Tara receives an interesting present, while Kyle receives some disturbing intelligence.
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Episode 259. About 9 months (18)
Beth retrieved a small note from her pocket and held it out in front of me to read.
[Dear Lady Tara,
Thank you for always looking out for me. I could never repay you enough for crediting me for my share of work in the heart medicine.
This is the medicinal herb I asked for alongside Wolfsbane from the East. It's called 'sericea', it protects the liver and kidneys, and it's especially good for those with poor eyesight. Since you read a lot, I've deliberately let it soak in whiskey to make it easier to consume.*
You should have a glass whenever your eyes are blurry. Happy birthday, My Lady.
Elias Pharmaceutical Researcher, Josh Lucas.]
In Korea we would use soju, but here they used whiskey. Well, it was the same type of distillation.
By the way, sericea liquor?
I thought I might have heard of it before, but I wasn't familiar with it. I wanted to smell it, so I asked Beth to open the lid.
A memory flashed through my mind when I put my nose to the opening.
This. I had smelled it before!
[Hehehe, today I'm going to pick the one my dad has soaked for three years!]
This had happened when I went to retrieve a few materials I had left at Kim's house in my previous life.
[Sericea liquor? Is there such a thing?]
It was the first time I had heard of the name written on the bottle.
[The scientific name is lespedeza cuneata, but usually it's known as sericea.]
Right. The herbal name of sericea was lespedeza cuneata.
[Ah, I see, 'I live alone in the mountains.' You’re not going anywhere, so why did you open it all of a sudden?]
Kim laughed shyly as she held the sericea liquor, which had a faint yellow glow, in her arms.
[We're going to the island to celebrate our 100th day anniversary. Argh. What should I do? I'm so nervous!]
[Today? All of a sudden? Didn't you say just yesterday that you were invited for the casting business plan meeting today?]
[Ahahaha, today's emergency hundred-minute discussion was postponed because North Korea fired a missile!]
[It was cancelled five seconds after the missile was fired?]
[Yes. So I saved a week.]
[Ugh. That's so nice. I'm jealous!]
[It's nice, but unpaid. Still, I'm glad to have this sudden holiday. This is a blessing from heaven! Why, you know, there's a day like that, when the whole universe moves in favour of me and my boyfriend, as if it had to happen today! I feel like today is that day!]
[Crazy bitch. Well, a hundred days is a long time.]
Despite my swearing, I saw Kim doing a strange dance in front of her door with the bottle of sericea liquor in her arms.
However, Josh had given me sericea liquor as a gift, which I had heard from before, and it was said to unlock all doors at night.**
And on this day, no less.
Seeing my expression, Beth quickly asked, "My Lady, do you recognize this scent?"
I smiled again and shook my head.
"No. I just thought it would taste good. Now, shall we finish bathing quickly?"
I pondered to myself as I slipped headfirst into the now lukewarm water.
What could Josh be doing?
Was he deliberately emphasizing the benefits it had for my eyes, even though he knew of all the other benefits?
Was he aware that Kyle was visiting today?
Why on earth would he give me 'the drink that unlocks all doors at night'?
The bath, the sericea liquor, and the ranking in the Imperial Daily all seemed like some great revelation.
At the same time, the Second Prince's Palace.
A report from the spy in House Stuart was delivered to Kyle's office.
An exasperated sigh escaped Kyle's lips as he opened it.
"How dare he!"
"What is it?"
'This is something I can ask when I meet her today.'
He decided he should have an in-depth conversation with Tara about her meeting with Theodore.
Crumpling up the report and slipping it into his pocket, Kyle started working through his schedule for the day early in the morning.
He told Walter to keep his schedule clear, but he still had to stick to the regular tasks of each day.
Since Tara also knew his daily schedule, she knew his work day would end at around seven o'clock today.
In the morning he had a meeting with all the Ministry of Security's officers, and in the afternoon there was a meeting about the projected formation of the Military and Ministry of Security, followed by a series of meetings on events and the relocation of each Military unit.
After that, the distribution of trial dates for cases from the Ministry of Security and a report on the state of the Empire's senior counsel was made.
Because Kyle was having back-to-back meetings without a break, the meeting that was supposed to end at seven ended at five o'clock, and the participants left the conference room happy that it had ended early, despite the dark circles under their eyes.
"Your Highness, all tasks for today have been completed. I'll be going home now."
Walter cleared the conference room with the administrators for the Ministry of Security who had just entered. Then, Nick came rushing into the room.
"Your Highness, there's something you need to see."
"What is it?"
"The central Security Team caught a spy on the loose, and he's saying some strange things. I caught him rummaging through documents he clearly didn't have access to for a while, but he insisted that he wasn't and kept his mouth shut, insisting that he would only talk to Your Highness. So I figured this was a big deal, and of course I couldn't rashly make a judgement, so I brought him here. It just so happens that Your Highness is in the Ministry of Security's conference room again...!"
"Nick. Shut up and bring me the internal affairs spy! The Commanders will stay and all the administrators will leave."
"Yes, Your Highness."
The administrators who had been cleaning up the conference room left, and through the door a tied-up administrator with a tense look on his face was escorted by two members of the Guard, holding both of his arms.
The spy fell to his knees, and Kyle shot a meaningful glance at the guards, who left the conference room.
Kyle crossed his arms as he sat down on the desk in front of the kneeling spy.
"Who are you affiliated with?" He asked.
"I'm with the Black Society."
The answer came so easily that Kyle shook his head.
"You're not hiding like Andrei usually wants. Like you've been waiting to get caught."
He gulped and then lowered his eyes.
"The Chief said that Your Highness might not believe me, but that you'd believe me if I told you that he had a conversation with Your Highness in the dark on a terrace a few days ago."
At the man's words, Walter and Nick looked between Kyle and the man in confusion, and Kyle burst into laughter.
"That's right. Tacitly tolerating Black Society's spies is one thing, but trying to sneak a peak at a central Ministry of Security investigation is something we can't overlook. I'm sure Andrei is fully aware of that. This is not like him."
"... I couldn't help it."
"What exactly were his orders?"
"Yes, Your Highness."
"Take him to the interrogation room. If he confesses, put the contents on my desk, and in the meantime, Nick can tell me what he found out..."
"I don't know if I trust those Commanders."
Nick and Walter took a step forward at that moment, but Kyle raised his hand to stop them.
"They're trustworthy. Now tell me, what is it?"
"He asked me to see if I could find out if there were any cases related to a village called Black Crown in the Empire."
"A village called Black Crown?" Walter asked in surprise.
The spy nodded so hard his head nearly fell off. Kyle crossed his arms and leaned back against the desk.
“He even said that if I couldn’t find it, I'd have to get caught on purpose.”
"What?" Nick and Walter asked, their eyes wide in confusion, while Kyle quietly stared at the Black Society's infiltration agent.
"I suppose Andrei has a message for me. Any break-in at the Imperial Palace would be reported to me right away. That's why you got caught on purpose."
The Black Society agent replied with a nod.
"Indeed. He said that if I told you all of this, Your Highness would realize everything, and that it appears a large criminal organization has been formed within the Empire. So, if you listen to this message, he said that you would like to meet him right away, as soon as tomorrow."
"Isn't Andrei touring each and every branch of the Black Society in the Empire at the moment...?"
Kyle reached for one of the documents stacked on the desk, causing the Black Society agent to snap his head up.
"How did you know about that?"
Nick stepped in, lifting his head.
"He's the one who created the best intelligence agency in the Empire, you bastard!" He snapped haughtily.
Just like the Black Society, the Imperial Intelligence Department was constantly gathering information and keeping tabs on people of interest within the Empire.
"Do you mean Count Knox?"
"Yes, Your Highness. He's in the basement of 'Pete’s Tavern' in the city center."
"Wait a minute!"
Kyle took another look at Chris' report from yesterday.
[The village of Black Crown, located on a small island called Riverton in the South, has only one port of entry and exit, and it's always heavily guarded, making access impossible. Black Crown is located in the northern Heidel Mountains and the road leading into the village is steep and narrow. There's guards at all times at the entrance.
I believe it will take a bit longer to infiltrate the village.
We're still investigating other areas to see if there are more 'Black Crown' villages.
I have also arranged to meet the knight with the black eyepatch who I saw during the Winter Forest Hunting Contest. I'm currently at a border post near Skandoa due to regular travelling work, so this will likely take some time as well.]
Chris' report had not yet included any specific investigation details into the village of Black Crown. However, the spy's explanation gave the impression that Andrei already knew what the village was like.
There was a large chance that Andrei had found the main village Chris hadn't and that he had more detailed information.
"I need to meet with Andrei. Walter, cross-verify immediately whether this person's identity is correct."
"Yes, Your Highness."
"Nick will be travelling with me to Knox tomorrow early in the morning. We'll be undercover, so get ready."
"I will do so straight away, Your Highness!"
Tomorrow's meeting with Andrei could be the first turning point in finding this reckless and despicable enemy. Until now, they had kept a low profile and handled matters from behind the scenes.
Once he found the person who had been so fearlessly trying to overthrow the Empire he would be immediately able to tell who they were working for.
And then, she would finally be safe by his side as well.
Tension slowly built throughout Kyle's body.
* 비수리 is 'Chinese bushclover', 'sericea lespedeza' or just 'sericea'.
** Sericea liquor is said to be good for men’s stamina, especially at night, which is why it’s said to ‘unlock all doors at night’. Like an aphrodisiac. Or viagra, for that matter. Take your pick. Some interesting posts about this: here, and here. According to Rina, this Korean online encyclopedia article stresses that this herb’s purported sexual effects are not substantiated by any evidence.
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