Chapter 31 – Needed Him More Than Ever
Raphaella ran and ran. She swept through almost every square foot to find Patrizia, but her friend was nowhere to be seen. Raphaella, who was usually so optimistic, was sick with worry. Did she just happen to miss her? The knight desperately hoped that was the case. In three or four hours, the hunting competition would be over. If Patrizia didn’t appear by then…
Raphaella shook her head. She was being ridiculous. Patrizia was probably freely riding around and enjoying herself in the forest. Just to ease her mind, however, Raphaella decided to look around a little more. Even if something terrible occurred, she couldn’t jump to conclusions just yet.
She turned a corner, and something familiar caught her eyes. She approached it cautiously, and when she identified what it was, she let out a scream.
An hour later, Patrizia’s eyes flickered open. Even though she had subjected herself to the chilling rain, fortunately she didn’t seem to be sick. However, she didn’t know how else to treat the human body, and so they needed to hurry back. To do so, Lucio had to be awake, and he was still lying down as if he were dead.
Patrizia carefully extracted herself from him and examined his condition. When she touched his body with her hands, she felt the warmth of life on her fingertips. Thank God. Patrizia was relieved. The crisis was over. A person wasn’t this warm when they were about to die.
She felt ready to cry in relief, and she buried her face in her knees. There was no one to comfort her at this moment, and she had to get through everything on her own. It was still raining, but there was no thunder and lightning, and the downpour had lightened into a drizzle. The still-darkened sky made it difficult to tell what time it was, but she guessed that there were still a couple hours left until the hunting competition was over. In any case, they could only move out once it stopped raining.
Patrizia turned her blotchy face from her knees and looked at Lucio. He was still asleep and showed no signs of moving.
“Get up,” she murmured. He didn’t wake up, of course. She would have to be a wizard to make it happen in the first place. But she wasn’t a wizard, and she didn’t know how to do magic. She let out a long sigh. “If you don’t wake up quickly, my life and yours will be in danger. You know that, right?”
“Please wake up, Your Majesty. What more can I do here?” Her voice was tinged with remorse and resentment. She honestly just wanted to cry. Would it have been easier if they switched places? He might have tried to help her, but this time, he was only a burden on her. However, that didn’t mean she would leave him to the ravages of poisoning; Patrizia wasn’t that cold.
Patrizia’s thought soon turned to the villain in all of this. Her eyes burned with rage. She had given the concubine a final warning, and this was the result of her mercy. Patrizia’s stupidity had allowed this situation, and now she could lose everything. Why was she so foolish? She could never avoid a fight with Rosemond. Her original plan was to simply keep her head down and do her duties as queen, but it was impossible to simply glide through palace life. The end point of a complacent queen was deposition and death. It was not a matter that affected only her either: in the Mavinous Empire, the removal of a queen from her seat also meant the destruction of her family. The Grochesters would walk to the guillotine again. She would not let that happen.
Patrizia stared into the air with a glazed expression. It was fortunate that she heard Rosemond’s name from the assassins’ mouths. If they hadn’t, Patrizia would be tormented by the lack of not knowing. At least here, she had some evidence for herself she could cling to.
Now that her enemy was clearly revealed, Patrizia had only one option left. War, and victory. She bit her lip, her expression frosty. She wanted to live as if she were grass, but she would be a weed after all. Was this how it would be? She didn’t want to survive as a weed, but she didn’t want to die as grass. So…
“Wake up, Your Majesty.” Now she needed him more than ever.
When Raphaella returned to the starting point an hour or two before the end of the competition, she completely panicked when she saw that neither the Emperor nor Queen were there. Someone caught her firmly by the arm.
“Oh…Father.” It was her father, Marquis Bringstone. As soon as she realized it was him, she almost dropped what she was hiding in her arms. Her father glanced at what she was concealing, then drew her away where they could be alone. After confirming that no one was around, he addressed her in a hushed voice.
“What happened? I don’t see either His Majesty or the Queen. What happened to them?”
“Father…Her Majesty said she wanted to ride alone.” Raphaella answered honestly, but she was severely reprimanded in return.
“You’re the queen’s knight, and you left Her Majesty alone? Are you out of your mind? How can you be so careless without knowing what’s going on?”
“I’m sorry, Father.” His words were true, and there was nothing she could say against them. Her father’s rebuke of her carelessness was completely justified, and her behavior risked the queen’s life in the process.
Raphaella still had a hard time seeing Patrizia not just as a friend, but as a queen. She had let Patrizia go out of sympathy for her friend’s desire for freedom. It was only now that Raphaella realized the full severity of the situation before them, and had great regret for what she had done. Her hands began to tremble, but Marquis Bringstone steadied her with a stern look.
“This is an order given not to my daughter, but to Dame Raphaella, the knight. Find Her Majesty no matter what. You know what trouble this will bring to the Imperial Family, right?”
Raphaella nodded in silence, and Marquis Bringstone sighed. The man and woman who were the pillars of the Empire went missing at the same time. Fortunately there still had some time left before the end of the tournament, but in an hour or two there would certainly be widespread unrest among the nobles. That would do no good for any of them.
Marquis Bringstone tried to dispel the lingering anxiety. “This is an order and request, Ella. If you don’t find them, I don’t know what exactly will happen. Understand?”
“Yes, Father. I’ll…I’ll go.”
Fortunately, the area designated as the tournament hunting grounds was not rainy, and Raphaella had managed to hide Patrizia’s hunting suit from public view. It could not be revealed to anyone at the moment.
Raphaella’s eyes hardened, determined to find the two of them.
As time went on, Patrizia grew more nervous. The rain had petered off, but Lucio’s eyes were still closed. She looked alternately between his unconscious form and the gray sky.
“Damn it. I’m going crazy.”
Patrizia’s head dropped. She wanted to move Lucio back to the palace, but she would look suspicious if he was unconscious. She looked at him with a distressed expression. He wasn’t a sleeping prince, but shouldn’t a princess give him a kiss? She screwed up her face in frustration.
Frankly speaking, it would be a lie if she said she didn’t feel sorry for him. It would also be a lie if she said she didn’t feel guilty. However, a kiss would never happen, unless that person was Rosemond.
Patrizia sighed and placed her forehead back on her knees. What if…what if he never woke up? How would she—
At that moment, she heard a weak exhale.