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between guilt and desire

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All she could hear right now was the sound of people snoring. Some were soft, some were loud. But other than that, there's no other sound.

Proof of Zepar's superb ability.

"Good job, Serendine," came Judar's voice. From up above, Serendine could see his lips contorted into a smirk. The Parthevian princess sighed, and flew down to land on the earth, in an instant going back to her human appearance. Zepar was dwelling in her sword now. "Well done. Everyone here was asleep!"

Serendine smiled. "It's all thanks to you. Thank you for teaching me that move, Judar."

Judar lifted his chin haughtily, laughing. "Heh. You're my king, of course you can master that move!" he arrogantly said, face showed a great pleasure.

From his words, I guess he's praising me, Serendine thought, smiling. This kid was a bit difficult, but he's actually a nice kid.

"But actually, I didn't expect you to seriously pull that move," Judar smirked, pointing at her, at the same time erasing her smile. Serendine bit the inside of her cheek, guilt washed over her immediately. "You know I can see the rukh. I see you planted some of your rukh into—"

"I want to know," the princess cut in, clutching her fist, "I need to know more about Barbarossa. And as you said, this is the easiest way to keep an eye on him." The princess gritted her teeth, disgusted. "Above anything, I... I want to take Parthevia back."

Upon hearing her words, Judar gave her an easy smile. "It's okay, Serendine. That's why I'm here." He patted her hand reassuringly. "We're going to take your country back!"

His face was full of confidence, and he offered her a big smile. But despite all that, she couldn't give him a smile as big as his. She managed to crack a small, sad smile. Somewhere in her heart she simply couldn't agree with this setup. Is there no other way?

"Hey, Ju—"

A particularly loud grunt came from behind her, surprising her that she jumped. Clutching her chest to calm her heart, Serendine looked back on the ground, and found that the one who interrupted her was no other than Sinbad. She let out a sigh in relief, afraid that he was listening to their conversation. Thankfully, he was so deep in sleep that he was snoring noisily.

Is he that tired? Serendine wondered, observing his features. Maybe. He's running a company after all. The exhaustion must have put a toll on him.

"I'm going to look around to see how many people are affected," Judar suddenly said. Before Serendine could respond, the little Magi had already run further into the town, leaving the princess in the middle of sleeping people.

After her eyes couldn't see Judar anymore, Serendine shifted to look at Sinbad once again. This time she squatted down to see his face closer.

She hated to admit it, but Sinbad was indeed a very attractive man. It's no wonder many women swoon when they see him. And the fact that he had a smooth tongue didn't help at all. she couldn't count how many times he caught him flirting with woman—different woman every time. But what annoyed her more was that the burning sensation in her chest when she watched him casually smooth-talked other women.

Serendine shook her head, trying to erase the image of him flirting with others from her mind. It just fueled her anger, and there's no need for that. She couldn't have herself falling for him, dammit.

However, her pink eyes didn't leave his face, never once. She continued to observe his features, sweeping some purple strands of his and tucking them behind his ear. He looked like he was in peace. Somehow his face reminded her of an innocent child sleeping in a cradle.

She gulped the heavy lump in her throat. Did she have to do this to him? Sinbad had given her nothing but kindness. Well, except for that one time when he had embarrassed her in front of her soldiers, but in the end he still dropped her near the shore so she wouldn't get stranded. He's always considerate toward her. Without many questions, he received her, Saher, Tamira, and Dragul even though she had badmouthed him, although she was supposed to be his enemy. He still treated her nicely although she had shown animosity to him. He accepted her apology and let their past go so easily.

Sinbad was kind.

To repay his kindness like this, Serendine felt disgusted toward herself.

She gently caressed his face, pulling a grunt from his throat, but Sinbad didn't make any indication of waking up.

"... I'm sorry," she whispered. "I did something terrible to you..."

The purple-haired man just continued to snore, unaware of what she did, what she had done, with that innocent sleeping face of his. That face that made everything harder for her.

He looks so cute like this, she thought. Maybe if he's not cute this would be much easier.

Another feeling sparked in her chest, making her heart rate speed up in alarming rate. He looked very inviting—with chest going up and down slowly and rhythmically, with eyelashes that fluttered a bit every time he breathed, with slightly-opened mouth that let out soft snores.

Serendine found herself desiring him.

Biting her lower lip, the princess weighed her choices. This was the first time this happened to her. She really wanted to kiss him, feeling his lips against hers, but she's afraid he would be awake when their faces were a mere inch apart. That would be very shameful.

But the voice in her head noisily urged her—it's okay, it's okay, no one's looking, everyone's asleep, Judar was not here, there's no other chance, for God's sake just kiss him!

The princess swallowed her anxiety, silently swore she would take this to her grave. Slowly, she leaned down, angling her face and tilting his face gently, then pressed her lips against his.

.
.
.

Everyone woke up no long after Judar came back, and he didn't seem to realize anything. Good.

Serendine tried her best to keep her face neutral, but it was so hard because she couldn't help but stealing glances at his lips, because they felt so good against her own.

But his words snapped her out of her daze, realizing that she had done something other than kissing him—far, far terrible thing.

"This power will definitely be useful. I'll be counting on you."

His words pierced her heart painfully, but she managed to flash him a soft smile.