Chapter 39 – A Man Of Secrets (2)
Roteschu nervously fidgeted his hands. He was the lord of a small country estate, though that didn’t necessarily mean he was unimportant. Many heroes, military officials, and ranking nobles chose to live peaceful lives on a small estate, leaving the capital behind them as far away as possible. In some cases, it wasn’t the size or geographical features of the land that was important, but its location. For instance, the region of Wirwol was located in a deep mountain valley far from the capital, but its value couldn’t be ignored as it hosted the mage’s headquarters and magical academy.
But that wasn’t applicable to Roteschu. His estate in Rimwell was not open to development, as it was the location of the Emperor’s forests and hunting grounds. Naturally, he had never seen the Emperor at a distance, let alone in a private meeting.
In line of the emperor’s withering glare, Viscount Roteschu lowered his eyes. It was a very uncomfortable experience.
Although Roteschu’s friends occasionally ridiculed him for the modesty of his estate, he did not hate his position. Larger estates were under the influence of the Emperor, while Roteschu could respectably reign like a king over his own smaller one. He had never prostrated himself before anyone—until now. He was intimidated by the Emperor, a man as young as his son, and his pride was dented for it.
“Viscount Roteschu. Explain what happened today.”
At last the Emperor spoke. For a moment, Viscount Roteschu couldn’t make sense of what he meant. Earlier, the Emperor’s secretary had carried Rashta to the bedroom, while Viscount Roteschu himself was arrested by the captain of the guard and dragged to this vacant room in the Eastern Palace. The reason why was known to everyone—so why explain it again?
But eventually he understood. It was a command by the Emperor to bring this all back to normal.
“I beg your forgiveness, Your Majesty. I frequently misidentify people’s faces. The slave who fled from my estate was also beautiful like Miss Rashta and had silver hair and dark eyes, and I mistook Miss Rashta for her.”
Viscount Roteschu bowed again and continued wheedling his way out.
“I have tarnished the reputation of the Emperor’s concubine, Miss Rashta. Please forgive me for my mistake. ”
His head was lowered, but his eyes glistened with interest. The young emperor continued to protect Rashta despite knowing she was a runaway slave. Roteschu was truly impressed with the young woman. She thought she could simply wash away her identity and position herself as an imperial concubine. Did the Emperor truly favor her that much? Roteschu had known back at the manor that she could keep men under her thumb, but her talent was greater than he expected.
“Yes. And you should remember to watch your mouth, Viscount Roteschu.”
“Of course, Your Majesty.”
Roteschu’s lips rose into a faint smirk. Perhaps he could get away from being a little country lord and obtain a more privileged position.
I followed the long corridor with my guards behind me. Both head and heart were heavy, as were my footsteps. Even my dress seemed to weigh me down. Each step I took, I felt a pricking around my ribs.
When I arrived at the Western Palace, I leaned my head against a pillar to brace myself against the sick feeling inside. My pride was injured. Why was Sovieshu so stubborn when it came to Rashta? Where was the Sovieshu I knew, whose eyes glistened when he read a book on the reign of the previous emperors?
There was a rustling sound and a voice from down the hallway. There was only one person who called me Queen. I quickly straightened up and turned around, and found Prince Heinley standing a ways away and frowning at me.
“Sorry. I’m not presentable.”
I was lucky that I didn’t shed tears, and I placed a smile on my face.
“Are you taking a walk?”
But the prince did not react. He kept looking at my face. Were my eyes red? I turned around for a moment as he approached, and when I turned back, he was nearer. Prince Heinley lifted his hand, then stopped, leaving it to hover near my face. His hand was trembling.
“I usually wipe away my friend’s tears and hug them when they are heartbroken.”
“Because the Queen is my friend, can I do that?”
I shook my head, and the prince withdrew, but he still looked sorrowful and his ears were flushed.
“Did your husband insult you again?”
“…Why do you think that?”
“Just. I just do.”
“I can’t really say. It’s personal.”
“I should have met the Queen first.”
“I was born five years too soon…damn it.”
Prince Heinley lips quivered. I was surprised to see him in so much hurt when I hadn’t even explained what happened. What was he talking about?
He hesitated a moment before speaking again.
“If I can’t offer you any consolation, would you like me to send you Queen?”
I couldn’t hug Prince Heinley to calm myself, but the bird’s presence would be a welcome warmth.
“Yes. Where is Queen now?”
“I’ll send him to your room.”
“It’s alright if we see him together. I have a lot of questions about Queen…”