‘But there should be nothing in this direction.’
Raytan pushed the door with a puzzled look.
The unlocked door swung open with a squeaky sound.
The door turned out to not bring him to another passage but a small room. However, all he could see was darkness. Raytan approached the window and moved the dusty curtain aside. The twilight moon quickly poured into that small room.
Raytan then looked back again.
And… his body instantly froze.
His crimson eyes shook wildly. Raytan was perplexed, even forgetting to exhale the breath he held and only moving his gaze over the cobweb-lined wall.
Portraits hung on the dark red wall. While some were faded and falling apart, others were in good condition, as if drawn recently. Among the potraits were people that Raytan knew.
One of them was the Former Emperor, Carta Rowain.
However, he didn’t look as senile as Raytan remembered. Carta Rowain, who, at best, looked to be in his early 30s, looked regal and passionate.
But that wasn’t the reason why his body froze instantly.
It was because of the portrait of… another familiar person. Raytan forced his body to move towards it with a confounded look etched on his face.
That person had wavy blonde hair, sapphire blue eyes, and… a large scar on his cheek.
‘In Denhelder, there is no need for any other God but me.’
It was the man he saw after he killed Carta Rowain…
An excruciating headache suddenly came upon him and hammered against his head. Raytan breathed roughly and looked at the portrait.
There was a small nameplate made of gold at the bottom of it.
Confused red eyes scanned through all the portraits.
They were all blonde.
It was then that Raytan finally realized the people in all these portraits were the previous emperors of the Denhelder Empire.
"I don’t… understand…" Raytan looked at Herace’s portrait and muttered with a bewildered expression on his face.
He honestly didn’t understand. Herace had died thousands of years ago. Why did he see a vision of that person? Why?
And… How did he…
Did Herace really know his name?
Raytan suddenly stopped focusing on Herace’s portrait.
Those strange voices started to haunt him again.
‘He fell asleep and won’t ever wake up. But don’t let your guard down.’
It was the voice of Herace, who wielded a sword at him. Overlapping with his voice, the words of some unknown person soon followed.
‘Search out people who can use magic and put them on a list for monitoring, especially if they are as talented as that woman!’
‘Only inform the Archmage of his location so he can keep an eye on him and ensure that the seal doesn’t break! Therefore, whenever a new emperor ascends to the throne, the Archmage must pass on the knowledge.’
Raytan covered his ears with a pale face, but his effort was futile.
Numerous voices still constantly spat words into his ears.
‘Remove the temple so that no one can ever find traces of them!’
‘Never forget. When you become an emperor after me, and your son becomes an emperor after you, and when our next descendants hold Denhelder in their hands, never forget!’
‘You have to remember it clearly. A monster with black hair like night and red eyes like blood will ruin everything!’
Raytan staggered in pain. He sat down on the floor and panted roughly while closing his eyes. At that moment, endless voices merged into one and began to persist in his ears as a stream of ringing screams.
‘Kill! Kill! Kill!’
Dozens or hundreds of bright eyes glared creepily, as if they would tear through the canvas and come out of the portraits at any moment to strangle him.
"Your Majesty, are you awake?"
A familiar voice woke Raytan up.
Raytan slowly opened his eyes and stared at Philip, who had a worried look.
"…Where is this place?"
"Your Majesty’s bedroom."
"Your Majesty was lying in the passageway, so I brought you here myself."
His last memory was gasping for breath and walking out of the room full of portraits, and it seems that he had lost consciousness after that. It was the first time he got to the point of collapsing.
Raytan sneered, then sat up.
"The doctor is outside. I’ll inform him to enter the room no-"
"But, Your Majesty…"
"I said no need."
Philip no longer insisted. He just bowed his head with a heavy face.
Raytan rubbed his temple then drank the cold water on the side table. The headache, which felt like it was splitting his head before, had already disappeared.
"Your Majesty, it’s Marie."
A polite greeting came from outside the closed door. Raytan put the glass down and replied in a low, subdued voice.
Soon the door opened, and Marie came in with a tray laden with food.
"It is a warm boiled soup. Even if you have an upset stomach, you have to eat it. And please have a check-up with the doc-"
"This mother and son pair are seriously taking turns to nag about the same thing," Raytan smirked helplessly, then spoke again. "… What about Sezh?"
At Raytan’s question, Marie made a subtle expression. She bowed her head slightly and answered.
"Princess Sezh is in her palace, and she hasn’t left since returning from the garden with Your Majesty yesterday."
"…If Your Majesty has something to say, I could pass it to the Princess?"
"Never mind. Let Sezh rest. Instead… Make sure she doesn’t leave her palace."
"Your Majesty." Marie raised her head and bit her lips. "This is presumptuous of me, but the soldiers…"
Marie paused all of a sudden.
It was because of her son who grabbed her hand tightly.
Philip stared straight at his mother and shook his head in a hint.
"Keep talking. What were you trying to ask, Marie?"
"I apologize. It’s just a slip of my tongue," Marie replied softly.
"Your Majesty, you should rest today," Philip, who watched them, tried to intervene. "If you have any work left, please let me know. There’s nothing urgent, so I-"
Philip flinched at Raytan’s voice. He worried that maybe Raytan got angry due to the mention of the soldiers. It felt like his heart would drop and stop beating anytime soon. Yet, Raytan’s coming words were unexpected. Even Marie, the receiver of his question, couldn’t predict it.
"You said you’ve been with Mother since she was in the Iyont Empire."
"I think I heard that a long time ago."
Marie made a puzzled expression.
"Yes, that’s correct. To be precise… I first met the Lady before she became an adult."
Raytan was silent for a moment. He seemed to be contemplating something, then came up with another question.
"Have you ever heard of any of my mother’s relatives? Even if it’s not a direct one."
"Yes. Here, in Denhelder. And with the same name as me…"
"I have never heard of such a thing."
"I just heard that they were all dead. The Lady’s mother, Your Majesty’s maternal grandmother… had passed away when the Lady was young…"
Raytan rubbed his temple wordlessly after hearing that.
He thought that maybe there was someone similar to him and also shared the same name with him. However, it was a silly idea. Didn’t he already know about that too? Out of that woman’s descendants, the one who escaped Denhelder long ago without cutting her baby’s umbilical cord, Lize was the only one who survived.
And, even if there was such a person… Even Lize wouldn’t have known about them since it had already been thousands of years ago, and they would have died a long time ago.
Everyone in those hallucinations sapt out the name ‘Raytan’, even Herace I.
How did they know his name? It was a long time ago that Herace I was still alive.
Is he really going crazy?
Or perhaps these were only temporary hallucinations that shouldn’t bother him?
Nevertheless, it bothered him since the repeated visions and hallucinations all called the same name.
"Your Majesty, is there anything that concerns you?…"
‘Only inform the Archmage of his location so he can keep an eye on him.’
Overlapping with Marie’s voice, the hallucinations he heard yesterday flashed for a moment.
‘….Ensure that the seal doesn’t break!’
"… No," Raytan said as he removed his hand from his temple.
"Your Majesty, you don’t look so good. I think we really should see a doc-"
"Philip," Raytan cut.
"I don’t want a doctor," Raytan got up from the bed.
Surprised, Philip tried to support him, but Raytan batted his hand away.
"Call someone else instead."
"Yes? Someone else who-"
"The Archmage," Raytan said with a cold face.
"Call him to the audience hall. Right Now."
The Archmage kept marching his feet forward with a tensed face.
It was his first encounter with the new Emperor since he didn’t even attend the coronation ceremony. At Denhelder’s coronation, it was customary for the Archmage to bestow a crown on the new Emperor. So the Archmage knew it well that the new Emperor would not pass on this matter quietly.
However, the Archmage did not regret his choice.
‘I do not fear God, so doing that courtesy is unnecessary.’
That declaration from the new Emperor on his coronation succeeded in turning the temple into a storm of turmoil. The new Emperor loudly and dauntlessly stated it in front of everyone.
‘You must fear me as you fear God. Only me.’
The term ‘God’ in Denhelder was the common name of Herace I. Thanks to that, the moment he heard those words, the Archmage was convinced.
‘…He truly had to come back after all. What we have feared for the past few years is only fated to become a reality.’
Still, it was weird. Hadn’t the Archmage constantly watched Raytan? How had he never sensed magic from him? So, how did this happen?
Of course, the Archmage was also aware of the spreading rumor that the concubine Yerena had poisoned Lize. Everybody agreed that Prince Raytan staged the coup due to that reason.
‘But why does it feel so ominous?…’
"His Highness is waiting for you," Philip, who stood in front of the audience room, said with a friendly face. "By the way, are you feeling uncomfortable somewhere? You don’t look like you’re in such a good condition."
"No. It’s okay."
"I’m glad then…"
Philip hesitated momentarily but still tried to appease the Archmage’s evident restlessness.
"He said he has something to ask. So, please don’t worry too much. You can enter now," Philip said this comfortingly and didn’t forget to attach a gracious smile with it.
The Archmage nodded quietly as a response, still with a stiff face.
"Your Majesty, the Archmage has arrived."