༺ Imperial City (2) ༻
“Your Highness, and…”
The Tower Master glanced at Vera and Renee.
The corners of her fiercely upturned eyes crinkled, and her red pupils widened.
“…the Saint. And the one next to you is an Apostle?”
The voice was filled with laughter. Renee bowed her head in response.
Even as she spoke, Renee felt goosebumps all over her body.
It wasn’t for any other reason. Renee could hear the youthful energy in the Tower Master’s voice. It felt very intentional.
The Tower Master was an old woman, supposedly one hundred and twenty years old this year. Such a voice overflowing with energy and youth should not have been heard from her.
Although she couldn’t see, Renee had a hunch that the Tower Master’s appearance wouldn’t be much different from her voice.
The question popped into her head, but her mind immediately began to put together a sinister answer as she recalled the events from two days ago.
It occurred to her that there must be some sinister secret hidden in the Tower Master’s youth.
Renee clenched her fists, trying to hide her trembling.
The Tower Master chuckled at the sight of Renee.
“You’re here to bless His Highness, aren’t you? I’ve heard the rumors.”
The Tower Master’s rolling gaze landed over Vera this time.
“I think it’s going to be a really big festival. Hmm, with the rumors spreading wide like this, I wonder how many people will come?”
Why did that sound ominous? Renee forced a smile on her face, trying to suppress the panic that was rising inside of her.
“I hope that the festival will be fun.”
“It should be. Ah, by the way, how’s Trevor doing?”
Renee’s shoulders shook.
“…Yes, I’m always getting help from him.”
“Glad to hear he’s doing well. Ah… what a shame. There was no other child as complete as him.”
What could be felt from her voice was deep regret.
“That child had a strong thirst for knowledge, and the ability to support it. Did you know? Magic can never be fully understood by theory alone. It requires a more fundamental understanding. A desire for the principles and laws that govern this world, and the skill to manifest that phenomenon into reality. None of those can be missing.”
The Tower Master’s voice grew more heated. A chuckle began to creep into her voice.
“That’s why I liked him. He certainly possessed all of those talents, with nothing lacking. He knew the fastest way to Providence. No, it doesn’t have to be fast, it can be slow. It’s okay if it takes more time.”
Her voice grew more heated, her excitement building up.
As her breathing became shorter between words, she started to become expressionless.
“He could have done it if it was him, if only he could’ve seen the distant truth. Why did the Gods have to give him a Stigma? Why did he have to leave? I don’t quite understand. I made him, cherished him, raised him, loved him, and guided him, but why can’t he see that…”
Albrecht’s interruption stopped the Tower Master.
Suddenly, the expressionless face, that became like a doll, started to come alive again.
Grinning, the Tower Master laughed.
“Was I too frivolous? I apologize. I feel regretful when I think of that child.”
Albrecht responded to the Tower Master with a smile, then asked.
“By the way, why did you come from inside the Palace?”
“I had something to discuss with the Crown Prince.”
The Tower Master covered her mouth and chuckled, then she straightened her back and continued speaking.
“Well then, I’ll be going now. I know you have some business, did I hold you up too long?”
“No, take care of yourself.”
“That’s good. Bye, then.”
The Tower Master walked away.
Vera, who had remained silent until now, could see the Tower Master’s eyes warped into a smile as she walked past him.
The sound of her footsteps became distant.
Silence fell over them.
It was only after Albrecht was fed up with the mood of everyone around him that the silence ended, and the conversation continued.
“…I thought she was just an unusual person, but now that I’ve seen her, something suspicious is definitely going on.”
His uncharacteristically sunken eyes stared at the spot where the Tower Master had disappeared.
“Let’s go, my brother should be waiting.”
Albrecht turned and strode into the palace.
Renee held Vera’s hand tightly, and for some reason, she felt like she was about to get sick.
The Tower Master’s laugh was still ringing inside her head.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you.”
A deep voice echoed as soon as they entered the reception room. Vera shifted his gaze to where the voice came from.
Standing there was a well-built man.
He was of a similar physique as Vera, with bright blond hair that went down to his shoulders. He had a sharp expression like an eagle, and his eyes glowed the same gold as his hair.
Crown Prince Maximillian van Freich.
The future Emperor, who he never met in his past life.
As Vera reminisced about meeting him, he bowed his head in greeting, followed by Renee.
“Nice to meet you.”
“Please have a seat.”
He gestured towards the table at their greeting.
As Vera sat at the table, holding Renee’s hand, Maximilian, who was sitting across from them, spoke to Renee.
“How’s life in the Empire? Has everything been comfortable so far?”
Renee’s body shuddered, then she answered with a smile.
“Yes, it’s a safe place, so I’m comfortable.”
It was a short answer. As Renee continued to listen to his voice, Renee realized that the Crown Prince was a blunt man.
‘Not like the Prince.’
Unlike the energetic and lively Albrecht, he was a deeply subdued man.
‘He doesn’t seem too concerned with etiquette.’
He might just be impatient. She was immediately led to her seat, omitting almost all of the noble etiquette that she learned.
How can two brothers be so different? Renee thought.
“Okay, let’s cut to the chase.”
He said, without introducing himself.
Renee nodded awkwardly, an odd feeling creeping in.
“I’ve heard the story from my brother. You’re suspecting the Magic Tower to be behind the disappearances, right?”
“Yes, I would appreciate it if we could start an investigation right away…”
“I’m sorry, but that’s not possible.”
Words of rejection came out of his mouth. At that, bewilderment washed over Renee’s face at his sudden words.
Maximilian studied her expression for a while, then spoke.
“The Imperial Family can’t help you. We also can’t make this public. We don’t want any unnecessary friction now that the festival is right around the corner.”
“Unnecessary friction, is that how you see it?”
Renee’s expression hardened as she clenched her fists at Maximilian’s words.
“Are you saying that this is unnecessary when the people of the Capital are going missing, and we still don’t know who’s behind it?”
“There will be no disappearances for the time being. If the Tower Master has some sense of awareness, she will stay hidden for now.”
“So you’re just going to stand by and watch?”
“It would do more harm than good.”
Maximilian’s gaze pierced Renee. He studied Renee silently, with the eyes of a predator stalking its prey, then he pursed his lips.
“If we launch a public investigation now, all we’ll get is the whereabouts of a missing person and conflict. Creating such conflict so close to the festival will not be good for the market. If the market shrinks during the festival, the losses will fall on my people.”
“Aren’t the missing people also your citizens?”
“A small portion of them.”
Suddenly, Renee smiled bitterly.
“So you’re going to turn a blind eye, is that right? At the very least, that’s not the duty that I know of.”
“Duty… that’s a complicated word. I sympathize with the Saint’s perspective, but I believe this is the right decision.”
“At the very least, my duty exists for the majority.”
Renee stopped moving.
“I don’t know what your duty is, but I believe in the duty for the majority. I believe that’s the duty of a ruler. So, the Imperial Family cannot help you. We also can’t publicize this.”
Had she come all this way to hear those words?
At that thought, a look of anger began to form on Renee’s face, but Albrecht spoke up with a wide smile on his face.
“When you say it like that, Brother, the Saint will misunderstand.”
“She could interpret it as ‘I’m not going to do anything for you, so just go’.”
He groaned and it sounded a little foolish.
At that, Renee’s face crumpled bizarrely. The same went for Vera.
Vera felt a déjà vu for some reason as he listened to the brothers’ conversation.
It reminded him of some people who were guarding the gates of the Holy Kingdom at this very moment.
Vera shook off the thought.
After thinking about it, that might have been rather harsh, and he felt slightly guilty.
“…Can you tell us what you’re talking about?”
Albrecht replied to Renee’s question with his trademark bright smile.
“It’s difficult for my Brother to give you help from the Imperial Family and with the publicity, but he can give you something else. That’s what he wanted to say. Hmm, it’s in the same context when he said that the Tower Master would remain down-low for a while. I’m sorry, my brother does not talk very much.”
“I apologize if there was a misunderstanding.”
Suddenly, Renee felt a surge of embarrassment for flying into a rage.
She thought of something.
‘…For some reason.’
Those two, don’t they look like the twins?
It was the exact same thought that Vera just had.
The only difference was that, unlike Vera, Renee didn’t feel guilty.
Renee brushed the thought aside and asked a question.
“How exactly are you planning to help?”
“We’re going to infiltrate the Magic Tower.”
“We are infiltrating the Magic Tower. During that time, my brother will call for the Tower Master and restrain her.”
Albrecht added with a playful tone.
“We’re not doing it right away. We have to prepare for it, am I right?”
Renee gave a small nod, then asked a question that had been on her mind.
“Is that even possible? The Magic Tower, Aurillac, is in the sky. We would not be able to enter without permission…”
“We can just dig and climb up.”
For a moment, Albrecht felt superior over Renee, and he continued haughtily.
“We’re going to dig from the ground and climb up. We won’t be caught if we use physical methods.”
Albrecht’s golden eyes flared into half-moons. His white teeth glimmered as he smiled.
Renee paused to consider Albrecht’s words.
Dig from the ground and climb up the Magic Tower in the sky.
Easier said than done, but….
“The floor will also be floating in the sky. Are you an idiot, Prince?”
Flying alone was already a problem, so what nonsense was he spouting?
As Renee voiced out her thoughts, Albrecht stiffened.
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