This was the difference.
My room in Juliette Palace was similar to a central library on a university campus.
There were cherry blossoms blooming outside, but I had to study inside while people like Benjamin, Ganael, and the attendants were going in and out and causing white noise similar to my experience in a library.
On the other hand, the Imperial Temple’s Confessional was similar to the premium reading room Eunse used to go to until last year.
It is small and dark, but the chair is comfy and there is a partition separating each room.
Both that place and here were extremely quiet so that all you could hear was your own breath and the sound of your clothes as you moved. They both make a person really sleepy too.
‘Why is that little punk not showing up? Is he being shy today?’
“ ‘Controlling the flow of aether is a simple yet complicated process. The easiest training method is to be able to freely change the size of your circle……’ Is that so?”
I read the textbook I brought with me out loud so that I would not fall asleep.
I sometimes question whether I fell into a romantic fantasy or a studying novel.
Other than the confessions that were recently added, all I do in the palace is eat, sleep, and study.
It’s not that I don’t like it.
I would rather live my life quietly studying like this for all eternity a hundred, no, a thousand times over getting swept up in a romance that has nothing to do with me and dying in the process.
Staying alive will let me hopefully go back home at some point.
I looked down at the ground.
I could see my circle that was expanded wide enough to reach out of the Confessional.
I recalled how the Cardinal had pressured me by increasing and decreasing the size of her Holy Domain as she pleased on the first day of my training.
‘I might as well give it a try since I have nothing to do while I wait.’
I took a deep breath in and then out.
I focused and imagined closing the aether faucet about halfway.
The Holy Domain resembled a conscious being as it hesitated for a moment before slowly getting smaller.
The inside of the Confessional that had been really bright now looked as if a mood light was turned on because the glowing circle became smaller.
“Oh, it works.”
I easily succeed again. I tilted my head in confusion.
I felt as if everything I tried was pretty easy to do as long as it was related to handling aether.
It was the same when I had to fend off the twin assassins and when I took confessions.
‘Is it like this for other priests too?’
Based on what I heard from Benjamin yesterday, the only priests in the Imperial Palace were Cardinal Boutier and me.
I’m the only one who was officially stationed here, while the Cardinal was here as the Empress’s partner.
That meant that the only priest I could chat with was the Cardinal, but I don’t think she’s a good person to talk to about this since she’s known as a once-in-a-generation type of genius.
Well, it is good to have something you are good at.
I showed a positive attitude toward this because there was no reason to think negatively about being good at something.
I started to get hungry, so I closed the book and opened the picnic basket Benjamin packed for me.
Some people might talk crap about how I am using the Confessional like my own living room, but I can’t help it since I can’t focus when I am hungry.
“Ah, he put them in here.”
The fever reducer and digestive medicine I asked Ganael for were in a corner of the basket.
I couldn’t tell what the thing was inside the circular pill bottle, so I opened it and took a sniff.
It had the sharp scent of medicinal herbs. This is probably for abrasions.
I had food, two bottles of tea, and even medicine.
Unfortunately, not a single ant, let alone the child, visited the Confessional even after a few hours.
I debated staying thirty more minutes and then leaving since it was almost time for dinner.
“Wow, holy shit.”
The Calisson I ate was too delicious. I couldn’t help but admire it out loud.
‘The cracker tastes like fruit. Is there melon inside?’
I drank a sip of ginkgo leaf tea with it and the way the slightly bitter taste of the tea settled the sweetness in my mouth was almost magical.
I took turns eating the cracker and drinking the tea until my gaze headed toward the rope on the left side of the Confessional.
It wasn’t fixed and still looked the same as it did the other day after the boy threw the dagger at it.
I stopped eating and looked to the right.
I could see the wooden window that had a hole in it.
I suddenly became uncomfortable.
‘Why did Vice Captain Élisabeth not say anything when the Confessional looks like this? Does she not know about it yet?’
It was hard to believe that she did not look around after I fainted.
She might have thought that I fainted because of health issues or Divine Power issues, but who knows what could happen to a person while they were alone?
As Vice Captain of the Imperial Guard, there was no way she would not have looked around.
‘Is she not saying anything even though she knows?’
I flinched at my thought and stiffened up.
‘She pretended not to see blade marks inside the Confessional? Why?’
– Knock knock.
I jumped in shock at the sudden knocking.
It was not coming from the other side. Someone was knocking on the door to my side.
“Excuse me, is anybody in there?”
I heard an unfamiliar woman’s voice. I debated what to do before opening the door.
The woman outside the door seemed to be in her mid to late thirties.
She looked shocked and quickly bowed after making eye contact with me.
“Aigoo, it is an honor to meet such a respected individual. I, I did not think that you would really be here, your highness……”
“That is okay. But how did you know that I was inside……”
I definitely put up the sign that said, ‘the priest is currently unavailable’ when I came in.
“Umm, I saw this on the ground……”
I lowered my head following her finger.
The circle that I had shrunk earlier had stretched back out and was visible outside the Confessional.
I guess I couldn’t control it because I was distracted because the Calisson was so delicious.
“Ah, I see. Yes, ma’am. I am taking confessions. Have you eaten?”
I felt awkward and just said whatever came to my mind.
* * *
“It is an honor, your highness. For you to share food from the Imperial family with a lowly woman like me…… I, I will treat it as communion.”
‘What was communion again? Oh, it must be related to that ceremony where the priests give food to the believers.’
I didn’t remember what or why the priest gave the food though.
‘I guess I should study more about that as well.’
“I have some tea as well.”
I handed the woman three or four Calissons and poured some ginkgo leaf tea into a small cup Ganael packed for me.
I handed her the cup through the broken wooden window and she quickly grabbed it with both hands.
I could see her fingertips shaking.
“I, I am honored. I will never forget this moment for the rest of my life. My goodness……”
I didn’t bring it to enjoy on my own anyway.
I listened to the woman slowly biting down on the cracker and waited for her confession to start.
She wet her lips with the tea and finally started speaking.
“Mm, mm, m, my last confession was 10 years…… No, I think it was 12 years ago.”
“I see, please go on.”
“My husband and I work as mountain keepers of the mountain behind the Imperial Palace. The job isn’t difficult thanks to the grace of her majesty. We kill the dangerous-looking animals if they show up, make sure that the trees are not sick, and report any suspicious activities to the Imperial Guards.”
“Are you talking about the mountain behind Juliette Palace?”
“Yes, yes, sir.”
I thought about the mountain that was visible past the training ground behind my room.
My first thought when I saw it was, ‘There’s a mountain here so there will probably be a lot of mosquitoes in the summer.’ I didn’t realize it would have mountain keepers.
“A few days ago, animals that looked like demonic beasts appeared, so my husband and I scared them away.”
“Demonic beasts appeared?”
My voice became louder in shock.
‘Wait, it’s not like I’m near the Bukhan Mountain. I have to even worry about wild animals showing up now?’
“It is not very common. It is a small mountain at the end of a large mountain range, so some follow the mountain range and show up every so often. There is a strong barrier around the Imperial Palace that keeps the extremely dangerous ones away, and we only get small ones the size of rabbits that are not detected by the barrier.”
I quickly sighed in relief.
I would feel wrong dying while in the middle of someone else’s romance, but I also didn’t want to die after being bitten by a wild hog.
“Anyway, after that happened…… These little monsters would run away, but then they keep coming back. They somehow didn’t get eaten by other animals but those little beasts continuing to show up was on my mind…… So I lit a fire to scare them away a few days ago.”
I read about it in a book.
Demonic beasts can have all sorts of abilities but they are scared of water and fire so they can be hunted easily using that to our advantage.
“I have forgotten about them since they haven’t shown up since then. But I was chatting with the carpenters in the palace today when…… I heard that they might be divine beasts instead.”
I remembered the random line written about them in the book about demonic beasts.
‘Whenever divine beasts appear, a person with Divine Power leads them to a divine item.’ It was something like that.
It didn’t have any pictures of what a divine beast looks like, so I thought it was just a myth or something.
“Yes, sir. I heard that the attendants at Juliette Palace have only had good dreams since the prince of the Holy Kingdom had arrived, and they said that divine beasts might be trying to head over to absorb some of that aura as well.”
My cheeks felt as if they were on fire at the fact that the talks about good dreams did not stop and had spread throughout the Imperial Palace.
I guess I shouldn’t have let the attendants kiss up to me like that just because they were young.
This is why early education is really important.
“U, umm, I also have only had auspicious dreams or good rests without any dreams since you arrived, your highness. I have worked as a mountain keeper for twenty years and have never seen demonic beasts that look like them as well. They didn’t seem afraid of people so I really wonder if they truly are divine beasts……”
The women, Agnes’s voice was getting quieter.
“That is why I came here for forgiveness. Maxim said that it is a terrible sin to bother divine beasts. But my husband said that they probably weren’t divine beasts.”
‘Maxim? Isn’t that the name of the carpenter who made my sign?’
[That, mm. First of all, you did well to scare those little animals away without harming them. The Almighty God would have looked favorably upon you for that as well.]
“T, thank you very much, your highness.”
[Even if they were divine beasts, there was probably not much you could have done differently. People without Divine Power are unable to tame divine beasts. Because of that……]
My repertoire of things to say was not up to par to come up with things on the spot.
It wasn’t easy trying to throw away my position as the second male lead and living as a professional.
[I forgive you. You did what you did for the safety of the Imperial Palace. However, should something like this happen again, please make sure to contact the Imperial Guard first. You can inform Vice Captain Élisabeth of the Imperial Guard about what I just said as well. This is your penance.]
Agnes continued to quietly thank me after I said that.
She sounded a bit as if she might be crying as we were surrounded by a bright light.
* * *
I waited in the Confessional for four hours, but the little punk who threw a dagger at me and stole my aether on our first meeting didn’t show up.
My first and last guest today was Agnes.
“There are a lot of books about demonic beasts.”
I was currently standing in front of a table in my pajamas.
I came back and had dinner with Benjamin and Ganael and was now looking at a new book after washing up.
It looks like it’s going to be a drawn-out battle with the kid so I should just focus on my studies as usual while I rest.
“But there are barely any books about divine beasts.”
‘Are they really like animals of legends?’
I felt like that would make Agnes feel better too.
– Flutter, flutter.
I could hear the sound of the curtains flapping. The wind flipped the pages of the book.
Ganael usually comes every night to close and lock the windows and doors, but the balcony door was wide open for some reason.
“I guess he forgot.”
I walked over and closed the balcony door and the curtains. It wasn’t cold.
Korean spring has some chilly days, but it has been warm here since March.
“Your attendant did his job.”
“You are extremely dense for someone who has so much aether.”
I slowly turned around after hearing the clear voice. My body felt as if it was creaking.
I saw a small body.
I saw the hair that was as dark as ink even under the light and orange-colored eyes that looked even brighter because of the light.
That damn little kid was standing in the middle of my room.
“You are extremely dense for someone who has so much aether.”
Is aether supposed to make someone not dense? That’d be an interesting effect.