Chapter 12 – If You Have Any Sense Of Shame
“Your Majesty, it’s been some time since you became queen, so I think you should host a tea party,” Raphaella said.
“Ah, a tea party,” Patrizia murmured. It wasn’t an obligation and it wasn’t an official event, but it was custom for the new queen to invite the noblewomen and hold a tea party, a ritual meant to establish her authority.
Of course, since Rosemond was recently named baroness, she was one of the invitees. Another reason why Patrizia invited her was because if she didn’t, Rosemond would run crying to the Emperor and claim that the Queen was bullying her. Then the Emperor would confront Patrizia yet again, and confront her on the treatment of his concubine.
Patrizia shook her aching head. She had no desire to see the concubine’s face anytime soon.
“I’ll host the party. Did Marquess Bringstone suggest it?” Patrizia asked. Marquess Bringstone was Raphaella’s mother.
The knight nodded. “She said yesterday that Duchess Vasi came to see her. I suppose that’s when the topic was brought up.”
“Yes…the previous queens have done it, and it would be strange not to follow precedent.”
“I know you don’t like that kind of job, Rizi. But the timing is ideal now, so I hope you will think about it.”
“I will.” In general, the nobles were more likely to support the queen rather than the baroness. There were exceptions though, like Duchess Ephreney…
“Mirya, would you write the invitations? Say there will be a tea party next week hosted by the queen.”
The longer Patrizia put it off, the more it would appear that the queen was snubbing the noblewomen. Even if Patrizia won support later, she wouldn’t allow even a blot of dislike if she could help it.
Mirya looked at Patrizia with a concerned expression. “Your Majesty…what about Baroness Phelps?”
“Send her an invitation. I don’t want to end up seeing the Emperor’s face over this matter,” Patrizia said in an untroubled voice, but Mirya sensed a note of sorrow.
“Yes, Your Majesty,” Mirya replied.
As this would be Patrizia’s first event that she would host with the nobility, she threw herself into making the party as perfect as possible. She would not allow a single flaw to spoil the gathering. More importantly, Rosemond would be there, and Patrizia felt even more determined. If Patrizia could build up friendships with the nobility, her position could be secured. It wouldn’t happen easily, of course, but she had little to lose and everything to gain.
“Your Majesty, when do I give the gifts to the guests?”
“Give it to them at the end of the party. I’ll signal you for you to do so,” Patrizia instructed.
She looked down at the white dress she was wearing. It was elegant and richy detailed, and could not be said to be plain. She was relieved, and touched her hair to check on it. Even if she pretended to be mature and composed, she was still only nineteen years old.
Patrizia was not a social butterfly, not like her sister Petronilla, who could easily talk to strangers and ask them to dance with her. Even Patrizia became acquainted with Raphaella only after Petronilla introduced them.
Patrizia wouldn’t necessarily describe herself as passive, but she had no choice but to participate in something that made her uncomfortable. Nevertheless, this was about survival. If she complained, then she might as well keel over and die.
“Thank you for coming,” she greeted a guest.
“Congratulations on becoming the master of the palace, Your Majesty. I wish I could have visited you sooner,” replied Duchess Vasi.
Patrizia offered a small smile at her words. “It’s easier to gather like this. Rather, I should have arranged it sooner.” She took a sip of her tea, then glanced towards the entrance. Rosemond was nowhere to be seen. Did she not come?
“I don’t see Baroness Rosemond,” one lady remarked, and the mood changed. Some glanced towards Patrizia, and others seemed to be enjoying the potential drama.
“How can she attend? I wouldn’t be able to show my face if I were her,” one lady said.
It had only been a little over a month since Patrizia was crowned queen. She and the Emperor were still considered newlyweds, and already the Emperor had officially announced a concubine and given her a title. It was not unprecedented, but it did not project an ideal image of the couple. There was no denying that this, whether intended or not, had diminished Patrizia’s authority as a new queen.
“For her to be this impudent—”
“I’m sorry that I’m late,” a voice interrupted.
Everyone’s eyes turned towards the new arrival. Rosemond was her, and Patrizia kept her gaze fixed on the concubine as she walked into the room. Her simple white dress looked beautiful with her pale face. She approached the table where Patrizia and several of the ladies were sitting and bowed gracefully.
“Greetings. I am Rosemond Mary la Phelps.”
“Welcome, Baroness,” one of the women said with a sulky expression. Rosemond’s presence was not all that welcome among the other guests. The wives of the high-ranking nobles would look down at her because of her pedigree, while those of lower ranks would feel jealous because she was the Emperor’s concubine, even though they were of same or similar noble status. In any case for Patrizia, the more enemies Rosemond had, the better.
“Please have a seat, Baroness,” Patrizia said with a smile. Because seats were ordered according to rank, Rosemond naturally sat at the farthest end from Patrizia. Furthermore, it was safe to assume that she was sitting on the other side because she was young and a newly titled baroness. Patrizia felt a little solace at the fact. If Rosemond was next to her when she drank tea, she wouldn’t even feel the liquid even if it went up to her nostrils.
“What were you talking about?” Rosemond said.
“Oh, nothing much,” Raphaella smiled innocently. Today she had come not as a knight, but a lady. “We were talking about you.”
“Yes,” Raphaella said curtly, and the end of her mouth lifted as she stealthily reproached Rosemond. “I didn’t expect you to come. Of course.”
“Yes, I wouldn’t have come if I were you.”
“Why?” Rosemond persisted.
Raphaella’s bright smile was a contrast to her words. “I would be ashamed. If I carried that with me, I wouldn’t have come.”
Rosemond did not flinch at her condemnation. Meanwhile, Patrizia thought Rosemond should be praised for her ability to manage her face.
Another woman spoke up. “I wouldn’t either. If I had any sense of shame, I wouldn’t be around the Emperor for a year when he doesn’t have a queen yet.”
The room turned aggressive against Rosemond. This wouldn’t have happened so openly if she were a higher-ranking noblewoman, but unfortunately she was only a baroness. Rosemond sat stock-still for a long time as she listened to the abuse, before she finally opened her mouth.
“I don’t know what wrong I’ve done everyone.”
“As you’ve said, I’ve been with His Majesty for a year when he had no queen. I don’t believe that’s wrong.” Rosemond’s mouth stretched broadly into a wry grin. Patrizia shivered as she looked at her face. It was a creepy look.
“I didn’t do any direct harm to Her Majesty, so please do not blame me too much. I hope that the Emperor gives his favor to Her Majesty as well. He seeks me out every night, and my body and chin get weary.”
The subtle mockery was not missed. Patrizia gave a stiff smile, and Rosemond continued in a gentle voice. “Of course, that’s not what I want, but…I’m going to say it more openly. As you said, I have a conscience too, and I am heartbroken if the Queen has to live a solitary life apart from her husband.”
The other guests took visible offense at her words. They had to know. The Emperor was in love with his concubine and did not care for his queen.
Patrizia opened her mouth to say something to Rosemond, when someone stepped into the room.
Patrizia was startled by the familiar voice.