Chapter 570: What Do I Need You For
Translator: EndlessFantasy Translation Editor: EndlessFantasy Translation
In the swaying carriage, Thales and Raphael sat across from each other wordlessly.
Thales appraised the Secret Intelligence agent who had been through thick and thin with him in Dragon Clouds City and recalled their previous farewell in the tunnel.
Raphael looked content. His dark red eyes seemed somewhat cheery.
Like how he was at their first encounter, confident and wise.
‘Why is he always so confident?
‘But then he always carries out messy and appalling work that require others to clean up after him.’
At this thought, the youth who had left Ballard Room not long ago became gloomier.
“Shouldn’t you be playing cat and mouse with Star Killer in the north? When did you return?” Finding Raphael’s mysterious smile unbearable, Thales broke the silence.
The corners of Raphael’s lips curved upwards as he looked out the window. “Recently.”
‘Look at that. What an answer.
‘Could he have responded any more ambiguously?’
Thales coughed. “Those who are still at Dragon Clouds City, Wya and Ralf, and Putray…”
Raphael’s reply was concise, not revealing much.
“Gilbert said he couldn’t find you for the past few years in the Secret Intelligence Department…”
“So at the Imperial Conference earlier, you disguised yourself…”
“So why are you bringing me to the Secret Intelligence Department?”
After a few rounds of back and forth, Thales, who felt like he was conversing with Yodel, chuckled out of exasperation, and asked sharply, “Can’t your answers be longer?”
Finally, Raphael turned to face him. There was profound depth in his red eyes.
“But you were the one who told me earlier, that if I spout another word of nonsense…
“You would ask Miss Miranda for her hand in marriage?”
Thales choked. After a few seconds, he sighed and felt both mentally and physically exhausted.
Thales waved a hand resignedly and quit the game. “I was just kidding, alright?”
Raphael chuckled and leaned on the wall of the carriage comfortably.
“I know,” he replied cheerily, “Me too.”
Thales forced a half-smile.
“Is there a point in being so flippant?”
“Nope.” Raphael appraised the prince’s speechless and disgruntled face. “It’s just fun.”
Thales was stumped for words, so he merely sighed.
After a few minutes.
“Raphael, have you seen Miranda in the past six years?”
Raphael raised his eyebrows. “You want to know the truth?”
“I’ll have to lie then.”
Thales took a few seconds to digest this information. “Oh.”
The prince nodded. “What about…seeing Kohen?”
“Who is that?”
The carriage continued to sway for a few more minutes. Thales let out a sigh.
“Raphael, if you plan to never leave the Secret Intelligence Department.”
The prince cast a serious look at the Barren Bone man. “What does she mean to you, then?
“And how do you face her?”
Raphael looked up to reveal his pair of ruby eyes. “Why are you asking this all of a sudden?
“And showing interest in a subordinate’s love life.”
Raphael smiled sarcastically.
“What about you?” he asked in return, “What does she mean to you, Your Highness?”
Thales leaned on the wall of the carriage and sighed, “I told you I won’t marry Miranda…”
But what Raphael said next silenced Thales. “But I’m not talking about Miranda.”
Silence filled the air.
The scenery outside the window changed gradually from city streets to country roads.
Thales remained wordless.
“In Dragon Clouds City, you shared a close relationship and were inseparable.”
Raphael looked northwards and continued in a brisk tone, “Can you really give up this relationship?
“And become strangers from here on out?”
Thales clenched his teeth.
“Stop diverting the topic, Raphael,” the prince chided, “I have nothing to do with her.”
Raphael chuckled, unperturbed.
“If you are destined to become king of Constellation, Your Highness, and orchestrate everything from Ballard Room…”
From what Thales could tell, the Barren Bone man’s words had become sharp as a blade.
“How are you going to face…her?
“Face your beloved?”
Thales was annoyed.
“I’m only going to say it once, Raphael,” the prince turned around and sneered, “We’re not that kind of relationship. Absolutely! Not!”
“What kind of relationship?”
“Why do you care.”
“I just want to say…”
After a series of back and forth, Raphael let out a long sigh and surrendered. “Alright.”
Thales scoffed and crossed his arms.
The Barren Bone man lamented, “It’s just such a shame that you don’t like her…”
Thales turned further away.
“You know, after much effort, we selected the finest grains for her and prepared to bring her home…”
Thales froze momentarily, then looked over.
“Finest grains, bring her home? Wait a minute, who are you talking about?”
Raphael turned around.
“The fine steed that the Secret Intelligence Department carefully chose for you out of thousands of candidates…”
Raphael flashed a wide grin. “Jenny, of course.”
Thales was silent for a good ten seconds. He leaned against the carriage as it swayed with the wind.
Then he raised his middle finger expressionlessly.
Raphael was amused by his expression.
Thales swore crossly, that if Raphael tried a joke like that again, when he became king, his first order would be to marry Miranda.
Ah, god knows how much he missed Kohen in that moment.
Raphael sat back in his seat.
“Not at all.” Thales looked dispirited. “But thank you anyway for providing such a lively atmosphere.”
“You’re welcome.” Raphael was unbothered by the resentment in the prince’s words. “In any case, you’re only going to feel worse later.”
Thales’ mood that had slightly improved took a nosedive again.
“Is this related to the incident last night?”
A shadow was cast over Raphael’s face.
When the topic reverted to official matters, the relaxed atmosphere disappeared completely.
The Barren Bone man sighed.
“Fourteen hours ago, when I was busy organizing reports about the Alliance of Freedom war, I received news of an incident at the royal banquet—it seems that you are capable of stirring up trouble wherever you go.”
Raphael shook his head and clicked his tongue.
Thales grunted irritably, “Depose me then. Change my identity and let me disappear. Do you believe I can be a law-abiding citizen for the rest of my life?”
Raphael cast a sideways glance at him.
“You? Law-abiding citizen?
“Do you believe it yourself?”
Thales was temporarily at a loss for words.
“So about last night,” Thales steered the conversation back to the topic of concern, “The grievances between Crow Caw City and Mirror River, that is, between Byrael and Doyle, what is the truth behind it?”
Raphael was silent for a few seconds.
“His Majesty has ordered the court and Nobility Affairs Center to take charge of the case.
“Out of the principle of neutrality, I suggest that you not get involved…”
Thales yawned loudly.
“To be honest, Raphael, why do you think I’m not dancing with the fair ladies at the banquet until dawn, but inhaling the stench of your sweat in this shoddy carriage?”
Raphael adjusted his posture and took a whiff of his own collar inconspicuously.
“Or do you think I’m as gullible as Kohen, or as forgiving towards you as Miranda?”
Thales winked at him. “Why don’t you think of it as giving me some… insider information?”
Thales raised an eyebrow. Half intentionally, he allowed his gaze to fall on Raphael’s sleeve.
The latter’s forearm was as fair and perfect as ever.
It was hard to imagine that that was once…
The Barren Bone man was silent for a moment, and instinctively adjusted his cuff.
“You shouldn’t drag personal relationships into this.” His red eyes sparkled. “You’re the prince, I am a servant, we have to handle things by the book.”
‘Huh, who was the one that kept implicating personal relationships along the way earlier?’
“If it was someone else, perhaps.
“But you’re different, Raphael,” Thales coaxed, somewhat sincerely, somewhat routinely, “That night in Dragon Clouds City, was different.”
Raphael turned to look at him.
“By the way,” Thales added, “If we are to cooperate for the next fifty to sixty years and see each other at the Imperial Conference, it’s best that we learn how to get along from now onwards.”
Possibly persuaded by the last sentence, Raphael took a deep breath and sat up straight.
He said with a serious expression, “From the information gathered by the Secret Intelligence Department, this incident was an unfortunate tragedy.”
That’s right, tell me something I don’t know—Thales nodded humbly as he shoved this sentence back down his throat.
Raphael continued, “Baron Doyle is a bungling oaf through and through. His biggest merit is shamelessness.
“Contrarily, he has been lucky in that he got remarried to a business expert. For these past years, she has excelled in managing the household and accumulating wealth—or should I say, in speculating and toadying and raking in wealth from various sources—so as the Doyle family grew richer, they have become more daring, and have extended their reach further and further, unbridled…”
Thales recalled Baron Doyle and his wife, and nodded with a shudder.
Raphael scoffed. “On the other hand, the governors of Crow Caw City aren’t saints either. They were already harboring ulterior motives when they took out the loan.
“Old Byrael is poor with finances and management, but is an expert in traditional noble skills like coercion, intimidation and extortion. The number of victims of his defaults, fraud and threats for these past years—who can only suffer in silence—is sufficient to form a team of guards, and perhaps have a few leftover to join the reserves.”
Thales frowned as he listened to all this.
“It’s only been a day since the incident. The Secret Intelligence Department has already managed to investigate to such depths?”
Raphael burst into laughter and shook his head.
“Of course not.
“But we realized that there has long been a record of one of the parties in this case at the Department of Finance: Master Kirkirk Mann has been monitoring the Doyle family and their gray income for some time, waiting for the pigs to fatten before slaughtering them.”
‘Chief of Finance Kirkirk Mann has been monitoring the Doyle family for some time?’
Thales gradually understood.
Raphael continued disdainfully, “So there was no need to investigate. Overnight, our men simply transferred the monitoring reports and investigation dossiers that have been accumulated over the years—of course, the people at the Department of Finance might not be too happy about being intercepted.”
‘Department of Finance, overnight, intercepted…’
At this point, Thales had an odd expression on his face.
He recalled how Kirkirk Mann lost his composure when rejecting the budget proposal in the conference that morning.
Now that he thought about it, Kirkirk Mann didn’t lose his composure at all…
He literally lost a fortune!
The fact that he didn’t flip the table over was considered courteous.
“That’s how the stinking rich and greedy Doyle encountered the brusque and unscrupulous Byrael…”
Thales let out a sigh and said resignedly, “They’ve really met their match in each other.”
“Normally it wouldn’t have been a big deal. After nobles clash, brawl and cause a ruckus, both families will generally, according to custom, turn up at the negotiation table when they are at a stalemate…”
Raphael glanced at Thales.
“But it was then that Legendary Wing left Blade Fangs Camp and the orcs and Barren Bone people launched a surprise attack, leading to the unfortunate death of Old Byrael who was stationed there.
“The balance was now in disequilibrium.”
Thales pressed a palm to his forehead in frustration.
‘Why is it me again?’
But Raphael continued narrating, “On top of that, the social-climbing Baron Doyle of Mirror River has recently managed to associate himself with a bigshot in the royal family that has recently returned to Constellation, so he’s been able to swagger around the capital and hold his head up high.”
Thales was visibly upset.
But Raphael had to elongate the words as he repeated, “Big—shot—in—the—ro—yal—fa—mi—ly. Get it?”
‘Why is it still me?’
“If that was the case, it would have been fine. It would have just been one side winning over another, one family benefiting and another declining.
“But Byrael’s eldest son returned from Tower of Eradication—as you’ve witness, he’s a reckless fool.
“With a brain full of radical ideas that are not held by traditional nobles in this country, he decided to make news at a banquet.”
Thales withdrew to a corner of the carriage and mashed his lips together numbly.
‘Why is it always me?’
Raphael ended helplessly, “That’s why, Your Highness, you have to inhale the stench of my sweat right now.”
After he said this, both of them sighed and crossed their arms.
“So, Anker Byrael, how is he now?”
“We are still interrogating him according to procedure, from his motives, to the process, to the mastermind behind this,” Raphael replied calmly, “From how I see it, of the ‘guests’ that the Secret Intelligence Department has received, that kid is pretty tough.”
Thales felt a gloom in his heart.
“What else is there to interrogate about,” the prince said indignantly, “the mastermind is Zayen Covendier. That guy admitted it to me directly last night.
“He should be the one bearing the stench of your sweat right now.”
Raphael revealed a peculiar expression when he heard this name.
“I think you should probably know, Your Highness…
“The Guardian Duke of South Coast, Zayen Covendier has left the capital for Jade City this morning due to urgent family matters.”
Thales was initially shocked, before comprehending.
‘He’s slipped away fast.’
“Of course. As the mastermind, he has to save his own petty life,” Thales sneered with arms crossed, “I’d call that urgent.”
‘If the then Archduke of Beacon Illumination City knew to sneak away like Zayen did, perhaps he could have avoided having his neck broken by King Nuven.’
But Raphael’s tone turned somber. “Before he left, Duke Covendier sent His Majesty the ‘Petition of Jade City on Alternatives to Service’.”
Thales did not understand. “What?”
Raphael glanced at Thales. “He applied to His Majesty for vassals under Iris Flowers to voluntarily pay new taxes every quarter according to their needs, and thereby be relieved from military service and labor service—Jade City is a prosperous commercial city, many suzerains are willing to do so—so the Covendier family will lead by example and contribute taxes to the royal family as an alternative to service, to make up for the deficiency in the kingdom’s recruits by subsidizing the regular soldiers of the royal family.”
It took Thales a few seconds to wrap his head around this.
‘Covendier family will lead by example…
‘Alternative to service…
‘Subsidizing the regular soldiers of the royal family…’
In the next instant, Thales sat up in shock.
“This issue was just discussed at the Imperial Conference… But this seems…too fast?”
‘And it was a major issue that involved the rule of the suzerains of South Coast.
‘Unless beforehand, it was…’
Raphael shrugged. “The official announcement will likely arrive this afternoon.”
Thales remembered what his father said in Ballard Room.
“We’ll continue in the afternoon, and discuss how to help Kirkirk solve the budget issue.”
‘In the afternoon.
In that moment, something clicked.
“Zayen. Him and my father, they’ve…” Thales was incredulous. “F*cked,” he swore heatedly.
The prince turned to the Barren Bone man in disappointment.
“So our Duke of South Coast won’t be held accountable, will he?
“At least not for instigating an assassination and threatening the Duke of Star Lake?”
Raphael patted his shoulder sympathetically.
“Not only that. The Secret Intelligence Department has to allocate manpower to ‘dispel rumors’.” Raphael was disgruntled. “Someone is spreading ignorant ravings that ‘the Duke of Star Lake accused Covendier publicly last night.”
Thales took a long time before he put away his expression of disbelief.
‘Is it not enough to benefit in reputation and wealth…
‘He wants to manipulate public opinion?’
“So I’ve messed up your affairs again?” Thales asked dully.
“It’s alright,” Raphael replied dejectedly, “The Secret Intelligence Department is used to it anyway.
“Six years ago I established a special emergency response team. You are their favorite by far—you’ve greatly increased their sense of existence and budget quota.
“By the way, their nickname is ‘The Prince’s Ass’…”
Thales, who was deep in depression, frowned.
“The prince’s what?”
The Barren Bone man raised his chin listlessly.
“You know, every time you finish pooping,” Raphael shot a cheeky wink at Thales, “You have to wipe your ass.”
Thales was dumbfounded and speechless.
Rafael gave him another flippant smile.
The prince seemed to have figured something out. He sighed in exasperation and buried his face in his palms.
“I really should have ended him last night…”
“What did you say?”
“Nothing.” Thales removed his head from his palms and asked solemnly, “Anker Byrael, what will happen to him?”
Raphael put away his look of suspicion and replied, “If His Majesty has no other opinion on the matter, the court will convict him…
“But as far as the facts are concerned, he barged into the royal banquet, harmed his noble peers, threatened the Duke of Star Lake, attempted to assassinate a member of the royal family, treated the authority of the royal family with contempt…”
Hearing Raphael list the crimes, Thales felt heavyhearted recalling Anker’s look of despair and their last conversation.
“If I let go, what should I do?”
“I don’t know, but I’ll try my best.”
“I tried my best.”
“No, you didn’t. You haven’t met me.”
Thales clenched his fist subconsciously.
“What about his family? His relatives?”
Raphael gave him a look but did not respond.
But his gaze quickly turned incisive. “Listen up, Raphael.
“If I say, with your help, the Duke of Star Lake has to intervene and influence a certain result, is that possible?”
A gleam flashed across Raphael red eyes.
“Depends on what you intend to do,” the Barren Bone man replied cautiously, “Different options yield different results.”
Thales was silent for a moment.
“Alright then, from the hardest to the easiest.”
The prince gave it some serious thought and posed three questions tentatively, “Prison break?”
“Or at least—avoid death?”
Raphael repeated these three options in his head, then gave a convivial smile.
Without beating around the bush, he gave three corresponding answers empathetically, “Impossible.
Silence lingered within the carriage for a full minute; only the grinding sound of the wheels could be heard.
“What do I need you for!”
“Alright, there’s one last option.”
“Get crowned as king.”
“This isn’t funny.”