Chapter 54 – The Emperor’s Personal Garden
Inside the palace, Tiana and Lucius parted ways with Edwin and were guided to the audience chamber by a servant. As they walked down a long corridor, Tiana’s anxiety didn’t subdue. There was something off about the palace. She could only hear hers, Lucius’, the servant’s footsteps, and nothing else. Aside from their guide, not a single maid or servant walked past them.
She wondered how could there not be a single person around, and if she was really in the Imperial Palace? Perhaps Lucius also felt the same, his face twisted with unease.
When they arrived at the door leading to the audience chamber, the servant bowed to Tiana and asked her to wait outside, as the Emperor had asked to speak to Lucius first.
“I never heard anything about meeting separately,” Lucius muttered under his breath. The servant bowed deeper and said, contemplating, “I’m just delivering what His Majesty ordered. Your Highness, please enter first as you will be called soon.”
Lucius frowned and glared at him with a stern face. Tiana saw that the servant didn’t know what to do at Lucius’ attitude, so she gently tapped him on the arm.
“Hey, I’ll be alright. Just go.” She said, giving him a reassuring smile. When Lucius tried to complain, Tiana held up her hand to silence him. “It’s probably just the way he does things. He said His Majesty will call you soon. Don’t worry Lucius, I’ll be fine.
“I said I’ll be alright. Just go wait inside. Go.”
Tiana didn’t know Rael’s reason for seeing them one at a time, but it was an order from him and they couldn’t reject that. She saw Lucius hesitating to go in and, smiling gently, pushed him from behind to force him in.
“If you say so…”
“See you in a little bit.”
She waved at him as he glanced behind him a worried expression on his face. He barely made it inside before the wide-opened door slammed shut. The noise echoed throughout the empty corridor.
Tiana lowered her hand and tapped at the floor with her foot and fiddled with her dress. It was strange that she had been summoned to the palace because he wanted to meet her, and now this was unfolding before her. She was unsatisfied with the strange turn of events, but all she could do was pace back and forth and wait for her turn to be called forward.
It hadn’t even been five minutes when someone called to her from behind. She turned to see a servant addressing her. His uniform, and the manner in which he carried himself, were too refined for him to be a mere servant, though.
“I’m Terrance Albeur, grand chamberlain of our Emperor Rael.” The man bowed to Tiana. “His Majesty says you may enter now. Please follow me.”
“Huh? But…” Tiana gestured to the door to the audience chamber. Lucius still had not reappeared.
“His Majesty did it on purpose because he wanted to meet you separately, Lady Tiana. Don’t worry, this news was delivered to His Grace the Duke as well.” Terrance turned away from Tiana. “Follow me, please.”
He began leading her back down the hallway, Tiana having to take longer steps to keep up with him.
Together, they walked to the back of the palace to a vast garden. Terrance guided Tiana through a small path where she felt a strange sense of déjá vu. At the end of the path, she could see a small garden at the end of the path.
If the garden they just passed through was the ‘emperor’s garden,’ full of dense trees and colorful sculptures, then the place inside had a completely different atmosphere: Full bloom of flowers, flying butterflies, and smaller trees.
Tiana realised what the déjá vu she had felt earlier was: A depiction of the original novel. The side road in the emperor’s garden was the entrance to the garden inside the garden, to Rael’s secret garden, and the scene from when Angelica first visited this place.
“If you wait here for a moment, His Majesty will be right out.” Terrance bowed once more and left Tiana alone.
Tiana sat down on a bench, confused about everything. Only those who were invited could enter Rael’s personal garden. Furthermore, it was a place that not even the closest aides knew about.
Her thoughts were all over the place, Why did he have to meet her there? To confirm that she was worthy of becoming Lucius’ wife? Then did he really have to do it there? Or was the emperor also a victim of being possessed? Did he call her over to check out the ‘new’ her?
Questions fell one after another inside Tiana’s head. Amid Rael’s baffling intentions, she nervously flinched at a shadow moving behind the tree and leapt to her feet. She anxiously waited for someone to jump out, but it wasn’t Rael who came out from behind the tree.
A cat emerged, stretching and yawning in the sun. It purred happily as it rubbed around Tiana’s legs.
“What..?” Tiana stared down at the cat in disbelief. Where did this cat come from?