Chapter 17 - Aphrodisiac
The attendants of the imperial palace restlessly paced back and forth in front of the bridal room. Everyone was aware of the commotion last night. And how could they not be? At first, moans were coming out of the room, then screams, and finally the noise of something being smashed.
‘He spared her during the wedding only to get her in the night!’ Such was the common thought of all. As soon as the wedding had ended, rumors of what demands Princess Cecile—now the empress—had made before the wedding quickly spread throughout the imperial palace. Everyone thought that His Majesty would set out to destroy Navitan when he had time to spare. And, of course, kill the empress before that.
The next morning, the emperor left the bridal room in an extremely rare good mood. Upon witnessing that, the attendants made the sign of the cross and fell into a discussion after the emperor was gone. One of them asked, “Who wants to go in and clean up Her Majesty’s body?”
Naturally, no one raised their hand. In the end, they reached a consensus to decide by rock, paper, scissors.
“Isn’t the loser supposed to go in?”
“You say that like it’s a punishment game. It’s an honor to have the opportunity of serving Her Majesty, so of course, the winner should go.”
Thus, hearts united, the attendants pushed the winner into the room. The winner sucked in a deep breath, pressing her hands against her thumping chest. ‘I can’t get used to it no matter how many times I see.’
People died too often in the imperial palace. There was a time when the attendant had unknowingly turned around the corner of a corridor, only to be greeted by the sight of a beheaded corpse. Once, she had even found one of her colleagues, whom she had enjoyed working with until just the day before, floating face down in a pond.
There was no need to even look for the culprit behind these killings. At the time when she came across the beheaded body, the emperor was there at the end of the corridor, wiping the blood from his sword. And in the case of the corpse in the pond, part of the emperor’s office window—which anybody could recognize—was floating alongside the body. She was so scared at first that she begged the head chamberlain to let her leave the imperial palace right away, but the head chamberlain responded as he always did when attendants came crying to him: by shoving out their contracts to their face and saying, “Work your 3 years before going. Or you will hang.”
To summarize, those were the contract conditions originally written in a very long-winded fashion. As the attendant set to tearily unpacking her things, the head chamberlain told her that she would be okay so long as she did not get any funny ideas. The attendant knocked on the door, announcing, “Your Majesty, I have come to assist.”
“In clearing away your body”, the attendant mumbled aside and looked at the door that returned no answer. Well, of course. How would a corpse reply? The attendant inhaled deeply and opened the door. “Eh?”
But contrary to her expectations, she did not smell anything bloody. All she picked up was the scent of wine and fruit, the aroma of the rose perfume liberally applied on the empress, and an oddly fishy smell…
“Um…” The attendant was sniffing about, looking around the room for the Empress’ body, when she heard a thin voice from the bed.
The attendant turned toward the bed and yelped in shock. A slender, white arm had slipped out of the bed covers, beckoning for the attendant.
“Your Majesty! You, you are alive!” The attendant exclaimed while on the verge of tears, relieved at not having to clear away a corpse. At the same time, though, she felt puzzled. The emperor spared the empress? Just why? She dashed to the bed and soon figured out the reason. The empress was popping her head out of the bed covers, and the attendant’s face reddened upon seeing her face and nape.
Swollen lips, and red marks all over the neck, shoulders, and arms. It was apparent that the emperor and empress had spent a very hot night.
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