Chapter 74 – Kindness (1)
“Speak slowly, Duchess.”
I squeezed her hand as I spoke in a soothing voice. The duchess looked at me, her wide eyes laced with pain.
“He won’t go to trial, Your Majesty.”
“The viscount’s case won’t go to the chief judge.”
The chief judge was one of the duchess’ advocates. If he had secretly told the duchess, it was likely that it was true.
“Why? Ah, is it because Miss Rashta is pregnant?”
The duchess bit her lip and nodded.
“Yes. I believe the Emperor will not charge Viscount Langdel for attempted murder of that woman, but for the near death of a royal baby.”
In that event, execution was the indisputable outcome for Viscount Langdel. Sovieshu would want it to happen either way. If the case went to the chief judge, Sovieshu would be worried what Viscount Langdel would say at an open court.
“I’ve heard that after he stabbed ‘that woman,’ he was yelling.”
The duchess took a deep breath and looked at me with earnest eyes.
“Viscount Langdel is an upright young man. He wouldn’t do this for no reason.”
“I know. Even if he had a reason, he shouldn’t stab someone. But at least try get him a trial. That way, he can defend himself…!”
A tear escaped Duchess Tuania’s eye and slipped down her cheek. It must be painful that a man who defended her honor was now under threat of execution. In the past, Duke Tuania’s brother had taken his own life because of his love for Duchess Tuania. She never let herself show it, but the incident may have been traumatic for her.
“I was considering talking to him myself.”
I rubbed her back and waited until she calmed down a little, and Duchess Tuania looked up at me with rounded eyes.
I nodded in affirmation.
“I have my own suspicions as well.”
“I suspected Miss Rashta was trying to discredit you.”
“Then is the rumor true?”
“I will find out more myself.”
Duchess Tuania tightened her fists.
“Right now, the Emperor is away. I don’t think he’ll send Viscount Langdel to trial, but don’t worry, I’ll visit the viscount. ”
“Thank you. Thank you, Your Majesty.”
The duchess inhaled deeply. I gave her my handkerchief, but she simply took it in her hand and did not wipe her tears. After a long moment, she folded it up and asked, “Can I have it?”
Why a handkerchief?
Despite my puzzlement, I agreed. The duchess put the handkerchief away and breathed a heavy sigh. Her next words gave some me clarification.
“However it works out for Viscount Langdel…I will repay this act of kindness to you someday.”
“Kindness? Don’t say that. It’s not enough to be called a kindness.”
“You reached out your hand to me in my most difficult time. That is kindness.”
The duchess stared at me for a moment.
“Can I hug you once?”
I nodded, and she leaned over and wrapped her arms around me, rubbing my back as if to console me. She then pulled away. I looked at her questioningly, but she simply smiled and stood up.
Without explaining, Duchess Tuania bowed gracefully and left the room.
The next day.
I sent one of my knights to look into Viscount Langdel’s status. The knight returned earlier than expected, right before noon time.
“Viscount Langdel’s interrogation is over, and the Emperor has made a decision, Your Majesty.”
“What is it?”
“He will be sentenced to death.”
‘Will that reallly happen…’
“Thank you for letting me know.”
I left my office and headed straight to the prison where Viscount Langdel was being held. The guards looked surprised to see me, but they did not obstruct me from entering. Sovieshu must not have ordered them otherwise.
There were six rooms on the first floor of the prison where nobles were held, five of which were empty. I went to the only cell that was occupied. Although there were bars, the cell itself was furnished like an ordinary civilian room.
Viscount Langdel was seated with his head in his hands, and he weakly lifted his head up as he heard my approaching footsteps. His eyes widened in surprise, and when he tried to stand up, he teetered and stumbled onto the bars. As my eyes adjusted to the dark, I noticed that his face was bruised and blood trickled from his split lips.
“I’m sorry, Your Majesty. I should bow, but my legs won’t cooperate.”
“It’s fine. You don’t have to bow.”
I remembered when he once looked as happy as a child when he was chosen by the duchess at the New Year’s ball. Now he was in a dark jail cell, a bruised and broken man.
‘But why is he smiling?’
My question was soon answered.
“Is everyone talking about what that woman did to the duchess now?”
Viscount Langdel mumbled through his broken lips.
“I shouted. Everyone knows, I screamed loud.”
“It was stupid, now that I think of it. I should have confirmed the information I found, instead of visiting that woman first. I was too quick to end it…”
So that was why he yelled at Rashta as he was being held down by Duke Elgy.
Viscount Langdel leaned weakly against the wall, a self-mocking smile on his face. After a moment’s consideration, I told him the truth.
“No one is talking about it. The matter is buried.”
Viscount Langdel pulled back in surprise, his eyes wide.
“Buried? What that woman did is buried?”
“It was forgotten when it was discovered that Rashta is pregnant.”
“Then…haaa. Pregnant? Pregnant. It can’t be.”
Viscount Langdel clenched his fingers in his hair as if to tear it out. He still had a smile on his face. He wasn’t there when everyone heard about Rashta’s pregnancy, and Sovieshu didn’t seem to have mentioned it to him either.
“Viscount. You will be executed without trial.”
Viscount Langdel clenched his teeth as if he hadn’t known that either. He put his hands around his head, and made a pained sound and started muttering incoherently. I leaned down to his level, but he was in too much agony to notice me.
“Viscount. Look at me.”
He turned to me at my voice, but his eyes were unseeing. I drew his attention by hitting the bars with my fingers.
“Viscount. Look at me.”
His eyes finally focused on me.
“I wouldn’t tell you this if you were going to die.”
“Do you understand what I mean?”
“Is there a way to save me?”