How to Hide the Emperor's Child - Chapter 3
Kaizen frowned as if he doubted it.
It was worth it.
Fritz, Astelle’s brother, used to stay beside Kaizen as the Vice Commander of the Knight Guards a few years ago.
“Not my brother’s, but Sigmund’s son…… So he’s my cousin’s child.”
Sigmund was the only child of her maternal uncle, who, unfortunately, died during the civil war in the north, precisely six months before Theor was born.
Astelle asked her maternal grandfather, Marquis Carlenberg, who had lost his heir, to register Theor as Sigmund’s son.
As a child who was born from a maid who was known as Sigmund’s lover.
The maid, who had been working in her mother’s house for her entire life, registered as the child’s mother on official documents, and then left on a condition that she will continue receiving Sigmund’s death pension until her death.
Astelle heard that she married a rich merchant and was living well now.
“I thought Your Majesty knew about it too?”
Astelle looked at Kaizen with a calm expression. And as if she was surprised, she opened her eyes wide.
“My grandfather sent me documents to obtain permission for this child to be approved as a successor to the Carlenberg family… with a birth certificate and blood ties.”
Of course, it was Astelle who sent those documents.
Astelle did everything flawlessly to make it seem that Theor was Sigmund’s son.
As though her cousin really did have an illegitimate child with a maid, she also commissioned a temple to conduct a blood test with her grandfather.
The result was, of course, matching blood ties.
To her grandfather, Sigmund was his real grandson, and Astelle was his granddaughter, both of them were still his grandchildren but only held different titles.
Whether he is Sigmund’s son or Astelle’s son, he will still be considered as a grandchild to her grandfather.
Therefore, there was no problem with the test results.
Astelle pretended to hold Theor’s hand, by gently clasping the child’s little finger.
This was their own prearranged secret code.
Theor, who had kept his mouth shut as promised, grabbed Astelle’s hem and looked up.
“Yes, Theor. It’s okay. Everything will be okay.”
Astelle pretended to soothe Theor, by hugging him and patting his back.
Theor was following well, as they had practiced several times.
The rules of the ‘play’ that Astelle taught were simple enough to suit the child’s level.
Instead of calling her Mother, he has to call her Aunt Astelle.
Don’t talk a lot unless someone asks, and if she holds his little finger, he should say Aunt Astelle.
Astelle had practiced several times with the child, step-by-step, in a calm manner so that he could understand and adapt to it well.
She made sure not to scold him for making mistakes so that it wouldn’t backfire when he was nervous, and she gave him a snack as a prize whenever he did well.
When watching them, her grandfather would laugh bitterly while saying, ‘It seems like we’re doing some kind of emergency evacuation drill.’
Everyone would be suspicious if a divorced empress was taking care of a child who had no connection to her, but no one would be suspicious if she stayed with her maternal grandfather and cared for the child of her deceased cousin.
Kaizen was also suspicious when he heard the child’s voice.
“Oh, yeah. I guess I did hear that he left an infant before he died. But why are you looking after him?”
“There was no one to take care of him except for my grandfather. And I couldn’t just leave all these responsibilities to my elderly grandfather.”
When she ran away, she decided to head in a different direction from her grandfather, so as to not be found by Kaizen and his knights.
She couldn’t meet her grandfather after she ran away, hence she was worried about his well-being.
She was eventually going to get caught, so Kaizen told him to stop being stubborn and inform him about her whereabouts, but her grandfather never answered.
Kaizen spits out with exclamation.
“Your grandfather said he would rather die from torture than tell me where you were. Even at that age, he sure still has a great spirit.”
“Did you find my grandfather? What did you do to him?”
As Astelle shouted in surprise, Kaizen replied with a puzzled look.
“Your grandfather is safe. I just asked for your whereabouts. Did you think I would just torture and kill an old war hero?”
It didn’t seem to be a big problem after all.
Astelle was inwardly relieved.
“Where is my grandfather now?”
“He’s in Dents Castle. Don’t worry about it. I asked them to treat him with courtesy.”
Dentz was on the way to the capital from here.
“While I was traveling towards the east, I found out about your whereabouts, and since you weren’t that far away from where I was. I thought it would be nice to come to see you in person.”
After finishing his explanation, Kaizen still looked curiously at Theor.
“If you don’t mind, can we talk alone?”
Kaizen glanced at the knight standing by the door.
As the unfamiliar knight approached, Theor was frightened and hid behind Astelle’s skirt.
Astelle took Theor’s hand and said while looking into the child’s eyes.
“It’s all right. Please go to the room next door for a while.”
Then, she held the child’s little finger.
Astelle practiced this ‘play’ like a game so that the child would not be nervous and scared.
Thanks to this, Theor had fun every time he practiced.
Even now, Theor laughed with sparkling blue eyes as Astelle wrapped his finger and held it.
“Yes, Aunt Astelle.”
Astelle lightly stroked Theor’s soft black hair and kissed his forehead.
The knight took Theor and afterward, the door was closed.
Kaizen pointed to the tea table by the window.
Astelle pulled the table to the middle and sat facing him.
She didn’t know a day would come when she would sit face-to-face, with this man again.
After divorcing only one day after her marriage and leaving the imperial palace, Astelle had thought she would never meet Kaizen again.
Even if they did meet again, she thought they would only see each other if she were to become a sinner and forced to kneel in front of him, or if she were to be dragged for execution along with her father.
Kaizen seemed to share similar sentiments.
He looked at Astelle with a serious look in his eyes and brought up the subject.
“I found you because of my late grandmother’s will.”
“The Grand Empress Dowager?”
Kaizen lost his mother when he was young and was raised by his grandmother, the empress dowager.
The old empress dowager was also kind and friendly to Astelle.
When Astelle left the empress’ position, she was the one who mourned for her the most.
“I heard that she passed away. You must be extremely heartbroken.”
Even if she lived in the eastern countryside, she had still heard the news of the empress dowager’s death.
Astelle was devastated when she heard about it.
‘She was a good person.’
Kaizen continued without any sign of sadness.
“You know, my grandmother was heir to Duke Mileen, the Southern Lord.”
Kaizen’s grandmother was originally a young heiress who inherited a large southern territory.
Kaizen’s grandfather, the late emperor, wedded her as his queen, and as if he had robbed her, he took the entire southern territories for the imperial family.
The southern lands then belonged to the royal family, but as long as the empress was alive, they were legally owned by the empress.
Upon her death, the land would then become legally owned by the imperial family.
Even when Astelle left the palace, the empress dowager had to lie in her room for most of the day due to her poor health.
“At the occurrence of her death, the southern territories were to be given to the royal family. But after my grandmother passed away, her will came out, and there was a strange condition.”
“I cannot disclose her will without your permission. That was the condition my grandmother had set.”
Why did she add such a condition?
Astelle could not say anything to the unexpected story.
“The old minister insisted that it was the empress’ last wish, and he would never reveal it to the public. He said that he would never give it up, even when they forced him so they could take the land. The content in it was even more laughable. It stated that ‘Nothing can be decided about the southern territory without the consent of the former Empress Astelle von Reston’.”
Kaizen gazed carefully at the bewildered Astelle.
Complex emotions were revealed in his eyes.
“My grandmother must have wanted me to find you and take care of you. She asked me to do that several times before her death. I guess she wanted to use her will to force me because I wouldn’t listen to her otherwise.”
Astelle understood what empress dowager thought.
The empress probably thought that with such conditions, Kaizen would find Astelle and give her some territory on the condition that he will obtain consent to the will.
And if that happened, it would help her pitiful grandson and her granddaughter-in-law, who she did not know the whereabouts of.
If she had written in her will that she was giving away her property directly to Astelle, Kaizen would have ignored it and said that Astelle could not be found, not letting her receive even a single penny.
The empress dowager came up with such an idea, but this only embarrassed Astelle.
These days, the land did not matter to Astelle.
As long as the emperor’s child was raised in secret, she just had to avoid encountering this man and any other people within the capital as much as possible.
Of course, the empress dowager was completely unaware that Astelle hid a child, thus, she wrote such a will for Astelle.
“Is that why you were looking for me? Why didn’t you just forcibly get rid of that clause?”
The will was also forcibly opened without Astelle’s permission, because of this he was accused of trying to keep the inheritance for himself.
Kaizen responded with ridicule after hearing Astelle’s thorny words.
“There’s nothing I can’t do. Some aristocrats and judges may oppose it because it’s against the inheritance law, but I can get rid of it. However, when I think about it, it would be simpler to bring you in and get your consent publicly.”
He wasn’t wrong.
He said it like that, but the empress dowager’s estate was a huge territory covering the entire South.
He might have wanted to clear up the inheritance issue so that it would not be a problem for the future emperors.