I stretched and got out of bed.
Last night, I only got five hours of sleep because of Milpia’s sudden arrival, but because the bed was so nice, I didn’t feel that tired.
It was still dark outside the window, but the butler told me to get up early yesterday, so I couldn’t help it.
I took out my new high-end suit from my bag, wore an unfamiliar fedora, and picked up a cane made of black wood.
Hmm, yes, you're so handsome.
I nodded in satisfaction as I looked at myself in the full-length mirror. I thought so at last year's dance too, but I looked more like a boy from a noble family than a civil servant when I wore a suit.
I casually spun the cane as if I were spinning a pen. Then, I put the sword aura on the cane.
"Good. It'll be good enough to use as a weapon if it comes to it."
Since we would be entering the palace, even I felt uncomfortable bringing in something with a blade. However, it was not easy to use magic either because if the palace got wrecked, it’d be really troublesome.
But just in case, let's keep the bracelet made by the Witch of Pride on. Thanks to the occasional practice, although it was not perfect, I managed to get used to it to a certain extent and was able to handle it skillfully.
I sighed suddenly while putting on the bracelet.
Phew, she really knows how to bother someone.
I was suddenly reminded of Milipia’s first request she made last night. Giving it to me because they were worried about me destroying the capital in my sleep was definitely bullshit. Obviously, the reason my aunt gave me this bracelet was because she didn’t want me to destroy the capital while fulfilling her requests. Or it was a bribe to get me to shut up and do as I was told.
Ah, should I just ignore it?
Although I grumbled like that, I had no choice but to listen to the order disguised as a request from my aunt. To be honest, it was annoying, but I couldn't help it. I couldn't help it because I took a contract that contained a weak curse for hair loss and athlete's foot, which was written and pushed onto me by my aunt.
Of course, I sensibly prepared for betrayal and created some flaws in the contract. So even if I didn’t follow the contract, the curse would still never befall me. However, avoiding the eyes of my angry aunt would be even more annoying.
As I decided to endure the annoyance, I heard a knock.
"Den von Mark-nim. It is time to get up. Do you mind if I come in?"
It was the voice of the butler who guided me to the room last night.
"Yes, that’s fine."
He opened the door and came in. "It seems you woke up early.”
He seemed a little surprised by the fact I was already all dressed up.
"Was your bed perhaps uncomfortable?”
"No, it was comfortable. My eyes opened early because the bed was good.”
The butler bowed slightly at my answer. "You are diligent. Breakfast will be ready in about 30 minutes. I will come back to you when breakfast is finished. Or should you need anything in the meantime, please ring the bell." Saying so, he closed the door and left.
What was I thinking about?
Oh, yeah. It was annoying, but I had to complete my aunt's request.
Let’s always greet someone who’s close to you like this.
Is the back of your head safe? If you think it's safe, aren't you the only one who thinks so?
"Did you sleep well?"
I headed to the table where breakfast was served and greeted the Duke of Asteria first.
"I slept well. Did you sleep well?”
"Yes, I slept well, too. Thanks to you, I'm able to stay at this luxurious hotel.”
When I arrived at the table, the servant naturally pulled out the chair. I sat down with a light nod to the servant.
"You don’t need to be like that with a hotel like this when you'll be sleeping in the palace tonight." The duke responded playfully
I laughed and said my true feelings lightly. "That, I am not as fond of. If I could have it my way, I would have liked to have a light tour of the capital with Your Highness, the Duke without entering the palace.”
"Hahaha, that's the same for me. The government should handle business on their own, but they always call even an old man like me.”
I smiled as I saw the duke sighing lightly.
"They don't respect the elderly."
The duke agreed with me with a playful smile. "That’s right. This country doesn’t respect the elderly.”
The Duke of Asteria continued to chat as we continued our meal. Perhaps in consideration of the duke’s age, the menu was not heavy but plentiful. At the end of the meal, the duke drank tea and talked about his schedule.
"We are planning to enter the palace around 2 p.m. This is a brief timeline moving forward." He handed me the document himself.
I read the document over a cup of tea that the butler poured me. According to the contents, the schedule of the conference was three days in total, and for the first day, it said to enter by 8 a.m.
I was perusing when the duke asked with a playful smile, "Is there a problem?"
Only the Duke of Asteria could do something like this. If anyone else so bluntly arrived late, the prime minister would not leave them alone, but the duke was a man who could not even be touched recklessly by the prime minister.
"No, there's no problem."
When I followed after the Duke of Asteria and responded with a smile, he looked at me with an unexpected look.
"The main character normally appears late, right?" I said.
The duke slapped his knee and laughed loudly. "Uahahaha! The main character, you say. That's nice to hear. Aren’t you going to ask me to be on time like Roseland?"
I looked as if I had heard a strange noise at the Duke's question.
"Is there a need for me to ask? You don't have to do it, so it would be stupid to waste your time."
According to the schedule, starting with the arrival, there was something similar to a ceremony to start off the conference. One would have to listen to the boring lectures of the prime minister and the emperor all morning, but the duke didn't have spare time to listen. It was enough to contact them saying that he would be late due to illness.
"That’s right! It's just a waste of time."
The duke agreed with me and gave me a pleasant nod.
If we entered around 2 p.m., the convention would be pretty close to commencement. Also, the conference could last longer than three days because it was a meeting to discuss and decide various issues.
Come to think of it, Milpia had smiled slyly, saying that there was a pretty interesting agenda for the convention. For some reason, it made me a little nervous.
Arcanta received a list of entrants from his deputy and quickly skimmed through them.
"Is it only the Duke of Asteria and Count Druval that haven't arrived yet?"
William and Bloody were also on the list, but William was in the middle of cleaning up the battlefield in the Demon Territory while Bloody was seriously injured to the point that it was difficult to move around and was stuck in Warrant.
"Yes, that is correct." The deputy nodded with a serious look.
Any noble with rank over count was required to attend the annual conference. If they did not, they would forfeit their title and estate under the emperor’s orders because it would be judged that they did not qualify as a high-ranking noble. Therefore, someone not participating rarely ever happened. In cases where they could not attend, they had to contact the palace at least a month in advance to designate a representative in lieu.
However, in the case of this conference, because of the territories being damaged by the deluge of demons, if the lord could not leave their territory, they could apply for a proxy until just before the conference.
Arcanta frowned as he stared at the list. "If it’s Sir Asteria, he comes in late every year, so it makes sense, but Druval, that sly fox still hasn’t arrived yet. Did the story happen to leak?" He sighed.
The deputy shook his head fervently. "That couldn’t be possible. There are less than 100 people who know this story."
"But also, it’s as many as 100 people."
At the prime minister's pessimistic gaze, the deputy swallowed dry saliva and spoke calmly.
"If it is around that many, we could find the suspect in a day by mobilizing all of the Treasury's staff and intelligence, so who would go to the extent of risking the lives of their family by betraying?"
Everyone involved in the work knew that if there was a traitor, not only the traitor himself but also the traitor's family would die struggling in pain. Arcanta was not called the Iron-Blooded Prime Minister, who was said to have iron instead of blood flowing in his body, for nothing.
"Yes, no one would dare to turn traitor. If anyone betrays me, I will make them resent the emperor for abolishing slavery. So, there’s no possibility of betrayal."
Arcanta's mumbling gave the deputy goosebumps. Usually, he cared for his subordinates more than anyone else, but whenever he showed this side, it instilled fear in those who saw. In particular, it was even scarier as it was Arcanta who proposed and eliminated slavery.
"Then it means that Druval, that sly fox, smelled it from elsewhere,” the prime minister murmured.
The deputy broke into cold sweat. "Could it have leaked out from the Big Mama Information Agency? The one known as Big Mama and the head of the department are—”
"No." The prime minister cut off the deputy. "It’s not them. We've paid so much for this that there’s no way they would do something to betray their credibility. And Big Mama... No, it’s not something that I should be telling you."
The deputy was sullen at the prime minister's words, but nonetheless, he nodded obediently. He at least knew that Arcanta’s reluctance to divulge before him was not due to a lack of trust.
"Then… Should we do a full investigation of those who know about this?"
Arcanta shook his head. "No, considering Count Druval is a monster of the financial world, he must have smelled it from somewhere." He stood up and smiled bitterly. "And now it’s too late to start an investigation. For both the enemy and me."
At Arcanta’s rather exhausted smile, the deputy was at a loss.
Then a treasury civil servant came running over.
"Your Excellency, I'm reporting that Count Druval has just entered the palace."
"The time of entrance?"
The treasury civil servants, who rushed at the prime minister's question, looked at the list of new entrants without a moment to breathe.
"That’s... 8:01 a.m."
"Oho, a minute. He definitely smelled something.”
Otherwise, he would not have provoked him by being ‘a minute’ late.
The prime minister gave a deep smile. The smile was like a wolf’s, just before tearing apart the prey.
The deputy was terrified by it. He felt that this year's conference would not be just a war of nerves like previous years, but a fierce battle of putting a dagger in the other person's windpipe or being stabbed instead. Blood may flow as in the past when fierce battles came and went over the topic of slavery.
The prime minister smiled and walked slowly to the ballroom where the high-ranking nobles were gathered.Previous Chapter Next Chapter