Chapter 34 – Priceless Gift
When the guest began piling in, everyone was amazed by the extravagance of the banquet that had been prepared for the Kurkans. On the tables were an array of many wines and delicacies of Estia, even the decorations were a work of art. It almost seemed like Estia wanted to make a statement, to showcase everything they have and can offer to their allies.
And while the many nobles appeared to be enjoying the magnificent feast, Leah was not.
Despite being in charge of the preparations, and she should be happy everything had gone rather smoothly, she was exhausted. Just thinking about the week long conference is making her less and less thrilled by the moment. She wanted it to be over.
With a blank expression, Leah dragged her feet under her, forcing her to attend the conference. The hem of her dress, which was cream-colored, dragged over the polished marble floor along with her. As she walked through the hallway, in a still dignified manner despite her exhaustion, she could feel the lingering stares at the back of her head, along with faint murmurings surrounding her.
She could hazard a guess as to why.
It was obviously because of the King of Kurkans, Ishakan. He had made an impression to the public, clearly displaying his interest in her. It fueled the gossip around the palace, its people. Some of the rumours were even malicious in nature, about the barbaric king and his relationship with a beautiful princess.
As the rumours spread, facts and the truth became distorted, even going as far as thinking there was a secret child between them.
Leah could scoff at them. Ridiculous.
Even Byun Gyongbaek, who heard these rumours, became enraged. He tried his best to nip the rumours in the bud before it even spread further, but Leah couldn’t be bothered to lift a finger. They were after all, just rumours in the end.
People only listen to what they want to hear, never mind the awful truth. Since she no longer possessed her so-called dignity that she should have protected, making Byun Gyongbaek angry was at least worth it. It served its purpose.
She glanced at the banquet hall.
Not a Kurkan was still in sight. And because of their political pride, not even the royals of Estia would make an appearance before their arrival.
The reason Leah had been there first, was because it was her duty to greet the guests and welcome them. It was also a good excuse. It was better to be there, than to have to mingle with Cerdina and Blain. It was an unbearable thought.
When she finished greeting everyone, she quickly searched around for Count Valtein before greeting any of the other guests. She knew her message had been successfully relayed, so he must be waiting for her already.
There were many that would be willing to back Leah up when the time came, and one of them was Count Valtein. He was the representative for the Pro-Princess power after all.
Although, Leah muses, power was a bit of an exaggeration. After all, her only use was to be a bartered off bride to the highest bidder. Still, Count Valtein was rather proud to be her confidant. He even served as her eyes and ears.
Because she wasn’t allowed to leave the palace, she couldn’t move within her wishes just about anywhere. There are even times the Count would visit in secret, to help her tackle the internal issues the palace was facing. Also, it was because of him, she could sneak out of the palace, especially when he opened up the unused irrigation just for her sake.
She wanted to hear about the latest news from him, knowing whatever information he would have for her, it would be viable. After all, she would need information, one that not even the palace or its highest of social circles were privy to.
Leah did one more scan around the room, before her eyes finally landed on Count Valtein, who was fast approaching like a child on his way to his present. He practically looked like he was about to jump for joy too if it wasn’t for the others around them.
“Princess!” He exclaimed as he saw her. Honestly, it was like they hadn’t seen each other for years, when Leah knows it was otherwise. She gave a nod of acknowledgement, allowing him to calm down, before leading him to a secluded corner in the banquet hall. It was an open space, but private enough to talk.
“What is it?” She asked and Count Valtein breathed out in relief…
“I almost died yesterday,” he sulked
“What?” Leah asked in alarm, before Count Valtein straightened up and smiled at her.
“I met the King of the Kurkans.”
Leah didn’t know what to say, but look at the Count with a dumbfounded look. He was making it seem like he was saved from some fox’s trap with how much he was making a fuss about it.
“The King sought me out first, mind you,” he began, “Like he also wanted to meddle with Estia’s internal affairs, I didn’t betray any secrets, of course, but he was absolutely convincing and undoubtedly charismatic!” he praised.
He sought out Count Valtein?! Leah hadn’t expected Ishakan was gutsy enough to actually do that. She couldn’t help but feel the bead of sweat trickle down her temples the more she listened to the Count Valtein tell his story.
“He wanted to win me over, he even gave me a gift!”
“A gift?” Leah asked, before frowning a bit, “What gift?”
“Ten rolls of silk.” he answered in a subdued tone, and Leah stared at him with a narrowed stare. The Count began to stutter at her unimpressed look, “It was no ordinary silk, I assure you!” he retracted.
He looks around, before drawing closer, as Leah does with him with her ear.
“It was purple silk.” he whispered reverently, and Leah pulled back with a shocked expression.
Purple silks were of a priceless value, coveted by many, even in Estia, who wasn’t part of the Royal Family. But there weren’t many who could easily gain access to it, even if you did have the capacity to attain it.