Chapter 319

“What the hell is this…?”

There was no sign of resistance, struggle, or any blood. The only unusual thing was the hole in Duke Arangis’ left chest. Moreover, the hole looked natural, as if it had always been there. A jeweled necklace was hanging over the bizarre hole after losing its light. 

Raven strode over to the side of the bed where Duke Arangis’ body was. He leaned down and carefully observed the body of Duke Arangis, more specifically the hollow chest and the necklace. He found it rather strange that the jewel of the necklace did not possess the radiance that any jewelry should have. Moreover, the punctured wound that apparently caused the death of Duke Arangis was located behind the jeweled part of the necklace.

“This is strange…”

He muttered before straightening his posture and turning his head.

“We will immediately strengthen the security at the residence. Do not let anyone step inside this place no matter what without my permission. Also, if this fact leaks out, all but the prince will be sentenced to death. And you.”

“Yes!”

A knight straightened his back with anxiety at Raven’s frosty voice.

“Go to the temple and bring the high priest. Tell him that something urgent has happened, that I must meet him immediately.”

“Yes, Your Excellency!”

The knight quickly ran out the door.

Raven turned towards the other knights and soldiers who were standing in place with bewildered expressions.

“Remember. This must never leak. Now, go back to your respective positions.”

“Sir!”

The soldiers answered with one voice before leaving.

“How did something like this… Damn it!”

Ian exploded in anger as he approached the body of Duke Arangis.

“Don’t get too agitated. We cannot undo what has already happened. What’s important is how we deal with it.”

“What is there to deal with? Duke Arangis is dead. In a place where both you and I were present. What would His Majesty think…”

“That is not the point right now. We need to know who killed him.”

“Hmm…”

Ian quenched his agitation at Raven’s words.

“Perhaps it was an inside job.”

“I do not think so. This room is a completely enclosed space. All of the knights who were guarding this place are capable of raising spirit and detecting it as well, and all of them have served in the 7th regiment for more than 10 years. The soldiers guarding the perimeter reported that no one approached the area. And look at this.”

Ian frowned while turning his gaze towards where Raven was pointing.

“What are you pointing… Hmm?”

He narrowed his eyes.

A necklace was hanging directly in front of the wide hole.

The object was a family heirloom of the Arangis Duchy. Duke Arangis had stated that all of the dukes of the Arangis family had carried the object with them at all times. As such, they had allowed Duke Arangis to keep the necklace.

“Something is strange.”

“Very strange indeed. Do you know what this jewel is made of?”

“No. I’ve never seen this in my life…”

Ian was a prince. As such, he saw or possessed all kinds of rare jewels and crafts from childhood. To him, jewelry was no different from pebbles lying on the roadside. However, even he had never once seen the jewel embedded in the necklace worn by Duke Arangis.

“No radiance at all?”

Ian tilted his head in confusion.

For nobles, the value of jewelry was determined by its color and shine. It would hold even truer if it was a family heirloom of the Arangis Duchy. However, the jewel embedded in the necklace of the late Duke Arangis did not shine even in direct sunlight. If it could be compared to a living creature, it was as if it had died.

“In a room where no one could come in, he suffered such a strange death. There’s no blood anywhere either.”

“It does not make sense. Then…”

“Right. This necklace holds the answer to his death.”

Raven’s gaze shone coldly as he glanced at the jewel.

*** 

“Uah!”

The high priest of Leus’ temple gasped and faltered after entering the room. He had seen his fair share of dead bodies as a priest, but he had never seen such a strange corpse before.

“Please excuse me, Your Highness, Your Excellency.”

The high priest recognized his discourtesy and bowed to the two people in a hurry.

“Not at all. Please excuse us for calling the high priest like this.”

Ian shook his head.

Although the situation left them with no other choice, even a prince or a governor-general could not have the high priest of a city at their beck and call.

“It has been a while. I apologize for having to call you for a matter such as this. Please come this way.”

Raven also acted with the utmost courtesy and led the high priest closer to the body.

“Please take a look.”

“Your Excellency, this man is…”

The high priest stuttered while looking at the body. They had never met before, but if his guesses were correct, the body in front of him was…

“Yes. It is Duke Arangis.”

“Heuk!”

The high priest started trembling with a pale expression. 

This grotesque corpse was a duke of the empire? 

“W, who in the gods’ name would…”

“Please calm down.”

The high priest was unable to hide his shock as he continued trembling. Raven continued speaking.

“As you can see from the wound, he was not killed by a human's power. In addition, this room was guarded all night by knights, and as you can see, there are no windows. It is impossible to break in.”

“Well, I see. But why did you…”

“Unfortunately, Prince Ian and I cannot detect any signs of black magic after some time has passed. But it might be different for a priest possessing divine power.”

“Ah…!”

The high priest nodded. Both Prince Ian and Duke Pendragon were highly competent knights capable of detecting powerful magic and traces of spirit. But that was only possible at close distances. They could not detect anything over a long distance or after time had passed.

Only high-ranking wizards or those possessing divinity, such as priests of deities, could sense magic even after some time had passed.

“Well, then…”

The high priest took a breath before stretching his hands forward. Soon, sacred words similar to a wizard’s chant began to flow from his mouth, and his hands were stained with a faint light.

Paaaaaaa…

A thin thread of light stretched out in all directions and filled every corner of the room. After a while, the light disappeared into thin air.

“Phew…”

“How was it?”

“Were you able to feel anything?”

Raven and Ian asked. The priest seemed quite tired after his endeavor. 

The high priest nodded as he wiped away the sweat from his wrinkled forehead.

“I felt the power of necromancy. Besides, there’s a trace of black magic coming from here…”

The high priest pointed with his fingers while frowning. It was none other than the strange hole in Duke Arangis’ chest.

“Hmm…!”

The two men faced each other with stiff expressions.

It was certain.

Something other than a human had been in this room, and the being and the necklace had killed Duke Arangis.

“Thank you for your help, High Priest.”

“N, not at all.”

The high priest shook his hands at Raven’s words.

“High Priest.”

“Yes, Your Highness.”

The high priest bowed in response to Ian’s subdued voice.

“I will make an official announcement soon, so I would appreciate it if you could keep what you saw today a secret until then. It is my personal request.”

“My gods! By all means. I will obey your wishes, Your Highness and Your Excellency.”

It was the death of Duke Arangis, and no one else. The high priest was well aware of how important the issue was. Moreover, Ian, who would soon become the crown prince, was politely bowing his head and asking for it to be kept a secret. The priest had no other choice but to listen.

“Thank you so much for coming and providing us with help. I will visit you soon. Please understand that I will not be able to see you out. The knight who brought you here will accompany you back to the temple.”

“Yes, Your Excellency. Then I will get going. Your Highness, please stay safe.”

The high priest recognized that the two people wanted to hold a conversation. After bowing politely, he left the room.

“Just as I thought.”

“Dammit! Black magic… and necromancy? There’s only one person who could do this.”

“Right.”

The Nameless Necromancer, Jean Oberon.

He was certainly the culprit.

“I would have to ask Soldrake for details, but he must have used the necklace to kill Duke Arangis.”

“And in the governor’s residence of all places… Tsk! He got us.”

He was much more calm compared to the beginning, but a trace of fury could still be found in Ian’s voice. He could not entirely contain his simmering anger. As it turned out, Jean Oberon could have killed Duke Arangis any time he wanted. But without knowing that, the two of them had been confident that they could transport Duke Arangis safely to the imperial castle…

“What are we supposed to do now?”

Ian’s voice and expression were dark.

The aftermath of this incident would be devastating. The emperor would be disappointed, and all of the nobles related to Duke Aranis would surely step up and criticize him and Duke Pendragon for the issue.

“The imperial castle. No, the entire capital will be thrown into turmoil. The high lords who are against us will rise up and… Damn it…!”

“No. This may be an opportunity instead.”

“What? What do you mean by that?”

Ian frowned. This was the worst possible outcome, so how could it be an opportunity instead? 

“Listen carefully. This…”

Raven whispered with a cold glimmer in his eyes.

*** 

Kwaaaahhh!

“Wow….”

“Huh! Whoa!”

The employees of the governor’s residence were wide-eyed. It was truly a spectacular sight to see a huge flying carriage twice as large as a regular carriage coming down to the ground while being led by six griffons.

Tung.

The griffons were extremely well-trained. They gently landed on the ground to minimize the shock to the carriage.

“Sir Isla!”

The soldiers saluted towards Isla as he dismounted a griffon. Isla gave a light nod in response, then opened the door to the carriage.

“We have arrived. This way please.”

At his beckoning, the maids exited the carriage along with Iriya and Irene.

“We greet Lady Pendragon!”

The employees bowed deeply and greeted Irene.

“Nice to meet you all. Thank you so much for coming out to greet us.”

Irene responded with a brilliant smile, then turned her gaze somewhere else.

“It must have been tiring. I’m glad to see you here.”

“Broth…!”

Irene was about to run towards her brother with an elated shout, but then halted. It was due to the man who was standing by her brother’s side. With a slight blush, he strode forward. The employees hurriedly took off their hats and bowed politely.

Soon, he stood in front of Irene.

With a calm expression, Irene bent her knees slightly and curtsied elegantly towards the man.

“Hello, Your Highness Ian. It has been a while.”

“Hm.”

Ian gave a big nod before stretching his hand towards Irene. She felt a little surprised, but she proceeded to take off her gloves with a gentle smile. He reached for her small, fine hand.

“It is truly nice… to see you once again.”

Ian lightly kissed the back of her hand, then made eye contact with Irene.

“I am glad to see you too. I am happy to see you in good health.”

Ian found her smile to be even more dazzling today.

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