Chapter 88 - He Knows!
In the morning, Kane had brought Estian a list so he could choose what gifts to send to the empress’s palace. Initially, he only needed to choose something adequate among the list that seemed to go on forever. However, when he recalled the look on his wife’s face as she asked him to return to her quickly while complaining of boredom, he had said, without hesitation, “Send them all.” He might have brought her here by force, but he had no thoughts of sending her back. Estian wished for her to stay for as long as possible.
Stay happily, without hating him—that was all Estian wanted. All he hoped for.
And so, seeing the heartfelt reluctance in her eyes when she saw him holding Yuliana, his heart warmed. She was jealous! Had Cecile felt nothing toward him, she wouldn’t have dashed to his side nor expressed her displeasure like this. At the very least, she thought him dear enough to show this side of her.
Meanwhile, the music band finished playing. As they stepped to the side, new people emerged from the door at the back of the stage. Wearing traditional imperial attire, they were members of an art troupe who performed traditional dance and ceremonial arts. They began their stage following their order, but no one gave them any attention; after all, Estian and Cecile had eyes for no one else but each other, while the rest were looking at the two of them.
Thus, the performance nobody cared about went on, until Estian raised his head and said, “For the empress to feel this bored…” he said, loud enough for others to hear—unlike before—eliciting off-tone screeches from the musicians’ instruments and slips of the feet from the dancing performers. “And the Aswan delegation seems to have no interest in the entertainment either,” he added. His words caused everyone in the hall to hastily turn their head toward Cecile and Estian, who clicked his tongue and continued, “So this is the level of the art troupe that the imperial family’s name hangs on.”
Estian’s voice rang louder in the ears of the listeners than the music from the stage. “It appears I must lopcut off the neck of these incompetent fools here.” As the emperor spoke with the empress in his arms, no mirth could be found on his face.
* * *
‘Oh son of a deuce, he knows!’ The imperial art troupe leader felt the world grow dark. Truth be told, he had felt relieved when he climbed onto the stage. The emperor and empress were off in a world of their own, and the rest all had their attention on those two so he had thought, ‘Good. No one will notice our lack of practice.’
When the dragon appeared and the imperial palace was devastated, he had joyfully cheered inside, ‘I don’t gotta work!’ Who would open a banquet with the current atmosphere? Besides, Emperor Estian was not the type who enjoyed such festivities, to begin with. Given the circumstances, the troupe leader thought there would be nothing big happening for the time being. With a bit of luck, he might be able to rest for a few months…
…Or so he had thought.
When even mages were mobilized to restore the imperial palace, he began to feel a little anxious. Still, the troupe leader did not practice. His body that had been indulging in sloth had quickly succumbed to the pleasures of waking and sleeping late, and so the troupe leader’s indolence continued until this morning when attendants came to notify the troupe members slacking in their practice room. “They want you to prepare a stage performance for the banquet today,” one of the attendants had said.
“What are you saying? How are we supposed to perform on such short notice?” The troupe leader protested.
The attendants then stared at him, incredulous. “Did you forget you must perform on stage whenever and wherever His Majesty desires?”
‘Oh, right. That was the contract.’ The troupe leader suddenly came to his senses. Thus, all the troupe members hurriedly put on their costumes and set about practicing, but they found it hard to get the sloth out of their system. The leader had then assumed, ‘Still, with the atmosphere like this, we should be able to get through without much trouble.’ And so, they continued their performance, thinking they would get away with their lack of diligence safely…
Until the emperor spoke up, making every troupe member choke. The music and dance stopped and all the performers were already prostrating flat on the floor; they knew their sins. The troupe leader also got on his stomach along with the others. In times like these, it was necessary to get down flat and beg. “I offer my deepest apologies! May you punish me with death!”
However, it was not the emperor who replied. “Oh, yes… Why don’t we do just that, Your Majesty?”
The cold voice of the speaker belonged to the empress.
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