Chapter 62 - Bird's Egg?
Cecile had crossed the point of no return. Stricken by the cold gazes being shot at her, she pulled Estian’s cloak harder around herself, trying to hide. This is what I have to do to survive as the empress? What is this really...
Estian caressed Cecile’s face as she cried inwardly with open, adoring tenderness, and he spoke without even looking in the head envoy’s direction. “Goodness. It appears my empress isn’t satisfied. What you brought wasn’t to her expectation.”
Cecile shot a look at him that said, ‘Shouldn’t you deal with the rest yourself if I’ve done this much? Why are you putting me on the spot again?’ But Estian shrugged off the glowering look she was giving with a leisurely face. Riled up by his tranquil air, she defiantly picked up from where he left off.
“Why would my feelings matter, Your Majesty? I had only hoped for something that would befit your prestige.” Cecile barely managed to mince her words instead of desperately crying out—‘Don’t cop out on me!’—but he lightly ignored her attempt at grasping at straws.
“This won’t do. My biggest fear in the world is to fail in satisfying you. It seems I must go back and soothe your anger… all night long, that is.”
Estian’s unquestionably odd words made Cecile drop her gaze slightly. To others, she appeared embarrassed and coy, but in reality, she was simply thinking ‘I’ve lost’. While she did need to stake her life for these charades, she did not, for the death of her, feel up to returning his words with a line of her own that went something like ‘Tee-hee, then how about we go and start burning the night away?’.
“The delegation of the Stoan Kingdom may return. It seems it will do without having to look at your offering, so I will gladly accept your regards. Well then, Empress. Shall we return?”
“All will be as you wish, Your Majesty.”
But just as the two were immersing themselves in a world of their own like the time they tossed the Emerald of Aled…
“If you would please wait a moment, Your Majesty.”
A man suddenly walked out from among the delegation standing behind the head envoy, drawing Cecile’s attention. The man was wearing an ordinary outfit that was no different from the one worn by the other envoys. His dark brown hair and brown eyes were a common set of features that would not linger even a second in a passerby’s mind.
As she gazed at the man, Cecile felt that something was off. The man was truly all too ordinary, so much so that if she briefly turned around and back, she had to search for him again.
“Your Majesty,” Cecile murmured and gave a strong tug at Estian’s hand that was holding hers.
‘This is the man.’
She had found him— the person Estian had spoken of.
* * *
‘Is this him?’
Estian noticed how Cecile’s body stiffened as she clung to his arm and turned his gaze to the envoy that had walked out of the group, immediately catching on to something strange.
‘So it’s a masking spell.’ Estian mused silently.
A spell that clouded one’s very existence in plain sight, effectively leaving no impression on others. It happened to be the most favored spell used by those of the Mage’s Tower when they were up to do no good. Estian looked at his cloak that was covering Cecile. To all appearances, it was only a red ceremonial cloak, but it was enchanted with a spell that could block most magic of the combat and curse branch. Cecile would come to no harm with this cloak, even if something happened, but still, he could not rest easy.
He could not begin to even count the number of attempts made on his life so far, so he had expected nothing interesting this time around as well—until Kane came to him and asked, ‘But wouldn’t Her Majesty be in danger?’ He snapped to his senses in that very instant.
‘Which is why I thought to send Cecile back at first.’
Surprisingly though, she firmly declared she would not go back. She questioned whether he even knew how she and her lady-in-waiting had studied so hard for this occasion, and even took out a crumpled study note from a pocket of her dress—god knows where it was hidden—to show him.
“I do say some nonsensical things, but I still want to do the things expected of an empress. I really studied hard memorizing these things,” she said.
It was apparent that Cecile thought Estian was trying to send her away out of distrust. He was engaged in a brooding thought when she resumed speaking.
“Besides, I have to keep staying by Your Majesty’s side, so I can’t pull out like this, right?”
“You’re right on that.”
At that, Estian decided to go with Cecil.
His jumbled thoughts were instantly brought to order when hearing that she had to keep staying by his side. For some reason, he wanted to hear her say that over and over. He felt like he would be pleased just listening to those words without needing to do anything else.
Estian looked to his side. Cecile seemed to have noticed the strangeness about the envoy as well; he could feel the trembling of her hands that were holding onto him. In the days to come, she would have to face danger of this level for dozens, hundreds of times.
‘I was going to send her back to her palace if she was too fearful.’
Estian saw Kane standing to the side. If he gave the order, Kane would take Cecile to her palace at once. He alone was enough to handle the situation here, after all, but even as Cecile shook in fear, she did not back down. She merely gripped his hand tighter, as if to convey her trust for him, and Estian responded in kind. She had done her best in playing her role, so he felt it was only right that he raise the roof. Estian glared at the man who had come forward and said, “Insolence. Who permitted you to speak?”
“I beg your forgiveness for my impatient transgression, but I do so only because there is something I keenly wish for Your Majesty to see for yourself.”
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