„I wonder why do kings need such enormous beds?” complained Cirilla sleepily, feeling the usual morning disorientation that she felt every single time when His Imperial Majesty left the bed before she did, leaving her to fight alone against a veritable army of magnificent pillows, sheets and blankets.
„That is because kings should do everything with dignity.”
Emhyr was sitting in a chair and eating some weird fruit brought from the faraway Zerrikania. In Cirilla's opinion, it was disgusting and no fruit at all. But Emhyr had a utilitarian approach to the question of his own diet. The Emperor absorbed simple foodstuffs and the most sophisticated dishes with equal indifference. Once he had confessed to her that in his imperial understanding the main criterion for a good meal was a marked lack of poison. The rest was immaterial.
Cirilla sat up and pulled the sheet up to her armpits. For some reason - which neither of them quite undestood - the future Empress still hesitated to appear naked before Emhyr. She involuntarily remembered the last advice of Countess Liddertal, given when she was leading Cirilla to a private meeting with the Emperor.
„You will do well together,” said the lady back then with a smile. Regardless of her mentor's unshakeable confidence in her success, Cirilla had kept panicking until Emhyr var Emreis personally took off her gown. And after that… they did quite well together.
Cirilla quickly got used to the fact that the imperial 'early' didn't quite mean what normal 'early' did.
The world was still slumbering in pre-dawn twilight and he was already in his dressing gown, preparing to go and deal with matters of national importance. And eating nasty things.
„You snore,” she piped up and clutched at her sheet, just in case.
„Are you pointing out my flaws as my betrothed?” Emhyr poured himself some water. „You know, I am the Emperor after all, so in my case snoring is hardly significant.”
„Well...” Cirilla boldly leaned back agaist the pillows. Sooner or later she had to get rid of this silly embarassment, so let him look. „You have become my whole world. It's some kind of… a cult of personality.”
„Are you trying to tell me that you love me?”
„I don't know. I think so.” Never before had she tried to define her own feelings, because her feeling were not that important in the first place. „When you cannot live without someone – that is called love, is it not?”
The canopy over the bed was of noble scarlet. And perhaps it was not the most interesting thing in the world in itself, but right now staring at it was a much less dangerous pastime that looking at the Emperor.
„Then tell me your name.”
He still kept asking her about it from time to time, but she would not be caught in such an obvious trap.
„Cirilla. As you very well know.”
„I would prefer if you were called differently, but my desires are unimportant in this case. I am not going to apologize for what happened, because I have not regretted it before and now I regret it even less.”
„Are you trying to tell me that you love me, Your Majesty?” Cirilla didn't dare to turn her head. In romantic ballads those words would be spoken breathlessly while gazing into each other's eyes. But all courage has its bounds.
The sudden silence was not absolute. She heard his breathing, her breathing. And that was him putting his cup on a tray.
„Many of my plans failed. I lost something very important and gained something very important… And stop calling me Your Majesty!” Irritation could be heard in his voice. „And if you are so afraid to look at me now, I seem to have no choice but to reprimand Stella Congreve for allowing gaps in your education.”
Everything suddenly became so complicated. That is, it has been far from easy already, but when feelings get involved life at once becomes more complex as emotions eclipse reason and make everything brighter and sharper.
„Lady Congreve does not deserve to be reprimanded.” Cirilla chose to escape from the prison of her sheets and pillows. „And I deserve more.”
„Power?” Emhyr leaned back on his chair, looking on sceptically as she – blushing – got up from the bed.
„No, I deserve to be something more to you that just a replacement for something important, but lost.” She tiptoed to the Emperor and sat on his lap. „And I like to wear your dressing gown when you're gone. Although I do think there's too much gold embellishment on it.”
„Why, it emphasizes my position.” Emhyr held her tighter and kissed her on the neck.
Cirilla suddenly thought that everything could have gone differently. Another woman would be at his side then. And what would she do? Live her own life and love somebody else? It was unnerving to even imagine that she could love somebody else, not in this world.
You will do well together, a very wise woman told her once and there was no reason whatsoever to doubt her words.