Chapter 21 - His Method To Survival
After Estian appeared like the wind and disappeared in an identical fashion, Cecile left the bathroom. The waiting attendants immediately took her away to start dressing her up. After that was over, she was led to another room.
“This is?” She asked.
“Your residence, Your Majesty. It will be your place to stay from now on. Worry not for any intruders. Seeing that His Majesty has already done some cleaning once, things will be comfortable for the time being.”
What on earth did the emperor clean? She wondered. And for the time being? Did that mean it would become dangerous after a while again? Cecile chewed over such thoughts as she walked with the attendants. Something was strange, though. One door was opened, then another door after, and then another door on top of that. She walked, walked, and walked some more. Cecile, tired of walking, ended up asking first, “Uh, when are we getting to my room exactly?”
An attendant answered with a look of confusion at Cecile’s question. “All the rooms since the first door was opened belong to you, Your Majesty… Is there a problem…?”
“…No. It’s nothing. Carry on.”
Even after that, the attendants walked for a long while, informing Cecile about the rooms. This here is the Room of Glory, over here is the Room of Blessing, right here is the Room of Prayer, this here is, that there is, and here this is. There was no end to the explanations, and Cecile’s nodding grew more half-hearted by the minute. They walked for two hours like that until, at last, the attendants came to a stop.
“Is it over?”
“This is only the beginning.”
Cecile grew faint at the attendant’s reply. What sort of room tour doesn’t end after two hours of walking! Her legs were beginning to feel sore. Besides, she was feeling languid after bathing, but the biggest problem was that her body was demanding rest after suffering through last night. “I’ll see them on my own. You may all return.”
“Understood, Your Majesty.”
After the attendants left, Cecile looked at the place that was her room.
“Isn’t this a palace?” She mused out loud.
It was a room in name only; she barely reached the first living room after having to go through five doors. Beyond the living room was a beautifully decorated garden that stretched out endlessly. In the garden was a pond where swans were swimming leisurely. By the pond were rabbits, coming to drink the water, and to the side of that, there were even grazing deer. It was a truly picturesque sight.
“Being the empress really is great after all.” She mumbled. After gazing upon that peaceful scenery for a while, Cecile headed over to lie on the bed.
She had jostled with the emperor until morning. It was so intense to the degree that, somewhere around the crack of dawn, she could not even cry out anymore. It had gotten a little better at the moment, but the scratchy pain in her throat was still there. Cecile massaged her throat for a bit before looking at the plate of fruits by her bedside. She reached out to take a well-ripened bunch of grapes and popped one in her mouth. The cool berry burst on her tongue. Cecile closed her eyes as her mouth was filled with a refreshing sweetness. Fruits are always good to have indeed, she thought. She was happy that she could eat them every day now.
‘So good.’ Eyes still closed, Cecile ate another grape. ‘Though this will only last while I’m alive.’
She thought back to the assassins last night. Even if the emperor had no intention of killing her, she was still in a dangerous position.
‘I was angry and resentful every day on the way here from Navitan, grinding my teeth, and yet…’ Now she could care not a whit for Navitan or whatnot. All sorts of things had happened in the space of a day, yet she had found calm after going through it all. Why, though? What changed? She mused upon her change for some time but drifted off into sleep before she knew it.
* * *
What later roused Cecile from her slumber was somebody’s gentle touch. Their fingers hovered near her forehead before sliding down her face. Cecile frowned at the tickling sensation and shook her head. In response, the fingers went down her neck and to her shoulders. Her nape was slowly massaged, evoking noises of satisfaction from Cecile. She did not know who it was, but she was being massaged exactly where she felt stiff.
“…Wish I could live like this every day.” Still in a half-asleep state, she ended up letting her heartfelt words slip from her lips.
Somebody responded to her wishful words, muttering, “Like this?”
“Eating lots of fruit… Having someone massage where it hurts…”
“Is that all?”
Somehow Cecile got the feeling that the questioning voice had grown a little sharper. The hands massaging her went down a little lower and hovered near her shoulder blades. The hands hung there as if considering whether to continue the massage, which left Cecile somewhat pining for more; she hesitated slightly before saying, “And if I had someone to sleep by my side at night… life would be perfect…”
She was never one to fear being alone, but she had always felt a sense of emptiness. When she woke up this morning to find someone next to her, she had felt relief rather than surprise.
Perhaps she had given the correct answer; the hovering hands proceeded to press on just where she wanted as if praising her.
“Nnng!” The mixture of pain and liberation awakened Cecile’s mind. Isn’t this my room? And this voice, these hands definitely belong to…
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