Chapter 127 – [Side Story] Ch. 19 The Day Before
“…What?” Janet blurted out in bewilderment before she could stop herself. However, Alisa merely pointed at Lucio lying in the cradle and repeated her words.
“I said that I’d like to take this child with me.”
“But Your Majesty, this child is still—”
“I was planning on adopting him when he grew up anyway, but I’ve decided to take him in earlier,” the Queen said.
“He still hasn’t been weaned, Your Majesty.”
“Are you breastfeeding him yourself? A nanny can do that, so what does it matter?”
Janet thought she would go crazy at Alisa’s unyielding refusal. She figured that something like this would happen since the Queen didn’t have a son of her own. But Lucio wasn’t even a month old. It hadn’t even been a month since he was under her care.
Janet tried to reason with her. “Your Majesty, I am not saying that I will not give my son to you. But at the very least, please allow me to have him for a year.”
“Your son?! Watch your words,” Alisa spat fiercely. “Who are you calling your son?”
“This child will be acknowledged as my son in history. He’s not going to be your son!”
Alisa’s voice rose to a fevered shout, and Janet inadvertently shut her mouth. Everyone in the palace knew that Alisa was sensitive to this topic. The Queen received a health examination half a year ago, and it was concluded that she was infertile. The Imperial doctor was killed for relaying the news, and Alisa’s character turned more and more tyrannical ever since. The fact that she would never be able to bear the child of her beloved drove her insane.
If she couldn’t have a child herself, then she would take away someone else’s.
“Take that child to the Queen’s palace immediately,” Alisa ordered sharply to her attending servant girls.
“Yes, Your Majesty.”
Janet fell to her knees. “Your Majesty, please…please, you can’t do this,” she begged, but Alisa ignored her and left Janet’s room with Lucio.
Janet, now alone, wept. Her opponent was the most precious and noble woman of the kingdom. There was nothing that she—a mere concubine—could do.
“You dirty child,” Alisa coldly muttered as she stared down at the babbling Lucio in the cradle. “Since you’ve come from your mother’s dirty bloodline, you wouldn’t be any different.”
Though she took him away, her stomach twisted at the sight of him. Just when she was about to cast the baby aside, a servant girl hurried into the room.
“Your Majesty, His Majesty the Emperor is on his way over here,” the servant girl announced.
At the servant girl’s words, the cold expression on Alisa’s face completely changed. She ordered the servants to help her change her dress and fix her hair as she spritzed a strong-smelling perfume. Both the baby and the servant girls coughed from the overbearing smell, but Alisa paid no attention to it and simply waited intently for the Emperor.
“His Majesty the Emperor has arrived.”
Following the announcement, the doors opened, and in came the Emperor wearing a stiff expression. Alisa got out of her seat, her heart fluttering. At that moment, she probably looked like a young girl who was happy from seeing her first love, but to the Emperor, who already knew her true nature, she looked nothing like that at all.
As soon as the Emperor entered the room, he caught a whiff of the Queen’s potent perfume and fought back the urge to throw up. He then saw his son in the corner of the room and blanched.
“Queen,” he said in a surprised tone.
“Yes, Your Majesty,” Alisa answered.
“Is that Lucio I’m seeing over there?”
“Yes, Your Majesty. You are correct.”
“Are you out of your mind? How could you have the child amid this disgusting cloud of perfume?”
Upon the sudden reproach, Alisa was taken aback and hesitated before ordering a servant girl to take Lucio out of the room. An older servant girl obeyed her commands and took the child out, leaving Alisa and the Emperor alone.
“I heard that you stole Baroness Eveard’s son,” he said curtly.
There were two things that irritated Alisa upon hearing that short sentence.
Number one, the fact that that lowly woman received a noble title such as ‘Baroness Eveard’ because she was the Emperor’s concubine irked her to no end.
And number two, Alisa didn’t steal that child. That child was hers from the start. Any child of the Emperor was the child of his wife, the Queen. It didn’t matter whose body it was born from. Yet he claimed that she “stole” him?
“Your Majesty, he is my son,” Alisa immediately refuted.
“I am only following what’s written in the laws of our kingdom. That woman is but a mere concubine. All of Your Majesty’s children are, in extension, my children, for I am your wife. Am I wrong?”
“So are you saying that you’re going to raise him?”
“Do you think I’m incapable of raising him?”
“If I’m being honest, yes,” the Emperor said.
“Your Majesty!” Alisa exclaimed, hurt. “Your lack of faith in me wounds me.”
“It’s something that I can assume based on how you usually act.”
“I’m confident that I can raise him well, Your Majesty.”
The Emperor looked at the Queen with dissatisfied eyes. Even if he was the Emperor, he couldn’t return a child of his to its birth mother when there wasn’t even a precedent. Alisa’s words were undeniably correct.
So long as Alisa wanted it, she could claim Lucio as her son anytime. It would be different if she had a biological son of her own, but sadly she was a barren woman.
The Emperor gave a sigh. “I intend to make that child the crown prince,” he said.
Upon hearing those words, Alisa had a sudden realization. A child that she bore herself would not become the crown prince. Tears began to fall unbidden from Alisa’s eyes, but she remained undeterred.
“I will raise the boy, Your Majesty,” she said determinedly.
The Emperor fixed her with a hard stare before turning away and leaving the room without another glance back.
For today as well, the Emperor didn’t come to the Queen’s palace to see her. To Alisa, that truth was much more painful than the fact that she was infertile. She was a queen that could neither win her husband’s favor nor bear his child. She could only think miserably upon her situation. She muffled her face against the pristine white bedsheets, and began to sob loudly.
Some time later, Janet was stripped of her noble title on the grounds of insolent behavior towards the Queen over something completely irrelevant. Though there was numerous evidence that showed this charge was clearly fabricated, Janet knew it was pointless to dispute it and admitted to all the charges. Alisa was too much of a frightful opponent to try to fight against.
Alisa forbade Janet and Lucio to meet. Hence, Janet hadn’t seen Lucio since he was one month old. She could only hear about him. She only heard that Lucio had become the Crown Prince through her servant girls.
Janet became a servant girl of the Central Palace once again, but the Emperor’s favor had remained unchanged. That alone gave Janet some type of consolation.
Since her son was taken away from her by the Queen and made crown prince, she thought she could try to at least have a daughter, but she hadn’t been able to get pregnant after she gave birth to Lucio.
To make matters worse, when the Emperor left the palace to fight in a war for conquesting territory, the time Janet had to spend alone only continued to grow. As the loneliness of her palace life began to stretch out, she slowly started to resent it. She wished to return to her hometown. Living in the palace void of both the man and son she loved was too cruel.
‘I’ll go back. This place doesn’t suit me at all.’
This was something that she foolishly realized only after twenty years had passed. After the Emperor returned from war, she decided to go back to her hometown then.
When the war came to an end, the Emperor was rumored to return to the palace in approximately a week. She could endure a week. She had endured for twenty years after all. With that thought, she headed towards the library.
“Look, it’s His Highness the Crown Prince.”
At those words, Janet immediately stopped in her tracks. Her heart was pounding in her chest, and she reflexively turned her head towards the servant girl who spoke. The girl was looking towards one direction. Janet followed her line of sight, and saw a boy walking.
Instantly, she could see that he had a beautiful face. The first thing she noticed was that he had black hair and dark eyes that were the spitting image of his father. The dignified uniform that he donned fit him perfectly, and he had no smile on his face. This was the first time that Janet was able to see a grown-up image of her son.
‘It’s my son!’
Her heart swelled as tears formed in her eyes. She was moved. She was so thankful that he was able to grow up to be such a fine young man despite having been taken away from his mother’s embrace so early.
It was then that Lucio coincidentally met her gaze. At that moment, without anyone telling her to do so, Janet quickly turned away from Lucio and walked away. Lucio tilted his head to the side in wonder before quickly losing interest and going on his way.
Janet only stopped walking after a long time had passed, and she looked behind her. Lucio was already long gone and was nowhere to be seen. But that didn’t matter. She still saw him at least once.
Thank goodness I was able to see him once before I left, Janet thought as she continued down her path at a slower pace.
A week later, the Emperor had returned from war. He was joyous to see Janet again, but she announced that she was going back to her hometown. The Emperor was greatly shocked at her sudden confession, but he didn’t ask her for a reason. He acted like he expected this to happen. He simply said that he respected her decision, although his face was lined with hurt and regret.
The Emperor said he would assure that she could live affluently back at her hometown and asked her to, at the very least, wait until he could make those arrangements. Janet agreed, thinking it would have been much too cruel towards the Emperor to refuse. Because of that, Janet ended up staying a month longer after announcing her intention to leave the palace. While she contemplated on what to do during that time, her son whom she recently saw suddenly came to mind.
Even if she couldn’t relay it to him right now, she wanted to give him one last present. From that day, Janet began making a set of clothes. She didn’t know what Lucio’s size was, so she simply went off of the image of him in her memory. She stayed up countless nights making the garments, hoping that he would one day be able to wear it when he was an adult and the Emperor of Mavinous.
The clothes were finished exactly on the day before she was to leave the palace. Relieved that she was able to finish it in time, she left the clothes in the hands of a servant girl whom she was close to. She told the girl to give it to Lucio when Alisa had died and it was alright to reveal who his true biological mother was.
That night, when Janet got into bed a little earlier than usual, a wave of mixed emotions washed over her. She had used this bed for over twenty years. This was the room she had spent her days as a young adult, and she spent her last night recalling her memories here.
She remembered the first time she met the Emperor, their first night together, the day she realized she was pregnant, the day she gave birth to Lucio… At some point her eyes started to droop.
‘Still, I don’t have any regrets.’
It was a harrowing time, but she didn’t regret it. No matter what anyone else said, her own son was going to become the next Emperor of Mavinous, and she truly loved the Emperor. It was just that it had become too difficult for her to live at the palace any longer. She wanted to spend the rest of her life quietly in her hometown. With a calm smile, Janet quietly closed her eyes and fell asleep.
That day was the day before Lucio’s fifteenth birthday.
[Side Story 3] A Wrong Encounter. (Complete)