The sky was clear without a single cloud. The wind blew gently, and the carriage they were going to ride on looked luxurious and sturdy. The luggage that Shaiya and her companions had packed for a four-month journey was surprisingly minimal. Shaiya wasn’t a demanding master, so it didn’t bother her much.
“Take care. Have a safe journey. You’ll receive blessings soon.”
“Yes, Empress Mother. Thank you for seeing us off.”
Shaiya boarded the carriage, followed by Iyel and Inha. The other maids didn’t accompany them separately.
This was because Shaiya insisted on not wanting to make a fuss since they were going to pray at the temple. Shaiya always found the maids bothersome.
It was a bit unreasonable, so the head maid cautiously suggested it once or twice, and when Shaiya became annoyed, she did not say anything more.
About 20 escort knights that the Empress attached followed behind the carriage. The inside of the carriage looked more spacious and comfortable than it appeared from the outside. They would arrive at the Eastern Temple in about a week by this carriage.
A cool breeze came in through the carriage window.
It was Shaiya’s first outing in 23 years since she came to the empire at the age of seven. Busy people, blue sky, dense forests, and endless fields… As it was already harvest season, the grains were ripe and formed waves in the wind.
The waves curved and flowed all the way to the carriage she was riding in.
Shaiya, who was looking at it through the window, took a deep breath as a handful of wind came into her chest, which had been feeling stuffy. She held the wind in her chest for a moment and then exhaled, feeling like something black and dirty inside her chest had come out with it.
Feeling an indescribable emotion, tears streamed down Shaiya’s eyes.
Iyel handed her a neatly folded handkerchief, and she accepted it with a faint smile. No one inside the carriage spoke to her.
They rode quietly for a while like that.
As time passed, the salty smell of the sea mixed in.
Iyel and Inha began to prepare to get off, feeling like they had arrived at the temple.
Shaiya looked at Inha with a strange look as he moved awkwardly. When their eyes met, she opened his mouth hesitantly as if she was going to say something but then closed it again.
“If you have anything to say, Mama, please feel free to say it.”
Instead of answering, Inha smiled at her and waited.
Shaiya turned her head again and whispered very quietly as if she was letting it slip.
They finally arrived at the Eastern Goddess’s temple.
* * * *
A large door was firmly locked deep underground. The huge door, which seemed impossible to open, opened smoothly as Ansen held out a ring that fit on his finger.
Inside, there was a fairly large circular room. In one corner of the room, a chain decorated with splendid decorations stretched out from the wall and was connected to a woman’s neck. Although she had her eyes closed, her golden hair and smooth white skin were very captivating.
She seemed to sense that someone had come in, and her breath became rough like a wind escaping from her mouth.
“Have you made your decision now?”
Ansen asked her very politely. She tried to step back, but it was in vain. Her Achilles tendon was already severed, and the tendons in her wrist were also removed. When she tried to move back with force, her body was dragged to the hard floor and she could only writhe in place.
“Doesn’t it hurt? Let me help you.”
Ansen cautiously put his hand under her arm and lifted her up in an embrace.
She could no longer speak as her vocal cords had been removed. However, unknowingly, she pleaded to the man out of fear.
“Oh… You have power, don’t you? The drugs and the restraints around your neck should limit the use of your powers… You’re truly different, after all.”
Ansen smirked and placed her gently on a soft rug.
“Hmm… You’re a bit noisy…”
Ansen took a step back and looked at her on the rug, furrowing his brows in annoyance. He turned his back and walked towards the wall. Among the torture tools neatly arranged there, he reached out his hand to a whip with multiple layers of leather.
“Shall we start with this today?”
Inha’s ears caught the sound of a voice wailing sadly in the distance. It belonged to the goddess Kaila. Kaila was looking down at her daughter, trapped in the chamber, and wailing. She was Roa, her foolish daughter who had descended to the surface against her wishes.
* * * *
Inha woke up from a deep dream, sweating profusely. And as she opened her eyes, she looked at the black stone placed on her desk. She knew very well that what she had seen was a dream shown by that stone. Despite knowing it wasn’t real, Roa’s experiences vividly came through her.
“Sigh… I’ve escaped torture, but indirect torture, huh.”
She got up from the bed, feeling somewhat stiff, and approached the desk. Inha calmly placed her hand on the stone and poured her power into it. Then, the black stone emitted a red light before quickly fading away.
“…I’ll ask you to be gentle tonight.”
She whispered quietly and went out of the room after opening the door.
It had been about a week since Inha and her companions arrived at the goddess’s temple. They had been spending peaceful days without any significant incidents.
To receive the blessings of the goddess, one must first purify their body and mind through prayer in the temple for two weeks. Then they enter deep into the temple to pray and seek blessings. Depending on the person, the goddess usually imprints a symbol of blessing on the back of their hand, which lasts for about a month before naturally fading away.
In the original work, the emperor ignores this purification ceremony and cuts to the chase, but the empress seems unprepared. This was because a priest came to Shaiya, saying that negative energy was flowing into the temple and requesting that Shaiya perform the purification ceremony for about a month.
A month later… Inha smirked. Even then, the empress wouldn’t be able to touch even a single hair on Shaiya’s head.
Before that, we won’t even be here.
“What are you doing here?”
Shaiya’s daily life was very monotonous. She had breakfast with Iyel and went for a walk on the beach in front of the temple. After morning prayers, she learned simple martial arts from Iyel and exercised to help her weakened body. Then she slept in late due to nightmares and had lunch with Inha, who came out with her.
Then they took a break and helped the people in the temple with their work when they came. They lit candles in the prayer room or dried carpets in the sunlight.
It wasn’t something that nobles usually did, but it was something the empress did in the temple because it was believed that everything was done for the goddess and helped with the purification.
However, the two who usually waited for her in the front yard at the time Inha woke up were nowhere to be seen, so she had to go looking for them.
Then… She saw Shaiya and Iyel talking while drawing something on the floor in a corner of the temple where they didn’t usually go.
“Ah! You came just in time. Come and see, Rin. Let’s hear your opinion on what would be good!”
Shaiya’s tone of voice had become much more relaxed than before.
Her expression had also become much softer, making her beauty shine even more. Seeing her under the morning sun was… not very good for the heart.
“Yeah, yeah! Rin, come over here.”
Iyel also changed her sharp tone of voice to a friendly one and treated Rin like a younger sister.
“What’s going on?”
“Look, Rin–. If, if we could catch the emperor later and do whatever we want with him, we were discussing how to kill him with Iyel!”
It didn’t seem like a very innocent conversation…
“…Is that so?”
“Well, Iyel said we have to behead him in front of many people.”
“That’s right! That way we can let everyone know what a devilish human he is!”
“But then it would be too easy… So I said let’s beat him until he dies in front of everyone.”
“…Right, killing that guy too easily… Wait a minute… Why are we suddenly talking about this?”
Shaiya trembled at the mere thought of the emperor. She knew that she had become much more mentally stable after leaving the palace. But to talk so openly about the emperor… It was a little strange. Especially since Iyel was not someone who would bring up the emperor as a topic of conversation.
“That’s… because the empress’s letter came.”
Iyel handed a letter from the empress to Inha and began to speak. Inha listened to Iyel’s story as she read the letter. The content was simple. It stated that the emperor, who had gone to suppress the remaining rebel forces, returned without any success.
– Unfortunately, they have found evidence of traitors against the Empire, but the traitors have escaped so well that they have not been able to capture them. The Emperor is very heartbroken and is on his way back, so please pray to the Goddess for him. –
“Tch! It’s not even funny. The rebels they’re talking about are the Kuiban people! To complain to the princess because they couldn’t catch them. I would rather have the emperor captured by the Kuiban people.”
Shaiya nodded vigorously next to her, agreeing with Iyel’s words.
Well, to be able to crack a joke about the Emperor like this, albeit a rather cruel one, instead of being scared and depressed… I guess it’s a good thing.
But as Inha looked into Shaiya’s clear eyes, she felt like she was showing an R19 movie to an innocent child. Just when Inha was about to give her a little warning…
Shaiya suddenly looked at Inha, staring at her with confident eyes as if she was sure that Inha would say something amazing.
“Rin! Rin, you can come up with a more brilliant plan? Right?”
“Princess… Even if you call me Rin, I’m still young… Please don’t expect too much from me, Princess.”
I feel like I’ve been challenged, but it’s just not my thing…
“Mama, why do you only think about killing…”
“Huh? Should we not kill him?”
“You want to keep that bastard alive!!?”
“No! I meant that he should suffer more than death!”