49 – 49. Royal Banquet (3)
With the monorail destroyed, the locomotives came to a halt one after another.
As a result, they had to endure the inconvenience of hastily moving to carriages hastily acquired for transportation.
“I will take the next carriage. Please, let the lady and the Duke go first.”
Alexis stepped back with a bright smile.
What’s he talking about?
The unexpected favor from the Crown Prince raised questions.
Soon, the reason for Alexis declining the offer of a ride became apparent. Rudmila, too, blushed like an apple at the sudden unexpected courtesy.
“What are you saying…! Oh, it’s a misunderstanding!”
“Don’t be so surprised. I’m not fifteen anymore. I may not be as wise as you two, but I understand reason now.”
The younger brother showed a humble understanding in response to his sister’s flustered reaction.
It seemed like they misunderstood the relationship between Rudmila and me.
Well, it’s not entirely unreasonable to think that way.
The scandal with the Second Princess must have been widely known in the prosperous country. If they heard about the scandal, assuming a romantic relationship between Rudmila and me was only natural, even if it was a misunderstanding due to fake news.
“Your Highness, the carriage is ready.”
Commander Malbert arrived with a new carriage.
Upon this, Alexis shook hands and boarded the newly requisitioned carriage with the commander.
In the face of the unnecessarily perceptive Crown Prince’s actions, Rudmila and I stiffened, unable to agree or deny.
They hesitated even to meet each other’s gaze.
They couldn’t even move their steps.
If they boarded the carriage like this, it would be seen as evidence confirming the misunderstanding of the Crown Prince. Ludmila must hesitate, knowing that.
“As expected, the rumors were true.”
“Hmm, let’s quietly support the princess.”
Unbelievably, there were numerous people gathered at the scene.
Around ten maids who looked after Ludmila.
Even military forces gathered to investigate the bombing at the monorail.
Even the railway employees summoned to the platform were observing the situation.
I wish there were a mouse hole to crawl into.
It felt like hundreds of people were watching an intimate confession scene.
But they couldn’t delay the schedule like this.
They had to quickly board the carriage and move to make up for the delayed schedule.
In the end, with reluctance, they gathered the courage to board the carriage with the princess.
Instinctively, they felt the concentrated gaze of numerous people, but they deliberately moved their steps.
“S-sorry… Alec spoke without thinking.”
Ludmila, sitting across from them, spoke in a soothing voice.
She shrugged her shoulders with a wry smile.
With a clunking sound, the carriage began to move.
They and Ludmila didn’t exchange any words.
Only awkward silence lingered.
Because even meeting each other’s gaze was burdensome, they looked out the window.
Those inexperienced in love could only hope to arrive quickly by exchanging glances.
* * *
The monorail on which the princess and the crown prince had boarded came to a halt.
Subsequently, a series of unfortunate events occurred, such as a mysterious fire in the imperial territory directly managed by the Valtaria royal family.
The deeds of an impure faction were evident.
The Valterian Empire first identified the heretics as their prime suspects.
Had they not committed the audacious crime of invading the Hwangsung and setting ablaze the imperial capital?
In response to the report that Ludmila and Alexis were almost in danger as they rode the train to the capital, Emperor Barbarossa declared a state of emergency.
“How dare those vultures!”
Hadn’t they already exterminated the heretics who had previously invaded the empire?
Yet, the worshipers of the forgotten god persisted like a persistent venom, once again manifesting their malice.
Come as you please.
I will make you pay with rivers of blood.
The resolute and just Emperor remained unyielding even in the face of successive attacks. Instead, he vowed to exact the most ruthless revenge for the recent humiliation.
“The casualties in the recent disasters were minor, perhaps aided by divine intervention.”
“Hmm, do you think so?”
Although ominous disasters had occurred simultaneously, the damage was minimal.
Barbarossa found this suspicious.
Whenever the heretics’ faction caused a disaster, it was always followed by numerous bloodshed.
It was undoubtedly the handiwork of the cowardly, inconspicuous troublemakers.
After much contemplation, the Emperor suspected the long-dormant traitors within the empire. Given the deteriorating situation caused by the heretics’ faction, the possibility of a sabotage operation was high.
“Your Majesty, what will you do about the nobles who have gathered at Hwangsung? Surely the nobles have also received the news.”
“There will be no cancellation. The event will proceed as scheduled.”
Many nobles had come to participate in the Emperor’s regular hunting and banquet, totaling more than 50 people.
They were all prominent central nobles who had achieved numerous accomplishments.
They were afraid that holding the event forcibly might lead to a disaster.
However, Barbarossa intended to proceed without showing any weakness to the cowards causing chaos behind the scenes.
It was a decision worthy of the resolute and stubborn Emperor.
“Your Majesty, Prince Alexis and Princess Ludmila have arrived.”
“Bring them in at once!”
After a brief delay in their arrival, Alexis and Ludmila entered the Hwangsung.
Barbarossa welcomed them with a nod.
“Are you well, my son?”
“At last, our Crown Prince has returned!”
The son who had entered the prestigious Imperial Theological University returned in just six months. The Emperor welcomed the noticeably matured Crown Prince with outstretched arms.
Such a welcoming had never been seen before in the history of the Imperial Palace.
Just as he treated his daughters exceptionally, the Emperor treated his only son in the same manner.
Rudmila, who entered with them, looked at the scene with a pleased smile.
“Yes, have you also entered, my boy!”
“…I have arrived in the capital in response to Your Majesty’s summons.”
Barbarosa, who had embraced Alexis as if he were a newborn baby, now faced Edanant and Rudmila as they entered together.
An awkward situation unfolded.
The Emperor, unable to hide his confusion, reluctantly set the Crown Prince down.
Why did he summon me only to be upset himself? Could it be paranoia?
Edanant inwardly complained about Barbarosa, who was overtly cautious in her presence.
“Did Your Highness not summon Sage Edanant to the palace?”
“Well, I did…”
Barbarosa felt frustration as her second daughter defended the troublemaker. Rudmila showed no intention of hiding her true feelings, openly displaying a displeased expression.
Just as a suitor appeared, everything changed like this.
The daughter who had revered her father was no more. Pushed aside to second place, Barbarosa now cast a more severe gaze at Edanant.
“I will accompany the nobles on the hunt! The Sage of the Hohenberg family shall oversee the provision of supplies!”
“I will serve Your Majesty with all my heart.”
Is this to catch a thief?
Or perhaps a deliberate attempt to embarrass in front of the nobles…
It seemed highly likely.
Edanant harbored suspicions about the Emperor’s intention to bring him to the hunting grounds. The Emperor’s actions were not easily understood, especially considering the current situation where noble ladies were reluctant to participate in the hunt.
As Alexis, who had been silently listening, requested to accompany, Barbarosa reluctantly nodded her head, expressing concern for her son’s safety.
The scoundrel who took away her daughters, raised like golden autumn leaves, could die immediately, for all she cared. But her son, the heir to the empire, was more precious than anything else, and his safety was her top priority.
* * *
Prince Alexis, who had departed for the Prosperous Kingdom, had finally returned.
The curtain of the stage was raised.
It was a golden opportunity to eliminate both the Emperor and the Crown Prince of the empire.
A gathering of unruly elements had congregated in the hideout, heightening the tension by threatening the Valtarian imperial family.
In a dark space obscured by dense shadows, numerous individuals exchanged sinister whispers.
“The damned emperor seems to be proceeding with the hunt as planned.”
“He’s truly unmatched in arrogance.”
While the hand of death loomed over them.
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Nevertheless, the emperor persisted in carrying out the hunt and revelry.
Did he consider himself an immortal being?
The tyrant who had sacrificed numerous lives as mere pawns was truly an arrogant figure.
“Let’s take down the emperor in the hunting ground! The nobles who promised support will participate in the hunt, won’t they?”
“The empire’s Crimson Dragon won’t stay quiet. There have been numerous attempts so far, but all have failed because of the Crimson Dragon.”
The Crimson Dragon of the empire.
Rudmila Drague Valtaria.
Where were the nobles who were exposed and executed by her?
The Crimson Dragon had to be excluded.
The outcome of life and death depended on it, to say the least.
“But Princess Rudmila is the Seven Rivers of the Nation! How did she manage to exclude the monster comparable to the hero Maxmillian!”
Were the numerous nobles who were executed for treason simply foolish and unsuccessful?
It was because they couldn’t do anything about Rudmila.
Despite mobilizing numerous conspiracies, they couldn’t deceive the guardian dragon of the Valtarian imperial family. Instead, tragedies repeated themselves as they were executed after being exposed due to their resentment.
Therefore, those planning the rebellion first thought of a strategy to exclude Rudmila.
“They claim to have a way to exclude the Crimson Dragon. It seems they intend to confine it in a barrier. If Rudmila disappears, even the Valtaria Ten Swords, who are the Crimson Dragon’s kin, will lose their strength!”
An elderly man, his identity concealed by a black curtain, spoke.
Those people –
At those words, everyone present swallowed hard.
It was to condemn the Valtarian imperial family that had repeated bloodshed and oppression.
However, the option of rallying the masses who worshipped the forgotten god seemed too extreme. Thus, even as the day of the conspiracy approached, a decision could not be made.
“Why hesitate? Those who have undertaken justice have not lost their determination against the tyrant! And yet, do you still hesitate on means and methods?”
It was absurd.
Was conscience more important than the desire for revenge?
The elderly man strongly reprimanded the vacillating aspect of those who had planned rebellion.
And, if it meant putting an end to the cruel and ruthless emperor, he declared that he would join hands even with the demons of hell.
“Yes, I will join as well!”
“If we can kill the butcher emperor…! If we can take revenge for our fathers…!!”
Tears of vengeance flowed.
And a voice filled with hatred and anger was unleashed.
Kill the emperor.
End the Valtarian imperial family.
Our desire is the realization of revenge. Nothing else matters.
Whether the forgotten god-worshipping masses engulf the empire or greedy nobles tear the empire apart.
“We, blessed by the protection of the Disaster God, have decided to cooperate!”
The Disaster God is a malicious deity in stark contrast to the creator god to which the earth goddess belongs.
It gains strength through death and chaos.
Thus, the mines who worship the Disaster God boasted an unstoppable force.
They were on a different level from the mines who had attacked Princess Elizaveta. If they were mines blessed by the Disaster God, they would undoubtedly resolve a long-standing issue.
“But if they betray us….”
“Even if they do, I will accept it! As long as we can kill the emperor!”
Excessive vengeance always tends to evoke extreme convictions.
Imperial rebels, hidden in the darkness, blindly cried out for revenge, just like the fanatical cult forces who hated the Valtarian Empire.
They would unleash the divine status of the Disaster God into the empire.
They had accepted the proposal of the cult faction, like themselves, that harbored resentment against the Valtarian Empire.
All for the purpose of killing the emperor.
The avengers of the empire believed it was a decision made with their resolute will. However, even before becoming avengers, they had been manipulated by the mines who worshipped the Disaster God.
Hence, the pitiful and foolish avengers had fallen into the abyss of self-destruction.