Chapter 7. The Child trapped in the pagoda

 

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Liv got out of the Emperor’s Palace as soon as the sun rose. The wind hovered around her, blowing as it had that day before the regression.

 

It would have been easier if she had had a maid from her family with her…

 

But the Empress Dowager had instructed that Liv could not bring any of them in. Just like before the regression.

 

Feeling the cold air, Liv headed for the Empress’ Palace, a short distance from there.

 

When she went straight into the bedroom, the maids of honor, who were also noble ladies, hurried to help her dress. After the preparations, Liv asked, 

 

“Where is the imperial pagoda?”

 

At the unexpected question, the maids only looked troubled as they avoided her gaze.

 

“I will not ask twice. Lead me to the pagoda.”

 

“Your Majesty! What do you mean the pagoda?”

 

It was a place that Liv had never tried to visit even though she was in the Imperial Palace for a long time before her regression. It was an imperial abomination, the pagoda.

 

And there are even more abominations within it. The only flesh and blood in Carius, Young Prince Theodore.

 

Knowing what it meant for the Empress to go to the pagoda, the maids shivered in horror. Many of them were spies planted by Empress Dowager Patricia.

 

‘This seems to be the intention to replace the maids.’

 

Liv raised her eyes as best she could as she looked at the maids who were frozen in place.

 

“I can’t believe you made me say that twice. Do you all want to be beaten?”

 

Her determined attitude eventually left the maids with no choice but to look frightened and lead her to the far end of the palace, to the secluded pagoda.

 

At Liv’s words to prepare the carriage, the maidservant next to her eventually ran out of patience and opened her mouth.

 

“Your Majesty, have you heard the rumors about the Prince…”

 

Another maid standing next to her stopped her. She meant to be careful what you say. For a moment, Liv’s gaze turned to her.  The maid became quiet.

 

“What’s the rumor?”

 

“Ah, that’s. ……”

 

“You will not survive if you are not honest.”

 

Liv glared at the maid with an increasingly piercing gaze. The maidservants next to her were terrified and trembled with fear.

 

“Your Majesty, please forgive this maidservant for saying such a thing when she just came in and doesn’t know much about etiquette!”

 

Liv tilted her head at the words and looked at the maidservants who were following behind her.

 

“If anyone dares to talk nonsense about the imperial family, they will be severely punished directly by me.”

 

“I’ll keep that in mind…!”

 

Actually, it wasn’t easy for Liv to go see the Prince either. Because she thought that I would have to die like this without any chance of regression.

 

Prince Theodore’s nickname was “The Devil’s Gift”.

 

Shortly after Theodore was born, the former Empress died of an unknown disease, and many women who wanted to take her place fled early because they seemed to have scary dreams every night.

 

However, the decision had already been made. The thought of the Prince had been running through her mind since the wedding, and she immediately put it into action.

 

She didn’t need any reason to postpone.

 

“Your Majesty, we have arrived.”

 

The carriage stopped immediately, and Liv couldn’t help but be astonished at the sight of the jail-like tower surrounded by large vines.

 

‘A six-year-old child went into this pitch-black tower on his own?’

 

One of the priests, who found the carriage, hurriedly approached.

 

A slender body, a long face shape, and narrow eyes.  He was wearing a white coat like a priest.

 

“Her Majesty the Empress? I’m here to see the Empress!”

 

Her ears perked up at the sound of two or three separate voices, as if coming out of the deep darkness.

 

“Your Majesty is here because…..”

 

“It’s because of the Prince.”

 

The priest’s eyebrows rose to one side.  With a slight smirk on his lips.

 

Somehow she didn’t like his expression at all, and Liv narrowed her eyes, but to her surprise, he looked straight into Liv’s eyes and tried to read something.

 

“Empress, you seem very familiar to me, as if you had always been here.”

 

‘What is it……. Did he know that I regressed?’

 

Liv hurriedly avoided eye contact and said,

 

“It must have been that I learned the court manners for a long time. I came to see the Prince.”

 

The priest’s brow wrinkled as Liv said the words that no one had dared to spit out.

 

“Your Majesty, you didn’t come here without knowing about the prophecy, did you?”

 

The way he gently clasped his hands together and lifted his eyes made Liv feel somewhat miserable, but she did not feel intimidated. She had nowhere to go.

 

 

“So we have to meet more.The only heir to the throne shouldn’t be trapped here.”

 

“Many ladies have gone through that process, and what happened in the end?”

 

The words of the priest were not wrong.

 

“The Prince………. No one will meet him. Especially if the empress is here.”

 

“That’s for me and the aprince to decide, Priest!

 

“You’ll regret it. Your Majesty. Please consider it carefully. It’s better for your sake.”

 

“…What is your name?”

 

“Oh, I’m late introducing myself. I’m Jack Pitt.”

 

“Jack, I’ll remember your name clearly. As the priest who dared to teach me.”

 

Immediately he burst into laughter. The laughter became very deafening.

 

“I’ve heard rumors, but you’re even more impressive than I thought. There is a reason why the Empress Dowager said so.” (Priest)

 

It occurred to Liv that some of the priests were also Empress Dowager’s people. Surely the priest in front of her was also in the hands of Empress Dowager.

 

“Since you are willing to enter even though you knew the risk, I will show you to the back. Please come in.”

 

The priest slowly walked into the pagoda. Liv was welcomed by huge and somewhat eerie looking iron bars.

 

When the maidservants tried to enter behind Liv, the priest stood in their way.

 

“You cannot enter.”

 

“Your Majesty.”

 

The maids looked at Liv, she nodded as if to say ‘stay back’ and followed the priest.

 

Even though it was the middle of the day, the inside of the tower was filled with a thick darkness and the smell of mildew. The air was increasingly damp due to the sticky humidity.

 

It was not easy to take a step because Liv was overwhelmed by the dark atmosphere, but she tried not to show it. No, she couldn’t let it show.

 

Stopping in front of the room with a large torch, the priest glanced at 

Liv and spoke.

 

“This is the room where the Prince is. Would you like me to open it for you?

 

“I would be grateful if you would.”

 

The priest grabbed the doorknob, and with a clang, the tightly closed iron door was opened.

 

Liv entered calmly, but could not help but be astonished at the sight before her. There was only one bed in a small room with only a small window.

 

Under the sunlight leaking through the small window, a boy with shaggy black hair and suitably refined clothes was sitting in a huddle.

 

Liv hesitated for a moment, then summoned the courage to call out the child’s name.

 

“Theo,Theodore…………?”

 

The child slowly turned to the voice calling him and looked at Liv in dismay.

 

Blue eyes, high nose, and small red lips, just like Emperor Carius.

 

The moment Liv met those sad eyes, her own child’s face, Edmund, who had already gone to heaven, began to overlap with Theodore’s.

 

The child who was not celebrated in the imperial family. It was the world’s cold treatment of that child. If Edmund had lived, would he have been like him?

 

A child with small shoulders, trapped in the frame of prophecy, frightened by the eyes of the nobles.

 

Liv suppressed the swelling in her chest, her mouth barely able to compose as it quivered incessantly.

 

“Theo, Theodore, I’m…your mother………………….”

 

Theodore’s eyes took on a different look at the faintly audible words. Who could have made the Prince of a country like this? Who had created this ridiculous curse on this little angel?

 

“Oh, mother………?”

 

Liv went further inside the room, curse or no curse, as her heart was breaking.

 

“Can I hold your hand….?”

 

A pair of white, thin hands reach out.

 

Theodore was about to reach out for that warm hand when he averted his gaze and stared at the priest. For a moment, his eyes sent a cold caution.

 

Theodore flinched, then quickly retreated his hand.

 

“I must not see mother. I’m not going to kill mother.”

 

How could such brutal words come out of a six year old who still had trouble pronouncing them?

 

Liv didn’t need to see it to understand. The child looked reasonably pretty, but he had been subjected to a lot of cold treatment and pressure.

 

Liv took the child’s hand in hers and gave him the necklace she had brought with her. When Theodore was startled, she said in a low voice so that the priest could not hear.

 

“Theodore, this is a necklace that will protect the Prince and mother. If you have the sacred dragon’s tooth, you will be able to escape from all curses.”

 

She said and showed Theodore the necklace on her neck.

 

“Mother wears the same necklace as the prince. That’s why neither of us will be cursed.”

 

Having taken care of children many times at the nursery school, Liv knew very well that this kind of magic could sometimes be the power to move a child.

 

Theodore raised his head for the first time and met her gaze. How beautiful and cute the child’s face was.

 

When Liv faced those eyes, her heart ached instantly.

 

At that moment, she heard the priest’s voice from behind.

 

“Your Majesty, it’s not safe to stay long.”

 

Liv tilted her head and glared at the priest, but he only shrugged his shoulders and looked as if he had no choice.

 

“How dare you treat a prince like this!”

 

“I’m sorry, Your Majesty. No one wants to come in here.”

 

“How is that possible? I will closely examine the sins of the priests and you all will pay for your sins!”

 

Liv stood Theodore up and asked,

 

“Do you want to get out of here?”

 

Theodore looked at the Priest and shook his head.

 

 “I like it here. I don’t want to leave……..”

 

Watching Theodore lower his head, Liv felt a tearing pain in her heart. As she grabbed her chest, the priest looked at her with a strange expression.

 

“Your Majesty, this has already been decided by the Imperial Council. If you force us to do this, we’ll be in trouble.”

 

His voice was brazen and imposing. Liv glared at him in annoyance.

 

“Who doesn’t know that the Imperial Council is in the hands of the Empress Dowager!”

 

“In any case, we have to abide by the decisions of the Imperial Council. Your Majesty.”

 

Liv then exhaled briefly.  She made eye contact with Theodore again with a calm face.

 

“I will come back to you, Prince, and you must hold on until then, okay?”

 

Theodore nodded his head silently.

 

In the end, Liv had no choice but to turn her heavy steps out of the door.