The Great Wish - Chapter 12.5
At this time, when all attention was directed towards the hunting tournament, a carriage departed from a secret house called ‘The Black House’. Despite its bleak name, the house looked like an average middle-class home.
The carriage arrived at the Raad store headquarters. A little while later, a more grand and magnificent carriage departed. Although the carriage was changed, the person inside was the same.
The carriage raced towards the Palace. After going through the identification check-in, the carriage passed through the front gates. It stopped in front of the doors of the administrative offices of the Palace. This is where the central administrators worked.
An old man got out of the carriage. Half of his hair was white. His gaunt face was full of deep wrinkles. The traces of his difficult life were seen in the form of scars on his cheek and forehead.
He wasn’t a noble. Anyone who saw him could tell immediately. However, the man who came out to greet him wasn’t so sure. The old man’s confident posture and a certain spirit in his eyes… He seemed quite out of the ordinary.
“This way, sir.”
The man spoke in a cautiously polite tone. He followed the orders he was given and guided the elderly man to his superior. A short while later, Deputy Director Alphonso came out and took the elderly man to the Sun Palace.
Many people came and left the Sun Palace in a day. Additionally, Alphonso was the deputy director that worked directly underneath the Emperor. Nobody paid them any attention.
The two men entered the Emperor’s study. Alphonso’s eyes slightly widened. The Emperor, who was usually sitting on the sofa as he met with the various administrators, was currently standing as he looked out the window. His back was to the door.
The energy in the study was different. The Grand Chamberlain and the knights who were usually posted in their usual positions were nowhere to be seen.
“Your Imperial Majesty, I am Deputy Director Alphonso. I am here to give you my report.”
The Emperor didn’t respond. Alphonso tactfully understood and exited the study by entering a smaller room that was connected to the study. He had fulfilled his assignment.
Only two men were left inside the study. The Emperor rarely had a private consultation, and even then, he had never sent the Grand Chamberlain away like he did today.
The Emperor slowly turned around. When he saw the elderly man, his eyes trembled. His face gradually transformed. Even the Grand Chamberlain, who had been at his side every single moment of every single day, had never seen such an expression.
“So you were really alive.”
The Emperor murmured in a gloomy voice as if he were talking to himself.
“Yes, Gwang1 King, Your Highness. No, now you’re His Imperial Majesty the Emperor.”
The elderly man barely showed any emotion. The only expression he had shown was a slight sense of remorse as he entered the Sun Palace.
The elderly man’s eyebrow slightly twitched.
“It seems that you haven’t forgotten my name.”
“How could I forget it?”
This time, the Emperor was shaken. He let out a heavy groan.
“Have you forgotten my poor sister’s name?”
“…Even if I lose my memory, I don’t think I will be able to forget that name.”
The Emperor’s brow twisted. He hadn’t heard that name in a long time. Even when he was alone, he never dared to utter that name to himself.
Nobody knew the hidden scars that were deep within the Emperor’s heart. He showed no sign of those scars, but the wound continued to bleed.
The Emperor never shared his sufferings with anyone. Because he was the Emperor. Because he was the powerful and perfect master of the world.
In order to survive, he looked away. He kept it at a distance. However, now that he was facing a fragment of his past, he felt the binds he had kept tightly wrapped around him begin to loosen. The wounds were now out in the open, and he felt the smarting pain once again.
Jeffrey showed no sympathy for the suffering emperor. He had lost the ability to feel bad for others a long time ago. The life he had lead thus far had been too cruel.
Extreme despair wore a person down. The young Jeffrey who had been a sensitive man was long dead.
“I cursed you, the Imperial family, and this Empire.”
“Even though I knew that the hatred was eating me alive, there was nothing else I could do. That is… until I had gotten news that my nephew was alive.”
A faint warmth spread in Jeffrey’s cold eyes.
He never expected to meet his sister’s son ever again. He was just grateful that he was able to hear rumors about him here and there. He only wanted his nephew to endure and survive.
The day he reunited with his nephew, Jeffrey embraced his nephew and cried. The tears that were once thought to have dried up began to flow again. With those tears, some of his hatred washed away. That’s why he was able to calmly face the Emperor like this.
“How did you feel when you met your son? It seems that you and I didn’t share the same feelings.”
The Emperor didn’t envelope his son in warmth. Instead, he neglected him. Dian was completely alone in the Imperial family. In this situation, he never received any help from the Emperor.
The Emperor answered indifferently.
“He’s her son, but he isn’t her.”
Jeffrey swallowed back a bitter laugh.
‘Edith. Aah, Edith. My sister. What did you ever see in that man? Why did you give your all to someone like him?’
He didn’t understand his little sister who had loved the Emperor. And he would never understand her for the rest of his life.
“And why did you not merely stand by and do nothing?”
“Dian came to me and told me. That I must repay my debts.”
This was the first time Jeffrey had heard of this. His eyes widened.
“He told me that he’d accept the debt I owed his mother in her stead.”
Recalling this memory, he began to chuckle.
He was a spunky kid. If Dian was going to uphold filial piety, he would have left it alone. ‘I am your son.’ If he said something like this to the Emperor, Dian knew that the Emperor wouldn’t understand what this meant.
The Emperor didn’t feel emotions very well. He had never received any warmth from his parents. He wasn’t sure if it was just because of the way he was raised or whether he was born like this, but the people who had taught generations of the Imperial family all said that he was different.
And this man had fallen uncontrollably in love with one woman.
The strict Duke Acheron had a treasured daughter. The ducal family declared that they wouldn’t let their daughter attend any social functions until she had come of age. No one had ever seen the daughter of the ducal family of Acheron. There were only rumors of her.
When the lady’s twentieth birthday was approaching, high society had blown up with curiosity. At the time, even the Emperor—he was known as the Gwang King back then—had heard these rumors.
He was thirty, and he usually ignored rumors that were circulating among the social circles. He had no reason to take an interest in a green, twenty-year-old woman.
Was it a coincidence or was it fate? Their unexpected meeting had developed into love.
In a day, Edith would repeatedly take him from heaven to hell and back again. Falling in love with someone was so strange and terrifying, but it also brought such joy.
The Emperor loved the woman who brought out these unknown emotions in him, and he also loved his own heart that loved this woman.
“And is that all you’re going to do to repay this debt? By making a ducal house his maternal family?”
The greatest obstacle in Dian’s path was convention. No one knew who his mother was. However, if it was revealed that he was the descendent of a ducal family, he would be redeemed in the eyes of tradition.
The descendant of a ducal family was superior above all others. Sienna’s mother, Patricia, was the daughter of a ducal house. If Dian’s mother was also a direct descendant of a duke, that would make her Patricia’s equal. Therefore, the order of succession would follow the order of birth.
That meant Dian would surpass Sienna and become the heir to the throne. It didn’t matter that Sienna’s mother was the Red King. The laws of succession in the Empire were very different than those in foreign nations.
“I will make an imperial declaration.”
The Emperor’s absolute order, an imperial declaration.
An emperor could use this privilege just once in his reign. There were no boundaries or limits when it came to their imperial declaration. The Emperor was going to use his imperial declaration to give Dian a fake mother.
The woman was of ducal descent, and she was already dead. She would become Dian’s mother. The Emperor was planning to announce that he had once grown close with this woman, and that Dian was born as a result of that affection.
Who would argue with the Emperor over this? Additionally, if he made an imperial declaration ordering them not to investigate into this matter, it didn’t matter whether this was the truth or a lie.
“There is a problem with that method. Dian will forever be shrouded in controversy regarding his succession.”
If the Emperor made an imperial declaration saying ‘don’t look into it’, people would grow even more suspicious. It was only human nature to want to unearth the things that were hidden.
“The consequences are none of my business.”
Jeffrey swallowed back a curse.
“I’m sure you are still willing to use your imperial declaration to pay back your debt, is that correct?”
The Emperor nodded.
“That debt… I’ll be the one to receive the payment. Dian would definitely let me take it.”
At first, Jeffrey didn’t plan on getting involved. Dian had done well until now, and it wouldn’t be a good look for his uncle to interfere so late in the game.
But the more he thought about it, the more it didn’t make any sense. Dian was already a descendent of a ducal family in truth. He was already the real deal, so he didn’t understand why they were going to fake it.
“Please use your imperial declaration to reopen the case of the elimination of the ducal house of Acheron.”
The Emperor’s face hardened.
“I want to redeem the honor of my father who bore the false charges and dishonor of our family before he passed away.”
Jeffrey had a new goal. He wanted to resurrect the House of Acheron. The six royal ducal houses would once again become seven. Then they would reveal that Dian’s mother was the daughter of a duke.
“…But it was the late emperor’s imperial declaration.”
Jeffrey bit the inside of his cheek. Although the late emperor was already dead, if he could, Jeffrey wanted to rip his soul to shreds. The late emperor had stomped on the House of Acheron, and he had been cruel to no end. In his imperial declaration, he prohibited any reexamination of this case and even sealed it.
“There is a way to revert the imperial declarations of past ancestors.”
The Emperor sighed. That method wasn’t easy.
“My sister died a miserable death despite having given birth to the late emperor’s grandson. Once our family has been restored, I am going to give Edith a proper funeral.”
Jeffrey was confident that the Emperor wouldn’t deny him this. Whenever Edith’s name was mentioned, the Emperor’s eyes trembled. In death, his sister had become the Emperor’s weakness more than when she was alive. Whenever he recalled his sister who had died a terrible death, there was a bitter taste in his mouth.
* * *
Kuhn asked in disbelief.
The two of them were sitting at the base of a tree with their backs against the trunk. They had been discussing stories regarding the sword that had been put up as a prize for the hunting tournament. Sienna thoughtlessly said, ‘I wonder how Joseph managed to bring his family’s heirloom…’ Kuhn reacted immediately.
“Since when have you two been on a first name basis?”
In her head, Sienna called Earl Luke’s son ‘Joseph’. It wasn’t because he was special to her or anything like that. It was merely convenient. Obviously, she had never outwardly called him by his name before.
‘Now that I think about it, the only person I call by their name is… Kuhn?’
When Sienna stared at him without a word, Kuhn’s brows furrowed.
“What does your silence mean, Sienna?”
And Kuhn was the only one who called her by her name. She didn’t recall ever giving him permission, but by the time she realized it, it was already happening.
“Earl Luke’s son is the man who is currently in talks of becoming my fiancé.”
“So are you saying that you’ll go through with the engagement, Your Highness?”
Sienna discovered something fun. Whenever this man was upset, his voice dropped an octave and his speech became incredibly polite.
Either way, Joseph and her engagement would be broken. However, she couldn’t tell him the details regarding those circumstances. Instead of answering, she shrugged her shoulders. Displeased with her response, Kuhn’s face became even more grim.
Kuhn was shocked by her behavior. He had hoped that her heart was firmly leaning towards him. His ecstatic heart suddenly crashed and tumbled to the ground. Just a moment ago, they were sharing a hot kiss. She had definitely accepted his kiss aggressively.
‘But she was also aggressive when we kissed for the first time.’
That’s why he was so cautious about moving further than a kiss. He felt that after spending a night together, the thrill would dissipate for her, and she would end it with a ‘Goodbye, it was fun.’ He truly felt that this was a possibility.
Sienna observed Kuhn’s hardened face and spoke.
“I can’t see you whenever I want, and you’re always showing up so suddenly when no one’s looking.”
Kuhn stood up and stretched out his hand towards Sienna. Sienna grabbed his hand and got up.
“You asked me where I went and what I did. I left to find a way to be able to meet with you publicly.”
“And did you find it?”
Kuhn turned his head towards the outer perimeter of the forest.
“Your knights are coming.”
Sienna didn’t ask him how he knew. After experiencing this situation multiple times, she didn’t question it anymore.
“I’ll come see you soon.”
“After three months?”
“It won’t be long this time. When the time comes, I will formally request an audience from the Silver King.”
Kuhn grabbed her left hand and raised it. Once again, he placed a kiss on her ring finger and gazed at her. Although it was a light kiss, Sienna strangely felt like she was being bound tight.