Chapter 22: The Emerging Emblem
After giving out instructions and finishing up the work that had piled up in his absence, Danis sat down on the sofa in the living room located in the corner of the base. He lit a cigarette so he could finally have a smoke.
At first glance, the house seemed to be just a normal house. However, it was unusual in that it was connected to the house next door and it has another room in the basement. To avoid being spotted easily, he had to disguise the fact that this building was a base. It was partly to avoid being discovered by the national guard, but also there were so many other people who wanted his head. Why? It was simple.
There were those who wanted chaos so that no one could control them, those who wanted to control the underworld themselves instead, and those who wanted to replace them with others and enjoy the benefits.
Danis, who lived in this dark world and never imagined that he would be involved with public affairs, had mixed feelings.
He had thought that he would never be involved with the public.
The one who entered after knocking was Chris.
There was also the fact that he never expected to be working with such a man as this.
Danis took a drag on his cigarette and just looked back at Chris, who came in with a serious expression.
“Where’s Prince Alan?”
“Be careful. He must have been really tired, because he just fell asleep right after going to his room.”
Danis replied, ignoring Chris’s nagging.
Danis put out his cigarette by pushing it into the ashtray. If Chris had come all this way to see him, then that was probably not the only reason why he was here.
“There’s one thing I want to ask you… Why are you helping Prince Alan?”
It was a valid question.
There was no way that Danis, who was not supposed to have any connection with Alan, could help him. Even Chris, a knight sworn to protect the royal family, wouldn’t normally be involved in such a matter, and it would also be disadvantageous to his position.
Even Danis would probably think the same thing.
He turned to Chris, who had a serious expression, and who looked like he wouldn’t be swayed easily.
“That’s because it’s advantageous for me too. It’s for a completely personal matter, separate from my being the leader of this organization, but I have a grudge against Prime Minister Gabriel that I have yet to repay. Would it make sense to you if I told you that I’m supporting the prince because it’s the closest way I can get to the Prime Minister … ?”
“I see. So it’s revenge … But what if that alliance falls apart? What are you going to do?”
Chris was convinced by Danis’s explanation, and he retorted with a sharp look. It was quite natural and correct for him to react that way. Once they’ve achieved their goal, they could turn on them. It was a common thing. He thought that Chris was probably saying this because he was worried about such an occurrence.
Danis said, “Once I’ve accomplished my…goal, I’ll withdraw immediately after seeing it through with my own eyes. It’s not a good idea for someone who is tainted by darkness to get involved with the public.”
Danis gave him a cocky smile as he said this, but Chris kept his determined gaze fixed on him.
“I don’t believe you,” Chris said dubiously. It was only natural for him to be doubtful, since he was the one who had to protect the royal family, and Danis thought it was just right that there was at least one person around Alan who was as wary as he was.
It would be better for the young prince to have a skeptical person in his life.
“I understand where you’re coming from. I’m pretty sure I heard that your father died in a defensive campaign. Are you the rightful heir to the Levsky family?”
Chris frowned at his unexpected question.
“‘What do you mean by that? I was legitimately raised by my father as his heir.”
“Well, then it’s only a consolation prize, but it’s better than nothing.”
Danis rolled up the sleeve on his left arm and brought a candle up to it. A black tattoo with a particular design gradually revealed itself on his arm.
It was shaped like a coat of arms, and within it were what looked like a shield and a sword with a snake entwined around it.
As Chris saw this, his eyes widened and he was astonished. That’s as it should be. Only a few families inherited emblems like this, and moreover, the emblem Danis has was something that was believed to have been erased from this world.
“That coat of arms is …!? Who are you …?”
“If you’re the successor to Levsky, then you know what this coat of arms means. I never dreamed that a day would come when I would show this coat of arms to anyone.”
Chris was still somewhat unsettled, but after thinking about it for a bit, he put his hand on the door of the room as if to leave.
“I’ll trust you for now, but don’t think that means I completely approve of you.”
“I don’t mind. That’s fine.”
As soon as he heard Danis’s reply, Chris left the room in silence.
Danis hoped this would make things a little easier for him, and he looked down at the emblem etched on his left arm. As he moved away from the fire, the emblem gradually faded. It was a special tattoo that was inked in such a way that it only emerged when it was heated with fire. So, under normal circumstances, Alan would never notice it.
He doesn’t have to notice it.
I don’t want him to get his hopes up.
The man Alan once knew was gone, and he has no use for the royal family.
The corners of Danis’s mouth lifted slightly as he remembered that the prince, who he’d used to hold as a body pillow to avoid nightmares, sometimes whispered the name “Renius” in his sleep.
Danis touched the pendant he wore under his clothes.
It brought back memories that were both soothing and searing at the same time.
There was a knock on the door, and Danis took his hand off the pendant before answering, “Come in.”
Bourne entered the room. He came in holding a syringe filled with a particular fluid in his hand. It was something that Danis had asked for when they arrived here.
“Your mistress is quite the handful to have to use this … “
Bourne’s face was unusually stern, and his eyebrows were more furrowed than usual. Bourne wasn’t the type to be expressive, though not as much as Danis.
“Don’t say that. It’s temporary.”
Danis was about to smoke again, when he heard Bourne’s reply. His hand twitched, and he stopped.
“Are you criticizing me for how I’m handling the people in the organization?”
“Yes, I’m sure that the usual you would have noticed it at some point, wouldn’t you?”
Danis quietly sighed as Bourne made his point clear. He tried to come up with a retort, but no matter what he said, it would sound like an excuse.
Normally, it was unusual for Danis to act so openly. And it was even more unusual for him to act without knowing where he stood. He assumed that was what Bourne was trying to say.
“Have you come to lecture me?”
“I’m just giving you some advice.”
Bourne placed the syringe he had brought with him on the desk and took a few steps back. Danis took a drag on his cigarette this time and blew out smoke. Then he spoke quietly.
“It’s not like that. If that’s the only way to end it, then that’s the most I can do.”
“I don’t want you to die. The organization is stable now because of your leadership.”
“That’s a bold thing to say in this underworld.”
Danis smiled a little in amusement.
The leader of an underworld organization would always be targeted. So originally, it was only Danis who was relocating from time to time so that his location would not be pinpointed.
Even so, it was common for people to be targeted and killed for any number of predictable reasons, such as being targeted by the relatives of victims or because of personal grudges. And soon, the head of the underworld organization would immediately be replaced.
“It’s not a world that will change so easily even if I was gone.”
“Still, ever since you took over, the uncontrolled and excessive numbers of backroom deals and drug trafficking are now more regulated than before. Some people may complain about it, but the infighting has almost disappeared and the treatment of the members is better than before. I don’t know anyone else who could’ve done it this well.”
At Bourne’s assessment of him, he paused and reflected.
It was true that he had done such things, but he hadn’t considered that if the head of the underworld changed, the entire governance would change as well.
If he wanted to continue to maintain this rule, relying on Danis was a matter that would have to end in his own generation.
“…I need you to be okay with me being gone though.”
“That’s a tough one.”
Danis shrugged at Bourne’s suggestion that he should live longer.
Danis finished his cigarette, extinguished it in the ashtray, and stood up holding the syringe Bourne had brought him. “I’ll be careful,” was the only reply he gave as he headed for the room that had been prepared for him.
It was the middle of the night. In the quiet atmosphere, Danis sat by the window of the room he had been given. The lights were turned off, and he was smoking while looking out.
It was partly because he simply could not sleep. If he slept, he was almost certain to have nightmares. He would keep dreaming of them to remember his vengeance.
And the other was…
There was a small knock coming from the door of the room. When Danis replied, the door slowly opened without making a sound.
“… Danis… got a minute?”
It was Alan who’d quietly opened the door. Once he saw Danis, his eyes darted elsewhere and he tried to say something, but then he scowled; even in the dark, his cheeks were clearly flushed.
Danis has a rough idea about what was going on. Alan’s body still hasn’t recovered. It was strange that his body was able to endure being given strong drugs repeatedly, and that he could act normally without people noticing it.
If he were a normal person, he would’ve gone crazy and started acting like a sex slave at this point. The fact that he didn’t ever act like that meant that either he has developed a special tolerance to it since birth, or that he has been accustomed to ingesting poisons since childhood.
Danis extinguished his cigarette.
“Why don’t you come inside first? I can only offer you coffee.”
Finally, Alan’s restless gaze turned to Danis, who nodded. He went inside and sat down on the couch. But he still looked restless, his eyes darting here and there in the room. Watching Alan from the corner of his eye, Danis poured some coffee into a cup with a familiar hand.
“You still can’t calm down?”
Danis asked, as Alan couldn’t seem to speak up.
Alan reacted immediately, and his face flushed again. How did he know? But it was too late to try and hide it because Danis had examined Alan’s body in the warehouse and knew his condition.
Danis placed a cup of coffee on the table in front of the couch.
“‘I didn’t know what to do because sleeping didn’t help.”
Alan spoke, slurring his words a bit, as he looked down at his coffee cup. Danis realized it was probably difficult for him to say it out loud. From the moment Danis met him, he never seemed to recognize him.
Danis figured it was only natural, since he was raised well.
He took the syringe from the shelf and sat down next to Alan. Alan immediately moved his eyes to the syringe that Danis was holding.
“It’s like a neutralizer for the aphrodisiac. … I honestly don’t know how effective it’ll be, but it’s better than nothing. Do you want me to hold off on using it?”
Alan shook his head. He rolled up the sleeve of one of his arms and said, “Do it.”
Danis thought that Alan’s quick decision was a testament to his courage. It was rare for someone to offer someone else their arm for a drug without being told exactly what was in it. Normally, a syringe would be a source of suspicion for someone in Danis’s position.
Perhaps it was because they had met as individuals instead of through the underworld, but for Danis, what Alan showed him was a sign of genuine trust that he hadn’t seen in a long time
He couldn’t help but let out a chuckle.
What was wrong with Alan? He blinked his big eyes and looked at Danis. Danis said it was nothing, and held the syringe in his hand.
He soaked a piece of gauze with strong alcohol that he’d had prepared beforehand, and lightly wiped the arm that was offered to him. Then he stuck the needle of the syringe into Alan’s arm.
Alan groaned a little at the slight sting.
Although he was accustomed to it, it was still a little painful, probably because Danis’s skill was not as good as that of a doctor’s. When the liquid inside was completely injected, he pulled the needle out and he used his finger to press some gauze at the pierced point.
He told Alan to press on it for a while, and let him keep the pressure on it himself. Alan’s eyes were fixed on the gauze.
“How long does it take for this to work?”
“… if it works, then it’ll take about 20 minutes at the latest.”
It worked faster than he’d expected. Alan seemed to keep calm while muttering, but his breathing was quick and shallow. His shoulders rose and fell accordingly. When he took a careful look at Alan’s face, he could tell it was flushed.
With his long furrowed brows and large downcast eyes, Danis thought Alan’s face was as beautiful as ever. As he was looking at Alan, he noticed that one of his hands was now unconsciously touching Alan’s chin.
Alan twitched and looked up at Danis.
Without saying anything, he stared back at the prince who was staring at him.
It was not often that Danis had felt like this, wondering who had touched this prince, whatever his feelings were about it, and had brought him to this point.
That really wasn’t like him. Danis laughed at himself in his mind. No wonder Bourne was giving him such a hard time.
He thought he had lost his sense of possessiveness a long time ago.
Alan shifted his gaze elsewhere, perhaps because it was uncomfortable for him to just stare at Danis when he wasn’t saying anything.
His fingers slid from Alan’s chin, where he’d had been touching him, to his temple, and then lightly stroked the back of his ear. This was Alan’s weak spot.
Immediately, as he’d imagined, Alan reacted, closing his eyes and mouth tightly, as if he was overwhelmed.
“Hmm … Danis … what?”
“I’m a little annoyed.”
“What?” said Alan. He looked up and looked at Danis. What for? He tilted his head with a confused expression. Danis guessed that he didn’t expect him to say that.
Danis stopped caressing his ear and placed his hand on Alan’s chin again, forcing him to look up.
“That you let another man hold you.”
Alan’s eyes widened and his lips parted slightly in surprise. Danis lowered his lips on Alan’s and sealed them.
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