After a few days, Falma came to the palace with Lotte to seek an audience with the Empress.
Lotte is wearing the new dress that she bought using the money raised from the pharmacy’s wage.
It seems that Lotte’s mother ordered such a luxurious dress that is suitable for the audience at a high-class tailor shop adding in her savings. Although, it is about the thoughtful Empress, they would probably be given enough funds to meet the cost.
Soon after Falma and Lotte arrived at the palace, they were guided to the Empress’s office.
The Empress was taking care of piled up paper works with her ministers and secretaries, signing them at an astonishing speed.
「Your Majesty, the new court painter has arrived」
「Ohh, you are the one called Charlotte huh」
The Empress stopped her work and welcomed Lotte with a smile.
Lotte curtsied, raising her skirt and bowed her head deeply. She did it more respectfully and bowed deeper when compared to as usual when she is in Falma’s mansion. While Lotte is still described as a young girl, her etiquette as a servant of a great noble is sophisticated.
「Yes, Your Majesty. My name is Charlotte Soller. I feel very honored by Her Majesty’s invitation to become a court painter. Also, I cannot thank you enough for the wonderful gift that you have given me」
「Umu. Your artworks are the condensation of purity and curvaceous charm that is difficult for others to copy」
「It is my honor to be praised by Her Majesty」
The Empress allowed Lotte free pass in the art workshop made specifically for court artists, asking her to make original artworks using ceramics, tapestries, and stained glass that can be made by other craftsmen.
「You are still young. It is not suitable to ask you too much and push yourself too hard. You should just bring your designs when you have them, and you do not need to make your artworks in the workshop as well」
It means that she does not have a fixed quota and it is possible to work at home. It is a considerable treatment.
「I will do my best to create artworks that would satisfy Her Majesty」
Lotte received a badge with crossed paint brushes that show her status as a court painter from the Empress and attached it to her chest. From then on, she was allowed to freely enter the workshop.
「I was so nervous〜! Her Majesty’s so beautiful right〜, she’s like a goddess!」
After leaving the office, Lotte let out a deep sigh while placing a hand on her chest. She claimed that she almost fainted with her chest throbbing so hard.
「Were you nervous? It was quite alright」
Falma felt relieved. The ministers were also impressed, saying that she acted very well in front of the Empress. Following that, Lotte went to see the court workshop that could be found inside the palace grounds. Falma accompanied her.
「I am the workshop chief, Hubert. Do your best」
A young workshop chief welcomed them.
「Please take care of me」
Many court painters and artisans are creating furniture and furnishings that were ordered inside the workshop. Among them, an old court painter is working on the imperial family’s portrait with a serious face.
「He is our workshop’s top court painter, Baron Dale」
Falma and Lotte watched him work from a distance.
The painter, Baron Dale noticed the concentrated gaze coming from Lotte.
「My name is Charlotte Soller. It looks so good, it’s as if it’s alive」
Lotte stood in awe of the overwhelming skill.
「It’s nothing, there are many who could replace painters who are ‘just’ good」
“Well, I could say I’m a bit good at the skill of beautification though”, he answered seemingly used to praises.
However, Lotte respected him because it’s because he has the status of being the greatest painter in the Empire that he was given the honor of drawing the Empress’s portrait.
「You’re that Charlotte, I see. I saw your painting」
「Yes, thank you very much」
「Bluntly speaking, your painting is too rough. I can’t even find a way to praise it」
Lotte who did not know techniques nor studied them did not have any words to retort with, got red to the ears and looked down with shame. It is too presumptuous for her to call herself a court painter, but Lotte is also aware of that.
「I-It is exactly as you say」
Lotte completely shrunk.
「But that was the good thing about it」
However, his bright voice, it continued, as though she has dispelled something.
「For all these years, I did my best to improve my drawing skills. I have been seeking for the drawings that are comparable with the real thing. That’s why, when I saw your work, I felt blank. It was not a masterpiece, nor could be called excellent, but it made me remember that art is free」
What captured the Empress’s heart was the exact opposite of what the old painter had drawn.
He felt as though his life was denied entirely, making him return to his beginning. He said deprecatingly.
「But, I’m already old. It’s too late to challenge new things. I am thinking of retiring, not finishing this drawing, and not offering it to Her Majesty」
It was quite near completion, making Falma and Lotte feel that it’s a waste to stop now.
It looks like the workshop chief heard his retirement plan for the first time, he looked surprised and panicky.
「After all, it seems that, I am possessed by an evil spirit」
If a painting done by someone who was possessed by an evil spirit was displayed in the palace, it might call upon a disaster to the emperor. That’s why he said that he must withdraw from it.
「Please tell me what happened」
If it were before, Falma would have taken a step back, feeling the absurdity of it, but since encountering Kamyu, he finally understood that evil spirits really exist in this world.
However, although the baron proclaimed that he is possessed by an evil spirit, Falma cannot feel an evil presence from him. Additionally, Falma used his Diagnosis Eye, but he did not saw anything unusual. So, all he can do is ask him what it is about.
「What kind of evil spirit is it?」