Chapter 57 – Duchess Tuania (2)
He studied me for a moment, but I didn’t turn away. Although Prince Heinley had warned me that Duke Elgy was like a living cursed doll or a real ghost story, it would be strange if I suddenly avoided him.
It was only a brief moment, but it felt like time had slowed down as the man smiled brightly and approached me.
“Your Majesty. It’s a pleasure to finally meet you.”
“You are Duke Elgy Klaudia?”
“You recognized me right away?”
It was the first time I had met him, but he had a strikingly beautiful face that could not easily be forgotten. The man next to Rashta could only be Duke Elgy as well.
The duke bent his knee and reached out his hand. I placed my hand in his, and he offered a gentle kiss before letting me go with a faint upturn of his lips. I smiled ceremoniously and looked towards Duchess Tuania. Duke Elgy was a well-known socialite, so it was unsurprising that she had invited him. What was more curious was that she had invited Rashta as well.
However, as soon as I saw the look on Duchess Tuania’s face, I knew that she didn’t intend Rashta to be here. Duke Elgy must have brought her as his partner. The fact was evident in the subsequent conversation between Duchess Tuania and Duke Elgy.
“I didn’t realize that Duke Elgy would bring Miss Rashta.”
“I thought bringing Rashta to a socialite party such as yours would help Rashta too. Is that alright, My Lady?”
“I’m embarrassed that a man of renown like Duke Elgy would flatter me.”
While the two were exchanging reproaches disguised as greetings, Rashta bowed to me too, while I drank my tea with a silent acknowledgment. But I could not taste the tea at all.
It was because of Rashta. Her presence alone made me want to leave. However, if I was seen avoiding Rashta, it would be the social gossip among the nobles for a week. I didn’t want to be spoken of in the same sentence as her, and so I was forced to stay here until after a few others had left.
My worry only grew after Duke Elgy, finishing his intimate conversation with Duchess Tuania, sat opposite me with Rashta. Fortunately, she and I didn’t have the opportunity to exchange words.
“Did you hear about Baron Riven?”
“I heard that he wanted his bastard son to be his successor, and the baroness ended up divorcing him, right?”
“Isn’t the baroness from the Chrome kingdom? I heard she left with their children and went back to her family.”
“Wasn’t Baroness Riven the sister of Miss Aleisia?”
“What’s she doing these days?”
“I heard before New Year’s—”
But as Duchess Tuania was talking about Aleisia’s recent affairs, Rashta asked in a small voice, “Who is Aleisia?” The question was not directed to the duchess, but she seemed to have heard. Duchess Tuania paused, while the person sitting next to Rashta replied in a mischievous voice.
“She’s Rashta’s predecessor.”
“She was once a concubine of the previous Emperor.”
Rashta widened her eyes and blinked.
“If Miss Aleisia’s sister is a baroness, is Miss Aleisia originally a noblewoman?”
“Yes. It was at a ball that her and the previous emperor met.”
“So how’s Miss Aleisia doing now?”
It was if the atmosphere had been doused with cold water. Everyone stopped talking and focused their attention on Rashta. Some looked at her with curiosity, others with sympathy, yet others with spite.
The person who answered Rashta didn’t look happy and said, “Well.”
“I heard she was forced to leave. What a pity.”
It was Duke Elgy who answered, and Rashta looked sideways in surprise. He smiled as Rashta stared at him, a crumple between her brows.
“The emperor quickly tired of Miss Aleisia. She had the shortest time as concubine than any other concubine. It was all over so fast…”
Surely Duke Elgy knew that it was not a story for someone like Rashta. However, he was completely calm, and smiled as he took a sip of tea.
Rashta blinked her large eyes. She had been upset when I once mentioned another concubine after her. It must have been unthinkable back then, but now she was confronted with a concubine who had taken the same road as hers and had a bad ending. Rashta was completely frozen, and some nobles turned their eyes towards her in pity.
I thought Rashta would remain tight-lipped, but instead of staying silent, she quickly erased the surprise on her face and spoke, her face red.
“I hear that the nobles have many lovers. It seems to be true.”
Some jumped in to sympathize with her.
“There are some couples with no other lovers.”
“There are not many like Countess Eliza.”
“Political marriages are more the norm.”
Rashta nodded one at each of their words and smiled back.
“Right, of course…actually, Rashta was very surprised when she heard that the Duchess Tuania had five lovers. But now that I heard it is natural, I feel like I’m going through a new world.”
This time, there was a wave of silence. Everyone’s mouth was open. Duchess Tuania’s forked clinked down on her plate.
Rashta turned red, covering her mouth with her hands.
“Was it something I shouldn’t say? I’m sorry.”
“It’s not something you should say, because it’s ridiculous nonsense, Miss Rashta.”
Duchess Tuania’s voice was as dangerous as thin ice. Rashta repeatedly apologized, but the duchess’ face did not soften.
“I’m sorry, My Lady. Miss Rashta is not used to the etiquette of the nobility. She’s only repeating what she heard.”
When Duke Elgy sided with Rashta again, Duchess Tuania finally stood up.
“I find it unbearable that there are two people so rude that they cannot even observe etiquette. Especially you, Duke Elgy. If you wanted to bring someone who didn’t know how to behave, you should have taught them the least bit of pretense. Rudeness is worse than pretense.”
“Oh, are you angry?”
“Yes. Today’s party ends here. I’m sorry to have brought you to this strange occasion, Your Majesty.”