Chapter 75 – Kindness (2)
As soon as he asked the question, he answered it himself.
“Are you going to afford me one of your three immunity privileges?”
“But Your Majesty…the Emperor is accusing me of almost killing a royal family member. Immunity cannot be used for crimes against the Imperial Household.”
“That is my problem.”
“All you have to do is tell me exactly what happened.”
“…I have already told the Emperor, but to no avail.”
Viscount Langdel weakly lifted the corners of his mouth.
“He will punish me, no matter what evidence I show. To him, that woman is more important to him than the duchess.”
I tapped the iron bars again.
“Tell me everything first.”
“As I followed the rumors about the duchess, I ended up at a village near the church where Lord Marian committed suicide.”
He must have been determined to hunt it down all that way.
“They were talking about the duchess and Lord Marian at a bar. I traced the story back to people who first spoke those rumors.”
His expression twisted.
“They all said the same thing. A noblewoman dressed in certain clothes looked a certain way and, at a certain time, visited someone. It was strange. Everyone said the exact same thing, when real truth can sometimes change when passed through several people’s mouths. Besides, didn’t it happen long ago?”
“I intentionally trapped the question, and asked the same question to everyone separately. As expected, once they broke off from the prepared answer, they were unable to match responses.”
Someone must have given them money to rekindle the rumors.
“But that wasn’t enough to tell me who did it. I didn’t even think that woman was the culprit at the time.”
His eyes shone fiercely.
“So I brought pictures of those who were recently active in society, and asked the people to point their finger to who paid them. I had them pick out the pictures separately, with the assumption they would all cover for the same person. There was only one picture that was not chosen.”
Rashta would not have been in the lineup, as she had been in the palace this whole time.
“It was Viscount Roteschu.”
Viscount Langdel seemed unable to suppress his hatred.
“That woman was the one who instructed him to spread those rumors.”
“Why did you think it was Rashta?”
“Viscount Roteschu didn’t even have a place in society until he became entangled with that woman. First he insults her, then he goes around praising her. Then the poor lord goes around spending lots of money.”
“Did you tell any of this to the Emperor?”
“Yes. It didn’t work.”
“Did you investigate this by yourself? Do you have any reports?”
“Yes, I do.”
“Where is it?”
“My study desk…it’s just inside the drawer.”
After a pause, I went outside and called Sir Artina.
“Go to Viscount Langdel’s mansion and find an investigation report. It’s in the drawer of his study. Immediately.”
After Sir Artina left, I returned to Viscount Langdel’s cell. He looked at me questioningly.
“Why the report?”
“I think I can use it to save you.”
He didn’t seem to fully process my words at first, but then his eyes filled with tears.
“Duchess Tuania was the one who asked me to save you.”
A look of surprise flitted across his face before he began to cry.
“How is she?”
“Is she not upset because of me?”
The viscount truly seemed to love the duchess. Looking more miserable than before, he put his forehead on his knee and sniffed. To love a woman even when his life was at stake…
His actions against Rashta were far from chivalrous, but his feelings towards Duchess Tuania were strong.
“You are not entirely innocent.”
Viscount Langdel took his head off his knee and looked at me.
“I can change your punishment into exile.”
“Tell me if you have anything to pack. I’ll inform your butler.”
When I returned to my room, I wrote down the list of items Viscount Langdel requested. I then summoned a lady-in-waiting close to Duchess Tuania, and ordered her to go to Viscount Langdel’s mansion and deliver my note to the butler. Not long after the lady-in-waiting left, Sir Artina returned.
“While I was collecting the documents, I saw the palace investigators on horseback.”
“Did you run into them?”
“I stayed away just in case.”
Sovieshu would try to bury the results of Langdel’s investigation.
I took the report from Sir Artina and skimmed it. It was as the viscount said, with the exception of one section.
‘Did Viscount Roteschu receive the Red Flame Star from Rashta and sell it to the auction house?’
Viscount Langdel cited the ring as proof that Viscount Roteschu was connected to Rashta….
‘How did he know?’
A ring with a red jewel. Not many people knew that it belonged to the Emperor, fewer still that he gave it to Rashta. Even I didn’t know until Sovieshu asked me about the Desert Flower Ring. But how did Viscount Langdel know about this?
‘No, it’s not important right now.’
Right now, I had to deal with Viscount Langdel’s fate. I stowed the report in a secret drawer in my desk and headed to the Central Palace. I went to Sovieshu’s office instead of my own. He was studying his papers with a thoughtful expression, when he looked up at me in surprise.
“Empress? What happened?”
Sovieshu didn’t seem to know about my visit to Viscount Langdel yet.
“What’s going on?”
“It’s about Viscount Langdel.”
“…The Empress should not interfere.”
“Change his punishment from execution to exile.”
“I said do not interfere.”
Sovieshu spoke in a firm tone and waved his hand as if he found the conversation annoying.
“If that’s what you’re here to talk about, leave.”
“There are many reasons for me to be upset right now, but Rashta is pregnant. Viscount Langdel may not have intended it, but he almost killed my baby.”
“Doesn’t it matter why he did it?”
“No. His reasons don’t matter to me, only that my baby almost died.”
He pointed his finger at the door.
“So if you’re here to fight, get out.”
“Then I suppose I’ll have to handle the results of Viscount Langdel’s investigation myself.”
I turned around and took a few steps towards the door, when Sovieshu stopped me.
“Wait. What do you mean, handle the results of the investigation yourself?”
“The reason he stabbed Miss Rashta. The case of the false rumors about Duchess Tuania.”
“An incident separate from your baby’s near death.”