T/N: sooooo… i know i kept using the words: divine power, divine artifact, divine relic. but i the word 신물 refers to the celestial or divine elixir of immortality, which was thought to grant immortality or eternal life to those who consumed it; and often associated with Taoist and mythical elements. but i thought the words i used are more apt for the novel so i’ll be keeping it (ꈍ ‸ ꈍ✿) thank you~
In the dimly lit annex, Jeremian, relying on a slender candle, was lost in thought. Unlike when he was immersed in gambling and pleasure, his red eyes were clear. He said to the butler standing by his side,
“I won’t inquire about the money you’ve collected, so treat the commander as an outsider.”
It was Jeremian’s warning to the butler and servants who had been receiving money from Isdante. This was how he would comply with Thearis’s orders, knowing that Isdante would distance himself from them. The butler stepped back as Jeremian gestured, waving his hand towards the empty space once more.
At that moment, Carlos, the leader of the ‘Ombre’ with proper etiquette, appeared before him. Carlos, who wouldn’t seek out Jeremian unless something special was afoot, was different today.
“You were told to inquire about Tarmenon Marquisate through Ombre, correct?”
Thearis became the Duchess of Navarant, but she still couldn’t surpass Jeremian’s influence. Jeremian ordered Carlos to keep an eye on Thearis, fearing that she might abandon her position as duchess and flee.
Carlos faithfully carried out Jeremian’s orders.
“Have you delivered the results?”
“Skip the details about the relic and just hand them over.”
With a gesture from Jeremian, Carlos withdrew. Carlos is skilled in concealment to the point that the guards of the annex wouldn’t notice him, and vanished without a trace.
“She’s discovered that she’s of the Marquis of Tarmenon’s bloodline.”
It would have been impossible without someone’s tip-off. Jeremian suspected that it was probably his son Isdante who had informed her.
* * *
Jeremian still remembered that day. It was the day he had no choice but to use the power of the relic and writhed in agony.
The power possessed by the Navarant Duke’s relic was the Flame of Purification. While it was possible to conjure ordinary flames, the Flame of Purification, which expelled malevolent forces, was a higher-level power.
That day, Jeremian had used the Flame of Purification for the mad Emperor, trembling in pain, before returning as the Duke.
His wife had grown progressively weaker and couldn’t even rise from her bed after giving birth to Thearis.
His frail wife’s determination to hold on to life was because of their young child. Seeing Jeremian’s pallid complexion, his concerned wife asked with a worried expression,
“Are you alright?”
“I’ll be fine with some rest. Where’s our Thearis?”
“The nanny took her.”
“Is that so?”
Despite trembling from the side effects of using the relic’s power, Jeremian carefully took a step forward. He thought it would be better to rest and see Thearis’s face.
When he opened the door, Thearis was asleep in her bed, and there was no sign of the nanny who should have been watching over her.
‘I should consider changing the nanny.’
Leaving the precious Navarant bloodline alone was unthinkable, especially leaving a defenseless sleeping child unattended.
Jeremian whispered softly as he approached Thearis’s sleeping bed. The pain simmering within him was bearable. If there had been people from Marquis Tarmenon’s family, they might have eased his suffering, but they had all taken their own lives due to charges of rebellion. The remaining person from the Marquisate of Tarmenon was imprisoned in the palace, falsely accused of rebellion, and Crown Prince Severhan was overseeing his confinement.
Whether he had truly attempted rebellion didn’t matter; what was important was that the imperial family controlled his fate.
Navarant and Vane had no choice but to follow the palace’s plan, which aimed to control and manage those who could reduce the side effects of using the relic’s power.
“We would have been in danger if we hadn’t done it this way.”
There was a reason why the imperial family had moved against Marquis Tarmenon. The cause was the Marquis’s failure to alleviate the Emperor’s suffering caused by the side effects of the relic’s power.
Furious, Severhan had devised a plan to eliminate the Tarmenon Marquisate, and Navarant and Vane had reluctantly joined.
‘It’s been tough.’
He didn’t intend to do anything in front of the peacefully sleeping child. With trembling fingertips that he struggled to steady, Jeremian gently stroked Thearis’s hair.
That’s when it happened.
The pain coursing through his body suddenly disappeared, and not only that, but he also heard the call of the god in his mind.
“What on earth…”
Jeremian, startled to the core, touched Thearis’s cheek with his finger. The pain had completely vanished, and a summons from the god echoed in his mind.
[She’s not your child.]
“This can’t be…!”
Jeremian wanted to wake Thearis immediately and ask her about the truth. How could you not be my daughter?
[That doesn’t change the facts.]
“Who did this?”
Jeremian uttered in a low voice, his lips trembling. His clenched fist trembled with anger, and he exerted all his strength to control the flames of fury welling up inside.
Even to his question, the god didn’t respond. The god always spoke as it pleased. There were very few times when it properly answered his questions.
[Let’s make a deal.]
“A deal? What are you talking about?”
[I will call your child. Right here.]
“You’re going to call my bloodline?”
[A child who hears my call will arrive here.]
Jeremian thought carefully. It wasn’t a decision to be made in haste. Where had his and his wife’s child gone, and had Tarmenon’s child come and taken his place?
Since when have things changed?
He knew that Thearis had different hair and eye colors from Navarant’s bloodline, but because those colors were the same as his beloved wife’s, he had never suspected.
But now, to think she was Tarmenon’s child…
Jeremian deduced that Thearis was Tarmenon’s bloodline when the side effects of the relic’s power disappeared in an instant.
“Since when did Tarmenon planned for this?”
He continued to mutter to himself, but there was no one to answer.
[Raise this child here.]
It was impossible.
Raising someone who wasn’t of Navarant’s bloodline within Navarant, and treating them as direct bloodline, was unthinkable.
“Oh, Your Grace!”
If someone hadn’t opened the door and entered, Jeremian might have pushed Thearis away right there. The words of the god were that shocking.
“I apologize. The butler called me urgently.”
Jeremian didn’t say a word to Haelian. No, he couldn’t. Opening his mouth now would release his intense anger, and he didn’t know where it would be directed.
‘Should I endure it for now?’
[If you do as I say, you can find your child. This child here can also be of help to your child.]
Without responding to Haelian, Jeremian left Thearis’s room. His once gentle face was nowhere to be found, replaced by an ominous air.
The passing servants of the ducal palace, catching sight of his expression, were startled and puzzled. Jeremian felt no relief that the pain from the relic had disappeared.
On the contrary, how could he feel comfortable now that he knew Thearis wasn’t his child?
‘How dare they!’
It was clear what the Marquis of Tarmenon had done. Blaming himself for not noticing their scheme in time, Jeremian headed towards his office.
Meanwhile, the god continued to babble incessantly in his mind.
[It won’t be a bad thing for you either. If you give up the relic a bit earlier, the time to find your child will be shorter.]
“I can’t give up on this power right now. The imperial family calls on me from time to time.”
Jeremian believed that when the power of the relic disappeared, the imperial palace would do something to Navarant.
They had falsely accused and taken them away, concocting crimes that didn’t exist. So, naturally, they could do similar things to the Navarant ducal family.
“Duke Vane won’t cooperate with us.”
The Empire had only two ducal families, and it wasn’t easy for them to cooperate, especially when Vane and Navarant had a long-standing feud.
One ducal family disappearing would allow the other to seize power completely. The only interaction between them had been a promise to let their children spend some time together when they were young.
“What should I do.”
[Alright, not right now, but when the Empire’s surveillance loosens, give up on my power. Then, I will call the child.]
“What if my child dies in the meantime?”
[The fate of the heir who should inherit the power of the relic is not so fragile.]
Jeremian felt uneasy at the relic’s certainty. Could it mean that something other than death awaited his child?
[Even if you don’t know right now, raising Tarmenon’s bloodline as your daughter will benefit you in the future. Isn’t that better for your weak wife as well?]
The god’s quiet whispering was like that of a demon. The moment it mentioned his wife, Jeremian realized he had no choice but to accept the god’s words.
His wife, who had grown weaker and weaker, might not be able to accept that Thearis wasn’t her biological child. Even if she did, it was certain to be a tremendous shock. Jeremian knew what might happen to her already fragile lifeline.
He had been particularly attentive because the doctor had stressed the need for absolute stability, and now something like this had happened.
‘When did it change.’
[What’s the point of thinking about that? It’s already happened.]
Perhaps the divine had known that the children had been switched, but it had said nothing until he noticed.
That meant that even the relic wasn’t entirely on his side.
‘What on earth does the Tarmenon Marquisate have that makes the relic want to protect their bloodline?’
He was convinced that there were secrets beyond what he knew. Immediately summoning Carlos, Jeremian ordered a thorough investigation into Tarmenon Marquisate.
It was a night when Thearis was seven years old.
* * *