The Concubine Does Not Love the Emperor - Chapter 21
Abraham stood at the entrance, concealing his nose and mouth with a mask. A faint red light seeped through the gap in the door. As he stepped inside, more than thirty men and women were entangled in the reception room, each with dilated eyes and not a single veil covering them.
“Have you come?”
A veiled court lady guided him inside. In every passageway, there was a distinct sound of biting and panting. One woman with two men, one man with two women, or two women together—those writhing without shame like beasts—were the faces he had seen at the court meeting earlier this morning. Abraham casually passed by them.
At the far end of the reception room, on an ornate chair fit for an emperor, Mother Aldebaran was waiting for him.
“Greetings, Mother,” he said.
“Well, did this meeting yield any income?” Mother extended her hand. It was a hand with bulging blue veins on wrinkled skin. Without hesitation, Abraham knelt and gently kissed the back of her hand.
“Unfortunately, my lord’s death did not capture Your Majesty’s interest.”
Muffled sounds of flesh and suppressed moans interrupted their conversation. Those lying below the men with spread legs were all concubines. Women from slave backgrounds are selected and managed directly by Mother.
This was the harem that the emperor never visited. The mother used the remaining wealth wantonly. If this matter leaked out, not only Mother but everyone here would lose their heads. Even without coercion, the secret remained intact. The nobles and court officials with weaknesses all moved according to Mother’s will.
Abraham glanced at the ornate incense burner elevated next to Mother. A colorless and odorless scent must have been continuously flowing from there. If he hadn’t covered his nose and mouth with a mask, he might have lost his reason and been writhing in that debauched party.
The hidden green eyes above the veil glimmered dangerously. They seemed to have contracted like a snake’s pupils.
“Useless individuals,” Mother scolded with a flick of her tongue. It was a rather risky gamble coming from her. Abraham looked at her irritated complexion and spoke defensively.
“No one paid any attention to the old minister’s death, but if Your Majesty had been injured as planned, the outcome would have been different.”
“Is it so difficult to bring out the imprisoned prince from the mansion?”
“Well, it seems that…”
“Ugh, hold me.”
Without any fear, a woman who was drugged approached Abraham, sobbing, and hung onto him with outstretched arms. He glared at her with a disgusted expression, but the woman paid no mind and clung to him. Mother observed this scene with quite an interest.
Without hesitation, Abraham slapped the woman’s cheek, and she froze in place. However, she soon staggered back to the scene of debauchery, muttering to herself with cloudy eyes.
“Why don’t you join in as well? I’ve prepared this place with great care.”
Mother’s crescent-shaped eyes widened as if in enjoyment. It was a sadistic pleasure, deliberately calling in a minister who had no intention of participating, and not stopping the approaching woman. It was all deliberate. Abraham forced a bitter smile.
“If I may enter, then only one person can.”
Mother laughed as if finding it amusing. It seemed her irritation had diminished slightly due to the minor commotion.
“I heard not long ago that Prince Mustafa dedicated a Kadima. It’s old news. I’ve already given my name to that child.”
“What child is it?”
“Well, I don’t know if Prince Mustafa sent that child as some sort of pawn, but it wasn’t His Majesty’s taste. I’m treating it as if sent with a different motive.”
No one thought that Prince Mustafa had dedicated Kadima out of a sense of sacred duty. It was only natural. Abraham nodded discreetly and spoke in a hushed tone.
“I’ve had a good idea. May I approach?”
Mother nodded her head, and Abraham glanced around. The maids discreetly stepped back. As Abraham whispered in a lowered voice, Mother’s eyes sparkled.
“That’s a good idea.”
A chilling smile played on Mother’s lips as if she found it amusing.
Altar felt unjustly accused. He came from a long line of shadowy nobility and had served as the sole chamberlain to Emperor Suleiman for generations.
“Incompetent,” he muttered.
He raised his head momentarily, then quickly lowered it again. How many tasks had the Emperor given him over the years, and he had failed just once out of all those countless tasks? With a single mistake, he was now discredited and ridiculed as incompetent.
“Why are you feeling unjustly accused?” The gentle voice of Suleiman asked, reclining on the soft cushions. Altar, who remained prostrate on the floor, didn’t say a word. His sovereign showed no mercy.
“If you feel unjustly accused, then at least make a defense.”
“I…” Altar began but froze. The Emperor, seated with crossed legs, had a kind and beautiful smile, tapping his foot gently. Over the few years Altar had served him, he had learned that the Emperor was most dangerous and terrifying when he was smiling.
“Even if I were to die, I have nothing to say.”
He lowered his head again. Margaret. That woman with black hair was no ordinary novice. When she realized someone was tracking her, she planted false traces and evaded Altar. How could an ordinary woman forge traces like that?
“If we meet again, I won’t let my guard down this time.”
“Meet again? You don’t even know where she lives, what noble family she belongs to, whether she’s a foreigner, or even if she’s a spy.”
A chilly laugh echoed above his head, sending shivers down his spine.
“How will you meet her then?”
He couldn’t bring himself to speak. Altar had never failed a mission before, so he couldn’t imagine what kind of punishment he might receive. He had accomplished tasks that everyone else had deemed impossible.
A seemingly impregnable fortress, he had infiltrated it disguised as a merchant, stolen the interior layout, and thanks to that, the Emperor had quickly conquered the rebellious Nicene province that had constantly stirred unrest. So perhaps, he thought, he might be forgiven for one mistake.
But that was unlikely.
The Emperor was cruel by nature and showed no mercy. There were plenty of individuals within his own family who could replace him. Altar thought of the unnamed siblings waiting their turn, far more capable than himself.
“Ha, that’s enough. Bring Sisha.”
He looked up at the Emperor, trying to hold back the tears welling up. His lord, with his perfectly beautiful face yet twisted into a harsh expression, issued the command.
Altar rushed off. Preparing the water pipe was one of the things he was exceptionally good at. Making it to the Emperor’s taste required years of experience, even if he was skilled at everything else. He felt overwhelmed with gratitude that Suleiman had forgiven his previous failure. He quietly entertained the thought that perhaps the Emperor, whom no one believed in, might trust him.
Suleiman reclined on a long chair with a backrest. He blinked slowly a few times. Each time he opened his eyes, Altar’s image disappeared, and the sight of Sisha being brought in flashed before him. He naturally accepted the hose and gently bit the long and slender end with his front teeth.
“I’ve mixed in some herbs that will calm your mood.”
Altar was quick to pick up on things as well. Suleiman inhaled deeply from the hookah. Indeed, a sweet and refreshing smoke filled his lungs and then dissipated. After a few repetitions, his mood noticeably improved. In fact, Altar would not have missed Margaret, even if she had just been an ordinary woman. She had not erased her tracks, nor had she disguised herself.
A chuckle escaped him through the water pipe.
The more he thought about it, the more intriguing this woman became.
Suleiman rolled her name around in his mouth. It felt unfamiliar yet somehow familiar.
Whose spy could she be?
Watching Suleiman laugh quietly to himself, Altar felt a slight sense of fear. Had he not been forgiven? At any moment, Suleiman, in the midst of his laughter, could utter, “End your life.”
As the laughter subsided, Suleiman clapped his hands and beckoned Altar closer. Altar approached, sweating profusely. There was no way his lord would forgive him so easily.
However, a completely different word slipped out of the Emperor’s mouth. A regular report. A regular report? A look of pity crept into Suleiman’s violet eyes. Altar suddenly snapped to attention. He remembered his original duty.
A regular report was made about Prince Mustafa. Once a month, he reported detailed information gathered through espionage to the Emperor. Altar quickly recounted Mustafa’s recent activities. He watched as the Emperor’s expression gradually relaxed, and he secretly wiped the sweat from his chest.
“…And this month, there was another assassination attempt.”
“Three individuals were captured, and all of them chose to commit suicide before being interrogated. It is suspected that they were all poisoned with the same substance, as a similar poison was found in their possession.”
Suleiman inhaled from the hookah, sucking on both cheeks, then exhaled into the empty air. Perhaps due to his newfound leisure, the languid smoke he exhaled naturally gathered in the air before dispersing.
“Poison… and the damage to the prince?”
“There were two assassination attempts discovered, and apart from one maid who died before giving any information, there have been no other casualties reported. However, the last person captured was apprehended at the scene.”
“At the scene?”
“Yes. It seems that, after a series of failed poisoning attempts, they became bolder in their actions.”
“We need to strengthen security. But what about the maid who died before giving any information?”
“It was not cooking; she had poisoned the hookah.”
As Suleiman leisurely continued to inhale Sisha, he suddenly choked, unable to exhale the smoke, and coughed loudly.
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