‘Did he have something to say?’
Wilhelm thought as he walked together on the quiet night road.
However, Duke Barantes seemed to be genuinely enjoying the walk, so it was awkward to ask first.
In the end, it was about time to just walk for a long time in a state of silence as if a mouse had died.
Through Wilhelm’s vision, the Goddess’ garden came into view.
Naturally, the oath of the goddess Anastasia made there came to mind.
“I believe in your innocence, and if it turns out to be a lie, I will take responsibility for my faith by taking my life.”
When he heard it, he remembered the mace that hit his heart heavily.
It was a very rare experience in his life that someone believed in him so absolutely.
Especially when it came to the former Emperor’s death, no one had ever fully believed in him.
Even his mother showed an attitude that it didn’t matter anyway.
So, he couldn’t say it at the time, but Wilhelm was grateful to Anastasia.
‘Actually, there were many things to be grateful for besides that day.’
So many, too many to even count.
It was a strange thing. The Empress, who always gave him trouble and only suffering, became such a being.
So much has changed in the past year.
“We’re almost there.”
At that moment, Duke Barantes stopped walking. Wilhelm looked at him with a puzzled expression at the outrageous remark.
“Actually, I have something to say to Your Majesty, so I asked you to walk together.”
But before he could even raise the question, Wilhelm stopped him with a startled expression.
“Barantes, what are you… !”
The Duke of Barantes picked the roses in the garden with his bare hands.
Blood dripped from the sharp rose thorns, and Wilhelm felt faint.
No, it wasn’t from embarrassment. It was because it was something he had been through a while ago.
“I swear to you in the name of the goddess by the gift of the goddess.”
Then the Duke of Barantes knelt before Wilhelm.
Wilhelm looked at him blankly.
“I promise to the one in front of me with my faith and trust in the goddess.”
The Duke of Barantes continued his oath, as did Anastasia.
“As your faithful servant for the rest of my life, I will be loyal and do not dare betray my lord, and if I do not do so, I will take responsibility for my faith with my life.”
“So, supreme sun of Rosenberg.”
Duke Barantes smiled and handed Wilhelm a bloody rose.
“Please accept this rose as a token of my faithfulness.”
Wilhelm took the rose from him with trembling hands. Then he asked in a bewildered voice.
“The oath of the Goddess… … is it?”
“I should have done it right away.”
Duke Barantes got up with an expression of relief.
“It’s too late. Forgive me for my disloyalty.”
“Even if the Duke doesn’t do this, I…”
“Of course you believed in my loyalty.”
He stole Wilhelm’s words still with a smile.
“My daughter, not anyone else, is Her Majesty the Empress.”
“But I know. Your Majesty couldn’t believe me completely.”
While saying that, there was not a single bit of disappointment on the face of the Duke of Barantes.
“I don’t resent it or feel bad about it. I would have been disappointed if you had trusted my daughter and not doubted me. That means you’re not qualified as an emperor.”
“…all of a sudden.”
Wilhelm asked, staring at the Duke of Barantes.
“Why do you say that?”
“To reassure you, Your Majesty.”
The Duke of Barantes replied, grinning.
“The Empress said so. Since you trust my loyalty, I want you to reassure the Emperor.”
“Now that I think about it, I’ve been so heartless to Your Majesty. I was touched by your firm rejection of the paramours last time, and this time the concubine.”
Wilhelm asked in a slightly quivering voice.
“Did she say that?”
“Please take care of her.”
The Duke of Barantes asked sincerely.
“Before she is Her Majesty the Empress, she is my daughter. Since ancient times, the imperial family has had to be harmonious so that the empire will be at peace.”
“The Empress has changed a lot, so I hope Your Majesty will reconsider her as well.”
However, this was an ignorant concern.
He had already made an offer of reconciliation with her long ago but she refused.
To disparage him, even when the story of the concubine came out a while ago, didn’t he hear the answer, ‘Other people are okay, but Lady Fontaine is not’.
‘Look, the Duke doesn’t know the truth. After all, there is no father who will stand still after hearing that.’
When he realized that, he was a little sad too.
Maybe because the Duke of Barantes thought Anastasia might know why she keeps rejecting him.
‘Then why did you say that…’
Wilhelm did not understand it at all.
When he thought back to what Anastasia had said to him so far, it was all about pushing him away and rejecting him.
But why did she worry about him and tell Duke Barantes to reassure him?
‘If you think about it, this is not the first time.’
It’s been like that in every aspect of her so far. She said she hated him, but she was always there for him in her actions.
Realizing a serious conflict, Wilhelm became confused.
‘What the hell are you thinking…’
But now there was no question about it.
I need to see her. Right now.
With that thought, Wilhelm ran straight to the Empress’ Palace.
The footsteps that had been hesitating all week as if they were iron weights became as light as a feather.
He willingly crossed the line between the Imperial Palace and the outside. It was easy, too. This road.
Wilhelm went all the way to Louis’ room. It was because he thought she would be there somehow.
But when he entered the room, Louis was the only one inside.
Yeah, facing him… It was actually this easy.
“It’s been a while.”
He licked his lips and smiled. Strangely, he felt like crying.
Louis looked a little surprised and then said hello.
“I see the sun of the Empire, Your Majesty.”
“Don’t say such a greeting.”
It was the same thing his dead brother used to say to him.
Realizing that, Wilhelm smiled.
His nephew looked more like him than he thought.
“You were drawing.”
“I heard from the empress. I heard you’re good at drawing.”
Louis was shy and could not say anything, and Wilhelm cautiously approached Louis’ easel.
Soon, Wilhelm’s mouth, which saw the painting, opened into exclamation.
‘…the Queen’s words were not empty words.’
It was pretty good. No, he was better than Wilhelm was when he was six.
While Wilhelm quietly admired it, Louis, who was watching, waited for his review with a nervous face.
“Did I draw it well…?”
“Oh my gosh. That’s great.”
Wilhelm said with a friendly smile.
“You’ll be a much better painter than I am.”
Louis, who was listening quietly, said.
“I want to see a painting by Your Majesty later.”
Wilhelm, who heard it, closed his mouth without realizing it.
Shortly after hearing the death of the Emperor and Empress, he broke all the brushes he had.
All the paintings that he had painted so far were burned, and there was only one left.
The Rose of Ishstabil, which was not completed by the client’s death.
He couldn’t throw it away or burn it, so he was keeping it carefully.
But he knew that the unfinished painting would not see the light of the world until he closed his eyes.
After Alexander’s death, he couldn’t hold a brush anymore. He had some sort of trauma, unable to even make a simple sketch.
However, he chose to lie because he could not tell the situation as it was, and he did not want to ruin the good atmosphere after meeting for the first time in a while.
Louis grinned and slipped a watch out of his pocket. Then suddenly he grabbed his belly.
“What’s wrong all of a sudden, Louis?”
“Ah, my stomach…”
Louis pretended to be in pain with a pained look on his face.
“I must have eaten too much dinner earlier. I’m going to do my business.!”
“Oh, let’s go then.”
“You must never leave until I come back. Got it?
“You must stay here!”
“I got it.”
Only after emphasizing twice did Louis leave with relief, and Wilhelm, who was left alone, slowly looked around Louis’ room.
The trail of his nephew lingering around after three years evoked a strange feeling in him.
‘… I should have been here earlier.’
There was a feeling of regret along with a vague feeling.
Perhaps Louis was not as comfortable with him as he was.
Aside from the rumor of the Emperor’s assassination, wasn’t he a relative without communication?
‘As an adult, I should have approached you first…’
He was ashamed. And he regretted it.
Still, he thought it was fortunate that it wasn’t too late. Had it been later here, the regret would have grown irreversibly.
At that moment, he heard footsteps coming that way.
As he heard the sound of a dress being dragged on the floor, Wilhelm intuitively recognized the identity.
His heart began to beat uncontrollably fast.
Beautiful Anastasia looked at him with a surprised expression.
Wilhelm froze on the spot and stared at her as she approached him, frozen as he was.
“Your Majesty… … Why here?”
At that moment I realized.
In her garden of her goddess, he didn’t think he should see her right away.
In fact, he wanted to see her.
Her surprised expression, her bewildered voice, and her shaking breath. All of it.
That’s what he wanted to see.
A trembling smile spread across Wilhelm’s lips when he realized that.