Chapter 157 – A Secret Story (2)
I waited for Sir Artina for days, but it was the Duke Elgy who unexpectedly came to visit me.
“Hmm. You definitely show when you’re uncomfortable.”
I wondered why this man came to see me, but Duke Elgy simply smiled, hung his coat on the back of an armchair, and sat down. While I had nothing to say to him, I was still the empress, and he was still a guest in my country. I had also visited him without prior notice, and so I smiled at him as well.
“What brings you here?”
Duke Elgy evaded the question, instead looking at my desk and clicking his tongue.
“What’s the reason you have so many documents?”
“It’s just work.”
“Do you work alone? What about an assistant?”
An assistant would become suspicious if they saw that I was planning for several years in advance, so I was forced to work alone. When I asked Duke Elgy again what he had come for, he kept his mouth shut and stared at me.
“Duke? Why do you look like that?”
He looked up at the ceiling for a moment and then quickly shook his head.
“You’re going to kill me out of guilt.”
What was he talking about? I gave him a quizzical stare, but he just propped his head against his hand and looked at me. I don’t know how long he did that, but then he finally stood up and excused himself from the room.
‘What’s wrong with him?’
His esoteric behavior puzzled me, but there was no time for me to go after him and ask what he meant.
Even before Sir Artina’s return, before the divorce, before the High Priest’s arrival, there were so many tasks to do that I didn’t have enough time even when staying up all night. I asked Countess Eliza to bring me a snack, then I sat back at my desk again. All I wanted now was for Sir Artina to arrive before the High Priest did.
The next day, however, brought the arrival of the High Priest. The palace whispered in amazement. He only visited when something truly important was happening, even going so far as to decline an invitation to the New Year Ball.
There was still no word from Sir Artina.
As soon as the High Priest arrived at the Imperial Palace, he went straight to see Sovieshu. When I heard that they were speaking privately behind a locked door, my legs threatened to buckle underneath me.
No, I would be fine. Sovieshu may interfere with the remarriage application, but there would be a way. Heinley did not change his mind about the proposal. You don’t have to ask for a second marriage when you approve a divorce…
The High Priest recalled how young Sovieshu and Navier were on their wedding day. The higher up in succession, and the greater the status, the more common it was to be married at a younger age.
The priest couldn’t help but remember how the couple looked as young adults. He had spoken teasingly to them at the time, calling the pair a couple of chicks. The young groom and bride shouted in reply “He’s the chick, I’m the eagle” and “She’s the chick, and I’m the eagle”.
It was a lovely time. They held each other’s hands and beamed when they looked at each other, and clung to each other’s side throughout the reception. Because the young Naiver had spent hours on her heels, Sovieshu carried his bride on his back, causing the people to laugh. The High Priest was certain that the couple’s future would be filled with happiness.
But divorce. Divorce!
As soon as he entered the palace, he met straightaway with Sovieshu. When the door closed and only the two of them were in the room, the High Priest looked on at the Emperor with amazement.
“Emperor Sovieshu. What does this mean? Divorce?”
The young groom, who had held his bride’s hand throughout the marriage vows, had now become a mature adult man. His body was firm and masculine, and his long legs were crossed as he sat. Beneath his neatly styled hair was a face so perfect that he appeared as a living statue from a temple. However, underneath the cold, dignified presence of this man, was a young groom who had loved his bride.
“Tell me I’m mistaken.”
The High Priest spoke from the heart, sitting in the chair opposite the Emperor. However, Sovieshu demolished his expectations.
“It’s true. I intend to divorce the Empress.”
“Have you read the divorce papers?”
“I have, but the Empress is not at fault!”
“She did not cause it, but she is the cause.”
“I cannot control Koshar.”
“What about infertility? What is this story?”
Sovieshu’s expression turned grave, and the High Priest spoke more firmly.
“If you say that the Empress is infertile, there must be a clear reason why you believe so.”
“…What I tell you cannot leave these walls.”
The High Priest thought infertility was merely an excuse. While the Empress had not born children after all these years, there was no other convincing reason to suspect that she was barren.
Sovieshu seemed to have different ideas, and the High Priest started to become uneasy. Sovieshu paused for a long moment, before finally speaking.
“It happened when I was still the Crown Prince…”
The princess’ diet was being restricted before a large event.“Wouldn’t her belly be covered by a skirt? Anyway, what’s wrong if she’s a little chubby?”
Sovieshu complained to the official in charge of the event, but he paid no heed. The crown prince and crown princess would be revealed to the public, and people would flock to see the young couple. They had to look as perfect as possible.
“You mustn’t let up either.”
Even Sovieshu had less food than usual, atop the four hours per day of rigorous sword practice, training with the knights, and horseback riding. The official in charge was not willing to give up the beautiful appearance of the betrothed couple.
‘Navier gets strength from eating.’
In the end, Sovieshu decided to beg for his mother’s help, and went to the Empress’ chambers.
His mother was not in the room. However, there was a box on the table that contained appetizing-looking cookies. It was half-wrapped with shiny paper and silk ribbons—perhaps it was a present? The maid must have been packaging it before she went out to bring some tea to Sovieshu. Of course, he knew well enough to leave a gift alone, but…
He looked around at his surroundings. The maid hadn’t come back yet. He quickly snatched the box of cookies and left.
The maid returned with the teapot and called out to him, but Sovieshu ran away without answering. He went straight to the Navier, who was reading a thick book in her room.
As soon as he entered, she smiled brightly and ran towards him.
He locked the door, took Navier to a corner of the room, and opened the box of cookies he had pilfered.
“What is this?”
“Are we allowed? Well, alright.”
Navier reached a conclusion by herself, then reached out for a cookie immediately. She bit into one, and a smile soon spread across her face.
“You eat some too.”
“You eat. I’m fine.”
“I know you’re hungry, too. I heard you can’t have any snacks.”
“If I eat all of this alone, they’ll notice I’m not fasting and I’ll be caught right away. ”
Navier picked up a cookie and held it to Sovieshu’s mouth.
The two children delightedly shared the cookies with each other.
A few hours later, however, Sovieshu found himself in enormous trouble. The empress was uncommonly angry.
“The cookies were for Countess Sophia!”
Countess Sophia was his father’s favorite concubine. Sovieshu turned sullen.
“You can make them again. No, but why are you giving her sweets?”
The empress made an impatient noise, but she spoke honestly.
“The cookies are laced with a drug. Its main effect is to cause miscarriage, but infertility is also a side effect.”
Sovieshu’s eyes widened in amazement.
“Answer me, Prince. The cookies…did you eat them?”The Empress stared at him with anxious eyes. When Sovieshu gave a small, almost imperceptible nod of his head, the Empress let out a wail.
“I heard you went to see the princess. Did you eat them together?”
He told a lie.
“I ate it alone.”
Although he was young, he knew he had to keep this a secret. He shivered inwardly and then lied again.
“I asked her to eat it together with me, but she wouldn’t.”