The orchestra began to play, filling the hall with the sounds of music and causing the nobles to stir.
The Emperor reclined on his throne, accepting a glass of champagne from an attendant.
He spoke to the Empress, his words cutting through the noise of the feast.
“Forget it,” he said, his gaze fixed on Diane, who was sadly watching from a corner of the hall.
“That lady is my lover.
The Empress responded with a cold expression, her words sharp and biting.
“Since you lack warmth, I will not pay attention to your lover either.
Understand?” Adele smirked, finding a twisted sense of pleasure in the situation.
She would often laugh when she was feeling upset.
“Would you please pass along those words to His Majesty’s lover?” she asked.
“I have only met her twice, but both times she was the one who approached me.”
As the Emperor turned away without a word, Adele couldn’t help but feel a sense of victory wash over her.
She smiled brightly at the nobles, relishing in their attention and the emperor’s discomfort.
As she chuckled, a small stir ran through the nobility,
“She seems to be keeping her cool,” one whispered.
Lionel nodded slowly, but his mind was elsewhere.
It seemed that rather than maintaining her composure, the empress was trying hard not to lose.
He couldn’t help but notice that the smile on the empress’s face seemed forced—of someone in power—rather than the carefree smile on her lips when she rode a horse.
＊ ＊ ＊
Adele stormed into her palace, dismissing all of her attendants and angrily tearing off her dress.
She took deep breaths, trying to calm the anger and frustration that filled her chest, but it was no use.
Her eyes shone with determination and her hands clenched tightly in response to the tingling in her peripheral nerves.
The Empress’s black hair seemed to dance in the air as the room was filled with a shifting of air currents, causing the candles to flicker and the windows to shake.
“Diane Poitiers,” she muttered to herself.
She poured herself a glass of golden liquor and downed it in one swift gulp, feeling the burn in her throat as the alcohol hit her bloodstream.
Her thoughts were consumed by Karl Ulrich, the man who she saw as repulsive and inexplicable.
“You’ll appoint Diane Poitier as Empress when I die.
Is this some kind of tragic romance or a fantasy? Is there a fantasy about an emperor riding a white horse and saving a damsel in distress? Do you consider yourself a pervert?” Adele muttered to herself angrily.
She wished she had someone to confide in and vent her rage to.
Despite feeling dizzy and disoriented after drinking three glasses of the strong-tasting Ehmont moonshine, Adele managed to remove her crown and shoes before getting into bed.
The ceiling above her seemed to spin and swirl as she lay there, her thoughts a jumbled mess.
“What will my lover like?” Adele’s expression contorted into a sincere grimace as she thought about love and its complexities.
She recalled her father’s words, “It will be given to everyone who has the will, and they will have an abundance; and from the one who does not have, even what he has will be taken away.” Adele had always disregarded these words because she had so much, but now they seemed to take on a new significance.
“Pretend you’ve always done it.
Even if you lose everything you have in your hands, be vigilant and keep your eyes open.
Drop your shoulders and dress casually.
When all you have is gone, don’t be modest.
People will notice it as if it were a ghost.” Adele repeated her father’s words, her eyes filling with determination and anger.
She knew that she would have to be vigilant and keep her eyes open if she wanted to survive in the cutthroat world of politics and power.
* * *
Adele had originally intended to take a more measured approach to her new role as Empress, but now she knew that she needed to take action.
She queried her ladies-in-waiting about the inner workings of the palace and was not surprised to learn that Diane Poitiers, the Emperor’s favorite, was currently serving as the acting manager.
“Who was the previous general manager?” Adele asked.
“Countess Hannah Giggs,” came the swift response.
Adele knew that she needed to work quickly if she wanted to assert her control over the palace.
She instructed her ladies-in-waiting to call Countess Giggs and request a meeting with her.
The servants looked at her with apprehension, knowing that Diane Poitiers was responsible for dismissing Hannah Giggs from her position.
But Adele was not deterred, her determination and urgency clear in her tone.
“Bring the Imperial Palace Law Book up to date,” she ordered.
* * *
As Adele sat at her desk, studying the chronicles of the imperial palace, a name caught her eye.
It appeared repeatedly throughout the pages, each entry detailing a new law or amendment that had been implemented under this person’s guidance.
“Who the hell is this person who caused such a stir in the palace?” she muttered to herself as she read on, intrigued by the impact this individual had made in the court politics.
The “Ragged Law” governed the management of the Ehmont Imperial Palace and was the result of a tumultuous relationship between the Emperor and Empress, arguing over the authority to run the palace.
The law stated that the Empress had the authority to assign personnel, but needed the Emperor’s approval to discharge employment.
It also stated that the Empress had the right to allow residents in the imperial palace, but even went as far as to specify that the Emperor had the right to choose the wallpaper for the palace where he resided.
Legend had it that the former Empress became enraged when reading the accompanying brochure, exclaiming, “A fight is merely about that; what kind of nuisance is this?” Because of this, subsequent Emperors entrusted the internal decision-making authority of the palace to the Empress, effectively transferring most of their own authority to her.
“It means that the powers of the current Emperor have been given to Diane Poitier, not to me,” Adele said with a click of her tongue, flipping back to the page she had been reading.
“But at least the Empress’s inherent rights are bestowed concurrently with her appointment.”
Adele knew that being the Empress came with a heavy burden of responsibilities, and it was nearly impossible to handle everything alone.
She had heard that previous Empresses had made palace management more efficient by appointing their own aides as general managers of the palace.
With that in mind, Adele had contacted Hannah Giggs, the former Empress’s appointed general manager of the imperial palace.
As she waited for Mrs.
Hannah Giggs to arrive, Adele’s maid eventually unlocked the door and entered the room, announcing a surprise visitor.
Adele had expected it to be Mrs.
Hannah Giggs, but was surprised to see someone else.
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