“It’s going to be a special news.”
Evanders’ dog, Hector Selbache, was looking at its owner with a face full of anticipation.
Jason Evanders leaned against the back of his chair and took a deep breath of cigars with his legs on the desk.
Jason spat out smoke in front of the man’s face with an indifferent look, even though he was aware that it was quite rude to spit out smoke in the direction of a person’s face.
Hector Selbache became impatient.
“Th..the topic is Stella Ethelanche. Everyone will be curious about this…! If you post the fact that Princess Ethelanche has spent the night after leaving for Darren Hill with Duke, the reaction will definitely be explosive. Not only will the Velvet Daily’s stock price rise, but the daily’s sales rates are also guaranteed.”
Jason narrowed his eyes.
Seeing Jason’s eyes, Hector Selbache had to wipe the sweat from his forehead.
He thought he’d like it. Jason Evans didn’t seem very happy from the time he came.
“Oh, no. I made a slip of the tongue.”
Hector Selbache rose from his seat. It was definitely a good idea. This topic was definitely going to be a hit among people. Nonetheless, Jason Evans didn’t feel good.
Tick. Tick. The second moving hand on the clocks moved continuously.
Jason’s red eyes reflected on the smooth ground of the pocket watch.
“21 minutes and 38 seconds.”
Click. He pressed the watch button slowly.
“That’s the total time you have wasted.”
“I’m.. I’m… I’m sorry about that. I have come at the wrong time…”
There was a look of dismay on the face of the man who was before elated to see his master.
The secretary dissuaded him from meeting Jason, but there was a more powerful man who screamed, “Do you know who I am?”
Jason Evans rubbed out the cigar in the ashtray and said.
“Lord Hector is old now. You seem to have a lot of sense.”
“You, you mean me? No. I made a mistake.”
“I think it’s time for you to step down as chief editor of the Velvet Daily.”
At his drowsy voice, Hector Selbache shuddered like a dog that peed.
Velvet Daily, a huge pillar that supports the mighty empire in this land, which is also called the ‘Evanders Empire’ because there is no one who can compare with them.
And the pinnacle of this success, the hand holding cultural power was the editor-in-chief of Velvet Daily.
How hard has he worked to stand in this position?
Hector Selbache could never, ever give up his position for such a small mistake.
He quickly got up from his seat.
“I….I’m sorry. For interrupting when you’re so busy…”
Jason rose from his seat and approached him. Hector Selbache bowed his shoulders and shivered.
He grabbed Hector’s cravat knot with one hand without changing his expression.
Jason tightened the knot to the point where the tendons in his hands were revealed. Hector could barely breathe and made a ‘hyuk’ sound.
Jason didn’t let go of his knotted hand, even as he watched Hector’s face grow red and blue.
Contrary to his expressionless face, the swollen veins on the back of his hand looked like they were about to burst.
“Good job, Hector Selbache.”
Hector Selbache hardly nodded.
Jason’s motionless hand slipped on his chair like a broken marionette.
Jason told his aide.
“If there is a newspaper that talks about the Stella Ethelanche scandal, I will step on it by any means possible. Ah.”
He curled his lips softly.
“There’s something else I need to tell the imperial family.”
“Give it to me.”
As Jason handed out a folded envelope, the still calm face of the aide turned pale.
“Dear Empress, this is my favor.”
* * *
Clyde said that the guest room at the Duke’s mansion was small and asked me to change the room.
He gladly gave me the largest room in the mansion and took my room.
Holding a candlestick, I was immersed in the beautiful landscape painted on the ceiling. Unexpectedly, I heard a cautious knock. I found Clyde when I opened the door.
Our eyes met in the dark.
I felt a strange tension that I couldn’t describe, so I just fiddled with the candlestick.
He smelled of soap and in the dark, between his open bathrobe was revealed.
“…I wanted to see if you liked the room.”
His gaze shifted to the ceiling.
I didn’t know if it was to cover up this awkwardness or to put a beautiful ceiling painting in my eyes.
“I like the room…. To be honest, it’s amazing.”
The room was a Gothic style ornate room that would be seen in any ancient mansion, but it was this crude landscape painting that left a strong impression.
“···Usually, the ceiling is painted with traditional themes, but the ceiling in this room seems different.”
A picture of a shepherd tending sheep, a landscape of a swaying barley field, and a spring in full bloom. It was as if nature had moved.
The word landscape painting is barely made and used, and it is a time when people look down on it as a lowly genre.
It was not easy to get out of the eyes of authoritative critics.
What the aristocratic society loves are majestic and extravagant paintings.
I wondered who the architect was who dared to venture and paint landscapes on the ceiling.
Clyde? The flickering light slowly descended, revealing his face in the gloomy darkness.
We looked at each other and didn’t speak much. It was Clyde who avoided eye contact first.
It was then that I discovered that he had large and small scars on his chest.
I’ve seen traces like that. Living in an inn on the street, you meet various people.
One scar was from a whiplash. Other one was a scar left by a sword.
Just by looking at it, it felt like someone was whipping and cutting my body.
Before he took notice of where I was staring, words quickly popped out of my mouth.
“…I was curious about the design of such a painting on the ceiling, so I asked the maids, and they said that it was better to ask the owner. Are they all told to stay quiet? If you ask me to, I won’t say much.”
They were loyal to their owner. He brought his people north and they didn’t say anything.
I continued to speak without a break.
“I’ve always wanted a room with a ceiling like that. I’ve always wanted to live in a house like this.”
These words were meant to cover up the awkward atmosphere. Nevertheless, they were not empty words.
The imperial palace I remember was a lavish place full of reverence, glorification paintings.
It was a beautiful place, and I have some memories of it in my childhood.
I wished to have a mansion full of beautiful scenery and clocks that I could see. Comfortable and cozy.
As a result, a small smile appeared on my lips.
“If you look at the ceiling with gleaning women on it, there will be many nobles to sign.”
A ceiling painted with the four seasons, a hallway with as much furniture as possible for a fun hide-and-seek game, and a large garden where the master does not scold you even if you run and lie down to your heart’s content.
Clyde’s mansion resembled the one I dreamt of in my childhood.
“I ordered it.”
My gaze shifted from the paintings on the ceiling to his face.
“…as the ceiling painting was a fresco*, it wasn’t difficult to modify it. I was instructed to scrape off all the murals on the existing ceiling and paint a new one.”
(Fresco- a painting done rapidly in watercolour on wet plaster on a wall or ceiling, so that the colours penetrate the plaster and become fixed as it dries.)
I once told him about my dream house.
Don’t tell me he remembered.
“I’ve made sure you’re doing well, so…
I’ll take my leave.”
Contrary to what he said, he stood there and looked at me for a long time, waiting for my answer.
He hesitated to take a step. He then carefully pulled his hand out and swept it inside my long hair.
His skin felt unspeakably strange.
I didn’t stop his hand and he lifted my chin gently and carefully, letting me see him.
The hand that had been stroking my chin slowly passed and touched the tip of my chin.
His gaze lingered on my lips for a long time, and my eyes blinked spontaneously several times.
The arm holding the candlestick trembled. It was dangerous.
What if he comes up to me and kisses me on the lips? At the thought of that, I started to feel dizzy.
Strangely, I didn’t want to close the door.
As my gaze reached his chest, I even thought like a fool, what if I could hold him in my arms and close my eyes.
However, he didn’t do anything.
I just rolled my hand in the dark and dropped the other hand on my chin.
When I knew it was time to say goodbye, I reached out and impulsively stroked his wound.
His shoulders trembled enough to be visible.
The protruding wounds that were exposed through the gaping robe and the fingertips that no longer felt any pain, slowly felt the pain.
“···You were seriously injured while the time I haven’t seen you.”
Depending on the angle of the flickering candle, his face was subtly immersed in the darkness and revealed.
We stared at each other for a while, touching each other. The fingertips that touched his skin were stinging for no reason.
I closed my hands, feeling the touch of bare skin that touched me. The man bowed his head and turned around.
I watched him walk away and took a deep breath I had been holding back, leaning inside the closed door.
He was clearly trembling when I touched it.
I couldn’t even imagine what it was like.
* * *
There was a reason why the people missed Stella more than anyone in the darkest time of the Empire.
The imperial torch was the infinite glory of the empire that never went out (SOL).
“Ethelanche won the war again!”
“Long live King Alexander!”
The second torch that brightly illuminates the night sky and was a great warrior who protected the light even in the dark (LUNA).
“Don’t back down! That bright light will become Belvice’s warrior!”
“As long as the warrior stays, we win!”
And above all, there is STELLA, who is the smallest torch and shines softly, is everywhere and listens to the lamentations of the suffering people.
It was because she was a being who listened to the groanings of the suffering people.
The owner of the stars was a compass leading the Empire in the right direction, a milestone in the great year.
That is why the people raised their enthusiasm about whether or not Stella could launch a star.
It meant that they would give to the hungry, and put forward a policy for the people to protect them. I was meant to listen.
That day, it was not just the stars rising in the empty sky that people shed tears and called Ethelanche’s name.
The sky was filled with light from the stars. It was a group of warm lights that touched the hearts of the injured, hungry and persecuted people.
It’s been 20 years since the last star’s successor lost its power, and now lights from the stars filled the sky of the lands.
The bright sky with stars was more beautiful than the full moon.
No one knew how much that inflated the hearts of the people of the Empire.
Stars are the closest thing to ordinary, most familiar people.
The true ‘resurrection’ of the imperial family, which had already been extinguished, was completed with Stella.
“I really want to get it….”
Reading a catalog, Jason Evanders shrugged and stared at the front page of a fairly old newspaper, Stella’s portrait.
It was a good morning. The bright sunlight poured out of the window and the Espresso, which the butler burned, smelled good.
The typeface of the article about the princess caught his eyes.
Jason’s indifferent gaze checked the time on the pocket watch.
Although he was thirsty, he just took a look around his surroundings and got up.
The moment he opened the door, he was surprised to see a familiar face.
“Your highness the Princess? For what purpose….”
And his hands were clogged in mid-air. Jason grabbed Stella’s wrist with a calm face. His trembling hands were shaken off.
An angry voice escaped Stella’s lips.
“You played a very funny prank while I was away.”
“How dare you betray me and tell the Imperial Family where my family is?”
Jason looked at Stella with a stiff face.
Looks like the news has arrived.
He calmly waited for Stella to finish her speech, thinking that he might be slapped on the face.
“I hate things that I can’t understand once I’ve said it.”
“At first, I was suspicious of Karen. However, that wasn’t the case.”
Jason’s indifferent gaze turned to the empty space behind Stella.
Did you come alone? Then what gave you the confidence to come like this?
“Why did you inform the Empress of the location of my family?”
In the meantime, Jason’s gaze unconsciously looked at Stella’s neck.
He quickly noticed that her lips were not swollen.
Then Jason’s lips curled slightly.
He hated it when someone touched something that belonged to him.
In a sense, this woman was perfect.