Huge thanks to Curufin san for the kofis! (5/10)
“…Why should I be conscious of the servants’ mood? Who’s the owner of this castle?
“Of course, Your Grace is the flawless Duke of Ventiark, but it will cause rumours…”
“Jared. If this happened in a normal Duchy, I wouldn’t have to appease the servant’s mood and send the slave out, but the servants would instead look out for the slave’s mood? Isn’t that so?”
The butler couldn’t refute that statement.
Indeed, if there was a rumour that someone was favoured by the Duke, everyone would run over and pretend to be close to her.
However, everyone was reluctant to do so as Ellier is the first slave they have seen in Ventiark Castle.
“The rumors that the Ventiark family has lost its means for a livelihood. Was this incident due to that rumor?”
“Oh, n–no, Your Grace! It’s my fault. Please give me another chance, I will definitely educate the servants well!”
“I’ll pretend that I wasn’t aware about this once. If I ever hear about this again, I’ll replace all the servants in the Castle.”
“I’ll take responsibility and ensure that this will never happen again.”
After dismissing him, Slarhan, who had to shut the butler’s mouth after Tariq, wondered why everyone kept talking about Ellier.
‘Although she is the first slave of the Ventiark Castle, I had never treated her like a slave in front of others, so why do they keep focusing on the fact that she is a slave?’
It was precisely because of that that made everyone pay attention to Ellier, but Slarhan who didn’t notice that fact.
Recently, the servants of Solen Palace felt like they were walking on thin ice whenever they saw the Emperor, who was in a bad mood.
It has been like that ever since a few months ago, after a new Imperial physician examined the Emperor because of a mild cold.
At first, the Emperor had thundered at that Imperial physician, but after calling for a few other Imperial physicians, he became absent minded, and started to empty bottles of alcohol regardless of the timing for a while.
Meanwhile, the most unexpected order from the Emperor was to bring from the secret location within the Imperial Palace, to the Ventiark estate, the headless body of Duke Irdel Ventiark.
Those who carried out the secret mission of assassinating the Duke of Ventiark were bewildered, and several officials were shocked to learn that the Duke of Ventiark’s body was actually in the Imperial Palace.
Someone even suspected that the Emperor had spoken drunkenly and leaked those words accidentally.
However, the Emperor did not issue any other orders, so rumors secretly circulated that if Slarhan Ventiark was not a fool, he would soon raise an army and seek revenge.
However, before the Ventiark estate could respond, the Emperor issued another strange order.
“Gather the Empress and Imperial concubines. I will inform them in advance of an important announcement that will be made during next year’s Spring Banquet.”
Everyone assumed that it was to declare his successor.
Unlike previous generations, who usually appointed the empress’s eldest son as the crown prince, the current Emperor had not yet decided a successor.
If his vassals recommended for him to appoint a Crown Prince or Crown Princess quickly in case of an emergency, he would become furious, and say, “Why are you mentioning the successor when I’m still well and healthy?”
However, after the Imperial physicians’ medical examinations, he seemed to have made up his mind to appoint a Crown Prince or Crown Princess, hence speculation arises that he has decided to choose a successor due to an abnormality in his health.
But he made a bomb-like announcement to his wives.
“I will designate the Imperial descendants and the children of the collateral lines, my nieces and nephews, as candidates for Emperor, and will appoint the most outstanding candidate as the Emperor. The contributions of the candidates will be assessed by ranking, and the highest overall ranked candidate will be designated Crown Prince or Crown Princess during the Mistletoe Festival in three years.”
The room was instantly engulfed in alarmed silence.
The Empress, who obviously believed that the child she bore would be conferred, was given a strike in the back of her head, and even the Imperial concubines who possessed half a chance were dissatisfied that the Emperor’s nieces and nephews were involved in this competition.
The Emperor, who had only been listening to their protests silently, suddenly called for the Imperial physician who examined him.
“Azelan of the Imperial Palace. Announce your diagnosis from a few months ago.”
At the Emperor’s order, the Imperial physician named Azelan sweated profusely as he spoke with difficulty.
“Ah, Your Majesty the Emperor… I am very sorry to say this… Your Majesty was born with infertility.”
“What, what did you just say?”
“There’s no way! It can’t be!”
The Emperor’s women, who were either pale and red hot, denied vehemently.
However, Azelan did not change his words in the face of their venomous words.
“This isn’t my sole diagnosis, but the unified opinion of the Imperial physicians as a whole.”
The Emperor scoffed at his wives after dismissing him.
“I had three wives, but not one of them was faithful.”
The Empress and Imperial concubines, who had been protesting loudly until just now, became honey-eating mute. In fact, the fact that they didn’t know each other had an affair made the shock greater.
But fortunately, the worst case scenario didn’t happen.
Rather than correcting the wrongs and punishing his wives for their infidelity, the Emperor chose to protect his dignity.
But it didn’t mean that nothing had changed.
“The Princes and Princesses shared no blood relations with me. I wouldn’t know if any of you had been with my younger brothers, so aren’t my nieces and nephews more likely to be my successor?”
The room became so quiet that you could hear a pin drop.
“So, stop talking nonsense and do as I tell you to. Then I will not punish you and those b*stards who do not know their father. Who knows? There might be someone that will succeed the throne, amongst the Princes and Princesses.”
After he finished speaking, the Emperor got up and left with a sombre smile.
In a sense, all of them should be prostrating at his feet in gratitude.
All three of the Emperor’s women had an affair, and at the end of the affair, they gave birth to children and raised them as descendants of the Imperial Family, but the Emperor did not pursue this matter.
But the Empress and Imperial concubines knew the Emperor well. He would never forgive any that hurt his self-esteem.
“The Emperor wants our children to fight and kill each other. And yet, he doesn’t want them to become the Emperor. Perhaps… he will try to make one of his nieces or nephews the Emperor.”
“If this type of confrontational method is used to select a successor, it would be justified even if someone from the collateral family line becomes the heir. He might support one his younger generation and instigate them to purge us and our children.”
“What a clever plan… he’ll receive praises for valuing ability before blood ties, all the while hiding his infertility and getting rid of the unforgivable children. As the Emperor, His Majesty has nothing to lose.”
“If so… Who would His Majesty have in mind to support as his successor…?”
“It must be the Slarhan of Ventiark. What other reason would there be in mind when he ordered for the body of the former Duke Ventiark to be delivered?”
The three women that committed the same crime and had fallen into the same crisis racked their brains anxiously.
If they worked together, a solution might come to them, but they couldn’t trust each other completely.
This is because, as the Emperor had mentioned, any descendants of the Imperial Family could attain victory, and there wasn’t any guarantee that the winner would leave the rest of the half-siblings alone. Eventually, the Empress, who reached a conclusion the fastest, rose from her seat.
“Let’s think of it simply. As His Majesty has said, this is the start of the race for succession. Amongst our children, one might come out on top. However, if there’s a situation that favours the collateral lines, let us unite together.”
The other two Imperial concubines looked at each other and nodded immediately.
“Okay. Let’s do that.”
Just like that, as the day’s activities ended, the Emperor finally sent an invitation to his nieces and nephews for a Spring Banquet that would be a little different from the previous years.
“It’s quite strange.”
“He has always been a strange person.”
As Tariq scanned the Emperor’s letter and tilted his head again, which was an invitation for the Spring Banquet, Slarhan was scrawling his reply with an indifferent look on his face.
Although he seemed to be writing insincerely, the lettering on the paper was sleek.
“What kind of trap is he planning to dig this time, even going to the point of sending you a personal letter?”
“Although I don’t know, it’s definitely isn’t a good thing.”
The reason for their suspicion was because the invitation that Slarhan received was written personally by the Emperor, and it was written in an overly friendly tone.
- Dear Slarhan,
I heard that the Irdel’s funeral was held splendidly well. Even though you are still young, you aren’t lacking as the new owner of Ventiark, so this Uncle of yours is extremely pleased.
I had not attended the funeral because I didn’t want to burden you, but why don’t we pray for Irdel together when we meet during the Spring Banquet?
I will provide you with whatever you require in your journey to the capital.
Till we meet again, may you stay healthy.
The letter was written so affectionately that it made one suspect that the letter wasn’t written by the Emperor he knew of.
Whether it was the ‘your Uncle’ or the wish to pray for Irdel together, even the statement that he would provide support, the letter was filled with content that he has never heard, and never even expected to hear from the Emperor.
The Spring Banquet was, in fact, an event that people above the rank of ?? Must attend to greet the Emperor. As such, even if such a letter wasn’t sent, he would still have to attend.
That was what made this letter even more suspicious.
But he still had to attend, even if he had doubts.
“You must be careful, Your Grace. Why don’t we split the party into three wagons in order to pull the wool over their eyes?”
“Someone might try to attack the Ventiark Castle while I’m away, so the number of knights defending the territory. Let’s make the party smaller, with talented and swift knights.”
“Understood. Then I will assemble a party of 20 elites.”
“Seven knights should be enough. Add a servant to that and bring Ellier as well.”
Tariq, who had been engaging in serious discussion with a wrinkle on his forehead, widened his eyes for a moment and glanced at Slarhan.
“Ten people in total. It’ll be convenient to stay at an inn on the way there, and the elite knights that you’ve chosen won’t lose to a normal assassin. The Imperial Family doesn’t know how many swordmasters and spearmasters are there in Ventiark. Everyone is used to resting out in the open, so two servants will be enough.”
“Ah, no, Your Grace. My question is…. that you’re bringing the slave girl along?”
“Since we’re already going to the capital, I’ll have to deal with the piled up work so of course I should bring along an errand runner.”
Tariq kept his mouth shut, not knowing where to start questioning.
Even if he didn’t want to have a noble son as his errand runner, there were many personnel that could serve decently well as errand runners in the capital. However, Tariq just couldn’t understand why he would insist on taking that unremarkable slave girl to the capital.
“Why do you take care of her so much?”
“I take care of her? Did I?”
“Yes! I can understand your reasoning for using the girl as your errand girl. But why do you have to take her all the way to the capital! Wouldn’t it be better to take another servant that can ride a horse?”
It was only when he saw Tariq’s dumbfounded face, that Slarhan realized he hadn’t told Tarim an important point.
“Rather than it’s because I want to take her along… It’s because Mother told me to do so.”
“What do you mean? That someone that left Ventiark a long time ago, so how…?”
Slarhan pulled out the necklace he wore from the collar of his shirt.
“You knew that this is a necklace that my mother gave me?”
“This pendant contains my mother’s magical powers. And while this type of magic suppresses my own magic, it would occasionally move in reaction to something.”
It was the first time Tariq, who was aware that Slarhan’s mother was from the Sabi tribe and that Slarhan possess magical powers, heard about the necklace’s secret.