It was then that I realized that what I had tripped on was the emperor’s foot.
I was upset for a moment, but my nerves slowly eased as he tightly embraced my off-balanced body and led the dance.
It was a different experience, having the presence of the man, I had always seen from a distance, right in front of me.
It felt awkward, but also exciting.
I continued to dance leaning against his body, when I looked up and noticed the emperor staring at me.
“My Lord” I didn’t know why he was looking at me with a critical gaze.
He leaned in and whispered in my ear.
“You’re still too light.”
“The foods I have been sending you, are you eating it all Why are you still not gaining weight” He frowned slightly, clearly unapproving of my body.
I was dumbfounded at his question.
Every meal he sent was twelve courses, enough to make the legs of the table buckle.
Was he really asking me if I ate all of that I do like eating, but my digestive tract only holds the normal capacity of food.
“You’d need three burly knights to finish all of the food you send.
How am I supposed to manage all of it myself”
“You can eat it little by little.” The emperor smirked.
“You’re kidding, right”
I had to clarify if he was being serious, as his answer had been so nonchalant.
The emperor just chuckled.
It seemed like he was laughing a lot more these days.
I wasn’t sure if it was because he found me funny, or he was mocking me.
Regardless, to see this man of such beauty jovial, made me happy.
“Tell me if there’s anything special you’d like to eat.
I’ll have it made for you.”
“Thank you,” I replied bluntly.
He smiled, not taking the hint that I was being facetious.
I could only shake my head.
He had this new habit of trying to give me things that he thought I would like.
The beat of the dance started to increase.
I stopped leaning on the emperor’s body and tried to dance the steps on my own.
I completed the footwork better than I had expected too.
My nerves must have worn off and muscle memory was kicking in.
As I smoothly followed the emperor’s lead, he once again brought his face close to mine.
“Iona, I have done cruel things to you in the past.”
It seemed strange, but I didn’t think he had been aware of the things he had done.
But he had also done kind things for me, not just cruel acts, so I let him continue.
“I can understand if you don’t trust me.
But, please, tell me when there is something you like and something you don’t like.
That’s the only way…” He suddenly stopped speaking.
He seemed to be unsure what to say next and shifted his golden eyes to look in a different direction.
Taking a deep breath, he looked at me again.
“Anyway, tell me if you don’t like something.
Like the necklace I gave you.”
I really must have given away my dissatisfaction at the necklace through my expressions.
It probably looked like I had seen a cockroach crawling on top of the desk I was working at.
It was hard, hiding and suppressing my emotions for nearly ten years now.
In recent months, I had to act even more like a doll.
To be asked now to express my likes and dislikes, without a filter, is easier said than done.
But hearing that the emperor wanted it this way made me feel like perhaps it would be possible.
“I’ll try my best.” The awkward expression on the emperor’s face eased at my response.
The music slowly rose to a crescendo.
I danced, following his strong but gentle lead.
I usually didn’t enjoy being so active, but dancing to enjoyable music, with a person who wanted to protect me, felt like a good justification of my free time.
It was a sudden thought, that he had taken me as his doll, but had never once put me in danger.
He rescued me from the ambush, found me my voice, and was being very considerate to me ever since returning from the prayer festival.
It may be because I was his doll, but at some stage he had become a little different from the tyrant he was originally.
The current version of him did not seem as isolated as before.
Lately, he was looking at me directly and trying to listen to what I had to say.
Maybe he had become comfortable enough with me to be a little more open.
I felt reassured that I could worry less about getting caught in the crossfire of his unpredictable outbursts.
Even if I was getting special consideration as his doll, I hoped that these small changes would be a starting point for him to find some happiness.
I did wish that he would stop spoiling me though.
He was definitely giving me too much, if he only saw me as a doll.
In anyone else’s eyes it would seem like he was propositioning me to have me as his concubine.
But being a man who has everything, there was no way that he would have such feelings for a lower-class individual like me.
This was even more reason that my mind should be filled with questions.
I decided this would be a good time to ask.
Being in such close proximity, he would not be able to avoid the question.
“My lord…” Before I could add anything else, the emperor interrupted.
“You call Ravis by his name, do you not You are around me more often, so you should also call me by name.”
Shocked by his request to address him informally, I immediately trotted on his foot with my sharp heels.
Even with a body built of muscle, it would have been painful for the emperor.
I was so taken aback that I almost forgot what I had originally intended to ask.