Chapter 69 – Who Will Wear The Red Dress? (2)
I tried to keep my expression as straight as possible as the murmuring in the room grew louder. There was another woman wearing a dress almost identical to mine. I recognized her instantly from her unusual silver hair and delicate mouth.
“Oh my God.”
Countess Eliza murmured in a shocked voice while the room swayed in front of my eyes. From the bright red dress to the shoes, necklace, earrings, and even the white plumed mask—the concept and arrangement were the same.
Rashta turned her head towards the direction of the crowd’s interest, then gave a surprised “Oh?” when she saw me.
The room lapsed into silence. No one spoke, but their thoughts were clearly written on their faces. If they looked at my and Rashta’s expressions, it was clear that neither of us planned this on purpose. Everyone held their breath in anxiety and interest.
I stood still and looked at Rashta. I had a lot to say to her, but I didn’t approach her first. Whether it was for an excuse or an apology, she was the one who had to come to me. I was taught that the empress didn’t go to her inferiors to give excuses.
Rashta came up to me, looking genuinely surprised.
“Your Majesty, your costume…with Rashta…”
“Did you intentionally wear something like Rashta?”
Countess Eliza had a burst of anger.
“That’s rude, Miss Rashta.”
An unpleasant feeling rose up to my neck, but I remained calm and gave her a light smile.
“I came here as myself. Weren’t you the one that wanted to imitate everything about me?”
I smiled but I kept my voice as cold as possible, while Rashta looked at me with a puzzled expression.
“Why would I do that now? This time, Your Majesty, you’re dressed like me, right?”
“This will only make both of us a laughingstock, so there’s no need for this. You should understand that from now on.”
I deliberately told her, ‘If you wear the same dress, we both lose, and I know that.’ Anyone who heard this would know that I wouldn’t go out of my way to make a fool of myself, other than those that didn’t want to believe my words.
Rashta inhaled sharply with a stunned expression. As a politician I knew how to defend myself with calculating lines, while she defended herself with her face. As I brushed past her, she took off the mask she was wearing and tossed it to the floor. I walked straight to my prepared seat without looking back, and Countess Eliza and the other ladies-in-waiting settled near me.
Meanwhile a group of men moved in on Rashta to cheer her up. Don’t cry, I heard them say. Among them seemed to be some common folk, who were looking alternately between me and Rashta with surprise and curiosity. Some people spoke in hushed tones, but they couldn’t completely mute their conversation.
Sir Artina leaned over to me and spoke in a low voice.
“Should I take care of those saying rude things?”
“Leave it be.”
I answered as nonchalantly as I could and leaned back against my seat. It was easy to wield power in public, but doing so could lead to great after effects. People liked the powerful, but they hated them using their power. If I tried to stop them from talking just because of my mood, it would inevitably lead to a fallout.
“The person who arrived first should be considered the first one to wear the dress.”
“You mean the silver-haired noblewoman?”
“She looks innocent to me.”
“Why would the Empress try to copy another person’s clothing?”
“Oh, I heard the silver-haired woman is the Emperor’s concubine. And she’s not a noble, she came from the common people like us!”
“Really? So the Empress tried to sabotage her?”
I ignored the frustrating conversation and maintained my cool composure. It seemed as if those men were commoners, and they were completely possessed by the mysterious and innocent appearance of Rashta. They gazed at her as if she was a fairy from another world.
I hid my trembling feet. I heard others side with me and say that Rashta was the one that copied me, but it was the bad stories that affected me more. Rashta looked the same—despite people siding with her, her expression wasn’t good.
I took my eyes off her and forced myself to think about something else. For instance, who gave the details of my outfit to Rashta? While I was angry with her at the moment, the most important thing wasn’t her.
‘Who was it that leaked the information to her?’
It was difficult to pinpoint the culprit, as the dress wasn’t chosen in a day. There were many times, methods, and people who could communicate those words.
Once again it was Laura who spoke in open fury for me.
“Countess Eliza, is this how other concubines behave? I’m so angry!”
“Because concubines are legal, it’s hard to touch them when they are favored. Many concubines have done worse, Lady Laura.”
“How could it be worse?”
“If you look at the previous empresses—”
Countess Eliza suddenly paused, covering her mouth with her fan and looking at something over my shoulder. I turned my head and found Sovieshu entering the room. He had disregarded the dress code and dressed in a plain suit, while Rashta gleefully rushed to his side.
She called out to him in a sweet voice. Her eyes were red as she clung to Sovieshu and told him something, but I couldn’t make it out from here. However, he glanced in my direction, and our eyes met. I smiled wanly at him and nodded. Rashta also looked at me as she hung to Sovieshu’s arm, and I gave her a nonchalant smile as well, then deliberately turned away towards Countess Eliza. I could hear the chatter of the young men and women excited to see the Emperor and Rashta up close.
Countess Eliza said my name anxiously. I gave her a reassuring smile and reached for my glass of wine. Once I touched it I immediately regretted it, but it was too late. I lifted my glass and took a sip. However, Countess Eliza kept trying to tell me something with her eyes. I looked to the side again, and saw Sovieshu was approaching. Oh…he must be coming here to sit next to me. Rashta still clung to his arm.
“Ha ha ha, I was so surprised when the Empress and Miss Rashta came in with the same dress!”
Even Grand Duke Liltiang partook in the gossip.
“Actually, Miss Rashta wore it first and then the Empress appeared.”
“But it looks different because they each have a different atmosphere.”
I smiled lightly and took another sip. Those who sided with Rashta were saying that I copied her. The people I disliked were here, and my heart clenched even more. However, my smile was wiped from my face at Sovieshu’s next remark.
“Yes, it’s incredible. I asked the Empress to come in a red dress.”