Chapter 18

 

 

***

 

“Your Majesty.”

 

Peter Gilworth, former Duke’s aide, politely knocked on the emperor’s office door.

 

He was fired by the Duke, but showed no signs of disappointment.

 

“Should I put the past behind and work diligently for a new lord from now on?” he spoke, sticking out his chest and nodding his head, waiting for the emperor’s approval.

 

The Emperor granted Gilworth an audience with a very unwelcome visit.

 

“What is it? If you have a headache, leave it at that. I’ll deal with it later.”

 

“No, the problem is…. It’s the princess.”

 

“What?”

 

“Those haughty nobles wanted to know about Princess Stella. And from what I’ve heard, the reason for that is….”

 

“Well, yes. Everyone is excited. The whole empire has seen Stella make the stars rise.”

 

When the Emperor replied indifferently, Peter Gilworth shook his head.

 

“It wasn’t just for that reason. From what I’ve heard, Her Imperial Highness Princess Stella has set up a foundation and is generously sharing her money with nobles who have lost money from gambling. Where that money came from, I do not know either.”

 

“What?”

 

The emperor stood up. The buried thoughts slowly popped into his head.

 

The first thing Stella had done as an imperial princess was to demand a blank check.

 

Moreover, the girl had sent only one letter to Jason Evanders.

 

The Emperor learned that Jason Evanders ran the largest casino in the empire.

 

The daughter with unknown origins refused to talk about the past.

 

Now she’s giving money to the impending nobles of the casino.

 

So does that mean that the girl will become the Imperial Princess and take over the empty treasury and appoint herself their dog? Give them money and beg for their loyalty?

 

The child’s confidence came from such a low price at most.

 

The Emperor felt as if the last ounce of pride he had left since the imperial place under siege was trampled on.

 

He barely managed to keep his face expressionless as he said.

 

“It’s not a good time to discuss this issue. Let’s talk about it later.”

 

“But, Your Majesty…..”

 

“I’m afraid if these words leak out somewhere…”

 

Under the Emperor’s maddened eyes, Peter Gilworth’s shoulders shook.

 

“Leave.”

 

Gilworth bowed and walked out of the office quickly as if he was flying.

 

The Emperor certainly seemed to have the power to overwhelm those around him, he thought as he took a deep breath.

 

As Gilworth staggered down the stairs, the scent of freesia wafted through the air.

 

The aide turned and stared at the woman behind him.

 

He took off his hat and bowed his head in fear.

 

“Your Royal Highness Princess Karen.

 

“Is there some news I’ve missed?”

 

She smiled beautifully.

 

Karen grabbed Gilworth, who was in a hurry to get away. He couldn’t lie to her and soon confessed everything to her.

 

“…Princess Stella gave a large sum of money to the nobles. I’m not sure where the money came from….Hmmm…It’s interesting. There’s absolutely no way that the first princess of the empire doesn’t know about this.”

 

* * *

 

The appointed day was Monday, but Clyde visited me every day.

 

I wanted to say something about how sometimes he reminded me of my childhood memories, but I stopped.

 

Still, I kept repeating the thought in my mind.

 

I was waiting for him long ago.

 

I wanted to say those words when I saw him again. But now they’re just words that have lost their use.

 

I looked into his red eyes, savoring the taste of the tea that was placed in front of me.

 

He blinked slowly, bringing me into his field of vision.

 

In the silence, his hand came quietly closer, hesitating to touch my hand several times before finally covering my hand on the table.

 

Ridiculously, as he did so, I felt the urge to turn my hand over and touched the knots of his thick fingers.

 

I couldn’t get used to the warmth, so I withdrew my hand. For a moment, I froze in place at the strange feelings I could feel in my fingertips as our skin rubbed against each other.

 

Soon after, he grabbed my hand. My body sank for no reason as my small hand was swallowed up, buried in his large hand.

 

The constant silence was strange, so I looked at the table and opened my mouth.

 

“Today is not Monday either….”

 

Suddenly my heart pounded violently for no reason. It was the first time my familiar body sent such a heterogeneous signal.

 

“I know.”

 

“When are you returning to the north…?”

 

“There’s something I want.”

 

He squeezed my hand tightly.

 

“And I’m not going anywhere until I have it in my hands.” 

 

His thumb gently grazed the inside of my palm.

 

Not wanting to get carried away with the mood, I decided to change the subject.

 

“What is the north like?”

 

The coldest and harshest part of the Empire was the North.

 

It was said to be blessed with many natural resources, but the demons ruled there, making it difficult for people to live.

 

His father’s fearful nature must have played a role in sending this man to such a place.

 

He was afraid that this man would threaten the imperial authority.

 

He sent Clyde to the most remote, cold, harsh place.

 

He explained the North, his North, matter-of-factly, as if this fact did not frustrate him.

 

I said defiantly.

 

“The East is most beautiful in the spring.”

 

They say that all the troubles of the world are forgotten when you look at the eastern plains in bloom.

 

Many painters and artists have been fascinated by the beauty of the East and have left behind many works of art.

 

“They say that the south is the hottest and most passionate part of the country.”

 

In the south, the sunlight is intense, the summers are very hot, and there is a constant sense of romance and passion.

 

It’s a place where the songs of minstrels are mixed with a glass of wine as they come and go in the sultry night air.

 

“They say that autumn in the West is the most beautiful autumn in the world.”

 

Autumn in the West is spectacular. Many famous poets and writers were from the West.

 

It is a place where everyone is a friend as long as they have a book, where there is always a debate going on in the square.

 

And the North was a place that people in those three huge cities feared.

 

I was eager to explain to him that the compensation he received was not reasonable, but his word was unexpected.

 

“Do you not like cold places?”

 

“… I don’t hate it.”

 

“It’s a nice place. The servants are moderately quiet, and the people of the territory are very sympathetic to the cold.”

 

“…”

 

“I wish you could go to the North.”

 

I removed my hand from his hand slowly. The warmth of his hand was still there, but it felt empty against the cold air.

 

I didn’t say yes or no, I just said, “I think it’s a nice place.”

 

“…”

 

“I’d like to see the north someday.”

 

The conversation did not continue after that. Then, I saw him off to the main gate, and as soon as he was about to get into the carriage, he bowed to me.

 

Then, he whispered something to my ear and left.

 

I watched for a while where his carriage disappeared. 

 

Then I thought about what he had said to me before he left.

 

“Someday, when you’re ready to step foot on northern soil. I’ll be there for you.”

 

He will be there.

 

***

 

The next day Clyde came again.

 

The time when I was seeing him off, and someone I did not expect to meet came into the gate.

 

The stranger bent his arms and bowed his head so gaily that it felt like an exaggeration.

 

“Well, hello. Jean Bezil has come to make a special dress for the princess. I see this is the Princess I’ve heard so much about. It is an honor to meet you.”

 

The man took my hand and kissed the back of it.

 

Then Clyde’s expression hardened and he grabbed the stranger’s wrist, making him let go of my hand.

 

I sneakily wipe the back of my hand on the skirt in bewilderment.

 

If I remember correctly, Jean Bezil was the best designer in the empire.

 

He had a really distinctive face exactly as I saw his picture in the newspaper.

 

I took Clyde’s arm and said, 

 

“I did not invite him.”

 

As soon as I moved away, Jean Bezil shook his head and said with a proud face.

 

“The Emperor would like to present you with a dress that would be perfect for Her Imperial Highness …..”

 

“Tell him I won’t accept it.”

 

“Did you say you won’t accept a dress from me, Jean Bezil! I can’t believe it.”

 

Me, you said you would not accept a dress for shopping! The dwarf can’t believe it.”

 

“…”

 

“Jean Bezil is upset. Princess. I will never forget today’s event.”

 

He was a strange person.

 

When I gave him a look of bewilderment, he grinned and grabbed my hand.

 

“I was just joking, Your Highness.”

 

Clyde looked uncomfortable and grabbed his wrist again to stop him.

 

“Oh my, excuse me, Princess.”

 

He replied simply and let go of my hand.

 

At that moment, I heard the sound of footsteps on the stairs, and I saw a familiar face as I turned around to look.

 

The imperial family was coming down the stairs with two maidservants, looking as dignified as ever.

 

The Empress Emperor looked annoyed. Joseph had a usual calm face, but Karen ….

 

When our gazes met, Karen lifted one side of her mouth as if she were smiling.

 

It was a look that I saw many times.

 

It was rare for the imperial family to get together in this large palace, but it seemed that Karen was behind all of this.

 

They quickly got close. Karen stood in front of them, lifting her chin.

 

“An imperial princess must be mindful of her people and must always be prudent in her use of the treasury.”

 

“Ah…”

 

“Is it not enough that you gave money to the nobles, now you’re spending extravagantly? My sister, Jean Bezil’s dress is….”

 

“What do you mean, Stella distributed money to the nobles? Karen.”

 

When my mother cajoled Karen, she became more and more eager. 

 

“You’ll have to ask Stella directly. Doesn’t it bother you too, mother and father? I think now is the time to ask questions face to face. The question is, what did Stella do with the treasury she borrowed from her parents?”

 

“The Duke will solve it.”

 

Clyde replied coldly.

 

Karen, who stood in front of the Emperor and Empress, pulled me closer to them.

 

“Common, Stella, why don’t you tell us what happened?”

 

I was currently the wealthiest person in the empire, excluding Jason Evanders.

 

Karen seemed to have heard the story of how I started the foundation, but I didn’t answer. I didn’t want to explain whose pockets the money for the foundation came out of.

 

“Common.”

 

Karen urged as I remained silent. 

 

They didn’t even know I was digging their graves.