Chapter 268. The Wind of War (3)

My aunt headed to the living room and simply pushed the sofa away before opening the secret passageway on the floor. Seeing that Arwen was surprised at the secret passage, it seemed to have been kept a secret from the people living in this house.

As if Aunt Talaria had guessed what I was thinking, she flippantly said, "It's not exactly a secret. It was created to make it possible for Arwen and Flam to escape in an emergency. I just didn't tell Flam because I thought that idiot would go around talking about it beforehand."

"If the person who’s supposed to use it doesn't know about it, isn't it useless?”

My aunt snorted when I asked her dumbfoundedly. "There's an emergency contact magic in this house, so it’s fine.”

After following my aunt through the secret passage for a long time, a very luxurious room appeared. This was a place I’d been to once before. Was it when I was in the middle of training at the district office and had cornered the poisoning suspect?

My aunt touched a large picture on the wall and asked, "You were here about three years ago, weren’t you? Was that when Information Head Pelgrant was almost poisoned?”

"I think so."

So he was also the head of an information department. The marquis threatened to poison him, so I assumed he wasn’t anyone ordinary, but if he was the head of the information department, he was the closest aide to the prime minister.

The painting that my aunt was touching moved sideways, revealing a space. At first glance, there was a lot of security magic placed. Each individual security magic was nothing, but based on the quantity, it looked like it would take a long time for even me to sneak in. Of course, if I’m not trying to be secretive, I could take care of it all in one go.

"It's my first time bringing outsiders to this space. This is a place where only me, Milpia, and the top three executives can enter."

I was reluctant to ask Aunt Talaria, “But is it okay for us to come in?”

"It's fine. I'm letting you in. Who’s going to say anything about it? And don't worry, you know all three top executives," said my aunt casually.

"Me?"

This is the first time I’m hearing about it.

"Yes, your grandfather, your maternal grandfather, and Hestia, these three are the top executives."

"Wow, that's perfect family management." Milpia, the head of the headquarters, is my aunt's adoptive daughter, so it’s basically all family.

"Wait, maternal grandfather? Do I have a maternal grandfather?"

When I asked in bewilderment after hearing it for the first time, Aunt Talaria opened her eyes wide in surprise. "You still haven't heard? Uh, then pretend you didn't hear that."

From my aunt's reaction, it seemed highly likely that it was someone I knew. Who is it? Not many people around me were old enough to be my grandfather.

My aunt broke my focus by coughing dryly as I was about to start guessing about my maternal grandfather. "Ahem! Since we're here, let's get straight to the point."

When Aunt Talaria put her mana into the table, a hologram shaped like a constellation appeared in the air. It was a simple but complex magic made up of spatial magic and light magic.

"What we're about to talk about now is highly classified security information, so don't mention it outside."

My aunt manipulated the hologram after her threat. Portraits depicting various individuals appeared below the twelve constellations. The portraits were painted with familiar masks, but under Taurus, there was a portrait of a mask that Flam used.

"There are also black and white portraits," I said. 

Below the black and white portraits, it said Gemini, Cancer, and Scorpio.

"Black and white portraits are those who have been confirmed dead.”

Then there were three deaths.

"The Twelve Zodiacs is an organization named after the zodiac constellation signs and is composed of 12 people."

"Yes, I know that much."

"Just listen quietly. The Twelve Zodiacs is ostensibly known as the organization that wants to destroy the empire, but in fact, it’s a strange group where each member’s goals are different."

"They all have different goals?”

My aunt nodded at my question. "Yes, according to the goals of each member of the organization, there are four categories: those who wish to eliminate the empire or the imperial family, those wanting to revive the Demon King, those with the inclination to defend the empire and stop the resurrection of the Demon King, and those who are just associated as members.”

The portraits in the holograms on the table were classified according to what my aunt said. Those in the first category were Taurus, Leo, Capricorn, and Cancer, while the second included Sagittarius, Libra, Scorpio, and Gemini. The third group contained Aquarius and Virgo, and the last group was Aries and Pisces.

"It is such a bizarre group,” I said, and Aunt Talaria nodded as if she agreed with my brief assessment.

"But why was Flam a civil servant with an anti-empire disposition?”

To be honest, it was a little shocking that Flam was anti-empire.

My aunt answered my question after a moment of silence. "I don't know the exact reason, but it's a long story."

"Please explain briefly if possible."

I didn't like to pry about personal matters, but this time I felt like I needed to know his motivation. Even if I wasn’t quite sure why I needed to know, the unique sixth sense that I had inherited from my father was telling me so.

"I’m surprised that you care so much about another person's business. I only heard it from my father, so I don’t know much, but I'll explain it to you.” Aunt Talaria took a bunch of documents from the bookshelf, rummaged through it to find the ones she wanted, and handed me the papers.

"Flam is from the Resistance Village of the fallen Imperial State. The town was slaughtered by the imperial army in the pretext of a rebellion, and Flam was the only survivor of the village."

The documents regarding the massacre plainly exposed the dark side of the empire.

"It's disgusting.” I frowned and looked through the documents. There were more than just a single village massacred. While looking over the papers, I suddenly realized that the date the massacre stopped coincided with the time when Guild Director Glont retired from his position as a general.

My aunt noticed my realization and gave me an additional explanation. "At that time, the imperial army was fighting in a battle for power between the imperial faction that General Glont was associated with and remnant forces of the former emperor, the Blood Emperor. The Blood Emperor at the time wanted to eliminate the uncertain element known as the Resistance."

"Then, the Blood Emperor’s forces carried out the massacre, and Guild Director Glont, the general at the time, felt responsible and retired?"

If it were Guild Director Glont, he would have felt responsible even if he didn’t know about the massacre.

"That's right. The massacre was especially shocking when it was discovered that, in addition to the Blood Emperor’s followers, parts of the imperial faction and Temple forces within the imperial army were found to have been involved.”

Come to think of it, that’s strange. How did Flam, the only survivor of the massacre, get close with Guild Director Glont, the pinnacle of the imperial army?

As if she could read my mind, Aunt Talaria handed over more documents and asked, "How do you think Flam survived?”

"Well, I don't know. Did he hide somewhere?"

"That’s right. Flam was only seven years old at the time, and he hid in a potato storage room inside a warehouse before being saved by your grandfather and Guild Director Glont. After that, Flam became your grandfather's disciple and wandered all over the empire.”

"Grandfather?”

Flam had often talked about his wandering teacher, and it seemed this person was my grandfather. Now that I thought about it, Flam also had the martial arts technique of amplifying mana. So, it wasn’t the aphrodisiac that heightened Flam's mana, but the martial arts? No, there was no way I wouldn’t have noticed if he was using martial arts.

"Yeah, your grandfather introduced Flam to the Twelve Zodiacs, saying that he can try getting revenge on the empire if he wanted."

"Wow, that’s intense."

If it’s the grandfather I knew, his intentions in introducing Flam weren’t really for the sake of revenge. My wise grandfather would have likely hoped Flam would see contradictions in the words and actions of an organization hostile to the empire. In fact, even the recent kidnapping was done by tricking Flam into thinking it was to stop a war when in reality, they were trying to start one.

"So why did Flam become a civil servant?"

"Guild Director Glont recommended it. He told Flam to become a part of the empire and experience for himself whether the empire was an evil that needed to disappear."

"I see."

Aunt Talaria didn’t seem to know the exact details either.

"That’s the end of what you wanted to know, and from now, I’ll tell you what I brought you here for."

"I don't want to know."

My aunt snorted at me and said, "It's too late. Think of it as paying for the information and be quiet and listen.”

Auntie spoke sternly and touched the hologram again. The portraits of Aquarius and Virgo were enlarged. "The reason your grandfather and I joined the Twelve Zodiacs is not just to act as spies for the empire-"

"Wait a minute." I cut off Aunt Talaria's explanation and asked, "Grandfather is Aquarius, so then Aunt is Virgo?”

"Is there a problem?" my aunt frowned.

"No, rather than Virgo, shouldn’t it be spinster--!"

Before I could finish my words, my aunt threw a dagger accurately at my forehead. "Think before you speak, you damn brat. Otherwise, a dagger will fly at you."

"You should say that before you throw a dagger!"

"I’m saying you might get more flying at you,” Aunt Talaria said with a dagger in her hand.

"Don't cut me off and just listen. The Twelve Zodiacs were made by three people, Sagittarius, Scorpio, and Libra.”

"So its original purpose was not to destroy the empire, but to revive the Demon King."

My aunt affirmed what I said. "Right, the resurrection of the Demon King required a variety of materials, but the empire stood in the way of collecting these items and reviving the Demon King, so they allowed anti-empire people to join."

The purpose of destroying the empire was essentially a dummy.

"That's why your grandfather and I went in there to stop the resurrection of the Demon King."

"I see. And so? Are you perhaps asking me to join the Twelve Zodiacs to help you with your work? That doesn't meet the terms of the contract."

In the contract between my aunt and me, she was not allowed to have me do something that would increase the number of requests she could ask of me. Therefore, I couldn't accept a request to join and continue to help.

Aunt Talaria smirked at my words. "I know. It’s something you’ll have to do anyway, so I don’t need to make a request."

"What..."

I had an ominous feeling.

"I heard you used the documents for summoning the Demon King as firewood to make roasted sweet potatoes."

"Ye, yes. So what?"

"Whether it’s Libra or Sagittarius, they will come to you one day to get that summoning document.”

"Why!? I've already burned it!"

My aunt laughed bitterly at my cry. "Because you'll have that summoning document in your head. That’s why you shouldn't have used the doppelganger magic."

After hearing my aunt's words, I could only fall into despair.

Damn it. I'm screwed.

Previous Chapter Next Chapter