Elise quickly wiped away the single tear on her face.
I placed the item on my lap onto the table in order to help her calm down.
It was the item I personally chose on the day that the Imperial Prince sent the treasures from the Imperial safe.
“Cornelisse…… It is a birthday present for her.”
I wanted to go to the Commerce Center to buy something for her but I had no choice because of the confinement.
I had to go through quite a lot of the older issues of the < Biweekly Riester > because I had no idea what the second princess liked or enjoyed.
But I couldn’t ask for this special birthday pardon without even getting the child a single present.
I nervously looked at Empress Frédérique.
“It doesn’t matter. As long as it is not passing your title of nobility over.”
She brusquely commented before starting a battle with the bread inside her onion soup. I smiled.
“Thank you very much, your Majesty.”
“Is it okay if I open it up first?”
Elise asked. I nodded my head.
She let go of my hand and unwrapped my shoddy wrapping. It was ugly because I had done it myself.
Something sparkling revealed itself. The crown princess’s jaw dropped.
It was a pig sculpture made of pink diamond.
It was sent from a merchant guild leader in the southwest region of the Empire. His name was Emille de Haas or something.
I wondered what he meant by giving the prince a pig, but it wasn’t that shocking since there was a golden toad as well.
Based on an article I read, the second princess seemed to currently like pig dolls.
It was understandable because children frequently became obsessed with specific animals.
Eunseo was completely obsessed with dinosaurs when she was really young. It turned into birds when she got a bit older and now, she too likes pigs.
I was anxious that I might have made a mistake when Elise started laughing.
I laughed back with uncertainty.
“Cornelisse will be happy. Wood will have turned to jewels upon return.”
I blinked in confusion.
Elise motioned with her eyes and Maartje pulled out an item wrapped in silk.
I immediately recognized it.
It was the item she had tried her best to hand over to Juliette Palace a couple days ago.
Maartje peeked toward the Empress.
“You guys are so annoying while I am trying to eat. A mage will need to check it later. It will also need to be checked for poison.”
She grumbled before responding. I showed my gratitude to the Empress before receiving and opening the package.
A wooden pig sculpture that was covered in spotty red paint was inside it.
I almost gasped and dropped it. I could feel the gazes of the MCs on either side of me.
‘It’s so cute. Her highness must have personally painted it.”
‘Do you like cursed dolls?’
“She tried to paint it pink at first. But you know how that child has no artistic talent whatsoever.”
“I was wondering if it was some sort of reverse psychology she was using by returning a gift from you like this, but…… She probably knew that she would probably receive such a precious response back.”
She gently patted the diamond pig. Her gaze was full of affection.
A current-like realization struck down my spine at that moment.
The reason that Cornelisse liked pigs was because her older brother, Prince Jesse, had given her a pig sculpture.
Just as I expected, the siblings had a close relationship.
I couldn’t help but feel apologetic toward the princess, despite it being a person I had never met before.
I simply prepared a present based on what I had read.
“I will do as you asked.”
I jerked my head up. Elise’s blue eyes were filled with solemn delight.
“My people and I will do our best to make sure that the son of Johann Geens safely arrives at the Vatican.”
“So, do not worry.”
I felt as if I was going to suffocate. I barely managed to let out a quiet thank you.
Maartje looked at me with teary eyes.
“I will need to deliver the news to Johann.”
Cardinal Boutier, who had been quietly looking at us, made a comment.
My eyes opened wide toward her.
“That would be great but will it be okay, your Eminence?”
“I feel like he has a right as a father to know that his child is going to cross the border. Isn’t that right, Frédérique?”
“Stop asking me every single thing.”
The Empress responded with annoyance. I smiled brightly and looked at her and her son.
The young man looked at me with his orange eyes before calling over an attendant to request more meat.
The crown princess’s farewell party ended without a hitch.
I explained everything to Benjamin and Ganael inside the carriage.
It was rare to see the middle-aged man smiling so brightly while the young boy couldn’t help but cry.
My confinement would not be removed until Elise left the Imperial Palace as per the original plan, but I didn’t care anymore.
After returning to Juliette Palace, I hugged the red pandas and Percy with joy before looking all around to see where I should place Cornelisse’s pig sculpture.
The three divine beasts and one divine item followed me around all over the palace.
I thought that it would be best to put it somewhere the Prince can easily see when he gets his body back in the future.
But it felt a bit scary to put it in the bedroom.
Christelle named it Spice because it was a red pig. (TL: The actual name is Jeh-yook, which is Korean spicy pork, but Spicy Pork didn’t seem like a ‘name’ so I went with Spice.)
“Your highness, Lord David of Romero Palace is requesting an audience with you.”
I placed Spice on the mantle in the reception room and was toying around with its location when Benjamin came in to let me know.
It probably had to do with something the Imperial Prince wanted, but I had no idea what it might be.
David then appeared and respectfully greeted me before telling me what was going on.
“I will be escorting you to where Sir Geens is located, your highness.”
“……Is it okay for me to go, wait, why are you the one who came, David?”
I was shocked that the Empress was allowing me to meet with Sir Geens but the more surprising fact was David.
‘Shouldn’t she have sent an attendant of the Empress Palace or an Imperial Guard member?’
“Sir Geens is in Romero Palace. He has been there since the beginning.”
The middle-aged man smiled painfully as he responded.
This was shocking news but I couldn’t say anything and simply nodded my head.
“It’s the same but it is different. It is exactly as Benjamin explained.”
“Yes, your highness. They were a pair of palaces that were built at the same time so there are many aspects, both inside and out, that are the same. But there are some differences in size, decorations, and color.”
I listened attentively to David as I took in the inside of Romero Palace.
I had been here not too long ago during ‘Operation Verona’ but I didn’t remember anything as my focus had been on meeting the Empress.
Romero Palace was about 1.7 times larger than Juliette Palace.
The interior itself was the same but everything was magnificent, fitting the palace of the Imperial Prince.
‘Did they let Sir Geens have a room? Why here of all places?’
“You made me wait.”
I heard a familiar voice at that moment. I turned my head to see the Imperial Prince on the other side of the hallway.
Cardinal Boutier was standing next to him with her arm wrapped around his. I immediately started walking faster.
‘Please accept my deepest apologies, your Royal Highness. I did not expect to be called for this occasion.”
“You planned all of it, my little prince. I thought that it was only fitting for you to personally tell Johann about it.”
She warmly responded before linking my arm as well.
The Imperial Prince and I were now escorting her on either side.
“Only the three of us will continue from here.”
“David will not be joining us?”
“Yeah, not today.”
It was an odd choice of words. ‘Does that mean that he went with them in the past?’
I looked back to see Benjamin, Ganael, David, and Natalie silently bowing toward us.
It meant that they will wait there.
I started walking down the stairs with the two of them.
It made me recall when I went with the Imperial Prince and Christelle to clean the underground portal of the Empress Palace.
The stairs there had been dark and the Imperial Guard members lit torches for us but this one was bright and luxurious.
The basement was the same as the floor above. The only difference was……
“There are no doors on the wall.”
“Yeah, there is only one room in this basement.”
The Cardinal commented in an emotionless voice. I could see a black door in the distance at the end of the hallway.
The Imperial Prince, the owner of this palace, was as silent as an attendant. I peeked to look at the side of his face.
He seemed a bit pale for some reason. ‘Is he lacking ether?’
– Click, click.
We earnestly walked for a few minutes.
The mood was oddly heavy so it was difficult to say anything.
I couldn’t explain the chills I got seeing the completely empty walls that did not have a single frame on them.
It was at that moment.
I looked forward after hearing my teacher’s voice to see the heavy black door in front of me.
The Imperial Prince pulled out a key and opened the door.
I probably saw wrong, but I thought that the tips of his gloves were slightly shaking.
The door opened with a painful noise. I blanked out at the unrealistic sight in front of me.
It was an extremely dark area.
The only source of light was the light that came in through the open door.
It was so dark that I couldn’t tell where the wall ended and the floor began.
It looked as if this whole area was a chunk of pure darkness.
I felt as if I would fall if I took a step forward.
“Why…… Why does Romero Palace have such a thing?”
I asked, almost in a whisper.
I had no idea why Romero Palace, a palace built for the lovers, had such a scary room. It would make more sense if such a room was in the Empress Palace or a different palace.
“When Cédric was very young…”
The Cardinal’s beige-colored eyes reflected on the past.
“We had to put restraining tools on him and imprison him here when the flow of his ether became unstable and he overloaded.”
I took a deep breath.
“Light, color… Warmth and noise… Those things were not helpful in calming his soul.”
I urgently turned toward the Imperial Prince.
This was the reason he had been so wary when we placed the restraining tool on Sir Geens’ neck.
The young man growled in a low voice with a flame-like gaze.
“If you are looking at me with some stupid compassion-”
“What about now?”
He stopped talking after hearing my question.
“Do you still have those issues? Do you have to secretly come here without other people knowing?”
The flames quickly subsided from his gaze. The Cardinal was the one who responded.
“It has been twelve years since we used this place.”
I finally managed to breathe. She let go of my arm and placed her hand on my cheek.
“It’s okay, go. Johann will be waiting for you.”
The Cardinal’s radiant Holy Domain cleared the darkness as soon as she said that.
I was energized by the golden glow and slowly took a step forward.
The circle that reflected on the black ceiling fluctuated like the surface of water. I felt as if I was submerged in the deep sea.
The white-haired man was lying down at the center of the area.
His sleeping face looked peaceful despite the pitch black restraining tools on him.
I could not see the sadness or pain he showed while attacking me.
My legs were shaking from the fear that was still ingrained in my body, but I clenched my teeth and approached him.
The Cardinal gave a Divine Oracle from behind me. I looked down and it felt as if the white face was starting to crack.
His eyelids slightly shook before they slowly opened to reveal his mint-colored eyes.
He showed no reaction while looking at me. He must have thought that this was a dream.
‘I hope it isn’t a nightmare.’
“Hello, Sir Johann.”
His eyes slowly opened wide after I greeted him. ‘Where should I start…’
“You said that you have a sick son in the Holy Kingdom. He is ten years old.”
“Yes, it is me.”
He suddenly sat up. I withdrew in shock and…
The Imperial Prince instantly approached and pulled out the Sword of Wisdom as he stood in front of me. I gently stopped him.
The Cardinal could put him back to sleep at any moment and his ether was blocked, making Sir Johann the weakest person in this room right now.
“I…… Why am I here? There was no reason to let me live-”
“There is. You can’t go first and leave your son alone in this world.”
He had a pained look on his face, almost as if he was suffocating, after hearing my comment.
I knew that he had tried to give up on everything in that forest.
However, I hoped that he would not need to do anything like that in the future.
“We are going to give your son a special pardon in the Holy Kingdom, get him out of there as a servitor for the Vatican, before taking him under priest Sand’s jurisdiction. The crown princess will make sure that he gets his medicine until that time.”
“I’m not lying.”
I smiled bitterly.
“It’s the truth. His Royal Highness and her Eminence helped, along with her Majesty, young lady Sarnez, Vice Captain Élisabeth, young lady Blanquer, Benjamin, Ganael, David, Demy,”
Tears dripped down on his cheeks that were now covered with a beard. I remained quiet.
The man squinted as if he was watching something unbelievable as he looked up at me.
His whole body and his voice were shaking.
“Why, why would you do all that…… Gerrit-”
“Will be fine.”
He opened and closed his mouth for a while as if his lips were not moving as he wanted. ‘His son’s name is Gerrit.’
“I, I have sinned. Your highness, this is……”
“I am not saying that you are innocent, Sir Geens.”
I ended up lowering my body toward him.
I had no talent for giving a cool speech or saying something to console someone. It was disappointing.
“I just…… I hope that you can do a lot of good things while living together with Gerrit, Sir Geens. That is all.”
Sir Johann, who had been looking at me with a piercing gaze, slowly bowed toward me like an old tree.
I could hear his suppressed cry. His forehead touched the tip of my boots.
Jesse is too nice imo.