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Chapter 254

Updated: Oct 1, 2023



Where The Trio of Evil gathers for the first time....


This chapter is dedicated to ck ! Thank you for your continuous support and kind words!


Disclaimer:

DO NOT publish our edits anywhere else. Especially on social media. Otherwise we may have to stop doing this. Thank you.



Episode 254. About Nine Months (13)



My father rushed into his office as if he was being chased, his hollow laughter echoing through the halls.


"Why did he suddenly change his mind?"


"I don't know, maybe he changed his mind after the excitement subsided?"


Shrugging, Dylan followed my father into the office, and I climbed the stairs.


"Where the hell is Andrei, anyway?"


Andrei had sent me a letter the day after my birthday informing that Hans Button had been in the hallway the night of my birthday.


I immediately looked up the invitation list and realized that all the people the Second Prince had been watching, except for Bradley Hound, had come to my birthday, including Tom Gary and Hans Button.


I had seen him at the banquet of the Winter Hunt Competition, and now on my birthday.


I'd had a lot of people looking into it, but so far nothing had turned up.


I had requested a meeting with Andrei to investigate further, but he had already left on a business trip.


Ten days had already passed since I had sent him a note saying that I wanted to meet with him as soon as he returned.


***


Morning of the 20th. The Duke of Toulouse's drawing room.


The Duke of Toulouse greeted Joseph, who had only just arrived at his mansion, with a big smile.


After telling him to wait in the parlor, the Duke of Toulouse ordered his butler to increase the security around and inside the mansion, fearing any possible rats.


Imperial family members visiting his home while the 1st Prince’s trial was happening would not be well received.


When he quietly opened the drawing room door and entered, the scene inside was a bit unusual.


No one from the Third Prince's entourage had accompanied him during a private audience before, but this time was different. The Duke frowned at the thought.


He realized that the person who accompanied the Prince had previously introduced himself as Hans Button, the Third Prince's right-hand man. He sat on the sofa across from the Prince.


Moreover, when the Duke came in, the man did not rise and bow.


‘What an insolent bastard!'


He was about to say something, but refrained, unwilling to sour Joseph's mood since he was smiling at him. The Duke sat down in the middle armchair, struggling to hold back his anger. He turned towards the Third Prince and asked. "I'm grateful for your visit, Your Highness, but why is your vassal here?"


"He suggested we should stick together from now on, Uncle."


The Duke raised an eyebrow in surprise.


He raised it, because it hadn’t been Joseph's decision to visit unannounced, but the will of the vassal seated in front of him.


‘What does that mean? We should stick together from now on? Who the hell is this guy?'


As the Duke looked at Hans with a questioning gaze, and the man met the Duke's eyes with a smile.


"I am Hans of the House of Button, Your Excellency the Duke," he said slowly.


"I know. You already told me that the other day."


The Duke's mouth twitched with curiosity. But for some reason, he didn't wish to appear impatient.


"Thank you, for remembering this lowly one."


Ignoring the servile Hans, he turned straight to Joseph.


"I heard that during the last council meeting, Count Elias was allowed to use the Emperor's name and insignia for his heart medicine."


"Well. It's a medicine that will fill the Emperor's coffers, so be it, but I'm surprised they were so quick to name it....my God. Truly, what is the world coming to, Uncle."


"How vulgar, too."


At Hans's words, the Duke's strong, pent-up anger exploded at once.


"Vulgar? How dare you speak of the Emperor with such contempt?!"


"Oh, Uncle, calm down. He's such a smooth talker, but he went too far. How could you call my father vulgar?"


"I was rash. But the Emperor’s willingness to agree with the vulgar name created by the Count of Elias... I became so incensed that the words just came out. Please forgive me. Your Highness, and Your Excellency."


His apology sounded insincere. He slowly bowed his head, his eyes twinkling and full of laughter.


He tried to look polite, but his expression never kept up with his behavior. Even though he didn't say much, the Duke felt uneasy. He felt uncomfortable and constrained in this space they shared together.


As the maids set the tea and dessert in the parlor, the Duke glanced at Hans.


At first sight, he looked like a very well-groomed commoner, but the Duke realized that Hans could not possibly be one.


The mere fact that he had come to this meeting with Joseph was enough to make him out of the ordinary.


Eyes lowered politely. A faint smile.


Upon closer inspection, it was more of a smirk, one that was full of pride and arrogance.


As if there were no one superior to him in this room.


Having dealt with many kinds of people in the Palace, a warning bell rang in the Duke's mind.


But he shook his head in disbelief.


‘Arrogant. How dare he? As a low-ranking noble! That's not the kind of air I'd expect from a mere administrator. Yes, he seems conceited.'


"Now. Uncle, why did you want to see me.... I couldn't sleep out of sheer curiosity. Haha."


‘Is he getting cheekier? Or has he always been like this? It seems to be the latter. I never really paid attention to the Third Prince until now.'


"Hmm. I apologize in advance for the awkwardness of this question. I often spend my time thinking about various things. I guess it's just part of getting older."


"I'm even more curious about what you're trying to say, Uncle."


The Duke dampened his dry lips and spoke with difficulty.


"I'm sure you're aware that there was an assassination attempt during the Winter Hunting Competition. Then it was a fleeting thought that I believed wasn't possible... So, I put the unholy notion out of my head. But now that rumors have spread about this mercenary song.... Anyway, hmm."


"Pfft..."


"....?"


‘He's laughing?'


The Duke looked at Third Prince Joseph in disbelief. The sight of him covering his mouth and struggling to keep from laughing out loud sent a chill down his spine.


"Your Highness?"


"Hahaha, hahaha. Ah. I must apologize for this. Uncle, sorry for the disrespect. Hah.... By the way, Hans, you were right, you were absolutely right. He is, indeed, competent. That's why I keep you by my side!"


"No, Your Highness. He came to us a little later than I predicted. To be clear, I was wrong about the timing, Your Highness."


"Hahaha, you're too modest for your own good."


At Hans's reply, Joseph chuckled again, this time in a pleasant way.


"Your Highness?" asked the Duke.


"I'm thinking about taking the throne." His nephew replied as if he were discussing the weather.


"Huh!"


But that wasn't the end of it. Hans went on a rant that would have knocked a flagship's masthead off. *


"You'll be on the throne in the next six months."


"....."


The Duke was speechless.


"Of course, you'll need your uncle to support you."


"Vivian. No, no. The Empress is holding back...! Hmm. Are you trying to exploit the rumors again?"


Instead of Joseph, Hans smiled softly and shook his head.


"The rumor has already been covered up thanks to Toulouse’s finances, so it's useless now. Of course, it wouldn't hurt to have this rumor reach the Emperor's ears, but that might put HouseToulouse in his crosshairs since they funded the mercenaries. Also, you are going to become a strong supporter of the Third Prince in the future so, we can't have any negative publicity reach the Toulouse Family."


The Duke's jaw hardened.


"If the rumors hadn't been quelled, Toulouse also would have been hit hard by the mercenary song."


"Are you unable to handle that, Uncle?"


The Duke bitterly bit his lip at Joseph's comment.


"If you aren't going to use the rumors, how do you intend to persuade the Empress? And what about the Second Prince? He's not one to stand idly by for 6 months."


Pulling a small piece of paper from his pocket and unfolding it, Hans dusted some white powder into his teacup.


"....!"


It was somewhat acceptable to indulge in a little recreational drug use in the most private of settings, usually in aristocratic men's clubs. It depended on personal preferences, and the elders didn't usually get involved in the youth's enjoyments.


It was considered to be a show of benevolence and virtue from the elderly nobles who lead society.


But it was reserved for their own private gatherings, and it was considered rude to take it in public, more so in the presence of people of high status.


And he wasn't just any high ranking noble, but an Imperial Duke, together with an Imperial Family member, and this young lord dared to take out a hallucinogenic drug.


"Where do you think you are?"


"Can I not… ?" He asked back with a slow smile.


"You're asking me that now...?!"


Joseph gently grabbed the Duke's right wrist to stop him.


"It's his only hobby, and I have allowed it. Since he uses his precious talents for me, shouldn't you allow it as well, Uncle?"


It sounded like a request, but it was an order.


The Duke tried to calm himself.


"...All well and good, but why now?"


"The Second Prince had a private audience with the Emperor after the council ended that day, and yesterday an Appointment Notice was sent to the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of State, Uncle."


"Have they given the positions to the Royalist faction?"


"The position of Minister of Finance and Minister of State are vacant. The Emperor's Assistant, Allen, added in an official letter stating that 'no matter what the outcome of the trial, the Minister of State will be left to the Toulouse family.'"


The Duke's brow furrowed at Hans's explanation.


"The State Department is a good position, and it's a big deal if the Treasury moves on. So, they're both vacant for now. Ah! By any chance, did he assign the position of Undersecretary of the Treasury?"


"Yes. A non-partisan from the Second Prince's entourage took it."


Joseph slapped the couch's armrest in disbelief, and the Duke sucked in a breath in surprise.


"...!"


Hans raised his teacup, blowing on the rising steam.


"The Second Prince is trying to fill the palace with his own people sooner than expected. I thought it would take him another year, so in the meantime I’ve conceptualized a little game..."


"What do you mean...?"


‘Playing with the Second Prince?' thought the Duke, dumbfounded.


__



Editor's Note -


* ' Hans went on a rant that would have knocked a flagship's masthead off ' this is actually the official translation from Korean. I couldn't find an English equivalent, but the metaphor is pretty clear and actually quite funny, so I left it.



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