The coachman stopped the carriage and bowed to Annelotte and Leguna after he dismounted before leaving without a word. The coachman was the usual one who drove Leguna around. Due to the sensitive nature of the matter, Leguna got someone he could trust to serve him.
After the coachman left, the curtains of the carriage windows were pushed open slightly. A beautiful face fit for a sculpture peeked out of it. She was none other than Eirinn.
"Big Brother," she greeted softly, before turning to say something to those inside the carriage.
A few seconds later, Eirinn got off the carriage, followed by Kurdak and Vera.
"Sis Vera…" Leguna breathed a sigh of relief when he saw her. Even though Alfreid had promised to let her go, he wasn't willing to trust that old fox so easily. Who knew what he could've done behind the scenes? But at least for now, Vera seemed unharmed.
While he didn't know what was written in Manhattan's letter to Larwin, it didn't matter. Kurdak was pardoned by the emperor, but it couldn't be made a public matter. It was a secret agreement between Larwin, Alfreid, Leguna and Manhattan.
The empire permitted for Kurdak to be swapped out and rescued, but it must all be done secretly. The matter was entirely left to Leguna.
To ensure secrecy, Leguna only picked those he could trust. He used the excuse of healing Kurdak to get Eirinn to take the scapegoat to replace him in the cell. The scapegoat was pretending to be Eirinn's assistant during the visit.
After the two changed identities, Kurdak was brought out.
As for Vera, she showed up on the path Kurdak and Eirinn were supposed to travel through. Alfreid had promised to let her go and it seemed he had followed through on it.
"I'm sorry, guys!" Vera's first words were those of an apology. She had been kept in Alfreid's secret room for months and the fear for the future and being cooped up in a place with nobody to talk to almost drove the poor woman insane.
She looked completely haggard. The Vera Leguna remembered was a woman full of vigor, but now, she looked little different from an old crone.
"Alfried!" Leguna growled. The care Vera had shown him couldn't be overstated, yet she was now in such a state thanks to Alfreid. He felt that if he didn't avenge her, he couldn't face Vera any longer.
"Don't be reckless, Ley," Kurdak said in a whisper. As a convict of the empire, it was already rather decent he had a path to survival. He didn't have the slightest desire to get back at Alfreid.
"But boss, look!" Leguna pointed his finger at the pitiful Vera.
"I can see that!" Kurdak placed his two heavy arms on Leguna's shoulders. "But you must calm down."
Leguna took two deep breaths and looked at Kurdak.
"We don't have much time, so I'll get to the point. What plans do you have next?"
"Plans?" Leguna pondered for a moment and said, "Even though I want out of the imperial circle, I don't really have the opportunity given my sensitive status. If I insist on getting my way, I'll still be tracked down by them."
"In other words, you won't be leaving with us. Are you staying in the empire?" Kurdak stroked his chin in thought. He had long guessed Leguna's plans. He was quite worried about leaving Leguna there alone.
"I still have to deal with Alfreid," he said with grit teeth.
"I would advise against you doing that," Kurdak said. Now, Kurdak was practically exiled and he couldn't stay at Leguna's side like before. He wouldn't be able to stop him if he was going to do something reckless, so he felt he needed to give him some advice.
"Why?" Leguna asked.
"Because you're not his match." Kurdak gave it to him without holding back. It went without question that he hated Alfreid for doing what he did to him and Vera. But no matter how strong his hate, he had to admit that the old premier was at least incredibly shrewd.
A few days ago when Lamir came to see Kurdak in his cell, he came to understand Alfreid's true intentions. The old fox wasn't concerned with Kurdak, a small commander of thousands, at all. While he was someone of repute to normal people, he wasn't even a rival in the premier's eyes.
The one he truly wanted to deal with was Manhattan, who seemed to have nothing to do with Kurdak on the surface.
Those two founding fathers of the empire had been waging a secret war for a long time and the empire had largely been divided into two factions. While the rivalry was a wonderful tool for governance to Larwin, it was quite troublesome to the operation of the empire during the time of war if the soldiers and officials couldn't work in tandem.
For instance, a person wouldn't be able to walk properly if both their legs couldn't synchronize. To solve that problem, Larwin would have to make a choice between Alfreid or Manhattan. After all, the two were hard to reconcile, given their age-old grudge. It now seemed that Larwin had chosen to let Manhattan go in favor of him.
Without Larwin's support, Alfreid wouldn't have been able to oust Manhattan so easily. But from that, Kurdak could see how much mastery he had over the human mind.
Larwin, Manhattan, Lamir, Kurdak and Vera were the keys in this incident. Alfreid had been able to grasp the movements and actions of each and every one of them accurately. He was well aware that Kurdak cared for Vera and held a grudge for him.
So, Alfreid made Vera disappear and kicked Kurdak into action by intentionally leaking some information. That way, Kurdak would definitely think of a way to come to Vera's rescue and would do something irrational towards him, such as desertion and attacking a governor.
He also knew that Lamir cared for Kurdak a lot. Lamir's help after Kurdak got into trouble was something he expected.
Not only that, he was aware of how much Manhattan treasured his only blood relative. He knew how far Manhattan was willing to go for Lamir and won when the old general resigned.
Most importantly, he knew Larwin's stance. Based on the troop movements in recent years, he could see that Larwin was trying to slowly weaken the Manhattan faction. After a few years of doing so, while Manhattan still had some reputation in the army, he no longer had subordinates who were willing to die and betray the empire for him.
Alfreid grasped that opportunity to spur the commander-in-chief to give up on his post willingly. All he had to do was to kidnap an unimportant brigade commander.
After finding everything out, Kurdak grew to fear Alfreid. He was the premier of the empire, after all. Kurdak was in awe of his sharp wit.
He only figured everything out until he saw Lamir there. He tried to get her to hurry back to look for Manhattan, but the old general's letter had already reached Melindor by that time.
Kurdak could not see her after that, not even Manhattan. It was as if the two had vanished, which cast another dark cloud on Kurdak. Was Alfreid really going for the kill? There were many people in the empire discussing their disappearance, but nobody knew where the general was. Some even blamed it on Leguna. Who else but he could make the commander-in-chief disappear?
Kurdak had wanted to look for Manhattan, but he let that notion go once he saw Vera. The premier had released her as promised, so it showed that Alfreid was at least not willing to go that extreme. Perhaps he didn't want to risk angering Leguna at a time like this.
When he thought about Lamir and the general, he figured they might've been the same. If the two were really killed by Alfreid, Kurdak wouldn't hesitate to seek him out for revenge, and Leguna wouldn't be sitting idly either.
So, he could only suppress his impatience and wait for the situation to develop.
Regardless, he was no longer willing to go up against Alfreid. While he didn't have any power, he was incredibly shrewd. Kurdak didn't think he stood much of a chance against an opponent like that. So, he decided to leave with the ones he cared about now that he got another chance at life.
In a way, he was surrendering to Alfreid, but it was also the only wise move he could make now that he had fallen to rock bottom.
The main issue, however, was that Leguna wouldn't be able to leave even though Kurdak was going to. As Leguna had said himself, he was now deeply submerged into the swamp called the bureau. It wouldn't be easy for him to make a break from it.Previous Chapter Next Chapter