Chapter 4: Il Minjoon

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"What did you say?"

Hae Gi blinked, her eyes red. The maids could see her lips chattering, her shoulders quivering. The very image of a bird with broken wings.

Dae Hyun, The Emperor, laughed. Not a laugh full of happiness, but a laugh full of sarcasm.

"You think I didn't know? About your infidelity?"

The Emperor sneered. He thought of the days when he was still blinded by love. Chasing her around as he tried to make her love him. Giving her everything she ever wanted, just to make her happy. But it was all for naught, he thought.

"I saw you that night, with a man. You seemed desperate to get out of the palace."

".."

"Am I that much of a fool to you?"

The maids were shocked. The Emperor was talking about the Empress. The benevolent Empress who seemed unapproachable and modest. Although that facade breaks when she giggles like a schoolgirl whenever she catches a glimpse of the Emperor. That one-of-a-kind Empress who always invades the kitchen in order to cook a snack for her beloved. And yet, that lovestruck woman is being accused of infidelity?

The Empress sighed, she shifted the baby in her arms. The Emperor could notice the fatigue written in her face. Her veiny hands trembling as she clasped her arms around the baby tighter. Her tired eyes shifted to the Emperor. Her gaze was unsteady, tears threatening to spill.


"I'm glad... you came."


The Emperor froze. He prepared for all the curses, crying and ridicule, but not this.


"...And It was my biggest mistake."


Daehyun, the Emperor, spat.


Hae Gi stared at him for a while, then she signaled the maids to leave the room. All of a sudden, she started to cough violently. The maids panicked. They hurriedly opened the window and fetched a warm white cloth for the Empress.

Daehyun saw Hae Gi grabbed the cloth as she coughed. She lurched forward, almost dropping the baby. Thankfully, her grip was strong. Not long, Daehyun noticed that the fabric was stained red.

He became worried. He trudged forward, his stride wide, then sat beside Hae Gi. Daehyun rubbed her back as he whispered soothing words in her ear.

"It's okay...let it all out... Just breathe..I'm right here.."

The maids exited the room as he looked at Hae Gi, her breath ragged as she gasped for air. Her trembling worsened as she struggled to hold the baby. Daehyun supported the arm that carried the child and held Hae Gi's hand. Daehyun was so focused on supporting Hae Gi that he missed the flash of a mocking glint in Hae Gi's eyes.

Hae Gi raised her head and looked at Daehyun. Her pale face and chapped lips so eminent that it made her sickly. Her eyes, even after being ridiculed, was still full of tenderness and passion. And at that moment, Daehyun was yet again, bewitched.


"He looks just like you."

'..Who?'

'Our baby.'


His gaze snapped at the baby. They had the same hair, nose, and ears. It made him wonder if he just thought wrong. If he made a mistake, a wrong assumption.


Daehyun's expression changed. He released his hold on Hae Gi and took a step back.


"What a joke."


"Huh?"


"Is it even 'our' baby?"


Hae Gi sat in the bed, motionless. Her back straight, her soulful eyes unwavering.

"...You don't believe me?"

"..I don't."

"I should've known."

"You betrayed me Hae Gi. I have the right to be angry."

Nobody spoke. Everything silent. Only the sound of birds chirping, the leaves rustling, the wind howling was heard in the room. Hae Gi's hair flowed with the wind. A tall acacia tree can be seen in the window, blocking the sun's rays from blinding the mother and child.

Hae Gi's expression became serene. She looked strong, unbreakable, like a soldier preparing for battle. Her gaze impenetrable, unyielding. It made the Emperor hesitant. He knew that look. Daehyun had seen it from the eyes of countless people, who are ready to face everything in order to protect their loved ones. It was a gaze similar to his friend, the general, whenever he stood in the frontlines, defending their country.

"You do not."

"What do you-"

"From now on, we are no longer husband and wife."

Hae Gi lowered her eyes. Daehyun was stunned. Everything did not go as he expected. After he regained his senses, he turned and reached for the door. Daehyun opened the door and stopped. He looked back and with a glare of his own, snapped.


"Fine. From now on you'll stay in the blue courtyard, with no maids and guards. No one will attend to you and no one will care for you. Rot there for all I care."


Then he slammed the door. After a few seconds, droplets of tears raced down her cheeks. Her chin trembled. Still, she forced herself to smile at the baby in her arms as she whispered 'I'm right here my little sparrow, I'll protect you.' As she spoke to the baby, she made sure to extend her neck for the view to be seen.


In the distance, A man can be viewed sitting in the branch of the old acacia tree. He looked at the woman with a sense of curiosity. She seemed frail and weak, but she stood strong in front of the Emperor. He heard her clear, yet soft voice, like a lullaby, whispering sweet nothings to the baby. This scene, in the future, will be engraved in his mind, until he dies.

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