Chapter 580: The Prince Likes Them
It was only after a long while that Thales recovered from his emotions of distress and helplessness.
“What is this?”
He turned to Morat, who was seated calmly.
The Black Prophet smirked, “What do you think it is?”
Thales was silent for a few seconds.
“When my father sent me over,” the prince’s voice was solemn and bleak, “He told me that I should come see the mess I’ve made.”
Thales slipped into a daze momentarily.
Morat said quietly, “You’ve seen it then. The liquor industry in the capital will see a considerable period of panic and depression, at least.”
Thales clenched his fists.
“Damn the prince.”
“Everything he does…has an extremely huge impact, alright?”
He could still hear Dagori’s voice in his head.
“But I didn’t do anything,” Thales muttered.
The Black Prophet sneered. “At your level, doing nothing can also be a gesture.
“Whether you intend for it to be or not.”
Thales frowned hard.
“At least have a little, even if it’s just a few sips.”
He recalled what Princess Elise said to him on the day of the banquet.
“But I’m willing to bet that, by tomorrow, you will feel like everyone is watching you.”
‘Everyone is watching you…’
Thales took a deep breath. Tormented, he groaned through gritted teeth, “They shouldn’t have…interpreted it that way.”
“But they did just that.”
Morat’s voice seemed to come from another room, but did not sound any less piercing. “And the fact that you left your country and journeyed to Northland to serve as a hostage for the past six years, being confined within high walls?”
“Forgive me for my honesty, but you should count yourself lucky.”
Thales’ expression was somber.
As his thoughts flowed, a new guest arrived in the interrogation room.
Raphael picked up a pen, turned to a new page in the document, and looked coldly at the stout old man with thick limbs and a nervous expression.
The newcomer was getting better treatment than what Dagori had experienced. Although he was also brought in with his face covered by a hood, the old man was not shackled nor chained, and was able to move freely in his chair.
“Jilburn. My name is Jilburn, sir.”
Also in stark contrast to the arrogant wine merchant, the seated old man was obedient and even a little flattering.
“Jilburn Filson. Everyone calls me Old Jilburn or—Old JB.”
Out of view, Raphael pursed his lips.
“So, Jilburn Filson, do you know why you are here?”
Jilburn forced a smile. “To be honest, no, not really. May I ask who you…”
“Police,” Raphael replied promptly without looking up.
Compared to when he was interrogating the wine merchant previously, the Barren Bone man was indifferent and aloof.
The old man was stunned for a second.
“Impossible.” Old Jilburn smiled, wagging his finger at Raphael. “I have a relative who works at the police station. I know their procedures, and it’s nothing like this!”
The Barren Bone man looked up expressionlessly.
The old man looked around, and there was a gleam in his eyes as if he had a sudden realization. He was somewhat excited yet curious at the same time.
“I know this style of doing things,” Old Jilburn said with an enigmatic yet self-satisfied expression. He leaned over the edge of the table, close to Raphael. “You are the Secret Intelligence Department!
Looking at the old man who was winking at him, Raphael’s expression shifted slightly.
“I have experienced it. Long ago, when the serial vampire murders occurred in the capital.” Old Jilburn nodded with a smile, clearly very theatrical. “A fight broke out in my shop between the infamous curfew police and agents from the Secret Intelligence Department…”
Raphael gently smacked the table, interrupting Jilburn’s words.
“You are right.”
The Barren Bone man’s eyes were profound and mysterious. He leaned in towards Old Jilburn and whispered as if he was narrating a ghost story, “We are the kingdom’s Secret Intelligence Department.
“We work for the Black Prophet.”
The old man’s smile froze on his face in an instant.
On the other side of the glass, Thales frowned and turned to Morat, but the old man in the wheelchair was calm as a rock.
Meeting Raphael’s malicious gaze, Old Jilburn blinked bewilderedly and looked around the interrogation room again.
“So it’s, it’s really the Secret Intelligence Department? That Secret Intelligence Department?”
Old Jilburn’s gaze landed on the fresh bloodstain on the table. A thought struck him, making him shudder.
“You’re, you’re not bluffing?”
Raphael snorted in disdain.
The kingdom’s Secret Intelligence Department.
The Black Prophet.
The Secret Intelligence Department that had to meet a quota of ten kills every day, and the Black Prophet that took a bath in the blood of children every night…
Thinking of various mysterious legends, Jilburn chuckled nervously before shrinking into his chair.
His eyes were fixed on a small spot along the edge of the table and he did not dare exhale.
‘First of all, I am not a child anymore. I won’t suit the Black Prophet’s taste.
‘And I hope I’m the… eleventh person here today?’
At this thought, Jilburn burst into tears.
“So, Old Jilburn, what do you do for a living?”
“What do I…do?”
Jilburn repeated it blankly at first. Once he got a hold of himself, he cleared his throat loudly and began to tremble visibly.
“I, I run a blacksmith shop in the Twilight District. I’ve been doing it for years, bl, bl, bl, bl, blacksmithing.”
Raphael chuckled a few times. The old blacksmith trembled in rhythm with his laugh.
“I heard that you received a big business order this morning?”
‘Big business order?’
Old Jilburn’s face turned white, but he quickly suppressed his shock.
“Yes, yes, yes. A business order. Not exactly big, just a small one…” With a sullen expression, Old Jilburn cajoled, “Ahem, well it’s not really small either, hehe. Middling I guess. Middling, middling.”
Responding with a plain “hmm”, Raphael raised the pen without looking up. “You…”
Old Jilburn’s expression changed suddenly and he yelled, “I have never forged any prohibited weaponry!”
Raphael was taken aback by the blacksmith’s sudden outburst.
“Military swords, military axes, military hammers, battle helmets and armors, battle horse stirrups, battle shields, crossbow parts, trebuchet parts, Mystic Gun buttstocks, Crystal Drop alloys, kitchen knives longer than half a foot, steel spear tips, lethal arrows, I have never made—” a stream of words came out of Old Jilburn’s mouth like rapid gunfire before he paused right at the end of the sentence, “—any of it!”
He denied desperately with wide eyes.
Seeing the nervous and trembling Old Jilburn, Raphael, who was ready to forcibly extort a confession, put down his pen and remained silent for a while.
“Sounds like you’re quite familiar with…prohibited items?”
Old Jilburn trembled again.
He realized something, knew that the situation was taking a turn for the worse, so desperately forced a smile. “Hehe, I’m just interested in the law… You know, law and order.”
Raphael looked at the document and raised his pen again. “You…”
Old Jilburn interjected frantically, “And I definitely did not sell to them!
Startled again, Raphael put down the pen again, somewhat exasperated.
Jilburn’s expression stiffened.
He looked away, rubbed his chin awkwardly, and muttered softly. “Well, uhm, you know. Th…them…”
Raphael grasped the trick. He put down the pen and closed the document, leaned his whole body back and scoffed coldly.
The Barren Bone man’s actions made the blacksmith shudder inadvertently. Flailing his arms, he exclaimed, “But but but they are nobles!
“Even if their families do not hold any official duke titles, they are at least scions of government officials, so it should be legal…”
Raphael exhaled, crossed his arms, and narrowed his eyes.
This made Jilburn panic again. He changed his tune, “Even if it’s not legal, they will have ways to circumvent it! I had no choice but to sell to them…”
Raphael tilted his head and appraised the old man. “You…”
Jilburn’s expression changed again. He blurted loudly, “I only received a deposit!”
He raised his hands and cried out, “I haven’t delivered the goods, haven’t forged any samples, haven’t sketched the models and haven’t even ordered the raw materials!”
Jilburn explained nervously as he scrambled to fish out a fancy piece of paper from his inner pocket, “Look, this is the entire order of those customers! All of it!”
Baffled, Raphael looked at the order form quavering in the hands of the old blacksmith.
He hadn’t even…asked anything yet?
“Alright.” The Barren Bone man took the paper from the old man with mixed emotions and a sense of frustration that only he knew. “You seem much more open to discussion than the last guy.”
‘Maybe I should go back and look up this old man’s background.
‘To see if he is… a distant relative of the Karabeyan family?’
After handing over the order, with a grievance that said “I have contributed to the kingdom” etched across his face, Jilburn asked warily, “This isn’t illegal, is it?
“Even if it is, could this be considered as…coming clean?”
Raphael looked at the order and uttered a random “uh huh”, which again scared the daylight out of Old Jilburn.
Raphael began to read aloud so the people on the other side of the glass could hear him, “So and so hereby places an order for a longsword with specifications as follows: it has to be recognized as a noble’s sword at a glance; it has to be made with premium materials; the color should be friggin’ cool; the sword should be shiny; it should be convenient to maintain; it should look as heavy as possible but be as light as possible; it would be best if it is distressed with traces of wear, to let others know that it has been wielded in battle a great deal…”
On the other side of the glass, Thales frowned.
Under Jilburn’s anxious but fawning gaze, the Barren Bone man continued to read the first line in the order, “The grip must be comfortable; it has to produce a whooshing sound when swung; it should be energy-efficient when attacking and defending; the design and style should express heroism and chivalry, as well as elegance and sturdiness, be fashionable and classic, splendid and plain, simple and profound; most importantly, the bearer should look dashing when carrying the sword, allowing a painter to capture this from all angles…”
Raphael looked up, perplexed.
‘What is this?’
‘Those invincible holy swords in knight novels that slay gods and demons?’
“See, err.” The old blacksmith rubbed his hands together awkwardly and bowed his head, feeling embarrassed. “About Par, Party A.”
With a peculiar expression, Raphael stopped reading the other terms on the order.
“So do you know what are they plan to do with the items in this order?”
Old Jilburn caressed his belly.
“Hey, as you’re aware, these patrons are nobles. How could I possibly—”
“Hmm?” Raphael snorted disdainfully.
“—know but I accidentally heard something!” Old Jilburn looked solemn as he changed his tune in the nick of time.
Raphael squinted at him.
“They, these noble scions who are ordering weapons one after another, most of them are going to…” Old Jilburn paused and smiled flatteringly, “Duel.”
Even though he half anticipated it, Thales still felt his chest tighten.
‘Duel,’ Raphael pondered and nodded. “Do you know why?”
Old Jilburn seemed ecstatic at the mention of this. “Why else. Of course it’s because the Duke of Star Lake adjudicated the case last night wisely and was able to defeat the hostage-taker in an earth-shattering duel with his dexterous skills. The news has spread throughout the capital so now the noble scions are scrambling to…”
In that moment, Thales could only hear buzzing in his ear.
Didn’t he make it very clear in order to eliminate the impact? “Since you have decided to… enjoy its conclusive convenience, then you have to bear its barbaric and antiquated price.”
‘Why are there still some, some who…’
In that moment, Thales was a little afraid to look at the reaction of the Black Prophet beside him.
He forced himself to turn his attention back to the interrogation room.
“There was a pair of brothers from a noble family who said they intend to duel their father, because he has disregarded his position in the family hierarchy and stole their sweetheart at the banquet… Oh, would you look at that…”
Old Jilburn’s eyes sparkled when he gossiped.
“They ordered two swords, and specified that the material and design had to be identical as an indication of fairness, because they wanted to duel each other after they killed their father! Hehe so I said, what about your father’s sword? So they ordered a third sword! Hehehe, idiots, am I right…”
Raphael looked up.
The blacksmith suddenly choked on his words.
“Shortage of materials, the stove doesn’t heat properly, the apprentice is on strike,” Raphael’s voice did not waver, “Or you fell in love with a gentle and sexy young widow in the countryside and plan to sell the shop, retire and marry her…”
“Huh? Gentle and sexy?” Old Jilburn was puzzled.
“You know,” Raphael paused and said expressionlessly, “Party A.”
The Barren Bone man coughed.
“I don’t care what excuse you use.” Raphael handed back the order to Old Jilburn indifferently. “Refund the deposit and cancel these orders.”
The old blacksmith was mildly stunned.
“Cancel? This is such, such a big order…”
Raphael ignored him, took out a document and lay it in front of Jilburn. “If there are no further issues, have a look at this confidentiality agreement, sign it, and you may leave.”
Old Jilburn glanced at the agreement, and fidgeted with the order in his hand, and said reluctantly, “But, I have no good reason to cancel the order in such a short time…”
With a sudden movement, Raphael grabbed Jilburn’s hand and stared at him with a piercing gaze. “In that case, you can be wrapped in bandages for two months and say that your arms are broken.”
Jilburn was scared out of his wits. He could not do anything except let the Barren Bone man grip his wrist.
“Go to the Department of Finance and show them the seal on this agreement,” Raphael said calmly, “Someone will reimburse you for the liquidated damages and bandages.”
Old Jilburn felt aggrieved.
“But it won’t work,” he made a last-ditch effort to argue, “I’m not the only blacksmith in the capital—although I am indeed the best. Those bratty scions will definitely go to other shops. Might as well I make a few inferior and blunt…Ah ah ahhh gentle!”
Amid Old Jilburn’s squeals, Raphael clutched tightly onto his wrist and threatened, “So, you want us to pay for medical expenses as well eh?”
Old Jilburn let out a few muffled sobs, put on a smile that was uglier than his crying face, picked up the pen and obediently signed the document, indicating his firm support for the Secret Intelligence Department’s decision.
Raphael let go of the panting blacksmith.
“Hurry up, we have to deliver agreements to several other people still—that, or medical expenses,” the Barren Bone man said coldly.
Rubbing his wrist and crying, Old Jilburn immediately stirred when he heard this.
“Ah, don’t leave out Blacksmith Karachi on South Street. I’m mentioning just in case. That old bastard is despicable. More than once he’s made prohibited weapons for scum like the Blood Bottle Gang and the Brotherhood over the past decade, while spreading lies that the weapons were forged by me—don’t believe anything he says…”
Another piercing gaze by Raphael stuffed Old Jilburn’s words back into his mouth.
The old blacksmith could only pout as he continued to sign page after page. “Fine I understand. You bear a heavy responsibility to suppress the harmful custom of dueling and maintain the legal order and stability of the kingdom. I get it, I get it…
“But these matters will be settled as long as you catch the duelers… Why bother small businessmen like us…”
“You see, this here is the problem.” Raphael supervised him to ensure that he signed the entire agreement, and glanced towards the one-way glass half-intentionally. “If the kingdom expressly prohibits them, their dissatisfaction and resentment will be directed upwards.”
Raphael looked at the old blacksmith. “But if a supplier like you cancels for some reason…”
He squinted and leaned closer to Old Jilburn, “Do you have an opinion?”
Old Jilburn understood implicitly. His head shook faster than the bellows he had at home. “No, no…”
The old blacksmith finished signing the agreement and handed it to Raphael obsequiously.
Raphael inspected the signature on the agreement, folded it over, lit a candle and sealed it.
“Very well. As a reward for your cooperation…
“For the next few months, the regular soldiers of the royal family will have an increased need for equipment, and will even need to recruit blacksmiths to directly forge weapons. There will be a large batch of new orders.”
Jilburn’s eyes lit up in awe.
“But it will only be for the army and the people who hold this agreement.”
Raphael narrowed his eyes and held up the sealed agreement. “Do you understand?”
On the other side of the one-way glass, Thales watched on quietly as a hood was put over the head of the ecstatic Old Jilburn and the latter was escorted out of the interrogation room.
“I apologize.” Seated in his wheelchair, Morat picked up his cup of tea and grinned. “Raphael rarely handles such basic matters. He’s not very skilled at it.
“But don’t worry, we will have someone talk to the craftsman afterward and follow up on his ‘mental health’ regularly to ensure that he will not resent you for this nor harm you by spreading rumors.
“Or…leak the information about orders being placed for specialized dueling weapons. ”
Seeing the Black Prophet’s cryptic smile, Thales felt uneasy.
“I thought that the nobles of Constellation would despise the customs of Eckstedt,” the prince confessed with difficulty as he stared at a stain on the glass.
Morat put down his cup.
“Dueling was a martial arts custom that originated from the Empire in the first place. In those ancient times, it carried the spirit of chivalry and filled the void that justice could not reach.”
The old man in the wheelchair was stoic, like an outsider. “Do you know, from Empire to kingdom, how many centuries our ancestors have spent, how much blood and tragedy they have experienced, how much they have had to sacrifice—human lives included—before these antiquated rules and vulgar customs that have been gradually phased out over the years, that ignore justice and are barbaric, were eliminated?”
His words were like a blade, cutting Thales open over and over. “But now, what people see are only the acts of Polaris, which they swarm to emulate.
“Especially the tale of you using your wisdom to escape death in Eckstedt in the name of a duel.
“In addition to your unprecedented charm that won the admiration of countless young men and women last night…”
The Black Prophet shook his head but did not go on.
But this was enough.
Thales was expressionless.
Was this what he brought to Constellation?
Rescue D.D and Anker, but eventually kill…more people?
“Whatever the situation, you always attempt to find a win-win solution, a perfect choice, to meet your own high expectations.”
King Kessel’s words echoed in his ears:
“It’s best that no waves are created and no harm is caused.
“Avoiding the ugliness and sacrifice you are least willing to face.”
Thales raised his left hand with a heavy heart and stared at the scar on his palm.
“Hasn’t the damned fate given you a damned answer every time?”
Just as Thales was lost in his thoughts and emotions, the interrogation room welcomed a third guest.
This time, it was a noble who entered the interrogation room. His attire was low-key but classical and he looked at ease and haughty.
He settled into a chair. He was not in shackles either. He displayed a calm and extraordinary aura.
It was as if he was the interrogator.
“I know who you are.” Raphael again changed his questioning method. His use of words was concise and clear, and he cut straight to the point. “And I believe you know who we are, too.”
The noble across the table slowly looked up.
He did not look around like Old Jilburn, nor was he an ass in a lion’s skin like Dagori.
“You are the Twilight of Constellation,” The noble said slowly, “But what I didn’t know was that, in the absence of a warrant by the king, the Secret Intelligence Department has the power to secretly interrogate nobles of the kingdom?”
He stared directly at Raphael; his gaze was piercing and intense.
“Of course not, so this is just an inquiry.”
The Barren Bone man did not ask the man his name, so Thales had no way of knowing.
“I see,” the noble sneered wryly, “It seems that the invitation letter for your inquiry is a hood and ropes?”
But the well-spoken Barren Bone man—who was able to engage in a battle of words with Thales and not concede—did not fixate on the semantics.
Judging from the first two interrogations, it was clear that Raphael was skilled at varying his approach to fit different persons, and this method yielded positive results.
“Two weeks ago, you arrived at Eternal Star City from Blade Edge Hill.”
Raphael opened the record file as his gaze became equally piercing. “And a week ago, you secretly ordered weapons from a blacksmith named Karachi on South Street in the Twilight District?”
‘A noble from Blade Edge Hill,” Thales thought to himself.
The noble’s gaze froze and he remained silent for a while.
Raphael did not rush him.
The atmosphere in the interrogation room became tense.
Finally, the noble scoffed, “Even civilians have the right to carry weapons to defend themselves while traveling.
“What’s more I am a noble of the kingdom with the right to militarize. Is it illegal to forge a sword to defend myself?”
Raphael smiled genially. “Of course not.
“But either you are a supreme class elite, or your enemy is,” Raphael sneered, “Otherwise you wouldn’t need to order a whopping…twenty long swords?”
The gaze of the noble from the Blade Edge Hill turned cold.
“If you want to accuse me of rebellion,” he said calmly, “This amount of weapons would not be sufficient evidence in Eternal Star City.”
Thales, who was listening to the interrogation, sensed that this was not an easy person to deal with.
“I know.” Raphael still sounded relaxed. “So what do you plan to do with them?
“Or I should ask, what do you plan to do?”
The noble stretched the corners of his lips and glared at Raphael.
He seemed to be waging a mental battle. After a while he muttered, “As someone from the Secret Intelligence Department, why ask when you already know the answer?”
Raphael grinned. “But I want to hear it from you.”
The noble from the Blade Edge Hill scoffed angrily.
He instantly turned to the one-way glass and looked straight at Thales. “Who’s behind that glass?”
Thales was taken aback.
But Morat beside him was composed as ever and completely unfazed.
It seemed that the noble had a broad knowledge.
Although the noble saw through his tricks, Raphael remained collected.
“No matter who it is, isn’t this exactly what you want? To be seen and heard by more people?
The noble frowned slightly.
Raphael smiled and made an inviting gesture at him with his palm.
Several seconds later, the noble looked away from Thales.
“We, some nobles from Blade Edge Hill, for various reasons—having lost land, power, or position—plan to jointly…”
The noble paused for a while and found an acceptable term, “Appeal.”
Raphael nodded. “Appeal where?”
The noble’s expression was forbidding. He uttered the name of a place, “Mindis Hall.”
Thales’ eyelids twitched.
‘Appeal at…Mindis Hall?
He recalled Anker at the banquet and his mood took a dive.
“How many people?” Raphael asked casually.
“Thirteen,” the noble answered outright, “Barons, lords, noble knights, and many others are coming over to join.
“All for justice.”
The weight of this word struck Thales’ heart and reverberated in him.
“So, at least thirteen nobles and their attendants and servants, fully armed, will jointly appeal to the Duke of Star Lake.”
Raphael sighed somewhat helplessly, “At that time, if some of them became agitated and cause a havoc, even the police officers in the periphery, the Jadestar Private Army, along with the royal guards, would not be able to suppress things that easily, am I right?”
The noble glanced at him.
“We mean only to clarify our stance. We have no intention of hurting anyone.”
Raphael chuckled and asked, “Why Mindis Hall and not Renaissance Palace then?”
The noble stared at him with a hostile expression.
“Because you plan to emulate the idiot from last night,” Raphael spoke his mind candidly, “By seeking out the Duke of Star Lake and taking advantage of the fact that he has only just returned and is relatively inexperienced. You plan to go to the meeting armed.
“And make a scene.”
‘Make a scene.’
Thales’ eyes glazed over.
“Without bloodshed, no one will listen… Without a grandiose act, there is no way out… Those who are unwilling to debase themselves will have to swallow the bitter pill.”
“Tell me, Duke Thales… What rationality is this?”
Anker’s sad and indignant eyes when he crashed the banquet to take a hostage reappeared in Thales’ mind.
“Not emulate.” The noble seemed offended. “We had this planned way before that idiot from Western Desert, and more meticulously.”
Raphael snorted, “But you must have been encouraged by a precedent, especially since that idiot survived.”
“So you made up your minds to knock on Prince Thales’ door and force him to deal with the kind of problem that can only be solved by His Majesty?”
‘Encouraged by a precedent…
‘The kind of problem that can only be solved by His Majesty.’
Thales clenched his fists subconsciously, but he immediately remembered that the Black Prophet was watching, so had to force himself to relax his grip.
“He is also a Jadestar.”
The noble leaned back in his chair and spoke clearly at a languid pace. “He was a hostage in Northland, he journeyed through the desert, and he is respected by many prominent aristocrats including Four-Eyed Skull.
“Last night, he showed wisdom and strength, courage and wit, as well as the spirit to revolutionize the kingdom.
“He also displayed kindness and loyalty, open-mindedness and generosity. He would not turn a blind eye to us.”
Raphael nodded as he listened, then sneered, “And this is how you bunch of loyal subjects repay the magnanimous Prince Thales.
“By ‘visiting’ him at Mindis Hall with twenty swords?”
The noble from Blade Edge Hill suddenly looked up!
“He is our future king.”
His tone was resolute and his words were heavy, making Thales feel breathless.
“He can bear it.”
Raphael was silent for a while but did not look towards the one-way glass.
“But what if he doesn’t want to, and it’s not convenient for him to deal with your overwhelmingly complicated rotten affairs that involve the interests of many parties?”
“Then he is not worthy of becoming king,” the nobility replied decisively.
Raphael snorted, “You’re not afraid to express your opinions, I see.”
The noble chuckled; his laughter was chilling.
“Have you been to Blade Edge Hill, young man?”
He looked at Raphael with an aggressive and unyielding gaze. “If you haven’t been there, stop talking.
“And if you have been there, then you will know: we are not afraid of expressing our opinions.”
Raphael was silent for a while.
Thales sensed that the Barren Bone man had fallen into a disadvantage.
After a few seconds, Raphael scoffed softly.
“You look like a wise man, Your Excellency,” he said politely, with heavy undertones, “And you are already sitting here. You must know what to do?”
The noble turned away, snorted, and pondered for a while.
But he finally turned back around and said in a deep voice, “Of course.
“I will go back and tell them to cancel this appeal and protest.”
Raphael’s eyes lit up.
“Good,” the Barren Bone man happily closed the file, “If everyone was as reasonable as you, I don’t have to claim overtime pay every day.”
He stood up, ready to end the interrogation—or inquiry.
But the noble halted him.
“You may have won today, young man.”
The noble from Blade Edge Hill looked up and stared directly at Raphael.
“You may have impeded us.” His words made the listener uneasy. “But as long as the root of the matter is not resolved, and the disease of the kingdom is not cured, there will be more people like us.”
‘More people like us…’
Thales continued breathing in a trance.
“Then I don’t mind seeing you a few more times,” Raphael responded, determined not to be outdone, “Whether it’s here or in the courtroom, or…”
“In a coffin?”
The noble burst into laughter, but that laughter immediately turned into a warning, “Mr Agent, do you think this is the solution?”
He stared coldly at Raphael, “People like us have yet to be forced into a corner. We have families and businesses, so we have scruples. For the sake of the big picture and our livelihoods, we can still grin and bear it when we encounter injustice…
“But what about the next Anker Byrael?
“The next person who approaches Prince Thales just to resolve these problems?”
‘The next Anker Byrael.’
Thales closed his eyes.
The noble from Blade Edge Hill shook his head disdainfully. “Just wait and see. Your approach today is not the ultimate solution.
“Not even the Black Prophet can resolve this.”
His eyes were focused and his tone was firm, “Only one person can.”
Even though he was not in the main interrogation room, Thales felt he was about to suffocate just from listening in.
Raphael forced a smile. “Then I will make sure he knows.”
“Yeah.” The noble looked at him with a profound gaze. “You better.”
The noble stood up and let the two big men put a hood over his head without resisting.
The atmosphere in the interrogation room finally felt less depressed.
“Take care, Your Excellency. See you again next time!”
Raphael saw the noble from Blade Edge Hill off with a smile. Finally he exhaled and muttered softly so that only he could hear, “I hope not.”
On the other side of the glass, Thales detached himself from his mixed emotions.
“He is right, Lord Hansen,” he forced himself to speak, “Even if I did not stand up last night, and did not respond directly to Anker Byrael.”
The Black Prophet looked at him interestedly.
“Sooner or later, such incidents will arise.
“And my identity is bound to attract such an accident again.”
Thales clenched his teeth.
“This has…nothing to do with my actions last night.”
Morat took a deep breath and tolerated another bout of strange movement from the vines on his lap.
“Maybe you are right, and you can certainly convince yourself that way, to justify your actions last night and put yourself at ease.” The Black Prophet closed his eyes. If you ignored his lower body, he looked like an ordinary old man who was resting his eyes.
“But you know that what I wanted you to see was not this.”
Thales suddenly looked up!
“Raphael!” he cried loudly. His voice reached the other end of the interrogation room.
Raphael turned around calmly and bowed in the direction of the one-way glass, in the direction of nobles he could not see.
“How many are there?”
Thales’ breathing was chaotic. He clenched his fists and asked loudly through gritted teeth, “Other similar cases that are linked to my actions last night and my return…
“How many are there?”
Raphael did not answer immediately. He just kept silent and bowed again towards the mirror.
Until Thales understood: he was waiting for permission from the Chief of Intelligence.
But beside Thales, the Black Prophet said nothing.
‘He does not follow the prince’s orders.’
Thales was suddenly overcome with an inexplicable anger, which erupted in his already depressed heart.
It even provoked the Sin of Hell’s River—this fierce beast was gnawing inside his blood vessels again.
This made him feel like he had incredible strength and boundless fury, but nowhere to vent and could only force himself to suppress it.
“Raphael,” the Duke of Star Lake tried hard to ignore his miserable state and commanded coldly, “An—swer—me.”
Several seconds later, perhaps he sensed the duke’s displeasure, and perhaps he understood the meaning behind Morat’s silence, Raphael replied quietly, “A lot.
“Just today, the Asses have discovered four more cases.”
The Prince’s Ass.
Thales felt that his fingers were about to break from him clenching his fists too hard.
But Raphael continued, “For example, the number of nobles applying to become police officers in the capital may see a significant rise, because Officer Karabeyan was the first person who received you, and the female officer in charge of your daily needs was also a police officer…
“A second example, the number of members of the Glassworks Trade Association will increase sharply. There will be a large influx of funds and market fluctuations will exceed estimates. No matter how laboriously Baron Quentin explained that the glass smashing incident last night is not the latest rule of the royal family, it will still be a matter that Master Kirkirk Mann and Viscount Kenney have to agonize over…
“A third example, security for banquets held in the capital will be raised to the highest level, regardless of the family holding the banquet, because your actions last night objectively encouraged everyone to bring a weapon to banquets to settle whatever grievances they have. They might even get some response and sympathy by doing so…”
Thales found it harder and harder to breathe every time Raphael uttered a word.
“And this morning.”
Raphael’s words were calm and solemn and he was relaxed and at ease as usual, but for some reason the words sounded harsh to Thales.
“There was a new murder in the outskirts of Eternal Star City.”
Thales felt a jolt.
“According to the preliminary investigation by the police: the deceased was an agricultural trader, and the murderer is a farmer who works in the field. The latter confessed to the crime without denying it. It must have been a crime of passion.”
Thales repressed the discomfort he felt throughout his body and, with much difficulty, asked, “Why?”
Raphael hesitated for a while as he seemed to search for the right wording.
Until the Black Prophet coughed slowly.
Raphael let out a quiet sigh. “An eyewitness said that the agricultural trader, that is, the deceased, had a conversation with the murderer before the incident.
“He changed his mind at the last minute and wanted to raise the price of lettuce seeds, which they had previously agreed on…
Thales was stunned.
In an instant, an inexplicable daze and confusion took over his body and mind.
“It is said that the farmer was already poor and working hard to support his family to make ends meet. So he broke down and acted impulsively, to the point that the other party was fatally injured…”
Raphael’s voice seemed to come from the bottom of a lake, fluctuating yet vivid.
“And according to witnesses, the reason the deceased asked for a sudden price increase was because…
“The prince likes them.”
His voice faded away. Thales shook violently!
“The prince likes them.”
In that instant, all the anger and indignance seemed to realize the absurdity of their existence and disappeared from his senses.
“The prince likes them.”
Even Raphael, the Black Prophet, the rustling of the black-veined vines, and the entire interrogation room disappeared altogether.
Leaving behind a sense of emptiness, loss and sorrow.
“The prince likes them.”
Thales closed his eyes in a daze, leaned against the wall behind him, and slowly titled his head backward.
But in that moment, the youth did not feel like he was leaning against a wall…
But instead a deep, bottomless, edgeless abyss.
“The prince likes them.”
Dark and depressing.
Cold and dead silent.
“The prince likes them.”