༺ Imperial City (1) ༻
The sphere landed on a corpse’s chest.
No one in the room was stupid enough to not know what that meant.
Twilight was a tracking art, meant for tracking the missing people.
…In other words, those corpses were the missing people.
Vera asked a question in response to what Rohan said just a moment ago.
“…Do you know her?”
“I do. No. Do I? Should I say I know her?”
Rohan ran a shaky hand over his face and took a deep breath.
It was definitely a face he recognized. How could he forget? She was one of the most beautiful women he had ever met in his life.
Pale pinkish hair, droopy eyes with long eyelashes, a sharp nose and full lips.
All of it was still fresh in Rohan’s mind.
Why did her face appear on these corpses? And why was Twilight pointing towards them?
It was too confusing. Nothing could be inferred from the revealed evidence alone.
And so, in the midst of Rohan’s trembling gaze…
Albrecht took a step forward. In his hand was Pure Blood, which he had unsheathed.
“Excuse me for a moment.”
After saying that, the Prince raised his sword high in the air and slashed the corpse’s chest.
Albrecht’s eyes sank. Rohan was about to shout at his rash actions, but when he looked in the direction Albrecht had pointed at, he held his breath.
What he saw was an empty chest. All the organs have been removed, leaving only bone and skin.
“The slash felt different. It definitely felt like cutting through a person, but… there was something different. Now I know why. It was empty like this…”
Renee shuddered at the words that she heard.
Vera soothed Renee by putting his hand over Renee’s, which was trembling slightly.
Albrecht spoke again.
“Something else is strange. None of us noticed that they were in here until we came inside. It’s the same after we came in. I only noticed their existence because those bastards threw their knives.”
Vera stopped moving.
Certainly, as Albrecht said, he did not feel anything until he came inside.
Considering that the corpses were lifeless, it made sense they were unable to sense them.
“As the Apostle of Guidance seems to know their faces, I would like to go out and hear more about it in detail. What do you think? We won’t see a good sight if we stay here any longer.”
Vera glanced at the mangled corpses, then turned away.
“Let’s go, Saint.”
As he led Renee out, Vera had a hunch.
This wasn’t just a simple disappearance case. Something else was going on, something more profound and sinister.
They returned to the Count’s mansion.
The group gathered in the reception room and focused on Rohan’s words, who still had a confused expression on his face.
“So… it was eight years ago. I delivered Marie’s letter to the Count and since it was during the festival, I decided to take a look around. I stayed in the Empire for about one or two months.”
“Did you fool around while on duty?”
“Ahh, Marie! That’s not the point.”
Rohan flinched and Marie clicked her tongue.
“Okay, we’ll talk about that later. Continue your story.”
“Whoo… Anyways. Anna was a girl I met at the festival. I was drinking alone at an outdoor bar in the night market, then she came up to me.”
Rohan rambled on, recalling the events on that day.
“Well, it was a festival. The atmosphere was very nice. Anyways, I hung out with her for the rest of the festival, and that was it. I haven’t heard from her since then. But…”
What in the world did he see in the slums?
Rohan’s frown sank deeper as he failed to come up with an answer.
As Albrecht listened, he scrunched up his brows in thought and made a guess.
“What if those bodies have already been in the Empire since then? What if the woman the Apostle met back then was already a corpse…”
“No, I didn’t. I’m sure of it.”
Rohan answered with a hesitant expression, then he let out a sigh and continued.
“…Back then, Anna definitely had her organs.”
“How do you know that?”
Rohan’s jaw clenched, and an embarrassed expression slowly crept over his stern face.
Seeing the look on his face, Marie frowned and clicked her tongue.
“Oh, you couldn’t keep it in, could you?”
“…Your choice of words.”
“Ew, you vulgar bastard. It’s a fortunate thing you still don’t have a kid while fooling around like that!”
Rohan cowered at Marie’s nagging. Albrecht was blushing and he looked curious. The Count covered his face with his hand.
The atmosphere grew quiet.
Renee, who had been silently listening to the conversation, pondered and blushed bright red when she finally realized what they were talking about.
“….Calm down, Saint.”
“Yeah, yep, yep…!”
The serious mood was overturned at once. For some reason, an awkward air floated through the space.
Marie crossed her arms and looked around, but then she broke into a smirk.
“I just said that to lift up the mood. At times like this, we need to get our acts together and discuss this! Did you pick up anything, my husband?”
Count Baishur stroked his beard and contemplated.
“Well, now we know that the culprit is not a noble. As far as I know, none of the nobles are capable of such magic.”
“Maybe they’ve hired a mage?”
“It’s impossible. As long as the Magic Tower is guarding the Capital, any magic performed in the Capital will be investigated…”
The Count’s body shook. The same went for the others.
Albrecht let out a hollow laugh and spoke.
“…Speaking of which, the Magic Tower is directly above the slums, right?”
With those words, the air froze.
Albrecht glanced at the others, who were showing serious faces, then he continued talking.
“I’ll have to inform my brother about this.”
“The Crown Prince?”
“Yes, the Saint will also be visiting the Imperial Palace in two days, right?”
Albrecht smiled brightly.
“The timing is perfect. We’ll continue this talk in two days.”
Vera asked for Renee’s opinion on Albrecht’s suggestion.
“Are you okay with that?”
“Yes, let’s do that. I don’t have better ideas anyway.”
Albrecht nodded when Renee gave her permission.
“Great, I have a carriage sent from the Imperial Family since it’s so late. I’ll be taking my leave then. Everyone had a long day, so have a good rest.”
Albrecht left, followed by Count Baishur.
The only ones left were the four Apostles.
At the mention of the Magic Tower, something flashed through Renee’s mind.
“…Come to think of it, Trevor was from the Magic Tower.”
“Yes, it’s been twenty years, but he was a promising wizard back then and was even considered as a candidate to be the next Tower Master.”
“Why don’t we ask for his advice? If we send him a message, he should answer within ten days.”
“Aha! Yes, there’s that guy! I haven’t seen him for so long and completely forgot about him!.”
Marie responded lively. Rohan continued talking.
“I’ll send a letter, then. Oh, are there any Paladins coming for support?”
“It’s impossible. Sending troops in and out of another land’s capital could become a political issue if things go wrong.”
“Huh? Even when those dudes ask for help?”
“It’s the Imperial Family, not ‘those dudes’. Also, the Imperial Family is weak right now.”
“Eh, what does that mean? So, it’s okay if it’s us?”
“We’re a minority, and we have a proper cause, so we can’t be nitpicked at. Knowing that, just send him a letter. Are you staying up, Saint? It’s already so late.”
Renee took Vera’s hand and stood up.
As she walked out of the reception room, the same thought kept running through Renee’s mind.
She thought that energy from the corpses in the slums felt familiar.
Two days later, in front of the Imperial City1T/N: Note that this is not the same as the Imperial Palace. This is the ‘Fortress’ or ‘Castle’ surrounding the Imperial Palace..
Renee sighed heavily as she stepped out of the carriage, her face already showing signs of fatigue.
The reason was the robe that she was wearing. She was already exhausted from being dressed up by her attendants so early in the morning.
Renee took Vera’s hand and stepped out of the carriage, wondering.
‘Can we go back after meeting the Prince without any incident?’
“You did great.”
“No. Ah, by the way, are my clothes alright? It might have been rumpled because I was sitting.”
“Yes, you really look like a Saint, so you don’t have to worry at all.”
“That’s good, then.”
Renee began to walk with her cane.
“How is the Imperial City?”
“Like the library the other day, it’s all white. There are four boulevards branching out from the center of the Imperial City, and other buildings in between. The landscaping is also very nicely done, as expected of the Imperial City. White and green, with flowers in between, so it’s colorful everywhere.”
He continued on, but even Vera felt troubled.
The Imperial City was too big, and there were so many buildings inside.
How was he supposed to explain all of this?
As Vera was starting to feel troubled, Renee, who felt it, chuckled.
“You don’t have to tell me everything. I think I got the picture.”
A calm atmosphere surrounded them as they walked hand in hand.
They were just starting to feel at peace when a booming voice yelled at them from in front of them.
It was Albrecht’s voice. There were a dozen attendants behind him.
Albrecht smiled, folding his eyes that were glistening in the sunlight and revealing his white teeth before he spoke.
“Welcome to the Imperial Household! I am the Second Prince, Albrecht van Freich! Nice to meet you, Saint and Apostle!”
Renee bowed ceremoniously, realizing that this was her first official meeting with Albrecht.
“Nice to meet you, Prince.”
Albrecht felt a twinge in his chest when he saw Renee being polite to him.
That’s right! That’s how it should be! He had been treated badly even though he was the Second Prince!
He felt a little pent-up frustration, and his emotions grew stronger.
Albrecht’s body trembled slightly, and Vera frowned when he saw it.
The sound of steps echoed across the room.
Albrecht and Vera’s gazes turned toward the source of the sound at the same time. Their expression hardened as they saw who it was.
A sharp-looking young woman, her red curls whipping around her head as she walked from towards them from the interior.
Approaching them was the Master of the Magic Tower, who they believed to be the suspect in the disappearances.
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- 1T/N: Note that this is not the same as the Imperial Palace. This is the ‘Fortress’ or ‘Castle’ surrounding the Imperial Palace.