The floor at the center of the banquet hall was broken into pieces by Dragon King Muk and Weger’s collision. If Arpen hadn't specifically put a barrier on the floor, the floor would have collapsed completely. In addition, there could have been massive cracks throughout the palace.
"Kuhahahaha, I don't know how many years it's been since I’ve seen my own blood! Kuhahaha!" The Dragon King burst into delighted laughter as he saw the scratches on his right arm after colliding with Weger's sword.
"Likewise, I don't know how many years it's been since I lost a sword." Weger smiled, lifting a sword with only the handle left.
The blade of the sword had shattered, and the debris was stuck in the ground. Weger casually lifted his hands. "This spar is my defeat. Your weapon is just fine, but as you can see, my sword is in this shape."
The Dragon King laughed cheerfully when Weger admitted defeat and pointed to his opponent’s scratched right arm. "Hahahaha! Thank you for your consideration. Thanks to you, I maintained my face in front of my subjects."
The Dragon King could see that Weger had let this situation occur on purpose. Weger's shattered sword was the proof. For a swordsman as strong as Weger, there was no way he would allow his sword to be broken, which was like his own life. Also, seeing how the wound on his arm was only some scratches, it was reasonable to think that he purposely endured the defeat after considering the relationship between the Dragon Tribe and the Crow Tribe.
"I'll take this as a debt. If you and the Crow Tribe have a request in the future, I'll gladly do whatever you need."
Weger happily shook hands when the Dragon King extended his hand. "Thank you. I believe we will have a close relationship with the Dragon Tribe."
"Uahahaha! Of course! I believe that as well."
Weger did not bother to refuse the Dragon King's promise. Everything had been directed by Hestia, the deputy chief.
The Dragon King was the ruler and symbol of the Dragon Tribe. Rather than the pride gained by struggling and winning a friendly spar, it was beneficial to build up the opponent's status and instill a sense of debt in the opponent.
Hestia apologized to Weger, who returned to her after the fight. "I'm sorry."
Winning or losing was a matter of pride for a warrior. Hestia had asked Weger to abandon such pride and lose on purpose for political circumstances.
Weger smiled mildly at Hestia's apology. "You don’t have to apologize. Deputy Chief is here on behalf of Chief-nim. So, Deputy Chief should never lower your head to anyone."
It was a soft tone, but Hestia became depressed as if she had been scolded. "Yes, I know."
Weger looked at Hestia with sad eyes as she nodded. However, he tossed away his pitiful gaze and spoke assuredly. "Be confident. Anyone here will die if they are told to die and fight if they are ordered to by Deputy Chief. A single defeat doesn’t come close to the shame of failing to comply with orders."
Hestia closed her eyes for a moment at Weger's reprimand. Then, she soon opened them and nodded. "Thank you. It’s okay to say thank you, right?”
Weger smiled and nodded pleasantly at Hestia's playful question. "I couldn't feel more honored."
Hestia asked, calmly looking around the banquet hall, "Did you notice any strange reactions during the fight?"
Weger nodded. "Yes, dozens of people left the banquet hall in a direction that wasn't the exit."
"Dozens of people?” Weger's reply left Hestia in deep thought.
"Was there anything else strange?”
"Everyone moved in pairs, and it was hard to identify who was escaping because they were all releasing a certain amount of mana."
Hearing the report, Hestia smiled with interest. "It seems my little brother really was at the banquet. And with a helper at that.”
Weger and the foreign minister’s faces hardened. "So you're saying that the young chief escaped from here? Then, didn’t we just miss a golden opportunity to catch the young chief?"
"Shall we go after him now?”
Hestia smiled leisurely and shook her head at their questions. "Even if we found my little brother, we're here as a delegation. We can't move recklessly."
The foreign minister looked surprised at Hestia’s composure.
"It's all right. There will be more opportunities as long as my little brother is in the capital. Maybe he’s even close by." Hestia had a playful smile.
"For now, let’s just enjoy the banquet.” Hestia looked at the banquet hall as if she were watching over a huge chessboard.
* * *
Having left the palace entirely, my aunt and I went into an alley behind the market. It was late and completely dark. The remote alley had no magic street lamps, so there was no one around.
"This is it. Follow me." My aunt easily crossed over a wall in the alleyway.
When I followed my aunt over the wall, a shabby house revealed itself
My aunt opened the front door with a key and pointed inside. "Change into the clothes I gave you in there."
"It's annoying. Can't I just wear the mask?"
"The suit you're wearing is expensive. Don’t poorly treat what His Highness, the Duke, personally bought you." Aunt smiled mischievously.
On another note, how surprising that my aunt was speaking formally regarding Duke Asteria. I thought my aunt would just refer to him by name, not using formal speech.
"Yes, yes." I put my hands behind my head and went into the house with my clothes.
Unlike the shabby exterior, the interior of the house was clean without a speck of dust. Plus, with its simple security magic, it seemed to be one of the Big Mama Information Agency's secret bases.
I took off my suit and put it in my pocket space before changing into the black clothes I received from my aunt. Then, as I was about to wear the mask, I noticed upon careful inspection that there was no magic on the mask or the black clothes. Usually, I thought one would apply recognition interfering magic or a one-time use attack magic for an emergency.
"Hmm, is it on purpose?"
Well, even these spells were present on the items, I would have re-cast magic on them again, so it didn't really matter if there was magic on them or not. Rather, it was easier to apply new spells because there was room for magic to be cast on it.
I took out a piece of mithril that I stole from the archbishop's vault from my pocket space. Mithril was called a magic metal and was extremely useful as a magic catalyst.
"To start, let’s put on recognition interference, barrier, hardening, shock absorption, shock dispersion, shock release, insulation, fire resistance, waterproofing….” I cast roughly a dozen magic spells onto the mask and black clothes, then left the house.
Seeing me in the black clothes, my aunt stuck out her tongue. "Why did you lather the clothes in all that magic? Are you planning to make some kind of national treasure?"
"Ayy, what do you mean national treasure? It can't become a national treasure just because I put some easy, less than basic magic on it.”
To be considered a national treasure, it should at least be something like the bracelet made by the Witch of Pride or the Holy Sword hidden in my clothes.
"Doesn't the emperor have at least this much magic on his body alone?”
It wouldn’t be strange if the emperor were protected by hundreds of magic, not dozens.
"Even if the emperor has that much magic cast on his body, a single clothing item with that much magic on it probably doesn’t exist. Aren't you going overboard for a simple escort mission?"
I was pleased to see my aunt's fed-up face. "No, it’s preferable to be safe. It's something Aunt asked me to do, so it's better than letting my guard down."
And above all, it was strange that my aunt had only called me for an escort mission. I thought the aunt I knew would ask for at least an assassination of the emperor or something of equivalent difficulty. But just a couple of hours escorting a VIP? No matter how important the VIP is, you're mobilizing me, who will only complete three requests for you?
That's absurd. My aunt was definitely up to something.
"Yes, it's better to be thoroughly prepared than to let your guard down." Aunt easily agreed with me. Although I said something you should obviously agree with, it was all the more suspicious that she concurred this easily.
"So I heard it was a VIP escort mission, but now that I think about it, I don't know who I'm escorting or who’s coming with me."
As usual, my aunt smiled wickedly at my question. "You'll know who you're escorting when you see them, and you're the only one who's escorting the VIP.”
Looking at my aunt's smile, I felt like my instincts, which were not as good as my father’s, was telling me to run away immediately. Perhaps, but no.
It was clear that this would not end up as a simple escort. For example, if the VIP I was required to escort were a spy who needed to infiltrate somewhere, I would have to escort the VIP while helping them do their job. Of course, in that case, I would think that my aunt would give me the VIP’s job directly instead, but that's just an example.
"What are you contemplating so hard about? We're going to where the escort is now. Follow me." As I was thinking deeply, my aunt took the lead, beckoning to me.
I stopped thinking for now and followed my aunt. I could probably guess my aunt's intentions once I met the escort anyway.
As I ran along on top of buildings with my aunt, I found myself back near the palace and asked, "If you're going to do this, we should have come here directly. Why did you go in such a roundabout way?”
When I looked at my aunt with ridicule, she answered as if it were natural, "Of course, it's to lose the tail that might have been following us."
Aunt Talaria wasn’t just anyone, but she was worried about a tail? There was definitely no presence of a tail on the way here. As such, that meant she was wary of a trail-seeker following our tracks, but my aunt and I were naturally taught to move about without leaving a trace under Elder Weger’s tutelage.
To add to this, my aunt, the owner of the Big Mama Intelligence Agency rumored to control all the empire's information, was being this cautious? This couldn't have been more ominous.
"What's wrong? You look very nervous."
How did she pick up on my feelings when I was wearing a mask that interfered with perception? She probably just guessed what I was thinking rather than reading my feelings. My aunt was called the best genius in the village before Hestia noona was born, so it would be easy for her to deduce such a simple thought.
"Here comes the person you’re escorting."
A large, colorful-looking carriage was coming from the imperial palace’s direction that my aunt pointed to. The slowly approaching carriage stopped in front of my aunt and me, and the stocky carriage driver got off the driver’s seat and opened the carriage door.
"Have you been well, Big Mama?" The person who got out of the carriage with a greeting was an all too familiar face.
Aunt returned the greeting with a slight bow of her head. "I have been good thanks to you, Your Highness, Duke Asteria."Previous Chapter Next Chapter