“Excuse me, is anybody in there?”
I heard an unknown woman’s voice outside.
It was hard to tell by the voice alone, but it sounded like someone older.
I calmly took a breath before releasing my Holy Domain again.
The large golden circle quickly appeared and spread to the outside of the Confessional.
I could see Cédie’s young face much better thanks to the light.
“Yes, I am inside. I am not taking confessions right now. May I ask what brings you here?”
I calmly responded.
The Imperial Palace was somewhere people could not enter without proper identification and reason. This was especially true about the temple at the Imperial Palace which was guarded by elite knights.
I didn’t have a reason to be wary about someone whose identity should have been confirmed twice before coming here. However…
“I came to confess. Ah, I now see the plaque that says you are not here. I did not notice it. Please forgive me.”
I couldn’t tell whether this person really didn’t know or if she was making an excuse.
The woman’s tone sounded serious but still light.
She seemed to let go of the doorknob after confirming that someone was inside, but I turned toward Cédie without removing my hand from the door.
The little kid’s gaze was still sharp.
“That is okay. I guess the plaque was too small that you must not have seen it. But did you just use magic in the temple, madam?”
My tone was a bit accusatory at the end and I could hear the woman mumbling ‘oh my goodness’ to herself.
According to the second chapter of < The Rules and Beliefs of the Church of the Almighty God >, magic was not to be used inside temples as a way to show respect towards the Almighty God.
It was an old custom that most mages do not abide by in modern times, but it was still a rule.
“Please forgive me for that as well, it was unintentional. It is rare for me to move about without using magic. Please forgive me, Prince Jesse.”
‘So, she does know that I am the one in here.’
I quietly sighed.
“I will forgive you, madam. But please keep that in mind from now on.”
“Yes, your highness. Thank you very much. Then I will sit here and wait.”
“You are going to wait?”
“You seem to be on a break so I will wait until you come outside to confess, your highness.”
‘I guess she is really here to confess.’
– Click, click.
I heard her footsteps for the first time.
‘I guess there were no footsteps earlier because she used magic.’
I heard the sounds of clothes crumpling, making me believe that the woman sat down somewhere.
I let go of the door handle and turned toward Cédie.
The boy’s eyes were full of contempt.
“Cédie, leave for today.”
I whispered to him.
“You can’t be seen by that person. Come to my room if you need help again.”
“Proceed like this.”
“I’m sure you don’t need to do the sacrament inside the Confessional.”
“Well, that is true, but……”
The little kid was saying something quite daring.
He wanted me to have that woman sit outside while he and I hid inside the Confessional and receive her confession.
“You can’t eavesdrop on someone else’s confession. That’s supposed to be confidential.”
I quietly scolded him.
I then remembered how that damn Imperial Prince bastard was standing next to us when I listened to Lady Sarnez’s confession at the Spring Ball.
It let me know who Cédie took after to act like this.
“Sarah Belliard doesn’t deserve such consideration.”
The boy sharply whispered back. I blanked out for a moment.
‘Who did he say that person is?’
“To be honest with you, I don’t have anything to confess, your highness. I just needed somewhere to vent.”
The woman’s voice echoed through the temple at that moment.
I gulped before slightly opening the Confessional door and peeking outside.
There was an unfamiliar old woman with white hair sitting at the second row of chairs and looking up at the ceiling.
Her elegantly cut hair and luxurious green dress were enough to let me know that she was not an ordinary person.
Most of the Empire’s mages were nobles or royalty, similar to the Holy Kingdom’s priests.
And if this woman was really ‘Sarah Belliard’, then……
“My grandson is supposedly sick. I feel like it is my fault.”
The woman continued to speak. I debated whether or not I should respond.
It might be better not to, since she seemed to have started on a rant.
Cédie, who noticed it was not a confession, looked at me with an imposing gaze.
‘Fine. Feel free to listen.’
“I gave my grandson his name. He is a boy, but I made his middle name a boy’s name.”
I tilted my head. This, I was sure was uncommon here.
Both the people of the Empire and the Holy Kingdom have a unique tradition with middle names.
The rule is that boys are given female middle names while girls are given male middle names.
The ancestors of the continent started this tradition to prevent the mischievous and capricious Almighty God from taking their kids back to heaven. They believed doing this would make the Almighty God confused about the child’s gender.
The differences between male and female names seemed to be clear in this world, as it used foreign names and not Korean names.
“The reason I did that was…… I was just being capricious. It had a nice meaning and I thought that the name suited my grandson well. I also had some suspicions about the validity of the story about how the Almighty God would take children away. Of course, I have nothing to say if you ask why someone over sixty would randomly think about that.”
She scoffed. I left the door slightly open before sitting down.
“My daughter and son-in-law liked the name too. They really liked it until my grandson fainted and went into a coma.”
The woman’s voice was as dry as a desert.
“It is a common story. A child is sick and the parents work hard to heal them but nothing works. In the end, their hatred was directed toward me.”
I couldn’t hear that last part too well because it was mixed in with a sigh.
I had experienced a similar situation not too long ago.
The faces of Christelle, the MC of QNW, and her mother, Isabelle de Sarnez, briefly appeared in my mind.
“They blame me for giving him such a middle name and say that the Almighty God is trying to take their child away because of my arrogance. I know they don’t mean it wholeheartedly, but knowing that there is some honesty in their words……it has made me wonder if this really was the curse of the Almighty God that I had heard about. The curse could be responsible for my grandson being sick, and for the family being destroyed.”
Cédie let out a long sigh behind me.
I checked his condition before focusing on her story again.
“That is all. This is the situation, and I just wanted to vent to someone about it. Everything from here on is up to my daughter’s family and me. It doesn’t matter whether it is an incurable illness or a curse.”
I heard the rustling of clothes and then some footsteps.
I carefully looked out to see that the woman had gotten up and was getting ready to leave.
“I will make my leave now, your highness. Thank you for listening to an old woman’s grumbling, Prince Jesse.”
She stopped moving as I called her name.
Her emerald-colored eyes seemed a bit shocked.
I looked at her through the crack of the door.
“You know who I am, your highness?”
“I’m sure it would be harder for someone to not know you.”
I smiled bitterly and cleared my throat.
Sarah Belliard, the Managing Editor of the < Biweekly Riester >.
The celebrity of the Empire’s media and the person known as the Expert of the Holy Kingdom.
She was the person who wrote a feature story on me last month.
“First of all…… I’m sorry for your grandson’s condition.”
She lightly nodded her head at my condolence.
I could see that the old woman’s face was paralyzed with sadness and guilt despite the distance between us.
“This might sound arrogant, but I hope that you do not consider it to be a curse.”
I spoke as sincerely as possible.
It might be a fake religion believed by the people inside a novel, but I didn’t want to treat the faith and belief of the hard working people in front of me as something nonexistent.
“I met someone not too long ago who was also struggling with thoughts about a curse from the Almighty God. I told that person that I believed it was not a curse as well. I am not saying it to simply make you feel better. I truly believe that it is not a curse.”
Cédie and I made eye contact. I smiled at the young boy.
“I believe that there is power in the word ‘curse’. If you think that it is a curse or think along the lines of it being a curse, it will make you start wondering if it truly is the will of the Almighty God and make you feel powerless. It will do that even if it is not the truth.”
The boy’s orange eyes were looking at me with a piercing gaze.
“Of course, your grandson is actually sick. That is not a lie and nothing will change that. However… it might feel easier to give up if you accept it as a curse. You may think that there is nothing you can do, as it is the will of the Almighty God.”
I gently touched my hand toward the little boy’s forehead. His skin had cooled down, and felt soft to the touch.
I sighed in relief.
“I hope that you and your family will not give up, and will continue to fight. You must do so if you wish for the chance to save your grandson.”
I was careful not to say the wrong thing.
I knew how tragic it was to have someone in the family be sick. How frustrated the family members could be. how to slowly heal.
“And I know it is weird for me to say something like this, but…… if someone needs to be hated, it should be the Almighty God and nobody else. Good people doing good deeds with good intentions; people living their lives to the best of their ability should not blame each other.”
It was quiet outside the Confessional. Anybody would be able to tell that I may have overstepped my boundaries here.
However, her heart was so heavy and dark that she was willing to come all this way to vent to a prince whose face she didn’t even know.
I could not ignore that.
“……Thank you very much.”
Lady Belliard responded in a quiet but firm voice.
She then turned around and started walking away.
I could see her long shadow moving out of the temple through the crack in the door.
I slowly looked away.
“Cédie, you are filled up.”
Golden aether pebbles were floating around the little boy’s body.
However, the boy did not budge even as I motioned for him to go.
“What is it? Do you have something to say?”
He was staring at me with a firm and piercing gaze.
I turned to close the door because I was worried that he was hurting somewhere when…
I heard a weird noise from where Cédie was sitting. I turned around in shock.
The afternoon sun was shining down on me from the ceiling of the penitent’s seat.
The boy had disappeared at some point.
It was the top. It was not the back wall or the floor but the ceiling that was the kid’s secret passage.
It was Monday again.
“You met Lady Sarah Belliard?”
Cardinal Boutier seemed a bit tired when I met her again for the first time in five days.
I nodded my head at her question and took a sip of Anise tea.
Christelle was seated next to me, drinking cold coffee as if it was water.
‘I want these group lessons to end soon……’
“She stopped by the temple for a moment.”
“Mm, Frédérique and Lady Belliard had a meeting on Saturday.”
She smiled at me.
“A revised edition of the April 15th < Biweekly Riester > almost came out.”
“A revised edition?”
“Yes. François announced that he would make the ‘Sword of Wisdom from the Flaming Star’ the prize for the Great Clearance of Demonic Beasts on the 15th, so that information was missing from the latest issue. It was too late to put a new article in by then. That was why Lady Belliard wanted to publish a revised edition with that information while Frédérique and I tired ourselves out convincing her otherwise.”
My hypothesis was pretty much on the mark.
She seemed to have worked her butt off to prevent the news about the Sword of Wisdom from the Flaming Star from spreading.
“We don’t like to suppress the media but we had no choice as it had to do with a divine item.”
I nodded my head while chewing on a piece of bread that was full of spices.
There wouldn’t have been anything I could do even if the Empress and the Cardinal enjoyed suppressing the media.
“But it won’t disappear.”
“The Sword of Wisdom will end up being the prize for the Great Clearance of Demonic Beasts.”
Christelle and my eyes opened wide.
“And Cédric will participate in place of Frédérique and I this year.”