Chapter 97 – The Meaning Of The Gift (2)
It wasn’t Viscount Roteschu. But it was a man she wanted to avoid even more.
The man standing there with his green eyes and dark brown hair was Alan Rimwell. Known as a mild-mannered man, he was also the son of Viscount Roteschu and the former lover of Rashta.
She stared back at him. The shock of his appearance came a moment too late when she realized she wasn’t waking up from a dream.
How? Why was he here? Viscount Roteschu did say he would bring him to the capital, but…
Rashta turned as white as a sheet as she protectively wrapped her stomach with both hands.
‘If Alan says even one wrong thing…’
Alan didn’t move, and simply looked on at Rashta as if he were a stone statue. Though he was not as terrified as she was, he looked like he was on the verge of tears himself.
Duke Elgy called her from her side, and she hastily rearranged her expression and turned to give him a smile.
“When did you arrive?”
Instead of answering, Duke Elgy turned his head in the direction she had been looking at.
“Who were you watching?”
Rashta grabbed Duke Elgy’s sleeve in alarm, and he turned back to look at the slender, scarred hand that clutched him.
“Nothing. I was just thinking.”
Rashta hastily made up an excuse and dropped her hand. Duke Elgy looked back in the direction that she was staring at, but Alan had already left.
Rashta gave an inward sigh of relief. She didn’t know what Alan would do, although according to Viscount Roteschu’s words, his son wouldn’t reveal the truth.
“Was it a bad thought?”
Duke Elgy propped himself against the sofa Rashta was sitting at with one hand. He looked positively wolf-like, and the ladies nearby swooned. Duke Elgy did not shy away from attention as a socialite, and instead made his posture even more inviting. Rashta gave a laugh at his bravado.
“You didn’t look so well.”
“Not at all.”
Rashta tilted her head cutely and lifted the sword up to him.
“Look at this.”
Duke Elgy seated himself next to Rashta, and the surrounding nobles started to buzz. The duke was known to be a playboy, and now he was sitting close to the Emperor’s concubine. However, neither Duke Elgy nor Rashta paid attention to the crowd’s reaction.
“Was this a gift?”
“Yes. The Empress gave it to Rashta.”
“It’s a gift for the baby.”
Rashta smiled more widely to push away her nervousness about Alan.
“May I see?”
Rashta handed over the gift, and Duke Elgy withdrew the sword halfway from its scabbard. A smile flickered across his face as he inspected the hilt and blade with a careful eye.
“How do you like it?”
The duke nodded in satisfaction.
“It’s a very fine sword.”
Rashta beamed with pride, but she sensed that something was off about Duke Elgy.
“What is it? Is there something strange about the sword?”
“Nothing strange, but…”
“Did the Empress say anything special when she gave this to you?”
“She blessed my baby to be as beautiful as the sword.”
The smile became clearer on Duke Elgy’s face. Rashta looked at him curiously, and he explained.
“Miss. This sword is indeed very expensive, but it’s purely decorative.”
“It has no practical use as a weapon. It cannot be used in a duel, let alone a war.”
Duke Elgy looked in the direction of the Empress. She was surrounded by her close associates, and was also watching the duke. He continued to speak to Rashta as he kept his gaze fixed on the Empress.
“To give you this sword means to live in splendor and beauty, but also to not work.”
“Well, that’s a blessing, too.”
Duke Elgy murmured to himself as he dreamed of being able to live without working, but Rashta was already in a state of shock. The words were unpleasant in and of itself, but she was even more ashamed that she praised this gift in front of everyone else. The nobles were intelligent, so they must have understood the Empress’s purpose. Rashta was the only one who didn’t know. How ridiculous she must look to receive a gift that was given in mockery!
“The Empress…insulted me…”
Rashta pressed her lips tightly together as tears began to brim her eyes. She was pathetic. Eventually the tears spilled over to her cheeks, and Sovieshu rushed to her side.
“What’s wrong, Rashta? What happened?”
Sovieshu glared at Duke Elgy, but the duke bowed gracefully and stepped away from the sofa.
“Rashta, why are you crying on such a happy day?”
Sovieshu ignored the duke’s bow and did his best to comfort Rashta, but despite his efforts, she couldn’t stop crying. She was already frightened when she saw Alan earlier, and she couldn’t bring herself to speak.
Sovieshu rubbed Rashta’s shoulder, and he glared back at the nobles for an explanation. They quickly approached and reported the conversation between Duke Elgy and Rashta. Her shoulders began to tremble even harder, and Sovieshu sighed.
“Duke Elgy has a careless tongue.”
“The duke only helped Rashta not to look stupid, Your Majesty.”
“Don’t cry. You are the woman of honor today.”
“But…but I’m so sad.”
Her shoulders heaved with sobs, and she looked up at Sovieshu with her dark, jewel-like eyes.
“Why didn’t you tell me? You knew what the Empress meant, didn’t you?”
Instead of giving her an answer, Sovieshu patted her on the shoulder. His unspoken answer was clear as day. Rashta was once again convinced that Duke Elgy was far more dependable. She was correct in her decision to confide about her other baby to the duke rather than Sovieshu.
Looking down at her trembling lips and eyelashes, Sovieshu gave another sigh.
“I didn’t think you could handle it, Rashta.”
Rashta covered her belly with her hands and bowed her head.
Rashta spoke in a tiny voice.
“The Empress looked down on me and the baby in front of everyone. If she’s this outspoken, what if the Empress harasses the prince or princess later…?”
All she wanted was consolation and a promise that Sovieshu would protect their baby. Because the Empress spoke so harshly, she expected Sovieshu to side with her.
However, Sovieshu was more surprised than anything else. It was because Rashta called the baby a prince or princess.
Sovieshu wasn’t the only one. The nobles listening in on the conversation noticeably stiffened and looked at each other.