Thanks for the Ko-fi, Posiek
༼ つ ◕‿◕ ༽つ
The next destination of the hurriedly driven carriage was the palace.
Upon receiving the prime minister’s guidance, they moved to where the relaxed Emperor was, as usual. Roger remained as gruff as ever, and Vivian greeted him with a slightly tense expression.
“Well, you’ve worked hard all this time.”
The Emperor, after delivering a dry greeting, gestured to the chairs opposite him. Roger and Vivian sat down without much hesitation, and the Emperor opened his mouth again.
“I’ve just confirmed the identities of the men you apprehended last night…”
Tapping his fingers on the table with a rhythmical beat, the Emperor let out a long sigh.
“It seems that a thorough investigation is necessary.”
For now, it was confirmed that both Marquis Dinus, who had rushed to the western mansion as if it were on fire, and the Royal Knights would be subject to investigation. Of course, the knights who had rushed to the mansion were only a fraction of the Royal Knights, but since it was possible that other members of the same order were involved, they all had to be investigated.
Not only the knights but also their families were subject to investigation. In any case, if even one member of a family was involved in such a serious matter, the entire family could not avoid being investigated. Moreover, the problem that had arisen this time was related to forbidden dark magic, a deep taboo. So, it was natural that a large-scale investigation was needed.
The problem was that the Royal Knights were not an ordinary organization. They were all members of noble bloodlines and came from prestigious families. As such, the investigation would be quite challenging and time-consuming.
“Due to these circumstances, the position of the Royal Knights will be vacant for a while. So, I was thinking of temporarily filling it with the Eckhart Order.”
While the investigation part was expected, what came next was unexpected, leaving Roger in a state of astonishment. The Emperor seemed to find Roger’s surprise amusing and chuckled as if he found it strange.
“Why are you so surprised? You are, after all, a part of the Royal Knights.”
“…Yes. We will do as you say.”
“Of course, depending on the situation after the investigation, it may become a permanent arrangement.”
The discussion about the Eckhart Order temporarily filling the vacant position of the Royal Knights concluded while Roger was still in a daze. After receiving a brief report, the Emperor advised them to rest as they must be tired.
After finishing their audience with the Emperor, someone called out to Roger as they exited the hall. Unable to escort her, he had to ask for her understanding and turned away.
Vivian, now alone, walked through the corridors along the outer wall, planning to visit her parents. As she did, she ran into Gray, who had been waiting for her.
“Are you done now?”
“Yes. Did you have a good conversation with His Majesty?”
Gray raised a heavy purse with a satisfied expression. It seemed like he had received a substantial share.
“It’s a pity, but Camilla and I have to leave now for our next mission.”
Gray shrugged and pointed to a carriage waiting in front of the palace. Camilla, who was already in the carriage, noticed Vivian and waved.
“Thank you for your assistance, Master.”
“Of course. If anything else comes up, send a letter.”
“Next time, please write a reply yourself.”
Their farewell was dry, as was typical for their relationship, but it still held a hint of affection. As Gray was about to leave in the carriage, he suddenly smiled, as if something had just occurred to him.
“He’s the captain of that Order, right?”
Vivian was momentarily taken aback by his sharp intellect. Gray, confirming his suspicions from her stiff expression, burst into laughter. Vivian was relieved that Roger was not present and blurted out with a flushed face.
“Oh, how did you know?”
“How could I not? I knew the moment I saw your face.”
Gray laughed heartily, releasing his remaining laughter, and patted her on the shoulder.
“If you have any good news later, be sure to tell me.”
“What good news?”
“Well, we’ll see.”
With a mischievous look on his face, Gray shrugged and quickly boarded the carriage.
Vivian, with some lingering heat in her face, watched the departing carriage from a distance. Indeed, her teacher remained consistent in many ways, stirring up her emotions as he left, just as he did when he first appeared. However, there was no need to dwell on the mix of delight and regret.
“I should head back now.”
Vivian, stretching in place, turned to return to the Marquisate.
* * *
Since her return to the Capital, time had passed very quickly.
Vivian had spent quality time with her mother and father, making up for the time she had spent away from home due to her studies and journey to the west. They welcomed her back wholeheartedly, laughing and crying as they listened to her stories.
A week had passed since she began her life in the estate, not as a guest but as a resident, when the Emperor summoned her back to the palace.
“This situation has turned out to be more complicated than I thought.”
For Vivian, the past week in the underground dungeons of the palace had been a continuous cycle of investigations and interrogations that felt more like hell than heaven. What she had learned was that a considerable number of noble families, led by Marquis Dinus, were allied with Daenerys. Thanks to that, the Knights of Eckhart had been tirelessly investigating the families designated by the Emperor for the past few days.
“It seems that Marquis Dinus held a grudge against the west for a very long time, its leader the ancestor of Marquis Ozent, who thwarted Daenerys’s plans. So, the western region under Marquis Ozent’s rule became the chosen location for their plans.”
“So, Marquis Ozent wasn’t on Daenerys’s side?”
“No, he was one of Daenerys’s supporters, but he was in a precarious position where he didn’t know when he might be cast aside.”
The Emperor massaged his temples, clearly feeling a headache from the thoughts of so many criminals. His usually calm demeanor was marred by frequent frowns today.
“I never dreamed that there were so many Daenerys sympathizers hidden within our Empire… That’s why I was deeply shocked.”
Rather than being shocked, Vivian sensed that it was more a matter of being irritated by the increased workload.
“If we handle this incident lightly, it’s certain that another rebellion will emerge with malicious intent. I don’t want to deal with something like the western region again. So, I plan to deal with these criminals severely.”
Considering these individuals associated with Daenerys were from noble families within the Empire, Vivian had been secretly worrying that they would receive light punishment. However, hearing the Emperor’s words finally put her mind at ease. It seemed that the Emperor had many thoughts racing through his mind, seeing his face marked by deep contemplation.
“My burden is quite heavy.”
Vivian remained silent.
“I called you here to inform you of some developments. As one of the commanders for the western mission, you should be aware. Roger is listening to the progress in real-time and has no need to be present here.”
She deeply wanted to see Roger, whom she hadn’t seen in weeks, but since she was in front of the Emperor, she didn’t show it.
“And apart from carrying out punishment, we should celebrate.”
The Emperor said cheerfully, slightly lightening the atmosphere.
“After several centuries, we’ve reclaimed the western lands. It’s quite an achievement. So, a banquet will be held at the palace in a few days. Of course, you and the Eckhart Knights will be the guests of honor.”
It was a clear invitation. Vivian awkwardly smiled and replied that she would eagerly await his invitation.
As they chatted for a moment, an aide approached the Emperor and informed them that the meeting was about to begin. Vivian tactfully excused herself and got up from her seat.
Walking down the corridor, Vivian paused for a moment to admire the open garden that was visible to one side. Her still stance gradually changed as she leaned her against the window frame. A light breeze tousled her silver hair. Enjoying a rare moment of leisure, Vivian smiled warmly.
Then, something tightly wrapped around her waist.
“What are you thinking that makes you smile like that?”
Startled by the sudden contact, Vivian relaxed as she recognized the familiar deep voice. When she turned her head, the sunlight illuminated his distinctive red hair.
As she turned away from the window, Roger pulled her waist. They were now close enough to inhale each other’s scents.
“It’s been a while. A week, I suppose?”
Roger asked while brushing her silver hair. There was an affectionate look in his eyes that melted her heart. Vivian smiled and nodded.
“Yes, it’s been a week.”
“Have you been well?”
“I’ve been well at my family’s estate. What about you? I heard you’ve been quite busy.”
Roger lowered his gaze and smiled slightly, not saying much about his sudden workload. Sympathizing with his increased responsibilities, Vivian frowned.
“Is it tough for you?”
“It’s fine. By the way, what brings you to the palace?”
“Oh, His Majesty summoned me.”
“I see. I’ve heard about the banquet as well.”
Vivian nodded while Roger’s hand encircled her waist. She looked into his eyes and nodded with a smile. He kissed her lips here and there, making a series of affectionate sounds. Vivian blushed quickly. Truly, he was so forward that she found it embarrassing.
“Okay, just one more time.”
He begged with a voice filled with a thirst as if he couldn’t drink the water right in front of him. Vivian was embarrassed but couldn’t resist his longing, so she reluctantly raised her hand.
“Fine… just one more time…”
With permission granted, he pulled Vivian’s waist tightly and kissed her with a passionate fervor that far exceeded their previous light kisses.
Suddenly, his tongue slipped into her mouth, and Vivian was taken aback by the unexpected kiss. She tried to push him away, but she discovered his face, filled with desire from the kiss, and her fingertips trembled.
Roger grabbed Vivian’s wrist, which was resting on his chest, and tilted his head to the side. Unable to resist the intensity in his amber eyes, she gave in.
The moment their hot breaths were about to collide, a voice interrupted them.
“Captain! Where are you?”
“Weren’t you just here? Where did you go?”
Voices from beyond the corridor reached them. Roger abruptly stopped, took a deep breath, and sighed deeply.
“Damn it. I don’t want to go.”
Vivian couldn’t help but laugh at his honest frustration. Roger pinched her cheek as if telling her not to laugh and straightened up.
“Then… see you at the banquet.”
That would probably be the next time she’d see him. She nodded and extended her hand for a farewell. Roger wordlessly kissed her hand and let go. His touch left a lingering warmth.
In the end, after one final kiss, Vivian took a step back. Roger disappeared, and Vivian, now alone, secretly took a deep breath. Her heart was pounding as if it could burst at any moment.
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