Chapter 31 - The Emerald of Aled
Feeling the atmosphere of the hall to be more freezing than the plains in midwinter, Cecile forced her swaying legs and neck to stand straight.
‘My neck feels like it’s going to break!’
The emperor had put so many necklaces around her neck that she could not even lower her head. As for her arms? Trying to move them was like trying to lift a sack of wheat. If anything, it was fortunate there were no crowns or anything of the sort among the treasures. She would have really dropped to her bottoms if something like that was added to her head.
Cecile looked to Estian at the increasingly unbearable weight. So far, things were going as practiced.
‘I’ve gotta do well till the end!’ She feared the punishment that would befall her if she did not. ‘Otherwise, he’ll do that again…’
He would press his hands all over her, and she would undoubtedly moan and pant at every touch. Whenever Estian began massaging Cecile, he would not stop kneading her shoulders, hips, thighs, and so on—no matter how she pleaded—until she turned teary. It did feel good afterward, but why did it hurt so much to the degree of wanting to confess non-existent sins? Was this actually a new form of torture all along?
‘And it doesn’t end there either.’ Cecile’s face reddened. By the point she was in tears, begging forgiveness and promising effort, what followed would be Estian bullying her with a certain something that was not his hands all night long. He would not stop no matter how she pleaded. Every time it happened, Cecile would again realize that he was indeed a tyrant. Though, well, she did like it.
As Cecile braced herself, Estian took hold of her left hand and drew it to his lips, laying a kiss and saying, “I see. Then next week, after conquering the Kingdom of Tetin, I should bring the gemstone they call the pride of their nation. Apparently, it’s still uncut and unpolished, so we only need it processed after taking it. It’s a huge peridot named The Forest of Tetin, isn’t that right?”
The ambassador of the Kingdom of Tetin also collapsed upon hearing the abrupt declaration of war.
“I’ll bring it to make a ring worthy of these beautiful fingers. Will that satisfy you?”
With a joyful heart, Cecile recited the last line she had practiced so hard. “Thank you, Your Majesty. And I’m telling you just in case, but…”
Cecile desperately attempted to re-enact the smile she practiced. “I have ten fingers, and the latest trend is wearing three rings on one finger.”
In short, what she meant was, ‘Loot ’em good’.
As chaos began to descend on the hall, the Emerald of Aled fell out of the wall it was stuck in and onto the floor. Everyone was too distracted by what was unfolding before them, though. So much so that nobody turned around at the noise it made falling. After the event was over, an attendant sprinted over in tears to recover the Emerald of Aled.
Why in the dickens would you throw something so precious? It’s not scratched anywhere, is it? Harboring worried thoughts, the attendant carefully picked up the jewel… only to drop his jaws.
* * *
A lamenting wail rang through the empress’ palace. Estian was perplexed by Cecile’s cries as he patted her on the shoulders and ordered her, “Stop crying.”
For his part, his gesture was meant to console her, but Cecile merely cried all the more sorrowfully at his touch.
Now Estian was even more at a loss at the sight of Cecile with her face buried in a table, shoulders shaking in tears. Up until now, there were only two cases when somebody cried before him: in fear, or in fury towards him. The method to stop their crying was simple. Cut them down and the noise ceases. Being fond of the quiet, Estian favored this method to keep his surroundings quiet. Cecile, however, was neither fearful nor furious, and he could not employ the usual method against her anyway.
“I’m telling you to stop crying,” Estian spoke again in a commanding tone, and Cecile jerked her head up. She wiped at her tears and runny nose with the sleeve of her dress and responded in a hoarse voice.
“Hicc… wouldn’t Your Majesty… cry as well… in my shoes?”
“Is there a need to cry so much over a piece of jewelry?” Estian asked, perplexed.
“Because it’s not just a piece of jewelry! You’re being like this since it’s not your business, aren’t you?” Cecile yelled back, flipping open the book that was in her hands. The title of the book was ‘Finest 100 Imperial Jewels’. She had opened to the first page of the first chapter. On it was a beautiful illustration of a jewel along with its name.
“The Emerald of Aled-The greatest treasure of the empire.” Cecile’s finger was pointing to a sentence a little below the illustration. “To those who think to treat the Emerald of Aled without care—remember what lies within it.”
Estian ground his teeth upon reading the phrase. ‘Whichever bastard wrote this… I’ll have him thrashed to hell and back tomo-, no, tonight.’
His gaze turned to the Emerald of Aled lying on the table. The once greatest treasure of the empire was cracked like broken glass.
* * *
After introducing Cecile to his loyal subjects and returning to the empress’ palace, Kane came looking for him with a troubled face, saying, “I was told the Emerald of Aled was cracked?”. Estian went to bring the jewel over without giving it much thought, but when Cecile saw the Emerald of Aled in his hand, she swooned on the spot with a scream. “It, it can’t be… because I threw it…”
“I think my throw impacted it more, though?”
Cecile’s face slightly eased up at Estian’s words. But the moment he put the Emerald of Aled into her shaking hand, her knees gave out again. “This, this can’t be…”
“What’s the matter?”
“Can Your Majesty not feel it? It became lighter! So light it’ll really be blown away by the wind!”
Estian picked up the ring again at her outburst. What’s different about it? He tried tossing the ring into the air once, but he could not feel the difference in weight. “I can’t tell what changed.”
“Can you really not tell?”
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