Adele wanted to protest, to tell Karl that it was he who was being disrespectful, but she held her tongue, biting back the angry words that threatened to spill out.
She could feel the heat rising in her face as she tried to take slow, deep breaths to calm herself.
She couldn’t even remember how she had made it to the altar, her mind consumed with the misery of this forced marriage.
It was fortunate that Ehmont’s wedding customs did not include a kiss or facing each other.
Adele glared at the high priest’s shoulder, standing idly by as he recited the prayer of blessing.
But it seemed that the emperor wasn’t done speaking.
While the high priest was in the middle of the prayer, he quietly added a word.
“Today, we won’t be conjoined, so please don’t wait and rest,” he said.
“So, the two of you will be faithful to each other and set an example for everyone.”
Adele’s thoughts unknowingly drifted as the high priest spoke.
She couldn’t help but laugh at the irony of it all.
After all, as soon as they were married, the emperor’s attitude toward her seemed to change.
It was as if he were saying, “You weren’t my wife before, so where was the trust?” His fidelity was clearly elsewhere.
“I declare to God that from this moment on, Adelaide Gottrov becomes Adelaide Ulrich Ehmont,” the high priest pronounced, bringing Adele back to reality.
As the high priest announced her new name, Adele closed her eyes, trying to come to terms with the reality of her situation.
She was now married to Karl, the emperor of Ehmont, and there was no going back.
All she could do was try to make the best of it and hope for a way out. Damn, she thought to herself. There is really no going back.
After the wedding ceremony was over, Adele couldn’t wait to escape the stress and embarrassment of the day.
She followed her maids to the empress’ palace, trying to calm her throbbing head as she walked.
Despite her best efforts, she couldn’t shake the anxiety that settled in her stomach, reminding her of the day her mother had told her to give up her position as crown princess and leave Gottrov.
As they approached the empress’ palace, Adele’s steps slowed as she took in the sight of the golden palace, reflecting the blazing sunlight.
She couldn’t help but worry that life in Ehmont would not be as easy as she had hoped.
But had her life ever been truly merry and comfortable?
Adele closed her eyes and recited the verses of her scriptures, which she always carried close to her heart.
“Like a lion that is not startled by loud noises, like the wind that is not caught in a net, like a lotus flower that is not polluted by mud,” she chanted to herself.
Then she took a deep breath and opened her eyes, determined to face whatever challenges lay ahead.
“Like a rhinoceros horn across the wilderness, go alone,” she whispered to herself before moving towards the empress’ palace with a fighting spirit, more like a warrior heading to the battlefield than a newly married bride.
“Is the ceremony over?” she asked.
“Yes,” a maid replied.
Diane was relieved when the wedding ceremony was finally done.
She appreciated Ehmont’s simple wedding customs, as it would have been painful for her to see the whole capital celebrating the emperor’s marriage.
“Can you eat something now? You’ve skipped meals for several days already.” A maid asked, trying to get Diane to eat something.
Diane’s face contorted at the question.
She frowned and looked back at the maid, and at her sharp gaze, the maid shrank back.
Noticing the scowl on Diane’s face, she quickly apologized, not realizing the mistake she had made.
“Please forgive me,” she said.
As the two women faced each other in silence, Diane’s gaze was enough to make the maid quiver in fear.
Lorraine, noticing the tension between them, hurriedly approached Diane, but it was too late.
Diane had already erupted in anger, berating the maid for her ignorance and lack of respect.
The maid apologized and begged for forgiveness, but Diane remained stern, making it clear that she expected to be treated with proper respect as the owner of the palace.
Diane glared at the maids for a moment, then spoke with a cold tone.
“Get out,” she said, gesturing for Lorraine to leave.
She approached the kneeling lady-in-waiting and held her chin, causing the maid to fill with fear.
“Does this look like a common aristocratic mansion? Do you think I’m a common person?” Diane asked, her tone dripping with disdain.
The maid didn’t respond, too terrified to speak.
Diane gently stroked the lady-in-waiting’s hair and said, “Now, this is the imperial palace, right?”
“Yes, lady,” the maid responded.
“I am the owner of this palace.
How dare you say ‘lady’?!” Diane bellowed, violently pulling the maid’s hair.
The maid screamed in surprise and begged for forgiveness as Diane stared blankly at her.
Diane brushed her hands off and stood up, causing the lady-in-waiting to collapse on the floor.
“There should be a division between upper and lower.
I am the owner of this ivory palace.
That’s why you call me ‘Princess’.
Got it?” Diane said sternly.
Lorraine hurried to catch up with Diane as she headed towards the bedroom, looking exhausted.
“Shall we put the counselor on standby?” she asked.
“Tell him not to wake me up,” Diane replied, lying down on her bed.
She had already stopped drinking for a week and a day, and her whole body felt languid as if she had been drained of water.
When tomorrow comes, her empress honor will fall, and then she will know who the true owner of this vast imperial palace is.
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