“Wow, the Imperial Palace is the size of a city.”
Ganael laughed at my comment.
Apparently, Ganael came to see me with his swollen face the day I regained consciousness and cried again.
It was too much for this little guy to have been betrayed by the twins, whom he had thought were his friends and having me almost die.
He looks much better now, two days later.
– Clack, clack.
I let the carriage continue to take me as I looked outside.
This was the first time I was getting to explore different parts of the Imperial Palace other than Juliette Palace and the garden.
“It is 10:40 am. I’m relieved that we will be able to make it on time.”
“You’re right. Thanks.”
Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at 11 am. Those were the times Cardinal Aurélie Boutier told me that she would be available to chat.
To be honest, I didn’t think that she opened those times up especially for me.
Why would the most respected religious figure in the Empire open up her schedule three times a week for a simple diplomatic hostage?
That was why I just nonchalantly brought it up at breakfast when Benjamin and Ganael dropped their jaws in shock.
‘Your highness, what did you just say?’
‘Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at 11 am. She told me that I can come during those times to ask any questions I may have……’
‘Benjamin-nim, I will go grab the formal attire!’
‘Ganael, contact the attendants at the Romero Palace as well! Let them know that we need a carriage.’
I was shocked and said, ‘It’d be great for me if we go today. I have a lot of questions.’
But when I responded that way, Benjamin said……
‘Rather than ‘It’d be great,’ it is that you must go. Prince Jesse, this is not an option.’
He then almost glared at me as if he wanted to swear at me. That was what happened not too long ago at around 9 am.
I would have liked to get another day of rest.
I know that it is important to get information from the Cardinal, but I wanted to give myself a moment to empty my head after almost losing my life.
I don’t know how strong the mental fortitudes of main characters in web novels are to be able to hit incident after incident and still easily get through them.
‘Mm, no, that’s not right. They can do that because they are the MC. I’m just an extra, so it makes sense that my mind is not as strong.’
I consoled myself and told myself that I was doing my best.
“Good morning, Prince Jesse. Welcome to the Empress Palace.”
I arrived at the bottom of the stairs up to the Empress Palace as I had those thoughts.
An attendant who seemed to have a pretty high position was waiting for us at the entrance.
That was when I really realized that the Cardinal’s statement was not an open offer.
“I believe this is your first time at the Empress Palace. I will personally escort you to Her Eminence, Cardinal Boutier’s office.”
“Thank you very much.”
I obediently followed behind the attendant, with Benjamin and Ganael walking behind me.
The official name of the Empress Palace was the ‘Sénair Palace,’ but nobody called it that and everybody just calls it the ‘Empress Palace.’
I didn’t think much of it when Benjamin told me about that, but now I understand why.
Basically, no other word can express the overwhelming scale and splendor of this building.
The ceilings seemed to be at least 30 meters tall and the pillars, wall art, and decorations were all huge.
The sleek marble floor connected from corner to corner and glimmered in the light with not even a single speck of dirt visible.
If Juliette Palace was a business hotel, the Empress Palace was a seven-star hotel that costs 40,000,000 won per night.
“This way, your highness.”
We walked up to the second floor and the attendants working at the Empress Palace saw me and quietly bowed as they walked past.
Most of them seemed to spend a long time looking into my eyes. I guess purple pupils are rare for people.
“Your Eminence, Prince Jesse Venetiaan has arrived.”
I heard a warm voice respond once the attendant knocked in front of a large Mahogany door.
Benjamin said that they would wait outside and took a step back.
“Please enjoy your time, your highness!”
Ganael clenched both of his fists and whispered to me.
I wish it would have been enjoyable…
“Eek, no, please wait!”
“Your activation is too slow. You need to grasp the flow of aether inside your body.”
This was already the fourth time.
I rolled my body over to get up from the ground.
The Cardinal’s grand circle, her ‘Holy Domain,’ had pushed me back until the door and I barely had enough room to stand up.
‘Wasn’t this time to chat? How did it become training time without any protective equipment?’
“Oh, you still have time to think about other things?”
“I, I’m sorry!”
I quickly snapped out of my thoughts.
I quickly started running toward the center of the room the moment she shrank the size of her Holy Domain.
It was to the spot with the symbol of the Church of the Almighty God, the downward arrow.
“I did it!”
I then quickly released my Holy Domain.
It was amazing that I could summon the circle with my will alone without lifting up a prayer or saying a Divine Oracle.
My Holy Domain looked like a kindergartener’s chicken scratches compared to the Cardinal’s Holy Domain that had luxurious patterns on it, but at least it activated.
“Then protect yourself.”
“Huh? Your Eminence, this is cheating……!”
She maintained her Holy Domain and started walking toward where I was standing, crashing into my flimsy circle.
Golden flames danced together like the flames that come up when welding things together.
“Please wait a moment!”
I felt something like a migraine, but it felt more like pressure than pain.
It felt as if an invisible force was pushing down on my head saying, ‘go away, step back.’
I felt myself being pushed back even though the Cardinal didn’t lay a finger on me.
“Can you feel the flow of divine power?”
How could I not?
That so-called ‘aether’ inside my body was squirming around my heart, as if to resist her strong power.
It was different from when I stopped the assassin twins.
Forget detecting the existence of the aether, I just left things to luck and was busy shouting things that day.
But I could tell for sure now.
I could tell what was causing this warm feeling that felt as good as being on an electric pad in the winter. It felt like a liquid, but also like a gas.
“Tightly grab onto it.”
I made eye contact with Cardinal Boutier.
Her magenta hair was flowing down over one shoulder and she had a mitre on her head that looked as sharp as a fish head, but she looked as relaxed as she did the first time I met her.
“Twist its damn neck and imagine that it is under your control.”
I gulped because even though her beige-colored eyes curled up as if she was smiling, the words she said were pretty scary and coarse.
I still had to do as she ordered.
I believe the Cardinal is trying to teach me something right now.
Although her choice of words sounded crass, I started suppressing my aether.
“Good, just like that.”
Well, to be more specific, I imagined myself suppressing my aether.
I guess I kind of imagined a sashimi knife striking down against a flopping flounder?
Is this what they call image training?
“Good, try to hold on for 10 seconds. One, two……”
Her Holy Domain started pushing against my Holy Domain again as soon as she started counting.
Golden flames burst up again.
The round border of my circle felt as if it would break at any moment.
Ten seconds felt like forever. I could feel sweat pouring down my forehead.
I tried my best to channel my aether to the bottom of my feet.
That seemed to be the only solution to maintaining this position longer.
Both Holy Domains disappeared as soon as she finished her counting.
My Holy Domain evaporated instantly like a light turning off while the Cardinal’s Holy Domain slowly seeped into the ground and gently disappeared.
“Please let me lay down for a moment……”
I didn’t even wait for her response and plopped down on top of the symbol of the Church of the Almighty God at the center of her office.
“That is your ‘Divine Power’.”
I barely managed to turn my head to look at the Cardinal.
Her eyes had seemed really cold when she was telling me to tightly grab onto my aether, but she looked like a nice person again.
“Civilians and even most priests are unable to differentiate between ‘aether’ and ‘Divine Power.’ Many people even believe that the two are the same.”
I had been one of those people. My foundation was weak because I basically learned by skimming through books.
I was surprised that she understood the things I said until now, despite my using the two interchangeably.
“If aether is the blessing from God, Divine Power is the ability to control it. It allows you to use it as you please and give it orders.”
My head nodded on its own. It was easy to understand after experiencing it with my own body.
“The total amount of aether that is stored in a person’s soul or ‘plate’ is determined at birth, but that is not the case for Divine Power. It will continue to get stronger if you work hard in your training and circulate it frequently without being lazy.”
‘She’s very good at teaching.’
I was thinking that she was amazing as I slowly sat up.
I took some deep breaths and noticed my fluctuating aether slowly start to calm down.
“Thank you for your wise words, Your Eminence. But……”
“Because I told you that I would answer your questions.”
That was the perfect response as if she anticipated my question of, ‘Why are you teaching me these things?’
She smiled brightly before returning to her chair and sitting down.
Unlike the area around me that had turned into a mess, the large desk and giant piles of documents looked as if nothing had happened.
“I did say that aether is something a person is born with, but I know that your aether is an exception. I thought it would be obvious that you would be curious about a power that suddenly seemed to appear out of nowhere. Was I wrong?”
“……No, ma’am, you are right.”
I lightly brushed off my crumpled clothes and sat down on the couch she pointed at.
“No matter how much aether a person has, it is useless if they don’t have enough Divine Power to control it. On the other hand, a person who has powerful Divine Power can use their meticulous control to achieve a lot of things even if they were born with a low amount of aether.”
Her explanations were easy to understand.
She stopped talking for a moment before continuing in a serious tone.
“During our negotiations for diplomatic hostage, the representatives of the Holy Kingdom indicated that you were just a bishop in name. They said that you would not be a threat to anybody because you grew up without receiving any proper priest education. That was why Her Majesty and I thought that was the case as well.”
“But you were able to defend against a Clergy level priest and Holy Knight on your own and resisted against my power without any training today.”
She smiled brightly while saying that I seemed to be a proper Bishop-level priest.
“Does that mean you see me as a threat?”
“If I wanted to see it that way, I probably could.”
She gave me an ambiguous response.
“But I believe that you can be of great assistance not just to the Riester Imperial family but the future of the Empire as well.”
My eyes opened wide after hearing such heavy expectations.
“You might hope to go back home because you are a diplomatic hostage, but the Holy Kingdom…… Probably doesn’t wish for your return now that things are like this.”
I started thinking about Prince Jesse’s complicated family tree.
Prince Consort Werner sent me as a diplomatic hostage then had assassins try to kill me in order to secure his loving daughter, crown princess Elise’s position.
All he wants from me is for me to die outside the Holy Kingdom.
“May I ask what you wish from me, Your Eminence?”
If the Cardinal wanted to make some sort of deal in return for teaching me, I needed to think about it.
This would be much safer than the Empress considering me as a threat because I was a Bishop-level priest.
Of course, I would only agree if it had nothing to do with young lady Christelle, the main character of ‘QNW,’ or Imperial Prince Cédric.
“You are a smart child.”
She was looking directly into my eyes.
“There is a young child.”
“A young child?”
“Yes. I hope that you can help that child.”
I am probably wrong, but her gaze felt sort of desperate.
The Cardinal sounds kind of scary. She’s my kind of gal!