on a variety of dances.” He answered truthfully, but Leah watched him with a skeptical eye. She could hardly believe he’d done such a thing since childhood. She couldn’t even imagine what childhood he would have had, let alone actually go through dance lessons with his attitude.

“Curious?” he uttered with a grin and held back a snort.

“Not one bit.”

“Such an excellent liar.”

“Please leave me alone.” She sighed out in annoyance, careful to keep her cool. She still needed to keep up appearances after all. Ishakan’s eyes narrowed down to her as he watched her lips begin to tremble, “Why do you always insist-” she says in a choked-up voice before she stopped herself before continuing, and pulled away from him. However, he gripped her tighter, preventing her from doing so.

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Ishakan drew near once more, and asked her in a whisper…

“Do you still wish to die?”

And without hesitation, Leah firmly replied…

“Yes.”

The music stopped, and another one started. Leah finally managed to extract herself from Ishakan, and smiled at him gracefully in false pretense…

“It was a pleasure to dance with you, King of Kurkans.”

“The pleasure’s all mine, Princess of Estia.” The, she curtsied before him.

“If you’ll excuse me, I’ll go look for my fiancé. Please relax and enjoy yourself at the banquet.” Without waiting for a reply, Leah turned on her heels and walked away from him, effectively cutting off Ishakan from whatever else he had to say.

She felt like she was running away as she walked at a fast pace.

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She had to leave as soon as she could because there was only one thing she could think of she’ll do if she’d stay any longer. She had a feeling he would offer her his help, and had he done so, she would’ve accepted it.

She could feel the stares of the crowd following her from the back of her head as she left. It made her want to disappear, the way their gazes swept over her, like a predator eyeing their prey. She only paused when she finally saw the Countess Melissa a few steps in front of her.

“Countess…” She began, but trailed off, and the Countess gave her a soft smile, taking her hand gently, leading her away.

“Princess, perhaps you should rest for a while.” She told Leah, who escorted her to a private resting room. When they were finally in the comfort of the chamber, Leah found herself collapsing on the long sofa nearest to her. Melissa proceeded to busy herself by fetching her a glass of water and helped to prop her up to sit comfortably.

Leah could feel her breathing turn ragged, as black spots appeared in her vision, and Melissa moved behind her silently, placing a comforting hand on her shoulder, massaging her gently.

“I should loosen your corset.” Melissa told her, but she was stopped.

“No, no need.” Leah interrupted, “I need to go see Byun Gyongbaek.”

She had no doubt she had offended Byun Gyongbaek deeply with her accepting Ishakan’s offer to dance. She needed to appease him now, and avoid any other repercussions. Countess Melissa gave her a pitying look, but Leah only gave her a slight smile.

Despite being called a princess, that’s where her privileges stopped. Leah was as powerless as any other person in the castle compared to the other royalties. Despite that, she could almost see her demise, and she couldn’t help but crave it the closer it gets.

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‘Endure it,’ she told herself, ‘Just a little more.

It will all be over soon.

Leah braced herself, and finally stood, but Countess Melissa tried to intercept her.

“Princess, I beg you to reconsider.” Melissa pleads with her, but they were interrupted when someone was already waiting for them outside of the resting room as soon as they stepped out.

It was a messenger, a military aid of Byun Gyongbaek.

“Byung Gyongbaek of Oberde wishes to see Princess Leah. If she could just follow me?” He informed them both, and Melissa looked at her worriedly. Leah comforted with her eyes and her nimble smile before nodding to the man, who swiftly left, and she followed soon after without any word.

Leah trailed after him, and found herself standing in a garden, located far away from the banquet hall. It was originally a popular place, decorated with a small outdoor iron table, carved and molded with intricate designs, with matching chairs. Currently, it was empty, save for her fiancé, who must’ve warded off any people that had dared to come visit the garden and drank his favored dark red liquid.

There was one other glass of wine on the table, as if he was anticipating she would seek him out after the dance. The man, who fetched her, gestured for her to proceed, and when she walked past him, he left them alone for their privacy.

“Byun Gyongbaek-” she began, but he cut her off immediately when he placed his empty wine glass on the table with a clink.

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When he was certain they were alone, his pleasant demeanor immediately vanished.

“How could you humiliate me? I’m your betrothed!” he spit at her and Leah fought herself not to flinch.

He reeked of alcohol as he glared hatefully at her. His eyes daze, and his actions sluggish. He was breathing harshly, as Leah stood frozen. After a few moments, he finally sighed and refilled his glass, picked it up and offered it to her, gesturing to the other glass. “Won’t you drink with me, princess?”

Leah looked at the filled cup, and did as she’s told, bringing the cup to her lips and finally taking a sip of the swirling wine as red as blood… She might’ve not wanted to, but it was a small price to pay for what she’d done in the banquet hall.

As she drank the wine, Byun Gyongbaek watched her carefully, drinking his own wine as they both finished their drinks in silence. When she was finally done, Leah placed the glass back down on the table, until a strange feeling overcame her. She frowned in confusion as she stared at the glass…

So clean and polished…

As if no one had even drunk from it.

The strange feeling welled up inside her as alarm bells rang in the back of her mind. Something wasn’t right. Something was wrong…

“I…” she spoke blinking back the strange feeling, “I need to go now…”

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Was she swaying? It feels like she’s swaying…

“There’s something…”

“No.” Byun Gyongbaek interrupted her, moving closer to her, touching her cheek. “Stay,” he commanded her, as Leah hazily looked up at him, “Stay with me.” he crouched down, and gives her a manic grin, “Just until the drug wears off.”

And cold dread settled in the pit of her stomach.


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