Chapter 42 - Emerald Brooch
Countless daughters of nobility were waiting in the hall of the imperial palace. Surprisingly enough, many had gathered to apply for the position of lady-in-waiting, even though every girl and her neighbor shied away from the seat of the empress.
The position of empress’ lady-in-waiting was not directly connected to the emperor, but it did come with the privilege of being in the know of most matters within the imperial palace, as well as the benefit of a certain degree of nobility aside from the title of court lady. This was why daughters of nobility who could not inherit their family showed all the more interest in the position, and the same went for every noble house involved; there was no position better than that of a lady-in-waiting to observe everything from the center of the imperial palace, by the side of the empress, whom the emperor was said to be smitten with.
There were also many with scheming thoughts that ran along the lines of, ‘Plus, there’s the fact of His Majesty falling for the empress and even treating her well. If I find out what it is that charmed him and throw out the powerless empress before a child is born, I’ll become the second empress. And there won’t be a third! Because I’ll kill them all!’
…The fact that the emperor had not killed the empress, contrary to the expectations of all, fueled them with courage. All those gathered were daughters of noble families, so no one fell short in appearance; however, even among them, there were those dressed with extravagance in a display of their respective family’s status and authority.
Elysia was one of them. She let out a small smile as she looked over the other young ladies. ‘I’m the best, after all.’
Her thought was not wrong. Be it her looks, attire, or house, she was the most suitable person here to become a lady-in-waiting.
‘They won’t be picking only one person, so… let me see. I wonder who else will be chosen.’
Elysia wondered as she scanned her surroundings, but then her eyes stopped on one spot. She saw someone in the corner of the hall who looked obviously nervous. It was a young lady who appeared somewhat rustic when compared to the others; she was wearing a very large and heavy emerald brooch on her chest. Laughter escaped Elysia’s lips at the young lady’s noticeably awkward attire.
Another young lady acquainted with Elysia whispered to her from the side. “I hear she’s the daughter of Margrave Kaniche. Her name is Tania, I think? I was aware that their land is in an extremely remote corner, but it’s a wonder as to why they sent his daughter as a lady-in-waiting candidate in that outfit. I suppose they thought putting on a large jewel would make it look fine. The poor girl.”
The young lady’s tone that oozed mockery, a contrast to her sympathetic words, evoked laughter from Elysia. Anyone with eyes would not choose a woman who looked like that as a lady-in-waiting. After all, anyone could see the brilliance of the daughters hailing from the best noble houses, which included herself. Tania seemed to have noticed the way people were looking at her; she dropped her head even lower than before.
“Still, this will make for a good experience, wouldn’t you agree? Going back to the distant backwoods where she came from after taking a glimpse of Her Majesty the Empress will be enough to be the proudest memory of her lifetime, after all.”
As the two were ridiculing Tania, the voice of an attendant rang in the hall. “Her Majesty is coming!”
The noise in the hall ceased at the announcement. The women who had been waiting inside stood in lines and bowed in salutation as the empress entered through the hall doors.
“All hail Her Majesty the Empress.”
Shortly following the greeting of hundreds, the empress bid them be at ease. “You may rise.”
Elysia looked at the empress after lifting her head following imperial etiquette. The empress’s beauty was one thing, but it was the unexpected aura about her that made Elysia closely observe the former. The empress seemed very accustomed to this sort of situation. The sort of situation where she took the lead amidst the attention of all. ‘I heard she was a neglected illegitimate princess in the Kingdom of Navitan, but…’
While the empress might have undergone education a month before her wedding, some things could not be filled without actual experience… and one of those was none other than aura. It was like how uncomfortable shoes had to be put on to learn to walk properly with them, and like how suffocating formal dresses had to be worn to grow used to their stifling feel.
Such was the case with clothes, and all the more so in the case of attitude. The empress exhibited an air of indifference, something that could only be accomplished by those accustomed to these sorts of events from a young age. That impassive face of the empress that seemed to say she would not stand for any nonsense…
‘She’s a formidable one.’
As she reflected on herself for belittling the empress under the assumption that the latter had merely fascinated the emperor with her pretty face and crazy antics, Elysia corrected her posture. The empress was walking in her direction. She would soon spot her and come to a stop. When that happened, she would greet… But the moment Elysia’s thoughts reached that point, the empress’s eyes suddenly came to life.
She followed the direction of the empress’s gaze. What is it? What on earth is it that caught her eye when she seemed indifferent to everything just a moment ago? The empress’s footsteps quickened, and she began to walk to the very back of the lines of women.
“What is your name?” The empress’s voice sounded a little excited.
“It is Ta-Tania, Your Majesty.”
Tania? That bumpkin from before? Elysia looked back in surprise and saw— the empress’s eyes were locked onto the green brooch on Tania’s chest. Elysia was not the only one who saw. The lady-in-waiting candidates recalled what happened after the empress came to the imperial palace. The emperor had offered her all the jewels of the imperial family, but not finding it to be enough, she told the emperor she desired the treasure of the Kingdom of Tetin.
Everyone in the hall came to the realization that to draw the empress’s attention, they needed jewels. And big ones of good quality at that.
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