With trembling hands, Dana retrieved the letter and began to peruse its contents. She remained perfectly still, as though turned to stone, holding her breath.
“What’s happening? What does it say? You assured me she safely entered the kingdom,” Patrick whispered anxiously from beside her, his worry evident. He struggled to maintain composure, his concern for his daughter consuming his thoughts.
“Honey,” Dana began, tears welling up as she gazed at Patrick, “Jin is expecting a child.”
“What?” Patrick swiftly seized the letter from Dana’s grasp and read its contents. A smile gradually spread across his face, and a warm chuckle escaped involuntarily.
“My little girl is going to be a mother already.”
Dana dabbed away the tears in her eyes with a handkerchief, a mix of emotions washing over her. She quickly composed herself, adopting her usual calm demeanor as she spoke.
“It’s all right now. With Jin’s pregnancy, we have a reason for her to return to the kingdom, and they won’t be able to interfere.”
As Dana had foreseen, a knight soon arrived at the Arse manor. They were informed that a letter had arrived from the Hashi Kingdom, and Sang-je wished to meet with Dana.
To imagine that a lowly human like her…
Sang-je’s typically composed voice now seethed with anger, his once-calm demeanor giving way to a fiery rage. His pupils, once serene, burned with a frigid intensity. Even in the solitude of his prayer room, he had always presented himself as a compassionate saint, but now his patience had worn perilously thin.
Not long ago, the head of the Arse family had paid a visit, and the news she delivered had already set his blood boiling. Anika Jin was pregnant, carrying the child of the Fourth King! The union of a mighty king and the formidable Ramita, Anika, was far from the outcome Sang-je had hoped for.
“Even if Jin cannot attend the Celestial Festival, I implore you to understand, Your Holiness. Let us set aside the insistence on Jin’s presence that you mentioned earlier.”
Sang-je’s brows knitted in recollection of the Arse family head’s demeanor. Some might argue she displayed a bold sense of entitlement, asserting her rightful privileges. To Sang-je, it seemed audacious beyond measure.
A mere human, whose lifespan scarcely spanned a century. No matter how gracefully they aged, they would inevitably crumble to dust within a few short decades.
“If the fate of the Holy City hinges on the Celestial Festival, then the destiny of the kingdom rests with the heir of the king. Jin, as the queen, must naturally shape the kingdom’s fate. Moreover, this union is blessed by Your Holiness.”
Sang-je found himself without a suitable response to Dana’s words.
The Holy City and the kingdoms were inextricably linked. If anyone suggested sacrificing a kingdom for the sake of the Holy City, the kings would rise in rebellion without hesitation. If the Holy City ever turned against the kingdoms, the six kings would unite to face a common threat. This was the worst-case scenario that Sang-je had always feared.
Dana’s final words, essentially conveying, “This marriage was your idea, so stay out of it,” had completely turned the tables.
Amidst this chaotic turn of events, the confident woman standing before him irked him immensely.
He pondered, Should I have pursued kingship instead of becoming Sang-je? His unwavering commitment to serving as God’s representative did not stem from a lack of interest in power.
Power, he mused, was a remarkably convenient tool. Ruling over humans as an autocrat, imposing authority with an iron grip, was far simpler than playing the role of a saint. But it came with far-reaching consequences.
Sang-je had observed humanity for an extensive period. Through this observation, he had learned that power was not everlasting. To secure what he desired, he needed a stable method of governing humans over an extended period.
And that’s when he discovered ‘faith.’ Even as its form shifted slightly, humans never lost their faith. The journey of uncovering the forgotten descendants of an ancient tribe, encountering Alber, and attaining magic had proceeded seamlessly.
As Sang-je stood there, memories of his past dealings with Alber resurfaced, and he couldn’t help but let out a bitter chuckle. Right in this very spot, he had once asked Alber to impersonate a false saint. To his surprise, Alber had proposed that Sang-je take on the role instead.
She probably thought she was being clever with her plans, Sang-je mused.
Alber remained oblivious to the fact that everyone was ensnared in a meticulously woven scheme. No matter how cunning humans might be, their machinations appeared transparent to him, a creature who had observed humanity over countless ages. They couldn’t escape the trap set by the monster who had watched over them throughout the distant centuries.
“Your Holiness, I have come as you summoned,” a priest’s voice called from outside the prayer chamber. Sang-je had originally intended to summon him later, but he recalled the task he had for the priest. He closed his eyes and composed his expression before responding.
The door swung open, revealing an elderly priest who served as one of the caretakers of the sanctuary. Flora had ventured into the sanctuary, and Sang-je inquired about her current situation.
As he asked about Flora’s well-being, the priest replied with a delighted expression, “Your Holiness, Anika Flora’s speed in acquiring and comprehending divine magic is nothing short of astonishing. It can truly be considered a gift bestowed by the gods.”