Chapter 64 – Heinley’s Specialty (1)
Rashta looked at the jewel box with a deadened expression. It had once brimmed with jewels from the Emperor, but now she could see to the bottom of the box. Rashta covered her face with her hands and sighed.
‘It’s all Viscount Roteschu’s fault.’
Had it been more than a month since she became concubine? There were still some remaining gifts from Sovieshu and foreign nobles. She heard that an allowance was paid by the imperial family to maintain her standard of living, but nothing had come into her hands yet. All her jewels were lost to Viscount Roteschu, and she couldn’t ask the Emperor for more. Slaves only owned personal items if it was given to them by their masters or lovers, but the nobles that Rashta saw did not like to be openly asked for gifts, no matter how wealthy they were. While they used their power to approach Rashta, she wanted to be immune to their riches. It was a double-edged sword, and she thought the Emperor wouldn’t be any different.
‘If I can only figure out if the baby Viscount Roteschu has isn’t mine, I won’t have to be dragged around like this.’
Rashta sighed and set the lid back on the old jewelry box. Then, she heard the door to the parlor room click open, and she hastily shoved the jewelry box back into the drawer and closed it. As soon as she straightened up, someone knocked on her bedroom door.
Rashta quickly strode over to open the door.
It was Sovieshu. Rashta leapt at him and nuzzled him with her cheek in greeting. However, instead of hugging her back as he usually did, he pushed her away.
Her heart sank as she saw the dark expression on his face. Did she say something wrong?
“Rashta, I need to ask you something.”
Rashta stamped down on her nervousness and smiled at him cutely.
“It’s about the ring.”
“The ring with the red jewel.”
“Didn’t you say you gave it to a maid?”
“Why are you asking all of a sudden…?”
“I have a question.”
Rashta’s heart hammered in her chest as she looked at Sovieshu’s face. He didn’t look angry, but he wasn’t smiling either. If he already thought that she gave the ring to the maid, why was he asking about it now? Did he find out something? Did he discover that she gave it to the viscount? Perhaps he wanted to ask the maid to return the ring. In any case, all options were disastrous.
If he was going to ask, this was her last chance—her last chance to tell a lie. Rashta decided it would be better to be somewhat truthful.
“Well…actually, I didn’t only give a ring to a maid, Your Majesty.”
His eyes widened.
“You gave rings to several people?”
“Two people. One was a maid, and…well, the other was Viscount Roteschu.”
Sovieshu’s forehead creased. Seeing his expression, Rashta knew that she had made the right choice. She didn’t know how, but Sovieshu had come here knowing that Viscount Roteschu had the ring.
She sighed deeply and clasped her hands together.
“All the rings looked similar to me…In truth, I don’t know if the person who took the ring you’re talking about is Viscount Roteschu or the maid.”
“Why did you say you gave it only to the maid?”
“I…I think you would be upset if I told you I gave a ring to Viscount Roteschu.”
“Indeed. I don’t like that at all.”
Sovieshu’s face was stern, and Rashta quickly grabbed his forearm and hugged it.
“I’m sorry, Your Majesty. But I really wanted to repay him for lying for me.”
“He didn’t lie for you. He was only taking responsibility for what he said.”
“Yes. There’s no need to thank him.”
He cast a doubtful eye on Rashta.
“You didn’t just give it out of gratitude, did you? Were you threatened?”
“Oh no. What could Rashta be threatened with?”
“The rumors about slavery had already spread. It’s not really like that, Your Majesty.”
She wished she could tell him she was being threatened, but desperation forced her to lie. If Sovieshu knew that Viscount Roteschu was blackmailing her, Sovieshu would surely punish the viscount, who in turn would tell Sovieshu about the baby and drag Rashta down with him.
“If you say so, then I believe you…”
Sovieshu lowered his eyes and gently placed his hand on Rashta’s cheek.
“If he’s threatening you, Rashta, don’t give him anything and let me know. Do you understand?”
Rashta nodded quickly.
However, Sovieshu still looked apprehensive.
“That is an order, Rashta. No, I’d better check every day for now.”
“When your allowance payments come in, I’ll leave it to Baron Lant to manage it until you are able to do it yourself.”
Rashta paled. She could not give Viscount Roteschu money or jewelry if Sovieshu was watching her finances. And when it came to that…
‘No! He’ll spread the story about the baby!’
Wirwol was known as a magical city, but despite its prestige, it was located deep in a mountain valley. It was surrounded on all sides by mountains, and there were two magnificent buildings on the eastern and western parts of the city. The magical academy on the eastern side was my stop for today. I was here to honor the first student admitted from the orphanage I sponsored.
I hugged the girl I met at the dean’s office, and the red-faced child replied in a scarcely audible voice.
I was worried because she wouldn’t be able to socialize with her friends when she left the orphanage, but I was proud that she came this far, and hugged and patted her on the back. She completely froze. Finally, the girl bowed and left, and the dean of the academy gave a chuckle.
“She is a good girl and has many talents.”
“Yes. I look forward to it.”
After discussing the child’s sponsorship in more detail, the dean offered to give me a tour of the school. Wirwol was near the border, but it was still territory of the great Eastern Empire, and so he gave special consideration to me.
“I’m worried because the number of mages these days keeps decreasing.”
“We received a similar report. Do you know the cause yet?”
“No. I’ve been researching everywhere, but the rate of magical expression has been going down.”
“The more mages there are, the more can that be recruited into our national defense.”
As we walked along a long stone corridor, I saw a freestanding wall that was not connected to the others. Hanging on the wall were several portraits.
I walked closed and looked at it, and the dean explained.
“Portraits of the academy’s top graduates.”
Ah, yes. The most recent portrait was that of Duke Kapmen. On closer examination, there was also a portrait of the current dean as a young man as well.
But there was something strange.
“Why is this frame empty?”
One portrait bore no image. I looked at it curiously, and the dean was somewhat flustered as he replied.
“It was left blank because someone who came through the exchange program took the top spot for a while. They weren’t a regular student.”
“They weren’t from the academy, but they were at the top? That’s fantastic. Who was it?”
I was surprised to have not heard of this achievement. The dean replied in a quiet voice.
“Prince Heinley of the Western Kingdom.”