The following evening, the emperor was looking at Iona who was sleeping soundly by his side.
He was in a deep sleep when he was woken up by Iona punching him on the arm.
She really had a bad sleeping habit.
“Hmm.” She twisted and turned in her sleep several times and he already lost count.
A soft sigh was emitted from her lips, making the emperor lean closer and he swept Iona’s face with his fingers, feeling her warm, soft cheeks against his skin, remembering what she told him yesterday.
“Thank you for giving me my voice back, Your Majesty.
I will never forget this grace.”
He couldn’t believe that Iona was talking to him, and he understood her initial reluctance considering the way he had treated her so far.
But still, he couldn’t help but feel sorry for her, and it only dawned on him then that he had been treating her as Iona, rather than Liliana’s replacement.
He felt confused.
Every night for the past few years, Ridrian thought that it will be Liliana was the only one who’d be able to help avoid the nightmares that’s been pestering him nonstop.
While her presence helped at times, it did not work every single night.
Even though there was a doll by his side, nightmares still clung to him every time he had a rough day prompting him to lash out, and only the sight of someone else’s blood would help him calm down.
Then there were also days when he got sick of the people around him.
At those moments of weakness, he just wanted to put everything behind him and crash into a world where the doll in front of him was really Liliana.
But no amount of pretending would make his delusions real.
At some point, he even resigned to the fact that it’s alright that the doll wasn’t the real Liliana.
Although it was certainly awkward to have another person by his side, it kept the nightmares away and he found himself sleeping peacefully whenever Iona was around.
He was reminded of Iona’s voice once again, her clear voice filled the empty void inside him.
He did not even realize that he was already smiling.
He didn’t think a human voice could be so attractive.
A voice is just a voice after all, and he didn’t think it could be so special.
Not even a famous singer singing to him at an Imperial banquet could make him feel this way, thinking that it was just a song, nothing special.
But Iona’s voice was different.
He was drawn to it and he wanted to hear more.
A day after the assault back in the Palace, he found out that the reason why his doll wasn’t speaking was not because she didn’t want to, but she simply couldn’t.
He felt his blood boiling upon seeing Iona trying to force her voice out but to no avail.
And on that day, he tasked Raven in finding out how Iona lost her voice and it didn’t take long until he came running back to the emperor, breaking the news that her former owner had poisoned her.
Was her former owner Earl Russen A rush of adrenaline spiked within him. How dare he…
Iona groaned in her sleep.
He was broken out of his reverie as he stared at her face, watching it softly relax and he smiled at the sight.
He was aware of how he’s behaving around her as he stopped himself.
That’s strange, he never felt this way for Liliana.
He didn’t know what this foreign feeling was.
All he knew was he wanted to keep Iona by his side, feeling affectionate towards her.
It was a feeling he had never experienced before, he was never once at the receiving end of someone’s affection.
It was kind of disturbing, unfamiliar, awkward even, but strangely, it did not feel unpleasant at all.
“Emperor… You idiot…”
Iona mumbled in her sleep, making him open his eyes.
Look at you, talking in your sleep, the emperor thought with a soft smile on his face.
She had the same habit Liliana exhibited before.
The story that was randomly spewing out of her mouth was incredibly interesting, making the emperor chuckle to himself.
Despite her unfiltered words, he couldn’t tear his eyes off her sleeping face.
He brushed his curly hair back and muttered, “I really am going crazy.”
He toyed with Iona’s lock of hair with his fingers before pulling it to his lips.
The faint scent of lavender filled his nostrils.
“I don’t want to let you go.” He whispered quietly, and only the crescent moon hidden by the thin clouds witnessed his confession.