Chapter 1 – Part 7“
After walking for a while, Leonard suddenly stopped. The attendant following him waited for his command, bowing his head slightly. However, no orders were given.
“Why did I say such a thing?”
Realizing the sudden revelation, Leonard subtly looked back.
I thought she was inviting me to embroider with her in her palace.
“But she was just actually trying to get my permission”
No wonder something felt off.
Leonard scratched his cheek in embarrassment. However, sensing the attendant’s gaze, he cleared his throat a couple of times and resumed walking.
The Emperor and Empress’s offices were adjacent in the central part of the palace for efficient work. On the other hand, their personal rooms, including bedrooms, were located at each end of the building, symbolizing the respect for each other’s private space.
In a more straightforward sense, it was a structure that leaned towards being able to “entertain lovers without being watched.”
Even if the Emperor immersed himself in his own bedroom affairs, the Empress didn’t interfere, and after producing an heir, the Empress could choose a young man for her personal service with the Emperor’s implicit approval.
There was a guest in the Empress’s reception room. Those who came to see the recently crowned Empress were undoubtedly her family or close relatives.
As Tenere dismissed the attendants, Marquis Evan waited, glaring at her as if he had been waiting for a long time. Eric, standing behind him, sighed silently.
“Are you disrespecting your father, now that you are already an empress? Do you know who allowed you to be in that position?”
Although it hadn’t even been 30 minutes since he came without any prior notice, Marquis Evan expressed his dissatisfaction as if he had been waiting for half a day.
It was a calculated move to break Tenere’s spirit, anticipating that his daughter, who had become the Empress, might assert herself against him.
Tenere respectfully lowered her head.
“I apologize, Father. I was briefly at the Star Palace..”
Evan, who had been making a triumphant expression while looking at his daughter, hesitated when he heard the word “Star Palace.”
“…Did you meet the Dowager Empress? I thought you were supposed to start your official duties from next week.”
“She expressed a desire to have lunch together. I’m sorry for making you wait. Next time, if you inform me in advance, I’ll return earlier…”
As Marquis Evan raised his voice, Tenere shrunk her shoulders.
Seeing her unchanged attitude from when she was at the mansion, Marquis Evan coughed as if trying to hide a satisfied smile.
“Well, we can’t help it if the Dowager is the one who requested you”
With a gentler tone, Tenere finally felt relieved. Evan cleared his throat, scanning his daughter up and down.
“…Still, becoming the Empress seems to suit you. Are the Emperor and Dowager Empress treating you well?”
It was an unexpectedly affectionate question. She never expected to hear such words from her father.
‘Don’t ask me for love.’
“Yes. Both of them have been very kind to me.”
“What did you talk about with the Empress for so long?”
Thinking of the conversation with the Empress, Tenere unconsciously smiled. However, if she mentioned her mother, Marquis Evan would undoubtedly be upset.
“She offered assistance with challenging matters, and also… suggested embroidering together occasionally.”
Marquis Evan’s expression became peculiar. He had never heard of the Empress enjoying needlework.
As he absentmindedly touched his chin, he reached a conclusion on his own.
“…Indeed, you mentioned that you gave a handkerchief to the Emperor”
“So, did you get permission from the Emperor to do that?”
Tenere hesitated for a moment and then nodded her head.
“Yes. His Majesty also agreed to join me occasionally…”
“What did you say?”
Marquess Evan questioned as if he had heard something absurd.
“His Majesty… why would he do that?”
“…I don’t know.”
Tenere replied softly. Even if he mistook her words for seeking permission, she couldn’t understand why the Emperor agreed to spend time together.
‘Is he deliberately coming to help, thinking it might be awkward between me and the Dowager?’
He’d told me to let him know if I needed help, so maybe that was part of it, and it felt a little weird to think about. Marquess Evan cleared his throat again.
“Well, anyway… I came because I have something for you.”
When Marquess Evan gestured, Eric took out a small bottle from his pocket. Inside the bottle, about the length of a finger, were several small pills.
“What is this?”
“It’s good medicine for conception. If you conceived ann heir , even if Salvatore comes back after having a son, they can’t reject you.”
Marquess Evan’s biggest concern was Alaina Salvatore’s return.
In his eyes, the perfect Empress was Alaina, not Tenere.
At Marquess Evan’s sharp comment, Tenere nodded slowly. Eric, as if suffering from an illness, coughed again.
“I used precious ingredients to make it. Make sure to take it before the joint ceremony.”
“There are medications to take before and after the joint ceremony… I’ll ask the palace if it’s okay to take it together.”
“Are any of the palace woman involved in any inappropriate relationship with His Majesty?”
“…Like with His Majesty’s concubine or a former lover, something like that.”
It was Eric who answered instead of the marquis, who had been silent all along.
When the emperor died, the head of the palace was usually responsible and had to leave the imperial palace. Therefore, the current head of the palace was someone new who came in after the late emperor’s passing, and he was a young man who hadn’t even reached thirty.
The marquis seemed quite displeased with the fact that the head of the palace was a young man.
“But… he is the head of the palace.”
“Before being the head of the palace, he is a young man! Being an empress is so indifferent…”
“Listen well, Tenere. Men are like beasts, even if they have a wife, they tend to turn their heads when another woman’s scent wafts by. So, you should be vigilant to ensure that other women don’t get too close to His Majesty!”
“If that’s the case, the empress should be chosen from among older men.”
“If that happens, fathers will willingly wear dresses and makeup…”
Watching the disgruntled marquis, Tenere couldn’t help but think of the conversation with Janice. Somehow, the image of her father running around seemed a bit different.
“Are you listening to me? You should make sure he doesn’t catch the eye of other women!”
“Huh? Oh, yes. I’m sorry. I’ll do that.”
Tenere quickly responded, trying to erase any idle thoughts from her mind..
As she held the medicine in her hand, the marquis finally touched his mustache with a satisfied expression.
“Alright, make sure to take the medicine… Is there anything else Her Majesty mentioned?”
Tenere’s eyes narrowed at the subtle question. Seeing her innocent expression, the Marquis paused, uncomfortably.
“Well, anything related to our family?”
“What kind of matters…”
“Anyway, it’s frustrating. Now that she’s the empress, she should take care of the family.”
Eric blurted out again. The corner of Marquis Evan’s mouth twitched, as if he’d been meaning to say that all along.
“Uh-huh. Well, it’s not really that…….”
“Don’t just think of your self, take care of your father too. You owe him a favor for raising you.”
Eric sharply retorted. Tenere lowered her head, and the marquis, seeing his daughter like that, spoke loudly to Eric.
“Enough. She’ll handle it on her own.”
The marquis was greedy, but at the same time, he considered his dignity as a noble important.
Whenever he wanted something, he wouldn’t directly say it but would drop hints. If Tenere didn’t understand after all the hints, he would get angry.
In such situations, Eric always helped. He openly laid out what the marquis wanted to say, and the marquis pretended to restrain Eric, preserving his dignity.
Thanks to this, unless the marquis truly lost his composure and flew into a rage, the situation would be resolved around this point.
“Father, please go first. I’ll talk to my dear sister and join you later.”
Although his tone was different, his voice remained cold. Marquis Evan coughed heavily and left the drawing room.
Tenere also stood up to see him off, but for some reason, Eric was still lying on the sofa. His threatening eyes were intimidating.
Tenere smiled at Eric, who was lying down with a tired face.
“Are you tired?”
“…Are you in a position to worry about me?”
Eric did not deny it and let out a deep sigh. There was silence in the spacious drawing room for a while.
Eric half-raised himself, stretching. Tenere poured tea into his teacup.
“In any case, father is indeed ambitious. You already received a territory for your wedding.”
Tenere did not respond. Eric sat up abruptly.
“No, it’s a territory with a diamond mine. That’s more than enough, what does he still want?”
“I’ll tell Her Majesty about it once.”
“Oh, please. You know how greedy father is. Once he gets something, he’ll ask for something bigger.”
Eric shook his head as if he was annoyed. Tenere smiled at his tired face.
“Don’t just smile like a fool. If you can’t firmly refuse, just pretend to consider it and end it. Don’t let yourself be resented by His Majesty because of your father’s words.”
“Even if His Majesty does something for our family, pretend to be grateful. No… never mind.”
If she could lie like that, she would have done it earlier.
Eric wiped his confused face several times and looked up at Tenere’s complexion.
“Still, I’m glad you’re doing well.”
Eric’s voice had become much lighter. Perhaps he was worried that the Emperor , who couldn’t forget Alaina after her disappearance, might mistreat Tenere.
But Tenere’s expression was much brighter than he expected.
“Does he have a feelings for you all this time?”
“No, it’s not like that.”
“Well, you wouldn’t know. Did you even ask?”
He asked playfully, but Tenere didn’t respond. In the strange silence, Eric remained silent as well.
After a long silence, Tenere parted her lips.
“He told me not to expect love.”
“I didn’t ask for details, but he wanted someone without greed…”
Upon hearing this, Eric made a faint expression. Tenere quickly added.
“But still, he’s been very kind to me, and so is Her Majesty”
Even with Tenere’s words, Eric’s expression didn’t soften.
After going through the trouble of getting married, he wanted someone without greed? Advising not to expect love? What did that even mean?
“What did you say?”
Was it a plea to keep quiet and live peacefully? Or a warning not to interfere even if he played around with other women?
How could the person who became the Empress in a moment of carelessness on the day of their marriage live without the Emperor’s love?
“I just… agreed to it.”
When Eric got agitated, Tenere shrugged slightly. Seeing that, Eric stopped what he was about to say and shook his head.
“…Fine. It’s your business, you should handle it.”
Tenere knew there was nothing she could do.
She couldn’t threaten to give up the love he wouldn’t provide, nor could she cling with tears streaming down.
Suppressing his tumultuous emotions, Eric drank the cold tea. Tenere, looking at him like that, smiled gently.
“I’ve never expected love from the beginning.”
“Don’t worry too much. Many couples live well without love. The same goes for former Empress and Emperor.”
Her delicately curved eyes were gentle, showing neither malice nor suspicion.
Eric finally couldn’t say anything and stood up from his seat. He never spoke much, neither in the mansion nor here.
To see him off, Tenere also stood up.
“…Regarding the Dowager Empress.”
Eric, holding the doorknob, suddenly spoke.
“It’s good to be close, but don’t get too attached.”
“I don’t know how it is now, but she… I heard she was close friends with Marquis Salvatore.”
“Even if you treat her well, her feelings may be different.”
Before Eric finished speaking, he opened the door without waiting for a response.
Tenere just stood there
The hand holding the pen moved diligently. Sometimes writing, sometimes drawing lines, and occasionally signing at the bottom.
Empress Beatrice was sitting in the empress’s office.
Since the new empress had not yet learned her duties, everything the empress should do was still Beatrice’s responsibility.
At the sound of a knock, Beatrice raised her head. It was a sound coming from the Emperor’s office.
The offices of the Emperor and Empress were separated by a small door for efficiency in their work.
Only the imperial family could enter through that door, and it was obvious who it was without asking.
Beatrice’s voice was tense, more like a mother speaking to her son. Soon, the door opened.
Leonard entered the empress’s office with a smile on his face, as usual.
Beatrice smiled back, but unlike when dealing with Tenere, it was a slightly awkward smile.
Leonard placed the documents on her desk as usual.
“They are requesting additional aid from the north.”
She nodded, but Leonard didn’t leave. Silence descended heavily.
“Does the Empress… please you?”
It was always Beatrice who couldn’t endure the silence. Leonard sat down on the sofa, smiling gently.
“It doesn’t matter whether she pleases me or not, Mother.”
“I don’t think it’s essential to be overly greedy.”
It was a somewhat indifferent remark when describing his partner. Leonard was always kind and affectionate, but at times like this, he reminded her of the late Emperor.
“I won’t treat her harshly.”
Beatrice looked up at the sound of his voice. Leonard was looking at her.
“And I want my mother to be the same.”
It was a reasonable request. In the first place, Beatrice had never been treated harshly by anyone.
Beatrice remembered the image of the Empress from the Star Palace: a beautiful woman with straight, wheat-colored hair and mysterious violet eyes.
In social circles, she had always worn plain, unremarkable dresses, but now that she was dressed for the occasion, she was quite elegant.
“I had lunch with the Empress.”
“Yes. I heard.”
“We agreed to embroider together occasionally.”
Leonard nodded as if in agreement. Then, the silence continued. Beatrice hesitated for a moment before speaking.
“Earlier, when her hair was falling down, I raised my hand to arranged it for her, but she freaked out.”
His lips, which were drawing lines, stiffened. Beatrice continued.
“When I said it was okay to bring a maid or servant from the mansion, she only talked about the deceased maid and didn’t mention any servant. It’s a bit strange that there’s not a single servant brought to the palace when she’s a daughter of a Marquis.”
“She seems to have had a hard time at the mansion.”
In the end, it seemed she hadn’t lived peacefully in the Marquis’s mansion. Leonard’s eyebrows seemed to narrow, as if he was hinting at something.
‘He always treated me so well that I never needed a special gift.’
‘The Empress has asked me…… to take time to embroider with her occasionally.’
The calm voice, the neatly drawn laughter, and the slightly trembling hands. Even though it hadn’t been a long time since they met, those images stuck in his mind.
“I’ll keep that in mind.”
Beatrice paused slightly. Leonard seemed to know what she was going to say.
“As the Empress becomes accustomed to her duties… I will step back.”
Step by step, the footsteps approached Beatrice. The large hand stained with ink gently covered her hand.
“We agreed not to bring up that matter.”
His words were true. It was already decided and, since that day, Leonard had never mentioned it again.
But his mother still couldn’t forget that incident.
“Now that we have a new empress, it won’t happen again.”
Leonard applied pressure to the hand he held tightly. But Beatrice still couldn’t lift her head.
“Mother, forget the past and think only of the future.”
She couldn’t believe she was still sitting here.
How could she be so shameless? How could she have done such a thing?
“The Empress is not yet accustomed to public affairs.”
“She will always be needing your help”
Leonhard said, as if he could read Beatrice’s mind. Beatrice nodded, seemingly invisibly.
Tenere Evan is the new Empress, not Alaina Salvatore.
Beatrice could not die until she had safely succeeded her.