Chapter 55 – Shall I Tempt Her? (2)
“Well. Have you considered it?”
Rashta sat crouched in her chair, glancing suspiciously over at Viscount Roteschu. She had succeeded in sending him back the night before because it was late, but he had returned in the morning.
Viscount Roteschu spoke in a leisurely manner, as if he had no intention of leaving. Rashta clenched her coffee cup, resisting the urge to throw it.
“The nobles all want to get back in your favor again. Isn’t this all due to my help?”
“Your help? It was Duke Elgy that helped me.”
“And wasn’t it because of me that Duke Elgy went to your side?”
Rashta smiled bitterly at his brazen answer. He gave a small hum as he gathered his hands together and rested his chin on them.
“I need some money now.”
He wanted money? Rashta laughed derisively at his request. Though she had expected it, she couldn’t believe that he was asking for money this early in the morning.
‘How can anyone be like this?’
She had hated Viscount Roteschu for a long time, but now he was even worse. However, he was a man of influence and power, while she had nothing. She had buried her hatred under her fear, but now that the fear had gone, the hateful feelings that had once been clouded over began to emerge.
“You said you would help Rashta.”
She spoke coldly, suppressing the urge to yell abuse at him.
“You’ve done nothing yet you want money?”
“I went to all kinds of parties uninvited to save your reputation. Wasn’t that help?”
“Nothing helped until Duke Elgy appeared.”
Her voice was harsh and she quickly continued.
“Just so you know, Duke Elgy doesn’t care if I’m a slave or not, so don’t try to blackmail me for this.”
“He said that now?”
Tsk tsk tsk tsk tsk.
Viscount Roteschu clicked his tongue and leaned back against his chair.
“You actually believe that. You’re running out of time, Rashta.”
She didn’t want to speak to him anymore. She leaned over to ring the bell, but he pushed it aside.
“My silence comes with a price, Rashta. I’m raising your baby, so you should at least be willing to pay the expenses.”
“Do you know how much it costs to dress, raise and feed a baby? You should pay for it, of course. Do you think I should raise him for free?”
Rashta’s jaw dropped. His lofty manner sparked her anger, but ranting at him was not the answer to the problem. She didn’t even know if the baby was hers.
“…How much do you need?”
“Well, the cost of living and food has gone down…let’s see. A hundred krut or so will do.”
“Jewelry is an acceptable payment if you don’t have money.”
Rashta went to her jewelry box and took out three of her smallest, unattractive rings, then held it out to him. She thought it was a waste, but it was better than him spreading rumors about a baby.
“Oh, these are beautiful.”
Viscount Roteschu selected a ring he was satisfied with and tucked it in his breast pocket. As Rashta watched him, she thought,
‘This is not the time. I need to find out about the baby before he makes any bigger demands.’
Before Viscount Roteschu would bring the baby, she had to go to his estate and confirm his identity herself. And if he turned out to be fake…
Rashta gripped her skirt tightly. Whatever the outcome, she might just go mad.
“Ah, Rashta. Can I give you a piece of advice?”
Viscount Roteschu stood up from his seat, looking down at Rashta with a mocking smile.
“Yesterday, the Emperor and Empress went to the villa, didn’t they?”
“They must be having a good time with only the two of them there. The Empress might try to change the Emperor’s feelings.”
“What are you talking about?”
“You understand that the best.”
He gave an amused giggle, and winked at the cane leaning against the table.
“Poor little Rashta with no one to help her. If the Emperor tires of you, you will be abandoned. So think about accepting my help. I expect you to be a little more cooperative next time. ”
He patted her on the shoulder and whistled as he left. As soon as he was gone, Rashta hurled her mug across the room.
The anxiety Viscount Roteschu caused her only grew when Baron Lant came to her at dinner.
“Miss Rashta, I’m afraid the Emperor may not be able to come back tomorrow.”
Rashta was forced to swallow her steak, and she looked at Baron Lant in surprise.
“Why? Isn’t today the Empress’ birthday? Why wouldn’t he come back tomorrow?”
“That was the original plan…”
“The Emperor is sick. A man rushed here from the villa to inform us.”
He didn’t look optimistic about the Emperor’s condition, and Rashta felt her blood drain.
“His Majesty is sick…”
Her face turned pale, and Baron Lant believed she was deeply concerned about her lover.
“Oh no, Miss Rashta, it’s not that serious. Don’t worry.”
But she wasn’t listening to his words. Was Sovieshu really sick? Perhaps the Emperor and Empress wanted to spend more time together because they were getting along?
But even if he was sick, that was still a problem. If the Empress stayed by his side and cared for him, he might forget his feelings about Rashta.
“Miss Rashta really loves the Emperor.”
Rashta hesitated before posing a question.
“Baron Lant, can Rashta go to the villa? Rashta wants to look after His Majesty.”
“I’m sorry. Granting permission is beyond my power.”
“But the Emperor and Empress will send for you if they wish you to be there.”
Rashta nodded nervously.
The next day, however, the news became worse. Although Sovieshu was not seriously ill, his fever refused to subside and he had to stay another week longer. That was not good for her.
‘But the Emperor and Empress were not romantic even before I became a concubine.’
Their relationship had been staid for years now, and she didn’t reckon they would become close all of a sudden.
Rashta tried to stay calm, but it didn’t work. Viscount Roteschu’s threats about her baby fogged her mind, and with the anxiety about the Empress thrown on top of it, her heart raced.
The third day after Viscount Roteschu’s visit, Duke Elgy brought up his concerns about Rashta’s state.
“My dear, you haven’t been looking good lately. Are you alright?”
“What’s wrong? Is it because the Emperor is sick?”
Rashta hesitated before speaking carefully.
“Rashta feels a little sorry for the Empress.”
“What about Her Majesty all of a sudden?”
“The Emperor’s unwell, but it’s the Empress who is staying in the villa to nurse him. Even when it’s fine for her to come back.”
“But even if she stays, the Emperor will constantly be thinking of Rashta while he’s ill…Because of that Rashta feels uncomfortable.”
At her morose expression, Duke Elgy snorted. Rashta widened her eyes at him. His jaw was clenched as if he were trying to hold back laughter.
“Why are you smiling?”
“Ah, sorry. But it’s a very obvious lie, Miss.”
“No. Tch. Rashta is serious.”
“I’m sorry, but when it comes to men and women, I’m knowledgeable, right?”
“It’s alright. You were just so cute.”
He looked at her with a thoughtful expression, and then shook his head and continued playfully.
“You seem concerned that the Empress will become close to the Emperor again.”
“How about this?”
Duke Elgy leaned in close, and her face turned red. She couldn’t resist her curiosity, however, and said “What?”
What he said next surprised her.
“Shall I tempt the Empress? If she loves me, she won’t become close to the Emperor. Would that make you feel better?”
“What do you think?”
He pulled away from her and stared at her with shining green eyes. Rashta blinked and paused for a moment, but eventually shook her head.
“That’s not possible.”
“Why? I’m confident.”
“The Empress has lived her whole life surrounded with fine things. On the contrary, she would likely be more attracted to a very ordinary man.”
“But the duke is of high birth…If we were to give the Empress a lover, wouldn’t an ordinary person be better?”