Chapter 33 – Drink Water And Sprout (2)
Rashta reclined on the bed, hugging a cushion and looking a picture of delicate beauty in a thin lavender nightgown. Lying next to her was Sovieshu, who was sweeping his fingers through her soft silver hair.
“Prince Heinley is known for his cruelty and for being a womanizer. Don’t trust people so blindly from now on.”
“Rashta didn’t know…”
“It’s alright. Anyone can make mistakes. Just don’t make that same mistake in the future.”
“But this isn’t Rashta’s fault, right?”
“Of course. It was that man who made a disturbance.”
Rashta leaned her head against Sovieshu’s shoulder.
“But I’m glad His Majesty protected Rashta.”
“I’m glad too. I hope you’re feeling better.”
“Tomorrow is the special banquet! Let’s just relax and socialize with people! I want to be friends with Princess Soju.”
Rashta smiled and patted the cushion like a drum. Sovieshu, who normally would have smiled at her adoorable behavior, was like a stone.
“What’s wrong, Your Majesty?”
“Rashta, you won’t be able to attend the special banquet tomorrow.”
Rashta stared at Sovieshu with wide eyes. He felt sheepish after giving her the unexpected news, except that was not the way it should be.
“What? Why, Your Majesty?”
“There can only be twenty special guests.”
“Can’t I be one of them?”
“The Empress and I invite ten people each, and we’ve already sent out the invitations…”
“You can be flexible and add one more…”
“But Rashta. The moment we are flexible, the special banquet becomes less special.”
Rashta made a shocked, unblinking expression at his refusal, and Sovieshu felt forced to explain.
“As I said, it’s only for those invited. I don’t know why you think it would suddenly change.”
“Rashta is your concubine. Your lady. Rashta thought she could go without being invited…You should have invited her too.”
Rashta’s face was red as she whimpered.
“Oh goodness, Rashta.”
Sovieshu took out a handkerchief and patted away the tears that had sprung up in her eyes. But the tears gathered again, and the handkerchief was useless.
“Do you really wish to go?”
“I told everyone at the dinner that I would go to the special banquet.”
“You should’ve asked me.”
“It’s strange to ask. Besides, His Majesty took Rashta to dinner with the special guests, so of course Rashta thought…”
“It’s my fault.”
Sovieshu sighed and rubbed Rashta’s shoulder, but she kept crying, waiting for Sovieshu to change his words. However, no matter how long she waited, it did not happen.
“So in the end, you’re not taking me.”
Rashta wept like a child, and Sovieshu clenched his jaw at the innocence of it. Having only seen the court nobles cry silently, he was amazed whenever Rashta expressed her true feelings honestly.
“I’m sorry, Rashta. Don’t cry.”
“You saw what happened today. If Rashta doesn’t go, Prince Heinley will say something to the guests. He said he was going to spread rumors.”
Rashta had a point, and Sovieshu sighed again. However, many of the guests consisted of foreign royal family members and powerful nobles, and were considered the most important people of the year. To set aside an important guest to allow a concubine could cause an international problem.
“Don’t worry, I’ll be there. I won’t let Prince Heinley say anything strange.”
Rashta’s expression was still morose. After stewing on the subject, Sovieshu finally let out a sigh.
“I will ask the Empress if she spare a seat. Some of the guests are subjects of this country, so we won’t have to worry about an international problem.”
The morning sun shone through the thin curtains, casting shadows on the floor in the shape of the window frames.
I yawned and raised myself from the bed. My heart wasn’t heavy despite the incident from yesterday. Perhaps it was because of Prince Heinley and Queen…
I patted my face to wake myself up, then went to the bathroom to wash my face. Behind me, my ladies-in-waiting prepared the bathtub with petals and salts. My clothes were removed and I sank into the warm water, allowing my muscles to relax. I closed my eyes and leaned against the bathtub as the ladies-in-waiting massaged my head with careful hands.
After the bath, I put on a robe and went into the bedroom. As it was the last day of the New Year’s celebration and the day of the special banquet, the dress selected for me was extravagant, but not overly so, and simultaneously captured a sense of calm and splendor.
After getting dressed, I placed on my diamond earrings and crown. The crown wasn’t made for ceremonial purposes, and wasn’t too large and heavy. I looked over my notes on the special guests while the ladies styled my hair to match the crown.
However, before they could finish, one of Sovieshu’s secretaries arrived. As I was already dressed, I allowed him in, and the secretary conveyed Sovieshu’s words with great embarrassment.
“Your Majesty, the Emperor would like a word with you.”
“Yes, it’s about the special banquet, so please come quickly—”
It had to be urgent if it was about the special banquet. I nodded and ordered the ladies to quickly finish my hair.
“We’ll put it together when you get back.”
“Is that alright? I don’t want to bother you twice.”
“Then you can have breakfast first while I’m gone.”
Various scenarios about the guests ran through my head when I followed Sovieshu’s secretary to the eastern palace. Did someone suddenly declare war? Have one of the foreign guests complained about the country? Or did one of them offend us? Has anyone suddenly announced their absence?
“What’s going on?”
I immediately questioned Sovieshu as soon as I entered his room. Rashta was sitting on the bed, but I pretended not to know her. However, I did notice her staring at me—no, staring at the crown on my head, more exactly.
I frowned in discomfort, but Rashta continued staring with a bewitched expression and did not look away. Sovieshu was the first to speak.
“Can you make room for one more person?”
“Is something wrong? Are there any reports that Secretary Bimeli or the Chief Magician Calenzano are able to attend?”
The secretary and the chief magician were those who originally had reservations. They were invited by Sovieshu, but they did not attend the New Year’s ceremony because they had already refused for other reasons.
“No, it’s not them.”
Who on earth were we supposed to set up a seat for? I studied Sovieshu closely, who seemed caught in an awkward silence.
“I want to take Rashta with me…”
“Can you do that?”
“Empress? Why won’t you talk to me?”
I was going to apologize, but quickly shoved it down because I didn’t think it was something I should apologize for.
“No, Your Majesty.”
Sovieshu’s brow furrowed at my flat refusal.
“One seat is fine. There is surely one or two people the Empress can ask.”
“It’s possible to ask for consent if they agree. But if Secretary Bimeli or the Chief Magician Calenzano came, they would be offended by the sudden cancellation of the invitation…for your concubine.”
Sovieshu’s expression turned even colder.
“I understand the connotation of your words, Empress.”
“The answer would have been the same if it had been my lover, or even if it had been another concubine that was not Rashta.”
“Then why don’t we exclude people such as Duchess Tuania?”
“I don’t want to hurt the people I cherish, Your Majesty.”