I Will Surrender My Position as the Empress - Chapter 52
Lionel’s sharp voice seemed to blend with the Empress’s words. “To eradicate the slums, we must prioritize the removal of the tower.”
During the scorching summer, the stench of the slums would seep to the palace. Unable to bear it any longer, Karl had made plans several times to push that colossal pile of filth away, only to be thwarted by the opposition from the Baldr Estate.
“Then where do all those people in the slums go?” Karl retorted aggressively to Adele.
“Lord Lionel Baldr, did he request that you speak like this?” Karl questioned.
“No, but I offered to go to the slums myself. Hospitals and schools have become scarce, and even basic infrastructure is lacking. I’ve heard that such slums are rampant across the entire empire. Your Majesty, you must remove the Tower,” Adele insisted.
The Empress’s words fell on deaf ears as the Emperor’s thoughts were in disarray when Lionel stood beside her. Lionel Baldr had always been a thorn in Karl’s side, a presence that Karl found hard to ignore.
‘How can Lionel Baldr be so handsome even though he’s still a boy? His bloodline is impeccable, and his abilities are exceptional. If I had one more daughter, I would undoubtedly betroth her to Lionel Baldr.’
The previous Empress held a special affection for the Baldr brothers. She hardly bestowed any affection upon Karl but always favored them. She was also the one who pushed for the engagement between Elizabeth and Theseus. The anger that had been festering and simmering for a long time was now swelling in the face of the Emperor’s outburst.
“The Tower! It’s the foundation of my power! Do you think the nobles would bow their heads to me if it weren’t there?” The Duke of Despone’s whisper sounded as deafening as a bell.
“To Your Majesty, who hails from humble origins, would the nobles bow their lofty heads? You should hold the leash firmly with the Tower,” Adele thought in response. The Emperor’s stubbornness was approaching a fit, and Adele felt suffocated by it. Was this really what the Emperor wanted to say? It was so pitiful that it made her seethe with anger.
“How can disaster be the foundation of power? The residents of the slums have lost their means of living and can’t pay taxes. Is there anything more detrimental to your power than a dwindling taxpaying population?”
“That’s enough. Stop now,” the Emperor said, turning his head away, clearly unwilling to hear more. Adele, in response, abruptly stood up and walked angrily to one corner of the study. She fetched a rolled-up map, pushed a teacup aside, and laid the map flat on the table. The map was covered in red ink marks. Karl glared at Adele with an intense gaze, but she paid no attention and pointed at the map with her hand.
“Please, do you know what this is?” Adele stared at the Emperor with piercing eyes.
“It’s a map indicating the influence zones of the tower. Look at how many safe areas there are beyond the reach of the tower and the demons! Is this not a hell?”
Karl’s gaze, which had been locked on Adele, slowly descended to the map.
“With the situation as it is, how do you plan to eradicate the slums in the capital? If you remove them, where will the people who lived there go? Is this not tantamount to a death sentence?” Adele pleaded earnestly to the silent Emperor.
“Actively remove the tower. If you wield your power as a guarantee for the lives of the people, that blade will surely return to you,” Adele implored, waiting anxiously for his response. It wasn’t just for Echmont’s sake but also for herself as the Empress. Even if it was just to fulfill her duty as the Empress, if not love, Adele didn’t want to harbor any hatred toward the Emperor. After all, she had been exiled to this place, as if she had been demoted from the position of the Gottrov Princess. Adele spoke once more, earnestly.
“Please, remove the tower. I will assist you.”
The Emperor, who had been silently gazing at the map, slowly lifted his head.
“Please say that you understand.”
Adele swallowed hard, feeling how the brief moment stretched into an eternity. But when she finally locked eyes with the Emperor, she sensed cold sweat trickling down her back. The determination in his eyes was contrary to her hopes.
“Didn’t I tell you? The Tower is the foundation of my power. If it’s gone, do you think you’ll be safe? Even if the Baldr Estate made some agreement with you at that time?” The Emperor concluded, rising from his seat and alternating his dispassionate gaze between the map and Adele.
“It truly is incomprehensible. Why do you force yourself into such a harsh environment? It should be much more comfortable if you just take my outstretched hand. Isn’t now the time for that? Instead of marking such things on the map,” he sneered, his mockery provoking Adele to rise from her seat and face the Emperor, delivering a warning.
“If the Tower remains as it is, problems will surely arise in the not-so-distant future. I am the Empress of Echmont. If I don’t care, who will attend to this?”
“Look, Your Majesty.”
The Emperor slipped his hand into his pocket and approached Adele, leaning in to whisper into her ear.
“You look good with flowers.”
Adele openly scoffed at the Emperor’s words. “That’s a new one.”
Karl also chuckled and stared intently with his golden eyes. The intense golden light, as close as an outstretched hand, pierced through the thick darkness. The child who had vaguely yearned for recognition had grown into an adult and now wanted to grasp that light differently.
“You’ll help in removing the tower?”
“Correct it properly. I will assist.”
With that delicate face, she dared to confront hell. Even if she had destroyed the tower on her own, wasn’t it just an intermediate tower? She would have received various treatments even during her tours in Gottrov. Very well;, let her give it a try.
“Very well. Then, Empress, the next time the Tower descends, you shall take the lead. I shall send you to the forefront.”
Her challenging golden eyes harbored no fear.
“That’s what I wanted.”
The Emperor twisted his lips. What did she want? Fine. Push her into the harshest place, then. Make sure she can’t say that she’ll do it again with those pretty lips.
Meanwhile, at Gottrov’s Empress’s Palace
“Who is going?”
When the Empress, who was lying down receiving a massage, got up and asked, the maid who delivered the message quickly lowered her head. The maid quickly brought a change of clothes, having sensed the Empress’s mood. The maids retreated as the Empress gestured to the one who had brought the news. Then, as she put on the clothes, she asked again.
“Who is going?”
“Cain Nox and Gavelyn Ruhan have arrived at the harbor secretly.”
These two had been the shadowy figures guarding Adele, serving as key members of Gottrov Tower’s headquarters and filling the void left by the Crown Princess.
“On the Emperor’s orders?”
“It appears so.”
“What else have you found out?”
“It seems that His Majesty the Emperor has sent them a letter, but I couldn’t ascertain the contents.”
“I see. You’ve done well. You may leave.”
As the maid briskly left the room, the Empress heaved a long sigh. As the maid carefully tied her hair, the Empress spoke.
“It’s obvious at first glance. “The emperor thinks so much of his sister. Isn’t it written that she should come back when things get difficult? ”
“Yes, Your Majesty.”
The Empress, lost in thought, muttered softly.
“Deceptive. Would it make you feel better to pretend you’re doing this for the country, leaving your daughter behind?”
Her eyes grew deep and dark, filled with bitterness.
“Adele takes after me. We may have differing opinions that have led us to this point, but if that child had shared my sentiments, Adele would have been the most intriguing ally and my strongest support.”
The thought was heart-wrenching. If Adele had thought like the Empress and become the Emperor of Gottrov, mother and daughter would have shared the world, laughing together.
“Adele, that child, you see, she’s the type who is perfect for the throne, yet simultaneously not suitable at all. Too clear water cannot sustain fish. How many people would give up their lives for their beliefs? How many would understand such individuals?”
When a typhoon strikes, the reeds may survive, but the trees will bend.
“That child is the most ideal Emperor, and paradoxically, only possible in the realm of ideals.”
As the palace maid finished arranging the Empress’s hair, she took a step back and inquired, “What if they bring the Crown Princess to Gottrov?”
To that question, the Empress smirked and shook her head. “That won’t happen.”
The Empress’s eyes, which had been vacant as she gazed into the void, gradually reddened, and tears welled up.
“Before she left, Adele secretly took two vials of a potent poison from the imperial apothecary.”
“Poison, you say?”
The tears falling from her eyes stained her red skirt.
“Yes. She’s a stubborn one, isn’t she? That’s her way of saying she’ll never come back.”
Adele was a child who wouldn’t surrender on days when there was no turning back and chose death instead.
A large merchant ship bound for Echmont began to glide across the water, carried by the breeze. The blue sea broke into white foam, clearing the path. Standing at the bow was a man with impressively long silver hair and deep green eyes. His name was Cain Nox.
His eyes, fixed in the direction of Echmont, seemed as deep as the sea. At that moment, a man approached him and gripped the railing, leaning forward.
“Gavelin, it’s dangerous.”
In response to this warning, the burly man, Gavelin, laughed heartily.
“Hahaha! Maybe you’ll be blown away by the wind, but not me!”
Cain, once again, turned his gaze away from Gavelin.
Looking at his profile, Gavelin gruffly patted Cain’s back with rough hands.
“Seriously, before you leave, why don’t you at least show some emotion and beg not to go? I told you so, didn’t I?”
In response to Cain’s cold retort, Gavelin scratched his chin with a rueful expression. Well, even if he had done that, would the situation have changed? In reality, countless people had clung to his ankles, begging him not to leave. But how ruthlessly had he shaken them off and gone? Those who followed the nobility inevitably became seeds of rebellion. Even without an inheritance as insignificant as a mouse dropping, it was dangerous, let alone when he had been the heir at one point. His presence was not tolerable in any way that did not benefit Gottrov. So he left without mercy.
Gavelin sighed and said, “They might be happy that we’re going; who knows? If it’s unfortunate, they might even ask us to bring you back.”
The mischievous expression disappeared completely from his face.
“It’s not as if you left with their happiness and well-being in mind. You’re not someone who would ask us to bring you back. If we were to bring that person to Gottrov, there’s only one reason for it.”
Cain, who had been gazing at the distant sea, turned to look at Gavelin. Gavelin met his green gaze and spoke.
“Only when you were in grave danger. But just thinking about it makes me angry. If that’s the case, I’ll turn Echmont into a wasteland.”
In any case, bringing him back is impossible; that’s what it means. Gavelin’s mutterings were carried away by the fierce winds. Cain brushed aside his disheveled silver hair and asked in a cold tone.
“What are you doing here? Isn’t Theodore with you?” Gavelin chuckled again and leaned against the railing, meeting Cain’s gaze with a rugged look that mingled with longing.
“We just wanted to make sure our Crown Princess is doing well. Don’t worry, if anyone upsets her, we’ll go and give them a good thrashing.”
“You seem to like that idea.”
“Stop it. Wasn’t this what Theodore asked for?”
Instead of leaving, Theodore Siniaque had no choice but to stay behind. Gavelin heard his mutterings, and he turned to Theodore, who was complaining about the situation.
“Ugh, they say we have to be on this ship for a whole month. I’m already so bored, I can’t stand it!”
Cain gazed at the horizon beyond the empty sea even after Gavelin went into the cabin. At the end of this journey to Echmont, the person they sought was waiting. Cain closed his eyes.
It had been a long and eventful day, and weariness clung to Adele like a damp cloth. She deliberately got up from her seat and moved around to dispel the complex emotions she felt, though it didn’t really help. In fact, there was no way to alleviate the discomfort she was experiencing.
“Madam, I’m going for a walk.”
Adele paused as she stood by the door, and in response to her words, Lady Giggs, the lady-in-waiting, quickly brought her a coat. She was already dressed in anticipation of accompanying the queen. Adele, slipping into the coat provided, told the lady-in-waiting, “I’ll go alone.”
“That’s not advisable, Your Majesty. The sun is about to set.”
“I won’t go far. I’ll be back before it gets too dark.”
“But it’s still not…”
“I want to be alone.”
Adele insisted on going by herself.
“I’ll follow you from behind to make sure you’re not noticed.”
“I can be quite sensitive.”
Giggs, the lady-in-waiting, fell silent.
Adele silenced her with a polite smile before slipping out of the palace quickly, avoiding the main entrance to minimize public attention. Giggs watched the queen as she left, a troubled expression on her face, and her blue eyes betrayed a mix of worry and concern. Oddly enough, Queen Adele reminded her more of Empress Elizabeth. What had become of Elizabeth? Had she divorced Theodore Baldr, the Duke, and eventually been exiled to a remote fiefdom? Giggs stayed up for several nights, her heart aching when she found out the truth. Elizabeth had discovered that the Duchess of Despone and the emperor were scheming to pass a law to strip the emperor’s spouse of political authority. So, Elizabeth boldly initiated her divorce from Theodore Baldr and left the capital. Giggs sighed as she watched the receding figure of the queen.
“Perhaps I should prepare some warm water in case she returns for a bath.”
By the time the sun was setting, the wind had become even sharper. Despite the biting cold, Adele didn’t seem to notice. She was walking along the path she had taken earlier in the day with Lionel. It was a desolate area with very few people around, and Adele moved effortlessly, her body acting on autopilot. Her mind was boiling with emotions, yet she pushed all the discomfort away, focusing on walking as her subconscious guided her every step.
As the barely visible sun dipped low in the western sky, a blinding red light bathed the area, as if Adele were walking toward the sun. She paid it no heed and continued walking. Every step she took seemed to make the ground beneath her tremble and give way to her presence, like the world itself was changing in response to her. Her eyes were glued to the ground, and she continued her steps without any clear direction, lost in thought.
Then a black shadow crossed her path, interrupting her trance. Her eyes slowly lifted from the ground, and she found herself staring at the figure of a man standing there with the sun at his back. Adele squinted at the sudden, intense light that was now right in front of her.
With a step, the shadow cast by the man fell onto her feet, and then another step, and the shadow reached her ankles. Adele couldn’t help but pause and once again turn her gaze towards the enigmatic figure.
The shadow drew even closer, one step at a time, and then finally, it covered her completely. Submerged within his shadow, Adele whispered his name.
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