Kyle meets up with his father, the Emperor.
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Episode 40. 80kg (5)
The Amure Imperial Palace, the corridor of the grand reception hall.
In contrast to the warm weather outside, the Palace, which was made entirely of marble, was chilly enough to elicit shivers.
The firewood crackling and burning in the many fireplaces that were installed all around raised the temperature, but not enough to make the cold go away.
A high-pitched squeal drew everyone's attention to one place.
"Oh! Oh my God! It's Prince Kyle!"
A group of young noblewomen gasped and froze in surprise as they spotted Kyle walking down the long hallway in front of the hall.
They stared blankly at Kyle as he approached from afar.
Nick walked with his eyes fixed on Kyle's broad back with an aloof expression, but his eyes were faster than light.
'Five noblewomen. The one in the middle is my type. I suppose they’re old enough to attend the academy now, haha.'
He straightened his shoulders, set his jaw and walked like a knight.
Kyle's unexpected appearance caused the servants and guards working in the Palace, as well as visiting nobles and members of the Court coming in for work, to stop in their tracks before clumsily bowing.
Regardless, Kyle briskly strode towards the reception hall, seemingly unbothered by the commotion around him.
Nick, who was walking a few paces away, had to struggle not to grimace, feeling the knife-like energy radiating from Kyle's body.
'Hah... He's doing it again. He always has a murderous aura whenever he's in the Palace... Tsk, tsk, tsk.'
Regardless of Prince Kyle's bloodlust, the women in the Palace were busy gossiping.
"Oh, my God, I never expected to see him this close."
"I've only seen him from afar, on Imperial Victory day two years ago... So the rumours are true."
"Yes! He's perfect. They say he has the type of face that completes an outfit."
"Prince Franz and Prince Joseph often appear at social gatherings... I was really curious about him, but now that I've seen him, I have no regrets."
Unlike the other members of the Imperial family, Kyle was a rare sight in the Palace.
For half the year, he was the Empire's commander-in-chief, inspecting Military posts or engaging in small-scale frontier battles.
The other half of the year he spent in the Capital as the head of the Ministry of Security, where he was always busy dealing with the various incidents occurring within the Empire.
Therefore, it was rare to see Second Prince Kyle Amure, even in the Palace, and even rarer for the provincial nobility. Those who did happen to see him would brag about it.
As he entered the reception hall, the room was enveloped in silence as if cold water had been poured over it.
Kyle stepped towards the man who had summoned him and forced his tense back into a respectful bow.
"Your humble servant, Kyle Amure, is at your service."
As Kyle stood at a distance and bowed, the aging Emperor commanded in a voice low enough to be a growl.
Kyle slowly approached him.
'Oh, please, Your Highness!'
Nick watched from afar, and his palms were growing damp with sweat. There was no easy way out today.
Nick, standing in front of the hall's main entrance with a stiff posture, moved his eyes slightly as he glanced at the Emperor seated on the throne.
Emperor Louis Amure. The only legitimate heir of the previous Emperor, and the current ruler of the three hundred year old Ocerian Empire.
He came to power at the age of thirteen, making him the longest reigning Emperor of the Amure bloodline.
His exploits as a young man were so spectacular and remarkable that songs were written about them.
Nick also knew it was, of course, an open secret that they were greatly exaggerated.
'After all, he's not getting any younger...'
Although he was still highly regarded, he was not as good as he used to be, and his absences from court affairs for health reasons were increasing day by day.
His graying hair and increasingly smaller figure were a shadow of his former glory, and he was bitterly aware of the day when his reputation as Emperor would no longer be enough to conceal the face of a tired, old man.
Among the nobles standing beside the throne in the lobby, a high ranking provincial noble who had never seen the Second Prince Kyle Amure for the first time, gulped involuntarily.
'And he didn't refer to himself as a Prince, but as a humble servant. And what's with what stiff demeanour? They look quite a bit alike, by the way...'
But it was still a surprise.
"Has it been five months?"
When Kyle didn't answer, the old chamberlain standing next to him spoke up instead.
"Six months, Your Majesty."
"You bastard. You dare ignore my orders with the excuse that you're busy each time? Can you really claim to be a Prince of this Empire who values filial piety?"
"... I have never made excuses, Your Majesty."
"Really? You've never made excuses? Then, why did you disobey the order to attend the state visit for the envoys of the Principality of Ga'an last month?"
"I was away on a mission to investigate a raid by the Skandoan border."
"On the day that the envoys arrived?"
"... Yes, Your Majesty."
"Then, why were you absent from the Imperial Hunt the month before?"
"The senior Military officials had to be reorganized."
"Of all days."
"Yes, Your Majesty."
"I see. Then, why didn't you come to the National Foundation Day banquet the month before?"
"I had an unofficial Ministry of Security appointment."
"An unofficial appointment? How dare you skip the National Foundation Day banquet for an unofficial appointment? Are you even a Prince of this Empire?"
"... It was an important appointment."
"What kind of appointment is more important than the National Foundation Day banquet? More important than my orders? If that appointment was not as important as you say, you'd better be prepared! Tell me, what was it about?"
Tense, Nick stared unblinkingly at the throne, unable to wipe the sweat from his brow.
He could barely breathe for fear that the sparks would hit him.
Nick, as well as many others in the lobby, were sweating profusely as they glanced between Emperor Louis Amure and Second Prince Kyle.
The Emperor was red from anger from his head to the tips of his toes, and Prince Kyle was standing impassive and unbothered, as if he was discussing the weather.
His Master had always been like that.
A man of many tricks.
Although it was the root of all his problems, he had the uncanny ability to piss off his opponents by acting like a bystander, one step removed from the core of the issue.
He was the last person you wanted as an enemy. It was his Master who had a knack for making people feel bad before the fight began.
The Emperor knew of Kyle's tendencies better than anyone, but this was how he faced the Prince each time.
Whoever lost their temper first loses. The Emperor had already lost the fight, and he was only growing increasingly angry.
Maybe the Emperor was encouraging the Prince, and maybe he was even enjoying the situation.
Nick internally shook his head at the thought and turned his attention back to the Emperor and Second Prince Kyle.
"I don't want to get you in trouble."
"Who, me? You mean I, the Emperor, is going to be in trouble?"
His silence was an affirmation.
"Ha! What's going to get me into trouble? I only asked what the Ministry of Security's unofficial appointment was about, what do you mean I'm going to be in trouble?"
A bead of cold sweat trickled down Nick's back.
'I have a bad feeling about this. Don't open that mouth. No. Your Highness!'
Regardless of Nick's desperate eyes on his back, Kyle raised a corner of his mouth as if he had made up his mind.
"Do you wish to hear it here?"
"How dare you make fun of me? Go ahead and speak up!"
Looking at the heaving Emperor, Kyle slowly opened his mouth.
"There's a small town in the northeast, about a kilometre from the Capital, called Hammond. There's a club called the Crown..."
The Emperor shot off the throne, his face paler than ever.
"Chamberlain, vacate the lobby!" He shouted.
The order was definitive. With a single word, the chamberlain herded everyone in the lobby out the door.
"You! You're staying!"
Kyle tried to turn around, but the Emperor caught him like a fish. Kyle obediently stood still at his order.
Veins were popping out of the Emperor's temples as he looked at Kyle.
'That wicked rascal! He turns up in a peaceful way! How is he my flesh and blood...'
After seeing his second son dare to casually reveal his dirty laundry in the reception hall, Emperor Louis Amure was forced to swallow his rising anger.
And soon, bitterness spread through his chest.
Being an Emperor meant having regrets that would last a lifetime. The choices that inevitably came with leading an Empire.
Choices that often lead to bitter regrets, but were unavoidable for an Emperor. Ironically, his position caused him regret, but wouldn't let him acknowledge it.
But there was one choice that Emperor Louise Amure did regret, and that was the one concerning Prince Kyle Amure's birth mother.
Twenty-seven years ago, the young Emperor had just ascended the throne and was full of energy. So, he set out to inspect a remote mountainous area he didn't have a reason to visit.
At the edge of the Eastern border of the Empire, the young Emperor arrived in Ketlo, where he was attacked by barbarians, encountered a heavy rain, and injured his leg, forcing him to take refuge in a cave.
In a series of ridiculous coincidences, he met the daughter of Count Helia, the only warrior family protecting the territory.
They spent two days together in a cave.
The young Emperor instantly fell in love with the brave daughter of the warrior family, who had tended his wounds, unaware that he was the Emperor.
It didn't matter to him that he already had an Empress. It was a political marriage.
After much persuasion, he decided to bring the beautiful Jane to the Palace. He'd go first, arrange a position for her, and formally bring her in...
But he shouldn’t have left her alone.
"There seems to be a reason for today's call, Your Majesty."
The Emperor glared fiercely at his son, who immediately had broken his reverie.
"As if investigating high-ranking nobles isn't enough, you're going to investigate me too?"
"I have no intention of interfering with His Majesty's hobbies. I was just trying to crack down on the rats who were exploiting your hobby for a small profit."
Nick, who had left the lobby at the Emperor's frantic order, was still thinking about his Master's last story, when he was suddenly struck by realization and gasped in surprise.
'Oh. So that was where his Majesty’s favourite mistress is? Huh? Wasn't that a gambling house? Ah! Then His Majesty's hobby is, oh my God...'
Emperor Louis Amure's hobby was chess, and he was also obsessed with chess gambling. It was a pastime that had been with him since childhood, and once a month, he would go undercover, sneak into a gambling house, raise the stakes, and enjoy chess gambling.
Inside the reception hall, the argument between the furious Emperor and his son Kyle continued.
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