Chapter 107 – The Choice This Time (2)
Heinley sat at his desk and ran through the report. It was a highly classified document copied secretly from the mages’ office when he was in the Eastern Empire.
He gave a contemplative hum, as he had an interest in the declining number of magic users. The exact number was not known, but the speed of the decrease was unexpectedly significant.
‘Mages are a pillar of power in the Eastern Empire.’
Heinley gave a thin smile and closed the report, when his eyes were caught by a blue bird fluttering right outside the window. When he approached and opened the window, the blue bird quickly landed inside the room and panted for breath.
“You’re already back?”
Heinley smiled and stroked the bird’s tiny head with his finger, then unfastened the letter from his leg. The bird jerked his head away sulkily, and as soon as Heinley took the letter, he stepped back and transformed into a man.
It was McKenna, of course. Heinley had seen the transformation countless times and didn’t bother looking at him, and focused on checking the letter instead.
“I suffered for this.”
“You can have ten more days of vacation.”
“There are some things I know without you having to say them.”
Heinley curved his lips and scanned the letter, but his smile soon faded away and was replaced with a gloomy expression.
McKenna already knew the letter’s contents, and he sheepishly stepped back and tried to make himself busy by pulling on some clothes.
“Yes, Your Highness.”
“She can’t come.”
“Are you sure?”
“Don’t feign ignorance with me.”
Heinley sighed heavily, then folded the letter and placed it in a drawer.
“Don’t overwork yourself. You should think about your health…”
Heinley pressed his eyes and sat down at the desk again. He was upset, and he didn’t want anyone to badger him.
McKenna, now dressed, came up to the desk instead of leaving the room.
“What is it?”
Heinley looked up, and McKenna explained carefully what he had heard on his trip.
“In fact, the Eastern Empire was quite noisy. It caused quite a stir when a drug that causes abortion was discovered in the emperor’s concubine’s food.”
Heinley raised his eyebrows.
“And the Empress is tied up because of that?”
“There is more behind the scenes that you’re not telling me. What is it?”
“There’s a story that very few of the Eastern Empire nobles know. Only that…”
“That it’s rumored it was the Empress’ brother that put those abortive drugs.”
McKenna reluctantly added that he wasn’t sure if he could tell this story. Meanwhile, Heinley was in shock.
“What about the Empress? Is she alright?”
“Both the woman and the baby who consumed the drug are fine.”
“But the Empress?
“I’m sure she’s fine, considering she didn’t eat it.”
“That’s not it. How is Emperor Sovieshu treating the Empress?”
“Everything had calmed down by the time I arrived, so I don’t know.”
Heinley’s expression twisted.
He remembered how Emperor Sovieshu favored Rashta at the special banquet. As Heinley looked back, he recalled the face of someone who was upset and his heart began to hurt.
“So the Empress can’t come because of that.”
“I believe so.”
“But for her to act indifferent because I might worry…”
“Isn’t it so she won’t appear weak to the Empire?”
It was a fairly objective observation, but Heinley shook his head. He simply sat there, and McKenna decided to leave for the door. Although Heinley looked deeply troubled, it was his private problem.
Just as McKenna was about to open the door, however, Heinley spoke up softly.
“Not like this.”
McKenna took his hand off the doorknob and slowly turned around. Heinley was standing with an inscrutable yet sad expression on his face. He seemed determined to do something.
“Stay there, McKenna.”
He pulled out a sheet of paper and began to quickly scribble something on it. Within a few moments he finished, and he held the letter out to the knight.
“Please do one more thing for me. Pass this on to Elgy.”
“You want me to go back to the Eastern Empire?”
“You’re the fastest.”
McKenna accepted the letter with defeated resignation.
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Sovieshu decided to hold a small party to cheer up Rashta. Although no formal invitations were sent, it was still a royal event and many gathered to attend. A third of the guests wanted to get close to the emperor’s concubine, while another third took this as an opportunity to make connections with upper nobility.
The Empress was not present, so the center of attention fell to Rashta. She laughed and chatted with the guests, beaming as she received their praises and flattery.
However, her smile vanished as soon as she saw a face she didn’t want to see.
“This young lady recently moved here to the capital from a remote rural area. She’s a charming woman, so I wanted to introduce her to you, Miss Rashta.”
A noble approached Rashta to introduce her to another guest.
It was none other than Rivetti, Viscount Roteschu’s daughter. Rashta was so taken aback that she didn’t notice that the noble had given a laugh of amusement, nor that several nobles around exchanged mischievous glances. They were the ones who constantly spoke to Alan about “The Emperor’s concubine, Rashta.”
Although old rumors had been buried under a number of other high-profile scandals, some nobles still wondered or were convinced that Rashta was indeed Viscount Roteschu’s former slave. Some even placed bets, saying that if Rashta truly was the viscount’s slave, she would react to Alan or Rivetti.
Rashta suddenly realized that the meeting with Rivetti was deliberately planned. Instead of becoming angry, however, she forced herself to take on a cheerful smile.
“We haven’t met before.”
Rivetti gave a look of surprise, but soon returned a smile as well. Rashta kept up her pleasant expression, but her heart was sinking to the floor. But before she could say something to Rivetti—
“Excuse me, excuse me.”
Alan suddenly appeared, taking his sister by the arm and saying that they had to rush back to the house. He glanced at Rashta, but he didn’t greet her, let alone pretend to know her name.
Like they were complete strangers.
Alan and Rivetti left. The excitement broken, the small crowd dispersed in disinterest. The onlookers watching the situation spoke gently to Rashta again, but she could not enjoy the party as before. She felt uncomfortable being among the people who intentionally brought Rivetti then turned around and pretended to not have any malice.
Instead of mingling with the nobles any further, she looked for a chance and left the room. However, she came across Alan not that far away.
He hesitated when he saw her, then approached.
“My father told me to pretend not to know you, but I thought I should tell you about Ahn.”