Chapter 30 – Wet Tears (1)
Would the Eastern Emperor fight a life-and-death duel with the Prince of the West? The latter whom was invited as a guest, with the former’s concubine dividing the two?
It would be quite a spectacle. If it became known to the public, the already much-criticized lives of the nobles and royal families would become the subject of further mockery and gossip.
Of course, with or without the rumors, the fight should be stopped.
“Calm down, Your Majesty. Prince Heinley, you are our guest.”
I raised my voice at them, and to my great fortune they were not fools.
“Please take your seats.”
They both sat down, and the meal continued quietly. I’ve never had such a trying meal the eve before the special banquet.
My stomach turned. What on earth was happening? Was it because of Rashta or Sovieshu? Or perhaps both?
No one was in the mood to eat anymore, so I finally set down my fork and patted my mouth with a napkin. After only half a meal, I stood up to see the guests off instead of offering them dessert. It would be rude to keep them in this uncomfortable atmosphere, and we would meet again tomorrow evening in any case.
I made for the hall and the guests quickly followed me, leaving behind Sovieshu and Heinley in the dining room. As soon as the door closed, Princess Soju came up to me and spoke with a frown creased on her face.
“I hope we can talk more tomorrow, Your Majesty. Tonight’s not a good night for conversation.”
“Of course. I hope so, too.”
Meeting Princess Soju might have been the best thing to have happened to me this New Year’s celebration. Her strong, funny and friendly nature was a joy to be around. I hugged her and whispered a fond farewell.
“Please come tomorrow.”
Princess Soju smiled and nodded, then left with her knights down the hallway. I gave my farewells to the other nobles with more formality.
When there were about a handful of nobles left, I saw Rashta approach me. I thought she had something to say, but instead of talking she stood by my side. Why was she here? I wanted to ask her that, but Emperor Sirim of Blue Bohean approached next.
“Please come and see Rashta tomorrow. Thank you for coming tonight, Your Highness.”
As soon as I bowed, Rashta mimicked me, as if we were seeing him off together.
Emperor Sirim answered in a stammering tone, and he looked between me and Rashta then turned away. He seemed to think I was bowing to him together with Rashta.
Rashta turned to look at me and asked in an amiable voice, “Are you alright, sister?” This situation was absurd, but there was no convention or precedent that I could use to stop her.
I deliberately broke away from Rashta and approached Marquis Samonew, one of our allies. However, Rashta followed my footsteps again and smiled coquettishly at him, making the Marquis laugh. She continued this until there was only Grand Duke Kapmen left.
Did she have to courage to approach him? She came up to him, speaking in a gentle voice.
At that moment, goose flesh erupted on my skin. Her voice had suddenly changed. Earlier, she had been bright and playful, but now her tone had taken on a deeper quality. She was imitating my voice. It wasn’t a perfect recreation, but it was close.
“Will you be attending the special banquet tomorrow?”
Her words evaporated in the air as the Grand Duke passed us in silence. It was more embarrassing that Rashta attempted to imitate me, rather than the Grand Duke Kapmen passing by me as well.
She smiled and said in her usual sweet voice, “Yes, Your Majesty.” It was not the same person who looked at me like I betrayed her in the dining room. I suppressed my feelings and spoke as calmly as possible.
“I planned to ask you this after the New Year’s celebrations, but now I have to know.”
“What is it?”
“Why did you lie to everyone and say that I sent you gifts?”
Rashta’s eyebrows lifted in confusion.
She waited for me to continue. Her conscience was pricked, surely.
“Rashta didn’t lie, Your Majesty. It’s true that the Empress sent many gifts to Rashta…”
“I don’t know where this misunderstanding comes from, but I did no such thing.”
“What? Are you angry because Rashta said she wrote the letters…?”
I stared at her in silence, and Rashta clasped her hands together as tears started to form in her eyes.
“But Viscountess Verdi said the Empress would never come forward. In fact, she would the Empress would be embarrassed by this. So I didn’t mean anything. I was only trying to play.”
“And I helped you, too, Your Majesty.”
“You helped me?”
Rashta looked about ready to cry again.
“You didn’t want anyone else to know you were the letter friend. Why are you always so scary to Rashta?”
Before I could say anything more, the door opened, and both Sovieshu and Prince Heinley appeared, their faces stiff. They seemed to have been arguing with each other inside.
Rashta’s tears finally broke. Sovieshu looked at her in surprise, then approached her and wiped her wet cheeks with his sleeve.
“Rashta? Why are you crying?”
Sovieshu glared at me as she sobbed harder.
“What happened, Empress? What’s wrong with Rashta?”
“I asked her a question.”
“What did you ask her?”
“I asked why she lied when I never sent her gifts.”
Sovieshu’s expression tensed.
“You asked her about that?”
“She’s been telling people, so of course I did.”
Who else should I have asked? I stared at him wondrously. His lips were tightly pressed together, and he looked alternately between me and Rashta before he sighed.
“If Rashta is mistaken, shouldn’t we just let it go?”
“I cannot allow my name to be used this way.”
“You don’t have to confront Rashta. It’s my fault. I sent her gifts in your name.”
My head spun. Sovieshu gave her gifts in my name? Rashta opened her eyes wide and looked at Sovieshu, her tears clinging delicately to her lashes.
“Is that true, Your Majesty?”
“There was a misunderstanding because of me.”
Sovieshu nodded and murmured an apology, but Rashta shook her head.
“No, Rashta is so happy. You did it for Rashta.”
I clenched my fist. I was the one who was gossiped about because of Sovieshu’s and Rashta’s mistake. And it was Rashta that Sovieshu apologized to, while Rashta thought it touching.
Before, I had distanced myself from Rashta. I told myself that I should ignore her, that I should look away, and that I didn’t care. But now—I clearly hated her.
And more than that, I hated Sovieshu.
I impatiently spoke up.
“If this is your fault—”
Sovieshu, who had been immersed in the romantic mood between the two, turned his head. He looked surprised to see me, as if he thought the issue resolved.
I stared coldly into his eyes.
“You have to take the blame, Your Majesty. You admitted responsibility.”
“No matter the circumstances, you shouldn’t assume another’s name. Isn’t that right, Your Majesty? ”
Sovieshu looked at me in bewilderment.
“Do we really have to deal with that here?”
“Yes. Now that you’ve admitted guilt, shouldn’t you be held responsible?”
Sovieshu’s complexion paled. I noticed him discreetly glancing between Rashta and Prince Heinley. His pride was injured in front of a distinguished man and the woman he loved, but the pride he wanted to preserve was not the pride of an emperor, but the pride of a man. Should I help him protect that?
“What do you want? Do you want me to cry like Rashta?”
“I want you to apologize.”
“Please apologize for using my name.”
“I’m sorry, all right?”
“And since Miss Rashta has been spreading false information, I hope that she will take responsibility and correct it.”
“Is that really necessary?”
“Are you afraid you will lose face, Your Majesty? Because my face has already been crushed.”
“If your face was crushed simply from sending gifts to Rashta, then you are poor and shallow from the start.”
“It is also poor and shallow not to correct it. Please take care of it as soon as possible.”
“The Empress should do it herself. Don’t you dislike other people speaking in your name?”
“Why are you so narrow-minded? You were never like that before, were you?”
“I should say that to you. And don’t speak impolitely to me, Sovieshu.”
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