Chapter 14 – Where Is Queen? (1)
I returned to my palace after finishing my work, then slipped into comfortable clothes more quickly than usual. I felt my head throbbing, possibly because of the constant feeling of something bothering me. I was slowly starting to understand my mother’s words of “Do not get involved in the affairs of the Emperor and his concubine.”
But Mother, even if I try not to care, she keeps appearing in front of me.
“Yes, Your Majesty.
“About my mother—no, never mind.”
“You want me to bring Duchess Troby?”
“No, it’s alright. I’ll see her on New Year’s anyway.”
“You should consult the Duchess if you’re feeling uneasy, Your Majesty.”
Counsel would probably ease my mind. But if I spoke to her, my mother’s mind would be a thorny path from then on, and I didn’t want to burden her with my problems. She already worried about me all the time.
‘I’ll keep it to myself for now. I can tell her later. Mother must have heard about Rashta anyway.’
“I will. Ah, is Lady Laura alright?”
“Yes. She wants to return to the palace as soon as possible.”
“Tell her she can come back whenever she wants. Preferably before New Year’s. That way, people won’t talk.”
“Yes, Your Majesty ”
Talking about Laura made me miss her bright energy. The Countess left the room for a moment, and I unpinned the jewels from my hair and placed them on the dresser.
‘I’ll go to bed a little earlier today.’
I should skip dinner. Instead, I sat at my desk and opened my notebook.
There was the click of the door behind me, but I didn’t turn around, thinking it was the Countess. However, the presence stood silent behind my back. That was not what the Countess would do. As I was dipping my pen into the inkwell, I frowned and turned around.
To my surprise, it was Sovieshu standing behind me. How long had it been since my husband came to the Western Palace? Rather than being happy at his presence, I looked on anxiously. It was sure to be another difficult conversation with him.
“May I help you, Your Majesty?”
“Why do people change so much?”
Of course it was going to be another uncomfortable encounter. I had a terrible feeling, and wondered if it had anything to do with Sovieshu in my room.
“I heard about the bad things you said to Rashta.”
Rashta. A mere small woman. But her name and presence stuck stubbornly to my feet wherever I went.
“What did I say?”
“You said that I would take another concubine after her.”
“Rather than trying to be friendly to me, I told her to be friendly with another concubine when she comes.”
“Did I say something wrong?”
“She spoke without malice. Must you act so cynical?”
“…I’ve changed? You’ve changed.”
“How many times do I have to repeat that I don’t want to get involved with you and your concubine? Yet it does not stop me from hearing about her. If you and Miss Rashta left me be, I wouldn’t be so cynical.”
“I had to come because it was necessary! If you hadn’t said those things to Rashta, I wouldn’t have come here!”
I shouted, not from excitement, but from finding something that would hurt Sovieshu the most.
“Did the former emperor ever talk about Countess Sophie to the former empress?”
Sovieshu paled when I brought up the subject of his father’s favored lover.
“I didn’t know you were such a gossiper.”
He gestured his arms around the room.
“This room is full of beautiful furniture, and you can buy anything you want. Yet you are cruel to someone who has lived their life pitifully.”
Sovieshu’s eyes filled with disappointment.
“She was also your subject before she was my concubine. Do you not feel sorry for her?”
As soon as I said that single word, my legs became weak. I held on to the dressing table to prevent my legs from folding underneath myself, and that was when Countess Eliza came in the room and rushed towards me. She carefully hugged me and comforted me in her arms.
“Really? The Emperor was angry with the Empress because of Rashta?”
“I think so. They were shouting at the top of their voices.”
Cherily gave a bitter smile, and Rashta covered her face with both her hands.
“Wow…the Emperor is incredible…”
The other maid, Kisu, continued the story.
“Not only that, but he declared a strict punishment to anyone who brings up the false rumor that you’re a runaway slave.”
The faces of the two maids blurred behind Rashta’s tears.
“The Emperor really loves you, Miss Rashta.”
“Well, how could anyone not love someone so beautiful and innocent?”
“The Emperor and Rashta are like lovers in a fairy tale.”
“It really is like a fairy tale.”
Rashta bowed her head and wiggled her toes shyly.
“Rashta is so happy these days. I feel like I’m dreaming every day.”
She was not prepared when, a moment later, three servants entered the room to deliver a large swing chair. Her mood grew even brighter.
“This is a gift from the Emperor to Rashta. He said you can sit here without going to the palace.”
Unlike the nest chair in the Western Palace, the fixture and decorations of this chair were all made of jewels, gold, and silver. The cushions and feather-stuffed cushions were made of the finest material and heavenly soft. Rashta burst into tears of joy and exchanged happy looks with her maids.