Dana took a small breath.
Your Majesty, it's not an easy thing to say you'll take responsibility. Do you know what that entails? Of course, she only said it in her head.
"You were on your way to the Imperial Palace, weren't you?"
"Yes, Your Majesty." Dana gently picked up her skirt and bowed.
"Then it won't be hard to ask the Princess for a change of clothes."
"We can't do that because we were invited to her salon," Madame Roulin said gently yet firmly.
The Emperor began to agonize over another way to fulfill his promise. "Well… it isn't easy finding a proper dress right now because only one woman is living in the Imperial Palace. I cannot give you a court lady's dress either… Ah." His mumblings suddenly stopped.
"There was a suit I had. I think it was white. I'll give it to you."
Madame Roulin interrupted and pleaded as politely as she could, "We appreciate your concern, Your Majesty, but I believe it would be too big for Miss Dana."
He frowned at Madame Roulin's concern. "What are you talking about?"
"I will tell you when you develop a taste for fashion."
"You're not developing Alzheimer's are you?"
"We are eternally grateful, Your Majesty. I am surprised to hear you have something you never usually care about."
Currently, the highest-ranked woman in the Imperial Family is the Emperor's sister. Goods related to women go directly to the Princess instead of the Emperor. Dresses are classified as feminine goods which is why Madame Roulin questioned him.
Frustrated, the Emperor explained, "It came as a tribute during the reign of the previous Emperor and I kept it in my palace because it didn't suit my mother or the Princess. I do not know if it is good enough because it was given as a tribute."
"Tribute…? Oh? Oh no, don't tell me…?" She looked at the Emperor with her eyes wide opened.
"Are you talking about the white training dress registered as a royal treasure?"
"I think Madame Roulin knows better than anyone how many treasures there are in the palace."
"There are 89,472, but not many of them are considered valuable as that dress isn’t that right, Your Majesty?"
When the Emperor questioned her with a raised eyebrow, Madame Roulin broke out, "Miss Dana will be greatly overjoyed and filled with excitement for your consideration."
"I am trying to be responsible for my mistakes."
"Would you be?"
Dana's eyes went back and forth between the two quarreling with each other. She didn't understand the situation, but it seemed that the Emperor was giving her a precious dress as an apology.
"Then to the Imperial Palace… Hmm." The Emperor reached out to Dana to escort her but suddenly stopped talking.
Madame Roulin, who walked in step with the Emperor, turned her head and asked, "What are you doing, Your Majesty?"
He made an awkward expression.
"I came by horse."
"Oh." She made an expression of realization.
There were only two people in the Palace who can use a carriage or horse, the Emperor and the Imperial Princess. The Imperial Princess used her carriage and the Emperor usually rode on horseback. Since he doesn't use a carriage often, it would take time to prepare for one. They would be tight on time to make it to the Princess's salon.
"We would have to walk to the Imperial Palace immediately…" Madame Roulin murmured nervously.
"Do you know how to ride a horse?" the Emperor asked while looking at Dana. She shook her head haphazardly.
"Then there is no other way. We will go together. Wait here Madame Roulin."
Dana was startled but Madame Roulin bowed her head.
By his words, a stable man led the Emperor's horse, which was resisting and jumping on its hind legs, over. Before Dana's eyes was a sharp-looking horse that had a high physique. The horse was so big that it looked monstrous.
"Oh, no, I…"
Dana, who was overwhelmed by it, faltered back but he was already sitting in the saddle.
"Come here." The roughly dressed Emperor reached out to her.
Dana halted when she saw his outstretched hand. This was an opportunity for her to ride on the Emperor's horse. Her rose-tinted glasses were powerful so the moment the Emperor reached out his hand, the monstrous horse became a romantic pegasus on a merry-go-round.
"Yes, Your Majesty…" Dana could barely answer as she dreamily took his hand.
Before she knew it, one of the Elite Guards grabbed her waist from behind and lifted her. At the same time, The Emperor pulled Dana up with both his hands.
Dana sat on the saddle in the blink of an eye.
Then the Emperor's blessed chest touched her back.
But that wasn't all. His tough arms stretched over Dana's sides. His big, bony hands held the reins and he was close enough for her to see the blue veins on the back of his hands.
The senses of sight, sound, and touch all overwhelmed her before she could prepare.
Dana somehow was able to hold onto her soul before it disappeared again.
"Hold the saddle or the horse's neck."
As the Emperor commanded, Dana quickly turned around and grabbed onto the horse's neck, but its neck was so thick that she couldn't wrap her hands around them with both hands. She ended up grabbing the mane with one hand and the saddle with the other.
The Emperor rode the horse and it cleverly ran as he steered.
The clear sound of a horseshoe meeting the floor could only be heard once.
"AHHHHHHHHHH!" Dana's scream rang out.
The Emperor and the horse stopped at the same time.
"I'm scared!" she screamed as she felt she lost feeling in her fingers. She almost tore the horse's mane.
"Shall I go a little slower?"
"Yes! No, other than that."
"I'm afraid I'm going to fly off."
The Emperor realized Dana's plight. He never knew because he never rode a horse with a woman before and noblemen all learn horseback riding as part of their education.
For the first time in his life, the Emperor encountered a strange problem.
"Then, sit in the back."
The Emperor moved to the front so his broad back was in front of her.
"Wrap your hands around my waist."
"Uh, ah, well, yes…"
His back, which was right in front of her, was different from what she saw in a distance. Thanks to his time during training, his thin, white shirt clung to his slightly damp back, revealing skin. His Majesty commanded her to hold on to him, but she doesn't know if she'll be alive if she does.
Dana gulped and carefully gripped his shirt around his waist.
"Hold on tight or you will fall."
The Emperor intentionally grabbed her wrists because her grip made his sides itchy.
Dana was startled and let out a sound of protest but the Emperor’s grip was firm. He pulled her wrists together and made her bury her face in his back. The smell of the Emperor's scent, which was mixed in with fragrant oils and sweat came pouring in like wine. Lightning struck and thunder sounded in Dana's head.
"Hold on like this."
The Emperor held her hands in front of his bellybutton. After making sure she held on tight, he had the horse run again.
Every time the horse galloped, the Emperor's hard, flexible muscles contracted under Dana's arms.
The horse's muscles under her legs and the Emperor's muscles under her arms… She was in muscle heaven.
"Ah, ah, ah! Wait!"
She wasn't able to endure the pain from the muscle paradise. Dana screamed again at the pain that drove her away from enjoying it.
"What now?" the Emperor impatiently questioned, stopping the horse yet again.
Dana agonized over whether to say it or not, but she couldn't bear to not say it when she doesn't know where in the Imperial Palace she was going.
"Um, my butt…"
"What, your butt?"
Full of shame, Dana said, "They're sore…"
The Emperor slowly began to understand. The horse doesn't slither, it jumps up and down and moves forward. Each gallop would cause a shock for the rider.
It was okay as long as the rider sits with their legs on both sides of the saddle, but if the rider sat side-saddled, they would receive that shock every time. Therefore, no matter how hard she would hold onto him, she would still receive that shock on her butt. The horse would have to run with as little impact on the ground as possible. After a brief thought, the Emperor thought of another way.
"We are changing positions again."
But the position the Emperor decided on was too much for Dana.
"You will get used to it soon."
Her butt would get better, but not her heart.
Once again, the Emperor sat behind Dana but this time her legs were on his thigh. Then he grabbed her hands and wound them around his neck. The difference in height caused her butt to hang in the air so he clasped onto Dana's waist with one arm.
In the end, Dana hung from the Emperor's neck as he rode the horse with her upper body firmly attached.
Dana's butt was no longer hurt, as the Emperor had intended, but her heart failed to give her a break. He also ran fast enough for a dust cloud to kick up behind them.
By the time she got off the horse, Dana was already out of her mind.
"Your Majesty, ah, abs, gasp, arms biceps, gasp, huff!"
"We are here, get up."
A skilled court lady helped Dana, who couldn't stand properly. As soon as another person touched her, her soul finally returned home.
"Good. Get her the white training dress."
"As you command, Your Majesty."
The court lady didn't say any hidden remarks like Madame Roulin. She only bowed and politely supported Dana.
Dana was now able to pull herself together and stand by herself but her heart sank a bit when she stepped on the ground.
The Emperor settled the horse at the gate of the palace. They went inside as soon as the door opened. He naturally crossed the threshold, unlike Dana who wavered and moved under another court lady's guidance.
She couldn't afford to see anything while on the horse, so she doesn't know what the other areas of the palace were like. Although it wasn't as spectacular as the ballroom, it was grand.
"Please wait here."
Dana was escorted into a small room with a sofa. The Emperor seemed to have gone somewhere as the court ladies went out to follow his orders. Dana was left alone.
At first, she sat with her hands on her knees, then slung her arms on the sofa.
A sofa that was fit for a king. The back of her hands where the sofa touched tingled. She trembled.
'His Majesty's private space!'
A spark flew out of Dana's eye. There was no one around. She took a long breath and looked around. The next moment, her instincts told her what to do.
Dana… Dana why?
Proofreader: Arie Bee