Chapter 24 - An Outrageous Past
“I believe your fame extends beyond the heavens, Your Majesty.” Cecile eloquently replaced ‘infamy’ with fame in her reply. Estian somehow felt indignant at Cecile’s matter-of-fact attitude.
“I don’t think it’s as bad as you say.”
“Your Majesty need not be so modest. Children born on this continent learn your name before their mother’s. What’s more, if you were to ask any passersby whether they knew more about the sea or about His Majesty, ten out of ten would answer the latter.”
“…” Estian felt somewhat odd even though her words sounded like praise. “But if you try hard, you too can somehow…”
But alas, Estian could not find anything to say against her silvery outpouring. He could not muster an argument, for some strange reason. Oh, how he felt the prick of her words as if they had actual form.
On the other hand, Cecile began to grow nervous upon seeing Estian turn silent.
‘Is His Majesty not conscious of how outrageous his past deeds are?’
Cecile recalled some of the most exceptionally infamous accounts from Estian’s chronicle of madness which she had heard about. “What power could I possibly have at my disposal to overshadow Your Majesty’s fame of reducing the entire Forest of Igillith to ashes and scattering salt over its land for ten months, laying barren waste? Of leading a vast army to raze the wheat fields in Jaden’s Plains, annihilating every last seed of wheat for that year? And what of destroying each and every ship sailing in Port Catanza, reshaping the western maritime trade route of eleven duchies into a route of bankruptcy—without losing a drop of blood? You mustn’t tell me that I can’t do it simply because ‘you’re just not trying haaard enough’, Your Majesty.”
After having said all that, Cecile realized anew that the emperor sure had committed many a deed. Aside from what she had mentioned, there were also accounts of Estian demolishing several countries, wrecking the imperial palace, and killing all his relatives too. She felt it would be a bit peculiar to include these cases in Estian’s record of fame, however, so she closed her mouth and spoke no further. After finishing her reply to the emperor’s suggestion of ‘trying hard’, Cecile turned to glare at the bunch of grapes placed next to her.
‘Strange,’ she mused. ‘It doesn’t seem like there’s truth serum in the grapes, so why’s my mouth shooting off by itself again?’
Cecile took a moment to mull it over. ‘Is it because I’ve just woken up?’ That was likely one of the reasons. ‘Is it because I feel good having fruit fed to me?’ That was also likely one reason, of course. But that did not erase the past event of being attacked by assassins in the night, and nor did that change the perilous future awaiting her. Yet why was her tongue wagging in such a free manner?
Cecile’s train of thought was broken by the sight of the still silent Estian’s face.
Cecile remembered what she secretly wrote on the bathroom wall.
And the moment that memory floated to the surface, Cecile realized why she was being so open in front of the emperor. This man is my husband. Although she could not go around telling people about it in public, he was her spouse on paper: signed, sealed, and delivered.
‘It’s because I finally have a family.’
Her mother had passed away early. The king of Navitan, her so-called father, left her neglected in a royal villa. None among Navitan’s royals had ever visited Cecile once. It was like they did not know the person called Cecile even existed. The only ones by her side were the maidservants in the royal villa, but even they kept their distance, giving her a firm word of advice.
“This may sound cruel to you right now, Princess, but we are not your friends. You mustn’t think of us that way. Someday, you will have family, but that is not us.”
Cecile had nodded with eyes full of tears at those words, knowing that they said so because they meant well for her.
Cecile picked up the bunch of grapes and chose one of the ripest among them to bring to the emperor’s mouth. She wanted to share what she liked best with this man, too. It was the first thing she wanted to do upon gaining a family. Estian turned rigid at the suddenness of her action. Who in the world could dare to put food in his mouth? And what’s more, put a grape in it of all things? He loathed grapes, as the first poison he was afflicted by was contained in one of these berries.
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