༺ Eyes of a Dragon and the Human Heart (22) ༻
I was standing upon regaining consciousness, my body somehow having managed to rise to its feet.
A sharp pang followed a dull ache, and the lingering effects of the anesthetic left my thoughts in a jumbled mess.
Then, memories abruptly flooded in without pausing for me to regain my senses.
Fragmented words surged in like the roaring tides of the sea.
And amidst the memories of death and parting, was a man ever-present.
These were clearly not my own memories, yet within the blurred boundaries, I managed to grasp what seemed like a clue.
It was an unfamiliar name.
Her possessing a family name was news to me, but my voice, when uttering the name, resonated with strength and certainty.
Her body, as if confirming my conviction, trembled violently.
What happened afterwards remained a blur due to the persistent effects of the anesthetic.
The moment she lunged in, my pupils split vertically as a fairly familiar sensation enveloped me.
It was the feeling I got whenever I perceived the deeper intricacies of space during battle.
It was only now that I understood how to wield the Dragonblood Script—realizing there were a lot more profound elements present in the world than just the fetters of ‘space’.
Space did not exist in isolation. Time and mana were also closely intertwined, and the Dragonblood Script served as a gateway to the realm of ‘mana’.
Enlightenment dawned upon me just before her dagger reached me.
For the first time, I traced a Dragonblood glyph in the air.
Considering my restricted mana and my inability to overpower her physically, the Dragonblood Script was the only option I could turn to.
Magic that could be activated without mana was generally useful and convenient, particularly if it also wielded considerable firepower.
Flames and explosions consumed the surroundings.
Objects in the room shattered, burned, and soared through the air, succumbing to various forms of destruction.
Amidst the chaos, I stood as the sole exception. However, I was merely unaffected by the flames. Having endured the shockwave without full control of my body, I was forced a few steps back.
But even then, this paled in comparison to what Senior Neris was experiencing after having taken the brunt of the Dragonblood magic.
She was tossed into the air like a small animal struck by a forceful kick. Crashing into a wall, she tumbled and ultimately ignited as she rolled on the ground.
“Kyaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! S-Save me!”
Confusion and bewilderment overwhelmed me as my mind, still shrouded in fog, struggled to devise a means to rescue her.
It was then that the canteen hanging off my waist caught my attention.
‘Right. Water should do.’
It was an overly naive judgment. Anyone would have been able to tell that it would be impossible to extinguish such intense flames with just the contents of the canteen, but at that moment, my mind and rationale were melting down as well.
That was why I had overlooked one crucial detail—it wasn’t water in the canteen but alcohol.
As the flames intensified, so did the terror in Senior Neris’ eyes.
She was looking at me as if I were a complete madman.
It felt like there had been many such misunderstandings popping up as of late. However, it seemed pointless to try and clarify myself, given how unbelievable it would sound to them.
An involuntary sigh escaped my lips.
Regardless, since I couldn’t possibly leave her to die, I came up with an alternative solution.
I sent her out the door with a well-aimed kick.
Considering how I couldn’t move a burning lady with my bare hands, kicking her was the most logical course of action. She likely wasn’t in a state to mind a minor pain like that of a kick, either.
Relief washed over me. Now, all that remained was to douse her with water.
Spotting a nearby bucket and mop, I immediately picked it up and poured the water all over her. It was dirty mop water, but like they say, beggars can’t be choosers.
However, my troubles only seemed to grow.
“…W-Where do you come from?”
I was at a loss for words. She was even bowing her head.
I pondered how I could best conceal my identity.
The Dragonblood Script was no different from a proof of authority granted by the emperor himself. Naturally, that meant the emperor knew every bearer of the Script.
So, what would happen if information about me reached the emperor?
It was likely that the real powerhouses of Imperial Intelligence would pay me a visit before long.
My mouth moved instinctively as I agonized over the predicament.
“Neris Findleston… I’ll tell you one thing you should be careful of when facing me.”
Then, a hatchet cleaved through the air.
It happened in an instant.
Even as the aggressor, I found myself surprised by the lethality of such a seamless trajectory.
It was incredibly fast despite it being swung without the aid of mana.
A swift and precise swing—a flawless strike with not a wasted movement.
And at the end of the trajectory was Senior Neris’ shoulder.
A scream reverberated through the air, accompanied by a burst of blood.
Unfazed by her cries, I seized a handful of her wet, brown hair, lifting her face.
Tears were streaming down from her terror-stricken eyes.
“…Do not doubt me.”
My voice remained unsympathetic
Senior Neris frantically nodded as tears continued running down her face.
As I observed this scene, a realization crossed my mind—that untangling this misunderstanding would be difficult, at least for the time being.
Upon receiving the neutralizer for the anesthetic, my mind gradually cleared up, and the sluggish sensation in my body subsided. Pain, along with the other bodily senses, returned as I grimaced from the pain in my limbs.
Unfortunately, a piercing headache continued to assault me like a chisel trying to split open a rock—an unwelcome aftereffect of the anesthesia
Looking around, we were currently in what looked to be a conference room.
To my surprise, the Press Club’s building wasn’t limited to two stories; it also concealed a secret underground space.
Despite being underground, the area was well-lit thanks to the high-luminosity magic lamps placed around. These lamps, which cost several hundred gold each, was another sign of the imperial family’s wealth.
We were seated at a table large enough for dozens of people, with the seat of honor being placed at the center. Two rows of chairs flanked the table, leaving an intentional gap on either side of the main seat.
And naturally, I occupied the seat of honor.
Senior Neris had personally administered the neutralizer, and her hands were trembling as she slowly withdrew the syringe.
She looked quite pitiful as she gave off the musty smell of dirty mop water.
Her uniform bore tears and scorch marks, revealing glimpses of white skin beneath.
Despite the seemingly embarrassing appearance for a woman, I paid it no mind.
Instead, I saw an opportunity to instill fear, especially since they were the ones who had first messed with my people.
Looking around, the majority of the intelligence agents were in ragged states. Only those who had hastily responded to the abrupt summons remained unscathed, but even they were standing around nervously.
It was understandable, given that I had single-handedly razed their academy branch.
Even Senior Neris, hailed as their strongest member, was helpless before me.
On the contrary, even in the current situation, the boys’ eyes subtly drifted towards Senior Neris’ exposed skin, openly displaying a desire to get a glimpse of her more private parts.
Senior Neris seemed increasingly humiliated by their lecherous stares, but my mind was occupied with a different concern.
Why were the Imperial Intelligence agents so inept at concealing their emotions? They screamed obnoxiously just from a slight cut from a hatchet, and even arrogantly let down their guards to boast after incapacitating their opponent.
It was aggravating. Even though they weren’t official agents, their behavior irritated me. And so, my voice unintentionally took on a cold tone.
“Lower your eyes.”
Several of them appeared startled and immediately lowered their gazes.
Senior Neris also seemed restless, her anxiety reaching a point where it seemed impossible for her to be more nervous.
The competency of the members rested entirely on the branch head.
Her trembling intensified as my irritation grew.
Although I wanted to speak, I refrained, aware that they would dismiss it as nosy criticism from someone with no experience in the intelligence field.
Instead, I heaved a sigh and cut to the chase.
“…You guys sure have been enjoying yourselves, messing with the people around me.”
Fear crept into the eyes of the Press Club members.
Senior Neris stuttered, trying to come up with an excuse.
“Uh, that… Her Imperial Highness requested us to…”
“Which is exactly why I came here.”
I shifted my gaze to her.
She lowered her head, not daring to meet my gaze.
There was no need for further words. I delivered an ultimatum.
“…Don’t poke your nose where it doesn’t belong unless you want me coming after you again. I’m letting you off with this much today since there’s something I need you to do for me.”
Senior Neris and the rest of the Press Club turned deathly pale.
They were undoubtedly aware of my notoriety, and they understood that I would act according to my infamous reputation if they ignored my warning.
At that moment, a voice reached my ears.
“T-Then, what about the imperial princess…”
It was one of the intelligence agents, but as soon as I looked at him, he promptly fell silent.
He had likely just realized just how absurd his question was.
Bearers of the Dragonblood Script functioned as the emperor’s proxy. Whether it was the Princess, the Crown Prince, or the Second Imperial Princess, who were vying for the throne, my orders held precedence over theirs.
My words carried the weight of the emperor’s will—such was the authority bestowed by the Dragonblood Script.
That was also why I felt a cold sweat breaking out.
Impersonating the emperor’s proxy wasn’t a mere personal transgression; its consequences would extend far beyond.
At first, I had only intended to cautiously observe the unfolding situation, but in my dazed state, I inadvertently uttered words I couldn’t retract.
It still puzzled me.
My actions during the anesthesia-induced haze were uncharacteristic. They weren’t something I would normally do.
Above all, the refined movement I displayed while hacking Senior Neris’ shoulder with the hatchet was qualitatively different from my usual swings.
However, resolving these uncertainties had to wait. I wondered if I was absorbing not only the memories but also the experiences of my future self.
Having somewhat organized my thoughts, I redirected my gaze to Senior Neris.
“And Neris, investigate matters related to ‘procession’, ‘tunnel’, and ‘dragon’s eye’.”
She looked at me dubiously at my sudden order.
‘Procession’, ‘tunnel’, and ‘dragon’s eye’.
They were all keywords mentioned in the love letter from the future. Well, to be precise, the last one seemed to be from a note left by my future self.
As of now, I had no idea what any of them meant. That being the case, I simply had to entrust the task to an information specialist. And well, what do you know! Since an intelligence group happened to fall into my hands, it only made sense to utilize them.
She continued to stare at me, stupefied. However, as I stared back silently, she flinched and lowered her head.
Her quivering eyes and clasped hands betrayed her emotions.
What I had said earlier was likely to be replaying in her mind.
‘Do not doubt me.’
Immediately, she bowed her head even lower.
“I-I’ll follow your orders… Um, may I ask for your name…?”
Judging from her subtle glances in my direction, she seemed to be half-certain that ‘Ian Percus’ was merely an alias. Given the assumption that I was close enough to the emperor to receive the Dragonblood Script, her skepticism was reasonable. After all, it was virtually impossible for the second son of some rural viscount to rise to the position of the emperor’s close confidant.
It was a question I had anticipated, and so, I had a response ready.
“…Just call me Ian.”
Although it might have sounded like I was drawing a line, resorting to using an alias to smooth over the current situation wasn’t exactly an ideal solution either.
“Y-Yes! Sir Ian, u-um… who should we report to regarding today…?”
This was an important question.
The emperor stood at the apex of the Imperial Intelligence’s reporting hierarchy. Therefore, it was only natural that any events substantial enough to warrant the use of the Dragonblood Script would reach his ears.
As such, it was crucial that I at least stall the report from reaching him, even if I couldn’t fully prevent it.
I deliberately put on a cold expression and said,
“Isn’t such information usually reported to someone of higher rank?”
In other words, I was advising them against reporting to someone of a lower rank than me.
Senior Neris, perceptive as ever, immediately grasped the underlying intentions.
“Yes sir, as you will…”
Granted, she most likely wasn’t being sincere.
Her body betrayed her nervousness, and the bead of sweat trickling down her forehead was a testament to her fear.
Thinking that this much was sufficient, I silently stood up to leave the room when a thought crossed my mind.
“I’ll say it again. Don’t mess with the people around me… Take care of it properly, understood?”
The Press Club members hastily rose from their seats and bowed.
Satisfied, I moved my feet.
Now that I had done this much, there shouldn’t be anyone bold enough to harass Leto and Emma for a while.
The following day, I looked over the daily news published by the Press Club.
I found myself momentarily speechless.
“…What is up with this crappy headline?”
After what seemed like an eternity, that was the only thing I could say.
I seriously considered paying the Press Club another visit.
You can rate this series here.