Author: alyalia

“If that’s the case… I’ll step away now. Have a good time.”

 

Countess Nosen left, and all the servants nearby were gone.

 

“Your Majesty, what kind of sponsorship business are you talking about?”

 

When asked by Charelize, Empress Lireet laid down the teacup with a cautious touch.

 

“I don’t think there are any hidden ears to hear.”

 

“Your Majesty…?”

 

“Vel told me. She begged you to save Queen Salome.”

 

The attitude of Empress Lireet, calling Royal Princess Veloche by her nickname, was surprising. It was because from what Charelize knew, there had been no communication between them until now. So Empress Lireet must have something else more important to ask.

 

“Do you know that Royal Princess Veloche joined hands with me?”

 

“Of course. I was the one who told her to ask for little Duchess’s help.”

 

“Can I ask… how far do you know?”

 

“The fact that the little Duchess threw down your glass and intentionally broke the wine? I don’t think it was Vel’s idea.” Empress Lireet answered slowly, filling an empty cup of tea.

 

“Your Majesty said you were a close friend of my mother… Before the bloody tragedy happened… why did Marquis Rebraze join hands with His Majesty…?”

 

She already knew everything, so Charelize didn’t hide it anymore. At first glance, it looked like Charelize asked with resentment.

 

“…Did you know? I was born with a weak body and grew up like a flower in a greenhouse. That’s why I didn’t get to play a few times, even though I was chosen as Lina’s playmate. It was to the point that Lina and Sia came to visit me in Rebraze March.”

 

“…”

 

“His Majesty persuaded my father by saying he would cure my illness. Although I learned of it belatedly… I don’t consider it as an excuse to be free of guilt. I have no intention of forgetting it either. That’s why I didn’t go to Peschte Empire either. Because I had no face to see Sia.”

 

The smile of Empress Lireet, who had been smiling as if recalling the time the three of them played together, soon turned bitter.

 

“It’s not that I genuinely didn’t know. I’m pretending not to know. That’s why I live a peaceful life as if I wasn’t aware of what happened in the world and spend leisurely doing sponsorship business so that His Majesty won’t be wary.”

 

“Pretending…?”

 

“It was to reaffirm myself… as an innocent empress who was shocked by the birth of an illegitimate child, even seeking a divorce.”

 

“Perhaps Your Majesty sent Countess Nosen away because she is the emperor’s people?”

 

“That’s not it. But… even in my place, I always watch my actions, even more so in front of Countess Nosen, who serves me closely. It’s not that I don’t trust her, but… I guess there’s nothing wrong with hiding it. Are you curious about why I’m saying this to the little Duchess?”

 

“To be honest, I’m not sure what Your Majesty’s intentions are right now.”

 

“I just want the little Duchess to keep going up. I don’t have any other thoughts.”

 

“Yes?”

 

“Don’t worry about Queen Salome. She will be at the temple for the time being under my name. I will tell His Majesty that she would like to pray for the blessing of the princess, so I allowed it. She will be safe in the temple, and His Majesty will be reminded that I’m such a foolish empress.”

 

“…Your Majesty.”

 

“I’ve heard they say one can’t even spit on a smiling face. As the empress, I will protect you, little Duchess.”

 

Charelize felt strange about receiving unexpected reinforcements.

 

“I have a father who sacrificed many lives to make his daughter an empress, and as his daughter, I have to pay for that sin instead. At that time… if only I had understood the meaning of his words sooner… I would have cut off his hand to prevent them from joining hands. I… regret it deeply.”

 

“I will not refuse Your Majesty’s favor. Thank you.”

 

“Yes. If you desire a new empire, go ahead with it. Now that you know everything, I could even cut off the emperor’s hand.”

 

Standing up from her seat, Charelize bowed to Empress Lireet.

 

“These days, His Majesty is doing something. Didn’t you hear the circumstances of Duke Marsetta through his aide, Marquis Lareche? Anyway… beware of Count Riven.”

 

“Your Majesty’s influence… I can’t tell how far it has reached.”

 

“His Majesty wants the second son of Marquis Lareche… to be Vel’s husband… In other words, he favored him enough to make him the next emperor.”

 

“I guess that’s why His Majesty made him become the captain of the imperial knights.”

 

“But His Majesty doesn’t know that Marchioness Lareche is a regular guest at my tea parties. It’s not that I’m great, but that’s the result of His Majesty’s carelessness.”

 

“…I remember that whenever my mother addressed Your Majesty… She called you by your nickname. Whether she did it unknowingly or not, she at least knew that the death of Crown Princess Elizabeth wasn’t what Your Majesty wanted. I hope Your Majesty doesn’t feel guilty.”

 

“Thank you… for telling me, little Duchess.”

 

Empress Lireet’s expression improved when she heard it.

 

“Can you tell me what to do with Count Riven? I think I should also mention Marquis Lareche in that message.”

 

“Your Majesty should provide him with false or insignificant information, even if it’s true, that won’t cause much harm if it goes to His Majesty’s ear.”

 

“I hope the medicine is beneficial for your health. It would be great if what the emperor consumes is nothing but the best. I had a pleasant time today. If the emperor asked why I met with Marquis, I would say it was for the sponsorship business. So, can you sign here? Of course, I will cover the sponsorship funds from my own expenses.”

 

“There is something Your Majesty has given me, but I can’t just accept it. Don’t worry. The finances of Duke Marsetta will not be affected even if you sponsor all the orphanages in the Elioter Empire.” Charelize said, handing over a contract signed in neat handwriting to Empress Lireet.

 

“You’re pretty and reliable. Really… thank you.”

 

Charelize saw Empress Lireet wiping away her tears little by little. She knew what she meant by saying pretty, reliable, and her thanks without even asking.

 

* * *

The next day, there was a meeting between the vassals. Charelize, who had originally entered after all the vassals had gathered, sat down first.

 

“Little Duchess…?”

 

“May the blessing of the Goddess Resina reach you.”

 

“Greetings to the little Duchess.”

 

The vassals who greeted each other were all in a tense state. They seemed to be wary of the unusual atmosphere.

 

“There’s an urgent matter, so let’s start the meeting right away, Count Luwen.”

 

“Yes, Your Highness.”

 

Count Luwen, who had been there beforehand because he was the aide, took out the papers he had written and delivered them to Charelize.

 

“From Eralpier Academy, Professor Jeryl, Professor Peshan, and Professor Lipron… From Rosielt Academy, Professor Roddit, Professor Letia, and Professor Kassen will come and hold five meetings as is customary. Do you have any other opinions?”

 

“Professor Jeryl is a very famous person.”

 

“Even though he’s from another empire, Professor Letia’s reputation in the medical world is well known. I think we can proceed as it is.”

 

In turn, Count Artian and Viscount Blanche were added. Last but not least, Charelize nodded. And it was when Count Luwen was about to discuss another agenda.

 

“Professor Jeryl… It might be hard for him to have a long meeting because he is old. How about Professor Winter?” Count Riven interrupted, stuttering his words.

 

“But he’s still working well. He even consistently published papers,” Charelize replied to what she had heard from Empress Lireet.

 

“Ah, then… I agree to proceed like this.” Count Riven awkwardly agreed, avoiding her gaze.

 

“…Yes, thanks for knowing what I mean, Count Riven.”

 

“It’s nothing, Your Highness.”

 

Count Riven remained silent while many things were being talked about after that. Even if Charelize hadn’t heard from Empress Lireet, she seemed to have known immediately that he had joined hands with Harbert IV. On the contrary, she didn’t pressure him because the false information Count Riven would leak in the future would help her.

 

“Well done, everyone.”

 

The meeting went to the end only when the sun went down.

 

* * *

It was two weeks later. In addition to the six professors decided at the vassal meeting, Professor Rajie, whom Baron Alec had talked about, was in the middle of the meeting. In particular, since Professor Rajie’s son was suffering from Liref, there was no way he would miss this opportunity to treat his son. Even if he didn’t come, Charelize wasn’t worried because she still had Ezela.

 

Charelize called Count Riven separately and had a private meeting.

 

“Greetings to the little Duchess. I-I heard you called for me.”

 

“Good to see you, Count Riven. I’m going to run a trade business with the Kingdom of Shische, and I want you to take care of it.”

 

“Why… me…”

 

“Count Riven?”

 

“Usually, this kind of thing… you entrusted it to the Viscount Argen or Count Luwen…”

 

As he said, Charelize usually ordered those who were fluent in speech.

 

“I’ve heard that Countess Riven’s parents lived there. I called you because it seemed like it would be easier if you did that, but you don’t have to do it if you have a lot of work to do. Don’t feel pressured.”

 

“Ah… I understand. I’ll do my best as much as you trust me, Your Highness.”

 

His face brightened when he was told that she had entrusted it because of Countess Riven.

 

“Okay. You have already worked hard. You can leave now.”

 

“Yes, little Duchess.”

 

Charelize watched Count Riven leave the Marsetta Duchy while humming. It was regrettable that Count Riven, who had been with him for a long time, had to be sent that way, just like Baron Ite, who had previously been punished to the death penalty. However, she had a personality that clearly distinguished between public and private life. Charelize moved her quill pen again.

 

“Young Master!”

 

“… What’s going on?”

 

The butler called for Charelize in an urgent voice. She was concentrating on her paperwork and was displeased by being disturbed.

 

“Du… Duke Marsetta has gone missing…”

 

When she sighed and asked, an unexpected answer came back. 

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