“…Bud is being held hostage by the dethroned princess?”
- That is correct, young master-nim.
Ron's benign smile didn't register correctly in Cale’s mind.
Alberu confirmed that the underground stone chamber was not visible to Raon and Ron as they were in the middle of the staircase before starting to speak toward Cale who seemed to be deep in thought.
“Elisneh the First, the current monarch of the Molden Kingdom, rose to the throne in her early thirties. She is said to have used her amazing leadership to turn the Molden Kingdom into the strong kingdom it is today.”
- That is correct, your highness.
Ron respectfully agreed with Alberu.
Alberu leaned on the wall as he continued to speak.
"There are many people in the Eastern continent who consider the Roan Kingdom to be the second Molden Kingdom.”
There were talks about the Roan Kingdom being similar to the Molden Kingdom as both nations had a young person coming into power and developing their nation into a strong kingdom.
“But there is one thing that was different.”
- It was the issue of successorship.”
Alberu smiled and casually commented toward Ron.
“Looks like you’re quite knowledgeable about the Eastern continent's situation.”
- It isn’t much, your highness.
Ron feigned ignorance and stopped talking.
Alberu quietly watched him for a moment before continuing to speak. He continued his explanation for Cale.
“Originally, there were two monarch candidates who fought viciously for the Molden Kingdom's throne.”
- It wasn’t much of a fight because Elisneh the First was superior in every category.
Intelligence, strength, background of maternal relatives, number of followers, and capital. Elisneh was superior in every category.
“Elisneh the First from the beginning to the end… Showed superiority in all aspects and ascended to the throne. However, there was a moment when her younger sister, Princess Jopis, threatened Elisneh the First's hold on the throne.”
Cale mumbled that name.
“Yes. Princess Jopis. Unlike the others, she aggressively tried to defeat Elisneh the First. However, she is said to be living quietly after losing the battle. Well, she can only live quietly as she has been exiled.”
Unless the heir to the throne is determined early as it was with Alberu, there were only two options left for the others who fought until the end.
Death or exile. Should they choose exile, they had to live the rest of their lives as quiet as a rat under surveillance.
“…Honestly speaking, I still don’t know why Jopis tried to go up against Elisneh the First.”
This was because Elisneh the First's victory was almost guaranteed.
“Furthermore, the two of them are blood-related siblings. They aren't even half-siblings.”
“Yes, that is why Jopis couldn't even get support from her maternal relatives. They all supported Elisneh.”
Alberu tilted his head to the side.
He had been gathering information about the Molden Kingdom after Cale told him about the Molden Kingdom and the Illusionist last time.
“Furthermore, the two of them were said to have a very good relationship with each other until Jopis suddenly started to fight for the throne. Jopis and Elisneh's maternal relatives still don't know why Jopis suddenly started to rebel against her older sister.”
Cale’s eyes clouded over. Alberu looked toward Cale and responded.
“I guess you felt the same thing I felt while telling you about it.”
Alberu looked toward Cale, Raon, and Ron as he continued to speak.
“Doesn’t it feel odd?”
“That does seem to be the case.”
Cale started to think about Bud.
“The Mercenary King, Bud is not someone who bluffs. He told me he would get information about the Molden Kingdom, so the fact that he approached Jopis should mean that she has some sort of secret.”
“Yes. Either a secret or the key to revealing the secret.”
A secret or a key.
Cale turned back toward the video communication device.
“How did Bud end up getting captured?”
- Using the information from Glenn Poeff who was watching from the rear…
Ron started to explain the situation.
Bud’s close friend and highest-grade mage, Glenn Poeff. He tried to stop Bud from visiting Jopis's residence.
- But he's not the type to listen, so Glenn Poeff agreed for Bud to enter the residence alone while he would assist from the rear.
Apparently, Bud never came out no matter how long he waited.
That made Glenn debate whether he should enter the residence as well or contact the Mercenaries Guild to get reinforcements.
- Glenn Poeff apparently got a call on his video communication device at that moment.
“Was it Bud’s video communication device?”
- Yes, sir. The calling video communication device was Bud’s, so Glenn Poeff immediately accepted it.
“And that was when he confirmed that the Mercenary King was taken hostage?”
- That is correct, your highness.
Ron motioned to someone. Glenn Poeff walked over with an awkward smile on his face and bowed toward Cale and Alberu.
He then immediately activated a video recording device as he started to speak.
- I recorded the contents of the call I received and you should be able to understand the situation after taking a look.
The video recording device soon shined as the saved recording started to play.
“Human, it's Bud!”
‘It sure is.’
It was Bud, but…
Cale started to frown while looking at the screen.
- Mmph, mmph!
He could see a simple and neat room.
It was much smaller than what he expected for the residence of a former princess who fought for the throne.
He heard Alberu's voice behind him.
“I guess there’s no way they would give a dethroned princess in exile a nice residence.”
He was calling it simple to be nice; the room they were looking at was old and shabby.
There were a few bookcases and an old but clean bed in the room, and those bookcases were full of books that seemed to have been read a lot.
- Mmph, mmph!
And on top of that old but clean bed…
- Mmph, mmph!
Bud was flailing around.
His arms and legs were tied down and there was a gag in his mouth as well.
He failed his body and seemed to be trying to say something as he looked at the video communication device, but the gag made it impossible to understand what he was saying.
- Oh my.
He heard a woman's voice in the video at that moment.
Other than the bed and the bookcases… There were also an old table and two chairs in the room.
The chairs and table were made of old wood.
A woman sitting on one of those chairs smiled toward the screen.
- The tea tastes wonderful.
The woman who was drinking tea in a wooden cup was dressed simply but neatly.
- Human! She reminds me of the Duchess!
As Raon mentioned, Cale was reminded of Duchess Violan as he looked at Jopis.
Jopis was much younger than her, but the way her hair was tied up without a single stray strand and the noble way she was drinking tea…
Even the refined look of grace that came from her expression made him think of Duchess Violan.
She was wearing old grey clothes because she was living in exile, but she gave off the grace of a woman enjoying a short tea time at the palace office.
Her voice as she said the tea was wonderful sounded extremely elegant.
She did not look like someone who had lost everything.
Honestly speaking, she looked more majestic than Alberu. Cale subconsciously started looked toward Alberu.
“What is it? Why are you looking at me like that?”
Cale slowly turned away as he responded.
"She won't be easy to handle.”
Alberu agreed with that statement.
Jopis looked like a difficult opponent.
Cale became certain after hearing her next words.
She gracefully put the teacup down before starting to speak again.
She had an elegant smile on her face as well.
- Mister, tea truly does taste wonderful when you drink it after capturing someone.
Cale was certain.
She really would not be easy to deal with.
- Human! Bud seems like a stupid idiot who walked into a Dragon's lair alone!
He didn't disagree with Raon.
Cale had no way of knowing how Bud who was a sword master and had an ancient power ended up being captured and tied down by Jopis, a dethroned princess.
Especially because Jopis looked elegant without a single drop of sweat on her right now.
He heard Glenn respond to her in the recording.
- Shit, you must have accomplices in there with you!
Bud struggled and shook his head.
He heard a majestic voice respond.
- Sir, who would assist a dethroned princess that has nothing to offer them? For being the Mercenary King's smart close friend, can't you use your f*cking head?
Cale heard Alberu's voice.
“…Wow… I want to learn to speak like her.”
Jopis was speaking quite uniquely while sounding elegant in the process.
- I want to learn it as well!
Cale shook his head toward Raon.
‘See what happens if you learn to talk like that. No more snacks for you.’
He heard Glenn respond to her.
- …You know who I am?
- Sir, how can I not? The two of you were a famous combination long before I started farming in this remote countryside. I guess you think I have shit for brains?
Her elegant smile made her look as if she was a painting.
- No, that…
He then heard Glenn’s anxious voice.
- Well, anyway, who you are is not important right now, right, sir?
Jopis, who had lived a long time as a princess even if she was dethroned and lived in exile now, had continued to speak respectfully to Glenn.
Cale focused his gaze on Jopis in the recording.
Jopis looked straight into the video recording device at that moment and he ended up making eye contact with the Jopis inside the screen.
She started to speak.
- Sir, he said that he came to learn the secrets of the Molden royal family.
‘Ow! That idiot! He was captured after saying that?!’
Cale could hear Glenn mumbling.
He didn't care as he continued to focus on Jopis.
She was smiling elegantly, but her eyes had not smiled even once.
In fact, her eyes had been coldly observing Glenn the whole time.
Cale heard Alberu mumbling next to him.
“Someone like her was always pushed back by Elisneh other than that one time?”
‘Actually, more importantly…’
Cale was focused on something else.
Alberu mumbled about that as well.
“She doesn't have the eyes of someone who has to live her life imprisoned.”
Cale agreed with Alberu.
Jopis's eyes did not look like someone who was in despair after losing or like someone who had lost all hope. They didn’t look like the eyes of someone who was resigned to her fate either.
She had the eyes of someone who was biding her time and waiting for her moment.
She started to speak.
- There’s no reason the Mercenary King would suddenly come here wanting to know about the Molden royal family’s secrets. In fact, he should not even know that the Molden Kingdom had any secrets. Sir, there must be someone behind you two.
Cale felt like he was looking and chatting with her even though he was watching a recording.
The tea that she took a sip from was quickly getting cold.
Jopis’s eyes looked forward again.
- The person behind you is someone who has figured out a bit about the Molden royal family's secrets.
The person who was standing straight without leaving any openings continued to speak to Cale.
- I am speaking to you who is behind the Mercenary King.
She had not called to chat with Glenn.
The person behind the Mercenary King. She was speaking to that unknown person.
- Please come here immediately if you wish to know the secrets.
She invited that person to her residence.
- You'll need to hurry. If you take too long-
Her hand gracefully pointed somewhere.
- The Mercenary King's f*cking head might blow up.
- Mmph, mmph!
The Mercenary King started to flail after seeing Jopis pointing at him.
However, Cale didn’t have the time to look at the Mercenary King.
She was smiling elegantly.
- And sir, nothing is free.
The eyes of the woman who had been biding her time and waiting for her moment were sparkling.
- Let’s make a deal.
Then the recording ended.
The corners of Cale’s lips started to rise.
He looked at Ron who moved the screen back toward him and asked.
"Where is Jopis’s residence?”
Where was the place she was exiled?
He had seen a rugged mountain outside her window.
Ron started to speak at that moment.
- It is the most dangerous place in the Molden Kingdom.
Cale's expression turned odd.
The Molden Kingdom. It was a kingdom located at the center of the Eastern continent with vast plains and wide roads that made it easy to develop trade.
There was only one dangerous place in that kingdom.
“Isn’t that the Molden mountain range?”
The Molden mountain range.
That was where Ron’s Molan family residence was located.
It was the same mountain range where the residence they just took back from Arm was located.
- That is correct, young master-nim. Jopis is currently living in exile in a small remote village near the bottom of the Molden mountain range.
The mountain visible outside Jopis’s room was one of the mountains on the Molden mountain range.
Cale started to walk up the stairs again.
Ron continued to speak to Cale.
- Young master-nim, I will be waiting for you.
The Elf Village with the World Tree. He had three days to go back and meet with Adite and the World Tree.
He had used a portion of that time to meet Elementalist Sully and Alberu. However, he still had a large chunk of those three days left.
“I'll be there within 30 minutes.”
- Yes, sir. I will have some lemon tea prepared for you for the first time in a long while.
Cale’s shoulders slightly shook.
Ron just benignly smiled.