Chapter 1 – Let’s Start With The Concubines
“I thought about what you said.”
When Latille spoke, the room became as silent as death. She had a golden crown resting on her head, a magnificent cape draped across her shoulders, a glimmering scepter in her hand…
When the people’s eyes fell upon her appearance, she felt it clearly. Anyone who pointed a finger at her could no longer defy her.
She was now the emperor. Latille was seated in the highest position, and she felt euphoric.
Haizens…that bastard. Did he abandon her because of this feeling?
“You are right. The stability of the royal family comes from a strong line successors. I fully understand the need to quickly take a husband.”
There was a faint smile on the lips of Duke Atraxi, an early supporter of Latille’s. He was convinced that the name of his son—Ranamen—would come from Latille’s mouth next. Ranamen came from a perfect family, had a perfect face, and his father had a perfect reputation. Who else but his son was worthy enough to be the spouse of this young emperor?
Duke Atraxi smiled triumphantly, while his opposition wore bitter looks.
“So, I decided to first take in concubines.”
In an instant, the Emperor’s words smashed their expectations. Duke Atraxi’s smile dropped from his face, and the other ministers looked at Latille with equally incredulous expressions.
A harem? And not one man?
No one immediately processed what she said, and Latille took it upon herself to explain it to them.
“Maybe just five concubines…for now.”
The quiet hall suddenly burst into commotion as everyone reeled at the unexpected proclamation. Five concubines? That was ridiculous. Duke Atraxi was dumbfounded.
“There have been a few female emperors before, but they’ve all only had one husband. While many men were rumored as their lovers, none of them were officially concubines—”
“Duke Atraxi. The 5th Emperor Trasis, known for his gentle innocence, had five concubines. The 11th Emperor Eintra had six, and so on, with the average number being fifteen. The more flirtatious emperors had over twenty.”
“Why can’t I have as many concubines as they do? I should have at least five, just like the emperors of the day.”
The ministers’ mouths were so wide that one could stuff their fist in it. They were in total shock at the emperor who sat proudly on the throne.
Latille looked at the stunned amazement in the nobles’ eyes, and the corner of her mouth lifted in amusement.
“If the emperor has only just one empress, the maternal relatives’ powers become too strong. He takes in other concubines to balance the power. Past ministers have also asserted this.”
Everyone closed their mouths. She was right. Not only them, but all the ministers of generations past made the same claim.
Latille continued with a fox-like grin.
“My Lords, wouldn’t you all want me to have several concubines as well? That way, you would all have a fair chance to have the emperor as your daughter-in-law.”
The reaction was divided again. Duke Atraxi’s face wrinkled in anger, while his opponents’ expression alighted.
It was true. If Emperor Latille were to only choose one husband, then it would certainly be Duke Atraxi’s son. But if the Emperor had several concubines…the other nobles each had a chance to seize power. And then one day, they could be the grandfather of the successor…!
The eyes of the nobles began to shine with greed, and Latille smiled inwardly.
‘Haizens. I’m sending an envoy to your country to pick my concubine. This time, you will personally choose who will be my man. It’s time you felt the same misery I did.’
It was the year 517 when Emperor Latrasille Tarium proclaimed a harem.
The year 511.
Lean was the crown prince of the Tarium Empire, as well as Latille’s older brother. He was the ruler that all the people anticipated, and all the nobles followed. His mother the empress was from great nobility, and he had a strong path before him.
“If he becomes emperor, he will be the wisest of rulers, and if he becomes a scholar, he will have the talent to surpass even me!”
After the great sage had spoken about Lean, there was not one of his disciples who did not have great admiration for him.
On the other hand, few knew of how the sage would lament when Latille would ask daring questions like “the possibility to become emperor.” For the people, Latille was just Lean’s sister and just one of many royal princesses.
Latille did not care for what the great sage said to her. However, she respected and loved her brother, and looked forward to the world he would build. A fight with her brother—wasn’t it terrible to think about?
More importantly, Latille’s dream wasn’t one that could ever be achieved by becoming emperor. She would marry her sweetheart, Haizens, and become the empress of the neighboring country of Carrisen.
“What is this?”
“I made it myself. I heard this how the people amuse themselves.”
“The people of your country have no money…”
“Not at all. It’s wonderful. Give me your hand.”
Latille blinked but did not give him her hand, so Haizens clasped it and slid the ring on her finger.
“It’s surprisingly pretty…”
Haizens looked at Latille among the white flowers, and he pressed a light kiss to her forehead.
“I love you, Latille.”
“…As do I.”
She smiled at him. Her lover was so beautiful—he had brown hair as soft as silk, beautifully carved features, and mysterious gray eyes.
Latille clearly remembered when Haizens first came to the Tarium Empire for a study program. As he greeted the royal family, their eyes met. It was when he smiled at her that she fell in love at first sight. When she later received his confession, her heart went wild.
After they became lovers, Latille was even happier. The two never argued. She believed that Haizens was the other half of her soul that Heaven created for her.
For two years, their hearts and minds only grew closer, until Haizens’ five-year study abruptly ended when his half-brother, Prince Heum, started a rebellion.
Before Haizens returned urgently to Carrisen, he made Latille a solemn vow.
“Even if I am away, my heart won’t change. There is only one woman in my heart for eternity.”
“Haizens…can’t I come with you?I want to help you! ”
“No, Latille. I don’t want to part with you either, but it’s too dangerous.”
He brushed away her tears and spoke in a firm whisper.
“I will make sure I am crowned, and I will send to you the most splendid delegation. I will formally ask your father to let me take you as my wife. Wait for me, please.”
Latille waved at Haizens’ carriage until it completely disappeared from view. After that day, Latille went to the temple and prayed for two hours a day. She hoped that he would be safe. She hoped that he wouldn’t get injured or killed by the rebels.
What Latille did not pray for, however, was for Haizens’ heart to remain unchanged. She believed in him completely, and never imagined that he would turn away from her.
She vigilantly waited for news from Carrisen. Whenever envoys visited, she would always question them on the current state of affairs.
“Is he still at war? When will it end? Is Haizens in a good position now? ”
Latille wondered if her prayers worked.
Two years later, the Tarium Empire was informed that a new emperor was crowned in Carrisen, and the name of that new emperor—was Haizens Carrisen. It was the beginning of a new rule.
“Do you like him that much?”
The governess looked at her teasingly, but Latille smiled.
“Yes. Wouldn’t it be wonderful?”
Now that Haizens was safely crowned emperor, all they had to do was get married. Two months passed since he ascended to the throne, but Latille was not worried about a late proposal. As a newly coronated emperor, he had to stabilize the political situation first. Even if a delegation did not come right away, a future empress should be able to endure this much for her country.
“Well, you two would look beautiful standing together.”
“Really? Do you think so?”
“Yes. He is a handsome man, and you’re a beautiful woman.”
Latille smiled brightly and opened a book on royal governance.
“I’ll keep studying while Haizens gets settled. Being empress means I will be in charge of welfare and culture. I’ll need to run the Imperial Palace too, so I should know a lot.”
“I hope that our empire will have a princess like you…”
The governess sighed.
“The Crown Prince is not interested in women, and he only reads books.”
“Well, I do too.”
“You read books while you keep a relationship and learn military arts. The Crown Prince reads books day and night, and nothing else.”
Latille chuckled and turned over a page, and she quickly soaked in the dense material. She was in a hurry. She wanted to surprise Haizens, and time seemed to be running out.
Then one day.
The Carrisen delegation finally arrived. As soon as Latille heard the news, she rushed from her room and ran towards the audience chamber.
The audience chamber was open on three sides, save for the throne at the front of the room, so it was possible to overhear the envoys’ report without listening at the door.
A guard looked at her bewilderingly as she hid behind a large pillar.
She signaled him to be quiet, then focused her hearing on the voices in the audience chamber.
The envoys and the father of the Emperor were exchanging pleasantries. There were congratulations on the new Carrisen emperor, hope that the two countries would share their glory together in the future…
Then, finally, the topic of the Emperor’s marriage came up.
‘It’s about me! He will ask me to be his bride!’
Latille covered her mouth with both hands to stop herself from screaming.
“I hope the Tarium Empire will send their blessings to the new Imperial couple.”
But the envoy’s words were not what Latille expected. Her eyes widened. The new Imperial couple? Blessings?
“…Is he getting married? Who’s the bride?”
“Lady Aini, the daughter of a duke.”
Lady Aini? Who on earth was that? The bride…wasn’t her? There was a prickling sensation on the back of her head. Latelle stared into space in confusion.
‘Is my name Aini?’
A crazy thought momentarily crossed her mind. But…no, it wasn’t.
Latille bit her lip. She couldn’t believe it. She clearly heard the name with her own ears.
‘Did something change with the delegation?’
Whether or not they knew about Latille’s and Haizens’ relationship, congratulations for the Imperial couple were expected.
Latille ended up fleeing from her hiding place. She ran to her room, and buried her face on the bed and wept.
“Your Highness? Oh my word! Your Highness, what’s wrong?”
The governess looked alarmed, but Latille didn’t have the energy to answer. After a while, she wiped away her tears.
“Governess! Haizens…Haisenz is going to marry another woman!”
“What? Impossible! I’m sure you heard something wrong!”
The governess waved away her hand as if it were nonsense.
“Everyone knows how devoted he was to you. He would have sent a delegation to propose to you—perhaps you heard something wrong?”
“No, I even heard the name of the bride. It was someone named Aini.”
The governess’ eyes widened, and Latille buried her face on the bed again.
‘Shock…traitor. Villain. Trash.’
Latille perched dangerously on the window sill, her feet dangling below her, and she gazed up at the blue sky.
How can this be? It was two years ago when Haizens swore his eternal love under this same sky. She remembered how the wind danced through his hair, and she had burst into laughter. She had reached out and swept his hair back, revealing his grey eyes that bloomed with affection.
But it was all over now. Haizens decided to marry a woman from his country, and sent a delegation abroad to announce it. They would have also visited other places, so every country would hear about it. The marriage would have already been long confirmed before they did so.
‘Did his heart change? Is he no longer in love with me?’
Feeling desolate, she closed her eyes and leaned her head against the window frame.
‘If I had known this, I would have also prayed for his heart to remain unchanged.’
She had only wished for victory. Thinking about it made her feel feverish, and she gave a sniffle. It must be a side effect. She wondered what was worse—news if Haizens was injured, or news that he betrayed her.
“Oh my god, Your Highness! What are you doing? That’s dangerous!”
“No it’s not, Governess. Not unless it’s poorly constructed.”
“What if the wind blows hard?”
“With my weight, I won’t get swept away.”
“You’re not that heavy.”
“I wish my troubles weren’t heavy.”
Latille leaned back on the frame.
“And Haizens is a bastard…”
It was then.
The governess suddenly glanced around, even though there was no one in the room.
“What are you doing?”
Latille looked at her curiously, and the governess pulled out an envelope hidden in her arms.
The envelope was light blue in color and looked of high quality.
“What is it?”
Latille accepted the letter, but there was no sender’s name.
“It’s anonymous. Why are you giving this to me?”
“Earlier, one of the envoys asked me to give this to you in secret. I think it’s from Haizens.”