Author: alyalia

Into the room filled only with the sound of soft breathing, Frinel carefully opened the door. Lobelia, who had been sound asleep, slowly opened her eyes at that moment.

 

“…Mm, Frinel?”

 

“Sorry. I woke you up.”

 

“No, it’s already noon. I slept a lot.”

 

It was indeed noon, according to the clock. She had to get up now, no matter how tired she was. There was a mountain of things to do.

 

“Are you feeling okay?”

 

“Yes. Well…”

 

Her eyelids felt heavy, and her body ached as if she had done hard labor due to the use of both magic and holy power. Yet, Lobelia didn’t mind the fatigue because she hadn’t lost the man before her. Her emerald eyes were filled with Frinel’s reflection.

 

“You will hear the words I love you when you come back alive.”

 

The words she uttered last night flashed through her mind, bringing a flush of embarrassment to her cheeks.

 

Hmm? You seem a bit feverish.”

 

He naturally touched her forehead.

 

“I’m not in fever.”

 

“…Hmm, you feel warm though.”

 

“No, I’m fine.” She lightly chuckled and brushed away Frinel’s hand.

 

“If you’re fine, then that’s good.” He too, smiled gently, following her lead.

 

Now that he was conscious, he was likely to tease Lobelia with that conversation at any moment. She looked at Frinel with slight anticipation, but strangely, he didn’t speak. It seemed he had no intention of joking about it.

 

Feeling embarrassed under his gaze, Lobelia coughed awkwardly. Why do I feel disappointed? At the same time, she felt somewhat empty, missing his usual teasing.

 

“And about Marchioness Hamilton.”

 

“Yes.”

 

“I’ve proposed to join forces with her.”

 

“…Ah.”

 

“To return her status and authority. After all, you won’t be here for long. There’s the debutante ball soon.”

 

“Yes, that’s right.”

 

Lobelia never said her plan in detail, but Frinel seemed to understand her plan as if he could read her mind. Her gaze drifted to Endimion’s personal seal and the golden key. Then she let out a scoffing laugh.

 

“Well, I should go now.”

 

Huh?”

 

Lobelia thought he would stay longer under some pretext. But Frinel was already holding the doorknob.

 

“I have a lot to do. Take care of yourself, Lady Lobelia. Don’t overdo it.”

 

Winking playfully, he left the room, leaving the bewildered Lobelia behind. Having finished instructing the servants outside, Alter was waiting for Frinel.

 

“Have you finished the arrangements?”

 

“Yes. I’ve made sure they won’t speak of the incident.”

 

“Even if they do, who would believe? Such an astonishing power.”

 

He chuckled.

 

“Right. It felt like a dream to me too. Even though I only saw it from afar… it was awe-inspiring and terrifying.”

 

“Weren’t you afraid?”

 

Frinel gently concluded Alter’s words.

 

In the midst of the agony of the deadly poison spreading through his body, Frinel had felt death strangling his throat. But what was more frightening than death approaching him was Lobelia’s power.

 

“Yes.”

 

That’s why he desperately confessed his feelings. Hoping that she would not lose faith in humanity, even if just a little bit.

 

“Don’t tease Lady Lobelia.” Frinel switched the topic jokingly.

 

“I had no intention of doing that.”

 

“Then let’s go.”

 

“Where to?”

 

“To the capital.”

 

“To the capital?” Alter’s eyes widened in surprise.

 

“Yes. To see the emperor.”

 

“Yes?” He couldn’t have been more surprised. Alter opened his mouth and blinked his eyes rapidly. “Who?”

 

“It’s about time he has something to say to me.”

 

The behind-the-scenes work with Duke Gracie had already been completed. By now, he would have sought out the emperor.

 

“I need to make a timely appearance.” Frinel, with a smirk on his lips, stepped out of the mansion.

 

⚜ ⚜ ⚜

“Your Majesty, Duke Gracie has arrived.”

 

The emperor’s eyebrow twitched at the mention of ‘Duke Gracie’. It was the first time since he exterminated the Shinsu clan that Duke Gracie had sought him out.

 

With a troubled expression, the emperor slowly spoke. “…Let him in.”

 

As soon as the command was given, Duke Gracie entered the audience chamber. At that moment, a harsh cough escaped the emperor’s lips.

 

Cough, cough…!” He quickly pulled out a handkerchief to cover his mouth.

 

Duke Gracie, entering, glanced up with a slight tilt of his head. “Greetings to Your Majesty, the Sun of Tiazen Empire.”

 

“…Duke Gracie.”

 

“It has been a while.”

 

“Please take a seat.”

 

They occasionally conversed at noble meetings or balls as if nothing was amiss. Still, a direct confrontation like this was quite rare.

 

Duke Gracie’s gaze briefly fell on the emperor’s handkerchief. Although not clearly visible, a hint of red seemed to seep through the cloth he clutched.

 

“Have you been well?”

 

“…Yes.”

 

“I heard that your granddaughter, Princess Gracie, has recovered.”

 

“Yes, that’s correct.”

 

“I’ve been meaning to ask about her.”

 

The emperor pressed his temples, looking tired. Whether due to age or the sins of his youth, his health was continuously deteriorating. The royal physician had said his illness was incurable unless treated by the Shinsu clan. Now, he desperately needed the power of the Shinsu clan he had killed.

 

As you sow, so shall you reap. Each cough brought him excruciating pain as if his heart would burst. He was now ready to accept the impending death.

 

With his ailing body, his heart too had weakened. This weakness naturally brought regret. Including his jealousy towards the Shinsu clan and all the foolish acts he had committed, especially… Ignoring Frinel’s suffering at the hands of the empress.

 

“Lawrence… He seems to have other thoughts.”

 

“Do you think the Shinsu clan has returned?”

 

“…Duke Gracie.”

 

“Do you regret it? That incident.”

 

At Duke Greisy’s words, the emperor slowly lifted his head.

 

“Don’t I know you, Your Majesty?”

 

“There was one woman from the Shinsu clan I couldn’t catch.”

 

“Yes. It’s Lady Aurelia.”

 

“If she had the power, she definitely wouldn’t have died. Ever since that day, I’ve never slept peacefully, fearing that she might come for me.”

 

Duke Gracie gazed intently at the emperor. The wrinkles on his face seemed to indicate constant regret.

 

He spoke almost jokingly. “That’s why you shouldn’t live a life of sin.”

 

“Have you come to reproach me?” The emperor chuckled without annoyance.

 

“Yes. That’s right.”

 

Ha…” He sighed deeply.

 

“Yes. I do have regrets.” And finally, he admitted his true feelings. “At this age. Too late for regrets.”

 

“Your Majesty.”

 

“And… as you may have guessed, I don’t have much time left. I cough blood, and my heart feels like it will burst. Soon, I will end my life in pain.”

 

Duke Gracie had a hunch about it the moment he saw the bloodstained handkerchief. He sighed softly, listening intently to the emperor’s words.

 

“You know why I had no choice but to ignore Frinel.” The emperor closed his eyes in pain.

 

Following the false accusation from Patricia and Kriella, he tightened his grip on the Shinsu clan. Years passed, and he eventually succeeded in dealing with all of them. But only after their deaths did he realize It was all because of,

 

“Duke Bonitare and the empress.”

 

“…Yes.”

 

“It was their scheme.”

 

Why did he only realize then that the Shinsu clan wasn’t the one he should have been restraining?

 

After the Shinsu clan, who staunchly guarded the palace, disappeared, Duke Bonitare immediately expanded his power. Without the Shinsu clan’s magical powers, the imperial palace had barely any forces comparable to Duke Bonitare’s private army. His influence grew day by day while the emperor’s power diminished in comparison.

 

Because of the Empress’ influence, he couldn’t even properly embrace Frinel. Yes, confessing this now was nothing but a cowardly excuse.

 

“No, even then, I should have found that last member of the Shinsu clan and corrected my mistake.” The emperor continued with a sense of futility. “I couldn’t admit my mistakes. I am the Emperor. My judgment should always be right.”

 

“Everyone makes mistakes.”

 

“Duke Gracie.”

 

“Even an emperor is human, Your Majesty.” Duke Gracie added firmly and decisively. “But a mistake doesn’t cover up all sins.”

 

He then looked sharply at him. “What if you try to receive the punishment for your sins and solve the problem now?”

 

“Now?”

 

“Even now. There might be a slight change. You never know.”

 

“If only I could find that woman… I would beg for her forgiveness.” The emperor sighed deeply and dropped his head.

 

“Whether to forgive or not is up to the person, but at least you can ask for it.”

 

“You found her?”

 

His head snapped up. Could he slightly untangle this perfectly twisted situation?

 

“Lady Aurelia’s daughter. She’s my granddaughter, Lobelia.”

 

“Grand… Granddaughter…! So the rumor at that time was true…!”

 

Aurelia had suddenly disappeared back then. The reason said to be pregnant was a secret rumor in social circles.

 

“And there’s one more person you need to seek forgiveness from.”

 

Duke Gracie shrugged lightly. Just then, a servant knocked on the door.

 

“Your Majesty.”

 

The emperor slowly turned his gaze. As the door opened, someone entered.

 

“His Royal Highness, the First Royal Prince, has arrived.”

 

The other person he needed to seek forgiveness from.

 

“…Frinel.”

 

It was Frinel.

 

The emperor exhaled his son’s name with a face full of profound turmoil.

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