Chapter 18

***

 

“…… Are you sure?”

 

Kane’s face turned a ray of brightness. His trembling voice made her heart flutter as if he were sincere.

 

Her feelings changed to a deeper love and hatred, and her heart for him had not yet disappeared.

 

“Yes, I’ve decided to trust you.” 

 

It was not love, it was the title of empress. She trusted that he wouldn’t just take the empress’s title away from her. She was going to trust his reason, not his feelings, one last time.

 

Rodelia gave Kane a smile as he spoke.

 

“Thank you very much. I’ll try to come back soon.”

 

“You must come back soon. My patience is running out.”

 

Rodelia tried to relieve the mood with a playful voice.

 

“Of course not. I won’t keep you waiting.”

 

Kane finally replied with a smile of relief. He felt like everything was going to turn around and they’d be right back where they started.

 

For a while afterwards, Rodelia’s words made him feel heavy again.

 

“Are you going to enter the opening ceremony banquet with me?”

 

This was a serious matter, not only the Empress’s dignity but also the country’s status at stake, and she couldn’t give it up to Sola. Rodelia believed that Kane had also had this issue in mind.

 

But no answer came back to her. As if he hadn’t thought about it at all.

 

After a few moments of hesitation, Kane finally spoke up, gently flipping through Rodelia’s hair with a cautious hand.

 

“…… Of course, you’re the Empress.”

 

He acted nonchalantly, and Rodelia was the only one in his eyes.

 

She was convinced by his appearance. She didn’t think she would be deprived of the title of Empress. She didn’t think he’d push her away after all the hard times they had together.

 

At least in the political sense, he was not an empty talker.

 

No matter how much Sola shook her, in the end it would be Rodelia who would remain in the position of Empress.

 

She firmly believed.

 

***

 

What? His Majesty is going to enter the banquet with the Empress?”

 

A chirping voice leaked out from Sola’s palace. Sola’s room, painted bright red, was decorated more gorgeous than the Empress’s Rodelia’s room.

 

Sola, who had been sipping a glass of wine and looking out the window, reached out and roughly tore off the woven gold tassels under the curtains when she heard the news the maid had given her.

 

“Yes, apparently it was decided that way because it’s an important event.”

 

“I don’t know what the Empress did to seduce him, but I can’t let her do that.”

 

“Yes ……? But since it’s an official event, people will talk. It’s a banquet to celebrate the opening of the country, so there will be a lot of royalty from other countries attending.”

 

Sola, who was wearing a silk dress that showed the curves of her body, paced irritably. She went to the large bed and sat down with her legs crossed.

 

“I’ve heard that there will be some very happy guests at this banquet.”

 

“What……?”

 

“It’s the Silver Kingdom. Don’t you know anything about that?”

 

Sola, who looked at the maid with annoyance as the maid asked curiously.

 

 

“Do you have any acquaintances in the Silver Kingdom?”

 

How in the world could Sola, who hadn’t stepped out of the Grand Duchy until she was of age, do that? It didn’t make sense.

 

“No, I don’t. I just think it’ll be fun.”

 

An eerie look appeared in Sola’s eyes as she smiled meaningfully.

 

“That’s why I have to go see His Majesty.”

 

“Now?”

 

“Yes, I’m going like this.”

 

Sola bit her lip so hard that bright red fresh blood started to flow between her teeth. But Sola wiped away the blood roughly with her fingers, not caring.

 

Then she stood up from the bed with a frown on her face. She lifted the wine glass lightly with her long fingers and walked over to the maid. The sound of footsteps sounded quite heavy.

 

The maid gasped and turned her head, a dark shadow hanging over her head. Soon the wine glass spilled and the maid’s white uniform was stained bright red.

 

“And the way you talk. It’s very annoying, so be careful from now on.”

 

 

Sola said coldly as she brushed her fingers down the bewildered and stiffened maidservant’s face.

 

* *

 

The curtain of the opening banquet had risen.

 

The atmosphere in the imperial palace was filled with excitement. All the palace servants thought of the atmosphere of the banquet and worked with brighter expressions than usual. It was the same in the capital.

 

The loud cheers of the people echoed all the way to the Empress Palace. For the first time in a long time, Rodelia sat by the window and looked down at the lively atmosphere in the capital.

 

Even though it was winter, the city was filled with colors. The one that stood out the most was the blue flag, the symbol of the Thebes Empire, which had been placed all over the passage of the delegation. She seemed satisfied with how well it was decorated, as it was the thing she had taken the most care of.

 

She pulled herself up again and began to prepare for the banquet. Generally, on the first day of the banquet, the emperor and empress would wear matching attire, and so did Rodelia and Kane.

 

This time, since it was the banquet of the founding of the country, they had prepared a blue dress symbolizing the empire and a tiara studded with sapphires, which went very well with her elegant atmosphere.

 

“You look very beautiful, Empress.”

 

You must be the most beautiful at today’s banquet. No, even if the goddess of beauty were to descend, wouldn’t she be as beautiful as the Empress?”

 

The maids, who helped Rodelia with the preparations with more care than usual, flattered her beauty. Actually, it wasn’t that they were exaggerating. It was because she really was beautiful.

 

Her golden hair was silky smooth, and her green eyes were deep as if they contained a forest. Her skin was naturally radiant, and her face harmonious and elegant.

 

Now it was time to enter with Kane.

 

“By the way, His Majesty is late.”

 

“Yes, he is. He is a man who is always on time……”

 

Perhaps it was the murmuring of the maidservants, but a feeling of uneasiness had somehow crept into Rodelia’s chest. Her hands and feet began to go numb, but she believed it was from the nervousness.

 

There was a lot to prepare for and he might be a little late, she thought. As she waited impatiently for Kane, a maid finally broke the news that Kane had arrived.

 

“The emperor is here….”

 

For some reason, the maid’s expression became very stiff. But Rodelia didn’t notice, and she gestured for the maid to open the door.

 

She got up, adjusted her outfit, and finished preparing to greet Kane in a neat posture. But as the door slowly opened, she saw…

 

“Hello, Empress.”

 

It was Sola, smiling seductively.

 

“Oh, Princess Aisen…? Why you ……?”

 

The ominous premonition was not without reason.

 

Sola stood proudly with Kane’s arm around her as if she was the empress. And that wasn’t all. She was dressed more glamorous than usual, wearing a black dress of the same design as Rodelia’s, which made her look even more gorgeous than the Empress Rodelia.

 

The expressions of the attendants darkened noticeably when they saw Sola’s outfit. They were taken aback by her shrewdness and did not even try to hide their anger.

 

A voice of reproach echoed loudly in the open door.

 

“It’s shameless. Why did you come all the way here?”

 

“It’s not polite for a mistress to show up like this. Don’t you know the etiquette ….”

 

Aden, who was tough as nails, sneered at Sola, blatantly scowling at her. But Sola paid no attention to their criticism and looked only at Rodelia. It was as if it was Rodelia’s distorted expression that she wanted to see.

 

“What brings you all the way here?”

 

A cold and dignified voice escaped from between Rodelia’s tightly clenched lips. It took a lot of courage to say these words. The moment she saw Sola next to Kane, her heart pounded and her head turned white, as if time had stopped again.

 

But now she vowed not to suffer the same as before. She now had something to protect. That was why she was able to get her mind together quickly.

 

Rodelia tried not to look at Kane, who was standing stiff next to Sola. She felt as if facing him would weaken her heart.

 

“I asked you why you came, Princess.”

 

Sola kept smiling meaningfully, despite Rodelia’s question. This time, Rodelia had no idea what she meant again.

 

Although their appearances were completely different, it was at times like this that she realized that Cerdian and Sola really were brother and sister.

 

“I see that you have not yet heard from His Majesty.”

 

Solar, who was still looking at Rodelia, slowly opened her mouth.

 

“…… What do you mean?”

 

“The banquet’s entrance.”

 

Rodelia’s forehead, which was frustrated by Sola’s twirling words and actions, slowly began to crumple.

 

“Speak so that I can understand, Princess.”

 

“Well…”

 

Sola tucked a strand of hair behind her ear with a seductive hand gesture and glanced at Kane for a moment before continuing.

 

“His Majesty will be entering with me rather than the Empress at today’s banquet.”

 

Rodelia’s brows furrowed deeper.

 

“Why does he enter with you when the Empress is right here?”

 

 

Rodelia thought she must have heard it wrong. So she gave Sola time to correct her words. But Sola only raised her eyebrows, seemingly unwilling to correct the words she had spoken.

 

Even the whispering of the maids stopped, and the area became completely silent. 

 

Baroness Verna stepped to Rodelia’s side, as I’d she couldn’t stand it anymore. The Baroness, who was a bit taller than Sola, glared at her with cold eyes. She yelled at Sola in a clear voice.

 

“You’re already out of line, Princess Aisen.”

 

“Pfft, me? Who are you?”

 

Sola gave a thick, arrogant smile and looked at the Baroness.

 

Her long, lush eyelashes went up in a twitch. The pitch black eyes positioned beneath them seemed to swallow even the darkness.

 

The angry Baroness Verna bit her back teeth and clenched her fists tightly. Even the Baroness, who was in the social world for almost two decades, was defeated by Sola’s momentum.

 

“There are many eyes.”

 

Perhaps it was because it was time for the banquet to start, but the quiet corridors began to fill with the hurried steps of the maids again. They glanced sideways at the confrontation between Rodelia and Sola.

 

Noticing their gaze, Rodelia adjusted her expression and stepped forward.

 

“No matter how much the Baroness is in a lower position than you, I hope you don’t forget that she is an elder. So I don’t want you to show such manners in front of me in the future.”

 

She said with great force, keeping her noble smile without wavering. It was a behavior that did not lose the dignity of an empress and did not forget the subtle rebuke toward Sola.

 

“I will…”

 

For some reason, Sola felt defeated and lifted her chin high with effort as she forced her rigid body to move. Her lips, which had been raised without difficulty, quivered.

 

It was pitiful, too, the way she pretended it was nothing and grabbed Kane’s arm more tightly.

 

It was as if she was trying to show off her closeness to him. For a moment, Rodelia’s neatly groomed eyebrows crinkled.

 

“By the way, Princess Aisen, what do you mean you will be entering the banquet with His Majesty?”

 

“That’s right. His Majesty will enter with me.”

 

Sola raised her head, feeling superior again. Then she smiled with flamboyant eyes.

 

It was an arrogant action. Stifling a vain laugh, Rodelia looked down at Sola.

 

“Is it His Majesty’s will? Did you threaten him?”