A splitting headache bloomed on his temples from Liliana’s piercing cries, feeling it were bouncing in the inside of his head, echoing unforgivingly and he couldn’t drown them out no matter how hard he tried.
His eyes zeroed in on Liliana’s skinny fingers that had grown bigger and longer, creeping on both his shoulders before wrapping it around his neck.
And for a brief moment, his breaths were cut short.
It felt like he was underneath water, gasping and trying to come up for air.
Ridrian clutched his chest, losing his balance as the sensation enveloped him entirely.
“Your Majesty!” A maid hurriedly rushed towards the emperor.
The color drained from his face.
He was unseeing of his present surroundings, his arm shot out brutally and shoved the maid out of the way.
“Don’t touch me!” He bellowed.
His mighty hands, which are capable of hurling a knight as big as him effortlessly, plunged the slender maid with a resounding force that she was thrown back like she was just a piece of paper.
Commotion followed the maid’s screaming but Ridrian was too far gone to notice.
His breaths came out heavy and uneven and black spots filled his vision.
Amidst the terror that was encompassing him, he saw the unconscious doll with a bloody bandage wrapped around her head.
Eyes bleary and bloodshot, he tried to pull himself back to reality and when he looked at the doll again, he saw Liliana’s dying face overlapping with the doll’s as if they were the same person.
He could see Lotuboru well, thrust right into her chest as Liliana choked on her own blood, dripping from the corners of her mouth into a steady stream.
Ridrian tremblingly took his hands off Lotuboru but it’s like the sword had a life of its own, pushing and pulling the blade out of Liliana’s chest like clockwork.
Black liquid oozed out of her chest, spilling all over her limbs and took in the shape of Liliana.
Just as quickly, the bloodied form ran towards him and screamed.
“You should have protected me! But you didn’t! You lousy, irresponsible man! I shouldn’t have met you! You killed me, you killed me! I died because of you!”
As if provoked by her screams, the floor turned into a black, mushy liquid, flooding the surface like a tide like it wanted to drown Ridrian into its very depths.
The thick liquid closed in on him, wrapping him in a tight grip that Ridrian let out a pitiful scream.
“Stop!” He placed his hands on the sides of his head, begging for the hallucinations to stop and to leave him alone.
He screwed his eyes shut, reminding himself that he was having hallucinations, that it was not Liliana lying on the bed and that the doll was not Liliana.
His body was racked with tremors.
He was confused and out of his mind, remembering how he hugged the doll last night so tightly she couldn’t breathe.
He tried to prevent his hands from shaking by squeezing his wrists together but to no avail.
His heart was racing so frantically it felt like it was going to jump out of his chest.
Ridrian bit his lips so hard it drew blood.
He desperately thought about the difference between the doll and Liliana to ground himself back to reality. Think of the doll’s face!
What he was doing right now was the complete opposite of what he’s doing every night; before, he would look at the doll and force himself to think that it was Liliana, but now, he was reminding himself that this doll is not Liliana, that they are entirely different people.
It was hard to think straight when a magnitude of emotions was washing over him, but fortunately, the difference between the two was pretty much easy to remember.
What makes the doll so different from Liliana
Her eyes are a bit bigger than Lily’s…
She is smaller and skinnier in comparison…
Unlike Lily, she is always calm, and unlike Lily, she is brave and unafraid.
She was a doll who’s always listening to him quietly, a doll that pats his back in comfort whenever he was in the midst of his traumas, and lastly, she was a doll who sleeps in the same bed every night but somehow still gets embarrassed whenever he touches her.
And just this morning, she was touching his face shyly, only to be startled by the him looking at her.
She started to pull away when the Emperor pulled her under him and she struggled to get out of the position as if she was flustered.
She was just so endearing.
He didn’t realize the corners of his mouth turned upwards, feeling he was gradually snapping back to his senses. Breathe in, breathe out. Slow and steady as the beating of his heart simmered and his surroundings slowly came back to him.
This wasn’t the first time he had lost control of his body, but it was particularly unpleasant and troubling this time around.
Drops of sweat slid from his temples down to his jawline and eventually landed on the carpet.
In the midst of it all, everyone in the room was watching him with frightened eyes.
They were unmoving and completely still.
The sight had rendered them too terrified to move.
Everyone was aware that speaking to the emperor in his vulnerable state would only lead to their heads being chopped off their bodies.
After a momentary pause, Ridrian pulled himself up from the floor.
He blinked the haze from his eyes and covered his face with his hands, sighing deeply.
It seems like I’ve calmed down.
He closed his eyes softly and counted to three. One.
Three. He opened his eyes and looked at the unconscious doll before him.
Ridrian stepped closer and placed his finger beneath her nose to see if she was still breathing.
He relaxed for a little bit upon sensing the warmth of her breath.
Then, a series of questions swam his mind.
This doll looks a lot like Liliana, but she’s not Liliana.
He had to remind himself that she was already dead, and this doll was just a replacement.
But why did he feel so relieved, after finding out she was well and alive