Ch. 177 Because Of Him (2)
Elena’s palace life was going smoothly. Few people knew that she considered her party a failure because of her unsuccessful strike against the Empress, but everyone else—both natives and foreigners—praised the colorful dances and lavishness of the event. It was not the intended result, but it was still a favorable outcome.
Previously, Elena had chosen Margaret to be one of her ladies-in-waiting, and today was Margaret’s first day at the palace in official capacity.
“Hail to the Crown Princess. Eternal glory to the Ruford Empire.”
Margaret gave a polite bow at the entrance, and Elena hurried over to grab her hand.
“You can leave out such formalities between us.”
“Oh no, Your Highness, it is my honor. How have you been?”
Margaret’s manner of speaking was more formal than when Elena was unmarried, but the lady-in-waiting’s face was still soft and welcoming. Elena answered with a soft smile.
“I am well. How are you, Lady Lawrence?”
“Very well. Nothing much has happened, except that I’ve been a little busy since everyone found out that I am your lady-in-waiting.”
Margaret’s words reminded Elena of the time when her love affair with Carlisle was thrust into the high society. She had been flustered by the sheer volume of invitations and the loss of her quiet social life. Looking back now, it seemed a distant memory.
“Was there anything that made you uncomfortable?”
“No, not at all! Since I became a lady-in-waiting, my family’s business is doing better, and my father is happy. I just wonder how I can repay you.”
“That’s good to hear.”
Elena and Margaret strolled through beautiful landscaped garden. Elena would normally receive visitors from the parlor room, but the weather was so pleasant that she couldn’t stay in.
“Let’s have some tea together, Lady Lawrence.”
“Ah, thank you, Your Highness.
“You’re welcome. If you like, I can gift some to you separately, so remember to take it later.”
After Elena finished speaking to Margaret, she ordered Mary to bring tea, and the maid hurried away to fulfill her order.
“How about we have tea at an outdoor table? Today I’ll show you everything in the Imperial Palace.”
“It’s an honor, Your Highness.”
A happy expression spread on Margaret’s face, and the pair settled at a table in the middle of the garden. Several minutes later, Mary arrived and set down a tray of fragrant tea in front of them. Margaret took a careful sip of her drink, and then looked at her cup in delight.
“Wow, this is delicious.”
“Isn’t it? I’m glad you like it.”
Elena had forgotten how enjoyable it was to spend time with the right person. The two women’s conversations branched out into various topics, from the happenings in the south to the wedding. The atmosphere between them was pleasant, until Margaret opened her mouth suddenly as if she had remembered something.
“By the way, have you heard of the recent rumors in society about the Crown Prince?”
“What rumors are you talking about?”
Elena looked at her curiously, and Margaret flushed. The lady-in-waiting paused to make a decision, then continued on more seriously than before.
“I don’t know if it’s right for me to say this to the newlywed Crown Princess, but I still believe you should know.”
“What is it?”
“Well…there’s a rumor going around that the Crown Prince is seeking a second wife. The gossip became even more intense after his marriage with you, and there are many noblewomen seeking the position.”
Elena was lost for words. She and Carlisle had been married and now there was talk about concubines… However, the subject hadn’t entirely slipped Elena’s mind. Carlisle only married late because of the unfortunate prophecy, but now that it wasn’t the case anymore, the families supporting Carlisle were pushing their daughters to be his wives. Elena may be Crown Princess, but she was not part of a great family, and another wife may be beneficial.
‘Yes, it was only natural.’
Carlisle, the emperor, was never the man Elena could have alone. There would be a need to unify many forces in the future, and marriage was one of the easiest ways to secure alliances. Of course, Carlisle may not immediately remarry as he vowed to put Elena in power as empress, but that was only a temporary measure. If Carlisle could get a step closer to the Emperor’s seat by marrying another woman, Elena did not intend to oppose him.
The thoughts in her head were perfectly rational…but her heart said otherwise. The mere mention of such a rumor tore her to pieces and made her chest ache.
“Your Highness, are you all right?”
Margaret looked at her worriedly, and Elena pasted a smile on her face.
“I’m fine. If His Highness intends to marry again, I will not oppose him.”
Elena kept her composure as cool as possible, but Margaret knew better. She took Elena’s hand and spoke in a kindly voice.
“Even if the Crown Prince takes a second wife, his heart will not leave you. The last time I saw him at the party, I sensed it.”
“…Is that so?”
Elena smiled weakly. Margaret did not know that Carlisle and Elena were in a contract marriage to satisfy each other’s demands.
“I have a hard time saying this, but it’s important for you to know who may come after you. There’s a rumor in the social circles…that Lady Selby is after the position.”
The moment Helen’s name was mentioned, Elena’s red eyes flashed dangerously. Helen had already tried to trap Elena several times, and Elena had warned her that she would no longer tolerate another challenge. Elena did not want to confront the Marquis Selby family, but she would do so if she had no choice.
“I’ll have to find out more about it.”
She already had conflicted feelings about Carlisle taking another wife, but Helen was an unacceptable choice. It wouldn’t be bad to have the power of Marquis Selby on their side, but Helen was already on the side of the Empress.
Margaret agreed, nodding her head vigorously.
“If there’s anything I can do to help, please let me know, Your Highness.”
If the rumors spread any further, many more women would try to catch Carlisle’s eye. The next event was an official party that Elena and Carlisle would attend. The young women were more likely to make their move there. And if Helen wanted to be Carlisle’s wife, she would be there too.
‘…I should be prepared.’
Elena didn’t want to accept anyone else as Carlisle’s wife. She wouldn’t endure the pain in her heart unless the other woman was truly helpful to him.
Elena and Margaret chatted the hours away, but Elena couldn’t shake the feeling of dread. From the moment she heard about the story of another wife, she couldn’t concentrate on talking to Margaret anymore.
Elena was still unsettled even after Margaret left, and she took out her frustration in Carlisle’s private training hall. Unlike the way she secretly practiced in Blaise mansion, here Elena was free to practice her swordsmanship skills, and as a result her strength improved significantly. At this rate, it would not be long until she regained her full strength from her previous life. That was a good thing, but…today she had no motivation.
Elena was garbed in simple clothes to more freely move about. Her feet moved more nimbly than the dance performers. One could describe it as beautiful, if they were unaware of the danger lurking beneath the blade.
Elena’s head was empty as she automatically moved through the motions, when—
She heard the sound of approaching footsteps. Since she was hiding her abilities, she halted her routine and looked at the entrance.
It was Carlisle that emerged, and he walked towards her with efficient strides. He looked flawless again today.
“There you are.”
He seemed to have been seeking her out for some reason, but she couldn’t find any words to say. She stared at him with a conflicted expression, and Carlisle gave her a questioning look.
“Is something worrying you?”
Elena almost replied back. It was because of him that she was being driven mad…