Chapter 93 – The King Of The West (2)
I was sure that my brother would cause an incident, but fortunately he stayed quiet for a few days. Perhaps he was so frustrated that he couldn’t focus his anger on one person—Sovieshu. My family managed to persuade my brother to come home. It was not his place to vent his anger at Sovieshu or Rashta, otherwise, he would put his life and position at risk.
‘…I’m in a position where I can’t do anything either.’
The moment I became angry with Rashta, the Emperor would accuse me of being a wicked bully to the poor concubine. On the other hand, if I became angry with Sovieshu, I would be criticized as an incompetent empress who couldn’t control her emotions. If I took it out on him, I—and perhaps my family—would be at risk. And yet, if I tolerated Sovieshu and Rashta, I would be seen as stupid and foolish; not only me, but my entire family.
I stared at myself in the mirror, and a strange laugh escaped from me. A wicked woman, an incompetent empress, or a foolish broad. Was there any way out of this maze?
Countess Eliza called me from the parlor room. I rang a bell in permission, and she came inside with a gloomy look.
“Countess? Are you alright?”
Her expression made me nervous. I had a series of unfortunate events lately, and so I was immediately afraid. My prediction was half true.
“Delegates from the Western Kingdom have arrived.”
The bad news wasn’t about me, but my premonition was right.
“A death obituary.”
“Yes. King Wharton III has passed away.”
Prince Heinley’s older brother…
I imagined the prince’s smiling face falling into sadness, and my heart suddenly felt heavy.
That night, no moon nor stars were seen in the heavens. The sky looked black because of the clouds, but I could occasionally make out a hazy grayish-yellow circle in the dark. With one arm propped on the window, I stared glumly at the scene.
‘There will be a feast for Rashta’s baby in a few days.’
Could I keep my mask on? I had been doing it for years, but lately it seemed to slip away from me more. More precisely, I tired of constantly keeping my facial expressions in check.
‘…In the end, I’ll do it if I must.’
The cold wind sent goosebumps on my cheek. Drops of water began to plop onto my arm, one by one. I took my arm off the window and closed it, but as soon as I did, I saw a blue bird flying in the dark.
Queen’s underling? I was so surprised I opened the window again. I wasn’t sure at first, but I turned out to be right, and the blue bird flew through the open window. Unlike Queen, who liked a grand entrance, the blue bird seemed more hesitant and cautious.
“Are you Queen’s friend?”
I spoke to him even though he was a bird. Since Queen was intelligent, I thought this one would be the same. The blue bird nodded and even lowered himself in a bow.
The bird held out his foot and offered me the note attached to it.
“Did Prince Heinley send you?”
I pulled the letter off his leg with the utmost care. When I opened it, the blue bird came to my side, as if to read the letter with me like Queen did. I looked at the paper on my lap as I rested my face on one hand.
– I only think of you, my Queen. You’re the only friend who can bring me comfort. I need it.
His handwriting was noticeably shakier than before. Though there were only a few words written on the paper, the sorrow in them was palpable.
I set the letter down, and the blue bird cried weakly. I went straight to my desk, then picked up a pen and set it to paper, but my hand didn’t move. I didn’t know what words I should say to comfort him. He said I was the only person who could do so, but…what on earth could I say when his brother died? If I were with him, I could simply sit with him without saying anything. What could a few written words do?
– I hope that you are not hurting too much.
In the end, I only write a cliched sentence.
The day after the blue bird flew away, Grand Duke Kapmen left the palace as well. He didn’t say goodbye to me, possibly because of the love potion, but he had sent someone to give me a book about Rypt as a gift. The delegation who announced the Western king’s funeral also returned to their country. It was a series of farewells and separations. It seemed to me that I was the only one affected by all these partings.
Everyone else clamored over the new King of the West, and when they tired of that, they talked about Rashta’s baby. Although most were wary to gossip out loud in the palace, rumors were more open at the southern palace where there were many foreigners.
“Didn’t Prince Heinley like Lady Rashta, too?”
“Yes, and I heard that the Emperor and the Prince fought over her as well.”
“You know why they fought? Miss Rashta and Prince Heinley were letter friends, and the Emperor was jealous.”
“Prince Heinley must be heartbroken by Lady Rashta’s pregnancy.”
My footsteps halted at the garden near the southern palace. I came here to remind myself of the things I enjoyed, but the unpleasant stories followed me here as well.
‘I’ll just go back.’
I took a deep breath, then turned and walked in the opposite direction of the corridor. However, at the crossroads of the eastern, western, and southern palace, I came across someone unexpected. We had never introduced ourselves to each other before, but he was a man clearly in my memory.
“Your Majesty, I can’t believe I’m seeing you here. I’m so thrilled.”
It was Viscount Roteschu, the one who claimed that Rashta was a slave. There was an insidious smile on his face. He gave me a bow and smiled, but instead of conversing with him I made my way back to the Western Palace.
‘I hear he’s been frequenting the Imperial Palace lately. Is he meeting with Rashta?’
How strange. I thought he was her enemy. Why would Rashta accept Viscount Roteschu?
‘It seems that she can be threatened too…’
“I met the Empress on my way here.”
It was the first words Viscount Roteschu said as soon he saw Rashta. She frowned at having to be in the presence of someone she didn’t like. It was a bad omen if Viscount Roteschu talked about the Empress. He had only mentioned her once before, when he compared Rashta to her.
“What else are you going to say?”
She gave him a cold glare, and Viscount Roteschu grinned.
“Nothing. I just wanted to say that her aura looks different from yours.”
“What do you mean?”
“Just that she has a noble look in her eye…”
“Are you saying Rashta doesn’t look like that?”
“I don’t know. Maybe after you drink court water for twenty years, there might be a resemblance.”
Viscount Roteschu smiled wickedly.
“Of course, if you haven’t been expelled by that time.”
Rashta stared wide-eyed at Viscount Roteschu, but he continued on calmly.
“Do you have anything to eat?”
“If there’s nothing else, go back to your business.”
Rashta clenched her shaking fists. Although they had agreed to be on the same side, she absolutely hated the viscount.
‘I have to do whatever he says…’
She let out an exhale, then looked sternly into his eyes.
“What are you here for this time?”
“Well, I need some money quickly.”
Rashta opened her mouth in amazement.
“Again? I just gave you five hundred thousand krangs, didn’t I?”
“I spent it on finding a house.”
“It’s a big house, so I need a lot of servants.”
Rashta clenched her fists harder, her fingernails biting into her palms. How could a person be so hateful?
Despite Rashta’s pure look of loathing, however, Viscount Roteschu smiled and continued.
“And since I have a lot of family, I need more hands.”
“There are only two people in your family. You and the baby.”
He lifted an eyebrow at her.
Viscount Roteschu let out a bark of laughter.
“I’m bringing my son and daughter, of course. You think I would only bring your baby?”
Rashta’s face whitened at his words.
She panicked and looked at him with trembling lips.
“Who are you bringing?”
Viscount Roteschu’s lip curled in satisfaction.
“Why? Don’t you miss my son?”