Chapter 148 – Two Couples (1)
It was the day of the monthly State Council. Numerous senior ministers and committee members gathered at the palace, and while Emperor Sovieshu was obligated to attend, my duties as empress were slightly different. My presence at the meeting was not mandatory, and I only made an appearance when my own duties and affairs were on the agenda.
I checked my schedule today and found that I was free. After half an hour of thinking, however, I decided to attend the meeting, and sent a message informing the assembly.
I knew that Sovieshu would divorce me soon, but it had been quiet, and I was anxious. Perhaps he was going to publicize the divorce today.
‘Did McKenna return to Heinley?’
How would Heinley react? Now that things had gotten complicated, would he give up on me being his queen? Or was he trying to find another way to get in touch?
I mulled over my thoughts as I walked down the corridor, and before I knew it, I arrived at the hall where the meeting was held. Sovieshu looked at me as I entered, but then turned his head away without a greeting.
‘He pretended to be sorry. But he revealed his true colors as soon as I turned away his gift.’
Instead of waving to him, I sat in my seat and looked straight ahead. Occasionally, I felt his sidelong glance towards me, but I did not look back at him. We completely ignored each other during the meeting, and even during the recess.
When the meeting reconvened, the atmosphere became even more awkward. The first in line was Lord Palme, who mentioned my brother.
“After Lord Koshar left for the capital, the Eternal Thousand bandits rose up again. They spread their tyranny, and even the merchants do not come to Palme anymore. Please, Your Majesty, have the grace to wipe out the bandits.”
Lord Palme wasn’t talking about my brother’s expulsion, but Sovieshu’s face immediately darkened at the mention of him. Sensible nobles gave warning glances to Lord Palme, but because the security of the lord’s own land and people were at stake, he only looked on eagerly at Emperor Sovieshu.
“I’ll look into it.”
Sovieshu replied in a hard voice. Afterwards, another noble stepped up.
Baron Lant wasn’t next on the agenda, but he raised his hand and stepped forward. My heart ran cold. Baron Lant was Sovieshu’s secretary. Would he be the one to start talking about my divorce?
I gripped the arm of the throne tightly. Sovieshu, who would have normally dismissed the baron for speaking out of turn, asked him, “What is it?” My anxiety pulsed stronger.
“It is about Rashta’s parents.”
However, Baron Lant brought up the topic of Rashta, not me.
“Yes. There is a couple that claim to be her parents.”
Sovieshu leaned forward interestedly.
“Who are they?”
Baron Lant glanced around, then spoke.
“They are from the Kalen family.”
I knew of them. They were a well-established family two generations ago, but when the princes fought over the throne, they backed the wrong prince and ended up falling. So Rashta belonged to that family?
“Is it true?”
“I don’t know. I will have to verify the accuracy.”
“I hope it is true.”
What an opportune time for Rashta’s noble parents to appear when Sovieshu was about to divorce me. It was hard not to burst out into cynical laughter as I listened to Sovieshu and Baron Lant speak.
So Sovieshu would give Rashta noble parents. As a child, he hated it when his father, the previous emperor, did this. It was absurd to see Sovieshu doing the exact same thing now.
I noticed that Sovieshu’s ears were red. Were we thinking the same thing?
‘But from a different perspective…how much does he love Rashta that he’s willing to dress up a play that he doesn’t like?’
I thought he would keep to his convictions.
“I will bring the couple to you later.”
Baron Lant stepped back, and the assembly muttered at each other at the strange turn of events. Some thought this a trick arranged by Sovieshu, while others thought it was real.
Sovieshu beckoned the next person that was supposed to be in order. The next man was Ambassador Lingall of the country of Blue Bohean. He had a confused expression on his face, and he kept looking back towards Baron Lant. His steps slowed as he approached the throne.
‘What’s wrong with him?’
His unusual behavior immediately caught my attention. When he finally opened his mouth to speak, I knew why.
“I…well, Your Majesty the Emperor. As a matter of fact, a couple in Blue Bohean came to see me a few days ago and told me a strange story.”
“A strange story?”
“Your Majesty, Miss Rashta, your concubine, seems to be the couple’s lost daughter.”
For a moment, Sovieshu’s expression turned utterly bewildered like a raccoon’s. I clenched my jaw and bit my lips. A low rumble of laughter escaped from the ministers’ mouth. Baron Lant stared at the ambassador with widened eyes, who seemed to realize that he was in a troubled situation.
“That…well. The couple are also nobles.”
I glanced towards Sovieshu.
“She must have six parents.”
I spoke quietly enough that only he could hear, and his ears flushed.
I turned my head towards the front again, while the rest of the ministers fought to contain their laughter. I wondered how this had happened. Sovieshu nervously tapped the arm of his chair.
“One of the couples must be a fraud. Maybe both. Either way, the criminals will not escape. Lock them all up!”
“What? Did that really happen?”
Rashta, who had been in a state of depression since the blue bird, went to visit Duke Elgy. She burst out in gleeful laughter when he recounted what happened at the meeting.
“You shouldn’t laugh.”
She immediately turned sheepish.
“Rashta understands. Are they both yours?”
“No. I bribed the couple from Blue Bohean.”
“Ah, the one you told Rashta about—!”
Rashta yelled out “Thank you!”, but then she soon frowned.
“Are the ones brought by Baron Lant frauds?”
Duke Elgy smiled.
“They are fakes bought by your lover.”
“My lover? Ah…!”
She covered her mouth with both hands.
The Emperor had told her that he would make her empress, but since then she had seen no movement. He must have been preparing this behind her! Rashta was deeply moved that Duke Elgy and Sovieshu had done the same thing for her. She smiled as a pink blush rose to her cheeks.
“You are both cute. To do this for the sake of Rashta…”
Duke Elgy smiled as he leaned his arm against his chair. He looked pleased somehow. Rashta tilted her head at him.
“What happens now?”
“You can’t have four parents, so one couple will be branded as a fake.”
“Which one do you want to be real?”
“The…the one that people will believe.”
The corner of Duke Elgy’s mouth lifted as if he liked her answer.
“That’s the right answer.”
“Which one will people believe?”
“The nobles likely think that the couple Baron Lant presented were fake. Fake parents or fake marriages are often used to cover up identities. The Emperor would have done this.”
“But another couple appeared, and their confidence in them would be higher. His Majesty cannot prepare two pairs.”
“So Rashta will say that the couple Duke Elgy arranged are Rashta’s parents?”
”Well, aren’t you smart?”
Duke Elgy gave her a smile, and she giggled in reply. Now that she had fake parents, she was now considered a noble lady. Duke Elgy had told her that she needed to have the support of the common people and the trust of the council to challenge empress. However, Sovieshu was now raising her to that position. Everything was perfect now. Everything…
“Ah, Miss. There’s something to keep in mind.”
“Rashta must appease the ministers?”
“That’s a long way to go. The other one.”
“What is it?”
“I mean the fake parents.”
“You must treat them like your real parents.”
“What? They only lend their names for money, didn’t they?”
“Then people would only see an imitation.”
“Your goal is not to just be a concubine, but an empress. A concubine with fake parents may be overlooked, but an empress’ background will be scrutinized.”
“They will treat you like their long-lost daughter. Treat them as if you missed them in a dramatic fashion. That’s the way it must be.”