Chapter 20 - It Was A Bit Strange
“What?” Cecile grew wide-eyed.
“What’s the matter?”
“No, I was wondering if you had come because you had something to do…”
“I’ve done what I came to do.” His finger pressed ever so softly against Cecile’s forehead and finished, “All that’s left is to do some dicing.”
* * *
Kane, the commander of the imperial knights, felt that something was going wrong. He had arrived at the emperor’s office in the morning, only to see that Estian was nowhere to be found. Never, not once, had the emperor arrived at his office later than Kane before, yet he was not there. Kane was standing there, bewildered at this unprecedented happening, when Estian entered the office. Somehow, though, the emperor seemed different than his usual self. He was supposed to be in a ruffled mood from having faced intruders in the night, yet no such signs of displeasure could be found on Estian’s face.
Kane questioned him cautiously. “How was last night, Your Majesty?”
There were four assassins. There had been no intrusions in the imperial palace for a while, yet they attacked on the wedding night as if they had been waiting.
“A bit… strange.”
Kane nodded with a knowing face at Estian’s reply. Upon investigation, it was revealed that the four assassins were completely unrelated to each other. Four assassins each sent by four different entities? Something like this had never happened before.
“I understand. It must have been your first time experiencing such a thing.”
“It felt far smaller than I thought, for starters.”
“Is that so?” Was the assassin small? The body floating in the pond didn’t seem that small, though? Kane wondered.
“And softer than I imagined, too.”
“Pardon?” Kane’s face turned odd at hearing the word ‘soft’. What in tarnation? What softness on the assassin was he talking about? Did he stab through the killer’s belly that easily?
Estian abhorred having contact with others. It was an inevitable result, considering how he grew up. It was to the degree that he was averse to have even Kane—a long-time faithful subject—stand beside him except when absolutely necessary. Yet he touched an assassin? And it felt soft? The assassin was, without a single doubt, a middle-aged man, so where was the softness?
A dangerous picture began to gradually form in Kane’s mind as Estian continued to speak.
“And even prettier in the night as well.”
“Your Majesty, I’m sorry but who might you be talking about…?” Kane cautiously asked.
“The empress, of course. What? Who did you think I was talking about just now?”
“Are you mad?”
No wonder I felt something was off, Kane thought. But just as Kane was about to sigh in relief, he paused upon an important realization. Hang on? What did the emperor say now? The empress is small and pretty?
The shock came late. While Kane was gaping speechlessly like a fish, the emperor started sitting down at his desk and signing several documents, but then he suddenly stopped moving his hands and stood up. Then he walked towards the door.
“Your Majesty? Where might you be going?”
“Going to see someone.”
Kane did not ask who. Estian went out, and a long time passed before he came back. The moment he entered the office, Kane caught the subtle scent of roses along with the smell of blood. He asked, “Where have you been, Your Majesty?”
“I met the empress, then remembered the assassin from yesterday, so I diced him up a bit.”
“How in heavens did you end up thinking of dicing up the assassin after meeting her Majesty?”
At his question, Estian threw something that was in his hand at Kane. Kane instinctively caught the item, and his eyes grew wide upon seeing it. It was a small metal engraving with bits of blood and flesh. “This is…”
“I opened up the body and found it inside. You also know the mark on it, don’t you?”
“This is the mark of the holy kingdom’s zealots, is it not?”
Estian’s eyes radiated cold murder. The assassin who had led the attack last night had targeted the empress, not him. Just why?
“I’ll have to find out why the hell the holy kingdom sent an assassin, and why they sent one after the empress instead of me.”
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