Often, when people faced the truth, they couldn’t handle it, and their first reaction would be to deny it. Kalion wasn’t any different. He recited the priest’s words and then bluntly said, “This is not possible. I am sure you must be mistaken. After I was attacked by the demons my body felt different.” In Kalion’s eyes, this was not only strange. He also believed he was in a critical condition.
As Kalion stood in shock and disbelief, his gaze fell upon the woman who he’d considered to be a pumpkin for the past ten years. Erna was a woman that annoyed him to his core. But yet, he wanted to touch her and nibble her flesh. And not only that, he wanted to make passionate love to her too.
Besides all of this, there seemed to be a much bigger problem. Kalion had been captivated by the image of her smiling brightly and spinning around in the cloister. Time had stood still as he’d watched her golden hair shining under the sunlight and listened to the sweet sound of her bubbly laughter. It had been a picture-perfect moment, and he recalled this image vividly.
The way his body had reacted to seeing her made him one hundred percent certain that there was something wrong with him. Because if he’d been in his right frame of mind, there was no way that he would’ve looked at Erna like that.
Kalion put his hands together in front of the priest again, as if praying, and said, “It’s not that I doubt you. Anyone can make a mistake. So look for the poison of the demon in my body again.”
Kalion’s words, “you must be wrong,” seemed to linger in the air, and the priest held onto his hands as he responded, “God does not make mistakes.”
“But God’s agent might,” Kalion spat back without thinking.
The priest unwillingly used the divine power as Kalion’s became more demanding with each response. As the golden aura seeped through the flapping robe of the priest and wrapped around him, Kalion glared at the light. Oh dear God, don’t make a mistake this time.
But after a moment, the priest repeated the words, “There is no poison in your body. There is a very faint trace of poison, but this was from a long, long time ago. It is not recent.”
Hearing the priest’s words sent another wave of shock through Kalion’s body, and he froze. The trace of poison he was referring to must be the poison he’d drunk when he was a little boy. The divine power could trace this that far back but couldn’t trace the poison from two weeks ago! Feeling frustrated, Kalion pleaded once more, sounding defeated, “I’m sorry, but please check again.”
“Very well,” the priest sighed.
Although Kalion couldn’t see the priest’s face, he had a feeling that the man was staring at him suspiciously. But Kalion couldn’t care less about that at this point. All he wanted was for his suspicions to be proved correct.
There’s no way. It had to be the poison. Everything he’d felt had to be because of the poison. If not. Kalion remembered the feelings he felt for the past two weeks. And he was petrified that the feelings would become solely his own.
Kalion plodded around the Archduke Castle that evening feeling miserable and sorry for himself. The kind priest who’d arrived at mid-day was only able to leave very late that evening, and so Kalion kept on asking to be re-examined because he refused to believe the results.
The priest examined his body so many times that the divine power eventually ran out completely. And the only thing the priest could say was that there was no poison in his body. Finally, the exhausted priest had forgotten who stood in front of him and had said, “Archduke, do you know how so many kingdoms disappeared in the past? The curse of God is,” he’d started to recite the story of the ancient curse to Kalion. In the end, Kalion had given up and allowed the priest to leave the castle.
The priest didn’t leave empty-handed and had received so many gifts that an extra carriage was required to transport them. But before setting off, the priest wished that God would look after Hessenguard and blessed Kalion to have what he wanted. Feeling thankful for the gifts, the priest had left the castle in a happy mood, but Kalion couldn’t find any joy. There were no recent traces of poison found in his body. Therefore, Kalion could no longer blame that for the amplified desire he thought was caused by the demon poison.
After walking about the castle aimlessly for a long time, Kalion was suddenly startled out of his self-pity by the squeaking sound of a door opening. “Oh my god! How did I get here?” He was opening the door that connected his bedroom to the master bedroom as if he was a pigeon trained to return home. Kalion was unaware of what he was doing, and his feet had automatically headed there. It was as if this was the place he was supposed to return.
The master bedroom was the same as usual. The fire was crackling, keeping the room temperature warm, and the comforting scent of herb oil lingered. The master bedroom had always been spic and span. But the space started changing, little by little since the two of them had started making use of it.
The large wooden desk that Kalion had stormed into the room with some time back was still in the corner, and Erna’s documents had piled up beside the emerald-green sofa. At first, they’d left the room with all the things that they’d brought, but at some point, laziness had taken over. And therefore, there were many items piled up on his desk, and the smaller table beside the sofa also accumulated more of Erna’s things.
Then one day, Erna said her pen seemed to be broken, so she’d taken one of his, and that pen eventually found its way onto the table beside the sofa. Kalion had thought of taking it back but had left it there. This room was Erna’s space as much as it was his, so it didn’t matter where it was. Kalion didn’t know how this had all happened so quickly, and he couldn’t remember when he’d ever found it normal to share time and space with Erna.
Kalion jumped when he heard the door open unexpectedly, and as he turned around, he saw Erna entering the room. He vividly remembered the first day when she’d walked through the door. The expression on her face had been one of fear as if she were about to face the most terrible thing in the world. And she had turned her head as if she was in pain from just looking at him. She had been timid then and had been startled by even the slightest touch of their bodies.
But that was then, and this was now, and he watched as she walked over to him confidently. Then she turned her head to the right as she stood in front of him. The soft golden hair was neatly tied up, with a pretty plait and on the side of her head was the green hair accessory that he’d seen earlier in the day.
“Hey, look at this. Isn’t it pretty? It’s a gift from a new merchant that is settling in Hessenguard,” Erna said with a broad smile. It seemed to please her quite a bit. The fact that she’d boasted about it in front of the magicians, and to him now as well, showed how happy it made Erna feel.
It was indeed pretty with the dark green ribbon and the delicate gold decoration on it as well. It must’ve been made for Erna specifically, to begin with, or else there was no way it would look perfect on her. But how was it that he found her tied hair underneath the ribbon, prettier? Kalion remembered the priest’s words. There was no poison in his body, which meant all the feelings he was currently feeling weren’t affected by anything else.
It wasn’t the poison that was making him feel she was pretty. He thought that she was pretty. It wasn’t the poison that was making him seek her body. He was seeking her body, and it wasn’t the poison at all. These were his normal emotions.
Kalion’s lips parted in realization. He finally understood the priest’s words completely, even though he heard them in the early day. All the desire that he thought was swarming him because of poison was his.
His face immediately reddened because of the level of his desire which was endlessly lewd and promiscuous. And the blind desire raged in him.
Kalion couldn’t easily accept those desires. It was too confusing since the past ten years were full of hatred toward Erna. Kalion had to scrape together the logic which had kept him going for the past ten years. He had to think quickly, and he asked himself what his poison-less, past self would do in a situation as uncomfortable as this one.
While he racked his brain for a solution, Erna moved her face close to his, “I asked, what do you think?”
Even though he didn’t think so, Kalion replied coldly, “It’s not pretty.”
“What?” Erna looked taken aback, and she blinked at him in confusion.
Clenching his fists, Kalion looked at her green eyes, which peered through the long eyelashes that cast a shadow beneath them. And although he could see the lashes shaking in dismay, Kalion still spat out, “It’s ugly.”
“That was absurd,” Erna said, feeling hurt by Kalion’s nasty response.
Erna stared at the hair accessory on her table as she sat in her office. She had been going around all day yesterday feeling joy and appreciation after she’d received the gift and asking everyone if it was pretty. And, of course, everyone had complimented how good it looked on her.
Erna enjoyed receiving compliments because she’d been unattractive as a teenager. The only nice things said about her then were that she was quiet and didn’t bother anyone. Erna never heard the compliments that her siblings always heard, and so Erna craved acknowledgment. She felt that the void in her heart got filled, especially when she received praise from the people she liked.
“You like hearing those words, even though you’re not a child?” Orpé asked with an expression of not understanding her.
Erna shamelessly answered, “Yes, I like it. So please compliment me all the time. That is your biggest task as my aide.”
“Yes, yes. Archduke Erna is beautiful, wise, kind, elegant, and perfect. Hurry up and sign this document.”
Even at the half sarcastic compliments, Erna smiled brightly and took the document, and Orpé’s smile was fake as if she gave up on her.
From then on, Orpé complimented Erna more often. But not only Orpé. She begged her magicians and Vanessa for compliments too. I want to hear good words from the people I like. It was now the mindset of Erna as she continued to ask other people for compliments.
Erna had been going around the Archduke castle the entire day, showing off her hair accessory. Usually, she would’ve felt satisfied when she put it back into her jewelry box. But Erna didn’t feel like she was satisfied after entering the room. Then she’d realized the reason. She hadn’t shown it off to Kalion.
In the past, there was no way she would show off anything to Kalion. But yesterday, it had felt natural that she should show it to him as well. Perhaps it was because she wanted to hear him say she was pretty. After becoming an adult, everyone in the Archduke castle praised her, but Kalion always called her a pumpkin. So she’d re-done her hair and put the hair accessory on, thinking there was no way he couldn’t accept the fact that she looked pretty.
When she’d heard Kalion enter the master bedroom, she’d headed in that direction quickly. And as usual, he was there. But tonight, Kalion was in his Knight’s Order’s uniform, not in his pajamas, and she wondered about that for a moment. But Erna soon approached him and pointed to her hair. She was in a hurry to ask him to look at it.
Over the last two weeks, he hadn’t uttered any dis-likable words like he usually did. So Erna thought today would be the same, but he’d spat out that it was ugly, which wasn’t what she’d expected. And then he’d left the room as if he was escaping. Kalion hadn’t returned for the remainder of the evening.
While she sat with a heavy heart from what had transpired last night, Vanessa visited her office. “Miss Erna, there’s something you should take a look at.”
“What is it? Give it to me.” Erna took the document that Vanessa handed to her. When she touched the papers, she felt a small amount of pain, and a flash of light sparked on Erna’s hand.
“Ouch,” Erna mumbled as she shook her finger. “It’s divine power? Did you meet a priest? There’s a trace of divine power here.”
Then Vanessa answered, “Yes, yesterday I brought a priest as Archduke Kalion requested. The priest blessed the castle as well as Kalion before leaving. It seems like the trace is there because of that.”
Erna stood up immediately and asked, “A priest was here yesterday?”
“Yes, that is correct.”
At that moment, Erna finally realized why Kalion was different than usual. He purified the demon’s poison. It wasn’t that Kalion had changed. He’d only returned to his old self.