Chapter 4

***


“What is this place?”

 

The Emperor replied sarcastically to Adele, who was speechless.

 

“Welcome to the Imperial Palace.”

 

It was an unrealistic sight. Adele was in the middle of a thick forest. It was clearly a forest, but beyond that, there were stone walls that stood on all sides. But the stone walls looked very, very far away. 

 

She turned around and saw the castle.

 

“Wow!”

 

Leo let out a sound of admiration from her arms. 

 

Dreyfus Castle was also fairly large and influential. However, it seemed that the entire Dreyfus Castle was only about the size of a corner of the Imperial Castle. On a massive scale, Adele was stunned.

 

“You are fearless.”

 

Adele, who was overwhelmed for a moment, returned to reality at the sound of the Emperor’s voice as if pouring cold water on her. Adele held Leo tighter.

 

“Mom! I can’t breathe.”

 

Leo screamed as she was hugging him too tightly. The Emperor took Leo with both hands from Adele’s arms and set him down on the ground. When their eyes met, Adele trembled in fear.

 

‘You can’t do that.’

 

Even the tongue in her mouth was frozen by the coldness he radiated. Leo ran towards the Imperial Palace with an innocent, in awe face. Tears welled up in Adele’s eyes as she looked at him  from the side.

 

‘I can’t stop him from taking the child.’

 

Adele blamed herself. 

 

It wasn’t that she slept so defenselessly. She was too tired to close her eyes for a moment, but who could have imagined that the entire cart would be dragged to the Imperial Palace?

 

 It was already within the realm of the emperor.

 

“Did you ask me what I was doing while you were carrying the baby?”

 

‘When did I ask? What did I ask?’

 

She could never have asked such a terrifying person anything so tenderly. A flash of memory came to mind.

 

“That’s my child! I’ve been holding him in my belly for ten months! What have you been doing?”

 

Whoops. 

 

Adele held her breath.

 

‘Are you trying to argue with me on that?’

 

It was the perfect abuse for the emperor. Even if her head flies right now, she has nothing to say. 

 

Adele shook her head.

 

“Walking on the bloody ground.”

 

Adele’s eyes widened as she looked at the ground.

 

“I walked through endless death.”

 

Adele felt his gaze on the top of her bowed head.

 

“That is the answer.”

 

If she looked up now and looked at him, she would see the legendary Medusa, it would seem that she herself would turn to stone and die.

 

‘You mean you’re going to kill me, too.’

 

Adele trembled with an unbearable fear.

 

“Take her.”

 

When the emperor turned around, the knights approached and captured Adele. All of a sudden, Leo disappeared from her sight. The small and cheerful figure was not visible. It was hidden behind the back of the emperor who was walking after him.

 

“Oh, no! Leo! Leo!”

 

Adele wept and struggled with anguish.

 

“Run away! Leo!”

 

As the emperor disappeared, one of the knights holding Adele punched her in the stomach. 

 

Adele opened her eyes wide.

 

“No…”

 

Adele fainted.

 

***

Van called his young son’s name.

 

“Leo.”

 

The wide imperial palace backyard suited the child running happily. When he called his name, Leo ran to him. Van grabbed the child as he was, hugged him, and lifted him in the air.

 

“My son.”

 

Black hair and white skin. And achromatic gray eyes. The child closely resembled himself. His own gray eyes filled with excitement.

 

“Dad.”

 

From Leo’s cute little lips, the word Dad came out so naturally. 

 

Van was touched.

 

“Yes. I am your father.”

 

He gently lowered the child’s body, which he had been holding, and held him in his arms. 

 

Placing the child’s head on his chest carefully, the smell of his thin hair wafted through Van’s nose.

 

He couldn’t hide his excitement and smiled. 

 

His attendants exchanged glances. 

 

‘Look at His Majesty.’ 

 

‘Yeah. I thought he was a cruel man, but I didn’t expect this from him.’ 

 

‘This is really too much. Oh my God!”

 

The child’s mother cried and was dragged away violently. A young emperor who rejoiced in taking the child by force from his mother. The immorality he had accumulated on a daily basis shone on a day like today. 

 

Van was happy, not even thinking of what the servants were thinking. Leo was put in the hands of his servants and sent to the Great Bath to play in the water, and Van headed to the office.

 

“Where’s Adele?”

 

“Yes, we’re keeping her under surveillance.”

 

The emperor sat down and sighed briefly.

 

‘I tried to kill them all.’

 

He still remembered the anger he felt when he saw the empty room in Dreyfus Castle. 

 

Van drove his horse at full speed. The horse galloped northward for about an hour, loaded with empty crates.

 

He found a cart running with a noise.

 

“Your Majesty, I found it. It is said to have departed from Dreyfus Castle.”

It was a common cart.

 

“Please save me, Your Majesty.”

 

The food vendor trembled in fear and fell on the ground. Van passed him and climbed into the cart. A large wooden box was placed inside. He carefully opened the lid. Inside the box, Adele was asleep, hugging Leo.

 

“You haven’t changed.”

 

He had met this woman earlier. Even after giving birth to her child, her delicate skin and lips looked as if they were the same as they were 4 years ago. Seeing Adele sleeping in the box with an innocent and sullen face, Van was as excited as if he had opened a gift box.

 

Seeing Adele, who was sleeping deeply without waking up from this commotion, Van’s anger was relieved. He closed the lid of the box and got off the cart.

 

“Go to the Imperial Palace as it is.” He ordered.

 

The cart, which had changed its destination from a cheap cart horse to a swift horse, ran fast among the war horses. The carriage which she had prepared after a day’s stay at Dreyfus Castle was of no use.  

 

***

Van looked out the window and called the attendant.

 

“I’ll have dinner with Adele in her room tonight. I’d like to bring Leo with me.”

 

“Yes?”

 

“She must have not eaten properly all day, so tell them to prepare a generous dinner.”

 

But the servant did not back down and hesitated.

 

“What’s the matter?”

 

“Uhh, well…”

 

The servant blinked his eyes as if in embarrassment.

 

“Is your order to have dinner in prison?” 

 

“What? Prison?”

 

Van’s eyes changed terribly.

 

***

 

Did she fall into an ice cold hell in midsummer?

 

Adele felt terribly cold.

 

“Ugh.”

 

When she woke up, she saw a bumpy stone floor. No matter how long she had been lying in a cold sweat, she woke up with aches and pains here and there. 

 

“I’m here…”

 

She had lived her life as a law-abiding citizen whomever did anything bad and obeyed the law. She was at a place she thought she would never come in her lifetime.

 

Prison.

 

Black iron bars were embedded in the stone wall at regular intervals. Adele got up and shook the bars.

 

But the strong bars didn’t budge even when she shook it with all her might.

 

“Huh…”

 

Adele walked on the bumpy floor.

 

“Ouch.”

 

Her feet hurt. She was in her bare feet as her shoes had fallen off when she was dragged away. There were scratches and bruises all over her pale skin, and there was blood. 

 

Seeing her wounds, Adele’s mood strangely subsided.

 

‘Is it today? Or tomorrow?’

 

Considering the harsh treatment, she felt like she was done with her worth. When she gave up, she couldn’t even cry anymore. Adele crouched down. The coldness from the cold stone floor was too cold.

 

‘I’m pretty sure they are not going to keep me alive.”

 

There were no beds, no pillows, and no blankets in the prison. She crouched slightly and wrapped her arms around her legs. At least it felt a little better.

 

‘Isn’t there a way to escape from here?’

 

There was no way she could get Leo even if she got out. Right now, she didn’t even know where Leo was staying in this spacious imperial palace. As she shivered from the cold, her body seemed to stiffen. On the contrary, her head gradually cleared. 

 

Emperor Alfred.

 

Vanhelm von Alfred.

 

“He was Van.”

 

There was a reason why she couldn’t find him no matter how hard she tried. Because the information was wrong from the start. He never called himself a knight.

 

“The chivalry is defiled, and no one in the world wants me to live.”

 

She remembered what he said. So she vaguely considered him a knight.

 

“…Van…”

 

Adele quietly muttered his name. Raising Leo alone, Adele would habitually call out his name and talk to him. Every time she put Leo to sleep, Adele called Van, patting the sleeping child.

 

“Van, today, Leo called me Mama.” 

“Van, do you know what baby food is? It’s something that babies practice before they eat. Leo ate baby food for the first time.” 

“Van, Leo walked.”

 

When she called out the name, the loneliness of raising the child alone briefly went away. She thought he might be somewhere.

 

“Van, today Leo asked about his dad.” 

“Van, I’m having a hard time.”

 

A man who disappeared after one night’s love.

 

It was a short meeting. Was it because it was so short that it was glorified, leaving only the good ones in Adele’s memory? Adele waited for him. She wanted to see Van again, and she missed his tight embrace that night.

 

“Where are you now? Van… I miss you.”

 

Adele was dumbfounded by love for him. A beautiful, poor man. Even though she could not meet or see him, her heart deepened. The child that Van left for her, Leo. As if the child was a milestone, she hoped to meet Van someday. She couldn’t find him even though she searched like a madman, so she thought that maybe he was already dead. But she didn’t find Van or heard that a man named Van was dead, so she wanted to believe that he was alive somewhere. 

 

It was useless.

 

‘I shouldn’t have met him in the first place.’

 

It was a belated regret. Had it been like that, none of this would have happened. 

 

Adele regretted for the first time refusing to ‘ entrust herself to the shadow of the Marquis’, which was her mother’s fortune. If she had, it wouldn’t have been as painful as if her heart had been torn apart like this. Tears streamed down Adele’s cheeks. 

 

How long had she been imprisoned? 

 

A handful of sun came in through a spear, the size of her fist inside the prison.

 

‘The sun is going down.’

 

Adele thought of Leo.

 

‘If I ask you to see the child one more time before I die, will you not listen?’

 

Her hair was messed up and her clothes were torn in pieces from how she was dragged. 

 

Tears flowed out  in the darkness. 

 

Rattle

 

 In the distance, the door opened and footsteps could be heard entering. Adele crouched even more in a corner. She had nowhere to hide, so it was an instinct that came out of nowhere. Several people stood in front of her prison. Breaking through them, Van came to the front of the grate. 

 

When Van grabbed the bar in his hand, the bar twisted like a stick without having to open the door. Adele was terrified at the sight of that monster. 

 

Stabbing, poisoning, strangling. 

 

She imagined an ordinary death.

 

‘I’ll just die by that hand.’

 

It was more than anything she could have imagined. 

 

Adele turned white. 

 

Van entered the prison and lifted Adele. Adele wanted to avoid it, but she was lifted up like a paper doll.

 

“Adele.”

 

Van’s eyes were dark. He looked like he was angry.

 

“This is a misunderstanding.”

 

Notes

N/A

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