Predatory Marriage — Chapter 259. Problems With Her Power (2)
Translator: Atlas / Editor: Regan
An hour later, Cerdina went to the audience chamber, dressed in an elegant gown. She had washed away the blood staining her body, and temporarily suppressed the black smoke that wafted ceaselessly from her. She could control it long enough to share a cup of tea, at least.
“It has been a while, Leah.”
Leah rose from her couch to bow as Cerdina entered the chamber, and the Queen Mother’s eyes went over her, smiling as she observed every detail. Leah’s eyes were calm, and when Cerdina looked into them, she had the strong impulse to rip her to pieces.
Leah had been born with the silver hair of the royal family of Estia, and the purple eyes that so impressed the nobility. Her royal lineage was perfect. She was born a princess with the noble blood that Cerdina had always envied.
But none of that mattered now. The noble princess was nothing but a doll in Cerdina’s hands. Cerdina took great satisfaction in making the princess dance on her strings. And she would keep on dancing, for as long as Cerdina wanted.
The two women faced each other on opposite couches, sipping the tea served by the maids. In the audience chamber, the only sound was the clack of teacups and click of small spoons.
Cerdina was first to break the silence. She took a single, elegant sip of tea and set her cup down.
“I’m surprised,” she said. “You came on your own initiative.”
Mirroring Cerdina’s motion, Leah set her own cup down, and when Cerdina glanced at the cup, she found that the level of the liquid had not decreased. Cerdina smiled.
“Is something wrong, Leah?”
“I haven’t seen you lately,” Leah replied. “I was worried that you might be ill.”
Both of them knew this was not the reason for her visit. Even after she had lost her memory, Leah still feared Cerdina. Though Cerdina had only left her with memories of affection, Leah instinctively avoided her.
That had made Cerdina very happy. For Blain’s sake, she pretended to be a friendly stepmother, but she didn’t want Leah to dare to step out of her place.
So it was very strange that Leah had chosen to come and visit on her own. It was unusual behavior, and Cerdina watched her carefully. Leah was still under the spell, though it had weakened a bit, most likely because she had been among the barbarians. But Leah was still in love with Blain.
The knowledge that the spell was incomplete made Cerdina feel…thirsty. The spell had failed to change Leah’s feelings completely. It had only distorted her memories.
It was due to Cerdina’s own lack of power.
Another sip of tea did not calm her. Feeling that new weakness in the spell gave her the urge to tear the girl apart, before she could rebel for even a moment.
“How is Countess Melissa?” Cerdina asked affectionately. “You must take care of good servants, as she has been taking care of you since you were a child.”
The words were couched as kind advice, with an underlying cruelty. Leah understood the message perfectly, and darkness flashed through her face.
The dutiful response made Cerdina smirk. But the words that followed wiped it away.
“That’s why I didn’t run away.”
Cerdina carefully wiped all expression from her face as she met Leah’s eyes, but this time, the princess didn’t look away. Even a few days ago, she wouldn’t have dared to look the Queen Mother in the eye. Those beautiful purple eyes were still filled with fear, but Cerdina saw something new in them. A sense of desperate courage, driven to action because she had been pushed to the brink.
How had this girl changed so much? Cerdina had been abusing her since Leah was little, ensuring that Leah would be too frightened to dare a single thought of rebellion. What had changed?
Cerdina’s mouth twisted into a smile, and Leah, unfazed, leaned over to place a small glass bottle filled with tea leaves onto the table. She nudged it nearer to Cerdina with her fingers.
“It’s herbal tea,” Leah said. “I went to some trouble to get it. It will be good for the Queen Mother’s health. I wanted to show my gratitude for the tea you gave me. It was very beneficial.”
Leah smiled slightly.
“Shouldn’t one return what one has been given?”
Cerdina looked at Leah in horror. And having delivered her message, and done what she had come to do, Leah stood and politely ended their meeting.