Chapter 34 – Secret Friend (1)
I could tell that Sovieshu believed me to be a heartless person. It was clear by the lines between his brows, which were usually not there, and the narrowing of his eyes.
“The empress is cold.”
“As I should be.”
An international embarrassment could happen if Sovieshu disregarded his guests, and the blame would fall to him. But if I set aside a guest for Rashta, I would be blamed for doing something wrong to impress Rashta and Sovieshu. A similar rumor had already spread after Sovieshu gave Rashta gifts under my name. While that incident was disgraceful on a personal level, disrespecting guests would directly be judged by society.
But Sovieshu’s behavior wasn’t a mistake. Even at this moment, he was smart. He was forcing me to act this way to protect himself and soothe Rashta’s heart.
“I’m not intentionally being cruel. Rashta is your concubine, not mine. I don’t know why you’re trying to force me to do things even you, the Emperor, cannot do.”
I was too peeved to explain it further to him, so I deliberately turned away. Sovieshu’s jaw was clenched and Rashta glanced at me with a frightened look, but I wasn’t feeling any better at all. I gave my farewell as etiquette dictated, and then left the room with a stately walk.
When I arrived at the Western Palace, I found the ladies anxiously waiting for me.
“You should have eaten without me.”
“How could we? We wondered if something terrible happened again.”
“You don’t look good whenever you see the Emperor these days.”
After calming them down, we ate breakfast together, but I found it difficult to swallow. I managed to fill my stomach lightly with soup and pudding.
Afterwards, the ladies-in-waiting prepared themselves for the party, so I sat alone at my desk to check the schedule after the New Year’s celebrations. I had to see off the foreign guests, as well as accommodate those that wished to stay longer. Reports of any incidents also had to be handled thoroughly. If any foreigner had a legal problem, it had to be settled before they crossed the border.
The day passed quickly, and then it was time for the feast. I made another examination of myself in the mirror, and I saw that each of my ladies-in-waiting were splendidly dressed as well.
“Will you come to the party after the special banquet?”
“I don’t know. I have to check the time…what’s wrong, Laura?”
“Alischute—no, Lady Alischute is ill and cannot go to the party. If neither you nor her come, I’ll just show my face and leave quickly.”
Laura, who preferred to mingle with her peers, did not seem very interested in socializing with the other noblewomen.
“I’ll be there if you wait for me, Laura.”
I gave her my promise, and Laura smiled with excitement and quickly went to the grand hall for the party. The other ladies-in-waiting also followed suit, while I went to the Red Rose room for the special banquet.
Lively music filled the air, and the special guests were gathered together in groups of three or four. I walked towards Princess Soju, with a casual nod to everyone else, when I came across Grand Duke Kapmen first, who was holding a champagne glass. A large statue holding a flower basket and sword and a servant carrying champagne bottles stood symmetrically on either side of him, leaving no other way to pass.
“Are you enjoying yourself?”
A nod wouldn’t suffice as he was right in front of me, so I smiled and spoke to him. Before I bowed in greeting, it occurred to me that he ignored both me and Rashta yesterday.
Fortunately, Grand Duke Kapmen did not turn a blind eye to me this time. He didn’t answer my question, however.
“Does the food suit your taste?”
I gave him a small bow for the second time without realizing it. Instead of answering me, he stared at me again. His long, sharp eyes were something fierce.
This was Grand Duke Kapmen’s first invitation to the banquet, and I had never interacted with this man until last year. I had little knowledge of his character. All I knew was that he was a grand duke from a desert country, and had graduated first from a magical academy.
As I waited for his reply, Kapmen asked me his own question out of nowhere.
“Is this the state of the Eastern Empire?”
“What do you mean?”
“In Rypt, the Imona’s and Imot’s emotions are one. ”
“The king and queen are one. That’s amazing.”
” …You know what it means?
“Not enough to say I’m fluent. Only a few basic words.”
When I lifted my eyebrows, he opened his eyes in surprise and continued.
“If Emot’s lover is in front of her, she would be killed immediately.”
“Are you not able to do that, Your Majesty?”
“I’m afraid that in this great empire I cannot kill a person for no reason, even if I am an empress. A trial must be held first.”
“Foolish that you cannot eat soup out of your own bowl.”
Was he saying that I didn’t have proper control of the Rashta yesterday? However, just as there were the laws in the country of Rypt, there were the laws of the Eastern Empire. In my country, concubines were legally approved. And if an empress ever killed an emperor’s mistress? There was the strong possibility of being thrown into prison.
Then what did that leave me? A little excitement? Should I bet my life to kill Rashta? Before giving an answer, however, Grand Duke Kapmen left with his glass of champagne.
I gave a relieved sigh. He probably thought of me as pathetic.
‘How strange. It was Sovieshu that made Rashta a concubine, so why am I the pathetic woman?’
Unfortunately, Princess Soju seemed to have moved elsewhere in the room. I shook my head and looked around to find another person, when my gaze landed on Duchess Tuania.
There was a low voice from behind me. As soon as I turned my head, I found Prince Heinley right before me.
“How are you—”
Before I could ask him how he was, he spoke again.
“I’d like to talk to you for a moment.”