“Me? Are you serious?”

“Then why did you come? You don’t even have the guts to watch.” Nicolai lifted the corner of his mouth ever so slightly.
A flush rose on my cheeks.

‘Pull yourself together, Elisabeth.
You’re a fatal femme fatale!’

I swallowed dryly.
It was time to deliver the lines I had rehearsed all night.

“Your Majesty, I would like to have a word with you.” I spoke in a honeyed voice and made sure to keep my eyes half lowered while maintaining a coy expression.

“If you want to join, you’re most welcome.”

“But what if I prefer exclusivity over being a part of the crowd?”   

I can’t believe such words escaped my lips! My heart was pounding wildly, and I was fidgeting uncontrollably.
Still, I succeeded in making Nicolai smile.
Although it was fleeting, with only the corners of his mouth slightly upturned, I couldn’t help but be taken aback.

‘Dayum, he looks even more handsome when he smiles.
No mask could hide that handsomeness…!’

If Douglas was a peach that thrived on its sweet nectar and alluring softness, Nicolai was an overwhelming, tightly coiled beast emanating decadence.
He was the epitome of a stunning man, cherished by the author’s affection.

‘He possesses beauty, wealth, and power, the ultimate trifactor.
So why did Nicolai surrender to Claudia? He could’ve just run away with his personal guards.’

Unlike the original Elisabeth, Nicolai appeared plaintive in front of the guillotine.
He didn’t beg for his life, nor did he condemn Claudia, who had usurped the throne.
His demeanour resembled that of a martyr who had cut off all his troubles rather than a tyrant who had ravaged the country. 

‘The more I think about it, the stranger it seems.
Is it some sort of character breakdown, or could it be some hidden backstory unknown even to the devoted readers?’

I look at Nicolai once again, this time without the veil of prejudice.
However, the emperor in front of me now was nothing more than a libertine exuding sensuality.

“I like straightforward women, I didn’t know you are one.”

“You know who I am?”

“Is there a single man in the Hartman Empire who doesn’t know who Elisabeth is?”

Not as the Emperor, but as a man.
My stomach clenched at the thought of being seen as a woman by him.

“I’m meeting Your Majesty for the first time.”

“You seem to have no qualms about taking advantage of the Emperor you’ve just met for the first time though? Didn’t you said not to make a fool out of me?”

“Did you overhear everything?”  

 “I knew Kensing was involved in the invitation business.
I simply tolerated it because she took care of the troublesome parties for me.
How did you find out?”

It appeared that Nicolai had been aware of what was going on despite engaging in a ménage à trois at the same time.
He was undoubtedly the person I thought he was.

“A merchant is always quick to gather information.”

“That’s your answer?” “What other reason could there be?”

“I don’t like it.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“Be more honest.
That’ll sweeten things a little more.”  

I couldn’t understand what he was saying.
I didn’t know why he shrugged off the women’s advances and stood so close to me.
His unfamiliar scent made me dizzy, and I realised that a handsome man could be such a dangerous and scary creature.

‘I’m the one doing the seducing, not you.’

I bit my lip tightly.
Provocatively, I lifted my chin and winked a wink laden with my magic power, aimed at charming him. 

“What are you doing?” Nicolai frowned at me in puzzlement.
What’s going on? What’s with his reaction? Impatience instantly welled up within me.
I quickly gave a few more winks.
It felt like my eyelids were twitching.

“What’s wrong? Did something get in your eye?” Nicolai tilted his head in curiously.
A bead of cold sweat trickled down my back…

‘Could it be that Nicolai also has a conviction worth risking his life for, like Claudia? It’s hard to believe that a villain who knows nothing but women would have something like that!’

I didn’t realise my efforts were lacking.
Desperate to erase the premonition of failure, I pressed my lips to his fingertips.


A trivial yet audacious sound echoed through the air.


An awkward and devastating silence descended over the terrace.
To think that my last-ditch attempt had ended in failure.
It felt as if the sky was crumbling down on me.
Now, there’s only one way to go.

‘It’s time to do or die!’

I threw my arms around Nicolai’s neck as he stood towered over me, and then lifted my face and tiptoed while pulling him closer towards me.
It was the only way I could reach those elegant lips.

“I’m sorry, but let’s start with a kiss.”

He gave me no permission, but I had no intention of waiting for his approval either.
After all, there was no retreat.
I closed my eyes and pressed my lips to his, and as our lips touched and we exchanged spit, even the mighty Nicolai himself had no choice but to succumb.

‘I never expected my first kiss to happen like this.’

However, the disappointment was fleeting, for his lips were moist and soft, and his breath was gentle and warm.
My heartbeat resonated from my chest to my temples.
It felt as if all the blood and nerves in my body were drawn to his lips.
The tingling sensation that started on our lips coursed through my veins.
The soft sound of our tightly pressed flesh filled my ears.
Nicolai didn’t push me away, nor did he greedily seek my lips.
He simply accepted my kiss without any reaction.

“Thank you for your understanding…”

I slowly released the arms that were wrapped around his neck.
My knees wobbled as my strength drained away, but the women who were with Nicolai erupted in anger.

“You said you didn’t want to get involved!”

“You’re supposed to wait for your turn!”

They both seemed to believe I had cut in line or exploited the situation.

“Stand down, all of you.”

“Your Majesty!”

“I have something to say to this woman.
Just the two of us.”

Nicolai’s gaze was fixed on me.
It was a penetrating stare that seemed to delve into my innermost thoughts and uncover the secret hidden there. 

‘Did I succeed? Or was it a failure?’

I gnawed on my lips as I faced the crossroads of life and death.
There was no sign of the passionate fervour typically seen in someone who has succumbed to the charm, nor was there any sign of anger or indignation.

Faced with the predator’s probing gaze, I couldn’t help but tremble, and that’s when Nicolai flicked off the mask that had covered half of his face.
With the cumbersome mask gone, his wild and yet sensual beauty was fully revealed under the moonlight.

His thick eyebrows and deeply captivating eyes, prominent nose, and sensuous lips were a work of art.
But why was he looking at me with such eyes? Was it the gaze of a lover reuniting with a lost flame? Or the gaze of a young man smitten by first love? No, it was something else.

‘Let’s think positively.
It must be the power of fascination.
Nicolai has become my puppet!’

A sense of joy and exhilaration washed over me as if my lifeline had been extended.
Then, Nicolai pursed his lips and in a rational and cold voice, said, “You, be my consort.”

As he searched the two women, Nicolai’s attention was completely focused on the party venue.

‘I feel like there’s a strange scent coming from somewhere.
Am I imagining things?’

A hollow laugh escaped him.
Since his coronation at the age of twenty-two, Nicolai had never been able to smell anything.

Be it freshly baked bread, blooming roses, or even the finest perfumes—all were the same to him.
His sense of smell only reacted to the putrid stench of the “Netherworld Blossom,” as it was called, a contagious disease.
Seeking out the disease and secretly isolating those afflicted became Nicolai’s destiny.
Those who contracted the disease would develop a flower petal-like red rash, emit a peculiar odour, and suffer from a high fever before dying.
There was no cure or prevention.
To stop the plague from spreading unchecked, the late emperor turned to the Goddess of healing, Mourasynthia.

For a period of ten days, the late emperor observed a fast, followed by a 100-day memorial service.
Additionally, he also offered a thousand oxen and a thousand sheep at the temple.
The gratified Goddess Mourasynthia expelled the Netherworld Blossom and bestowed upon him the power to track the seeds of the disease through the presence of a wolf in his body.
The plague vanished without a trace, and the late emperor was recorded as a saviour who saved the nation.
Nicolai bit his lip.

‘The wolf can only seek out, taste, and suppress the disease, but fundamentally, it cannot eliminate it.
However, it doesn’t know the reason why the Netherworld Blossom is blossoming again or the reason why it only affects young women.’

The voice of the late emperor echoed in his ears, “Remember this, the wolf thrives on your desires.
The emperor must not be swayed by lust, nor should one pursue superficial happiness.
Don’t let anyone steal your heart.”

As long as the Goddess’s wolf was by his side, the Netherworld Blossom would not manifest.
That was the reason why those who carried the seeds were confined to the palace.
However, as they were all young women, Nicolai had to put up with being called a Casanova.
Only a few of his closest confidants knew about it.
Even his close aides were unaware of the fact that the 28-year-old emperor was a virgin.
To Nicolai, women were an endless obligation and a subject of surveillance.
Desire had long evaporated together with his senses.
Even today, he merely followed the scent of the Netherworld Blossom.

‘This scent, it smells like cherry blossom mixed with jasmine and sweet berries…I didn’t imagine it.
Seems even the wolf has picked up on it.’

Nicolai placed his right hand over his throbbing heart.
When the owner of the captivating fragrance appeared on the terrace, he froze.
He swore he had never encountered a scent more captivating than this.

‘Isnt she the heiress to the Amster Merchant Group? Wasn’t she just some unremarkable1 woman?’

The Amster family was considered among the wealthy elites of the Hartman Empire, and there was no way Nicolai was oblivious to who the Amster’s heiress was.
He was well aware of the rumours that portrayed her as a prominent figure in high society.
But that was it.
A woman unrelated to the Netherworld Blossom held no significance to him.
It was the intense curiosity that he hadn’t felt in a long time that spurred him to provoke Elisabeth.
No, perhaps it was hunger? Or was it an acute desire?

“Do you want to join in as well?”

“Me? Are you serious?”

The repulsive stench that had filled the terrace receded, replaced by a refreshing floral scent.
As his nose cleared and his mouth watered, Nicolai’s eyes fixated on Elisabeth, burning with the hunger of a famished beast.

‘If things that give off a foul stench taste bitter, wouldn’t things that carry a fragrance taste sweet?’

A strange heat stirred in his stomach.
He desired to taste her.
Right here, right now.
An insatiable desire, one he had never experienced before, surged fiercely.

‘Perhaps the Goddess felt sorry for me who had to live with that foul stench.
Maybe she sent someone as a temporary salvation.’

Elisabeth’s bewildering actions jolted Nicolai out of his delusions, overwhelming him in the process.
As she blinked one eye repeatedly and kissed his hand, a curiosity about her true intentions grew within him.
Just then, she spoke with a determined voice,

“I’m sorry, but let’s start with a kiss.”

He couldn’t be certain of what had happened next as sweetness poured into his mouth, and his consciousness swiftly escaped into an uncontrollable realm.

‘The sweetness isn’t heavy and artificial like chocolate cake, but rather refreshing and invigorating.
It feels like my numbed senses are awakening.’

Nicolai focused all his senses in savouring the fragrance and taste of Elisabeth.
It was a waste to even let out a moan.
The scent of cherry blossom, in all its spring glory, stirred inside him.
For the first time in his life, Nicolai didn’t want to part from a woman.
He yearned to kiss her longer, to draw her closer, and to touch her more deeply.

“You, be my consort.”

His heart, which he thought was frozen, throbbed as if it would burst.
He was afraid that this sweet woman might reject his proposal.
Of all things, he was feeling fear.
Nicolai’s thick brows twitched in disbelief.
There must be something she wanted since she came to him—the Casanova Emperor—on her own volition and gave a bold kiss.  Come to think of it, he received a report that a woman named Elisabeth was rumoured to be attempting to seduce me.

‘There’s no way she would refuse.
Who in their right mind would reject glory and wealth?’

However, once again, Elisabeth shattered Nicolai’s expectations.

“You don’t want to?”

An inexplicable rage shot up within him.
It wasn’t just because she dared to defy his royal command.

“What’s the reason?”

“I don’t care about such things.
All I want is to make you my puppet, Your Majesty.”

“Is that something you say to the Emperor?”

“So what? You’ve already fallen head over heels for me, haven’t you?”

Elisabeth was smug to the point of insolence.
Nicolai frowned and muttered,

“What would you do if I hadn’t?” Elisabeth’s complexion changed as she sensed something was amiss.
Doubt flickered in her eyes for a moment before she abruptly made a demand.

“Your Majesty, you’ve been sitting down for a while, would you like to stand up?”


“Why don’t you hop around like a rabbit or do the elephant spin2?”

Elisabeth was frighteningly serious.
She even demonstrated by spinning around while holding her nose, convinced Nicolai would obey her commands.
Swallowing a mix of discomfort and bewilderment, he asked in return.

“Why should I do any of that?”

“Because I’m a fatal femme fatale,” she replied.

“You’re like a mischievous troublemaker with no discretion.”

“Oh no, this is a disaster!”

Elisabeth covered her head with both hands, letting out a scream.
It seemed like she had finally regained her senses.

“Now, it would be nice if you start remembering who I am,” Nicolai said.

“Your, Your Majesty……?”

“Do you have any idea how much trouble you’re in?”

Nicolai snapped his fingers, and armed guards rushed in, a few sharp-eyed ones quickly surrounded Elisabeth.
Caught off guard, Elisabeth stammered, attempting to offer an explanation.

“I-I didn’t mean to show you any disrespect, Your Majesty! It’s just, there are some extenuating circumstances…!”

“Disrespecting the Emperor, it’s a grave offense deserving severe punishment equal to treason3.” Nicolai growled softly.
Elisabeth trembled, as if wondering why she behaved so arrogantly in the first place4.

“I-I beg for your forgiveness! Please spare my life!”

It was a somewhat familiar sight to Nicolai, despite never having owned a pet himself.
He had seen a small silky mouse wriggling on Franz’s palm before, with its black, beady eyes, gleaming fur that sparkled, and tiny limbs that trembled in fear. 

‘Was it called a hamster? It looks just like this woman, Elisabeth Amster.’

Nicolai stifled a laugh and vowed to himself.
He would do whatever it took to make this woman his own.

       To be continued…

Translator’s Notes:

1 무색무취(musaeng-muchwi)As far as idioms go, this is pretty common between the Korean, Japanese, and Chinese languages (無色無臭(mushoku-mushuu-JP)/无色无味(wuse-wuwei-Ch).
Besides being used as its literal meaning, ‘colourless, odourless’ (to describe characteristics of certain things like carbon monoxide, for example), as an idiom, it is used metaphorically to describe something or someone as ordinary, unremarkable, or lacking any outstanding qualities.
In this context, it was implied that Elisabeth was perceived as unremarkable (besides her beauty and riches, she had nothing else going on for her).

2 The 코끼리(kokkiri-elephant) refers to ‘코끼리 게임’.
In English, it’s translated as the ‘Elephant Game’ or ‘Elephant Spin.’ If you follow K-culture like k-pop and watches k-variety shows, you’ve probably seen this game a lot.
For me, as an Australian, I think we called this ‘Spinning tops,’ and it seems the American version is called ‘Dizzy bat.’

3 I wish Korean authors, when they write a novel with a mediaeval European setting, would think it through a little more regarding world building.
The concept of 삼족 (samjok)—punishing three generations for the crimes of one individual—stems deeply from Confucian values.
I chose not to translate it literally (three familial exterminations), but to interpret it in a way where the original meaning wasn’t lost and was befitting the graveness of the punishment.

4 The first meme was me until this sentence happened (언제 콧대를 높였냐는 듯 엘리자벳이 오들오들 떨었다), and then I was just Nick Young.
I was doing so well, translating this chapter with such good pace, but Translator God was like ‘Nuh-uh, not so fast,” and dropped this wall on me.
What does it even mean? I understood every word in that sentence, but I don’t get what it’s trying to say.
I tried googling in Korean, and all that came up were pages and pages of links to rhinoplasty.
I can’t relate.
I’ve never done any PS.
We all know Korea is plastic central, was this some sort of PS-related term somewhere? After much asking around, it was apparently a figurative expression commonly used in the Korean language.
‘Raising their nose bridge” is an expression used to convey the idea of someone with a sense of arrogance looking down on others.
In this context, Elisabeth was wondering why she did that to Nicolai in the first place.

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