Chapter 29 - Out With The Old
A line of jewels continued to be carried in by attendants. Cecile gulped dryly at the sight.
‘I can do well. I can do well. I can do… do well my foot!’
She had practiced over the past few days for this moment, but looking at the dazzling pile of jewels, she felt like her heart was shrinking on itself.
‘How much is that gem over there worth alone?’ she wondered. Just as she was looking around then, a ring embedded with a large emerald caught her eye. Cecile fixed her eyes upon the ring. ‘That must be it.’
The Emerald of Aled. It was the most famous piece of jewelry even among the treasures belonging to the imperial family. And how could it be anything but famous when it was something gifted to the founding emperor long, long ago by an elven king, back in the days when elves of the forests roamed the continent? It was a jewel of legend whose history alone amounted to a 100-volume novel.
‘And what I’m going to do from now is…’
Cecile felt faint at the thought of what she had to do. From this moment on, she had to commit an act of madness no one had ever dared to since the very founding of the empire.
Cecile quivered violently, while Estian picked up the Emerald of Aled and brought it before her. Then he spoke in a loud voice for all his loyal subjects to hear, “Empress. The moment I looked into your eyes, this gem came to mind, as it has the same color as your eyes. I intend on using this as our wedding ring. From now on, this is yours. Now, your hand.”
Cecile did as he asked, holding out her hand. Gasps could be heard from among the officials. The Emerald of Aled belonged to the imperial family. It was a jewel passed down only from emperor to emperor, yet he was going to give it to the empress as a wedding ring?
Estian slipped the ring on her finger. The sight of them made for a beautiful scene. So much so that if only the two were not emperor and empress, and the ring on the woman’s finger was not the Emerald of Aled, someone might have whistled and cheered for them to live happily ever after.
The officials were conflicted as to whether they should yell “You mustn’t!” or give applause. In the midst of their hesitation, one brave man among them strode forward as if having made his resolve. However, before that official could open his mouth, Cecile made her move first.
She grabbed the ring from her finger and pulled it off, following which she hurled the Emerald of Aled to the floor with all her strength.
The imperial treasure struck against the floor, making a clear and beautiful sound. She had put so much force into her throw that the ring ricocheted up with furious speed, and it rose so high it nearly reached the ceiling. The eyes of everyone present moved up and down, up, up, and down, following the trajectory of the ring. Then, bouncing on the floor for the last time, it landed inside a nearby ornamental vase. The vase shook on the spot with loud clunking sounds. It was a very neat finish.
“It went in!”
The people watching clapped and cheered despite themselves. But soon, they could not hide their dawning astonishment upon seeing an attendant running towards the vase in tears— they realized just what was making noise inside the pottery. All those present to witness this spectacle learned that genuine shock rendered a person literally speechless.
Silent screams filled the hall. They were so silent that even the crawling of an insect might be heard, and amidst this terrible silence, only the sounds of the ring rolling inside the vase rang like thunder in everyone’s ears. And then their minds finally registered what had occurred.
The greatest of imperial treasures to the floor…
The officials slowly turned their heads toward Cecile, who withstood their gazes with her all and uttered the line she had practiced for thousands of times over the last few days in the empress’ palace. “Oh my. The ring was so small it was blown away by the wind.”
Everyone gathered in the hall doubted their own eyes at what they had witnessed. They rubbed at their eyes, pinched the back of their hands, and slapped the cheek of the person beside them, but seeing the other react in anger, they knew it was most definitely not a dream. What they saw—of the imperial treasure being treated less than a cobblestone on the street—was reality.
“What, what in tarnation?!” One of the officials in the front let out a groan. He hastily went over to the vase containing the ring and gave it a shake; a fairly heavy sound rang from inside.
Several people collapsed to their knees. The Emerald of Aled was like a testament to the history of the empire. The ring was around two inches in length, yet what? It was so small that it was blown away by the wind?
“Really…” Estian’s voice snapped them all to their senses. They held their breath at the look on his face and his low tone. Estian stepped down towards the vase being held by an official and took out the ring.
“Yo-your Majesty! The Emerald of Aled cannot possibly be so light! Her… Her Majesty is…”
The official could not bring himself to say “Her Majesty has surely gone mad”, so he left his words trailing… but it was at that moment that Estian’s hand moved. The ring in his hand flew at the speed of light; it zipped through between the officials and reached the wall at the end of the hall.
The collision gave birth to a sound like that of slamming wood with a hammer, and everyone was able to see the cracked wall and the ring embedded in it. Estian took in the sight and nodded in understanding fashion.
“As the empress said, very light indeed.”