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  • Writer's pictureRina

Chapter 93

Kyle jumps into action as the victory banquet devolves into chaos, and a shocked Tara arrives home from Durben.


This chapter is dedicated to Kivi! Thank you for your support and comments!


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Episode 93. About a Year (20)


"Guards! Protect the Emperor! Chamberlain, take the young Margrave and the young lady to the Palace hospital, and preserve the scene. Walter!"


Walter, who had been waiting in a dark corner by the ballroom door, ran straight to Kyle.


“I want a special team from the Ministry of Security assembled and deployed within the hour, and all entrances to the Palace sealed.”


“I'll relay that to the Capital Security and the Imperial Palace Guard right away.”


“Seal the entrance to the Great Hall, and don't allow anyone to leave the Palace without permission from the Ministry of Public Security. As soon as the entrances are sealed, I want everyone attending the banquet to be questioned!”


“Yes, Sir!”


After nodding in affirmation, Walter jumped into action.


The Emperor silently watched Kyle's every move. None of the Imperial Family members made a fuss.


The Imperial Family knew better than anyone else that just staying quiet at this moment would cause fewer sparks.


“It's going to be a long night, Your Majesty.”


The orchestra had long since stopped playing, and the crowd stirred with confusion. Their expressions were shocked, unable to hide their fear.


The banquet hall was mostly filled with high-ranking individuals. Normally, the Ministry of Security would have a hard time investigating them. Investigations were only possible after going through complicated administrative processes.


But this had happened in the Imperial Palace. While in the Emperor's presence.


The Emperor was also bound by Imperial law, however, there was one exception that trumped that: matters concerning the Emperor's well-being.


The Emperor nodded to his chamberlain.


Bang! Bang! Bang!


The sound of the scepter striking the marble floor rang loudly in the banquet hall. The Emperor then opened his mouth to speak with a grave expression on his face.


“Anyone who dares to disgrace the banquet that I, the Emperor, have organized, regardless of rank or status, must be hunted down and thoroughly punished. Therefore, I trust that all of my loyal subjects and trusted foreign envoys will faithfully co-operate in tonight's investigation. This command shall take precedence over everything else.”


"As you command, Your Majesty."


Kyle's eyes swept impassively over the kneeling crowd.


He could practically read the thoughts of everyone in the ballroom. Everyone was afraid a single misstep was going to blow up in their faces.


“......”


Among them, there was one person who caught Kyle's eye; Jason Elias, who was unable to hide his racing thoughts.


***


The morning after the banquet.


It was just after 10 a.m. when the carriage pulled into the driveway of the Elias mansion in the Capital.


Clop, clop, clop... Clop... Clop... Clop...


At some point, the pace of the hoofbeats began to change. I could see the iron gate at the end of the driveway, but it was still far away, so the pace of the carriage should have remained constant.


But something was wrong. The carriage's speed had slowed to a crawl.


I panicked for a moment.


“... Huh? Why are we going so slowly...?”


The question didn't remain unanswered for long. There was a knock on the carriage door and the wooden window swung open.


“Miss, there are Palace guards at the entrance.”


It was Bernard. He spoke quickly, keeping his eyes focused on the iron gate at the end of the driveway.


“What?”


I quickly poked my head out slightly and looked towards the entrance. There was no sign of the usual Elias knights standing guard.


Instead, knights of the Imperial Palace Guard, clad in golden armor, were guarding the entrance to the mansion, blocking it off. They stood there as though they intended to prevent even the smallest rat from entering.


“Have you received any communication about this matter?”


"Not at all."


"I understand, My Lady. Then I'll go find out."


Bernard checked the axe slung loosely over his back once more, then spurred his horse into a gallop.


The carriage still moved at a slow walking pace, and soon Bernard returned after a brief conversation with the guard, his expression was grim.


Bernard cut straight to the point.


“My Lady, House Elias has been named as the prime suspect in the attempted murder of the Emperor.”


"....!"


My eyes widened. My head spun like it had been struck hard by a hammer.


I was dazed. Heedless of my state of mind, Bernard continued his important explanation.


“All members of the household, except for the Count and Master Jason, are being held in confinement within the manor.”


“But... How could that be? What happened to Father and Jason?”


“They're being investigated by the Ministry of Security.”


“Oh... Oh My God.”


The stutter, which I thought had disappeared, returned again. My head went blank and all thought fled.


We were only 50 meters from the iron gate. The two Imperial palace guards glanced at our carriage and began to move toward us as if in greeting.


“If you enter, My Lady, you will be imprisoned. As the immediate family of suspected criminals, you will be denied any contact with outsiders.”


“No... this is ridiculous. So... so quickly...”


“What do you want me to do?”


“What do you mean... Assassination..... The Emperor.... And my family is involved? Why? Why?”


I was so shocked that the words spilled out of my mouth.


An incident that appeared in just two lines of the <The Chronicles of Oceria>.


[After a banquet hosted at the Imperial Palace, the Emperor contracted a chronic illness which he suffered with until his death. A herbalist belatedly discovered that he could cure this chronic disease...]


How did this turn into a murder mystery? And why was my family the prime suspect?!


We were 30 meters away from the iron gate.


"My Lady! Come to your senses! Tell me what you need me to do!"


"... I thought the timeline was only speeding up..."


Bernard called out to me in his characteristic stern voice, frustrated that I hadn't gotten my act together yet.


"My Lady!"


I finally came back to my senses after Bernard growled at me through clenched teeth.


I couldn’t afford the luxury of being shocked right now, there was no time.


Beth, who had fallen asleep out of exhaustion, must have woken up, and now watched the unfolding situation with bated breath.


“Oh... Okay. Think. Think, Tara Elias. Think.”


Tap, tap, tap. Tap, tap, tap. I rapidly tapped the handle of the carriage with my index finger.


A few seconds passed, and the first thing that came to mind was Master Andrei.


“Go straight to Master Andrei. Tell him everything he wants to know about what happened in Durben, and tell him I need to see those documents now more than ever. He'll figure it out.”


And then there was Josh Lucas.


If the book was any indication, he'd go straight to the palace.


It was good I prepared for this in advance....! Shit! If it happens now...!


Goosebumps rose on my skin the more I thought about it, and I shivered at the thought that followed


“Bernard. We have to keep Josh Lucas away.”


“What? What do you mean?”


“He can't go to the palace. I didn't know my family would be involved. He can't go. Bernard. You need to find Josh Lucas somehow and make sure he doesn't do anything... Or better yet, bring him back to the mansion.”


“Josh Lucas from the research building. I understand. Considering the situation, I will move as quickly as possible.”


Bernard had just finished speaking when the knights arrived.


After a brief questioning, I was allowed to enter the mansion. As the carriage drove away, the iron gates slammed behind us with a resonant clang.


While we closed the 200 meters between the gates and the manor we spotted a total of two servants. Our carriage pulled up in front of the central entranceway and no one came out to greet us


No wonder. I had deliberately avoided sending a letter because I knew I would arrive before the mail coach.


As a result, no one knew I was arriving today.


“Bernard, please.”


"Be careful, My Lady."


By now, Bernard was by my side, and after watching me and Beth enter the hall, he went straight to his quarters.


When I set off from Durban, I'd had no idea this would be the case.


The mansion was quiet in winter, the leaves had already fallen and the air hung heavy.


Perhaps because of my shock, I felt a burst of cynicism erupt in me as soon as I entered the hall.


I couldn't even get a single day off... I had gone on a truly spectacular adventure, and yet... The Elias family really was something.


***


The same day.


Kyle was in the first-floor office of the Imperial Guard barracks, a joint office for the Imperial Guard and the Ministry of Security's special forces.


When he saw the final report on the confidential intelligence leak, he burst into shocked laughter.


The report titled <The Leak of Military Intelligence in Durben Tripoint and Collusion among High-ranking Palace Officials> systematically explained the seriousness of the issue point by point.


The report, which he had brought with him to report directly to the Emperor on the day of the banquet when the incident took place, was still in Kyle's hands.


If the report had been made in time, perhaps the Ministry of Security could have slowly widened the scope of the investigation, starting with the capture of one of the Palace ministers involved in the matter.


“Hmph. What remarkable timing.”


Dragon Fruit, which was only produced in the Kingdom of Barron, was expensive even within the Kingdom itself and consumed mainly by the upper echelons due to the cost.


In the Ocerian Empire, every year, a delegation from the Kingdom of Barron presented a small quantity of  the fruit to the Emperor, making it a precious commodity that only the Imperial family could occasionally enjoy.


A single dragon fruit was worth 20 gold. Without demand, selling the fruit wouldn't even provide a return on investment, however, that would change if it was exclusively supplied to the Imperial Palace.


After the Imperial Family consumed it, the naturally expensive fruit had become a symbol of wealth among the nobility and had found increasing demand in Oceria.


House Elias had monopolized this business. The company had signed exclusive overseas contracts with producers directly, and monopolized the distribution and sales.


Until now, the Toulouse family had monopolized most of the businesses related to the Imperial Palace. Therefore, it wasn't an exaggeration to say that the Toulouse family had become the number one merchant in the Empire.


“... Only this time, the Elias family is the supplier.”


Anyone at the banquet would be able to guess the reason why the Margrave's children had collapsed.


They ate the dragon fruit the Emperor had given them.'


The envoy had presented a basket of dragon fruit, but only three of them, each the size of a two-year-old's head fit inside the large basket.


One of these was cut and given to the young Margrave Miller who had gone back to his seat to savor it alongside his younger sister.


Many of the guests at the banquet envied them for being able to eat the dragon fruit.


Fortunately, the Emperor hadn't eaten any of the presented dragon fruit.


“Your Highness, the Palace Doctor is waiting.”


“Bring him in.”


A gray-haired doctor who had spent nearly forty years in the Palace entered with a grave expression on his face.


“What is the cause?”


Given the gravity of the situation, he got straight to the point.


“It appears to be an allergic reaction. It wasn't the result of Imperial negligence, and there have been no reports from private practitioners of similar cases. Furthermore, no one in the Palace who has consumed the fruit has ever had an attack like this, so it must be an allergic reaction to something else. We must find out what that something is. It's not the dragon fruit that's causing it, it's something else, and we don't currently have a cure for it.”


“Can you make one now?”


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