Chapter 97 - Paid Acting
When Cecile had first laid eyes on the beautiful gardens of the imperial palace, she had imagined hosting a grand tea party like those illustrated in novels she once read. She had been excited at the prospect of inviting over like-minded friends, with shared interests, and spend a leisurely afternoon enjoying delicious foods. ‘That’s why I had focused more on reading about the variety of sweets that were introduced.’ Looking back, perhaps it would’ve served her better to have focused on the etiquette in the stories. Alas, her interests lay in eating, and she’d poured all her efforts into memorizing the name and shape of all the snacks described.
“But even that turned out for naught,” Cecile muttered, as she recalled the earlier conversation… Forget any light-hearted discussions about the scrumptious snacks or tangy-sweet fruits, the atmosphere was practically bloodcurdling. ‘Even the tea was incredibly red… though that was unintentional. Tsk.’ The color of the brewed tea was truly a coincidence—having no time to make the last-minute tea party arrangements, Cecile had left the attendants to their own devices, and what was served ended up being a sanguine-colored liquid that she’d never seen before. Still, the true number one contributing factor to the terrifying atmosphere of today’s tea party was something, or more precisely, someone else. “I never expected Girgantia to be so cooperative.”
Girgantia had been offered his own room plus served meals, in return for a good acting performance. The look in his eyes had sparkled, and he was soon shamelessly bargaining, “10 fried chickens a day. Salted and seasoned, half with bones and half without. And five large bottles of carbonated water with syrup. I also have to take care of my health, so give me three salads a day too. I like my salad with boiled eggs and heaps of avocado. Don’t forget the nuts. And it’s boring lying around all the time, so I want at least 50 comic books daily. So, do we have a deal?”
“…Deal.” What in the world had the dragon seen and eaten while he was locked up underground? When Cecile eyed Tania suspiciously, Tania had faked some coughs and hid her hands behind her back. It seemed that those two had hit it off, and had a blast of a time together. Nevertheless, it was thanks to the dragon that Princess Yuliana had left the party with a deathly white complexion.
‘I don’t think she’s given up yet though,’ Cecile sighed. Despite her fear, Princess Yuliana had carefully surveyed Girgantia and Cecile. The look in her eyes was clearly of someone who hadn’t admitted defeat. ‘From what I hear, she plans to stay in the empire for quite some time. No doubt she’ll be hard at work advertising how she’s much more suited to reign as empress.’
The problem of the matter lay in the fact that there was some truth in that claim. Cecile had enough self-awareness to understand she was lacking in many aspects. Her education was limited to a few hasty lessons on the basics, and though it was not well-publicized due to her lack of participation in social events, she was not well versed in etiquette either. Meanwhile, Princes Yuliana would be out attending every future gathering of nobles. Cecile’s head hurt, as she sulked, “But I still won’t let His Majesty be taken away. He’s mine.”
After all, the emperor was the first person that belonged to her, why would she ever let him go? As she was muttering to herself, a voice spoke from nearby. “What an honor. I hope that you will hold on tight and never let go.”
“Your Majesty?” The bed dipped from the added weight of another body, and a familiar warmth swept down Cecile’s arm. She wondered aloud, “But I didn’t hear you come in?”
“I thought you would be asleep so I gave word to be quiet.” Despite his explanation, Cecile was still awed at how he managed to enter so noiselessly. “I couldn’t even sleep properly last night, thinking about what I should do,” Estian grumbled, as he swept the corner of Cecile’s eyes.
The night before, upon returning to the empress’ palace, Cecile had shouted, “I won’t let her off!” and promptly picked out a bunch of villainess titles from the books Estian had returned to glean ideas. Estian, watching her, had suggested lightly, “Is it not bothersome? Should I just kill her after all? I was a little curious, but it is not necessary to figure out the likes of her power.” However, despite the casual tone, he was dead serious; Cecile felt chills when realizing his statement wasn’t in jest.
“It’s alright. I’ll be starting my official duties again from tomorrow, and I’ll parade Girgantia around, looking both amazing and terrifying.” Cecile scuttled closer to Estian, who sat on the edge of her bed, and rested her head on his legs, as if it were the most natural thing to do in the world. She continued, “Princess Yuliana will give up eventually while I’m at it, and…” A sudden wave of drowsiness washed over her, causing her to trail off, but she mustered the last of her strength to voice what she wanted to say. “If I work harder… Your Majesty won’t have to kill her, so…”
Seconds later, Cecile was fast asleep. Estian sat in silence, listening to Cecile’s breathing even out. Not wishing to disturb Cecile’s rest, he remained rooted to the spot for the rest of night, watching over her sleeping face until a new day had dawned. And when morning came the next day…
“Your Majesty. Should we just kill Princess Yuliana after all?” Cecile muttered gravely to Estian, as if she had completely forgotten her words from the night before.
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