He had expected that in order to establish a foothold in this foreign kingdom–she would try to exert influence around her and gain allies. However, she had not done so. That was why Verus had been kind to her in the early stages of the royal marriage.
It was simply that as time went by, he was disappointed to discover that the queen had truly done absolutely nothing with her power and influence. She functioned more like a living doll, a useless ornament that decorated the palace. Not to mention the disappearance incident not long ago, he had come to even completely mistrust her.
Why is she only summoning me now? Verus wondered. Could she suspect that he was investigating her missing maids?
It doesn’t matter.
Verus shook his head to rid his thoughts of worry. She had done nothing worthy of getting caught after all. If by any chance the queen did have access to that kind of information, he would have to go back to square one and investigate everything all over again, because it would mean that the queen had been hiding her power all this time and there must be more to her than he suspected.
The queen is summoning me, and I am in no place to disobey. I suppose there’s nothing for it.
Verus wrote out a letter, requesting an audience with the queen and asking them to inform him of a suitable time and date to meet her. When he was done, he called his butler and handed the letter to him.
“This letter is for the palace. Ask them to deliver it to Baron Waze.”
“Yes, My Lord.” The butler replied.
After the letter was sent, a reply came within the hour.
“What’s that?” Verus asked when he saw his butler carrying a letter for him.
“It is a letter from the palace.” The butler announced as he showed the wax seal that was imprinted with the royal family’s crest to Verus.
As this stamp could only be used by royalty, in the current absence of the king, there was no one who could have used it but the queen.
Verus quickly opened the envelope, unfolded the letter and read it to find its contents were even more absurd than he expected.
– I approve of your request for an audience. Two in the afternoon, today.
Verus checked the letter over multiple times to confirm that it indeed said ‘today’.
If it was not a very close friend, he always set appointments at least a day in advance. When it came to royal audiences, setting a date at least two days in advance was common sense.
What’s more unusual, is the fact that the king is currently away.
Verus thought that the queen was acting suspiciously. Just in case someone might go to unnecessary lengths to make it seem even more so, Verus did not dare venture to the palace when the king was absent if he could help it. He hated when unnecessary troubles were created.
Even with that said, Verus also knew that he could not alter an appointment set by the queen herself. Verus let out a deep breath as he made up his mind.
“Thomson, make preparations to enter the palace later.” Verus instructed his butler with a low sigh.
Although he felt uneasy about going there at such short notice, he was also curious. If the matter was serious enough for her to request to meet so urgently… Just what could it be?
The remodeling of the queen’s office was complete. The room had originally just been a parlor for receiving guests but now it looked equipped to serve as a study and a conference room.
The palace was full of such rooms after all.
It used to be a room for people awaiting an audience, but in recent times there had been little use for a waiting room by the queen’s parlor and so it was converted into a more useful premise.
The room had been decorated according to Eugene’s specifications.
Other than a desk and a bookshelf, only absolutely necessary furniture had been placed in there. She had foregone excessive decoration and kept the number of items minimal in redesigning the room.
Although the interior design was not her specialty, she had had the job of decorating the manager’s office before when she used to work at a company.
The company changed offices often, and although it had not been a big company, her old boss had wanted his office fancily decorated – even while he was stingy about spending money on it.
Somehow that work always ended up falling on Eugene, even though she was just an administrative worker.
Why do I have to do this sort of thing? She had often wondered every time she was given a task that did not fit her job description, but she was just an employee with no power to refuse her manager’s orders so she did those anyway.
She cursed her boss the whole time she was working through, but in the end, she was praised for being even better than a professional. After that, decorating the manager’s office had always been her job. The thought that perhaps she should genuinely shift her career and work as an interior designer had even occurred to her before.
To Eugene, the style of design that was popular here appeared garish and tacky, as though they were trying to be as ostentatious as possible. So she tried to keep it classic and minimal.
When one was looking at artworks like in tourist attractions, it was fine to highlight the lavish decorations, but everything around you from morning to night being brightly colorful and decked up in gleaming gold could grow very tiresome.
Eugene was accustomed to clean, modern design, but she felt that if she tried to apply that sense here, it would be so shocking for these people that they would only feel repulsed by it. Too much change would also make the room seem out of place and not many may end up using it which would be a waste of space.
That was how she had ended up compromising and finding an appropriate middle ground. Her office was done in a vintage style, preserving an old-fashioned feel while adding a flavor of modernity – simple, yet luxurious.
Eugene called Marianne and Sarah to take the first look around the completed office.
“I decorated it the way I like it. What do you think? Are there any parts that don’t look right for you? I could change it to suit your preference.”
As Eugene was explaining, Marianne and Sarah gazed around the office curiously basking in the new image of the room.
When the queen had said that she would be taking full responsibility for the management of the palace, even down to the most trivial matters, they had thought that she was just being over-enthusiastic about her responsibilities. They had had no idea that she would even care to transform this space so entirely.
Marianne had spent decades in the palace serving in place of the queen and dealing with aristocrats so that she had naturally seen and heard many things of how to run the palace. Although she was not high-born, Marianne’s level of refinement was easily comparable to those of noble birth because she had been surrounded by them all her life and had adopted their ways.
She thought that the office felt both refreshing and yet sophisticated.
“It looks very fine, Your Grace.” Sarah whispered to Eugene. “My experience may be limited, but it is like nothing I have ever seen before.” She even added.
Marianne and Sarah both reacted positively to her work, and Eugene smiled to herself.
Eugene knew that even if they did not like it, they could not very well say so – but she could feel that they truly did. The awe in their eyes as they scanned all over the room was genuine. She could see their delight.
“Shall I change the whole palace to match my tastes a little better?” Eugene inquired.
Although it would take a huge amount of work to redecorate a palace of this size, she actually found herself growing excited just imagining it.
She was in charge of the palace. Without worrying about anyone else’s opinion, she could change things however she liked. Of course, the king had to agree with the changes she wanted to make, but his personality was definitely the type to not be particularly bothered by trivial things such as how the palace may look.
Eugene was surprised by how carelessly she had passed judgment on him. It had not been so long ago that she had had no idea what sort of person the king was. Now she knew him well enough to categorically define elements of his character. It was a strange feeling to finally know a person deeper.
“Your Grace, I have something to speak about with you, if I may.” Eugene nodded at Sarah’s words.
“What is it?”
“It’s about employing some temporary staff. Usually, during the active season, we don’t employ temporary staff, but it’s hard on the court ladies to have so many posts left vacant.”
Eugene nodded understanding the cause of Sarah’s concern.
After the incident of the queen’s disappearance, quite a number of the palace’s staff had claimed responsibility and resigned from their posts. The remaining people they had, tried to carry on until the end of the active season with the few workers they had left after the sudden exodus.
However, problems had occurred far too early in the active season for them to finish all their work until the start of the dry season. Too much work for too few people was bound to result in lowered standards of outputs.
The matter that the chancellor had spoken of was also of interest to Eugene.
Rodrigo was not going to miss this opportunity.