Chapter 4 - Hello, Beautiful
A very long time ago, there was something Cecile said in one of her conversations with the maids at the royal villa.
“Someday, I wanna do something that’ll make others wonder ‘Is she crazy?’ at least once. Whatever happens, don’t you think it’d be fun?”
Cecile had pondered upon several ideas at the time. Changing all the signs in the royal palace incorrectly, ordering all kinds of food only to eat them one bite at a time, or walking around in winter clothes in midsummer. None of what she imagined involved putting her life on the line… like she was doing now, spewing absurdity towards the emperor in a bid for swift death on her wedding day.
As her mind began to register what words had passed through her lips, her thumping heart began to slam against her ribcage.
Cecile realized that her heart was yelling at her, like so… ‘Are you nuts? What have you done?!’
‘I’m sorry, heartie dear. Must be tough being you when brainie and mouthie are insane.’
Cecile expressed regretful condolence to her heart for the first time in her life, then looked around herself. The attendants and knights who had been near her just a while ago were now eyeing her with compassionate pity. The look in their eyes was identical to how the people in Navitan had looked at Cecile.
Their gazes foretold Cecile of the life awaiting her if she were to quietly do as she was told in today’s wedding. A future where she married a man whom she had no heart for, where she spent nights with him, spent days tip-toeing the thin ice around him for life’s sake, only to be buried somewhere in the end to no one’s care when she ceased to breathe one day.
The very same fate her mother met, where her daughter was the only one to visit her grave after death.
‘I don’t want to live that way.’
The tutors who had taught Cecile for a month also told her, in detail, of how many people the emperor had killed so far, as well as how he killed them. Listening to their recounts, Cecile realized her life was no better than that of a fly to the emperor. No, it was actually even worse. At least a fly could fly away!
‘Better to go out with a bang than to live in constant fear of death.’
Cecile speculated as to what people would say about her after she was buried today. She came to the conclusion that, at the least, her death would leave more records than her mother’s.
* * *
“Excuse me? What did you just say?”
The astounded voices of the ministers rang inside the cathedral where the emperor was present. They stared disbelievingly at the attendant who had brought news. To be more precise, they were disbelieving of the words the attendant had delivered.
“S-spoken word for word. Princess Cecile… declared that, as per Navitan customs, she will not move a single step if the groom, His Majesty, does not come to escort her in person. And also…”
The content of the message so far was dumbfounding enough, yet there was still more the princess wanted? The ludicrousness of the matter elicited a rising octave from the ministers. The pontiff standing behind them was already making the sign of the cross towards heaven. He whispered, “O Lord I pray, embrace the soul of thy poor child coming.” The prayer was for Cecile, of course.
“Th-that is to say…”
“Speak, will you!”
The attendant reluctantly continued at the ministers’ urging. “She furthermore asked, as per Navitan custom, for His Majesty to carry her into the cathedral in his arms!”
“Huh? Is the princess out of her mind? Asking whom for what?”
The ministers could not suppress their inner thoughts, in the end. Faces pale, they chewed over the message delivered by the attendant. As a princess from some backwater small country promised marriage by the emperor of the Empire, it was only right for her to consider it an honor and do as she was told. Have the emperor come escort her himself? And have him carry her in?
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