A Trap (13)
Dionna licked her dry lips and opened her mouth.
“A-Actually, they didn’t tell me; I happened to overhear them while they were talking among themselves. At the time, the handmaids hadn’t spoken badly of the Princess Consort. That’s why I had no idea that they were trying to slander the Princess Consort.”
“Mn, the maids were talking about poison which doesn’t even exist, and you overheard it. What an amazing coincidence.”
Dionna’s face flushed red at the obvious sarcasm.
“I, I’m telling the truth!”
‘It must be true then.’
Since the poison really existed, the handmaids could talk about it at any time.
‘I thought the maids wouldn’t know about the poison because the Emperor gave it to me separately, but it seems they did.’
He must have intended for them to keep an eye on Aristine in case she did anything stupid with the poison.
‘Or he might have meant to use that poison to kill me.’
Unlike Aristine’s belongings, the belongings of the maids were thoroughly searched, so it would have been difficult for them to bring in poison.
People’s scornful gazes shot at Dionna like an arrow.
As those hostile, frosty gazes fell on Dionna, she shook her head to deny it.
“I am only telling the truth! The maids really-.”
“Dionna, stop lying already.”
A loud voice interrupted Dionna’s speech.
It was Mukali.
“I have remained silent about your wrongdoings because of my consideration for Chanta.”
He looked like he was blaming himself and with a bitter look on his face, he continued speaking.
“But it seems I am wronging Chantra even more by keeping my mouth shut.”
Dionna’s mouth fell open.
Mukali changed his stance and spoke to the royals and other people in the hall.
His tone and attitude were completely from usual.
(Mukali)“Dionna tried to slander the Princess Consort from the first day the Princess arrived in Irugo.”
“Wait, I am sure even at the wedding, she was wishing for the happiness of the two…”
(Mukali)“She told me that Her Highness was secretly meeting another man before marriage, and asked me to investigate.”
Tarkan furrowed his brows and looked at Mukali.
Aristine also looked at Mukali with surprise.
(Mukali)“But in reality, it wasn’t a secret but a blameless matter. It was something the court ladies knew about, and even His Highness Tarkan was aware.”
“It can’t be, is it Ritlen…?”
(Mukali)“Yes, that is correct. The Princess Consort aimed to recruit talent for her scalpel business, but Dionna misconstrued the situation by claiming that the Princess Consort was secretly meeting another man in private for personal interest and asked me to verify if there was the ongoing affair.”
It felt like nothing could surprise them anymore.
It might be called verification, but in reality, it was asking him to spread rumors that the Princess was having an affair.
‘How could she think of putting such a fatal label…’
‘Everyone knows how important that marriage was for the peace of both countries, to try to ruin it is just…’
The disgusted looks from people were nothing compared to the look in Tarkan’s eyes.
‘How dare you utter such insult to Aristine.’
The sound of grinding teeth was terrifying.
Tarkan looked like he was going to drag Dionna if not for Aristine, who was holding his hand by his side.
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Dionna looked like she was going to faint at any moment.
But Mukali wasn’t done speaking.
“And that is not all.”
Realizing what Mukali was about to say, Durante stepped forward.
Mukali normally wasn’t the type to expose every wrongdoing that someone has done. Rather, he considered such behavior tattling and never opened his mouth even when he was treated unfairly.
The reason why someone like him said so much was because it was for Aristine’s sake, and most of all, for the sake of his late comrade-in-arms.
It was only right for Durante to share that burden.
“Dionna has been banned from entering His Highness Tarkan’s palace.”
Durante looked straight at Dionna, who was frantically shaking her head, and he slowly continued.
“This is because she told the Princess Consort that she and His Highness Tarkan have been long-time lovers and His Highness’s late mother had acknowledged their relationship.”
“What in the world…!”
“No, how can you say such a…”
“Furthermore, this was done in bridal waiting room on the day of the wedding.”
With that last sentence, the appalled audience suddenly felt choked.
That was absolutely outlandish.
Thorny gazes pierced through Dionna.
Among these, were people who felt sorry for Dionna because her long unrequited love never came to fruition.
They were able to offer compassion because Dionna took a clean step back and wished Tarkan happiness.
‘But she was doing something so outrageous behind the scenes?!’
They shook with anger at the betrayal.
“How can you try to ruin national affairs for your own self-interest…!”
The Queen bellowed with anger.
“And then you used Chantra’s name and testified to me that the Princess Consort had poison!”
She purposefully yelled even louder. She wanted to cut off the tail known as Dionna.
“What else is this but an attempt to deceive and scorn this Queen!”
After rebuking Dionna, the Queen changed her attitude and spoke softly to Aristine.
“Aristine, I have pestered you because of misunderstandings stemming from the schemes of this vicious woman.”
Even the way she addressed Aristine had changed to something more intimate.
Not only that, but the Queen also came closer to Aristine and took her hand.
“I am truly sorry.”
People’s eyes widened.
It was an extremely rare ordeal for the Queen of the country to personally say sorry.
The Queen inwardly laughed to herself.
Now that she had put herself out like this, Aristine would have no choice but to accept her apology.
Then she couldn’t quibble over the fact that she was accused as a poisoner and would have to overlook it.
Of course, apologizing to Aristine hurt her pride and made her want to gnash her teeth.
However, the Queen was a politician.
To gain an advantage, she could make as many false apologies as necessary.
“No, Your Majesty the Queen.”
Sure enough, Aristine shook her head, saying it was fine. 
The Queen’s face brightened at that.
But the next words out of Aristine’s mouth were very different from what the Queen expected.
“It’s not because of Dionna’s words that Your Majesty treated me as a criminal.”
Seeing the Queen’s face hardened, Aristine broke into a smile.
‘I guess she thought I was replying to her apology when I said no.’
That was impossible.
Aristine anticipated that the Queen would try to wriggle away like a snake when Dionna was caught.
So she deliberately confirmed the Queen’s opinion several times in an erratic manner.
By arranging her words to say, ‘Your Majesty claims this or that’.
“When I was confirming Your Majesty the Queen’s claim, you said it was not a claim, but a conclusion made after investigation. And when I was summarizing how Your Majesty arrived at the conclusion that I was the poisoner, you also said that it was a list of facts and the truth.”
The Queen’s face distorted.
No wonder she kept feeling like Aristine was restating her words but to think it was paving the way for this.
“I don’t think this is simply Dionna’s idea alone.”
A grating voice escaped through the Queen’s tightly clenched teeth, like it was hissing through the air.
But she didn’t continue speaking.
This was the very description of killing two birds with one arrow.
From the very beginning, this annoying wench planned to use logic to capture herself and Dionna at the same time.
 When someone says ‘I’m sorry’ and you reply with ‘No’, often times, it’s perceived as ‘No, it’s fine.’ That’s what happened here.
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