Chapter 93 - Making Up
“Aargh!” Yuliana screeched, launching a kick at an innocent cushion with all her might, sending it flying against the wall before it dropped to the ground. Not having vented enough, she picked up the same cushion and hurled it elsewhere. “What the heck is with that woman!”
Yuliana could not get the events that unfurled at the banquet hall out of her mind, especially how the empress had laughed, as she implied Yuliana should become a ‘dragon treat’. “Why! Why! Does my power not work!” Yuliana shrieked herself, huffing furiously, as she flung herself on her bed. Things had gone far too different from her expectations. “What in the world is going on?”
When the banquet had started, Yuliana was full of confidence. ‘This is child’s play.’ Everyone had practically worshiped her from the moment of her arrival in the empire. It was enough to make her giddy; it had only been a few years before that she was still the utterly unknown princess of Aswan. ‘But the moment I gained this power, I became exalted as the greatest beauty on the continent. An amazing power, if I dare say so myself.’
It was amazing, yes, but despite that… Yuliana recalled how the empress had left the banquet hall, waving farewell with a laugh, and how the emperor had so lovingly carried her away in his arms. “It’s the power of the archwitch. There’s no way it wouldn’t work,” Yuliana muttered, looking into a mirror. A glittering light at her chest was visible through her revealing dress—the mark of an heir. The light was proof that she had inherited the power of an archwitch.
At that moment, there was a knock on the door, and Yuliana’s lady-in-waiting entered. “I have brought it.” The lady-in-waiting held out a piece of Delphian silk to Yuliana.
“Give it to me.”
Before the emperor left the banquet hall, he had slashed off the cloth trailing from the empress’ makeshift dress, and declaring it cumbersome, had tossed it away. When they had disappeared, the atmosphere in the hall was that of a cold war. Regardless of the fact that the cloth was dirty and worn from being dragged along the ground, it was Delphian silk.
Moreover, as if he intended for all of them to hear, the emperor had callously dropped a remark before departing: “It seems a 10-year monopoly over the silk won’t be enough for you, seeing how you’ve already used up this year’s allotment. For as long as you live, all the Delphian silk shall belong to you.” In short, Delphian silk had become an unobtainable good and would remain so until the empress passed away. Thus, this was the final opportunity to get their hands on the silk. A terrible silence fell over the hall, but it was broken a few moments later by the sound of someone getting up from their seat. Chaos quickly ensued.
“Let go of it, I say!”
“Why don’t you let go! I promised my wife that I’d gift her a roll this year!”
Seeing the banquet guests battling it out for the prize, Yuliana had ordered her lady-in-waiting to obtain a piece of the silk that the empress had worn, using whatever means necessary.
“It must’ve been quite difficult,” Yuliana remarked.
“Yes. I procured it with the promise of 150 gold coins.”
“Isn’t that too much?”
“You told me to get it whatever the means.”
Still, there’s a line to be kept. How could this little scrap be worth 150 gold coins? The price had instantly jumped more than a hundred-fold. Yuliana felt her inner rage boil again upon learning that she had to spend far more than expected.
“Fine. You are dismissed.” After the lady-in-waiting left, Yuliana placed the Delphian silk on her palm. Seconds later, the silk was set ablaze in flames, leaving only ashes behind. She scrutinized the ashes on her palm for a good while, then frowned. “What the… There’s nothing?” Yuliana had attempted to search for traces of magical power in the silk that the empress had come into contact with, but she sensed nothing. All that remained was the power of an archwitch, which surely belonged to herself.
“But why doesn’t my power affect the empress?” The moment the empress had appeared, everyone who had been entranced under Yuliana’s spell took one look at the former and regained their senses. Her power was not only nullified, it had been dispelled. ‘Who is she?’ Yuliana stared at the ashes on her hand for minutes on end, before finally dusting it off with an annoyed look, and flopping down on her bed.
“No matter. Whatever the case may be, I have no intentions of changing my goal.” Until now, the emperor had killed people indiscriminately like a madman, such that it was generally agreed that the seat of the empress was a seat of death; however, when news spread of how he had not only spared the empress but had been completely smitten by her, many a kingdom was struck with deep regret. Emperor Estian was the man who had everything, and so, obtaining him meant attaining everything.
“If I intended to give up so easily, I would never have bothered to come. Not to mention, now I’ve got to find out about the dragon too.” Yuliana pressed a hand against her chest where the small light still glittered. She was certain she would be able to obtain everything she wished for, so long as she held this power.
“Besides, the cake is always sweeter on the other table. True delight is about stealing what belongs to another, no?” Yuliana murmured to herself, as she closed her eyes. If her lady-in-waiting had been listening at her side, the woman would’ve surely clicked her tongue, and grumbled about how the princess’ bad habit of targeting men already spoken for was acting up again.
* * *
“I’m giving him over? Says who!” Cecile hissed under her breath. At that same moment, Estian and Cecile were eavesdropping, perched atop a tree outside Yuliana’s room. Estian had handed Cecile a small object that she couldn’t identify, but when she hooked it to her ear, she could hear everything Yuliana said in her room. From initial bewilderment, her mood had quickly plunged into a furious rage. ‘The cake is always sweeter on the other table? Say what?’
Estian, who was suddenly treated like a cake, clicked his tongue, as he maintained a firm hold around Cecile’s waist. He was not surprised at the turn of events, as he had known all along that Princess Yuliana’s objective for coming to the empire was himself and Girgantia. He merely found it all pathetic. ‘I may as well find out what that power is,’ Estian decided inwardly.
In any case, Estian had achieved his goal of clearing Cecile’s misunderstanding and exposing Yuliana’s true colors. It was time to return to the empress’ palace so that Cecile could hurry into bed. “Cecile, let’s…”
“Your Majesty,” Cecile called out to him in a voice filled with anger, a tone he had never encountered until now. “Lend me Girgantia for a bit tomorrow, please.” A storm was raging in Cecile’s eyes, as they glinted in the darkness.
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