Chapter 61 - Cecile’s Got Talent
Fortunately, the representative of the Stoan delegation was a seasoned fellow. Aside from his brief pause, he exhibited flawless professionalism as he uttered the last of his greeting words. But suddenly… the empress’ voice rang through the audience room in a tone of sincere incomprehension. “Stoan? Where do you find that country? It’s my first time hearing the name.”
The mouths of the imperial officials began to drop, one after another. There was no way the empress did not know; after all, Stoan was the neighboring country of Navitan Kingdom, the empress’ homeland, with twice the history of the latter to boot.
‘It’s begun.’ The faces of the officials were colored with resignation.
“Is it too small for me to have heard of?”
The mocking tinge in her voice was a tell-tale sign—the empress was being deliberate in her words.
* * *
Cecile wanted to cry.
Estian had whispered to her, “Try your best to scratch the pride of the Stoan delegation.”
In truth, Cecile had already picked out a suitable act of madness from the novels she was reading. ‘I’ll hold back a bit from anything jewelry-related for today… Hmm. It’s easiest to stick close to His Majesty after all, but this is still a bit embarrassing. Acting like this in front of others is a bit… What’s left is saying stupid things, but then I’ll end up being called a fool… it’ll be hard to be dubbed a villainess.’
Cecile had driven away her attendants, and even Tania, before starting to thoroughly go through the romance novels she had kept—with their titles hidden— in her bookshelves. She had placed a bookmark on every page she came across where the villainesses were harassing the female leads and repeatedly read through their actions. She had decided to reenact one evil per day, but…
‘I ended up doing everything at once!’
Cecile had stuck to Estian starting from when they entered the audience room, showing off her jewelry in front of the officials, and now she was saying things anyone would deem stupid.
“Or maybe… it’s a country not even worth memorizing.”
Truly, she wondered as to why her mouth did not so much as stammer once when uttering such mean things.
How could she not know of Stoan? Stoan was the very first name of another country she heard when she learned the concept of foreign countries growing up. It was the country right next to Navitan after all! And despite Stoan being right next to Navitan, unlike the latter, it was a country with a good climate and many plains.
‘How could I not know of the country when I like Stoan fruits so much!’
In the past, the maidservants of her royal villa had occasionally brought Cecile fruits, saying they were left over from what was delivered to the main palace. All of them were hardly found in Navitan; juicy grapes, tangy-sweet apples, crispy pears… and every single one of them was stuck with a label that read: ‘Made in Stoan – Sugar content guaranteed! Real-name production system! If it tastes bad then take it for a refund!’
Upon learning that these fruits all came from Stoan, the country had become the land of dreams for her ever since childhood, so much so that it was her wish to someday, when she grew up and left the royal villa, go to Stoan before anything else and buy a ton of fruits. Yet for all that, she had to see the face of the Stoan head envoy freeze up at her words.
Her heart was crying out, ‘No! I know a lot about Stoan! I know where the fruit market opens! And I completely memorized which fruit grows well in what region! I absolutely want to go visiting some time later, so could you please give a local’s recommendation for restaurants!’
She could not give voice to her heart, however.
Cecile discreetly glanced at Estian and their eyes met the moment she turned her head; apparently, he had been looking at her the entire time, with a face full of amusement at that. Meanwhile, the frozen Stoan envoy just barely maintained a smile as he pried open his lips to reply. “Oh, our country of Stoan is a neighbor to your homeland, Your Majesty, the Kingdom of Navitan and…”
“Ahh, no wonder it sounded a bit familiar—it was that place, the one that makes a living out of peddling fruits. Well, I suppose the things you brought won’t be worth much either then. Why bother bringing fruits so far when we have more than enough of it in the Empire?”
Silence fell over the room and Cecile nervously clasped onto Estian’s arm, which prompted the latter to draw close and whisper into her ear. “I can’t help but admire every time I see you acting.”
Really? Who asked you to feel admiration right now?
Leaving Cecile struck with incredulity, Estian raised his head to look at the head envoy. “Well, it appears the Stoan Kingdom has nothing much of interest to my empress.”
“I am deeply ashamed.”
Cecile felt on the verge of tears at the sight of the head envoy apologizing with his head bowed. Don’t be like that! I totally love Stoan fruits! You can consider it the pride of the entire continent!
After bowing his head deeply, the head envoy forced his lips open again. “However, what we brought on this occasion are not fruits, but items that were discovered in an ancient dungeon underground. We have brought everything we excavated as an offering, from objects with curious functions to things that are a complete mystery, so if you would please take one…”
“There wouldn’t be any dirt on them, would there? Did you even wash them properly before bringing them?”
Silence fell once again.
Cecile decided to acknowledge her own talent—the talent for only picking out mean words to say.
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