Chapter 7 – The Empress’ Gift To The Concubine (2)
“I’m not sending one.”
The ladies-in-waiting exchanged relieved glances among themselves.
“I was so worried that Her Majesty might send her a gift.”
There were many reasons not to send one. After Sovieshu’s secretary left, I researched any precedents, just in case. Even if there was a banquet, there was no obligation to give a gift. If there were multiple concubines, one could withhold gifts to prevent certain ones from building too much power or influence with the empress’ close relatives.
But the situation with Rashta was neither. In any case, I had no desire to give one at all, and Sovieshu had sent his secretary to tell me not to worry about it. Why couldn’t I just say “Please take care of my husband”?
“Don’t worry. I don’t know if there’s a reason to send one, but I won’t.”
A satisfied look came over the ladies’ faces.
“Laura would have been happy if she were here… I was thinking of going out of the palace today, so I’ll tell Laura about it, Your Majesty.”
“How is Laura?”
“When I saw her the other day, she spoke angrily about ‘that woman.’”
“Marchioness Tarithal is also furious and tells the story every time she has a tea party.”
I thought it better that they were on my side. Sovieshu and his aides would take good care of Rashta anyway, and I didn’t think those close to me needed to be supportive of her.
“By the way, Your Majesty…may I ask you something?”
“What is it?”
“Rumor has it that the prince of Western Kingdom is coming for New Year’s Day. Is that true?”
The other ladies-in-waiting stopped talking and fixed their eyes on me. I nodded, and they squealed as they covered their faces or fanned themselves. I strained my lips to keep myself from smiling. The ladies-in-waiting had every reason to look forward to his appearance. The “Prince of the West” was the lone younger brother of the king, who was renowned for many things.
“He’s so handsome, isn’t he?”
“They say eye contact is enough to put you under his spell.”
“But I hear he’s quite stubborn. I wonder if even the current king of the Western Kingdom has given up on trying to get him married.”
“Are the rumors of him being a seedless watermelon are true?”
“I don’t know. But it’s a bit suspicious that the king hasn’t had any children, and neither the prince when he’s been with many women too.”
I nodded discreetly as I listened to the whispers of the ladies-in-waiting.
The Western Kingdom was a country of great military power, virtually equal to that of our Eastern Empire. It terms of wealth, it was the richest in the world. The prince, who was said to be the first in line to the throne of such a place, had many rumors swirling about him.
I left my thoughts of Sovieshu and his concubine behind and indulged in the sugary conversation of the ladies.
“There’s no banquet?”
When Rashta asked Emperor Sovieshu how big the banquet would be and whether she could invite her friends, she was not prepared for this blow.
“But the Baron said we were going to have a big party…”
“Didn’t I tell you that it would be New Year’s Day soon? I didn’t want to rush this, but you were the one that wanted the signing ceremony as soon as possible.”
Despite his explanation, Rashta only looked on in puzzlement. Sovieshu realized he was thinking too highly of her level of common sense. She seemed smarter than she appeared, but he had forgotten that she knew nothing about the nobility.
“It’s my mistake.”
“What do you mean?”
“It is not easy to arrange a large banquet. There are other things I am busy preparing. Time is tight, and it’s rude to have one large feast after another.”
“Ah…! But is there another banquet on the same day as Rashta’s signing ceremony?”
“New Year’s Day will be soon.”
Rashta turned crestfallen as her dreams of being congratulated by nobles at a lavish, grand banquet turned to dust. She had always wanted to see people flocking to her, and so she persuaded Sovieshu to have the ceremony as soon as possible. It was clear that the Emperor would be annoyed by this, and so Rashta did not show any signs of unhappiness and remained silent.
However, her disappointment only increased on the day of the ceremony. Even if there wasn’t a grand banquet, she still expected one of some sort. And when that didn’t happen, she expected the Emperor shower her with apologies and a promise of gifts. There was neither a word of congratulations nor a gift from the Empress either. She felt sad as Baron Lant had told her that the palace’s great halls were under the domain of the Empress.
Rashta had diligently practiced her signature, but after signing the document she felt empty. When she finished, the chancellor immediately left, saying he had work to do. There was no cheering, applause, or the feeling of ecstasy as if she had everything in the world.
Sovieshu also left with a “There’s work I have to finish,” and “I’ll see you later.” When Rashta returned to her room, she buried her face in her hands.
“Why is it like this?”
Rashta’s maids approached and asked her what was wrong, and the hurt that she had been holding inside her finally burst.
“The Empress must hate me, otherwise we wouldn’t have skipped the banquet or the gift. Even if she doesn’t give me a present, couldn’t she show her face?”
“Don’t cry, Rashta. Why are you crying on such a good day…”
“Don’t worry, you’ll rarely see her anyway.”
However, Rashta’s hurt did not fade. When Sovieshu finally hurried to see her after he finished his work, he noticed she was in a somber mood.
“Why does my prey look so down on this meaningful day?”
“What do you mean, meaningful day? I haven’t been congratulated by anyone…”
“Not congratulated by anyone? The chancellor congratulated you. He bowed to you, and the servants as well.”
But what Rashta wanted was the congratulations of the nobles, not the servants. She wanted to be recognized by those who lifted their chins as if they were the best in the world.
“The Empress must loathe Rashta…”
As Rasta’s face grew gloomier, Sovieshu was forced to confess something.
“The Empress didn’t prepare a banquet or a gift because she hates you. I told her not to because it wasn’t a good time.”
Rashta nodded, but was clear that she didn’t believe him. In this atmosphere, it was impossible for Sovieshu to relax and enjoy himself with his concubine.
The next day, Sovieshu gave his secretary a gift, who in turn gave it to Rashta in the name of the Empress.