Episode 93

The Plague-Contaminated City Of Seville (1)
1 week ago
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When embarking on an expedition, there’s a common saying in all military books:

Secure your rear before deploying.

Just as one ensured that thieves did not enter one’s home when it was left empty, the safety of the base was of utmost importance.

In that sense, the new mansion had become the second safest place after the old Margrave castle.

Though my father would always be by my side, in case of emergency, my mother could lock herself in her bedroom and endure for months on her own.

Therefore, I could leave my domain and venture out with peace of mind.

It was a skill in its own right-

“Young master.”

“Yes, Sir Robert.”

“Do you intend to keep it a secret until the end that we always leave the domain in this formation, without the people knowing?”

“Of course.”

My escort for this trip was Robert.

“To outsiders, it might seem as if you’re pushing Grey Gibraltar, who is like an unpolished stone, to go out and work.”

“That’s exactly what the villagers are saying. They think we’re making the young master do all the hard work outside, while Noir is raised in comfort.”

“Perfect.”

The process of directing the spotlight on the stage towards Noir was going smoothly.

“It might feel to me like I’m going on this expedition just like any other knight, right? Sir Mente, have you heard anything?”

“A corrupt official who travels to neighboring domains using the precious budget and taxes of the Margrave’s territory?”

“That’s exactly the image I wanted.”

The rumors Dame Mente heard were suitable for weakening my public standing.

“An expedition with only Sir Robert as the escort, not taking anyone from the ‘Black Knights’… the core of the knightly force, dedicated to Noir. No one would think this is an actual expedition.”

The only knights following us are Robert and Mente, just the two of them.

“Even the servants following us are orphanage maids, presumably orphans from the empire.”
Behind us, White numbers 36 to 81, a total of 6, were following as aides.

“36. Has Noir been making any strange comments? I heard he’s been paying a lot of attention to you lately.”

“It’s okay. Number 27… will be seducing in my stead.”

“Aren’t they dangerous?”

“It’s fine with Sir Carlos of the Black Knights there.”

“If it’s Sir Carlos, I trust him.”

All the talents in Gibraltar were gathering around Noir.

“It’s been two years since you were harshly dealt with in Morgania, but be careful not to lose your senses and cause trouble again.”

“Shall I convey your message?”

“No. I’ll tell him myself. After the expedition.”

Of course, there were those who stood by Noir’s side, knowing ‘our situation’, including Sir Carlos.

“Young master. You shouldn’t keep saying such things to Sir Carlos.”

“Why? Afraid he’ll try to take your place?”

“I’m not joking. It’s true.”

“That’s correct.”

“…?”

Was there some implicit conversation among the knights?

“What do you mean?”

“To Grey Gibraltar, who willingly bears the stigma for the future of Gibraltar! I, Carlos, will gladly step into that stigma for true loyalty!”

“If you really said that, I’ll have to make sure to warn you not to say such things again.”

“That’s why more knights can’t come to this side. Hehe, young master. How did you manage to gather only such people? Right?”

“That’s why it’s the Shadow Knights, Dame Mente.”

Places where those as radiant as Carlos cannot enter.

“This is a gray area, neither black nor white. The shadows of Gibraltar. It’s just right for those with a suitable disposition for such tasks.”

Sir Robert was not originally inclined, but over the past five years, my various stories have dyed him in the same shadow.

“It doesn’t matter if everyone else doesn’t know. This is something beloved by all in Gibraltar, not just the people of our domain.”

I pulled a glass bottle from my bosom.

“The fact that we are supplying the raw material for what is publicly known as ‘mana herb powder,’ a mana-enhancing substance.”

“Are you referring to [Caroline]?”

“Yes.”

A mana supplement and low blood pressure remedy favored even by Margrave Crimson Gibraltar.

“Sir Robert, as the only adult male in this knightly order, how do you find the experience of using Caroline?”

“I prefer to use it as an incense, as you mentioned, rather than dissolving the powder in water!”

“I thought so.”

Though rumors abound, officially, it’s merely a ‘health supplement’ or a ‘mana enhancer.’

Currently,

Even Saint Gio Nostrum was paying a hefty premium to verify its effects.

‘Suddenly, it seems we’re gathering more gold than Thaler.’

While the sales operations were currently managed by Morgania, the substantial profits meant I was hardly bothered by intermediary fees.

“Number 45. Has the Empire caught on to the true nature of Caroline?”

“They are aware of its existence, but from what Morgania says…”

“It doesn’t matter how it’s used, as long as the raw material remains a secret.”

Although the Empire had identified Caroline, they had no idea where it’s produced.

“That it’s made from materials we acquired through our expeditions.”

And,

“That it’s being produced in the Gibraltar orphanage, in an underground alchemy workshop.”

Distribution by Morgania.

Production in Gibraltar.

Nobody would suspect that the spotless Margravate of Gibraltar, beneath the orphanage in the gorge, was producing ‘pseudo-White Silver.’

The production site was,

“The useless king turns out to be useful at times like this.”

Moreover,

“Yes, indeed, surprisingly. Maybe you should send a letter to Princess Naria later?”

“Letters can be intercepted, so I’ll express my gratitude when we meet in person.”

In the capital, a secret agreement had been made with someone, and a cover operation was in full swing.

“While Naria draws the aggro, let’s keep moving in the shadows.”


The Imperial Capital, Crown Prince’s Palace.

“Is this the White Silver developed by the kingdom?”

“Yes. How about it?”

“…….”

Hapsburg, the crown prince, poked his index finger into the white powder spread before him.

After licking it off his finger, he tasted it and then inhaled the remaining powder through his nose.

“No, this isn’t White Silver. It’s merely a blend of various mana herbs.”

“Right? But why do some claim it gives them a rush?”

“Could they be experiencing a placebo effect?”

The prince continued to toy with the powder.

“Did you bring the wrong sample?”

“What do you mean? I took this directly from the palace, in secret.”

Bathory, the woman with gray hair, puffed her cheeks in frustration.

“Do you have any idea the lengths I went to obtain this without getting caught? Sneaking all the way to the capital, dodging every sense and barrier, even risking burns to my skin, and all for this sample!”

“You’re just regretting it because no one else could have brought back this sample. The deal isn’t sealed yet.”

The crown prince continued to rub the powder between his fingers, feeling a twinge of regret.

“It might have been mixed with smoke as a form of camouflage. So, we need to put in a bit more effort.”

“Ugh, isn’t this just that? The thing you mentioned to Nostrum, that Saint Gio was mass-producing.”

“Hmm… That could be a possibility.”

The crown prince stroked his beard, his brows furrowing in thought.

“That incompetent king?”

“They say he’s quite capable in certain areas, earning the title ‘King of Virility’ for his prowess below the waist.”

“So, aside from his reproductive abilities, he’s still regarded as a king in terms of male function?”

The crown prince shook his head, incredulous.

“Judgment reserved. We lack sufficient evidence. We need to gather more information.”

“Is gossip acceptable?”

“What gossip?”

“I heard a story from a maid in a noble house under that incompetent king, claiming that a princess of the kingdom is actually running things?”

“……Naria Gio Nostrum?”

The crown prince’s eyes sparkled.

“Hmm. Indeed. Is that so…? No, that seems even less plausible.”

“Look, I’m just passing on what I heard. If you’re going to keep secrets to yourself, then I’m out of the loop.”

“This possibility.”

The crown prince raised his thumb and then pressed it firmly onto his wristwatch.

“Naria Gio Nostrum.”

Then, he turned his thumb counterclockwise.

“…….”

“Look around. Find anyone suspicious or trying to make contact. And if someone tries to recruit people without any connection to the princess…”

The crown prince rubbed the white powder with the thumb he had used to rub the watch crystal.

“See if they’re potential heroes. Shh, whoosh. If they happen to know…”

The crown prince smiled bitterly for a moment.

“We could also produce White Silver that’s as similar as possible.”

“Didn’t we start injecting the incompetent king with White Silver a long time ago? Wasn’t that an attempt at replication?”

“Who attempted it is important, and who created this counterfeit is also crucial. Or…”

Rustle.

“Finding the person who came up with the ‘idea’ itself to disguise this fake as if it had real effects is also important.”

“There’s no shortage of important tasks.”

“But if we find them, the response becomes easier.”

The crown prince clenched the powder and the paper bag tightly in his hand.

“No matter how far into the future one looks, it’s still the future, not the present.”

Sizzle.

“If it’s still just a possibility.”

The powder and the paper bag disintegrated as if burning away, absorbed into the crown prince’s hand.

“We must ensure that this possibility does not become reality.”


Barony of Seville.

If Gibraltar received the protection of the gorge, then this place was under the protection of the demonic beast-contaminated area.

Was it right to call it protection?

A place where demonic beasts and demons frequently emerged from the contaminated area, crossing the forest.

‘A sanctuary of demonic beasts.’

Demonic beasts were a type of wild animal.

No different from beasts, and with enough hunters, they could easily be dealt with.

However, humans, the soldiers of the empire, were a different story.

Being defeated by demonic beasts meant either being killed instantly or eaten, but being captured in war leads to a miserable existence as a slave, ultimately ending in death.

“The hatred towards the kingdom has accumulated over 500 years; could it disappear so easily?”

The war had ended more easily than expected, partly because the traitor, Crimson Gibraltar, was still at large, making people wary of overstepping.

“It wasn’t for no reason that they were considered second-class citizens.”

The empire treated the people of the kingdom almost like untouchables.

Those recognized as second-class citizens within the kingdom were either the privileged class that had aligned with the empire early on, or the middle class residing in the capital or major cities.

The ‘human circus’ targeting the useless peasants, the lower class, and the impoverished of the empire was unspeakably horrific.

“Do you know how the empire has governed the many nations it has conquered? By dividing the conquered nation in half,”

The Emperor said this.

“By granting those who align with the empire the power to enforce laws, they make them control and suppress the lower class.”

Those who became second-class citizens of the empire tore and burned the flag of the kingdom themselves, even exaggerating their actions to prove their loyalty to the empire.

Throwing stones at those loyal to the kingdom in the streets.

Accusing ordinary people born in the kingdom of being ‘revolutionaries’.

Or forming vigilante groups to denounce those seen as traitors by the empire.

Rule by terror and iron blood.

The crown prince did not hesitate to get his hands dirty directly, but if not necessary, he preferred to manipulate from behind the scenes.

This place was a prime example.

“Welcome back to your homeland, young master. And to everyone.”

Northwest of the Kingdom of Nostrum lies the frontline of the Demonic Beast-Contaminated Area.

“Seville, always a peaceful place, isn’t it?”

Before the contaminated area was completely overtaken by demonic beasts and the roads were cut off, refugees from the empire managed to break through the contaminated area and settle in the kingdom in an old refugee village.

“It looks no different from any ordinary rural village at a glance…haha.”

This would take place about 6 years later.

“Except when the demonic beasts are rampant, there’s nothing much to boast about in this quiet town.”

Traitor Grey, aged 21.

“If burning down one city can control the entire kingdom, then the lives of tens of thousands are cheap.”
The ‘Great Purge,’ carried out by the empire’s second-class citizens, results in the plains engulfed in flames, killing tens of thousands in the fire.

“The most famous thing here is-”

“Cattle.”

Rural.

Cattle were livestock, used as farm tools.

“Sir Robert, the people here, they wouldn’t slaughter and eat cows that have fed on grass from the Demonic Beast-Contaminated Area, would they?”

“Young master, that’s disdain for the people of this village. Even if we are starving, poor, and hungry, surely we wouldn’t go as far as to eat cows that have gone mad from being affected by demonic beasts?”

“…….”

“What a joke.”

“Yes. It’s a joke.”

“…When you say it like that, it sounds as though there really are such people.”

“Exactly.”

Currently, it’s just at the ‘possibility’ stage.

“Hopefully.”

Flap.

“There won’t be such an incident causing trouble for Gibraltar.”

Above the blue sky, flocks of crows with black wings flew towards the empire.

This time.

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