Chapter 94 - Tastes Good Fried
Kane was already exhausted from the start of the morning. ‘I’m seriously going to die at this rate.’ He could feel his temple throb from recalling the chaos that erupted in the banquet hall the previous night. From the minute he saw Estian drumming his fingers against the armrest of his chair, he had been struck with a wave of anxiety. As Estian’s loyal retainer who had spent a long time at the emperor’s side, Kane quickly noticed. ‘That’s his habit when he’s irritated.’
As soon as the banquet began, and the Aswan delegation had entered, the tempo of a certain somebody’s drumming fingers had kicked up a notch. When Estian called out to Princess Yuliana with an imperceptible smile, Kane realized that she was the emperor’s source of irritation. Observing the princess, it didn’t take long for him to notice a sense of dissonance—from the guard standing beside him to the attendants serving the food, they were all looking at Princess Yuliana as if utterly bewitched. Kane swiftly surveyed his surroundings, as he wondered inwardly, ‘What’s going on?’
Aside from Estian and himself, everyone gazed at Yuliana with eyes dripping with affectionate admiration, hanging off every slight gesture of the princess. When she laughed, they laughed, and when she looked crestfallen, everyone hung their heads. Soon enough, Kane could feel his own eyes being drawn to her too. ‘What’s happening to me?’ His superior senses of a well-trained knight were ringing alarm bells.
‘What has Princess Yuliana done?’ If it had been a spell of the Mage Tower, Kane would’ve easily noticed it; after all, he’d had his fair share of encounters with their wizardry on the battlefield. Princess Yuliana’s power, however, was clearly something of a different nature. As he struggled to come up with a way to break himself out of the encroaching fascination, the doors to the banquet hall swung open.
“Haah,” Kane sighed upon recalling that moment. Who would’ve dreamed the empress would appear in such a fashion? “Still, I managed to come to my senses thanks to her interruption.” The impact of the empress appearing in such an absurd outfit had snapped everyone out of their reveries, and all their attention was poured onto the empress; no one spared a glance at Princess Yuliana.
Kane could still picture it clear as day in his mind: the empress, as if evil incarnate itself, had mocked the pale-faced Princess Yuliana, “Goodness, why do you look so shocked? I was only talking about a peacock. Or perhaps you know of something else fitting that criteria?” Soon after dropping such an explosive remark, the empress had ostentatiously waved goodbye, as she was carried away by the emperor, leaving behind a deathly pale Princess Yuliana, trembling from having narrowly escaped the fate of ending up as dragon food. ‘There won’t be any peace and quiet today either, no doubt.’
Rumors of the incident had undoubtedly spread throughout the entire imperial palace by now. Kane perfunctorily knocked on the door of the emperor’s office before entering. He had assumed that Estian had yet to arrive, so he was surprised to find the man seated at his desk. Kane quickly greeted the emperor, “I see you have come early?”
“Is it strange for me to arrive at my office early?”
“Well, the days of you arriving after me have increased since your marriage.”
“… Is that right.”
“But what is that?” Kane turned wide-eyed upon seeing what was perched on top of Estian’s desk.
“Ah, the bird mentioned in last night’s banquet?”
“That’s right, it’s the bird that Aswan presented in tribute. It is indeed beautiful. Deliver this bird to Girgantia.”
“Pardon?” Kane stammered. He’d assumed the suggestion of feeding the dragon the peacock was said in jest. Who would’ve expected they were being serious? Estian, ignoring his knight commander’s confusion, continued, “And convey a proposal of mine to the dragon.”
* * *
As the iron door to the interrogation cell opened with a clunk, Kane felt the chill of the underground air wash over him. The small peacock in the cage he carried, sensing the drop in temperature, let out an uneasy squawk. He walked onwards until he came to another thick iron door, which he pushed open without hesitation.
“Who said you could enter without even knocking…Oh! Si-sir Kane!” Tania exclaimed. Tania shot to her feet at Kane’s unexpected appearance. Meanwhile, Girgantia let out a “Huwuwup!” sound and scrambled to hide something under his wing.
“What were the two of you up to?” Kane asked, narrowing his eyes. He had caught a whiff of a familiar smell, and immediately glanced at the table placed between the two. There were brown crumbs scattered across the surface, and Girgantia appeared to be using his wing to hide “… A chicken bone?”
Immediately, two voices cried out simultaneously.
“He said let’s eat chicken!”
“She said let’s eat chicken!”
The two glared daggers at one another, as they each tried to paint the other out as the instigator.
“You’re the one who demanded I bring you some!”
“You’re the one who said fried chicken is best enjoyed while reading erotica!” Girgantia retorted.
“Didn’t I tell you not to call it erotica! It’s sensual romance!” Tania shrieked, as she grabbed Girgantia and strangled him. Amidst their bickering, Kane sighed and lowered the cage; Tania, noticing the unusual item asked, “What’s that?”
“Miss Tania, if you would please. Put Girgantia down first. I must deliver a message from His Majesty,” Kane said wearily.
“From the emperor? To me?” Girgantia asked in between coughs and sputters, as he massaged his neck. He’d almost blacked out from Tania’s chokehold! Wouldn’t it have been the ultimate shame of dragonkind for a dragon to be choked to death?
“Indeed. His Majesty has proposed a conditional release for you.”
“Conditional release?” Girgantia jumped excitedly to his feet, and pointed a finger at Tania. “You mean I can get out of here? I can get away from her, right?” When Kane nodded, the dragon’s face brightened. “I want to go out! You said conditional? What do I need to do?”
Having already expected an enthusiastic response from Girgantia, Kane nodded and pushed the bird cage towards the dragon. “Eat,” he said, as Girgantia stared back dumbly. “Eat it. It’s your meal.”
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