Predatory Marriage — Chapter 14. Unwelcomed Guests
The kingdom of Estia, located in the Southwest of the continent, was renowned for its culture and art. As a matter of fact, most of the well-known artists in history belong to this vast kingdom.
These great artists loved their homeland so much that they wouldn’t hesitate to dedicate their work to their beloved royal family.
Reflecting the essence of the aesthetically beautiful kingdom was its palace, located at its very heart. A pinnacle of art, the castle of Estia didn’t disappoint either. According to historians, it was breath-taking—a sight to behold.
It was built with red bricks and gray stone and painted with a special varnish which glittered gracefully under the sun. The beautiful exterior alone was spectacular, but the interior was even more magnificent.
Elegant vertical columns and long corridors lead to dozens of rooms, each of which was embellished with white marble and other colored stones, gold, and gems.
Moreover, the halls were adorned with beautiful masterpieces—sculptures and paintings, made by remarkable artists. Such a shame though, the royal family cared naught for them. They were mere ornaments and didn’t deserve any care, and thus, they were damaged with time.
However, everyone knew that unlike the palace’s splendid shell, the humans in its core were wretched.
The nobles no longer feared the king—the ruler of Estia was once highly respected and even regarded as powerful as the sun. But now, he would pale in comparison to a small lamp.
Stubborn as he was, the king clung to his meaningless pride and turned a blind eye to reality, even when his sovereign power hit rock bottom.
The betrothal of the royal princess was a clear indication of the royal family’s downfall. Byun Gyeongbaek of Oberde wanted no one but Princess Leah, and the royal family had quickly sold her off—without any objection and careful consideration.
The military power of Byun Gyeongbaek of Oberde protected the frontier from the Kurkans—a power that should’ve belonged to the nation’s king. To flaunt his wealth and supremacy, he wore purple clothes— something only the royalty could afford and should afford.
The purple dye was a rare and precious commodity in the kingdom—it could only be extracted by crushing thousands of shells of snails living in warm waters.
On top of that, the dye obtained from crushing a thousand of these tiny animals was just enough to stain only a small piece of cloth.
And because Byun Gyeongbaek monopolized the supply of dye, there were times when even the royal family couldn’t get their hands on it.
Byun Gyeongbaek’s arrogance was criticized by many, but they could only talk behind his back. No one dared to openly defy him.
The powerless king of the royal family couldn’t even dream to stop him. In fact, it would’ve been more logical to call Byun Gyeongbaek a king instead.
“… Princess, shall I call for the new carriage?”
Leah came back to her senses upon hearing Countess Melissa’s voice. The countess’smile softened, gazing at the princess. She knew that Leah was lost in her thoughts, so she woke her up from her stupor in a courteous manner.
“Thank you, Countess.”
Leah couldn’t believe that she got distracted while in the middle of doing her job. She could only blame herself, but she didn’t have a choice. It was all because of the message that Cerdina sent through a servant this morning.
『It’s been a long time since we had dinner. I have a gift for you, so come to the Queen’s Palace.』
A dinner with Cerdina…
It was Leah’s worse nightmare. She tried to conceal it, but from the moment she’d received the message, she was on edge.
She accidentally bit her tongue. This was not the time to think of such things. Countess Melissa wasn’t the only one with her. The minister of finance and the court’s count were accompanying her as well. Leah tried to calm her nerves and concentrate on her work again.
At this moment, she was looking over the work of the officials of the royal palace. Since she was in charge of most of the royal matters, she was assigning tasks and giving instructions about the details to make up for the time that would be lost due to the wedding.
The royal family may have abandoned Leah, but the people were innocent. She wanted to carry out her responsibilities until the end.
“I’m thinking of reorganizing the tax system one last time before I leave the palace.”
Leah handed out the documents that she’d prepared beforehand. She gave them to Laurent, the minister of finance, who sighed and then passed it to Count Valtein.
Count Valtein’s expression immediately turned serious. He murmured, stroking his handsome mustache.
“I think there will be a lot of resistance from Great Britain, especially from Byun Gyeongbaek of Oberde…”
Count Valtein wanted to say more, but caught himself in time. Sharp on her senses, Leah was able to pick up on his expression. Countess Melissa was glaring at the count as she stood right beside him. For Leah and her subordinates, Byun Gyeongbaek was nothing short of an enemy.
“My apologies, Princess.”
It wasn’t until Leah called her that Countess Melissa stopped throwing daggers at the count. Impassive of the exchange between the two, Leah fixed a look at Count Valtein as he continued speaking.
Her cool voice did not contain any emotions. Count Valtein carefully continued speaking.
“Byun Gyeongbaek recently used the barbarians as an excuse to ask for a reduction of the taxes being imposed on Oberde.”
Leah furrowed her brows. The biggest reason behind Byun Gyeongbaek’s power was the Kurkans; he used them as an excuse to enjoy all kinds of exclusive benefits. Even though he already enjoyed numerous privileges compared to the other rulers, he vigorously kept asking for more.
As Leah dipped her quill in ink, she opened her mouth.
“There is no end to his greed. At this point, an invasion by the Kurkans would benefit us more.”
Count Valtein and Laurent cleared their throats in chorus. Leah tried to hide an amused smile as Countess Melissa laughed out loud at their discomfort.
“Doesn’t your secretary communicate with them? First, let’s check whether Oberde needs the tax cuts. We’ll make the decision based on those findings.”
“Okay, princess. We’ll proceed as you say.”
Laurent replied politely. Leah hesitantly signed the document and muttered bitterly under her breath.
“Or maybe it would be better if I myself go to Oberde.”
Silence filled the office. Her unconscious words created a heavy atmosphere. She felt herself become still—she regretted spilling her thoughts like that. Now the atmosphere was awkward and suffocating no less.
Luckily, a voice from outside intervened, breaking the tension.
“My Royal Highness, this is Baroness Sinael.”
But as soon as Leah saw the baroness’ anxious countenance, Leah braced herself for awful news. Nonetheless, her calm exterior didn’t shatter.
Baroness Sinael worked at the main palace, and her visits would always mean grave news. She entered the office, her face looking pale and tired. All eyes were fixed on her as she clenched the sides of her long dress.
“The barbarians…sent a letter to the royal palace.”
Leah jumped out of her seat as everyone looked at Baroness Sinael with terror in their eyes.
“It says, ‘I would like to have friendly relations with Estia. Thus, I would like to send an envoy for the conference for a meeting…’”
Sinael held her breath for a moment and then said in a trembling voice.
“The barbarian king said he would lead the envoys and visit Estia himself.”
This chapter has not been translated by NovelUtopia, we have picked up the novel from chapter 69.
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