"I did not think it was wise for me to dress nicely when I am traveling alone."
"Alone? Where are-" Kain trailed off and ushered her into the room. "Come inside."
Zushi quickly realized that some servants had gathered and followed him into the room. Danielle said he would deal with the other people and come by later. The moment she stepped into his office, she felt the tense atmosphere as he told her to sit down on the couch.
"Uh, I truly apologize for coming so suddenly without dropping a message. I have not been very well the last few days, and the imperial therapist told me to visit you."
'I am sorry, Miss Naomi, but I value my life.' Kain can be very scary when he wants to be. She recalled witnessing a fight between him and her mother-in-law.
Kain placed his hand on his forehead. "Unlike my brother and the people here. I attended the coronation, so I understand your situation right now. But I must still lecture you on carelessly taking this journey on your own."
"You were there?"
"I could not stay long; unfortunately, the beasts were going on a rampage, so I had to head back. But I saw enough." Kain sighed. "How long do you intend to stay?"
"I was thinking for a month at least. My position is not very stable, so I cannot stay out too long realistically. A month may seem like a long time, but in the imperial castle, they keep me away from important affairs by giving me a lot of paperwork. While paperwork is important in my role, it is clear they are keeping me away from something."
"You want to pass by the time and return when they finish?"
"Shouldn't you try to investigate?"
"I do not have the power nor resources to do that," Zushi admitted.
Kain's face palmed and kept mumbling how she had no plan. "Are you truly Zushi? Back then, you seemed so calm collected, and you were on your guard a lot."
Zushi laughed. "I had to be. I was in unknown territory."
"Even if it was your husband's home?"
"Yes." Zushi trailed off and briefly shut her eyes. "I found it very strange that those people accepted not just Braden but also me. Most noble families would have accepted the child over the mother. Moreover, our relationship was not official, so I could have been a random woman spouting nonsense."
"I see. You came all this way, but what if I turned you away?"
At those words, her lips curve to a smile. "You will not do that."
"What makes you so sure?"
"Because you promised my husband that you would watch over me, is that not the case?"
It was something her mother-in-law told her. 'If the day comes where we cannot protect you, go to him.'
'When you become the Empress, you must seek his help and show to the other nobles that you have a powerful ally. That child is stubborn, but he is very loyal.'
Kain looked very troubled, but he nodded like he agreed with her statement.
"What seems to be the problem? The royal therapist isn't the type to turn away patients to another person. She does not just specialize in the mind alone, but she can be called a great medic too. For her to refer you to-" Kain suddenly paused, and he grabbed hold of her hand. "Pardon me for a moment."
He swiftly pulled her into his embrace. It was only for a few minutes, but it felt familiar somehow.
"You have something foreign inside you."
Zushi blinked. "That is correct, but you can tell just like that?"
"I noticed brief traces of it during your stay in his place. But it was hard to tell. The mana in that household was very incompatible with yours."
"In this day and age, mana plays a key role in all our lives. You know that most of the air we breathe in is mana is correct?"
"In the territories of the seven main families, the mana in the air is very different. Those who live there have adapted to this mana, so they cannot tell if there is anything wrong. Normally this is the case with visitors; however, this is only true because they do not stay long. In your case, you stayed there for a long time, so your body gradually weakened."
"Miss Naomi told me that the other half of my mana was not visible during my stay there. Is this the reason why?"
"So you finally realized that." Kain trailed off. "I did not say much when we first got to know each other. But, the other mana inside you is not normal."
"Is it mana from a member of the Ageha family?" Zushi decided to just ask up front; it will do her no good dancing around the topic.
"Correct." Kain nodded. "I do not understand which member it is from, however. But what I can say for sure is it must not be from someone who is currently residing there."
"What makes you say that?"
"Because the other person has your mana. If it were a current member, that person would have used it to determine their place in the household. But the current heads in the Ageha family are the head, Miss Ageha Lillian and sir Ageha Eric. Neither of those three has your mana inside them."
'You knew my brother.'
She recalled Lillian's words clearly and felt a throbbing sensation in her heart. What is this feeling?
"Pushing this topic aside. Empress," Kain said sharply. "Explain to me why you are still allowing those people to push you around when you are far stronger than them."
"Uh, do I have to explain?"
"If you're going to stay under this roof, you should answer the head's answers."
He does make a point there.
"You know I have always been uncomfortable with this power. To force others to submit with these eyes is nothing short of what a dictator would do. I do not want to lead the people using oppressive means."
"I understand how strong your willpower is. But this is coming from the woman who didn't want to become the Empress?"
"I suppose I have started to care for the throne a little. At the very least, I now want to stay in this position until a suitable candidate shows up."
A suitable candidate, huh? Miss Lillian's image flashed through her mind.. If Miss Lillian has the same power as her, she can also become a candidate for the Empress. Perhaps if it is that person, she can change the Empire's state?