“No, not at all.”
“I think you must have been surprised by the sudden invitation.”
“No, I think there’s a good reason.”
Then she smiled again. Perhaps because of her light green hair and dark green eyes, I didn’t feel any sharpness or bad intention from her. Of course, I thought the atmosphere wouldn’t be good today. The real atmosphere would only be revealed after the empress arrived.
“Thank you for your understanding. Shall we go inside?”
I followed her inside. Since I couldn’t bring my escort to the meeting with the empress, I let Ian wait in the carriage.
Marchioness Segbay led me into the parlor. She was much kinder than I expected, but I couldn’t let my guard down. No matter how kind she was, she was the person of the empress.
I followed her and looked closely at the surroundings. Marchioness Segbay sat down opposite me in the parlor and asked her attendant to serve the tea. Soon after the simple refreshment was placed between the two of us, Marchioness Segbay was still at ease.
“Have a drink. It smells pretty good.”
“Thank you, Madam.”
While her gaze was away for a moment, I dropped a tiny white grain I had prepared into the teacup. The grain, smaller than the grain of rice, melted away as soon as they touched the hot tea. I drank the tea only after confirming that the color of the tea water didn’t change.
This white grain is made from medicinal herbs that respond to various poisons, so if the tea was poisoned, it darkened the color. No matter how elegant it looked, I didn’t know how well they hid their hostility, so I prepared in advance. However, seeing that it was still clearly the same color as the first, I was relieved.
As she said, the tea smelled really good. I didn’t know Marquis Segbay had such good tea. It wasn’t the scent of tea sold in the market.
“It’s my first time smelling it, and it’s really luxurious. It also feels elegant.”
Marchioness Segbay smiled at my words. “Thank you for noticing. Excluding the amount that goes to the Imperial family, it’s a very precious tea that comes out enough for our family to enjoy.”
“Ah, no wonder…”
Even after a few light words were exchanged and the teacup was empty, Marchioness Segbay didn’t think of getting up. Rather, she was a person who would spend more time pouring tea into a teacup.
The appointment time has already passed, but is she coming late on purpose? I glanced at the clock without realizing it.
Marchioness Segbay opened her mouth again, holding the teacup as if she had seen me uneasy.
“I think you might be wondering why I invited you today. Also, whose invitation is it?”
She finally got to the point. I quietly put down the teacup and nodded.
“Yes, I’m actually curious.”
“Do you have any idea?”
“I thought Her Majesty might have called for me.”
“Yes, Her Majesty has requested. Because she’s curious about Lady Blake Ariandel.”
“Ah, I see… then today.”
“Well, first of all, I apologize I couldn’t tell you about that in advance. I will apologize now.”
When I asked what it meant, Marchioness Segbay put on a slightly embarrassed expression.
“As planned today, Her Majesty the Empress was supposed to come here, as Lady Ariandel thought. However, she said there was a little problem and that she couldn’t come.”
I expected the meeting wouldn’t be easy, but I couldn’t believe she wasn’t coming at all. This was something that I expected. It was disappointing that I had to prepare according to the taste of the empress. Or should I rather think it was fortunate that we didn’t meet?
“Ah, I see…”
“That’s why I met Lady Ariandel like this. I hope you don’t feel offended.”
“No, I am not offended at all. However, I’m curious about the reason why Her Majesty asked to see me.”
Marchioness Segbay nodded as if she understood my feelings. “I think so too, but Her Majesty wants to see Lady Ariandel in person and talk to you, so I can’t tell you. However, I think that Lady Ariandel also guessed to some extent. Do you understand what I mean?”
She spoke in a roundabout way again this time, but there was no difficulty in confirming my prediction. Anyway, the fact that I couldn’t see the empress today was so exhausting that I couldn’t help it. That means there was no reason for me to stay any longer.
Marchioness Segbay said the empress would contact me again soon, within a very short period of time. I already felt exhausted because I had to wait and prepare for that day again. Marchioness Segbay kept her eyes on me while saying that. As if she had been ordered by the empress, she didn’t want to miss anything from head to toe.
When I thought about that, I even thought that the empress might be intended not to appear today from the beginning, not because she had a really unavoidable situation. I didn’t know if it was because she wanted something from me.
Marchioness Segbay continued to ask me some light questions afterward. It wasn’t important. She also asked about Count Ariandel and the atmosphere in society. In the end, I came out after spending time with Marchioness Segbay. Marchioness personally sent me out, and she mentioned again that I would meet the empress in the near future.
I wondered why she had to say it so many times, but it wasn’t until the next day that I went to see Juri del Chartero that I understood what she meant.
“Blake. Actually, Her Majesty is in the parlor right now.”
As soon as I got off the carriage, Juri, who had welcomed me, quickly led me to another room instead of the parlor as soon as I passed the front door and entered the hallway.
I whispered lowly, “You say Her Majesty is here?”
“Yes. I’m sorry I didn’t tell you in advance. I couldn’t help it because Her Majesty’s request suddenly came in. I heard it from my father. I can only guess, but does Blake know why Her Majesty is looking for you?”
“Yes, roughly. Actually, I was scheduled to see Her Majesty yesterday, but it was canceled.”
Juri apologized for not being able to tell me in advance, but she couldn’t help it either. The family’s authority still belonged to her father, and even her father was requested by the empress.
“It’s okay. I would have done the same. Rather, thank you for telling me now. I would have been surprised if I met Her Majesty right in the parlor.”
I swept her arm as if to reassure the Jury. Then, her expression brightened, and Juri led me to the parlor.
“I don’t think she’s going to talk about anything serious. She said she had a separate schedule in the afternoon. I guess it won’t take long. But I can’t go inside.”
Juri stopped at the door of the parlor. When I nodded, she opened the door with a rather serious face. Soon, I saw the empress sitting in the center.
“I see Your Majesty the Empress.”
Juri first greeted the empress with courtesy. I bent my knees the same way as her.
“Greetings to Her Majesty the Empress, one of the suns of the Empire. My name is Blake Ariandel.”
Juri lightly greeted the empress and left, leaving me alone with the empress sitting face to face.
“I was sorry to make you walk in vain yesterday.”
“No, Your Majesty.”
Seen up close, the empress looked much more like Valery than she looked from afar. If Valery was a woman, if the color of his eyes were exactly the same, he would look just like the empress when he got older. The empress’s eyes were also blue, close to purple.
I waited with bated breath for her to speak, then the empress’s mouth opened.
“Actually, it’s been a while since I’ve seen Lady Ariandel. Maybe two years ago. I heard you’ve been very sick for a while. Are you okay now?”
“Yes, I am much better now.”
“That’s a relief. I could see that the second prince was putting his mind to you, so my eyes went to you without realizing it. That’s why I asked for a meeting like this.”