Chapter 140

The carriage carrying Zich and his companions moved slowly. It was a luxurious carriage, so it didn't vibrate as much as normal ones. As they headed towards the palace, a tense atmosphere filled the vehicle since Evelyn was still charged for attempting to assassinate the Crown Prince. Anyone would have clicked their tongues at them, saying that they were out of their minds.

Both Evelyn and Lyla’s faces were stiff, but the heavy mood inside the carriage seemed to only come off from them. On the contrary, Zich looked calm and even at ease as he sat in front of them.

“Relax. You guys look like you’re on your way to the execution block.”

“Other people would also think we’re on our way to die.”

Zich retorted, “These ‘other people’ are wrong though. How can they think this joyous journey will be our path to death?”

“What exactly is joyous about this?”

“We get to see Albus Windpool become pale in fear and roll on the ground.”

Evelyn smiled awkwardly in response, but Lyla muttered, “He really has a terrible personality.”

“That’s my unique charm.”

Lyla clicked her tongue and turned her head. With his warped logic, she knew she couldn’t beat Zich with words. Thanks to his words, however, the tense atmosphere inside the carriage lightened up.

“Everything will work out since that’s how I plan it to be. So, let’s talk on our way there and just compliment each other on how well we are dressed.”

All three of them wore luxurious clothes. Zich wore a fancy suit while Lyla and Evelyn wore beautiful party dresses. With their stunning appearances, they looked like nobles from respectable families. 

“This is really uncomfortable.” Lyla complained while fumbling with the edges of her dress, “Do we really have to wear this? Isn’t this unnecessary?”

“We have to dress up formally when attending a party,” Zich said even though they were not going to the party to enjoy it but to ruin it. “Also, it matches you.”

Of course, Evelyn looked beautiful dressed up, but Lyla was the definition of a head-turning beauty.  Her beauty, which Zich had admired when he first saw her, rose to another level with her attire.

Evelyn said, “You look really good, Lyla. I’m so glad my clothes fit you.”

“I-Is that so?”

Evelyn and Lyla were wearing clothes that they had secretly taken from the Marquess’ residence. After both Zich and Evelyn complimented on her clothes, Lyla seemed to be in a pretty good mood. Then, Evelyn turned her attention towards Zich.

“Mr. Zich, your outfit matches you too. I’m glad my brother’s clothes fit you.”

“My lady, thank you for the compliment.”

“Even the way you act is like a noble. Are you from an aristocratic background?”

Although Lyla had a slight noble air, her movements were slightly awkward. On the other hand, Zich was really like a noble after dressing up; this was because he practiced his manners recently while recalling his past.

“I do have some blood relatives who are nobles, but they aren’t my family.”

“Ah, I see.” Evelyn didn’t ask anymore. She concluded that Zich must have a complicated family background. 

‘I might see some of my blood relatives though…’

However, since they were strangers now, Zich didn’t have to concern himself about them anymore. The carriage continued moving until it arrived at the palace. In front of the palace, there were two carriages that had arrived beforehand. They went inside the palace slowly, one by one, and the carriage which held Zich and his companions soon arrived at the entrance.

“Excuse me, could you please show us your invitation letter?” one of the guards in front of the palace asked Hans who was stirring the horses. Snoc sat beside him—his eyes darted back and forth and he had a nervous demeanor. However, Hans remained calm.

“Here it is.” Hans handed over the invitation letter to the guard. The guard looked at the invitation letter under his torchlight and saw that the royal insignia was clearly stamped on it. 

As the guard nodded his head, the spear blades blocking their path moved away. Hans stirred the carriage forward and passed through the insides of the palace.

“…We passed through.” Lyla sighed a breath of relief. Although Evelyn didn’t say anything, she also clutched her chest.

“Is this really okay? The assassination attempt of the Crown Prince happened just a couple of days ago. Aren’t they letting us in too easily?”

“That’s why they checked our invitation cards, and they multiplied their security forces. I’m sure they are going to check us one more time when we get out of the carriage.”

Zich glanced outside. There were too many soldiers around even if they were in the palace. “Well, it’s fine. We won’t need to fight them.”

“I really hope that’s the case.” Even Lyla didn’t want to fight head-on with the Kingdom’s elite forces inside the palace.

“Um, but…” Evelyn hesitated on whether or not she should ask, but she finally said, “Where did you get the invitation letter?”

“Ah, that?” Zich smiled cheerfully. “I borrowed it from someone that I never want to see again.”

*      *     *

Around the same time, there was a completely different conversation taking place inside another carriage heading to the palace.

“How can you not even take care of an invitation card especially in a time like this?”

“Ah! I seriously have no excuses. I swear I left it inside the table drawer.”

“My friend already seems to have symptoms of dementia. It seems the nickname of being the Kingdom’s steel wall is old news now.”

Cough…”

*     *    *

Zich and his companions arrived in front of the palace, and the carriage stopped.

Lyla said, “Put your hands out.” Zich and Evelyn stretched out their hands towards her. 

There was a ring with a small jewel on one of their fingers. Lyla placed her hand on top of the rings.

Ziing!

Mana flowed out of her hand and seeped into the rings. Lyla stared at Zich and Evelyn. Their faces had changed into different people.

“I put illusion magic into cheap pieces of jewelry, so they won’t last long.”

“That’s all right. We just have to last until all the key players arrive at the party anyways.” Zich smiled with his transformed appearance.

“Let’s go. Albus Windpool is probably flying in heaven from being known as the Crown Prince’s savior. So, we have to shove him back to the ground, upside down.”

As Zich said, knights and soldiers were stationed all around the palace, and they were meticulously scanning everyone. However, Lyla’s magic was extremely effective, so no one recognized Evelyn. Lyla’s beauty also didn’t garner any attention. Moreover, a couple of people who knew Zich didn’t recognize him.

‘This works really well.’ Zich was very satisfied with the ring and began observing the people around him.

‘As expected, the Crown Prince is here.’

In the center of the party, people were greeting the Crown Prince. Even though the Crown Prince usually came at the very end of a party with the King, this was a special occasion. Since it was his father’s birthday, the son had to first come out and greet the guests.

‘He probably wants to show people that he is fine and healthy.’

Albus Windpool stood right next to him; he looked like the Crown Prince’s most favored and trusted advisor.

‘Since Albus saved his life, of course he’ll be trusted.’

Not to mention, Albus had used Evelyn to earn the Crown Prince’s trust. Since he became the right-hand man of the most powerful man after the King, Zich was sure that Albus was jumping up and down in joy.

‘It makes me happy to think that he is happy right now.’

That would make his despair even greater if he fell to the bottom. Zich wondered if he should approach the Crown Prince now or approach him a little later when Albus’ mood got even better.

At that moment, the palace door opened. Zich glanced back at the door.

‘Ah, it’s time.’

Unfortunately, this was the end of Albus’ happy time. Zich saw a maid come inside the party hall with several nobles, knights, and soldiers. The maid looked familiar; she was the one who escorted Zich and his companions. Zich sent a signal towards Lyla and Evelyn. 

Lyla and Evelyn, who had quietly waited nearby to not draw attention to themselves, moved next to Zich. All the attention focused on the people who just came in, and the Crown Prince walked towards them. One of the nobles whispered something to the Crown Prince. At the same time, the maid began to check the faces of everyone in the party hall. When her gaze landed on Zich, her eyes widened.

“It’s that person! It’s those people!” The maid pointed at Zich, Lyla, and Evelyn. All the attention shifted towards them. Lyla and Evelyn flinched from everyone’s stares, but Zich was brazen and proudly looked on.

“Those people stole the invitation from Steelwall to come here!”

The knights and soldiers behind her moved to capture Zich and his companions, and they held up their swords and spears. Zich admired their precise and sharp movements.

“Let me through.”

Someone pushed the knights away and entered the circle that the knights and soldiers had made to capture Zich and his companions. The knights who were pushed showed no signs of discomfort or annoyance. Instead, they obediently moved away and let the man enter the circle. The man fully deserved to come inside.

‘It’s been a while.’ Zich stared at the man in front of him. He looked exactly the same as he did when they last parted: wire-like whiskers, fierce eyes, and stubborn lips.

“Are you the bastard who stole my invitation?” Count Steelwall spoke in the rough manner Zich was so familiar with.

“Yes, sir!”

Count Steelwall’s eyebrows twitched. How could a thief be so brazen? “Do you realize that my invitation is not an item for a punk like you to use?”

“If you are talking about the rightful owner of the invitation, then I will admit you are right. Right now, I don’t have the authority to attend this party.”

“…You don’t have the authority right now?”

It was a strange thing to say. The Count was curious about the identity of the fearless thief who dared to use his invitation card to infiltrate the palace, but the person in front of him was even stranger than he expected.

“Who the hell are you?”

Zich smiled. Then he took off the ring on his finger, and the mana that covered his face disappeared. People were shocked when they saw Zich’s face change, but the people who were the most shocked were obviously the Count and his family.

“Y-you…you…!”

“It’s been a while, Count Steelwall.” Zich exaggeratedly bowed his head towards the Count who could no longer speak.

“And…” Zich turned around and stared at the person who also had a shocked face, almost as much as the Count. “I guess for you, it hasn’t…been a while, right? Albus Windpool.”

Zich changed his smile. From a gentle smile exaggerated to the point of mockery, his smile turned sharp as if he was looking at an enemy. “As you told me to, I came all the way here.”

*   *   *

The party became chaotic. When Zich’s identity was revealed, some of the nobles looked scared, and some looked furious or even curious. But the person who was the main focus of this event paid no attention to all the other nobles. He had no leisure to do so.

“H-how did you…” Count Steelwall’s cheeks trembled. He had reunited with his eldest son that had left the family in complete and utter shock. However, Zich had no plans to continue his conversation with the Count.

“Whether it’s from joy or anger, let’s call a raincheck on our reunion, Count Steelwall. I didn’t come here to see you.”

“What…”

Zich ignored the Count who had his mouth wide open. Off to the side, Zich stared at the Crown Prince surrounded by his knights and soldiers.

“It’s not the first…time we’ve met, but since you probably don’t remember, I want to send my first greeting to Your Highness.”

“Who are you?” the Crown Prince asked in a dignified voice. Even in an unexpected situation, he maintained his composure. Seeing this, Zich thought the Crown Prince was fairly accomplished.

“I have something to tell you, Your Highness, so please excuse my interruption.”

Zich beckoned towards Evelyn. Evelyn moved forward towards the Crown Prince. The knights and soldiers became tense, but to show that she had no ill intentions, she stopped at a distance away from the soldiers. Like Zich, she took off her ring. People who recognized Evelyn’s face were shocked, especially Albus. It looked as if his eyes were about to pop out of their sockets. Evelyn clutched her dress and made an extremely elegant and well-mannered bow.

“Evelyn Rouge from the Rouge family greets His Highness, the Crown Prince.”

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