Chapter 7

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The winter flowers that bloomed only in the imperial household were very rare.

 

It was the winter flowers that all the noble ladies were eager to see, both because of the unusual sight of them blooming and because they were so beautiful.

 

Kane had planted many winter flowers in the garden of the Empress Palace. Thanks to them, every time they bloomed, ladies would send gifts to Rodelia every year. It was like a form of flattery for them to come and see the flowers.

 

“I’m really looking forward to seeing the winter flowers bloom again. Your Majesty, what gifts have you received this year?”

 

“Gifts?”

 

Rodelia was getting her hair done with the help of Viscountess Cohen in preparation for the tea party. Thanks to her question, she realized that there were no gifts from the noble ladies this year.

 

She didn’t want any gift, but it was strange that there wasn’t even a single gift sent this year. It was normal to have at least one letter.

 

As Rodelia was wondering, she heard an imminent voice from outside the door.

 

“Your Majesty, it’s Baroness Verna.”

 

“Come in.”

 

As if waiting for Rodelia’s permission, the wooden door swung open with a bang.

 

Baroness Verna, who had appeared with a cold wind, hurried in, gasping for breath. The hem of her dress stained with dirt from running and getting stepped on by her shoes.

 

”Your Majesty……! We’re in trouble!”

 

Rodelia didn’t understand why the Baroness was so flustered.

 

And as if she didn’t care who was there, the Baroness just behaved in a terrible manner.

 

Rodelia opened her eyes wide and waited for her to speak.

 

“Winter flowers, …… there are no winter flowers, Your Majesty!”

 

“What do you mean?”

 

“What? There are no winter flowers?”

 

Baroness Verna’s words startled the maids. Rodelia was also perplexed.

 

Did she mishear that there were no winter flowers?

 

It didn’t make sense. She did confirm that they were fine until yesterday.

 

The words the Baroness delivered belatedly were even more shocking.

 

“And… All the ladies who received the invitation sent a refusal.”

 

What?” 

 

“If they refuse….”

 

Lady Sarah fussed, and even Viscountess Cohen, who was grooming Rodelia’s hair, hardened her body.

 

Her long eyelashes trembled after hearing unexpected words in a row. This was because she could roughly predict what happened.

 

“And today, they say that Princess Eisen held a tea party. Everyone seems to have gone there…….”

 

Her prediction was right. Baroness Verna looked at Rodelia’s face and said in a small voice. Trying to keep her composure, Viscountess Cohen eventually dropped the comb in her hand.

 

The sound of the dropped brush echoed in the quiet room. Rodelia came to her senses at the sound and was angry at herself for being so careless.

 

Sola was a woman who had the audacity to have skin-to-skin contact with the emperor in front of her, the Empress. She should have foreseen this in advance.

 

Rodelia clenched her fists in anger. No matter how blind she pretended to be, Sola shouldn’t go this far.

 

It seemed that she had to go see Sola and make it clear. Because she could no longer be a laughing stock.

 

Her anger appeased, Rodelia maintained her determined gaze, looked at Baroness Verna, and slowly opened her mouth.

 

“Where is it?”

 

*

 

“What, Stella Palace?”

 

Rodelia’s brows twisted noticeably.

 

Stella Palace was a palace with a reputation for beauty, so it was a place that was only offered to important guests when they were visiting. Seeing that he had given such a place to Sola, it certainly seemed that Kane was completely obsessed with her.

 

She wanted to rush over as soon as she heard the news, but fortunately, thanks to the frantic efforts of the maids, she was able to finish the preparation. They adorned Rodelia in the most beautiful way possible, and she shone even more because she was a beautiful woman.

 

Her long blonde hair was neatly braided and hung to one side, and the beautiful dress, which blended well with her dark green eyes, accentuated her white skin.

 

“Is there a need to do this?”

 

“Your Majesty, what are you talking about? You have to show them how beautiful you are!”

 

Rodelia, who was usually rather plain compared to her status as empress, looked at her reflection in the mirror and reacted awkwardly.

 

The maids said it was natural, and at times like this, they burst into anger saying that the Empress should not lose to Sola. Rodelia was eventually unable to overcome the maids’ torch and was able to leave the palace only after putting several more hair pins on her hair.

 

The sun was exceptionally warm and the breeze was cool. Arriving at the entrance of the Stella Palace with her attendants, Rodelia felt even more depressed when she saw that the weather was the exact opposite of her mood.

 

The quaint and gorgeous exterior of the Stella Palace, which usually looked so beautiful as such, now felt fierce, as if it were holding her captive.

 

The sculpted statues made of crystal seemed to glare uniformly at Rodelia, and the well-groomed sunset lawn seemed to be edging towards her.

 

“Should I just go back?”

 

“What are you talking about, Your Majesty! Go and find out for yourself who betrayed you!”

 

As much as she wanted to, it wasn’t as easy as they thought. The closer they got to the central garden, the more Rodelia’s expression stiffened. The closer they got, the more the sound of joyful laughter and conversation filled her ears.

 

In contrast, the only sounds around Rodelia were the quiet sounds of footsteps and the occasional sighs of the maids.

 

As she walked quietly to the gazebo in the garden, she saw Sola Eisen and the noble ladies chatting and laughing. The hurt deepened when she saw them talking, even Kane, whom she missed so much.

 

Was Kane so free that he would attend a party of noble ladies for his lover? Even Rodelia, who had perfectly mastered such situations as an Empress, couldn’t manage her facial expressions. Her facial muscles tensed as she deliberately pretended to be okay and tried to maintain her expression.

 

“Isn’t that the Emperor?”

 

The maids were more than a little surprised to see Kane. They all gulped in their breath without saying a word, looking only at Rodelia’s pale face.

 

After standing for a while, Sola gently stroked Kane’s hair. In response, Kane also smiled at her.

 

Facing that sight once more, Rodelia’s sinking heart was stirred again. It was a situation she had come across once and thought she would be fine, but she wasn’t. She thought she hated Kane, but she didn’t. In fact, she wanted to face him and run to him now because she missed him so much.

 

She had trusted him and he betrayed her, and yet she still couldn’t come to her senses. A self-mocking laugh escaped her.

 

Her fists clenched tightly, and a deep scratch appeared on her palm. Does Sola really love Kane, or…….?

 

At that moment, Sola spotted Rodelia and a meaningful smile appeared on her lips. She looked at Kane again and lowered the hand that had been stroking his hair. Slowly she went down and her hand stayed firmly in Kane’s large hand.

 

Immediately the wedding ring tumbled from Kane’s finger to the floor.

 

‘Are you that naive?’

 

Kane just sat there without reaction, letting Sola take off his wedding ring. 

 

Everyone saw the scene clearly. Viscountess Cohen, who had been looking only at the pale face of Rodelia, who was watching them, slowly opened her mouth.

 

“Your Majesty, I think it would be better for you to go back.”

 

“Should I?”

 

Rodelia didn’t want to, because if she was to leave from here, it would really be like losing to Sola. But what should she do? It was an obvious fact that if Kane took Sola’s side, the whole social circle would start a rumor. The Empress’s face had already hit bottom, but she hadn’t abandoned her pride yet.

 

There was a stark difference between being just a rumor and being humiliated in front of a crowd of people.

 

The line that struck the bottom of even the remaining patience of Rodelia, who was wondering, “Should I really leave?” pierced her ears clearly.

 

“Your Majesty! Look over there, it’s winter flowers!”

 

Sarah pointed somewhere with the eyes of a startled rabbit. Rodelia’s gaze was fixed on Kane and Sola so she hadn’t even seen it yet, but it was winter flowers.

 

Rodelia slowly turned her head to where Sarah had pointed, thinking that it wasn’t true.

 

She hoped Sarah was mistaken, but it was true.

 

Did they transfer all the winter flowers from her palace to this place? 

It would have been impossible without Kane’s orders. Did he love Sola enough to give her what belonged to the Empress? It was funny. Rodelia’s lips quivered.

 

Maybe Sola had made up her mind and wanted to humiliate her. But how on earth did she know and fit it into the tea party schedule? Kane would not have told her. He wasn’t that bad to humiliate Rodelia like this. So was it a maid? 

 

Too many things were happening at once, and her head was throbbing. She felt as if something had snapped. Her mind went blank, and Rodelia strode towards them, thinking of nothing.

 

The hem of her dress, which she couldn’t grab, dragged along, but she didn’t care. The maids, who were confused by her sudden action, hurriedly followed Rodelia.

 

“Thank you all for attending the Princess’s party. I hope you enjoyed it. I think it would be better if I leave you to your own devices.”

 

As she approached the gazebo, Kane’s gentle voice bored clearly into Rodelia’s ear.

 

[Kane, you have to avoid the seat in these situations.]

 

[Oh, is that so? I was about to interrupt your conversation without a care in the world, wasn’t I? ]

 

The words that she joked with him raced through her mind. She straightened her posture to keep her emotions in check, but they weren’t emotions she could lay down that easily.

 

He dared to use the words she told him back then here? The pride she had gathered seemed to vanish into ashes.

 

“Empress….?”

 

The expressions of the noble ladies hardened as they spotted Rodelia approaching expressionlessly, but without losing her grace. Some rattled their teacups in panic or jumped up from their seats.

 

Rodelia suppressed her anger and smiled gracefully . Then she made up a plaintive voice and spoke.

 

“Ladies, you are all gathered here.”

 

“Your Majesty….”

 

Rodelia greeted them calmly. It was more painful than annoying to see them avoiding her eyes and looking confused.

 

Because in the end, it seemed that all of her efforts to mediate between Kane and them had come to nothing.

 

“Empress…..Why …….?”

 

Kane did the same. He looked very surprised. His cold eyes shook. Rodelia purposely ignored his gaze and opened her mouth coldly. 

 

”Your Majesty, didn’t you give me the winter flowers? How could Your Majesty take my flowers so arbitrarily, without asking my permission?

 

“That’s ……”

 

Kane’s brows furrowed noticeably. What could he say, he wondered, looking for an excuse? He swept his hair roughly.

 

It was an action he made when he was embarrassed.

 

Rodelia kept her dry stare and slowly turned her attention to the winter flowers. The flowers looked even more beautiful, especially today.

 

The jewel-like blue petals glistened in the sunlight. In contrast, she felt more shabby.

 

Rodelia’s cold gaze lingered on the winter flowers for a moment. Everyone stared at her breathlessly, not knowing what to do. When she looked at them again, Rodelia spoke slowly.

 

“And …… today is the day of my tea party, and you are all here. I was surprised that you sent your rejection on this day as if you had planned it.”

 

She met the eyes of the noblewomen one by one and smiled at them, and they moved their eyes this way and that to avoid Rodelia’s gaze.

 

Those who usually used to please her changed their attitudes like this, so she realized how great the Emperor’s favor was.

 

In the face of such favor, all of her abilities as an Empress that she had built up so far were of no use whatsoever.

 

Her smile was more self-mockery than emptiness.

 

“…… I didn’t even know you were throwing a party today. Empress.”