Lady To Queen - Chapter 6
The final test was upon them, and Patrizia kept her posture aloof. The first two tests seemed to drag, but now she felt stronger and more confident of what was to come.
Patrizia calmly gazed at the Emperor as he stood up to present the final theme. The coldness in his eyes looked no different from what she remembered in her previous life. Any warmth that shone in them was reserved only for Rosemond, and he spared no affection for Petronilla. Patrizia realized she was dwelling on the past again, and she bit her lip to stop the anger and sadness from boiling over beneath her.
“I will announce the last test,” Lucio said. There were no extraneous words of encouragement for the women who had already gone through the first two challenges. Of course not. Patrizia smoothed over her expression; it was not appropriate for the gathering place.
“Throughout history, the Queen has always been a central pillar of support by the Emperor’s side,” Lucio said. “That is why the Queen’s health is of utmost importance.”
What a load of nonsense. Patrizia could barely contain a derisive laugh. He cared not one bit about the health of his empress, only his concubine. Lucio had never visited Petronilla when she was sick, but if Rosemond ever so much as coughed, he immediately sent a palace doctor…
Patrizia suppressed a shudder of anger. She only had to endure this one more day.
“The outcome of the final test will be determined by the health of the queen candidate.”
That was unusual. The Emperor wasn’t going to select someone by intellect, ability, or appearance, but by health.
“The palace doctors will now enter.”
Patrizia was taken aback by his words, for one main reason: This was not the theme she remembered three years ago. The past had changed.
She covered up the surprise on her face. Clearly the first and second themes were the same…but the third was different. What did that mean? She couldn’t hide her confusion as one of the doctors stood before her. What on earth was going on?
“Begin the checkup.”
The four other candidates were similarly bewildered by their situation, but the Emperor and the four other nobles watched the proceedings calmly. Patrizia hesitantly sat herself on the medical chair. She couldn’t believe that this was the final test. The doctor inspected her, confirming it as reality.
After some time, the examination was complete. The final challenge was finished without Patrizia and the other candidates having to say a word. Perhaps all of them felt too uncertain to speak.
“The final results will be announced tonight, and the five queen candidates will wait in their respective places,” the Emperor finished in a stiff tone. “That is all.” Without another glance at them, he strode imperiously out of the hall.
Patrizia was left with confusion as she found herself grappling to adapt to this changed past.
“It wasn’t that quick for a checkup,” Patrizia muttered.
Upon hearing those words, Raphaella set down her own teacup on the table. For their last evening as queen candidates, the two young women were chatting and having tea and in Raphaella’s room.
“The theme is unheard of, but the Emperor is not wrong,” Raphaella said. “The queen is the strongest pillar of support next to the emperor. But…it still makes you nervous, right?”
Patrizia smiled. “You’re a knight, so I’m sure you received the best score.”
Raphaella shook her head emphatically as if it weren’t true. “What does that have to do with anything?”
“There should be a correlation. The other four queen candidates, including myself, spend our free time sitting around in social gatherings and drinking tea, but you’re always off training. Of course you’d be healthier than we are.”
Raphaella frowned and shook her head a little more lightly than before. “Don’t say terrible things, Rizi. I have no desire to be queen. You know that.”
“Well…that is not up to us.”
Whoever was chosen as queen had to accept their fate. To reject the position would be tantamount to blasphemy against the Imperial Family.
Raphaella, whose gaze had drifted off somewhere for a moment, turned back towards Patrizia and she spoke again. “I wonder how long it will be until the results come out?”
“They said it would be tonight, so perhaps in a couple of hours,” Patrizia said. “Ah…then the rest of the queen candidates can go home.”
She fervently hoped that she would be among them. She fiddled with her now emptied teacup. Whatever the result was, she was at least comforted by the fact that she could finally see her sister tomorrow.
“I should go now,” Patrizia said. “I’ve taken up so much of your time, and you should rest, Ella.” She stood up slowly from her seat.
“I’ll be going home tomorrow anyway, so stay a little longer,” Raphaella said in a saddened voice.
“I don’t want to be rude and keep you up—” Patrizia started, when she was interrupted by the opening of the door. No one had knocked, and Raphaella looked towards the entrance in surprise.
It was Mirya who entered.
Patrizia gave her a puzzled look. “What…what is it, Mirya?”
“My Lady, I…” the lady-in-waiting started, and she glanced at Raphaella. The latter stared back with widened eyes. After a long pause, Mirya took in a breath and continued again. “The results have finally come out.”
“Ah…” Patrizia and Raphaella breathed at the same time. It was a little earlier than expected.
Patrizia placed a hand on her wildly palpitating heart. “Who is it?” she asked calmly, despite the battle raging inside her. Mirya looked alternately between Patrizia and Raphaella, and Patrizia felt a sense of nervous anticipation at her action.
No. It couldn’t be…?
Patrizia bit her lip without realizing it, and Mirya finally announced the results.
“Congratulations, queen candidate Patrizia.”
Patrizia’s heart dropped to the floor. She stared uncomprehendingly at the lady-in-waiting.
Mirya, in a quieter voice than before, corrected her speech. “No, now you’re Queen.”
Patrizia’s ominous premonitions weren’t wrong. To her great misfortune.
She was surprised, but not overly so. Perhaps, in some corner of her mind, she had been expecting this possibility. What she was most startled about, however, what that she gained the position despite the fact she scored poorly in the first two tests. That meant she scored well with her health…
However, she couldn’t get rid of a sense of suspicion and discomfort. The third test was different from the past events she remembered, and the test itself wasn’t a commonly asked requirement in the first place. There was also the fact she only supposedly scored well in a single test. Her health must be so tremendously superior to the other candidates—but that made no sense. How much difference could there be among young women between eighteen and twenty years of age, who were in their years of blooming? The uncertainty weighed heavily on Patrizia.
And now she was queen.
“Lady Patrizia, it’s Mirya. May I come in?”
“Ah, come in, Mirya.”
The lady-in-waiting entered Patrizia’s room, her expression bright. Of course, it was an honor for her to serve the queen candidate who had now become queen. Patrizia wondered if Mirya knew of the rumors circulating the palace…she couldn’t imagine the lady-in-waiting being ignorant of it, and Patrizia’s mood turned depressed.
“Congratulations again, Lady Patrizia,” Mirya said. “The first time we met, I had a good impression of you. I’m happy that I can continue to serve you.”
At that moment, Patrizia’s heart clenched. Mirya, who had once been Petronilla’s servant, was just as kind and loyal as ever. Patrizia’s expression crumbled momentarily, and Mirya noticed it and looked embarrassed.
“Ah, I must have said something wrong…”
Patrizia stepped forward and suddenly pulled Mirya into a hug, and the lady-in-waiting’s eyes widened in even more embarrassment than before. Patrizia held Mirya for a long time, before letting her go and soon making a decision.
“I’ll do my best,” Patrizia vowed. She would do her best, and win. “Thank you,” Patrizia continued. She would never let Mirya die the way she had already died once for her sister.
“You’re welcome. Thank you so much,” Mirya whispered tenderly and smiled. She lifted her head as she remembered something. “Oh, Lady Patrizia. I received a letter from the Grochester estate. Your sister would like to come and see you.”
Patrizia paused, momentarily conflicted. Lady Petronilla. Patrizia would be queen now anyway, so even if Petronilla fell in love with the Emperor, nothing would happen. Her sister was not foolish enough to commit such an act of immorality, and she was as pure as white snow. Patrizia smiled at the thought of seeing her dear sister soon and nodded cheerfully.
“Is there anything else for me to do today, Mirya?”
“Not yet, but over the next two months, Duchess Ephreney will help you prepare for the marriage. In about three days, you will begin education on your royal duties. For now, you may relax.”
“I see,” Patrizia replied. It felt a monumental shift that she would now take the position that her sister once held. It would be her that would now traverse the thorny roads of the future, but she would make it a better outcome for everyone. For her family, and maybe even for the Emperor.
A meaningful smile spread on Patrizia’s face. “Write back to my sister and tell her that she can visit anytime, Mirya.”