Chapter 11 – Three-Party Encounter
One of the most positive aspects of Patrizia’s queenship was that she had free entry to the Imperial Library. Her husband had little interest and time for her, and so far, Duchess Ephreney managed most of the Imperial Household affairs. Patrizia left the central palace until the pretext of wanting to enjoy the sunny weather.
The library was in hushed silence when she stepped inside, and she wondered if the librarian had gone to the bathroom. Patrizia slowly moved along the rows of shelves, thinking that she would have worked as a librarian if she had not become queen.
As usual, Patrizia headed towards the history section. She met Rosemond in this spot about three months ago, and the memory of it darkened her mood. Damn her, Patrizia swore inwardly, but then she shook her head to throw off the thoughts. Just because the meeting happened here, it didn’t mean she would let the memory of it taint the place.
With a slight frown on her forehead, she raised herself up to her toes and pulled out a slim hardcover book from a shelf. She leaned against the bookcase and opened the book, only to find that one of the pages was torn out. There was a sound near the library entrance, which probably meant that the librarian returned. Patrizia turned around and opened her mouth to speak to the librarian, but came face-to-face with someone else instead. Patrizia’s face hardened.
It was Rosemond.
Patrizia quickly rearranged her expression into something more serious. She was not foolish enough to let Rosemond catch her looking unhappy.
“…I haven’t seen you before,” Patrizia said.
Rosemond stepped towards her with a bright smile. “Oh, you must have forgotten my face.”
“Ah.” Patrizia feigned ignorance. “I thought you were someone’s servant.”
“…” Annoyance flickered across Rosemond’s face, but she quickly smoothed it out again. She was good at managing her facial expressions. Patrizia smiled as if she hadn’t seen the change.
“You were the queen candidate who became queen.”
“Yes, I was lucky.” Yes, lucky her. She wished she could have been unluckier. However, she couldn’t say that in front of the Emperor’s concubine.
“Who are you?” Patrizia asked.
“Yes, you. Are you the Emperor’s mother?”
Rosemond blushed angrily, while Patrizia let out an innocent-sounding laugh. The only thing Rosemond considered a disadvantage was that she was older than the Emperor. The edges of her mouth tightened at the spoken acknowledgment of it, but Patrizia looked on at her casually.
“The Emperor is the only one who can hold his head so stiffly before the Queen of the Empire,” Patrizia said. “That, or his mother. You are not the Emperor, so I can only assume that you must be his mother.” Patrizia fixed Rosemond with an unblinking stare. However, Rosemond’s neck remained stubbornly straight. Even in front of the Queen, the concubine arrogantly refused to humble herself. Patrizia almost bit her lip, but she could not allow herself to look weak in front of Rosemond.
“So who are you?” Patrizia asked again.
“Speak up. From what you’re wearing, I don’t believe that you’re just a maid. Are you a lady-in-waiting from the Central Palace?”
Rosemond did not belong there yet, not until Patrizia gave her official approval. Under such circumstances, Rosemond was not fool enough to call herself the Emperor’s concubine. Patrizia became curious about how Rosemond would respond.
“I will formally introduce myself to you soon, Your Majesty,” Rosemond said. “Until then…”
“How soon is ‘soon’? Is there any reason why you cannot answer now?”
A strange expression crossed Rosemond’s face. It looked somewhere between emptiness and a smile.
Patrizia pressed a little harder, feeling offended by the look. “It wasn’t my concern when I didn’t manage the Imperial Household before, but things are different now. I’m not sure what will happen if you don’t identify yourself. So I command you to speak.” She stared straight at Rosemond. “Who are you?”
“…Greetings. I am Rosemond Mary la Darrow, of Baron Darrow.”
“Why is Baron Darrow’s daughter wandering around the palace? If I am not mistaken, he is at his estate now, is he not?”
“You are right.”
“That doesn’t explain why you’re here when he’s gone.”
“That’s…” Rosemond hesitated under Patrizia’s stare. She racked her head on what to say, when a different voice suddenly chimed in.
“That can be explained,” a familiar voice said. A voice that Patrizia did not want to hear now. Her eyes widened.
The Emperor was walking through the library entrance, and Rosemond’s face brightened at his appearance.
Meanwhile, all the muscles Patrizia’s body stiffened. “…Your Majesty.”
“I failed to explain it to you at the time. That is why this…unfortunate incident happened.”
“Unfortunate incident.” Patrizia repeated the word incredulously. Was it bad that she and Rosemond ran into each other? Was that so regrettable to him?
Patrizia bit her lip, breaking her promise to herself to not reveal weakness. If she had not done so, she didn’t know what else she would do right now. Patrizia laughed inwardly at herself. She vowed to live quietly and not reveal her feelings, but any contact with Rosemond disrupted her calm pool of thoughts.
It was no wonder that Nilla had changed. How could someone tolerate this repeatedly for three years?
“I will introduce her,” Lucio finally said. “This is Lady Rosemond of the Baron Darrow family, and will be honored with the title of baroness, as I have told you about. Your lady-in-waiting might have told you that she has been in the palace for a year, but I suppose no one has mentioned it.”
Patrizia was seriously wondering where the Emperor’s arrogance came from. How could he introduce his concubine in front of a government official like that without going crazy? Even if he could do as he wished, he had to have some idea of courtesy.
Patrizia, however, then changed her mind. She shouldn’t expect anything from this man since the beginning, and she would tire herself doing so. She gave a bitter smile, thinking it would be easier just to give up.
“There is no reason why my lady-in-waiting will tell me about a concubine who has not been recognized for a year.”
“…Then you’ll have to acknowledge her from now on. Don’t you think?”
“I have to, whether I like it or not. She will even be a baroness.”
Patrizia set down the book she was holding on the librarian’s desk. She had come to the library to lift her mood, but now she thought she should stop visiting here for a while. She just needed to think and sleep it off. This time, there was not just one pile of waste standing in front of her, but two. If she stepped into it, it would only damage her more.
“Your Majesty, it’s not good for your image to be seen with the concubine in broad daylight, so you’d better stay here if you don’t want to be talked about by your subordinates.”
Patrizia turned her heel and left the library without another word. It was best for her mental health to get them out of her sight as quickly as possible. She did not hide her displeasure as her heels echoed aggressively on the marble floor. If she didn’t express her anger in some way, she would break her first promise.
Finally, Rosemond Mary la Darrow became Baroness Rosemond Mary la Phelps. Through her pleas, Lucio had her relocated to a larger palace. This happened only a day after Queen Patrizia gave her permission, which she granted without saying much. That didn’t mean Rosemond would fall down to her knees in gratitude for her.
“Congratulations on your promotion, Baroness,” Rosemond’s lady-in-waiting Glara said.
Rosemond smiled. “It’s still too early to pop the champagne.” Baroness was still too small of a position for her. Shouldn’t she be queen? She smiled coolly and murmured to herself. “The Queen is very young.”
Rosemond slowly approached her bed with a smug expression and fell onto the soft mattress. She swept her palm appreciatively against the cool sheets. “My plan begins now.” From baroness, to duchess, to queen, to queen mother…
As she turned over her plan in her head one by one, she let out a laugh. Rosemond was not a fool, and she could deal with that young queen. No matter how that girl ascended to her position, she wouldn’t know how to fight in the mud. A young woman who grew up in a harmonious, loving family could never be strong. She could never defeat a monster.
Rosemond’s mouth twitched upwards, and she turned towards Glara. “Any movements on the queen’s side?” She didn’t expect anything to happen yet, but it was still too quiet. While Rosemond was under the Emperor’s protection as his concubine, she still had to take the initiative to defend herself.
“No movement yet, My Lady. Perhaps she is scared and shivering.”
“Even so, I cannot let my guard down. She is still the daughter of a marquis after all. There may be many nobles who will attack me because of my origin.” Rosemond had everything—the Emperor’s favor, a sharp intelligence, a beautiful face, and a charming personality. Everything was in place, except for one component beyond her control—her background.
“It can be solved if you give birth to a prince,” Glara said. “The current Queen is infertile, and His Majesty would prefer a direct bloodline of succession. If the Queen takes issue with another child, it can be used as an excuse to abolish her and make you queen instead.”
Rosemond nodded and smiled gleefully. From the beginning, it had been her plan to change the third test to be a health examination. The test had never been done before, but it was a plausible one, so the nobles did not challenge it. Who would dare ignore the intention of having a healthy queen and strong companion?
Rosemond gave a bark of laughter. “Do not bear children with the concubine, ha! If she doesn’t have children, then the Emperor will have to make a successor with someone else. The dream of infertility is great.”
It was why Patrizia was selected as queen, beating out even Lady Tricia. The health screening was an excuse to judge one’s fertility—or lack thereof. Unfortunately, Lady Vasi was very fertile. Patrizia meanwhile, was the perfect choice, and her family line would end with her.
Rosemond turned to Glara. “Did you secure the court doctor’s cooperation?”
Glara nodded. “Don’t worry. He’s said nothing, and he’ll probably keep his mouth shut if he doesn’t want to die.”
“If you see any strange movements, just remove him. No, nevermind. Just kill him anyway after a few days.”
There were too many vulnerabilities to be left alone. If the plan was leaked, Queen Patrizia may be replaced by Lady Vasi, and the chance of a comeback would converge to zero. There was no way that Rosemond could overcome a daughter of a duke who had excellent fertility. Using underhanded methods required a careful touch.
“It will look suspicious if you kill them right now. Understand?”
“I understand, My Lady.”
Rosemond relaxed her shoulders, and she hummed as she picked up a perfume bottle from the dressing table and sprayed herself. Lucio would come soon.