“Sorry,” I said, as my face began to flush.
“No, I am fine.
But did you dislike the idea of calling me by name”
I groaned quietly.
He did tell me to express my displeasures.
“How do I dare call thy Lord by name I am merely a commoner, while you are the ruler of the entire empire.”
“You don’t wish to Fine, call me emperor like you have been.” He seemed saddened by this.
“emperor!” I exclaimed in a squeaky voice.
How had he known I even dared to address him as emperor, and not my Lord as was proper
The emperor’s lips quivered as he watched my face turn pale.
Since the mask only covered his eyes, the twitching of his lips was clearly visible.
“Your sleep talking is quite something,” he snickered.
I completely froze at his mischievous tone.
The emperor continued his perfect dancing display, while lifting me up like a feather.
The song ended but I had no recollection of any of my movements.
As soon as the bowing formalities were over, I ran from the stage pulling him after me.
“Iona” The emperor was confused by my fear,
When we reached an area without many people, I let go of his arm and put my hands to my face, hiding my embarrassment.
Pale as a ghost, I asked the dreaded question.
“During my sleep talking, what did I say, exactly”
I wouldn’t have posed such a direct question any other time, but I had caused trouble with sleep talking in my past life.
As I trembled with anxiety, I prayed I hadn’t said anything that would incriminate me.
As if finding my reaction amusing, the emperor let out another chuckle.
“See, this is why I can’t let you go.”
“Sorry” I felt like I was standing on the edge of a cliff as I awaited his response.
“I think you called me an idiot.”
And with those words, I fainted to the floor.
* * *
I came too slowly, my vision regaining focus from the fog in my head.
I had been seated in a chair.
The emperor stood next to me, looking as smug as usual.
He offered me a glass of water.
“Are you all right” he asked.
“Thank you,” I replied, drinking the water he handed to me.
I tried to shake the remaining confusion from my mind.
I couldn’t meet his gaze, mortified with the realization of what he said I spoke in my sleep.
“Why is it that you are so surprised Had you not spoken your thoughts, even if they were in a dream”
Kill me twice, why don’t you, I thought burying my face in my hands. Should I actually admit that I addressed you both as emperor and an idiot I was tearing up inside with disgrace when a hand patted my head.
“You don’t have to worry.” Easy enough for him to say, when I committed treasonous offences.
“Let your mind be at ease.”
“All right,” I mumbled from my hands.
Was he seriously okay with this I wanted to relax, but that was not the easiest thing to do.
There was so much I had gone through at the palace.
My body had definitely taken less of a toll lately, but, in the beginning, I was constantly fearing for my life.
I had to pull off that spy mission at the central temple.
But it was the change in the emperor’s demeanor that concerned me the most.
I was thankful that he was willing to overlook my rude remarks, but that certainly did not make me feel comfortable.
“I would also prefer you call me by my name, like I requested of you earlier,” the emperor insisted.
“And like I said, that does not constitute appropriate etiquette for a commoner like me.”
“Have you ever seen me care about proper etiquette with you before”
“That’s true, but you did ask me to take lessons in etiquette for a fortnight.”
Sensing that the conversation was heading in the direction that the emperor wanted, I desperately searched for an excuse to end it.
“I had my reasons,” the emperor simply said
“What reasons” I questioned.
I had worked hard for two weeks and now he was saying I didn’t need it.
Did I not do it because I would need the knowledge for the masquerade, and any other gatherings There had been an enormous amount to cover just for formal functions.
The teachers who educated me did so without any complaints.
It was obvious that the emperor had given them orders to treat me as any other noble student.
“I will tell you another time,” was the only explanation he would give to me.
He would not yet confide in me his secrets.
Awkwardly, he changed the subject.
“I know you have had some cookies, but are you not hungry I told the chefs to take special care with the flavour of the foods.
Would you like some more to eat”
He was clearly trying to move on from the issue.
I let go of the thought of probing harder for his reasons, knowing it would cause nothing but more trouble.
My attention shifted towards the foods prepared by the chefs ‘with special care,’ as the emperor had described it.