Kyle learns about the plot against Tara and makes a startling discovery, while Tara gathers her allies and plans her next move.
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Episode 234. About 10 months (111)
Kyle didn't make it to the 2nd Imperial Palace until 10:30 p.m.
He had wanted to give Tara her earring back, but hadn’t had the time. He had an opportunity to send it through Baron Kezak, but felt strangely reluctant to do it. Then, it suddenly occurred to him, 'How about I get her a necklace?'
He had urgently asked Baron Kezak to order it prior to the business trip.
The Baron must have been excited by this new unfamiliar request from Kyle, bbecause when Kyle examined the necklace more closely its luxurious appearance spoke of eagerness to please.
From what he knew of her so far, Tara didn't enjoy flashiness, but since he hadn't asked, he couldn’t be certain. He put the necklace back in the box, hoping she would like it.
Next time, he'd choose something personally.
Kyle had just placed the box down and was about to take off his armor when a knock sounded at his door.
Chris came in.
“You just arrived, but you're not going to rest…?”
Chris's gaze caught on the pants, jacket, shirt and robe Kyle often wore for secret operations which all hung neatly on the privacy screen.
"There’s no time. Write this down first.”
At Kyle's command, Chris switched straight into work mode and pulled out his notebook.
“At your command, Your Highness.”
“Learn everything you can about something called the 'Black Crown.' I want to know if it's the name of a place, a building, or a street. Or, it could be multiple other things, such as the name of a ship. The wording isn't definite, so also search for similar names.”
Chris jotted it down as a quick note.
"Yes, Your Highness."
"And find out who wears a black eye patch in connection with the 'Cursed Mercenaries.'"*
"Yes, Your Highness."
Kyle paused to think for a moment. Chris waited quietly so as not to disturb his Master's train of thought.
The mastermind of this incident was not only aware of that day on the coast so long ago, but was also aware that the incident had been orchestrated by the Empress.
They had planted a fake mercenary captain to misdirect his attention, and then killed the fake without hesitation, as they feared their plan would be disrupted if Kyle used him as a witness or future evidence. At the same time, they had also worked to spread rumors about him.
Rumors that could be fatal to both Kyle and the Empress.
Kyle's gut told him the 3rd Prince was the most likely person to orchestrate this kind of thing, but it could also be a more distant member of the Imperial family.
He couldn't think of anyone among the Imperial family whose mind worked like this. Alternatively, the mastermind could be a group of schemers, or a vassal of a family member...
The person who devised these schemes was bold, meticulous, and unafraid of the potential consequences. They were surprisingly diligent, and constantly planning and setting new traps.
It felt similar to the assassination attempt during the Winter Hunting Competition as well as the previous Dragon Fruit incident. Both of those events could have escalated into massive problems if they hadn't been discovered. The same was true of this occurrence.
‘This could be both a crisis and an opportunity...'
An unknown enemy was the most difficult kind to deal with. So this time, he'd have to be sure to find a way to identify them.
"Yes, Your Highness."
"Did you compile the investigation records from eyewitnesses during the Dragon Fruit incident and the assassination attempt at the hunting competition?"
"Yes. The Second Aide neatly organized all of it before the business trip."
At Chris's mention of the Second Aide, Kyle's mouth curved in an unconscious smile.
"Really? Well done."
Chris's eyes widened slightly, but Kyle immediately moved onto his next command and Chris’s gaze returned to his notebook.
"Search through the eyewitness accounts during those incidents and see if anyone was seen wearing a black eye patch. At the same time, we can't rule out the possibility of a contract assassination, so also try to eliminate known offenders first. Include people who have an injured or damaged eye, even if they don't wear an eyepatch. Keep an open mind and examine all possibilities. Also Chris, do this behind closed doors. You're in charge of deciding who is trustworthy, but please limit the number of people involved."
"Yes, Your Highness."
Chris stepped up to help when Kyle moved to loosen one of his armor joints so he could take it off.
Kyle reached out and immediately stopped him.
"It's okay, I'll do it."
On the battlefield, Walter, Chris, and Nick had taken turns removing Kyle's armor from time to time, so Chris stared at him, puzzled by his refusal.
“Did you find out anything about the gambling house?”
Two days ago, an urgent letter had arrived for Chris. The letter, a sudden dispatch from the South, was a confidential order written by His Highness.
[Look for a ledger at Donnie's Gambling House. Focus on any requests related to Countess Victoria of House Elias. It may not be in her name. If an aristocratic woman went to such a place she must have known about it in advance or have a history of making similar deals. Also, check to see if there are any records of her past requests. If you find any, deliver the details to the 2nd Aide immediately.]
Chris had investigated Donnie's Gambling House under the pretext of cracking down on gambling. However, the gambling house hadn't operated for the last three days, and the owner, Donnie, had been absent for the same amount of time. Fortunately, the ledger had been located, safely secured in an underground vault.
"Fortunately, we found the hidden underground safe and the security department finally managed to retrieve all the ledgers this afternoon. The books were in an iron safe, so it took time to get them out, and we only managed to pry it open around 9 p.m. today."
"How did the crackdown go?"
“During the past several crackdowns we faced strong resistance, but this time around the boss and his main subordinates weren't there. They were selling leftover stolen goods and they haven't been running debt collections on gamblers who owe them money for the past three days.”
"Was there a request?"
"Yes. At first, I looked for Countess Victoria's name, but it wasn't there, so I searched for a different name as you instructed. It turns out that Victoria Elias went by the name ‘Johanna’ before marriage. Here's the record of 'Johanna' making a commission."
Chris pointed to a section of the ledger.**
"This was the latest request on the books."
Kyle looked where Chris was pointing and frowned.
"They crossed it out. And since the work method is noted down as 'undecided', that means they didn’t know how to do it… Why is that? Why have there been no other requests since then? And why have the boss and his main subordinates been missing? Besides, this reference to a 'first one'… indicates another request."
The coldness dripping from Kyle's icy tone was enough to make Chris flinch, and he resisted the urge to back away.
"Yes, as you said, it was suspicious that an aristocratic woman was willing to visit such a place and immediately make such a request. So I retrieved all of the old ledgers and checked them out as well. However, they only cover the past 10 years, so we can't confirm any requests prior to that. So I don't know how many times she came in total, but within the last 10 years, the name Johanna only shows up one other time, eight years ago in early January."
"It’s unlikely they wrote things down very meticulously."
“If you pay the commission fee even a little late, it seems that they charge you a high interest rate. That's why their records are so thorough." Chris opened one of the old ledgers and showed Kyle.***
Kyle's expression hardened, and he felt a chill run down the back of his neck.
"This means... Eight years ago the eldest son of House Elias, Brandon Elias, died in an epidemic. The Capital city was in uproar. There was a lot of speculation about the cause of the outbreak, but it's assumed it originated from the Milliro region of the Principality of Ga'an."
"Yes. The disease was called 'Milia', and it was endemic to the Millliro region of Ga'an. It spread through contaminated drinking water and food. Now the Milliro region has been purified of the disease and it no longer infects people. It seems that the Countess has been mentally unsound for a long time."
"However, Your Highness, the latest request said 'identical to the first one', and eight years ago the method was luring someone to an epidemic area... Maybe that wasn't the first request?"
"Yes. There may have been another request before that. At dawn, assign the case to the first and second teams of the security department. The first team will handle the boss, Donnie, and his key supporters. The second investigative team will go to House Philippe and uncover any big incidents that occurred in the family prior to 10 years ago."
"Yes, Your Highness. Should we deploy more Security Patrol members around House Elias?”
“Nothing has happened yet. It may not happen, and there is a security posting within 1km of the mansion, so if there’s a problem I can call them myself.”
"Yes, Your Highness."
“Was this delivered to the Second Aide?”
"Yes. As soon as I found the ledger, I promptly passed it on to the undercover group and told them to immediately notify the Second Aide. But at that time, I had only checked the recent ledgers, so I only handed that information over.”
"That will do. If we’ve sent her at least that much she can still prepare to some extent."
Kyle let Chris out of his rooms and quickly washed. He swiftly changed into new clothes and mounted his horse without even stopping to dry his hair.
The reins were gripped too tightly in his hands.
‘If Victoria's request hasn't been carried out yet, it can still be stopped. But if it's already started...'
"It's all right. Calm down."
He said the words aloud in an attempt to suppress the impatience and anxiety that was rising in him.
‘Tara wouldn't be so careless.'
Kyle truly believed in Tara, but there was one thing still bothered him.
The details of the request in the ledger had said, 'Undecided work method'.
‘Will they give up on the job? No. The first payment has already been received, so they'll follow through with it.'
Kyle took a deep breath and spurred his horse forward.
Kyle rode as fast as he could down the hilly pathway behind the Palace since it was a shortcut to his destination.
The Elias Family mansion.
Bernard and Beth arrived quickly.
"What did you find, Miss?
“I thought it was some kind of strong hallucinogen or aphrodisiac. It might be a sleeping pill but, as Master said, it's very...”
When I couldn't continue further, Andrei explained the rest.
"It's strong. Using that much sleep medication on a person means they wouldn't wake up for two days, no matter what's done to them. However, it's too early to determine anything based on this alone."
I nodded slowly, deep in thought. Then Bernard, standing next to me with his arms crossed, asked harshly.
"That crazy… She dares! My Lady! Why haven't you considered informing the Count?"
This answer was also handled by Andrei.
“My disciple believes that won’t stop the Countess. I agree. You would prefer to eliminate the risk once we have more information and are prepared for it, correct?”
I nodded slowly. "Yes. It's a very rare opportunity to find out how many opponents we have and prepare for them. So, let's make a little plan, shall we? Let's call this operation 'Spotlight'."
"Ooooh… We have a name for the operation?"
Ah… My old habit of creating project names for the TV programs I wrote was showing.
"Haha. That's right. It just popped up in my head."
Bernard and Beth both tilted their heads at my operation name. Andrei's eyes twinkled. e spoke his next words rapidly.
Editor’s Notes -
* Humorously, the name of this mercenary group was initially machine translated as the ‘cursed bowel movement’ because the word used for mercenary here ‘용변단’ is incredibly close to the verb meaning ‘take a sh*t’. These are the kind of translation errors I live for LOL.
** Some changes were made to the translation in ch 233 due to new context received from this chapter. We also discovered that strikethrough formatting isn’t showing up on our blog posts for some reason (apparently our website builder doesn’t support it for some dumb reason). Since the strikethroughs in the text is plot relevant here we are using pictures as a creative workaround.
For accessibility in case the images fail to display - here is the image text (without the strikethroughs):
[# Work method identical to the first one -->>> # Undecided work method. #-Client Johanna. 1st payment]
*** Here is the image text (without strikethroughs) for the second ledger entry:
[Work method - Lured to Milliro in the Principality of Ga'an.
Client - Johanna - 1st payment X full payment]
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