7.2 The Queen and the Duchess -Interlude-
With a smile, I welcomed a man into the room. He was a merchant frequented by the royal family.
Tanned skin and features excluding cheerfulness—such traits belonged to no noble. They were exquisitely his.
“Luke, have you come with what I’ve requested?”
“Certainly, Your Grace.”
A wide array of compelling goods were laid on the table.
Desserts coming from a distant and foreign land; clothes dyed a rarely seen hue; a hair ornament as complicated to put on as it is designed…
“Th-this is the first time I’ve seen any of these…”
“No wonder, Young Miss, for today’s wares are truly exceptional. I’m not trying to boast, but I went through a lot to get my hands on them.”
…When in truth, trading with foreign countries is your forte.
“Fufu, if they are indeed as special as you claim, then I dare you to present something unusual; something the people of this kingdom have never seen!”
He fulfilled my nonchalant order almost immediately.
“Hey, Anne Marie.”
“You see, there’s a lot in this world I haven’t had the opportunity to see either.”
We, ladies of the noble upbringing, could only see the world through our windows.
Most of our lives were focused on education and training so that one day we could be married into an influential house.
Gilbert was to be Anne’s ‘window’ through which she would expand her horizon in regards to the world.
His vast knowledge was probably the main reason she fell for him.
…But Anne, he isn’t the only way for you to broaden your universe. You should know that.
“To acquire these, Luke travels from one country to another—and that’s where my stories of foreign lands originate from.”
“Wow! Really? That’s amazing!”
Luke followed with, “Regarding those stories, I find our Queen’s taste rather unique, as well… Tales coming straight from the adventurers of this kingdom won’t do for her, nor do those epic ballads sung by the bards. Instead, she finds ones detailing the lifestyles and traditions of people from different countries her cup of tea. Tales that can only be found by actually going there.”
It did not escape Maria’s eyes how Anne Marie beamed at every word spoken by Luke.
…Ironically, that expression is very similar to Gilbert’s during his research.
Those two, they might actually be more alike than I thought…
“So! Under that cover, the wolf is still playing as a sheep! As always, you never cease to amaze the witch me, Maria!”
The encounter happened right after the tea party, when I was about to return to my royal bed chamber. …Somehow, there was another presence besides me in the hallway.
—Witch; a tribe that excelled at brewing medicine and inflicting maledictions. They were familiar with strange, unexplained things of the world. They lived longer than the average human, and in fact, it seemed like they never aged. As a nomadic tribe, they wandered around the lands.
The concept of social status didn’t exist between them.
Thus, in front of one, I was allowed to forget my own, even if just for a little while.
Spica seemed to favor this kingdom, since she always came to visit once in a year.
Occasionally, she would advice me when I got sick. No matter how flawless of a front I put, it would never trick her keen eyes.
“Let me guess—you miss the food of our country, hence you came.”
“Hmmm, well, there’s that.”
Spica continued drinking as she told me she was requested to help beat some senses into Gilbert.
He would go that far?
“Oho, my mighty Queen, I can see wrinkles forming between your brows~” She brazenly pointed out. “Don’t worry~ I came here as someone who wanted to help her friend.”
Spica added, “And by ‘help’, I mean to prevent history from repeating itself—the reign of the former king.”
Dion hated his father for his political negligence.
And this witch knew it better than anyone.
“For a king to not care about politics—I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.” Everyone had that irrational side to them—even the highest government official. “Truly, if my whole life wasn’t spent roaming the land, and instead, was here—I would’ve destroyed it since long ago.” A witch of unknown age said that, while laughing with a smile that didn’t befit her stature. Her eyes were brimming with intent.
“Refrain from saying auspicious things like that here. If you wanted to look cool, that’s not how you do it.” To my complaint, she just chuckled and sipped another draught of wine.
“Okay, okay~ as long as the food here is good, that’ll unlikely happen.”
“…Good. I’ll request a grand banquet from the cook.”
“Please do so~”
She sure laughs a lot…
“Maria, aren’t you too strict with Gilbert?”
“Of course I am! He’s a vile person who deserves no better treatment than that.”
“Hohoho, is that really all that’s there to it~?”
This is why I despise the witch.
As much as I loathed to admit it—Gilbert and I certainly resembled each other.
We let arrogance cloud our judgment.
And the consequences for us both were dire;
Viscount Groc’s plan to wreak havoc on the Ball, I totally didn’t see it coming. Needless to say, many were injured.
Gilbert acted like a know-all, sending gifts to Anne Marie without any regards to her feeling. In the end, he lost her.
That was why I absolutely couldn’t forgive him—
—because looking at him is like looking at a mirror reflecting my own sins.
Unintentionally, I had grown silent, which earned me a boisterous laugh.
“Ohoho! Your impeccable silence just made my day!”
“No~ please don’t hate me?”
What he did was unforgivable.
But in all honesty, facing one’s mistakes was harder than everyone’s contempt.
All in all, I tried as much as I could to admit my own faults.
Then, the witch stood up.
“Well, then~ time for me to go.”
“Why, you seem in a hurry.”
“Since I prefer to finish troublesome things quickly~”. She opened the door, “—ah.” Before she then spun around. “I’m guessing that Luke and that girl have met?”
To Anne Marie whom had suffered this entire time, I wanted her not to spend life in the abbey but instead, seek her own happiness.
“I want the best possible outcome for her future, hence I arrived at this conclusion—“
He’s the only one who can.
“Well, well~ Maria is certainly being helpful this time around,” She teasingly remarked.
I avoided her gaze, “I’m not. I just don’t like someone else going around telling everybody she’s me.”
“Yeah, sure, we all believe in that~”
Finally, she left.
“…I really don’t…”
Left as the only one in the room, I muttered.
Yes, her happiness mattered to me not.
It was normal for someone outstanding to be admired, as well as criticized.
People would kiss up to those like Gilbert and I all to curry favor despite actually loathing us at heart.
—yet, from the bottom of her heart, she praised me.
…Well, not like it matters to me…
Dion asked me, that’s all.
“You see, if it’s me, my dream is to travel around the world and see many, many things!”
I had not forgotten it—the glimmer in her eyes as she told me so during one of our childhood days.
I wanted that glimmer to return to her gaze once again.
None of this should’ve mattered to me…
**T/N: Well, well! We got a tsundere in the house!
Anne Marie gotta be such a good person if she could inspire and be loved by so many people.
Pfft… what’s the best revenge that’s there for a scumbag of a husband who just started to realize his love for his wife after it’s way way too late? NTR of course. Young’uns these days, they moved on so fast…
And Luke, thou shall proof yourself worthy and the title New! Danna-sama is yours.