Episode 31: A Trap (3)
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Umiru was sitting in the coral-decorated living room in a relaxed manner and when she saw Aristine, she gave a brilliant smile.
“I was pleased to hear that Your Highness has been waiting for me since morning. I heard you’ve been looking for me since last night.”
As always, she placed a kiss on the back of Aristine’s hand as she spoke.
“I’m sorry that it’s so early. I know you must be busy but do you have time?”
“Of course, I do, if the Princess Consort requests for me.”
After a strong sobering tea was served, Aristine asked all the court ladies to withdraw.
Seeing that, Umiru, who was all smiles, turned serious.
“Dame Umiru, I need a favor. And I need you to never speak of what I say from now on.”
“My lips will only move when I kiss your honorable hand.”
Her words were really eloquent.
Aristine chuckled, then her expression hardened.
And she began to seriously talking about what she had been thinking about since yesterday, and the request she wanted to make to Umiru.
Umiru listened attentively, without interrupting.
“—And that’s why I want you to get in touch with one of His Majesty’s royal physicians.”
When Aristine finished, Umiru crossed her legs and placed her interlaced fingers on her knees.
“Hmm, that sounds a little difficult.”
Hearing that response, Aristine thought, ‘sure enough.’
Even to herself, it sounded like an unreasonable request. Because she was asking to involve other doctors, not just Umiru.
Umiru grinned, “—Is what a normal person would think but I am no normal person. I am being of many talents.”
She proudly placed her hand on her chest.
“I would have immediately rejected it if it was anyone else, but I am in your debt, Princess Consort. Not just me, but the entire medical community.”
She didn’t need to exaggerate that much but Aristine quietly accepted it and expressed her gratitude.
“Thank you, Dame Umiru.”
“Only through words?” Umiru winked playfully.
“Of course, you will be compensated,” Aristine replied energetically. Then she added, “I have a lot of money.”
Her words showed her considerable confidence in her wealth.
Umiru laughed, “Yes, money is good too.”
She was more interested in other things that weren’t money.
Umiru donned a courteous look and held out her hand to Aristine.
“Princess Consort, would you like to be my partner?”
“His Highness Hamill is back, you know. Apparently, they will be holding a welcoming party for him.”
At those words, Aristine paused, “Prince Hamill is back? Since when?”
She had never heard anything about that.
With Hamill’s return, the troubling dining incident grew closer, making her feel nervous.
“I’m not sure when either, but he must have been back for a while. The reason his return is even officially announced is because of this party invitation.”
Umiru shrugged and continued, “He didn’t even attend cabinet meetings after his return so only his closest aides know exactly when. Although, it might not have been a secret considering that quite a few people have sighted His Highness Hamill in the palace.”
Aristine was shocked by the cultural differences.
“In Irugo…isn’t there a ceremony or something that happens when a direct descendant of the king, furthermore, the prince, who is first in line of succession, comes back after being away for a while, handling official affairs?”
In Silvanus, a ceremony would be held on the day of his return.
She expected the incident to happen within a week or two, judging by the weather. But because she hadn’t heard any news of Hamill’s return, she was a little relaxed. The weather was whimsical so perhaps it could become warm again. A small 1- or 2-degree difference had a huge impact on nature.
However, Hamill was already at the palace.
A formal dinner with the royal family could happen at any time.
“Not exactly,” Umiru replied, “Unless you’ve shown major distinguishment as a warrior, it is often omitted. Even this time, a welcome party wouldn’t be held if the Queen hadn’t decided to organize one herself.”
She was probably throwing a party to show that Hamill was healthy and solidify his political influence.
“…when is the party?”
“In four days.”
Aristine briefly looked out the window, gauging the passage of time. She felt sorry to turn down Umiru’s request but she had no time to waste until that dinner.
“Mm, won’t they be upset if I go? I didn’t even get an invitation.”
“I doubt you didn’t. Her Majesty the Queen will definitely not want to exclude you from something like this.”
Umiru smiled cynically.
Aristine hummed and spun her teacup. Since she got married, she had pretty much rejected all party invitations so she figured that might be part of it.
Of course, if it was an invitation from the Queen, she would have given it further consideration, but lately, Aristine had been distracted by thoughts about the details surrounding Nephther’s death.
There was a very high chance that she just shook her head the moment her court ladies mentioned ‘party’.
“I’m sorry but can I postpone this to another time? I think I will be very busy for the next two weeks.”
“Hmm, then I want to be owed for the delay,” Umiru said, taking a sip of her tea and leaning sideways.
“Then, since there’s interest on it, go on a date with me.”
Aristine blinked at those unexpected words.
“Sure. Us girls alone.”
Umiru’s eyes crinkled into a smile, making her look a little mischievous.
Aristine looked at Umiru without saying anything for a while.
“Say, Umiru,” Aristine gently rubbed her finger over the silver rim of the teacup, “Do you think we’re friends too?”
At that question, Umiru blinked. Soon enough, she gave a gorgeous smile and held out a hand to Aristine.
“If Your Highness sees me as a friend, I would be incredibly honored.”
“Don’t those words sound like you’re dealing with a superior?”
“Because it is for a superior,” Umiru smiled softly, “But that doesn’t mean we can’t be friend.”
At that, Aristine gazed at Umiru for a while, then she slowly nodded her head, “I see.”
If you think about it, it was the same with Mukali.
Even if they were in a hierarchical relationship, and of different status, they were able to become friends.
No one knows when or how a connection would form.
That felt like a blessing to Aristine.
It was a little overwhelming to know that she belonged in one of those infinite possibilities.
Aristine was going to meet a lot of people from now on, and she could form different kinds of connections with many people.
“Besides, Princess Consort did not order me, rather, you made a request. As a friend, I am willing to fulfil your request.”
The two women looked at each other and smiled, holding hands.
Aristine’s heart pounded.
It felt good to know that she had one more friend, but Umiru’s acceptance of her request alleviated some of her worries about Nephther.
However, she couldn’t relax yet.
‘I can’t let down my guard and I need to start with the little that I can.’
Right then, there was a soft knock on the door.
“Ms. Umiru, someone is here to see you. You can’t say you’re going to the restroom and disappear…”
The court lady didn’t want to disturb Aristine but the doctor who came to the ward for Umiru had been crying for over 30 minutes, so she had no choice.
“The moment was perfect…” Tch, Umiru clicked her tongue then she said to Aristine, “I must get going.”
“Mhm, I figured you were busy. You can go. Thank you for coming.”
“It was my pleasure,” Umiru smiled and left.
Before the door closed, you could hear a cry of ‘Ms. Umiruu!’.
‘I feel a little sorry,’ Aristine scratched her head.
Anyway, with Umiru’s cooperation, the thing she had been most worried about was solved. Which meant that she finally began to think about what she had been putting to the side.
Ever since she left the bedroom, he couldn’t leave her mind for some reason.
Before, she didn’t feel anything even when they were close and touching but nowadays, it felt a little strange. Every time he touched her, her body felt uncomfortable for some reason.
After that odd feeling this morning, she kept thinking of the scene that she saw through the monarch’s sight.
The sight of herself lying on top of Tarkan and looking into his eyes. Even if she was heartbroken over Nephther’s critical situation, how could she do such a thing?
Come to think of it, when she woke up this morning, her hand was squeezing his chest.
It was not of Aristine’s will. Her hand had a mind of its own.
She had done it so often that it even felt familiar and natural now.
‘Come on, why do I keep fondling Tarkan! And why can’t I forget the feeling?!’
Her hand remembered, not her head.
Aristine smacked her bad hand. After doing that for a bit, she came to her senses.
This was not the time for this.
‘First, let’s find out what kind of poison this is.’
* * *
Aristine stood in front of the mirror, spreading out the skirt of her dress.
She wasn’t doing this to smooth out wrinkles but to reaffirm her resolve while adjusting her attire.
Aristine quickly reviewed her plan for today in her mind. There were various forecasted situations sorted into different cases, and countermeasures for them.
There was no perfect response, but she did the best she could.
Especially since she put aside her scalpel and stainless steel business which she considered very important and focused solely on this matter.
“Shall we head out?”
Aristine nodded to Tarkan and placed her hand in his outstretched arm.
Today was that very day.
The day when all the members of the immediate royal family gathered together for a luncheon.
The day when Nephther met his demise in the Monarch’s Sight.
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