Chapter 73 – That Position Was Originally Mine
Petronilla recoiled at the street vendor’s words. She stared incredulously at the old woman cloaked in a black robe. Said woman’s silver hair fell to her chest from beneath the hood, giving her a strange aura.
“W-What… what do you mean by…?” Petronilla stuttered.
“Is it not common for people to fear a future that has yet to come? If that is not the case for you, madam, please speak.”
“You’re not wrong, miss. However…” the woman replied, smiling with the few teeth that she had left. “Not everyone would grab an opportunity like you do, even if they were afraid of the future.”
Petronilla’s face turned pale, as if her thoughts had been pierced. Rothesay asked if she was alright, but Petronilla only gave a single nod. The old woman wasn’t finished talking.
“You’re afraid, aren’t you, miss? You’re afraid that things will repeat themselves.”
“How do you know that?”
“It’s just a shallow trick.” The mysterious old woman only agitated Petronilla further with a smile. “You seem to like that crystal ball. Take it.”
“How much—” Rothesay started.
“Free of charge,” the old woman said in reply. Then, with a loose smile, she added, “You, dear bachelor, are the price.”
“…I’m sorry?” After hearing something like that, even Rothesay couldn’t help but be taken aback. The old woman continued.
“Now, miss. Carpe diem. Try to enjoy the present.”
“You said this situation already went against common sense anyway. Isn’t that so?”
“How on earth…” Petronilla murmured, looking as if a demon had taken her soul.
Rothesay wasn’t content with this surreal situation. “My Lady, I think it’s best that we take our leave.”
“Ah…please wait.” Petronilla turned back to the woman with a trembling voice. “Who are you? Are you a god? Or…”
“A god, you say…that’s far too much for a servant of God.”
The old woman gave a cryptic smile as she handed the midnight-colored crystal ball to Petronilla. Without her even realizing it, Petronilla accepted the ball, and the old woman gave her final piece of advice in a benevolent voice.
“Now, miss. When there’s something that worries you, look into that crystal ball.”
“Who knows? You might receive an answer to those worries.”
Petronilla continued to stand there dumbly, until Rothesay, sensing danger, led her out of the stall. The old woman cackled as she watched their receding figures, before her expression turned blank as she reached to polish another crystal ball that was covered in dust.
Meanwhile, Rosemond stared disbelievingly at the bouquet of a hundred roses that the Queen had sent her. She looked questioningly towards Mirya, only to find that the girl looked quite displeased. That likely meant that this was something the Queen sent on her own accord…but that only confused Rosemond more. It seems she’s finally gone insane after realizing that she is infertile.
“This is from Her Majesty?” Rosemond asked.
“Huh.” Rosemond shook her head before replying in an insincere voice. “Tell her that I’m grateful. And ask her if she is feeling unwell.”
Mirya was about to say that she had already done that, but she bit her tongue. She exited the Bain Palace, looking unhappy. Glara didn’t look any better. She looked as if she couldn’t make heads or tails of this situation either.
“What could this possibly be? A false attack?” Rosemond wondered.
“…From someone as prideful as the Queen?”
“But she has no other reason to be so exorbitant,” she murmured, tilting her head. “Isn’t that so, Glara? The Queen is barren. She’s incapable of bearing a child. Unlike deposed Queen Alisa, she doesn’t have much political backing, so if I were to give birth to the Crown Prince, then it would be difficult for her to maintain her position…
Hm… Rosemond continued to rack her brain for a plausible explanation. “Maybe it really is just to flatter me?”
“I can’t think of any other reason, My Lady.”
“Hah,” Rosemond scoffed. “After she put up that act of indifference, I guess even the Queen realized that there was nothing else she could do.”
“She is a barren woman. What else can she do?”
“Though that doesn’t mean we should let down our guard. You’re still keeping a good watch on the Queen’s Palace, right?”
“Yes, Marchioness. Please do not worry.”
With a reassured expression, Rosemond smiled. “That’s right. This is how it’s supposed to be.”
“Since that position of hers was originally mine.”
Rosemond finally felt that everything was going back into order. The Queen’s position was hers, as well as that of Queen Dowager. She would definitely become the most precious and high-ranking woman of this entire country, no matter what anyone says.
“That old woman was rather strange. Don’t you think so?” said Rothesay uncomfortably.
Petronilla was completely unbothered. “She was alright.”
“Hm…” Rothesay thought to himself, looking unsure. “As I thought…” he started sullenly.
“There is still a lot that I don’t know about you, My Lady.”
With a warm smile, Rothesay met her eyes. For the first time, Petronilla didn’t avert her gaze.
“Would it be alright if I could stay by your side a little longer so that I can get to know you more?” he asked.
Drip. Drip. It was then that raindrops started falling from the sky. Without waiting to hear her response, Rothesay took off the jacket he was wearing and used it to shield Petronilla from the rain.
“We should try to get out of the rain,” he said urgently.
“This way, My Lady.”
“Petronilla.” Petronilla quietly said her own name. Rothesay looked at her strangely, not having moved the jacket from over her head.
“My Lady, we can continue this discussion la—”
The two of them stared at each other, the rain completely forgotten. Though everyone around them were in a frenzy trying to avoid the sudden shower, the couple simply stayed still, looking completely out of place. Of course, this was a serious situation for the two people in question.
“I…” Petronilla began. “Have many fears.”
“What do you mean?”
“I’m scared of falling in love.” Her voice trembled as she continued. “I don’t believe in fate. There was a time when I tried to put my faith into fate and something horrible happened. I thought that he was the one I was destined to be with, only to find out that that was not the case.
“As a result, I vowed to never fall in love again. I thought that it didn’t suit me. From the beginning, I was unable to love, and that is my true fate. Because of that foolish concept known as ‘fate,’ I hurt the people close to me.”
“That’s why I decided that I would never fall in love until the day I died. And I decided not to get married either.”
“I may be clumsy and inexperienced, and I’m uncharming and may not be fun to be around.”
With sad eyes, Petronilla looked up to Rothesay, who was already drenched from the rain.
“But… if you are fine with someone like me…”
“I want to continue seeing you.”
Petronilla shivered as she waited for Rothesay’s response. Rothesay stayed mute for a long time, before speaking in a voice that quavered even more than hers.
“I have already said this at the National Founding Festival and earlier today.”
He then neared Petronilla, and gently pressed on her furrowed brows that she didn’t even know were creased.
“I love you.”
“You are a wonderful woman who is more than capable of loving others and being loved. Not only by me, but by many others as well.”
“Shh. Therefore, please stop degrading yourself, Petronilla. You are doing yourself a disservice.”
Overwhelmed with emotion, Petronilla hugged Rothesay. Rothesay initially looked surprised, but soon calmly returned the embrace. Tears slowly fell down Petronilla’s cheeks as she clenched her hands in Rothesay’s clothes.
The rain only continued to fall from the sky.
“How did it go?” Patrizia asked.
Mirya looked exasperated. ‘How did it go?’ Is that something that you really need to ask to figure out, Your Majesty? Nonetheless, she replied in a polite voice.
“…She didn’t seem too pleased with it. Rather, she was quite taken aback.”
“Of course she would have been,” Patrizia replied, nodding her head in understanding. “If she wasn’t taken aback, I definitely would have been.”
“Your Majesty, I apologize, but…” With an uncomfortable expression, Mirya continued. “Since I am not very smart, I can’t seem to understand Your Majesty’s intentions.”
“It’s nothing really.” Patrizia gave a low laugh before speaking enigmatically. “It’s just… it’s important to give that woman the impression that I’m acting the way she expects me to.”
“The rest is a secret. It could become a secret that either I take to my grave or gets revealed.”
“What does that…”
“I’m saying that only I know, and even if someone else finds out about it, there’s an escape route for me.”
Patrizia continued to speak vaguely, and Mirya understood that the topic wouldn’t be talked about anymore. A loyal servant only had to follow the will of their master. As such, Mirya chose to drop the conversation and stay silent.
“It’s raining,” Patrizia murmured, looking at where the rain was hammering itself against the window. “I hope Nilla’s date wasn’t ruined by the weather.”
“Couples are usually supposed to experience some moderate adversities to get closer,” Mirya reassured with a smile. “Please don’t worry so much, Your Majesty. Lady Petronilla is as wise as she is beautiful.”
“…Yes. That’s true.”
I shouldn’t worry. Not when I still haven’t taken care of my own issues, Patrizia thought moodily, before asking Mirya to make her some strong lavender tea.
After changing into dry clothes, Petronilla let out a loud sneeze. Despite her protests that she was fine, Rothesay took her back to the Grochester estate, worried that she would catch a cold after being in the rain. Even though she immediately changed into drier clothes, it didn’t make a difference. Her maid scolded her.
“Goodness, My Lady. It’s good to have fun on a date, but please take care of your health.”
“Er… there were some extenuating circumstances.”
“What would you do if you caught a cold?” the maid muttered sternly, and Petronilla gave an embarrassed laugh. Her confession in the rain ended up giving her a cold, but the fact that it also gave her the opportunity to start a new love made up for it.
While the servant girl was polishing the crystal ball from the old woman, Petronilla asked her, “What should I do if I catch a cold?”
“That’s not something that I would know, My Lady. You will just have to face the natural consequences of it.” The servant girl still looked dismayed that Petronilla had gotten sick. “That aside, just what is this crystal ball? Did you take an interest in astrology when I wasn’t looking?”
“Hm… No, it’s not used for that.”
“Then what is it used for?”
“It’s just…” Petronilla considered a proper answer to give before continuing. “A way of dealing with worries. I was told that if I put my hand on top of it when I have many worries, it would help me.”
“…That sounds like something from a pseudo-religion, My Lady.”
“I’m not possessed, so don’t worry,” Petronilla said with a smile. “Could you check up on Sir Bradington? Since I caught a cold, I worry that he has gotten sick as well.”
“I will, My Lady, so please don’t worry and get some rest.”
“Alright, thank you.”
With those words, the servant girl tucked Petronilla into bed, making sure the blankets were tucked to her chin before leaving the room. As Petronilla closed her eyes, she recalled the earlier events that happened in the rain before falling asleep.