Episode 23: Jealousy is My Middle Name (3)
Dayeon thought her humiliation would end that evening, but she had been naive, not fully understanding Mikhail’s personality.
The emperor was a rare human who had both persistence and sincerity in spades. He also had the distinct virtue of a ruler in that he didn’t care about other people’s gazes. And, above all, he had not been satisfied on this issue by his own standards.
Everything had to be done thoroughly.
Mikhail hated ambiguous closures. They were some of the driving forces in his life.
When the emperor charged into the western palace’s annex without notice, the knights who had been scolded yesterday suddenly looked nauseated.
Guys, no kidding—I think I’m really gonna be sick. I might throw up now. Where did the commander go, leaving us behind? Haa, I really hate getting interrogated by a superior.
The knights whispered among themselves, and without realizing, they turned to Dayeon with desperate eyes.
He’s been in a good mood for a while, but the skies are turning gray. Please do something.
You’re our only hope.
Dayeon, who had hit the emperor yesterday, looked at him somewhat warily. She wasn’t sure what he was going to say next.
“What are you doing all the way here?” she asked.
The emperor was calm and confident despite her rebellious and suspicious gaze. “I came because I missed you.”
There was no use. As expected, His Majesty was much stronger.
The knights of the imperial guard looked mournfully at Dayeon, who had been made speechless by another fastball. She was clearly overwhelmed by the emperor’s innate energy. In a showdown with the emperor, who had faced all sorts of battles, it seemed that Dayeon would end up married with three children before she could speak a word.
Meanwhile, Theo looked at this scene with a very uncertain expression. Could this atmosphere be…?
“Greetings to His Majesty the Emperor,” Theo said.
The emperor looked coldly at the priest, who interrupted them with a short but respectful greeting.
“It’s been a while,” he said.
“…Yes, it has,” Theo replied.
The emperor’s eyes flashed bitterly, but he soon gathered himself and spoke like normal.
“I should come here more often, but my duties keep me too busy these days. I’m sure you too know why.”
He was referring to the recent conflict with the temple regarding the tax reform. Because of that conflict, the imperial family’s hostility toward the temple was at its peak.
It was a situation in which neither side could avoid a fight.
But why had the emperor come this far to bicker with a low-ranking priest like Theo? Theo’s face hardened, unable to understand.
The emperor watched him with an icy expression.
“This shouldn’t need to be said, but I have a request. Your teaching of Dayeon cannot be lacking in any way.”
Theo, who had frozen because he couldn’t understand the emperor’s intentions, eventually gave him the most exemplary response he could conjure up.
“Of course. Dayeon-nim is an important guest not just for the imperial family but also for the temple. The high priest told me to work so that there is nothing lacking.”
The emperor frowned, deeply bothered by those words.
It was correct to say that Dayeon was the empire’s most important guest. However, Mikhail didn’t like Theo’s arrogant mouth that relayed the high priest’s words, implying that the imperial household and the temple were on the same level in front of him, the emperor.
The people of the temple only pretended to be polite while riling others up.
Even though he was disturbed, Mikhail replied as if he was unruffled.
“Ah. Of course Dayeon is a precious guest of the empire, but I mean that she is a dear person to me, in particular.”
The priest unwittingly repeated that subtle word.
“For instance, as a lover.”
At least, Mikhail hoped it would be like that in the near future. But the emperor quietly and shamelessly omitted that part.
Theo’s face turned a little pale.
“You… are lovers? This is the first I have heard of it.”
The emperor snorted vindictively at Theo’s doubtful expression. “Is that so? Well, now you know.”
The knights, who had been seriously crushed by the emperor yesterday, all stared at him reproachfully.
That isn’t true yet, though!
In spite of the silent storm of resentment, the emperor’s conscience wasn’t pricked. And, as if he found the conversation tedious, he spoke thoughtlessly to wrap it up.
“We have a good relationship, hm.”
The emperor looked at Dayeon warmly and nodded, as if he had convinced himself.
“It’s very forward-looking with immeasurable potential for development. Our relationship is like that.”
The shameless emperor went to Dayeon to say goodbye.
“I have a lot of work today, so I have to leave now. Study hard. I’ll come by again.”
He patted her head a few times and kissed her hand. Then, the emperor took his leave very leisurely while saying he was going to a meeting, leaving chaos and destruction in his wake.
Strange events kept happening every day.
It was a night when the moon was bright, and Dayeon was unable to fall asleep.
Dayeon was someone who thought more than she acted. It took her a long time to make up her mind, and it took even longer to act upon her mind. In fact, most of the time, she put things off.
To say it nicely, she was a calm and serene person. To say it meanly, she was defensive and meek. She was a person who was used to being swept away by others rather than making her own choices. She didn’t think she was happy, but she never felt motivated to break from the path.
If she could reduce this mindset by half, she thought that her depression might be reduced in half as well.
She sometimes thought about this on long nights, but it was just one of the various ideas in her mind that she couldn’t act on.
It had been half a year since she came to live in this world. People no longer asked her what she could do. Very occasionally, some people were skeptical and thought, “Maybe she could…” But even those people gave up and let go of their disappointment at her lack of abilities.
Nevertheless, the wounds remained on her heart.
That was how she knew this was just her same-old inferiority complex.
Why don’t I have anything I can do much better than others? Why am I so ordinary?
These thoughts had been eating away at her for a long time.
She didn’t have these thoughts as a child. They had come up as she grew up and tried to fit in with others. She started comparing herself to them and found she was just playing a small, easily replaceable role. At some point, she became a weak person who naturally thought these kinds of thoughts.
No one was asking anything of her anymore. No one was wondering what abilities she had or what made her special. Still, she continued to stumble around the question.
Why am I here?
What is my meaning, unique to me?
On the bright summer night, when the moon gleamed brightly, Dayeon opened the curtains and climbed out the window.
A plump white puppy sat in front of a tree, watching Dayeon.
Dayeon had no talent in using her body, so she almost fell out the window before catching herself.
After landing with a dull thud, Dayeon cautiously approached the puppy. The puppy stared at her.
Questioning herself, she called out the young puppy’s name.
「 Why am I Samsik?」
She had been thinking it might happen, but she hadn’t actually expected an answer. Dayeon plopped down on the grass in her nightclothes.
“I must really be crazy. You’re answering me now.”
Dayeon buried her face in her hands for a long time.
「Are you hurt?」
Samsik’s body was trembling, its face anxious.
Dayeon pulled herself together and shook her head. Her expression was mixed, as if she was both smiling and crying.
“No, I’m not hurt,” she said. “Anyway, do you not like the name?”
「I don’t know. It’s weird. Why am I Samsik?」
Dayeon, who hadn’t thought they would ever be conversing like this, became quiet for a while. She thought that Samsik might sulk if it knew that Dayeon had come up with the name randomly.
“Well, it means eating well three times a day. I named you that because eating something warm makes you feel cozy.”
「Really? Then, I like it!」
Dayeon looked at the puppy, who was cutely wagging its tail after its mood was lifted.
“Can I touch you?” she asked.
「Sure! Will you scratch me here and here?」
“Okay. You can’t bite me this time, all right?”
「 I won’t bite! I was just surprised then! I’m not going to bite! 」
Sitting on the dirt, Dayeon spoke with the white puppy all night long. She was able to calm her mind and eventually relax.
Would everything be a dream when she woke up?
Still thinking such thoughts, Dayeon climbed over her window again and, for the first time in a while, fell into a comfortable sleep.
When Marie came to wake her up the next day, she saw Dayeon’s bed covered with dirt and screamed, causing a small commotion.
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