Lady To Queen - Chapter 15
On the evening of the reception, Patrizia wore the most beautiful red dress she had. Its intense hue and golden embroidery were too flashy for her tastes, but she would wear it for tonight’s banquet. It was far too important an occasion to overlook. The Emperor would receive the envoys, while the Queen would welcome their wives separately. There could not be any mistakes related to diplomacy on the national level. Patrizia scrutinized each detail of her appearance in the mirror and double-checked everything that had to be done.
“Is all the food ready?”
“Yes, Your Majesty, it’s taken care of. Not only the food, but all the other small matters as well.”
“Well done, Mirya. You’ve worked hard,” Patrizia complimented. She checked her smile in the mirror and adjusted the crown on her head, when a maid entered the room with two other people.
“Your Majesty, I believe you should go now. The delegation has arrived.”
“Very well,” she replied in a calm voice, and turned around and stepped out the door. As she walked towards the meeting place at the central palace, she addressed Mirya.
“Did the Baroness accept the invitation?”
Although Patrizia did not give a name, Mirya understood who she meant immediately, as there would be only one baroness at the banquet tonight. “She replied three days ago.”
“I expected it, but…” Patricia said, but then trailed off. They arrived at the palace. Patrizia arranged her dress once more, then walked inside.
Several beautiful noblewomen had already arrived and were seated at the dinner table, but as soon as they saw Patrizia, they rose to their feet.
“Greetings to the Moon of the Empire. Glory to Her Majesty,” they said at the same time. Everyone then sat down. Patrizia glanced around at the attendees as if she were looking for someone. Duchess Bringstone noticed it and gave her the answer to her unspoken question.
“Your Majesty, Baroness Phelps will be late.”
“I see,” Patrizia replied calmly and nodded. As soon as she sat down, the ladies began to pour out their compliments. Because some of them were from families that produced queen candidates, they were generally friendly to her.
“I admit that my expectations were lowered because you’ve never done anything like this, but your preparations are wonderful.”
“I’m flattered, Duchess Witherford. I’m glad you’re enjoying yourself.”
“Your Majesty, why did you bother to invite the Baroness?” Marquess Bringstone interrupted. She was Raphaella’s mother and had an air of strong wisdom about her. Patrizia gave her a thoughtful gaze and answered back calmly.
“What do you mean by that?”
“Aren’t all the women gathered here a marquess or duchess? I wondered why you invited a woman who is only a baroness, and is also the Emperor’s concubine.”
“If I didn’t, what if she takes the issue to His Majesty behind the scenes? That’s why I invited her instead.”
Of course, that wasn’t the real reason, but Patrizia wore an enigmatic smile. Everyone in the room felt a strange atmosphere to her words, but no one said anything against it. If that was what the queen said, then so be it.
“Sorry I’m late, Your Majesty.” A clear voice shattered the quiet. The person who walked in was obviously invited by Patrizia, but to everyone else, she was an unwelcome guest.
“Welcome, Baroness. You’re late,” Patrizia greeted her with a bright smile. She gave Rosemond a once over and added, “It must have taken a long time to get dressed. Your dress is beautiful.”
Neither the speaker nor the listener accepted it as a compliment, but they played along for the sake of appearances. Patrizia offered her to sit down.
“Please have a seat. The envoys’ wives will be here soon.”
“Thank you for your invitation, Your Majesty. Everyone here is higher ranked than me and I wondered if I could join them, and I’m grateful you invited me here.”
“Not at all,” Patrizia said warmly.
Marquess Grochester watched Patrizia with an anxious look. Her daughter didn’t behave like this the last time they met, and it felt like someone else had taken her place. On the surface, however, Marquess Grochester did not say anything.
Countess Arjeldo spoke up next. “You look beautiful tonight, Your Majesty. I heard that you don’t usually wear red dresses, but it was special for the occasion.”
Patrizia nodded. “Ah, you’re quick to observe, Countess. As you noticed, I’m feeling in the mood today.”
“Oh, is there any special reason? I don’t think it’s just about the banquet.”
“You’re right. It’s not just about tonight.” Patrizia smiled and fiddled with the glass of water in front of her. “I recently received a gift. It made me feel so happy.”
“A gift?” Marquess Grochester said wonderingly. “What kind of gift made you feel so happy?”
“A good one. It was probably the best gift I’ve received since I entered the palace.”
“Is it that dress, Your Majesty?” Duchess Vasi asked, but Patrizia shook her head.
“No. It wasn’t that kind of thing.”
“So, what is it?”
“It was a gift that made my mind and body stronger. And I feel stronger. So it made me feel good.”
“That’s still a mystery, Your Majesty. Can you show it to us?”
“Of course, Duchess Witherford. But I’m afraid I can’t show you right now. I’ll do it later. Is that alright?”
Duchess Witherford nodded, and Patrizia smiled again. Rosemond, who kept quiet the whole time, interrupted.
“I would like to give you a gift too, Your Majesty. Will that be alright?” Rosemond asked.
Patrizia turned her gaze towards her. What else was the concubine trying to pry herself into this time? A surge of anxiety and interest rose in her. “Is there any particular reason, Baroness?”
“It’s a special reason,” Rosemond replied with a pure smile. “I heard you helped me get the tile, Your Majesty. I wouldn’t be sitting here now if you hadn’t helped me. How could someone from a poor family face the Emperor? That is why I have never forgotten the grace you have given me since I moved to the Bain Palace.”
There was nothing wrong with Rosemond’s words, but something about them disturbed Patrizia’s mind. However, she smiled calmly and did not let her suspicion show.
“Thank you, Baroness. It was not a difficult task. I hear you’ve been with His Majesty for a year without me there, and I should pay you that much.”
“I am happy that you acknowledge my hard work, Your Majesty. I hope we can maintain this relationship in the years to come.”
“A relationship works smoothly when both sides are friendly. If one side conceals any wickedness, it’s all over, Baroness.”
“I also think like you, Your Majesty. You’re as intelligent as I’ve heard.”
“Thank you.” Patrizia didn’t look sincere at all, but neither Rosemond nor Patrizia said anything on it. The atmosphere was unusually strained after their exchange, and the other noblewomen, including Marquess Grochester, were on edge.
Fortunately, the tense mood was broken by Mirya’s appearance. “Your Majesty, the other guests have arrived. Do you wish for me to bring them inside?”
“Of course. Let them in, Mirya.”
The room soon livened as the guests joyfully entered the room. Their ages ranged from young to old, and it was impressive that even an elderly woman made it to a foreign country by ship. Patrizia fluently greeted them in their country’s language.
“Welcome. I’ve been looking forward to your visit.” In the last life, when Petronilla had been hosting tea parties, Patrizia stayed at home learning the language of the Christa Empire, who was allied with the Mavinous Empire. She didn’t know when it would be useful, and she couldn’t have imagined that it would be in a situation like now. One of the guests, who seemed to be the leader of the group, was impressed by Patrizia’s language skills.
“Thank you for your hospitality, Moon of the Mavinous Empire. It’s an honor to meet the new queen. I’m Duchess Verika of the Christa Empire.”
“It’s a pleasure to meet you as well. Everyone, please sit.”
“Yes, Your Majesty.” The ladies sat down in the empty seats reserved for them. The Christa women all had dark hair and dark skin, which was an unusual sight in the Mavinous Empire. It felt strange to Patrizia, but she did not show any sign she did so, fearing that it might be rude.
“You must be tired from coming a long way, so please eat. Our palace chef is wonderful.”
“I’m very excited to hear that. I hear the food from the Mavinous Empire is delicious.”
“Thank you, Duchess. I hope that it’s up to your expectations.” Patrizia signalled Mirya, and soon after, countless maids entered bringing in dozens of plates of food. The scent of the meat dishes wafted in the air, and the bright color of the vegetable dishes pleased the eye. There was the audible sound of someone swallowing, and if it weren’t impolite, every mouth would be drooling.
Rosemond glanced towards Patrizia and smiled to herself. The steaks that the maids were carrying were originally beef, but she made sure they were replaced with pork. Of course, a professional chef could distinguish the difference between them, but it was not easy to do so. Just before the chef started cooking, she had the beef swapped with pork meat that was colored and shaped just like the beef.
“Oh, that steak looks delicious,” Rosemond said innocently. “The meat must be very good.”
“That’s right, Baroness. I specifically asked the chef to cook the best quality meat. So please eat to your heart’s content. I hope everyone will enjoy it.”
“Yes, Your Majesty.”
Rosemond gave Patrizia a wry glance, then soon began to gracefully slice the steak. She deliberately sliced hers slower than the others so she could watch them eat. One of the Christa ladies sitting near her placed a fairly large-sized piece of steak in her mouth with an expectant expression. Just because pork was not allowed in the Christa Empire, it did not mean they didn’t know the taste of pork.
Rosemond placed a slice of the steak in her mouth in anticipation of the uproar that was about to happen. But…