< — The Beginning and the End — > (1)
Beth warmly welcomed Lucia into the Queen’s Palace. They briefly greeted each other then Lucia asked about Princess Selena, the new princess.
Princess Selena would be turning one year old in a couple of days. It was widely known that the King would be holding a huge party in celebration of her first birthday.
Unlike the moderate display of affection he showed to his sons, the King coddled his only daughter. Everybody knew how much he cherished his daughter.
“The princess is already getting into trouble so unlike a girl, it makes me worried.”
“You’re worrying too much. I heard that when they are still children, they have to cause a little trouble to grow up healthy. I was quite the tomboy when I was a child.”
“Oh my, you Duchess? It doesn’t seem like that at all. But I feel slightly relieved after hearing what you said, Duchess.”
The dishes were placed on the table one by one. Braised rabbit liver in wine was served as an appetizer.
Lucia put a piece of the meat in her mouth, chewed, and her back broke out in cold sweat. The aroma of wine and rabbit liver mixed with the distinct smell of blood made her stomach churn.
Even though it was not a dish that she would usually enjoy eating, it wasn’t something that she couldn’t eat. She forced herself to eat a bite and rinsed her mouth with juice.
The sweet juice that she usually liked felt too sweet to her. She wanted to drink something sourer. She thought to herself that when she got home she would have a glass of lemon juice. Upon recalling the sour lemon flavor, her appetite returned.
She took a spoonful of the soup that was served after and knitted her brows. The smell of onions, unique to onion soup, was nauseating. It had been several days since she ate onion soup because she had asked her servants not to serve it to her as of late.
It wasn’t to extent that she couldn’t force herself to eat, but Lucia could only manage to take three or four more scoops before she placed down her spoon. She picked up the juice, gulping it down to wash away the onion taste in her mouth.
The main course was steak covered with truffles. It would seem the Queen had paid a lot of attention to the dishes since fine cuisine that Lucia didn’t normally eat were served.
Even without putting it in her mouth, the unique smell of the truffles made her feel sick to her stomach.
Lucia endured and ate the steak while drinking juice again. Her hand was busy from start to finish, hurriedly filling up her empty glass of juice. After drinking three glasses of juice, Lucia drank water.
Beth, who was watching Lucia carefully, asked a handmaid to bring some soft bread. Lucia looked at Beth as the maid brought the white bread to her side.
She expressed her thanks to Beth, who was smiling, then she took the bread and bit into it. Thankfully enough, she was able to eat it without any irritation.
After the meal, simple snacks and tea were brought in. It wasn’t flower tea which had a strong smell, but a delicate and crispy tea made by boiling roasted grains.
Lucia took a sip of the tea and felt her stomach calming down.
“I enjoy drinking this tea when my stomach feels uncomfortable. I don’t know if it suits Duchess’ tastes as well.”
“It is very delicious.”
Lucia hesitated for a moment before asking.
“May I know how to make this tea?”
“Of course. I will tell you how to make it and bring some prepared ones for you to take back home with you. That said, it seems Duchess has good news.”
“Early in pregnancy, the smell of food you usually have no problem eating aren’t the most pleasant. I suffered a lot because my symptoms were more on the unusual side. I survived on only bread and tea for a while.”
When she saw Lucia staring at her in a expression that said she didn’t understand, Beth exclaimed in surprise.
“Oh my goodness, you don’t seem to know yet. Well, it makes sense. Duchess is young, and it is your first child, so you might not know.”
Lucia finally understood what the Queen was talking about. And at the same time, she felt perplexed.
“No. That is not possible.”
“Did the doctor say you’re not pregnant?”
“Then since we’re on this topic, shall I call a palace nurse? It is not easy to diagnose pregnancy in the early stages. The palace nurse that was in charge of me until Selena was born is very skilled in the medical arts. She studied mysterious medicines in other countries and has a long history of experience with pregnant mothers. She checked the pulse on my wrist and discovered my pregnancy.”
Lucia didn’t stop the Queen from calling the palace nurse. She knew it shouldn’t be possible, but she couldn’t throw away the strange anticipation in her heart. She kept thinking that the condition of her body was strange. It didn’t hurt, nor did she feel ill, but it was obvious to her that something had changed overall.
The palace nurse who arrived upon summon from the Queen was quite advanced in age. The nurse politely asked for permission before taking Lucia’s wrist and pressing her fingers against Lucia’s pulse for a while.
“I cannot speak with confidence as Duchess is not someone that I usually treat. A woman’s pulse changes after she gets pregnant so if I had checked the Duchess’ pulse before and after, I could be fully sure, however, I can only say that in this current state, there is a high chance that Duchess is pregnant.”
The palace nurse asked Lucia several things about her symptoms. When Lucia was asked about her last menstrual period, she evasively answered that it was roughly last month. She couldn’t tell a palace nurse that wasn’t her doctor, about her infertility. After hearing about the other additional symptoms that appeared on Lucia’s body, the palace nurse nodded her head.
“These are typical early symptoms of pregnancy. There are some whose pregnancy symptoms appear after about two months and there are some who are sensitive, and it may appear at the beginning for them. If you are careful with your body for a while and your next period does not come, I think it is safe to say that you are pregnant.”
“Congratulations, Duchess. Duke Taran will be very pleased.”
Upon hearing Beth’s congratulations, Lucia barely managed to keep her expression under control. She was more confused than joyful. Something that definitely shouldn’t happen, happened.
Lucia considered the possibility that the outstandingly skilled palace nurse misdiagnosed. But the situation fit way too perfectly. When you looked at the several changes in Lucia’s body as pregnancy symptoms, there was no room for doubt.
Lucia continued to mull it over, even in the carriage heading home. Then suddenly, she recalled the dream she had had over a month ago. Even after she woke up, she felt strange and unlike other dreams which she forgot soon after waking up, the dream of that day was vivid and clear, as if she could still see it now.
Once she got home, she called the doctor and explained her infertility symptoms. She talked about everything, from the changes in her body recently to her body condition and the diagnosis she received from the palace nurse. The doctor tilted her head for a while in thought.
“Milady’s symptoms appear to be typical symptoms of pregnancy. If even a palace nurse diagnoses it as such, it must be certain.”
“But as I said, I do not menstruate. Doesn’t that naturally mean infertility?”
“I cannot conclude that you are infertile because you do not menstruate. Milady experienced your first menstrual period, and a herb intake resulted in a strange anomaly. The human body had the tendency to treat itself. Perhaps Milady was treated on your own.”
In Lucia’s dream, Philip diagnosed her as infertile. But she couldn’t completely rule out the possibility that like the doctor said, her body might have treated itself. After all, in the dream, she never tried to have a child. Additionally, events in the dream didn’t always coincide perfectly with reality.
The doctor thought it was rather strange that there were no children between the ducal couple. She hadn’t worked in the ducal household for very long but according to the servants, the relationship between the two was not just good, they were so passionate like newlyweds, that there was not a day where the two did not spend a night in the bedroom together. The servants chuckled amongst themselves that their master’s bedroom was cold even in the summer.
“Do you…really think that I am with a child?” (Lucia)
The doctor understood the Madam’s confused reaction. Expectant mothers usually felt more anxiety than joy at the beginning of their pregnancy; their changes in mood were severe and there were many cases of depression. A pregnant woman needed as much mental care as she did physical care.
Their husband had to help more than anyone else so that the expectant mother’s depression could be overcome more easily. The doctor thought to herself that she had to meet with the Duke separately and tell him about the precautions he had to take for the Madam.
“I am almost certain of it.” (Doctor)
“Does ‘almost’ mean that there is a possibility I am not pregnant?” (Lucia)
“Your situation is uncommon, Milady. Pregnancy is usually determined with menstruation. When strange symptoms like these appear on your body with its menstruation-less state, it can be perceived as pregnancy.” (Doctor)
Pregnancy was a common phenomenon but giving a certain diagnosis was quite difficult. Even if pregnancy symptoms appeared at the same time the menstruation stopped, and one’s stomach started to get bigger, there was a condition called phantom pregnancy. The doctor didn’t say anything about imaginary pregnancy in order not to aggravate the Madam’s anxiety.
“Please set your mind at ease first. It would be best to refrain from outdoor activities in the early stages and get plenty of sleep to avoid fatigue. And there is something you must be most careful about, Milady. You have to refrain from bedroom relations.”
Lucia came out of her daze upon hearing this and her face turned red.
“At least, definitely not now. Until we are certain that the child is growing up healthily, in other words, until your stomach starts to grow bigger, stimulation is forbidden.”
The doctor withdrew, and Lucia lay on the bed, disturbed by all sorts of thoughts. She thought of all the strange symptoms in her body and retraced them, one by one.
‘Now that I think about it, I have not had any headaches lately. Has it been a month? No. A month and a half? I don’t remember taking any headache medication for almost two months.’
She looked straight at the ceiling from her position on the bed and gently covered her lower belly with her hands. She didn’t feel anything. There was no evidence that could be seen with the bare eyes. But when she thought that there was a life growing inside of her, she felt like she was floating.
She didn’t know whether it was a good thing or bad since it was not for certain. Despite being unable to throw away her doubts since pregnancy should be impossible for her, the hopes of ‘maybe…’ were getting bigger. At this rate, if she was told that this was not pregnancy, she might not be able to recover from the shock.
‘Even if we say that my infertility was cured by my body on its own like the doctor said, according to what my husband said, I cannot get pregnant.’
She had explained the symptoms of her amenorrhea to the doctor, but she couldn’t talk about her husband’s secret, that is, the Taran lineage’s unusual constitution.
Her husband was no different from sterile. Lucia wasn’t a woman of the Taran bloodline that could get pregnant nor did she meet the conditions of being a normal, non-Taran woman that took a special herb from the moment of purity to prepare her body.
Her husband was convinced that he could not give her a child.
[Then it won’t be my child]
When Lucia recalled what he had said a long time ago when they were in the north, her heart sank with a thud. If he were to say the same thing again after hearing of her pregnancy, she wouldn’t just feel sad, it would be very painful. If he doubted her fidelity, she didn’t think she could bear it because she would hate him so much.
It was not yet certain if she was pregnant. Lucia wondered if she should tell him, or if she should keep her mouth shut for the time being since she didn’t know yet. One train of thought led to another and the worrying led to fear. Lucia lay on the bed, tossing and turning for a while then she fell asleep.
 The word used here, is not the word for doctor nor is it the word for imperial doctor. It directly translates to medical practitioner. I also assume it is a she. The author never states the palace nurse’s gender.
 I assume it is a ‘she’ here as well and henceforth. Unless I should just use ‘they’ for the ones with vague genders. My assumption is based on the time period, I doubt the King would let a male in the Queen’s quarters, just as I doubt Hugo would let a male into Lucia’s bedroom. Except Jerome, I suppose?
“Don’t change the topic. If I get treated and you keep coming into my bedroom, what would you do if I get pregnant? That’s what I want to know.”
“If so, it wouldn’t be my child.”
He spat out those words without hesitation and then realized his mistake after the fact.