Chapter 10 - Soluna's Background
Ladies from other noble families exercised for health and self-defense, but this wasn’t the case for Soluna. In order to produce a woman fit as an empress, she wasn’t permitted any heavy activity, such as horse riding and sword training, because it might produce unsightly muscles. She was only allowed to carry small tools such as needles and brushes. She was only allowed to spend her days inside the house to keep her skin pale and was forbidden from going on walks in case she got hurt and became scarred. It was thanks to all of this that Soluna Andros could become empress.
For her to be exercising was to be betraying her upbringing. Duke Andros felt all of his effort to raise her was being disregarded and his insides began to boil. He had to save her from the emperor’s influence and retrain her.
“Do I need a reason? I’m doing it because I want to,” Hae-Sol said.
His boiling anger thinned like smoke, replaced by the fear that had been growing since they met.
Now that I look at her, it seems that she’s gained a bit of muscle. She’s also a little taller. …A bit? …A little? He compared her with his memories. She’s very different… Is she even the same person?
Duke Andros struggled to repair his confused thoughts.
Hae-Sol continued to watch him until she lost her patience. She downed her cup of tea in one gulp and set the teacup down loudly. “Is that all you had to say?”
“Eek!” Her fierceness compelled Duke Andros to nod. He felt the weight of something in his pocket but decided to ignore it.
Instead, he put on his cloak and went for the exit. Standing tall, he shouted, “M-make sure to maintain the dignity of the empress!” and, running away, shut the door behind him.
Staring at the closed door, Hae-Sol sank into the sofa. Never thought I’d remember the past I forgot because of this game.
Her tense expression showed no sign of relaxing. She tried to calm herself by stuffing her mouth with the desserts in front of her, but the cookies that once tasted sweet and delicious now tasted stale and bitter.
“Your Majesty!” While Hae-Sol was mechanically bringing food to her mouth, the door suddenly opened. Rivella, with round rabbit-like eyes, burst into the room panting like a messenger bringing urgent news. However, when her eyes met Hae-Sol’s, she shrieked in shock and went back out. A quiet knock at the door soon followed.
Isn’t it ruder to go in and out? Hae-Sol sighed and went to open the door. Rivella’s fearful eyes turned to her.
“I beg your forgiveness!” She knelt and slammed her forehead to the ground in prostration. Hae-Sol’s gaze was as sharp as a knife that Rivella feared for her life. She trembled and waited for Hae-Sol to hand down her verdict.
“Come in. Don’t forget to knock next time.” And there it was.
Rivella stood straight up and felt her neck to make sure her head hadn’t been cut off. “Thank you for your gracious mercy!”
Irritated, Hae-Sol waved her off. She wasn’t angry at her in the first place; she wasn’t the type of person to stand on ceremony nor want to be on the receiving end of it. She plunked herself down on the sofa and resumed her devouring of cookies.
Rivella cautiously approached her. “Pardon me, Your Majesty. Are you alright?”
“What? What do you mean?” Hae-Sol’s hand paused.
“Whenever the duke came, you always…” Her voice trailed. Hae-Sol’s brows furrowed. Seeing her reaction, Rivella finished what she was saying. “…end up shedding tears afterwards.”
Tears: a word that didn’t match Hae-Sol. She had never shed tears before. Someone had taken all of her tears away, so she lived with dry eyes. Therefore, she had never experienced this kind of concern before.
Though Rivella’s concern wasn’t for her but for Soluna, Hae-Sol felt an odd tingle and responded innocently. “Did I cry much?”
“Yes! That man would always yell nonsense at you! And—” Rivella stopped and her mouth flapped noiselessly.
Seeing Hae-Sol’s emotionless face, she fell to her knees and her face turned blue. If this was the previous empress, she’d thank me for comforting her, but I don’t know how the empress now will react. She looks… She’s angry, isn’t she? Oh no…
Right when Rivella was about to beg for her life a second time, the empress spoke first. “Yes, I did. I cried a lot.”
That gentle acknowledgement instead of the stern reprimand she expected brought color back to Rivella’s face. She looked up, her eyes twinkling in relief, and in an instant all the color was gone again.
“Maybe because I cried too much, I can’t remember anything… Could you tell me about it?” Curiosity hung within her dark eyes. Rivella, strangled by the gaze, quiveringly nodded.
Soluna Andros was the eldest daughter of a baron who became a duke for his large contributions of money and supplies during the emperor’s conquest. Her life was so dull and monotonous that it could be summed up in a single word: empress. She had devoted 20 years of her life into becoming an empress, during which Duke Andros held back nothing to support his daughter. Soluna was what the nobles called an ‘esteemed noblewoman’.
Her hobby was teatimes, her favorite pastime was sewing, and she obeyed her parents without ever complaining. She, the perfect bride candidate, was the duke’s pride. When he met other noblemen at banquets, they’d complain that their sons were being captured and taken away by young noble ladies trained in equestrianism, swordsmanship, and even archery.
Duke Andros’ nose would point up to the sky every time that happened. His nose was eventually turned up so much that no man was worthy in his eyes. Save one: the one and only emperor. At last, his efforts bore that coveted fruit.
Emperor Blair chose Soluna and she rose to the status of empress when he married her. Duke Andros spent a few days in a bar where nobles would gather secretly; the smooth road he saw ahead of him made it easy for the alcohol to flow. However, he overlooked something: the empress had the responsibility to govern alongside the emperor.
Soluna had only ever lived within her father’s mansion like a frog in a well, surrounded by colorful flowers, freshly baked cookies, new dresses, and comfortable beds. All she had ever heard growing up was that she only needed to ‘keep quiet and sew’, which made it impossible for her to perform an empress’ duty. Countless tasks, dying citizens, terrible disasters, and so on…
Facing the world beyond the well for the first time, Soluna fainted and cried daily. It was inevitable that her health would weaken from crying so much instead of eating. The emperor’s workload worsened since Soluna was unable to fulfill her duties. He thought she was a suitable empress, but all he ever heard was that she was either resting, refusing to eat, or collapsing, so his patience ran thin.
In the end, he took on a queen for the sake of managing state affairs, a decent woman of a distinguished mind and a healthy body, trained in horseback riding and swordsmanship.
When Duke Andros heard that the emperor had taken a concubine, he went to Soluna immediately. “Is this how I raised you?! Are you trying to ruin me?!” “
“Why did I raise a wretch who can’t even do what she’s supposed to?” “If the glory of the Andros family is ruined, it’ll be all your fault!”
There was no physical violence, but in its place was an even more painful verbal abuse. Since then, Duke Andros had used Soluna as an emotional outlet. Whenever he had the chance, he’d seek the empress in her parlor and hurl curses at her. After he left, Soluna would release the tears she held back and cry until she fell asleep.
Rivella and the other maids, having experienced this for a year, made all kinds of preparations whenever the duke visited: water for her to drink before she collapsed from exhaustion, scented candles to calm her down, an array of desserts she liked, and a diverse selection of other items to ease her heart.
However, as the emperor lost his interest in her, he drastically reduced the empress’ personal budget and her retinue of maids. Eventually, Soluna could only wallow in her sadness in the empress’ room alone.
“But since you were able to change His Majesty’s mind lately, I’m sure the duke’s attitude will change too!” Rivella rambled on while pumping her fists.
Hae-Sol smirked. What a lowlife.
She compared his attitude from the story against the one he showed her a little while ago. A man who’s strong against the weak but weak against the strong. Hae-Sol was very familiar with those types and had made many of them grovel before her. It didn’t seem like he would get in the way of her mission, so she decided to quickly remove the duke from her list of obstacles.
She also wanted to learn more about the character Soluna. Everyone in the game would see Hae-Sol as Soluna, so to have the scenario play out well, she would need to emulate Soluna. However, as if it were some kind of trick, Hae-Sol and Soluna had polar opposite personalities.
Definitely intentional, damn that Louisa…
Once one has been assigned a role in the game, they will be given quests that match the role’s personality and behavior. In other words, Hae-Sol would have to continuously perform actions contrary to her own personality.
“Your Majesty… Are you really alright?” Rivella asked after seeing her sigh.
“Yes. Oh, and since I’ll stop crying, just send the duke over whenever he visits,” Hae-Sol assured her.
“Yes, Ma’am! And, about this letter…” Rivella presented an envelope sealed with Duke Andros’ crest.
Hae-Sol indifferently took it, and after ripping it open and reading the contents, tore it up and threw it into the fireplace. Rivella’s shoulders flinched with every tear. “Put them there.”
“Of course…” Rivella looked at what was once a letter.
Hae-Sol flopped onto the sofa and closed her eyes as fatigue came rushing in. She opened her eyes and stood up just as quickly.
Rivella, who was next to her, was startled. “Y-Your Majesty?”
“I haven’t washed up.” Hae-Sol never got a chance to wash up after exercising. Something had been bugging her all this time and she finally figured out this was it. Hae-Sol hummed as she took a bathrobe into the bathroom.
Rivella watched her with a tilted head. Didn’t she wash up this morning?