Chapter 10 – How Do You Know That?
“Is that the custom, Duchess?” Patrizia asked.
“The custom is…”
“Don’t all queens take up the mantle of their predecessors?”
In response to Patrizia’s question, Duchess Ephreney immediately answered. “A few, perhaps more…”
“This will be more convenient for you, Your Majesty.”
“Of course it will be. This isn’t a simple job after all. And yet, the managing of the Imperial Household’s falls under the purview of the queen, and is symbolic of the Mavinous Empire. You’re not trying to undermine my authority, are you?”
“You misunderstand, Your Majesty. I was just…I was just doing this for you.”
“If you truly were doing it for me, then why restrict my authority for a year? There are already unfavorable rumors about me and my husband.”
“…” Duchess Ephreney knew Patrizia was speaking of Rosemond, and remained silent.
Patrizia could not tell whether the Duchess was on her side or Rosemond’s. Of course, the Duchess was of noble pedigree, and it seemed reasonable to assume that she would support Patrizia instead. However, Duchess Ephreney had once turned against Petronilla in the last life. In truth, there was no one Patrizia could truly trust, except those who remained loyal to Petronilla in the last life.
Patrizia continued on. “I know that you have experience in this area than I do. I have no complaints about keeping things as they are now, but I will make all final decisions, as is the custom. Do you understand?”
“Yes, Your Majesty. I’m sorry,” Duchess Ephreney said, bowing deeply.
Patrizia eyes flickered towards Duchess Ephreney’s trembling hands. Did the Duchess believe Patrizia was trampling on her authority? It would be amusing, but impudent, if she thought so. It was human psychology for a person to believe something was theirs if they had it long enough. Rosemond, too, thought she deserved to be queen after standing by the Emperor for a year.
“I’ll familiarize myself with documents as soon as possible. You may go now.”
“Yes, Your Majesty.” Duchess Ephreney turned around and left the room. Perhaps she was cursing inwardly at herself, or maybe she was swearing at Patrizia. It didn’t matter anyway. The easiest person to tame was a defector. Once Patrizia figured out her relationship with Rosemond, it wouldn’t be difficult to control her.
Patrizia pushed the thoughts from her mind and turned to the mountain of work Duchess Ephreney left her. A complaint almost left Patrizia’s tongue, but for the sake of her pride, she thought she should get to reading as soon as possible.
Contrary to Patrizia’s expectations, no incidents occurred after that. Rosemond did not come in and stir up trouble, nor did any great revelations break out in palace. Perhaps Patrizia’s last memories of death were so vivid that she became paranoid, and trouble seemed to lurk behind every corner.
“Your Majesty, the Emperor is here,” a maid announced to her.
Patrizia had been flustered by the Emperor since his last visit a few weeks ago. She was deeply uneasy about what else he would say to hurt her this time.
“Please show him in,” she said calmly.
Lucio entered the room, looking elegant in a white suit. However, he only looked like a harsh white sandstorm to her.
“Greetings to His Majesty the Emperor,” she said with a bow.
“Very well. Now get up.”
Lucio seated himself at a table, and Patrizia wondered how long this conversation was going to be. She sat down as well, and ordered Mirya to bring them two cups of tea. Patrizia thought that across from Lucio was better than sitting side-by-side, but it was still an awkward experience. Their relationship could hardly be called amicable.
“I came to tell you something,” Lucio said. He dove right into the subject even before the tea was brought out. She hoped that it would arrive soon to give her hands something to do.
“Very well. Tell me.”
“You know that I have someone else in my heart.”
An awkward pause. “…Yes, Your Majesty.” Patrizia smiled coolly in reply. She pretended that she didn’t even know the mysterious woman’s name.
“I intend to give her a title of nobility.”
Patrizia expected it, but she didn’t think he would be this straightforward. Instead of a frown, a wide smile spread across her lips. Lucio’s request was so absurd that she couldn’t help but be amused.
He frowned, as if suspicious that she was making fun of him. “What’s that expression?”
“Why should I be miserable in this situation, Your Majesty? Do as you wish. Even if I try to stop you, you’ll go ahead with it.”
“You’re not stupid after all.”
“Is the title of baroness enough?”
“…How do you know that?” Lucio said with a voice of reluctance. “I haven’t even described her yet.”
Damn it. Patrizia made a mistake. She quickly recovered. “I simply picked the lowest title. You can’t suggest the title of duchess straight away, right, Your Majesty? But…judging from your reaction, it seems she’s not a woman of high peerage.”
“…You have no way of knowing that much.”
“But I do. She will be a new baroness, and I should know as the head of the Imperial Household. More importantly, if she’s staying at the palace, then I’ll have to appropriate a budget for her.”
“…She will be baroness. Do you need any more information?”
“That’s enough. Do you wish for me to take care of anything else?”
“Do as you want. However, I hope she never meets you.”
“You don’t have to worry unless she tries something. I’m not foolish enough to break my promise to you, Your Majesty.”
Lucio stood up without saying a word. He had not touched his teacup the entire time.
Before he exited the room, Patrizia spoke up again. “Don’t forget what I asked you before.”
“If you wish, I’ll even allow you to give her the position of duchess. But no more than that. And don’t think of having a child with her.”
He left without answering. Patrizia bit her lip and glared at the spot where he disappeared. If he broke his promise, then she would not sit still either. A heavy sigh escaped her mouth. “Haah…”
It was unfair. After all, the queen’s existence depended on the Emperor. No matter how powerful her family was, if she lost the Emperor’s favor, it was over. The only thing that secured her so far was her noble lineage, as well as the political work she would do in the future. Meanwhile, her husband could meet anyone he wanted.
She shook her head. “Let’s not be critical, Patrizia,” she said to herself. To prevent the tragedy of the past, she would not behave like her sister, and she would not act out of jealousy. She had to detach her feelings from the Emperor even more. Only then would she and her family survive into the end. It was a bitter fact, but it was her reality.
“I can’t believe it. That’s ridiculous,” said Raphaella fiercely. Patrizia would normally tell her friend to restrain herself, but she held her tongue. To be honest, it was crazy, but she was limited in what she could do.
“It may be crazy, but it’s not unprecedented. My husband is the emperor,” Patrizia said. She referred to the fact that Lucio officially declared he would take a concubine. “I have no say.”
Raphaella couldn’t tell if Patrizia was truly nonchalant about this, or if she was acting. Well, it wouldn’t be wrong to pretend for both their sakes.
“You have no say? Oh, my God, Your Majesty. You can’t imagine how I’m feeling right now.”
“I can imagine. But I’m amused that I’m the one soothing you.”
Raphaella sighed. Patrizia acting casual was more worrying than if she expressed any other emotion. She could react angrily, or weep, or throw curses. Whatever it was, it was normal to show negative emotions, which Patrizia was not doing. She remained as unaffected as a statue.
“Really, I don’t know what’s in your mind, Your Majesty,” Raphaella said dejectedly. It was not unusual for an Emperor to take a concubine, and it was not something he should be blamed for. If your friend was the queen, however, that was another matter.
Raphaella sighed again. “I want to see this concubine’s face. Who on earth is she? If the rumors are true, she should appear at least once.”
Patrizia was the only one who knew the concubine’s identity besides the emperor, and she gave a secret smile. She glanced slyly at Raphaella. “We will eventually meet someday. Perhaps we’ll slap each other on the cheeks?”
Raphaella’s face set in determination. “I will never let anyone do any harm to you, Your Majesty.” Even if they were unarmed.
Patrizia looked at Raphaella with a faint smile as if she found her friend’s earnestness cute. But glaring would be fine, right? Or would that not work? However, the smile soon faded from her face as she muttered that cursed name to herself.
Rosemond was a beautiful woman. She was not so lovely that she could be called the beauty of the century, but she had her own unique appeal and charms. It was no wonder that the Emperor fell for her. She was a rose with thorns—thorns made to protect her beauty, and to threaten other flowers, such as Petronilla. Now those thorns would be directed at Patrizia herself. Patrizia had no intention of provoking her, but if Rosemond made an advance, Patrizia would move swiftly. She would be silent, to attract as little attention as possible. At least for now, she only needed to keep an eye out.
If she were Petronilla and returned to the past, she would know the exact unfolding of events, but unfortunately, Patrizia was only a bystander in the previous life. It was why she did not know the Emperor and Rosemond well. Now she had to focus on knowing the enemy, before an attack came too late. Being queen was not easy, much less when your opponent was the emperor’s favorite concubine.
Raphaella interrupted her thoughts. “If you think positively, she was under your jurisdiction, Your Majesty. After that, she’ll be under the Emperor’s.”
Patrizia nodded thoughtfully. “I hate to admit it, but the Emperor publicly taking a concubine is a good thing. Before that, information was so veiled that it was hard to know anything.”
And besides, the baroness was undoubtedly a noblewoman. If the concubine was directly appointed by the Emperor, Patrizia could use it as a weak point. As long as she thought positively, she could do enough.
Patrizia decided to put her mind at ease, and she smiled a little.