THIRD PERSON POV
It was a sunny day in the royal palace of Galan. Palace servants were just doing their usual task when a minister came running into the court bearing great news from the battlefield.
"Your majesty! We just received news from the frontlines. We won! We won the war! We managed to take over the enemies territory with ease! Empress Elpis! THE EMPRESS HAS BROUGHT VICTORY TO THE EMPIRE!" The emperor's eyes widen, and so did his empress.
"Elpis won?" The emperor whispered.
"Elpis won the war?! It's been a year since she left the Empire. And now, she will come home. Finally! My empress, we've done our part right." The emperor and empress hugged each other after they heard the good news.
"And ... the empress will finally come home. I have sent a messenger to inform her concubines in Galatea Palace." The emperor released his wife with a smile on his face.
"We shall prepare a banquet to welcomed her highness! After all, she did brought us victory. I shall inform this matter to the empress dowager myself." His wife holds his hand while shaking her head.
"Empress dowager shall not be informed. Don't you remember how messy it was when the empress dowager had slight differences in opinion with her highness's imperial consort? My love, we're just the emperor and the empress in front of the people of Galan. Your sister, the true empress, is the one who ruled this Empire. We shall let the imperial consort deal with her welcoming banquet." The emperor nodded.
"You're right, my empress. We shall follow what the imperial consort sees fit. Besides, I don't wish to be on bad terms with her. After all, she is the empress's favourite." The emperor had a sudden chill just by thinking about the imperial consort.
"My sister ... always fond of the imperial consort and she even trusted her to deal with the Empire's matter while she's gone. She's been helping us with the affairs of the Empire, and I think we should reward her." The empress agreed.
"My dear Sophia ... what should we reward her? I can't think of anything that my sister hasn't given her yet." The empress was deep in thought while the ministers are discussing among themselves about the victory they just obtained.
"And that was all, your highnesses." The imperial consort, Virtra wasn't expecting this fantastic news at all. She turned to her sisters, who were with her at the moment with a smile.
"The empress is coming home. Grace, a banquet must be done. I'm sure you can plan it all out together with consort Elena and consort Margaux." The imperial consort smiled from ear to ear.
"So she managed to obtained victory for the Empire? That sly fox. Her letters were not informative enough, and now she suddenly informed us about her being victorious." Grace cleared her throat.
"What shall be done with that concubine? I supposed we couldn't just dispose of her before the empress's arrival? Her time is almost up. What if she's in labour when the empress is home? A happy celebration will turn gloomy if the empress knows that one of her concubines is pregnant." The imperial consort almost forgot about it.
"We can't simply dispose of her. Whether we like it or now, the empress likes her. Why? I have no idea. Let her be. Let's just pray for our sister that the empress would show mercy on her, her child and that sly minister who simply walked into Galatea Palace and deflowered her." The imperial consort waved her hands for the servant to see.
"Please inform the other concubines about this news. Tell them to be prepared for the banquet." The servants nodded.
"Sisters, we've helped the fake emperor with the internal affairs in the shadows. Although I've asked about this matter before, I never received any satisfactory answers from you who have been in court long before I did. Why did the empress choose to let her brother take the throne? We all know that the emperor is weak. He can't even lead his people." The imperial consort faces consort, Margaux.
"The empress asked her brother to take the throne because she doesn't want to provide an heir. By letting her brother be the emperor, she's free to do whatever she wants thus that's why we're here." The imperial consort explained.
"To put it simply, the empress doesn't like the opposite sex." The noble consort Grace added.
"I was 18 when Elpis asked for my hand in marriage. Elpis killed my fiance so that we could be together. So, here I am. She promised me wealth and power, and that is what she gave me. What did she promise you, noble consort Grace?" The imperial consort smiled.
"I want nothing more but to escape from the duke's home. She promised me that and here I am now. Not only I get to leave the duke, but I also get to be a noble consort. From what I know, your father sold you, am I right, consort Elena." Consort Elena was drinking her tea when noble consort Grace asked her.
"Yes. It was all for the peace of my kingdom. At least I don't have to provide an heir for the empress. That's a perk for me. And what about you, consort Margaux? What's your real story? You know I can't seem to figure it out. Your story is too mysterious for me to figure it out. The only thing I know about you is that you can dance." Consort Margaux smiled.
"I was invited to entertain the palace's foreign guests. Little did I know that the empress was fond of me after she saw me dancing. I was an orphan. When the empress reached out to me and promised me to take care of my well being, how could I say no? She's royalty after all." Imperial consort laughed when she heard it.
"And I, as the one who makes sure that my sisters won't disappoint the empress by doing things as that concubine did, was placed in the corner. You see, I am such a kind-hearted person because I even let a minister enter this sacred palace. Maybe I was too nice to our little sisters." The imperial consort hummed.
It's the day where the empress supposed to arrived from the battlefield with her envoys. Everyone was excited to know that the empress has brought victory for the Empire except for the empress dowager.
The empress dowager isn't precisely the first empress of Galan. She was the second wife of the late former emperor. There was even a rumour stating that the empress dowager was the one who poisoned the first empress to death because she wishes to be the empress of Galan.
"Is this necessary? You do know I have far better appointments to attend to this morning. Welcoming her back home is not necessary." The empress dowager expressed her feelings to the emperor.
"With all means, please leave if you don't want to be here. You're not welcome." Everyone bow to show their respect when they saw the imperial consorts with the rest of the empress's concubines had arrived at the front of the main palace entrance.
Even emperor Ragnar and empress Sophia bow their head when they see Virtra, the imperial consort.
"Raise your head, your majesty. I am not worthy. I'm just a lowly consort." The imperial consort smiled before she stands in front of the emperor.
"Mother ... please. Elpis is my elder sister. And she had risked her life in the frontlines for the Empire. Even though I was just the fake facade of a ruler in this palace; she never told me to do anything that might harm she and me never even asked for the throne back. Just please, for once please respect her as the true empress of this Empire." The emperor begged his mother.
But the empress dowager only scoffed her son off.
"Imperial consort Virtra, it seemed that you're short on one concubine. I can't see Lady Delphine anywhere." Empress Sophia voiced out. The imperial consort smiled as she tried to find a proper excuse for lady Delphine's absentee.
"I was told that she wasn't feeling well. That is why I excluded her from today's event." The imperial consort explained.
But in truth, Lady Delphine has been showing signs of labour. It's just their luck that it has to be today of all the day she could birth the child, Grace thought mentally.
Virtra smiled when she saw the carriage accompany with the sound of heavy metal boots, getting nearer to the palace. When the carriage stopped in front of the palace entrance, a soldier opened the door for the empress.
"Long live Empress Elpis ... Glory and peace to the Empire." They shouted before bowing their head when the empress got out from the carriage in full body armour.
The imperial consort was astounded when she saw that the armour stained with the blood of the Empire's enemies.
"Welcome home, your majesty." Elpis looked down at her concubines and noticed someone is missing.
"Virtra ... where is Delphine?" The empress seemed solemn.
"Apologies, your majesty but Lady Delphine is not feeling well. That is why I excluded her from welcoming you." Elpis noticed how her imperial consort has the guts to lie in front of everyone. She let it go for now.
"I would like to thank those who came to welcome me home. Whether you're here, sincerely or not." The empress dowager avoided eye contact.
"How was everything in my absence, Ragnar?" The empress asked. The emperor was about to cry when he kneels in front of his sister. Elpis looked down at the emperor who acts like a child.
"Sister! Please, never leave the palace in such a long time. I've been suffering. If it's not because of Sophia, I might just lose my sanity. It's hard to control the court. I have a lot more lesson to go through." Elpis patted her brother's head before helping him up to his feet.
"Virtra has explained to me in her letters. Any ministers who bullied you while I was away will face the consequences. We can always replace those old ones." Elpis turned to Sophia.
"Congratulation should be in order. You two had twins, am I correct?" Sophia bow.
"Yes, your majesty." Elpis patted Sophia's head like she always did when her brother and his wife was still a child.
"You've provided an heir for the throne. I am happy. Raise them well. I hope more little children be running wild in the palace. I'm tired. I shall retire to the Galatea Palace. Tonight, we shall celebrate." They bow when the empress leaves the front entrance followed by her concubines.
"Tell me the truth. What happened to Delphine?" The empress pressured her concubines to tell her the truth as she walks.
The imperial consort sighed before she explained to the empress what happened. At first, the empress was emotionless after knowing what her concubine had done while she was away.
"Who was responsible?" Elpis asked before entering her palace.
"A minister who worked in court. That man came to see Delphine every night before I was aware of the situation." The empress stopped in her track, and so did the concubines followed suit. They are too scared even to make any sound.
"Prepare a medicinal bath for me. Virtra, Grace, help me take off this armour. Elena, Margaux, please go to Delphine's quarters and make sure she's okay. I will come to see her after my bath." The imperial consort ordered the low-rank concubines to prepared the medical bath while both she and Grace went to the empress room.
Elpis stood in front of a mirror while Virtra and Grace proceed to remove her heavy armour.
"Oh, Elpis ... these wounds; no wonder you asked for a medicinal bath. You've been through a lot." Elpis kept a stoic expression while the concubines remove her articles of clothing.
"What have I done wrong?" Elpis suddenly asked when both Virtra and Grace placed the last piece of the armour onto a table.
"Why did Delphine betrayed me? Is it because I don't have the same anatomy as that minister? Was it because I have been away for so long?" Virtra and Grace looked at each other before they went to comfort the empress.
"You've done nothing wrong, Elpis. Don't blame yourself for this. If you want to punish someone, punish the minister. Who knows what kind of black magic he had done to our Delphine. You had my word when I said your concubines stay loyal to you." Virtra kisses Elpis's cheek.
Grace hugged the empress from behind.
"Please, your majesty. Don't overthink about such trivial things. You've just got back from war. Your mind and body are at capacity. Let us help you relax." Virtra smiled while she removes strands of brown hair from the empress's face.
"Let's get you clean up." Virtra grabbed a robe for the empress and led her towards the bath place.