༺ Eyes of a Dragon and the Human Heart (27) ༻
Senior Neris’s body disintegrated as if crumbling away.
It was a strange stealth technique as if blending with the shadows. As such, with my permission, Senior Neris left the scene.
I had heard most of the information I needed anyway.
Of course, I had missed the intel about the ‘Eyes of the Dragon.’ However, it wouldn’t hurt to receive that information along with the additional investigation results regarding the ‘tunnel.’
After all, the information that was truly crucial was when the incident would occur.
Speaking of the ‘Homecoming Festival,’ it was an event that was less than a week away. In other words, time was running out.
With a timeframe now established, it was time to start preparations.
The Homecoming Festival’s procession was massive. It made sense to think that the Dark Order would deploy a similarly large force of demonic beasts to oppose it.
The larger the scale of the two opposing forces, the higher the risk of casualties.
At this point, cancelling the Homecoming Festival or preventing the attack in advance was impossible. So, there was only one solution.
To minimise the damage, all available forces needed to be mobilised and the procession’s security had to be reinforced.
The problem was that I lacked both the authority and a reasonable basis for the academy to accept my proposal.
It was a difficult situation.
A sigh involuntarily escaped my lips.
Anyway, I wasn’t always one to have all the answers, but it was really frustrating to be caught off guard like this every time such a situation arose.
Still, I decided to put those worries aside for now.
There was no point in pondering over it right now, as the answer wouldn’t come easily, and I had another immediate problem to deal with.
After a brief silence, my eyes shifted to the side.
Two women were standing there.
Fifth Princess Cien, a girl with hair as dark as the night sky and light grey eyes.
And a woman who appeared to be the Princess’s escort knight. She, too, was a memorable beauty with mysterious blue hair.
When our eyes met, the two of them had different reactions.
Cien stiffened for a moment, then glared at me with a cold look in her eyes.
In contrast, the female knight was nervously biting her lips, avoiding my gaze. It looked like her memory of being defeated by the ‘future me’ had left a bitter taste.
It wasn’t surprising, after all. A member of the Imperial Guard being subdued by a mere academy student?
It wouldn’t be strange for her to become a laughingstock.
At first glance, it was evident that her self-esteem had taken a significant hit. I wanted to offer some comforting words, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it.
Even though I considered myself a distinct entity from the ‘future me’, it was clear the other person didn’t share this view.
So the only thing that came out of my mouth was a blunt question.
“…Is there a problem?”
Cien, hearing my voice, scrutinised my face closely.
Then, her eyes narrowed slightly in surprise, before replying in a cold tone.
“Aren’t you the least bit bothered after chopping into a frail woman’s shoulder?”
Her words left me baffled and I couldn’t help but chuckle.
The Imperial Intelligence Agency of itself was a secretive organisation. Furthermore, stealth and infiltration missions were part of their daily routine.
Undergoing torture tolerance training was essential, both to withstand torture and to prepare for any other worst-case scenarios.
However, recalling the last fight with the Press Club did make me a bit uneasy. Didn’t every one of them scream every time their joints got crushed?
It wasn’t the kind of behaviour you’d expect from a normal Intelligence Agent.
But as for enduring something as minor as a skin cut, even trainees should have some resistance.
If Senior Neris’s screams weren’t an act but real, it would mean she never went through any torture tolerance training with the Imperial Intelligence Agency.
An Imperial Intelligence agent screaming and blowing their cover just because they got pricked by a thorn during an infiltration mission?
It was absurd. As I pondered this, an eerie feeling of discomfort briefly wiped the smile off my face.
Torture and screams, huh…
There was a nagging feeling in my brain, an uncomfortable sensation akin to a stream being split by a rock.
But I couldn’t afford to get lost in thought with the Princess’s icy stare on me.
I responded nonchalantly.
“There are even Imperial Family members who harass the second son of a mere countryside Viscount, so what’s the big deal?”
“You are the one who insulted me first…!”
Her trembling voice was a testament to the Princess’s anger.
Indeed, as a hidden flower of the Imperial Family, her beauty was undeniable, but it did not particularly move me.
Perhaps it was because I’ve been surrounded by so many beauties recently.
Starting from Celine, There was the Saintess, Seria, Senior Elsie, Senior Delphine, and even Emma.
Each of them was a woman boasting exceptional beauty.
Of course, that didn’t mean the Princess’s beauty faded in comparison; it was just that my heart had already been tempered.
In response to my still indifferent reaction, the Princess narrowed her eyes even further and inquired.
“…Who in the world is backing you? A Prince. If not, a Princess? Who is supporting you to make you so confident?”
“There is no one… All my actions are determined by me alone.”
Because my answer contained not a shred of falsehood, the Princess’s eyes became filled with even deeper suspicion.
That was natural, as there was no Prince or Princess backing me.
If anything, since I was bestowed Dragonblood Script, the Emperor himself could be considered my backer. But this was something that pertained to the ‘future me’, so it was a fact I couldn’t reveal to the Princess at this moment.
I began to walk away slowly.
It was about time for me to leave. There was no particular reason to stay with the Princess and her escort.
Moreover, there were far too many urgent matters to attend to immediately.
To reduce the bloodshed at the Homecoming Festival, I knew I had to act promptly.
However, leaving without a word seemed inappropriate, so I stopped as I passed by the Princess.
“…It would be best for you to be careful in the future.”
My whisper might have come across like an unexpected provocation.
Perhaps I even hoped it would be taken that way. The more cautious the Princess became, the stronger her guard would likely be.
Currently, the Princess was my top priority for protection.
The ‘future me’ had deliberately provoked the Princess by sprinkling holy water on her. My future self, despite having a foul temper, wasn’t the type to provoke someone without a good reason.
To put it differently, it meant there must have been a valid reason for his actions.
I chose to trust his judgement. That was why I provoked the Princess once more.
And the effect was truly remarkable.
“Who do you think you are?”
She said in a clipped voice.
It carried an oddly excited tone.
A subtle gleam began to emerge in the Princess’s pale grey eyes. It was a change that was hard to discern, but upon closer inspection, it became apparent.
Her pupils were elongating vertically.
“Who do you think you are… to worry about me genuinely and give me sincere advice? I am a Princess of the Empire! I am not someone to be pitied by the likes of a second son of a countryside Viscount!”
Her blazing eyes glared at me as if to kill. If emotions were capable of physical force, my face would have already been scratched a hundred times over.
“…Do I look weak to you?”
The question she uttered while trembling, carried profound emotions. It seemed my words had struck a vulnerable chord in her.
That was why she’s all hunched up and defensive.
Unaware that she seemed even more vulnerable in doing so.
The Princess struggled to rein in her overwhelming emotions.
Her initial unease which started as a mere quiver and gradually intensified. Then, on the contrary, it actually subsided, leaving her strangely composed.
Her cold eyes turned towards me.
They looked like they were stripped of all emotion. There was nothing reflected on her retinas as if she was staring into nothingness.
And all she offered was a smile, void of any warmth.
“So now that you got one over on me, you think you own the academy, huh? You’re wrong… The real world is out there.”
With a single step, she came closer, almost plastering herself onto me.
Her sweet scent tickled my nose. With a deep yet venomous look, the Princess gazed up at me.
It was alluring yet lethal.
“Your younger sister… is quite pretty. Her future seems quite promising, doesn’t it?’
Her words were laced with a mocking sneer.
With a faint smile, the Princess continued to speak.
“It’s not just your sister. All those connected to you… just wait and see what they’ll face outside the academy. I’ll make them pay the price of you daring to look down on me… Though, who knows, maybe it won’t be so bad for your sister?”
A snicker escaped her lips.
“As long as she’s pretty, she won’t have to worry about making a living. Especially if she’s of noble birth, even the red-light district would welco…”
I sighed deeply.
My indifferent tone actually seemed to bewilder the Princess more.
She slightly furrowed her brow in perplexity.
I gazed at the Princess silently for a while.
It was difficult to say whether the look was one of pity or sadness.
I opened my lips to say something but eventually gave up on the conversation.
At that moment, when a more intense hostility filled the Princess’s eyes…
My hand moved towards my waist and the eyes of the female knight standing beside the Princess widened.
Then like a flash of light.
A hatchet aimed at the Princess’s shoulder.
And Cien’s eyes turned blank with shock.
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