Chapter 13 – I Shouldn’t Have Come
Petronilla entered the room, looking at Rosemond with a rare, icy expression on her face. Patrizia was taken aback by the sudden stranger that had taken her twin sister’s place.
“No one here wants to know about yours and the Emperor’s private life,” Petronilla said.
“I thought everyone wanted to know,” Rosemond replied with a grin, but Petronilla’s cold expression did not change.
“You’re mistaken,” Petronilla said curtly. “And since you don’t seem to know anything, the queen accepts the emperor only on appointed days. She cannot serve him at any time, at all times. That is the work of someone less noble than her.”
Rosemond’s face hardened. Petronilla seemed to be insinuating that Rosemond was nothing better than a prostitute. However, the concubine’s expression slightly loosened and she rebutted Petronilla’s words.
“It would be a tragedy if she can’t even serve him on the appointed days.”
“Lady Phelps,” Patrizia warned in a quiet voice. She should finish this quickly before the atmosphere in the tea party worsened. The longer this dragged on, the worse her own image would suffer. “Even as a baroness, you cannot talk of the queen’s private life.”
Rosemond put on a thoughtful look. “Who knows. If you simply regard it as His Majesty’s private problem…would it not be a succession problem too?”
“It is not something that you, Lady Phelps, have to worry about. I understand that you are more interested in the Imperial Family because of your proximity to His Majesty, but there is a line that cannot be crossed. I am the queen of the country, and that means I am His Majesty’s official wife. Is there a mistress in the world who can dispute the lawful wife of the household?”
It was a polite way of saying ‘The concubine should shut up on the topic’, and an insincere smile twisted on Rosemond’s face. She did not say another word—Patrizia wondered if it was because she wouldn’t, or couldn’t— and Patrizia sighed inwardly. She tried to keep her mask of calm, but her mind was agitated.
Instead she picked up the delicate china cup in front of her, inhaled the aroma of the tea a few times, then shifted the topic of conversation. “Ah, come to think of it, isn’t the daughter of Count Ayrland getting married soon?”
Women’s conversation took considerably longer than Patrizia expected, but at least the mood improved considerably from the beginning.
Surprisingly, Rosemond stayed until the end of the party, and while she interjected with a few comments here and there, all the noblewomen ignored her. For now, Patrizia’s position was stronger than the concubine’s, but she knew that it could be reversed in a moment. If she did not have the Emperor’s favor, then she had to strengthen her own power instead. That was the only way she could survive a plot from the mistress.
After the tea party, Petronilla quietly approached Patrizia. Petronilla’s mood seemed darker than when Patrizia saw her last, and she looked at her sister with concern etched on her face.
“Sister, you look gloomy. What’s the matter?”
“You’re asking what’s the matter?” Petronilla trembled as if she couldn’t believe that her sister didn’t know. Patrizia realized that she was talking about Rosemond, and she offered a casual smile.
“I’m fine, sister,” Patrizia said reassuringly.
“But I’m not, Your Majesty—I mean, Rizi. Why are you letting this happen? Is the concubine always this disrespectful of you?”
“No, it was only today,” Patrizia replied. Actually, something similar happened just a few days ago, but she decided not to mention it. If she did, she would have to talk about the Emperor’s attitude as well. Patrizia smiled and spoke in a comforting voice to her sister. “I’m doing fine. I do not quarrel with Lady Phelps, and it’s just as usual.”
“…She mocked you at the party, Rizi,” Petronilla said, her voice quavering at the offense. Patrizia stared at her sister with a mixed expression and opened her mouth to say something, but Patrizia was faster. “Did…did I do something wrong, Rizi? Should I have not come?”
“Nilla, that wouldn’t have changed the situation. You just happened to be standing there.” Patrizia pulled Petronilla in an embrace. “I prefer it that way, sister.”
“Ah…” The tears Petronilla had been holding back finally spilled over her eyes and ran down her cheeks. She felt sorry for putting this kind of hardship on Patrizia.
As if Patrizia understood Petronilla’s feelings, Patrizia tightened her embrace around her sister. “It’s my choice. I volunteered.”
“Nilla, will you respect my decision?”
“…I will.” Petronilla wiped away her tears, and Patrizia’s heart clenched when she saw her sister’s reddened eyes. Patrizia forced herself to smile. Petronilla almost always wanted to see her smile.
“Please tell Mother hello. Tell her I’m doing well,” Patrizia said. Marquess Grochester had a mild cold and couldn’t attend the tea party today. Petronilla nodded in understanding, kissed Patrizia’s forehead, and gave her another embrace in parting. Patrizia was broken-hearted that she only had a short time with her sister, and they had to be separated once more. They had no choice but to wait.
Various cosmetics were violently swept clean off the vanity and rolled onto the floor. Even though carpet cushioned their fall, several of the delicate glass bottles broke on impact.
Upon hearing the sound, Glara rushed into the room. “My Lady!” she gasped.
Rosemond glared menacingly at her lady-in-waiting, then swung her palm hard to slap her on the cheek. Glara stumbled back in a daze.
“What do you want?” Rosemond seethed, her voice dangerously low.
“My Lady, why did you—”
Glara’s head turned again at another impact. Her cheeks smarted from the friction, and she clutched at the reddened flesh in bewilderment. “My La—” Before she could even finish, she was struck by another slap, and her cheek started to bleed. Glara was on the verge of crying, but it only caused Rosemond’s temper to flare even more.
“Who am I?” she yelled.
“No!” Rosemond screamed like a madwoman, and Glara flinched. Rosemond did not care and kept screaming. “Someone who’s not a queen!”
“You know! How! Insulted! I! Was!”
“Oh…” Glara understood why Rosemond was acting wildly now.
“Address me as a queen, Glara. Or would you treat me like a concubine?”
“N-no, Your Majesty,” Glara stammered. If she didn’t appeal to Rosemond now, her abuse would continue. Glara swallowed dryly and spoke in a nervous voice. “You will soon be queen. Calm down, Your Majesty. The current Queen cannot have children, so if you wait a little longer, the master of the palace will soon change.”
“This miserable life…” Rosemond, who had been screaming until now, began to cry, and Glara sighed in her mind. It was time to soothe the lady now, and she left the room to get some calming tea.
Rosemond, now left alone in her room, glared evilly at the surroundings and made a vow.
“Just wait and see. I’ll become queen and give her back the same words I heard today. Both those girls!” She muttered wildly to herself like a crazed demon. She pulled the bed sheets hard enough to cause her knuckles to whiten.
It had been ten days since Patrizia last saw Lucio. She hadn’t been keeping track of their meetings, but was surprised once she found out the fact. At any rate, it was good for her heart to see his face as little as possible.
Soon after she had that thought, however, Lucio came to visit her.
“What is it?” she said bluntly. Patrizia immediately wanted to know the purpose of his visit, and it wasn’t like he was here to exchange pleasantries anyway. He was probably here to demand or threaten things from her again. Lucio looked at Patrizia standing still before him, then he turned his head.
“…You do know that we have important visitors next week, correct?”
Ah. Patrizia nodded. In a week, a delegation would arrive from the Christa Empire. She didn’t know the details because it wasn’t under her jurisdiction, but she knew it was due to trade problems.
“I know, Your Majesty.”
“There’s been some change to the schedule. Only the envoys were supposed to visit, but this morning they requested if their wives could accompany them. I don’t want to refuse to keep relations smooth, so can you take care of the wives of the envoys?”
In the end, Lucio came to see her because of work. He gave all the good things to Rosemond, and all the bothersome and hard work to Patrizia. She complained inside, but she knew there was no room for refusal. This was her job as queen, and if Rosemond did this instead, it would diminish her own authority as monarch.
“I’ll do it,” Patrizia said with a nod.
“There shouldn’t be too much to worry about. Oh, and there’s one more thing.”
“The Christa Empire does not eat pork for religious reasons. I hope you keep this in mind when making arrangements for dinner.”
Because the Christa Empire’s animal symbol for their god was a pig, consumption of pork was prohibited under imperial law to protect its sanctity. There were no other restrictions on other types of meat.
Patrizia nodded in understanding. Lucio gave her a critical stare, then opened his mouth to speak.
“How is work in the Imperial Household?”