Chapter 1. Prologue
“Jamela. Have you been told by the chamberlain?”
“Yes, I have.”
“Suddenly there’s a big meeting. I can’t escort you because I have to attend the meeting.”
There was a luncheon with the Princess and the royal Lord of Hildes, but Duke Winston couldn’t join.
The whole Winston family, of course, was doing their best to make Jamela the empress of the Empire.
“Ah, I see. I see that the Count of Ligulish has entered the palace with Rosain. I’ll tell you what you’ll do, take Rosain to your partner.”
“Eh? Father, is that necessary…”
Duke Winston continued speaking, his brow furrowed.
“This man is not just anyone. (Shed) He’s a Prince of a country. Spending quality time with him as the soon-to-be Empress is a form of diplomacy. There’s no need to show him flaws for no reason.”
“……I understand. Father. I’ll go with Rosain.”
The heavy depths that had filled Duke Winston’s face finally cleared a little. He never thought that the Emperor’s interest would be lessened if Raha del Harsa, the Princess, left for the distant Kingdom of Hildes.
But would the Princess ever want to return to this empire? If she had any brains, she would not return. He would do so himself if he were her.
It was heaven-sent that Karzen referred to the Kingdom of Hildes as an ‘ally’ in the presence of all the dukes. It meant the Delo Empire could never attack the Kingdom of Hildes, even if Raha would not respond to Karzen’s call or invitation.
At least as long as Karzen was alive.
However, there was a possibility of a freeze between the two countries. The role of smoothing it out was entirely up to Jamela Winston. This was because the Princess maintained a sustained friendship only with Jamela.
Jamela was wise. The advantages and strengths of the person alone were channeled in a skilful way into the imperial social circle. How many months had it been since people naturally thought of Jamela when they saw Raha?
This luncheon had to proceed impeccably and flawlessly.
“As soon as father sees Rosain, I’ll send him to you.”
“….. yes, father.”
Rosain’s perfect etiquette and neat and compliant appearance meant that he was never lacking as a substitute partner for the reserve empress. Besides, the Earl of Ligulish and the Duke of Winston were distant relatives.
The Duke of Winston immediately left the separate palace and went to the main palace where the conference hall was located. The Count of Ligulish was also an aristocrat obliged to attend the Grand Council. Sending servants and horsemen to each of the seven huge entrances and exits, the Duke of Winston carefully observed the cloud-like crowd.
“When will the Count of Ligulish arrive….Rosain Ligulish!”
Moving quickly, the Duke of Winston spotted Rosain walking with the Count of Ligulish and raised his voice.
“…. So. It was going to be such a sudden mess of a luncheon. May I ask you to be Jamela’s partner for a while?”
Rosain, who seemed a little surprised, soon smiled gently.
“Of course. Duke.”
Duke Winston was finally satisfied and hurried to the main conference room. When he glanced back, Rosain was still standing. Looking at his profile, he seemed nervous.
He deserves to be nervous, as this would be the first time he would meet that Princess and her fiancé alone. But it would be alright. Because Rosain was not the kind of person who would turn away from his long-time childhood friend.
Duke Winston shifted his gaze.
* * *
The attendants removed their hands from Raha’s body.
She wore a warm dress with white fur up to her neck. The dress was in stark contrast to Karzen’s preference to always wear revealing clothes to show her breasts, regardless of temperature.
But the maids understood. In fact, this dress was the only one the maids chose. While helping Raha bathe, the maids became aware of the fact that Raha had red marks all over her body.
Furthermore, the red marks were also on the back of her neck and down her thighs, where Raha could not see them. The maidservants barely tolerated the fact that their faces were about to turn red.
Raha’s blue hair, braided back so it would be easier when eating, shone with jewelled pins. Raha stood up from her seat after checking her reflection in the mirror.
“Where is the royal Lord?”
“He is outside. He arrived a moment ago and is waiting for you.”
Raha went outside. She stopped for a while when she saw a Shed standing outside the door. The attendants saw Raha and bowed their heads.
Before, so in the days when Shed was a ‘doll’, they had to decide what to dress him in. It was a conquest far more appropriate for a knight than for a slave.
But now, without saying it, Shed had all the clothes of a knight as such. It was suitable for a Lord, and the perfect garment for a fiancé of the imperial princess to wear. That strangely pleased Raha. She approached Shed and called his name.
Even this name.
Unless they were alone together, in front of the same attendants, he was always ‘Number 192.’ This was the name she had to call him before. It tickled me like sunlight on my fingertips. A faint smile was painted on Raha’s lips.
“It’s beautiful. I think I should give the attendants a reward for decorating you so well.”
But the mean Princess enjoyed putting her betrothed on the spot like this. A faint smile drifted into Shed’s blue-grey eyes that had been fixed on her from the moment Raha walked out the door.
“To whom shall you give the reward?”
“To your attendants…..”
Shed looked at Raha lovingly.
“I find you very beautiful.”
“Can I give the reward to the maidservants?”
Raha blinked and looked back at her maids. The maids, who were behind her, looked polite and calm, as usual. However, their eyes were shaking slightly. Yes, they would never have thought they would have a reward from the royal lord
for dressing the imperial Princess well.
It was fortunate that Shed had laid the groundwork in advance and that they would be given the reward by the Princess’s fiancé.
If he didn’t, it would have been a problem for the royal family to give the reward to the Princess’s immediate servants.
“You can give it to my maids.”
Shedd held out his arm. Raha placed her hand on the nook of his arm lightly.
The maids still lowered their heads with shaky eyes as they looked at each other and spoke a few words.
More perceptive and quiet than anyone else, the maids, thoroughly trained in how to keep their mouths shut, said nothing…
They too had two eyes. From the moment the Princess stepped out of the room, the royal Lord stared only at her face. The same was true when Raha checked Shed’s appearance.
Although frankly that beautiful Lord clearly had no idea what colour dress the Princess was wearing, still he said he would give them a reward anyway.
The next day, the maids were aghast when the Commander of the Kingsguard of Hildes, who was four years older than them, had really brought a lot of expensive jewellery from Hildes.
* * *
Jamela greeted Raha with an elegant manner. Young Master Rosain Ligulish, who was standing by her side, also greeted Raha with impeccable posture.
“I’m Rosaine Ligulish. Heir of the Count of Ligulish family.”
“My father tried to come to you as my partner, but he was called away in a hurry to the Great Council.”
Raha nodded lightly at Jamela’s words.
Originally, Karzen was supposed to join the luncheon, but h stop would be absent today.
It was not polite to give each of the reasons for the emperor’s non-participation. Jamela skillfully changed the subject.
“Unfortunately, we had to move the location in such a hurry.”
Raha shifted her gaze at her words.
“It’s a little too much to go into the Sun garden without His Majesty. It’s all right.”
“Thank you for your understanding, Princess.”
Originally, lunch would be gloriously prepared in the Sun Garden, but when Karzen’s non-participation was confirmed, Jamela had to hastily arrange a new place.
Fortunately, the Imperial Palace of Delo, the continent’s only empire, had several eye-poppingly expensive crystal greenhouses. One of them was being tended to in advance for Jamela to use at the national wedding in a few months’ time.
They called them greenhouses, but their actual size was vast beyond imagination.
It was a fire garden.
In other words, it was the Empress’s garden.
Raha slowly looked through the fire garden, which she hadn’t been in for a really long time. When was the last time she came in here?
She came in and out until mother Empress died. She came in here as the Empress’s daughter before she inherited this ‘eye of succession’. Today, almost ten years later, she was finally able to enter the fire garden ‘unstrained’.
Other than that, there was no great excitement.
Raha turned at the sudden sound of a voice. Shed was looking at her with a quizzical look on his face.
“I was just looking around, it’s been a while since I’ve been here.”
“With a face like that?”
Raha asked back with questioning eyes.
“What is my expression now?”
“It’s hard to explain.”
Shed smiled softly, staring at Raha for a moment.
“I suppose the expression of not liking it all would be appropriate.”
Raha’s forehead twitched.
“I have that expression to begin with.”
Shed lightly patted the back of Raha’s hand on his arm and said,
“It’s a bit different from how you normally look. Like you’re about to cry.”
“Is that a joke?”
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