Dear My Friend - Chapter 77
Chapter 77 – Rose Tea
“You’ve arrived, Lady Maristella.”
I had been stewing in my thoughts when the carriage finally stopped at the Imperial Palace. When the carriage door opened and I stepped out, I was greeted by the bright sun pouring down on me. I checked my surroundings, then gave a slight frown.
‘Where’s Sir Dilton?’
I didn’t see a stitch of the butler, who usually waited for me and greeted me at my arrival. A sense of unease nagged at me. It was then I realized that I arrived at the palace much earlier than usual.
“What’s wrong, My Lady?” Florinda inquired.
“I guess we’re too early.”
“Is Sir Dilton there?” she said as she clutched at the glass jar.
“Huh. It’s the first time I’ve come this early,” I noted. “I was nervous for no reason…”
“Oh no. Then what should we do?” Florinda asked, her face lined with worry, and I took a moment to think about my situation. I already knew the way from the gates to Thurman Palace anyway from my past few visits. My feet didn’t hurt when I walked the distance there, so I thought I could undertake the journey on my own. Perhaps I could make my arrival a surprise.
“Let’s go on our own for now. What do you think?” I asked Florinda.
“What if you miss each other on the way?”
“Don’t worry. There’s only one way from here to Thurman Palace. Our paths will align. There’s no way we’ll miss each other.”
“Really?” Florinda’s eyes widened, and I gave her a smile and a nod as reassurance. Only then was she determined to go. “Then let’s go by ourselves, My Lady. The sun’s a little strong today, so if you stay out too long like this, your face will tan.”
“Alright, then. Can I hold the jar for you?” I offered out of consideration, but Florinda jumped on the spot when she heard me.
“My word. If I’m here but you’re carrying this, then what would my purpose be? I would be talked about as a bad maid who makes my master carry things!” she said with a horrified expression.
I looked on in embarrassment. “Aah, that’s too much of a leap. Are you sure?”
“This is the Imperial Palace. We all have to be careful about our positions,” Florinda said seriously. “I’ll hold this, My Lady. It’s not that heavy.”
“Alright…” I trailed off.
Florinda’s mind seemed set, so I put aside the issue and began to walk. In truth, I was a little worried since this was my first time going to Thurman Palace without an escort. I wasn’t too bad with directions, but the palace compound was enormous.
“Can we get there fine?” Florinda asked from behind me. Unfortunately, I could give no confirmation, but being uncertain seemed a bit irresponsible. It was her first trip here, and she was only following me.
“Don’t worry about it,” I said confidently. “We’ll arrive without any problems.”
To be sure, I would arrive safely at Thurman Palace with Florinda.
Regrettably, however, our walk wasn’t incident-free.
“Sir Dilton,” Xavier said in a low voice, and the butler answered reverently.
“Yes, Your Highness.”
“When are you going to meet Lady Maristella? Time is an issue here.”
Dillon nodded. “Ah. I was just about to go out. They usually arrive at this hour.”
“But you should leave early just in case. You can’t leave them waiting.”
“Of course. I’ll be going now, Your Highness.”
Then, for a time, only a quiet atmosphere remained in Xavier’s office. Twenty minutes later, there was a quick rap on the door.
Xavier knitted his brows at the sound. “Who is it?” he asked.
“Your Highness,” Dilton’s voice said sharply from beyond the door, and Xavier was taken aback by the urgency butler’s tone. Did anything happen?
“What’s going on?” Xavier asked, and Dilton rushed in the room. Sweat beaded his forehead, and he was heaving deep breaths.
Xavier could not wait. “Dilton,” he said impatiently.
“Speak clearly, Sir Dilton. Who is missing?” Xavier asked, but even as he spoke, he already knew the answer. Who else could Dilton be talking about? There was only one person it could be.
“Lady Maristella… I can’t find her.”
“I can’t find her. The carriage has arrived, but the carriage driver says it was about thirty or forty minutes since she got off—”
“But she hasn’t arrived at Thurman Palace yet.” Xavier quickly took stock of the situation. “Does that mean no one knows where she is?”
“Yes, Your Majesty.”
Xavier’s face paled when his worry became true.
Maristella was missing—and even more seriously, inside this vast palace compound!
Xavier couldn’t keep a curse from escaping his mouth. “Shit.”
“Your Highness.” Sir Dilton looked at Xavier with a pale face. “Shall we order the knights to look for her?”
“I suppose so. She’s in the palace, right?”
The problem was that the palace compound was so huge that it could not be searched in a single day. One could be lost in its halls forever, and that was no joke.
The Yonas Imperial Palace was known for its labyrinthine complexity. The Crown Prince and Sir Dilton knew that better than anyone else, and had reason to worry for Maristella’s well-being. Additionally, Maristella only knew the way from the palace gate to Thurman Palace, and nowhere else. Nothing was worse than a first-timer getting lost in the palace. And if she was bad with directions, it would be cause for even greater concern.
Xavier stared out the window with an anxious expression.
‘Where is she? I hope there are no problems…’
Sir Dilton, seeing the worry plain on Xavier’s face, did his best to reassure him. “Don’t worry, Your Highness. If you mobilize the Thurman Palace knights, you’ll find her sooner or later.”
“Yes.” Xavier gave the command in a voice that was still tinged with nervousness. “Find her as soon as possible, Sir Dilton.”
“What kind of tea do you like?”
I was flustered by the first question, but I answered as calmly as I could. “I can drink anything.”
“I’m asking about your preferences. Just say it,” the man said with a relaxed smile on his lips. “There is not a tea that exists that I do not have.” The man’s tone bordered on arrogance, but revealed a confidence that didn’t seem to hide a bluff. As if he were lord of the heavens since a child.
“So you don’t need to worry about it,” the man finished.
Indeed. I was now facing Emperor Henry XIV.
“Then I’ll like a dried rose tea, Your Majesty the Emperor.”
Your Majesty the Emperor. Oh man. When did I ever expect those words to actually leave my lips?
It felt strange. I called Claude “Your Grace” and Xavier “Your Highness”, but this was the first time I said “Your Majesty.” How many of the young ladies of the Empire ever said that title?
“Dried rose tea,” Emperor Henry murmured with a curious look on his face. Oh, did he dislike that? I hastily tried to amend my request.
“If you don’t like that, I can choose another one—”
“We’ll have two cups of it,” he ordered.
“Yes, Your Majesty,” a servant said.
I clamped my mouth shut in embarrassment. I never felt such an oppressive atmosphere from Xavier. As if to make sure that everyone knew the fact that he was still Emperor, a tremendous spirit and charisma overflowed from Henry even though he was sitting still.
‘Will Xavier eventually come to resemble his father?’
One couldn’t deny their blood. I tried imagining Xavier exuding an aura of grandeur and power, but somehow I couldn’t. An involuntary burst of laughter escaped from my lips.
“Why are you laughing?” Emperor Henry asked.
Oops. I quickly wiped the grin off my face. “I’m sorry, Your Majesty. That was rude of me.”
“No, I’m curious. Why did you laugh?”
“I…” I hesitated for a moment before speaking honestly. “I was thinking about the Crown Prince.”
“…In what sense?”
“I imagined him looking like his father if he were to be crowned as the emperor in the future.”
I squirmed a little after saying this. What if the Emperor took it the wrong way?
“I don’t mean anything wrong. It was just hard to imagine—” I said quickly, panicking.
“Yes. I see,” Emperor Henry said, cutting me off, and I shyly dropped my gaze.
After a moment, the rose tea was served. It smelled so delicious that I smiled.
“You must like roses,” he observed.
That came out of the blue, and Emperor Henry laughed when my eyes widened in surprise.
“It’s because you asked for rose tea. Usually when in the Imperial Palace, one usually asks for something more expensive,” he explained.
“I’m only an amateur when it comes to tea,” I said with an embarrassed expression. “I don’t know much about the difference between expensive and cheap tea. So I usually choose what I just like.”
“You’re not greedy.”
“Not really… I just choose what I like, Your Majesty. Something expensive doesn’t necessarily guarantee happiness.”
As I spoke, I suddenly wondered if I was overstepping my bounds. Should I be more cautious while in front of the Emperor? He looked so much like Xavier that I spoke comfortably without realizing it.