Confused, Adele could only answer, “Yes, but where am I?”
The maid bowed, “Answering the mistress, this is the empress’s palace. I am the maid of honor who is assigned to take care of Her Majesty’s daily necessities.”
The maid patiently answered.
“Yes, mistress. His Majesty has ordered us to take care of you well.”
Then that chief maid told another maid behind her, “Report to the emperor that the empress has woken up.”
Adele had an incredulous expression on her face and her eyes almost bulged when she thought they referred to her as ‘the empress’.
“You must have mistaken me for someone else. I am a duchess, not an empress.”
The maid bowed again, “Mistress, we dare not be mistaken of the identity of the woman our esteemed emperor has chosen to be his empress.”
Dazed, Adele could no longer hear the following words.
“Please tell us if you need something. We shall make sure to satisfy your every request.”
The chief and all the other maids bent their bodies forward and uttered their greetings to Adele. They were very polite and obedient.
When Adele was still too shocked to even speak, the maid answered calmly, “His Majesty will visit you soon. If you desire it, we shall help you clean up.”
She understood that she wouldn’t be able to get answers from these servants who only listened to the words of the emperor. She responded with a nod and the maids helped in washing her face. She admired their nimble fingers that performed skilled and careful movements.
Just as the maids finished their work, the door opened, and Adele almost jumped from her seat.
The emperor, wearing a pure white tailcoat that accentuated his regal aura, entered with resolute steps.
“Your Majesty, what is all this—”
“Take a seat first.” The emperor made a gesture, the servants immediately steeped some tea and poured them into sophisticated teacups and left as soon as they came, giving peace and quiet to the two people inside the room so they could… talk.
As Adele sat down at the table, she could smell the delicate fragrance of the tea, but her face hardened.
She had no time to enjoy the tea.
“Your Majesty, Duke Maktus has been charged with treason towards the imperial family! You, of all people, should know that he would never do such a thing.” She wanted to glare at the man, but he was still the emperor. Some modicum of respect was still needed.
“Lady Adele, I am aware of that fact. However,” The emperor looked at her quietly and spoke, “As you may know, this country is constantly embroiled in warfare. Soon, our country shall head to yet another war.”
Adele held the teacup with trembling hands and drank it to moisten her parched lips.
It felt like he had deliberately changed the topic, but Adele still listened calmly as he explained why he was forced to monopolize the military power.
Adele nodded, as if indicating she had understood him. “Is that why you took the knights into the National Army?”
“Yes.” He answered solemnly, “Of course, I feel sorry for my subordinates, But I am prepared to compensate them with generous rewards. The problem is that—”
“Duke Maktus refused to comply.”
The emperor smiled and nodded.
“So, you are aware of it well.”
“But that isn’t enough to be labelled as treason.” Adele countered.
The emperor inhaled slightly, “Adele, the army is an urgent problem that must be solved at the most opportune time, and the Duke holds exactly that solution. However, he refuses to yield his soldiers that should’ve been used for the betterment of the country. Will he not implicate the people because of his selfishness?”
“I know it will be hard for you to listen, but there is something else you need to know.”
Adele laughed dryly and bit her lip.
What else could it be? Was he going to tell her she was going to die soon?
If the head of a household committed treason, all members of his family would be executed. If lucky, they might become slaves, but this was also a double-edged sword. Some slaves live a life worse than death.
Adele smiled bitterly and covered her mouth with her hand, thinking how ironic her life has been.
Her husband, whom she had lived with for two years, has already died. After taking his younger brother as her husband, he was suddenly charged of treason out of nowhere and became labelled as a traitor. Soon, he might even meet with death…
Adele was struck speechless by how pathetic her situation was.
Rayence watched her conceal a self-deprecating smile and decided to speak.
“Adele, you asked me before why I wasn’t dancing with any of the ladies at the banquet.”
“Hm?” Adele hesitated for a moment at the sudden turn of the conversation, then she replied, “Well…yes, I did. You also told me you already had someone in mind.”
His heart felt a little nervous.
“You see, I have never confessed to her before. But now,” he stared straight into her eyes, “I think I can.”
Adele felt an ominous premonition when she saw the emperor’s anxious eyes. Surely, I must’ve assumed wrongly?
The emperor took her left hand that had a ring studded with yellow diamonds. He removed them without a shred of hesitation and brought out a ring himself.