Chapter 48 – The Butterfly Of Society (1)
Did I have a preference for foreigners? What on earth was he talking about?
I threw him a reproachful look. It was hard to understand what he meant. Was this because I spoke to Grand Duke Kapmen?
“I won’t stop the Empress from paying attention to other men, but I hoped they would not be foreigners.”
As I suspected. I was about to say I couldn’t refuse Grand Duke Kapmen, but then I changed my words.
“It’s not something you need to concern yourself with.”
I kept getting involved in strange misunderstandings, especially with Prince Heinley, but it was Sovieshu who brought in a concubine first. It was unlikely I would bring in my own lover as retaliation, but in any case, Sovieshu shouldn’t criticize me in what I do. In my view, that was fair.
Sovieshu, however, he seemed to have different ideas.
“How can I not care? Are you not my wife?”
I wanted to retort, “Did you consult me before taking in Miss Rashta?” but I knew he would say I brought her up again because I was jealous.
Sovieshu exhaled in a dignified manner.
“Do you like Lord Kapmen? To the point that he makes you sigh?”
“Don’t misunderstand. We only spoke of this one thing.”
“Yes, well, I’m glad to hear that…but I’d like you to be more mindful.”
After that was another meeting with the finance minister and treasury officials on the annual state budget, which included the salary of the court officials, royal guards, as well as the budget for various events.
“The tax revenues are about the same as last year.”
“While the system is expected to be unchanged, we don’t know the costs.”
“We can use last year’s budget plan.”
“Alright. Overall there is no national conflict expected, so we can set it similar to last years.”
So far, everything had gone smoothly. Complications arose, however, when it came to Rashta. The emperor usually gave his concubines a considerable, though unfixed, amount of money each year. Because there was no standard and each emperor paid different amounts, it was difficult to reference to previous cases.
“Do you have a separate account book for Miss Rashta? It should be easy enough to calculate.”
“The books did not come to the treasury. Since there is no money assigned yet, it should be listed under your account. The Emperor is providing for her now.”
“Is that so.”
I didn’t think Sovieshu was going to give me the account books somehow.
“What if we use Countess Malti as an example here, Your Majesty? She was a commoner before she became a concubine early in the emperor’s rule.”
“Prices have gone up since then, so I don’t think they’re comparable.”
“We still have to use some precedent. Once the amount is set it will be hard to lower it, but if there is a new concubine—ah, sorry.”
“It’s fine. You’re right, we should be sure.”
The meeting went on longer than I thought, and when I left the room with the finance minister, the air was already cold. The sun was still out, but the sky was not that bright.
‘I missed lunchtime.’
My meeting with Grand Duke Kapmen went from morning until afternoon, and from the afternoon onward I missed my meal when I met with the finance minister. When I realized I hadn’t eaten, I suddenly felt hungry and hastened my stride. I also wondered if Queen had dropped by.
I hurried along, and at the fork leading to the eastern and western palaces, I saw the hem of a blue skirt peeking from the bushes. Sir Artina, who was following me, frowned.
“Who is that?”
“I don’t know.”
I answered with a shake of my head. As if I was heard, the owner of the protruding skirt stepped away from the bushes, revealing it to be Viscountess Verdi.
When our eyes met, she broke away and her eyes darted around. After making sure no one else was here, she urgently beckoned at me. However, I didn’t approach and Sir Artina rebuked her.
Viscountess Verdi shook her head vigorously. Desperation flickered on her face, then she looked around again and came up to me.
“I have something urgent to say. I may not be your lady-in-waiting anymore, but I can’t rest easy until I tell you this.”
Her lips trembled. I prevented Sir Artina from admonishing her again and signaled Viscountess Verdi to continue speaking. The viscountess pressed her hands together.
“I think Viscount Roteschu knows something about Miss Rashta. A weakness.”
“I couldn’t hear the details, but I think she—”
The sound of something snapping interrupted her. I turned towards the direction of the noise, but Viscountess Verdi had disappeared into the bushes again.
‘What was that all of a sudden?’
I looked where Mrs. Verdi had stood, then saw someone else approaching me again.
It was Rashta.
She looked thinner than before and had dark bags under her eyes. She greeted me with a short bow and spoke in a feeble voice.
“Who was there just now?”
I shook my head, and she peered closely at the bushes where Viscountess Verdi had disappeared. I didn’t know if she spotted the viscountess or not, but it was clear she suspected someone had been there.
Rashta sighed. Instead of asking more about the disappeared person, she looked back at me gloomily.
“Well…Your Majesty. Is it alright if Rashta asks you something?”
“It’s about the Duchess Tuania.”