Ch. 166 Would You Like A Drink? (1)
Asabe was dragged roughly into the party by the palace guards, then tossed face down onto the ground.
“Why did you call me here…?”
Empress Ophelia looked coolly down at Asabe.
“Tell me the truth. Did you replace the Vanera plant to drive a wedge between the Crown Princess and I? If you are honest, I will spare your life.”
“Wh-what? What are you talking about?”
Her eyes were filled with fear, as if she knew something was wrong. One of the other guards, under the orders of the Empress, brought in a potted plant.
“I found this plant in the room of the maid Asabe, Your Majesty.”
Elena, who had been observing the situation so far, was speechless. Whatever trap Elena prepared for Ophelia, the Empress found a way to squirm out. This couldn’t be a simple act of coincidence.
‘Was it all planned?’
This only made sense if the Empress had prepared for this in advance. But why?
‘Did she want to test how I would react when I received the gift?’
Elena’s red eyes trembled in incredulity. If so, Ophelia was a step ahead of Elena and was assessing her. It would be dangerous if this assumption were true. Elena couldn’t appear harmless if her claws were shown too early.
Ophelia spoke to the scholar she summoned earlier.
“Look at this. Is this the plant that I wanted to give to the Crown Princess?”
The scholar quickly inspected the flowers and nodded.
“Yes, Your Majesty. This is the Vanera plant I sent you. I painted the pattern on the pot myself, so I recognize it.”
Ophelia pounded the chair with her first. In an instant, a deathly silence gripped the room.
“How dare you change the plant? Tell me, who made you do it?”
Asabe looked up with a pale, trembling face.
“W-what do you mean? Your Majesty, I am guilty only of following your orders. I only did what I was told…”
“Ha. You still can’t repent of your mistakes. Are you trying to frame me, despite the evidence otherwise?”
Ophelia was speaking to Asabe, but Elena sensed the words were meant for her.
“I don’t want to see your face anymore. Take her out and execute her.”
Asabe’s eyes widened.
“P-please save me, Your Majesty! I was wrong! I really did only what you ordered!”
Asabe begged loudly of her innocence as the guards dragged her away, but it was futile. Eventually her screams faded away, but it lingered in the minds of those in the hall.
Elena clenched her first. She never dreamed that the Vanera plant would be found in Asabe’s room. If it weren’t the case, Elena would have intervened, but she couldn’t come forward in this situation. A wrong step could lead to Elena being misunderstood in this drama. Asabe was still a maid of the Crown Prince’s palace, and Elena had kept her close to her side recently.
‘How dreadful… ‘
Ophelia had swiftly ordered an execution without even batting an eye. As Elena expected, Asabe had confirmed that she was a spy planted by the Empress. It was incredible how the Empress so easily tossed aside a human life.
‘Did the Empress find Asabe less valuable when she knew that I suspected Asabe was a spy?’
It would be logical for the Empress to cut Asabe off before Elena could glean any information from her.
Elena looked with new eyes at the woman sitting proudly next to her. She realized why the Empress was considered one of two pillars that supported that Ruford Empire, and she was far more competent and dangerous than Second Prince Redfield.
Noticing the tense mood of the ambassadors, Ophelia smiled calmly.
“Oh goodness, the mood of the party has been ruined. Forget about what happened earlier and just enjoy yourselves. You there, why is there no music?”
Opera music began to flow in the room. Elena wordlessly looked at Ophelia and felt the defeat in her bones.
‘I lost this time…’
She couldn’t erase the feeling that she was playing in Ophelia’s palm.
Despite the incident from earlier, Elena’s party ended in great success. Ophelia’s smile dropped from her face as soon as she was in the Empress’ palace.
“I didn’t expect the Crown Princess to make it this far.”
Cassana spoke up from behind her.
“Yes. We underestimated the Crown Princess because she kept the flowers in a place where she walked by frequently, but she’s more clever than I thought. Not clever enough for the Empress, however. You’ve won the game again.”
Despite the compliment, Ophelia did reply. That meant she was in a bad mood, and Cassana knew from experience to not speak up in this situation.
Ophelia leaned back in her chair in contemplation, tapping the armrest with her nails. Then she frowned, as if she was displeased with the outcome of her thoughts.
“That bitch Asabe was stupid.”
Cassana looked on questioningly, but Ophelia muttered as if she were talking to herself.
“Was she a fool that could only do what she’s told to do? When things went the way it did, she should have said that it was the Crown Princess that made her do it.”
Cassana swallowed dryly. In fact, anyone else in the situation would have been found guilty. But Ophelia denied it, and so everyone believed her words. Cassana quickly nodded in agreement.
“Yes. It was a great opportunity to place the princess into trouble, but unfortunately it was missed.”
Ophelia had sent the Manera plant to simply test Elena, and only made evidence to prove her innocence, not to fight back. Asabe’s execution was originally part of Ophelia’s plan. However, the Crown Princess’ plan was more effective than expected.
If Asabe had said “The Crown Princess told me to change the plants,” the situation would have been reversed significantly. And if Elena tried to stop the maid’s execution, Ophelia would have been able to establish a connection between the two. It wouldn’t be easy to falsify proof that Elena bought the Manera plant, but Ophelia could at least instill suspicion that Elena was an unscrupulous figure. However, the young woman was smart enough not to let herself be caught by that net.
Ophelia tutted at the thought.
“Jjeut, I wasn’t thinking enough…”
Elena believed she had lost the party, but it didn’t flow the way Ophelia intended either. Until now, she hadn’t been serious about Elena and never expected a plan this well executed. If Ophelia had gone in without any preparation, it would have been over for her.
“By keeping the Manera plant close to her to appear vulnerable…she may be a difficult opponent after all.”
Looking at Ophelia’s irritated expression, Cassana carefully opened her mouth.
“This was just a light test, wasn’t it? We need to be more careful when dealing with the Crown Princess.”
“She’s not the only one.”
“Oh? You mean…”
Ophelia’s eyes filled with a dark energy.
“There is Carlisle.”
The Crown Prince was already a formidable opponent by himself, and he would be even more troublesome with Elena by his side. If only Elena was simply a pretty face or frivolous love.
“…The tiger may grow.”
Ophelia’s face crumpled as she remembered Elena’s beautiful face at the party.