Wilhelm’s face, who was left alone, was still expressionless to the point where it was difficult for anyone to read his mind.
But there was definitely a crack. It was a crack caused by a wave of emotions.
I told you to rest.
Anastasia’s activities were reported by Colton almost every day.
She ignores me and keeps working.
And every time he felt weirdly twisted. Perhaps it was anger because of her continued defiance.
“I want to thank you for what happened the other day.”
He remembered what Duke Barantes had said to him earlier.
“What are you talking about?”
“For praising Her Majesty’s achievements.”
“I’m just stating the obvious. I don’t think it’s something to be thankful for.”
“You could have taken it away. There were a lot of precedents like that.”
“Her Majesty is trying hard to change her reputation these days. The emperor’s praise paid it off.”
“It’s good for me, too. Now that the queen is finally doing her job. Everything’s back to normal.”
Yes, the whole situation has entered a stable orbit as he had hoped.
Even if their marital relationship is as cold as it used to be, it’s not that important to him.
Because that’s secondary. Most of all, he doesn’t like her.
By the way…
Why is it so uncomfortable?
He felt uncomfortable. It’s annoying and bothersome. The problem with her is strangely so.
“I’m here to report on today’s work.”
The sound he had heard from her little mouth was a frightened sob, not a cold report.
Nevertheless, when he heard her calm voice, he got angry.
He felt countless emotions from the moment he received the letter, and the feeling that his unidentified inner turmoil was completely denied.
“…… Should I go back today pretending I didn’t see you?”
When he heard the question, he almost said yes.
He’s been thinking since he got the letter. If a reply was possible immediately, he would have been happy to send it.
Come back. Just, come back. Right now.
“You know. If I had delayed, I would never have achieved anything like today.”
He knew it. That’s when he realized. That he just wanted her to come back, which was quite different from his usual self.
He who values the safety of the empire above all else could never think of such a thing. He can’t tell her to put aside the empire for her own safety.
So, it’s weird. At that moment, his first thought was her safety, not his long-cherished desire. Not her beloved empire, but the woman he hates.
When he realized that, he felt terrified.
This confusing and inexplicable emotion instinctively dominated his whole body.
It’s unpleasant. It’s annoying and I hate it.
So, he got angrier on purpose.
“I’m not happy and I’m not grateful.”
He uttered a stinging remark.
“…go back now.”
Like a little child was doing his best to hide his fears, he sent her away.
It wasn’t like him.….
But at the time, wasn’t it uncharacteristic of the empress?
“You don’t have to thank me, but I thought you’d like it.”
“I thought you’d like……it.”
Why, the eyes that said that looked sad as if they were about to cry. She looked hurt.
Wilhelm rolled up his fist strongly recalling the impulse of the moment when he almost hugged her without realizing it.
She, that stubborn woman, wouldn’t get hurt no matter what his reaction is.
His reaction wouldn’t mean anything to her.
It was just, they were both weird that day.
It seems that the empress has become strange and he has become strange, too. Her weirdness is contagious.
He just thought so and had no choice but to rationalize the strangeness of the moment.
In the Rosenberg Empire, which worships the goddess Rosenia, rituals for the goddess are held under the leadership of the temple every odd month.
It was a very large and meaningful event attended by nobles from the provinces as well as the emperor’s ministries.
The ritual for the goddess was also the first event Anastasia attended since her return.
“Just a plain white dress. I better wear accessories that are made of gold, but not too much.”
Anastasia said, just in case.
Turns out she was dressed as if she was going to a party at the last ritual for the Goddess……
She also said that time, “If I dress up nicely, won’t the goddess like it?”
It was not surprising to hear it now.
“By the way, the emperor is likely to arrive a little late today.”
Mrs. Rochester told Anastasia as if she had almost forgotten. Anastasia’s eyes grew bigger when she heard it.
“There must have been an unexpected problem in the area he left for yesterday’s inspection. Sir Colton told me earlier that he wouldn’t be too late.”
That’s a relief.
Anastasia breathed a sigh of relief without realizing it.
I don’t know about other times, but this time it’s so uncomfortable.
No wonder, she hasn’t seen him again since she last came back from Santorov.
It was perhaps natural that he would not visit her, and that his radius of action did not deviate much from the Empress Palace.
If he arrives in the middle of the ritual, they won’t have to talk to each other. Maybe she can return to the Imperial Palace without any problems.
“As expected, you’re dressed casually, but you’re so beautiful. It’s dazzling!”
Starting with Selene’s fuss, other maids also added;
“That’s right. Even pearls cannot hide their true value, no matter how much they are buried in mud.”
“You look like an angel from the sky today. How holy and elegant!”
“Everyone might mistake the Empress for the Goddess Rosenia!”
“Haha, thank you all.”
Anastasia was finally able to escape from thinking of Wilhelm thanks to the cheerful voices of the maids.
It was embarrassing to hear that an angel had come, but…….
“Madam, isn’t she beautiful to look at?”
At Selene’s question, Mrs. Rochester stared at Anastasia for a long time and opened her mouth.
“Of course, Her Majesty wears everything like a fashion book.”
“I don’t think anyone can deny that. It’s just….”
But…? Anastasia and the other maids opened their eyes wide and noticed Mrs. Rochester’s continuing words.
“If you don’t want to be late, you’ll have to leave now, Your Majesty.”
Anastasia smiled and nodded unconsciously at Mrs. Rochester’s words with a slight impatience.
The weather was clear and cloudless.
When she arrived at Rosenberg Cathedral in a carriage, many nobles had already gathered to attend the memorial service.
“Here comes the Empress!”
When someone who found Anastasia’s carriage shouted, everyone’s eyes turned to Anastasia, who was getting off from the carriage.
“I see the moon of the empire!”
“Greetings to Her Majesty.”
Countless nobles bowed their heads before Anastasia. Anastasia was greeted by everyone with a puzzled yet elegant smile.
It feels like it was just yesterday when I got mocking stares here.
Compared to the memorial service of Emperor Charles, the attitudes of people that changed so much were awkward and pleasant.
“Your Majesty, you are here.”
Then, a priest approached Anastasia and greeted her.
“Welcome to the moon of the Empire. I’ll take you this way.”
Anastasia, guided by the priest, went to the altar and found an empty reserved seat for Wilhelm. The seat next to it was hers. The designated seat of the emperor’s ministries was the only one close to the altar, far from other nobles.
So, while waiting for the ceremony to begin, Anastasia became a little bored.
But this is better than having Wilhelm next to me.
Besides, the waiting time was not that long. Anastasia sat down and soon the crowd cleared up quickly. In time, the sound of drums and trumpets was heard regularly, and the ceremony began in earnest.
Riel, the priest who was in charge of the priesthood, went up to the altar in a white robe and appeared before everyone.
His appearance with red roses and olive branches, the symbols of the goddess Rosenia, combined with the acrid smoke of incense, highlighted a more sacred appearance.
In time, more than ten female priests came up to the altar and ignited the torch, and in an instant the flames burned around the altar where Riel was.
Anastasia, holding her breath in the series of mysterious images, looked at the altar with concentration.
“Goddess Rosenia, the creator of all life and the light of truth, who sowed the seed of the beginning in Rosenberg.”
Standing in front of the statue on the altar, Riel shook red roses and olive branches and spoke with a solemn voice.
“It is a glorious and rich month of art that resembles the beauty of the goddess, honoring the greatness of the goddess Rosenia on the day of the sun, when the goddess first set foot on this land.”
Riel made a slow turn and knelt in front of the statue. It was a very elegant and restrained movement.
“In return for the grace of the goddess, who gives joy and hope in Rosenberg, I, Riel, the vicar of the goddess, offer thanks with indescribable respect and affection.”
When Riel finished praying with her arms outstretched and tried to lay roses and olive branches in front of the statue.
Dark clouds suddenly began to form in the clear sky, and the surroundings turned dark in an instant.
The sound of thunder was constantly heard, creating a bizarre and dreary atmosphere.
People who were confused by this strange and sudden phenomenon began to chatter, but Riel continued to pray firmly without giving in to the noise around him.
“On behalf of all the lives of Rosenberg, I offer my pure and innocent faith to the great goddess……!”
It was at that moment.
Lightning fell from the sky and struck Riel as it was, with an eardrum-splitting thunder.
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