Chapter 245 – You’re Different From The Empress (1)
Elena and Stella moved to a quiet place where they could talk alone. After entering the room, Stella cast Elena nervous glance.
“May I ask why you wanted to see me privately, Your Highness?”
“There’s no reason for alarm. You have helped me greatly…and I wanted to say thank you.”
When Elena had returned to the past, vicious rumors spread by Helen were rife in society, and she had no one to turn to for help. Elena was forced to blackmail Stella about her secret son and make her cooperate. Elena and Stella’s first encounter was not a good one.
In anticipation of a long conversation, Elena sat down first and gracefully gestured to the seat across from her. Stella sat down as well, looking relieved that she had not been called for a serious reason.
“I see. It’s only natural for me to support the Crown Princess, so words of thanks are not necessary.”
“Countess Viviana. I don’t know how to say this, but I want to repay you and offer you my sincere counsel.”
“Yes, Your Highness.”
“…Why won’t you speak of your hidden son?”
Stella’s expression hardened like steel. She thought Elena had brought her here to offer her gratitude, and Stella instantly raised her walls at the mention of her son.
However, Elena believed this was the best way. The biological father of Viviana’s son would soon appear, and in another reality, Stella had chosen to take her life instead of burdening the Viviana family. That alone was a tragedy, but what followed was even more grief.
Stella’s husband mourned her deeply, and the secret son, who missed his mother, dreamt of revenge. Soon afterwards, they would both be at each other’s throats. Elena wanted to do anything within her power to avoid such an outcome.
Despite the sincerity of Elena’s actions, Stella only looked on with a cold glare.
“I don’t believe you need to be involved in this, Your Highness. You must have forgotten your promise to keep my secret until the end.”
“I don’t mean this as a threat—”
“If you want something, say it honestly. I don’t like listening to roundabout explanations.”
Stella completely misunderstood Elena’s intentions. From the countess’ point of view, she felt threatened that Elena would reveal the secret that she wanted to keep hidden the most.
Elena swallowed her sigh, and continued more carefully than before.
“Please do not misunderstand. My intentions are honest, and I don’t want you to make a choice whose outcome you’ll regret.”
Stella continued to look suspicious, but Elena continued to say what she had prepared.
“Please consider it. There is no secret in this world that remains eternal. If someone finds out, how will you handle it?”
“That is for me to worry about.”
“Yes. You may even choose to commit suicide to save your honor. But have you ever thought about your family that you will leave behind?”
Stella looked momentarily taken aback, but she soon smoothed out her expression.
“Because you asked me, Your Highness, I will answer. Wouldn’t it be a happier ending if I were gone? My husband will get a new wife, and my son will be able to live more freely than he does now.”
“Don’t you love the both of them enough not to do that?”
Stella’s eyes trembled. Count and Countess Viviana had oft been spoken of in society as having the ideal romantic marriage. Elena knew better than anyone that that was true, as she had known it from the future.
“Please think about it again. Do you really believe that your husband will forget you so easily? Maybe your son wants to live his freedom with you.”
“…Have you done further investigations into me and my family?”
“No. This is something anyone can think of without an investigation. I know it’s not easy, but don’t forget that you can still be honest when the last moment comes.”
This was the best advice that Elena could give. If she said she knew what would happen in the future, her credibility would evaporate into air. Whatever decision Stella later made, it was her choice. All Elena could do was tell her that it was better to choose life over an easy death.
“Countess Viviana, you are loved more than you know. I know your situation well, and this is my counsel.”
Stella stared at Elena, at a loss for words. She expected the princess to follow up with a threat that her future would be miserable unless some demand was fulfilled, but Elena’s words ended there. The fact rather embarrassed the intelligent Stella.
‘…Is she being truthful?’
It was almost impossible to believe, but Elena genuinely did seem to care for Stella’s well-being, and Stella was able to imagine an outcome she never thought of before. If her husband and son couldn’t get over her death…then even worse things may happen. She loved her husband and son with all her heart.
‘Until now, I thought I could just disappear…but their grief may not end even if I die.’
Before Stella became a countess, she had grown up in a strict household, and she drifted away from her family in an act of youthful rebellion. The first time she became drunk, she conceived her son. Her family tried to get rid of the child, but she held onto him in an act of defiance. Eventually, Stella was able to find protection for her son, on the condition that he be kept hidden and that she marry the man chosen by her parents.
Her marriage to Count Viviana was a political one, but she fell deeply in love with her partner. From then on, Stella carried a dreadful guilt in her heart. She could never be honest with her husband, and she could never be a proud mother to her son. If it came to worst, Stella vowed to carry the sin alone.
That was, until Elena spoke to her, breaking down her resolution. Doubt gripped the countess, but she could feel the sincerity in Elena’s words.
“Your Highness…you’re different from the Empress.”
Until now, Stella had seen Elena as a clever and formidable enemy. If Elena had not married Carlisle and become Crown Princess, the countess would have done her best to kill her. However, harming an Imperial Family member was a steep crime, and she was not in a position to place a knife in Elena’s back whenever she pleased.
Elena smiled at her and responded.
“‘Different from the Empress’…is that a compliment?”
Stella, a towering social figure in society, knew Ophelia’s methods better than anyone else. The Empress was the type that hid a dagger behind a smiling face, and one was wise not to make her an enemy. Naturally, Stella assumed Elena would be like Empress Ophelia in the future.
And yet, Elena had given Stella counsel without benefit for herself. If Elena were like Ophelia, she would have used the information to cut Stella down to the bone.
“I can’t quite describe it, but I can say this for sure. The Empress takes advantage of fear in her enemies, but you, Your Highness…you change people’s hearts.”
To Stella, Elena’s honesty drew her in like a magnet.
“I don’t know if that is a compliment.”
“For me it is. For the first time, I want to be on your side, Your Highness.”
Elena’s red eyes widened in response to Stella’s words. She was relieved that the countess was not offended, and that she finally found sympathy with her. Elena allowed a soft smile to grace her lips.
“Your words imply that our relationship hasn’t always been honest. I’ve heard subtle nuances in your speech, but this is the first you’ve said it outright.”
“I won’t deny it. I wasn’t completely supportive of you.”
In response to Stella’s very candid answer, Elena burst out into a chuckle. They pair had met and spoken with each other several times, but now was the first time they faced each other properly. Elena felt fortunate to have gathered her courage and approached Stella first. She truly sensed that Stella was on her side now.
“I didn’t know Countess Viviana had such an exciting personality.”
“I didn’t know Her Highness was this kind.”
The two of them faced each other and laughed. Soon after, however, Stella wore a more serious expression.
“I won’t forget the counsel you gave me today, Your Highness. But I will do my best to keep my secret hidden. If the worst comes to happen, I will make the difficult decision then.”
Elena answered with a nod.
“I understand. Whatever your choice, I only wish you the best.”
She meant it. She hoped that Stella would have a happy ending.
The countess answered with a smile.
“This may be a better relationship than I expected.”