The Empress Returns - Chapter 16
“Your chest might look strange if I make it too flat,” Rosha explained, “so I left a little bit of bust. You are still a princess after all…”
Viola shook her head, “It’s perfect.”
“I agree,” Rosha nodded.
Thus began another day.
Viola lightly stepped into the education hall with her back erect. For the next few hours, she endured the onslaught of tedious classes and mindless training activities, and then it was time for the rest period. However, Viola preferred taking walks to napping, so she took Rosha for a stroll through the sunny garden.
She pulled her attendant aside and whispered discreetly, “Just pretend that you are following behind me.”
“…?” Rosha raised a brow at her in confusion.
Viola did not clarify her words any further as she leisurely started traipsing about the garden. Off to the side, a maid was hovering nearby, watching as they examined the lush greenery. Before long, the maid lost interest since Viola wasn’t doing much other than occasionally stopping to smell the flowers. When she saw the maid’s figure disappear, Viola gradually beckoned Rosha to follow her deeper into the garden.
“Is this… a maze?” Rosha whispered.
“What are you doing?”
“Yesterday, I measured it with my steps.”
“You’re checking again?”
“Yes, just in case.”
“It will only take a moment.”
After a while, they finally arrived at the wall she had passed through yesterday. Viola gently ran her hand across the stone exterior, but unlike last night, she did not get sucked in. How very peculiar.
“What’s wrong?” Rosha looked puzzled at her mistress’ actions.
“Strange…” Viola mumbled.
“Nevermind, it’s nothing. I was just wondering what was beyond this wall…”
Viola turned back around and Rosha followed her out the garden.
A knight by the name of Kyle watched over Lustian as he went about his official duties. He wasn’t sure if he was imagining things, but the knight swore that the crown prince seemed to be a different person these days. In his eyes, the prince had started to act more relaxed and even occasionally laughed while he did his work. The prince’s previously blank eyes were now full of life.
‘Why is he acting like this? How weird…’
There was no denying that the situation was very peculiar. Kyle wondered what could have possibly influenced this sudden change. Was it possible that the prince had injured his head? Really, Lustian had never acted like this before. His behavior worried Kyle. It couldn’t be that a disease invaded his brain, could it?
At that moment, Lustian’s body froze. His face suddenly distorted into a grimace, and drops of sweat formed upon his brow.
Kyle tensed in realization. It was happening again. The cycles had definitely become noticeably shorter. Normally, the pain would only come once a week. Now, however, the attacks came upon Lustian once every other day.
“Is it starting again?” Kyle asked.
“Damn it…” the prince growled in frustration. “I need to get to the river.”
Lustian brushed past him as he stormed out of his office and called for his horse. Once on his steed, he galloped directly to the Judith River. Because of his chronic illness, the Crown Prince’s Palace had purposefully been constructed in the Forest of God to allow him ready access to the river. If he wasn’t able to cool himself down in the lake for a day, then he would be overcome with a horrific burning sensation as if his nerves had been set on fire. Additionally, if he drank from the lake but did not soak himself in its waters, his body would ache and sear as if he would melt at any moment.
He seethed at his own situation. ‘… Ha… This is God’s blessing, right?’
An unreasonable amount of rage surged within him. How infuriating it was to suffer such a debilitating condition. As the river came into view, Lustian leaped off his horse and sprinted to the water’s edge just as the sun was setting over the horizon. So desperate was he that he could not even spare a thought to the precious Judith flowers trampled in his path. All he could think about was throwing his body, which felt like a pillar of flames, into the river.
Finally, he plunged himself into the water with a loud splash. A cooling sensation enveloped his body the moment he threw himself into the river, quenching the flames burning in his core. He felt refreshed, as the river water that was gently washing over him was simultaneously caressing the pain from his limbs. Only then was he able to relax and think clearly again.
‘… This isn’t a chronic illness. This is a terrible curse.’
Lustian gnashed his teeth.
The Forest of God was a marvelous place. Here, time always seemed to pass without Lustian realizing it. Before long, the scarlet day quickly turned into moonlight night. He must have been drifting in place for hours.
From the Lake of God, the water flowed to two places: one stream to the Imperial Palace and the other to the Royal Villa. Further down, the streams eventually merged to become what was known as the mighty Judith River, which extended throughout the continent.
Suddenly, Lustian heard chattering in the distance. His eyes opened wide at the familiar voice tickling his ears. Almost as if on instinct, his body moved to follow the voice. He could see a certain princess walking purposefully through the forest and his eyes unconsciously followed her.
‘Where is she going?’
Lustian slipped out of the water and carefully trailed her.
‘What is she trying to do?’
She came to a stop at a clearing not far from where he had spotted her and grabbed a dry branch from off the forest floor. Then, she carefully placed one foot in front of the other and started effortlessly thrusting the branch through the air. Lustian instantly realized that she was practicing swordsmanship. Not only that, but her skills were also excellent. Though she wielded a stick and had no partner, she was still able to precisely aim her jabs at the places where her opponent’s neck, chest, and abdomen would have been—exactly where all the vital points were.