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Where Tara and Andrei finish their meeting and Kyle interrogates a suspect from the events that took place 12 years ago.
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Episode 161. About 10 months (38)
Andrei supported his chin with his hand and pondered over the question before answering.
“Yes, I remember. The Empire was in uproar because House Elias was accused of trying to kill the Emperor due to the Dragon Fruit incident. It nearly buried the Military intel leaks to Skandoa, which were revealed thanks to the Second Prince.”
“And do you remember the note I sent you before I left for the Hunting Contest?”
“Of course, I remember. The steward asked me about it as well. What’s so important about that note?”
“‘It’s not yet known who worked on the hunting grounds. It seems like it’s never been revealed, so be careful, my disciple.’”
I recited a part of Andrei’s last letter.
He furrowed his eyebrows, instantly sinking into deep thought.
After a while, Andrei’s gaze sharpened.
“Did you find him?”
“To find a clue, I thought about what kind of a man he would be.”
"Well, what kind of person do you think he is?”
“I think he’s a bold person. He seems to act without any worry for the consequences. At the same time, it’s as if he’s confident that even if everything is revealed, there’s no reason to be afraid or that his position will be discovered.”
“He’s either a genius or a fool…”
“I think he’s both. At first glance, his ways are obvious, but if you look closely, it seems he only shows what he wants to show.”
Andrei, who was stroking his chin, nodded slowly.
"Yes, that's quite convincing."
“Then I wondered why he was so active, and I’m sure the reason was to gain power. It must be for his master. Now we can guess who this powerful person is. Do you have an idea, teacher?”
Andrei immediately came up with an answer.
“The person who suits the current situation would be the Third Prince. The First Prince only suffered from these events and the Second Prince only did his duties, even though he benefitted. Besides, he’s not the type of person who would do this.”
“Yes, I think so, too. If it wasn’t for the First Prince, it’s obvious that all his power would go to the Third Prince. That’s why I think he used the Hunting Contest one more time.”
“Even if I was the Third Prince, I wouldn’t let this chance go.”
"Yes, the Imperial Family and nobility gathered in one place, and the security was weaker than in the Palace. It was a good time to make a bold move. A great terrain for hiding, and a large crowd from all over the Empire. If I were him, I wouldn’t want to miss this moment. So, I wanted to look at it in advance.”
“Then why didn’t you tell the Second Prince about it?”
I swallowed and took a deep breath.
“It was vague before the Hunting Grounds incident. It’s not just about the fact that he’s the Third Prince, but I also needed to make a good case. That’s all. Which is why I borrowed you. It’d be more persuasive then.”
“Hmm… True. If you have access to the Black Society’s intel, you’ll be able to convince anyone.”
"Yes. The Black Society is the best in the empire.”
I gave him a thumbs up and smiled. Andrei stared at me like I had something on my face.
“Ugh, why are you looking at me like that?”
“If we’ve guessed this much, then the Second Prince must’ve also guessed that the Third Prince’s was behind it. So, it must’ve been pretty brutal when I pushed you. I didn’t expect you to suddenly investigate the Hunting Contest case in advance as if you already knew about it. To be honest, it’s hard for me to believe.”
“It’s more convincing if you can either see the future or that you’re behind everything.”
I shrugged without saying anything. In a situation like this, it would be more suspicious to make excuses.
"What did you do in your room for 7 years that caused you to mature well beyond your age?”
"Is that a compliment?"
“What do you think? You’re so much more cautious than your peers. It’s a pity you lost half of your innocence.”
“By the way, aren’t you growing in power a little too quickly?”
I felt guilty, but I still smiled.
“Well… That's because I'm good at it. Hehehe.”
“Don’t laugh, I’m getting attached to you.”
"Yes. Thank you," I answered with a straight face.
“What are you thanking me for? It’s a little fast, but that’s what I’m hoping for, so I’ll accept all the difficulties. Ultimately, if you become Head of the House Elias, one I trust, I’ll secure cooperation from the merchant groups.”
After all, he was not a man who acted for free.
In other words, he agreed to allowing me access to their intel because I seemed worth investing in.
At last, I conveyed my father's question. Then, Andrei asked me again.
“What do you think?”
“Since our family has decided to join hands with the Second Prince, I think the results will be better if we do our best to support him. I told my father this, but I don’t think you’ll like it. What should I say? I want to listen to my teacher’s opinion and be convinced that my father’s choice was not wrong.”
Andrei replied with a smirk, “My opinion is no different. I think the reason the Second Prince and the Elias family joined hands this time is the result of House Elias choosing risk rather than stability. If you decide to take a risk, you should work hard and support the Second Prince as he wants. That way, you’ll become an admirable public figure and an indispensable family to the Second Prince. So, tell the Count it’s pointless to argue whether it’s a loss or a profit now.”
“What do you think of the Princess Selection?”
“It’s amusing. The fact that the Second Prince accepted it so easily and other variables need further investigation.”
"Yes, I’ll tell my Father that, Master.”
I left the Drunken Dragon with Bernard after our conversation.
After Tara left, Andrei rested his chin on his hand and fell into thought with a rather serious face.
“… It's going faster than I thought. Why did the Second Prince accept my disciple so easily? She does a good job, but isn’t that a little too quick?”
His mouth curled and wrinkles appeared on his forehead, and finally, he got up from
his seat. Then, he made circles around the table and looked at the ground while stroking his chin.
“I have received information that they recruit talented people regardless of their rank. These talented people have only been knights until now… He’s never had an assistant... Hmm, my student does a pretty good job. She’s rather clever. Still, it was easier to become an assistant than I thought…”
Then he sat down at the table again and pondered.
“Shouldn’t it be easy? My disciple had satisfactory results during the job in Durben, the incident with the Dragon Fruit, and the Talent Training System during the Hunting Contest.”
Andrei drank the remaining mango juice from his glass and put it back down.
“Yes, yes. It’s me. The sooner my student becomes First Aide, the better. What! Haha. Plus, the Elias family took the Second Prince’s side. The Second Prince is lucky. It’s good for me too if they have to back the Second Prince. Haha. Are you thinking if you make Tara your confidant, you’ll get me too? No way…”
However, Andrei was the head of the Empire's largest intelligence organization, fully aware that it was attracting people.
Temporary lodging in Chase Castle.
Kyle met a man who called himself mercenary commander Cox in a musty-smelling makeshift inn.
“Uh… I thought this would happen someday.”
Even though 10 knights, dressed like Grim Reapers with their cloaks, surrounded the mercenary, he looked calm and unsurprised.
He gave the only intact chair to Kyle.
“Were you the one in charge during that incident 12 years ago?”
Aurore emanated from Kyle’s body. The knights resisted the desire to take a step back and the mercenary stumbled back in surprise and bowed his head.
“… Yes, yes, yes. I was ordered to do that. I didn’t even realize it at first.”
The mercenary commander, Cox, who’d easily revealed himself in the Chase Castle, began to confess everything as if it had happened yesterday.
The knights were bewildered at the quick confession he made, creating the impression that he’d been waiting for this.
The knights standing at the entrance of the dormitory focused on the conversation between their Master and the old mercenary Cox, even though they were wary of what could happen.
But the more they listened, the stranger it became.
If the knights considered his confession odd, then what about the Second Prince himself?
“I found out later that it was an order given by Her Majesty the Empress. It was my first job since I joined the Toulouse family as a mercenary. I really thought there were barbarians in the town! It’s true!”
“Can you testify that the Empress ordered you to do it?”
The old mercenary Cox, although trembling with fear, nodded with determination.
“I’ve been looking for a way to repent and apologize. That night still haunts my dreams. If I must testify, I will. God, I’ll do it.”
Kyle slowly clenched his fists. He looked at the old mercenary Cox for a moment but didn't say anything.
“Do not leave the Chase Castle until you’re ordered.”
Kyle leapt to his feet and turned. Behind him, Cox bowed.
"Yes, yes, I will.”
Kyle left two knights who had accompanied him to supervise Cox. It was past 1 a.m.
Nick spoke, following Kyle as he strode out of the inn.
“Your Highness, please take a break.”
“I don’t have time for that. They're trying to test me. I need to know what kind of test it is.”