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The Dragon Sleep Flower
The path from the shrine to the underground lake where the ancient dragon Kharis was sealed was long and winding. Many dead ends, like a maze, existed as a countermeasure against intruders. The correct path had no special characteristic, nor did the corners have any marking to guide.
Despite this, Malacia was not lost and was leading the way with a lantern in his hand. Lutora, who was following him closely, became tense as the air became increasingly colder the lower they went.
After a long time, Malacia stopped in front of a passage that was different from the others they had walked through till now. The path had a slightly higher ceiling. Turning to face Lutora, he pointed towards the end of the dark path.
“If you go straight down this path, it shall lead to the underground lake where His Grace Kharis resides.”
“The ancient dragon Kharis?”
“He is one of the pillars of Palcemith. Please show him some respect. The storage area for Suimo is right here.”
Malacia urged Lutora to a hard-to-spot turn in the side of the passage and through a corner that had a wall in the blind spot. From here on, it formed a narrow path that only one person could pass through at a time.
Advancing along the narrow path and after going down countless flights of stairs, they reached a dim room where they could hear water flowing. Under the faint glow of the lantern, the room didn’t seem too large. There was a canal running along the wall that had many round buds blooming in the water.
“Yeah, Dragon Sleep. Do not touch the water with your bare hands. It is a deadly poison to humans.”
“This is the water from the underground lake, right?”
“Yes. This flows out from the lake where His Grace Kharis has immersed half of his body. It is later diluted into the groundwater, it is the origin of all the water veins and diffuses throughout the kingdom. This is what makes the kingdom abundant.”
The workings were known to all the citizens of Palcemith, but it was the first time that he was seeing it with his own eyes.
Squatting beside Lutora, who was observing the canal with great interest, Malacia ascertained the sizes of each of the growing buds one by one. Muttering “it’s no good,” his shoulders drooped.
“The growth isn’t great… No matter which bud I see, it doesn’t seem like they will bloom.”
“To begin with, can they really bloom? In such a place where light doesn’t reach?”
“They will. Just a fraction of them though. They will become the raw materials for Suimo.”
Malacia got up and unlocked a small shelf fastened to the stone wall with metal fixtures and slid open the door.
“I have no choice but to use these.”
Inside the shelf were five glass vials the size of a finger. Each had a round-petalled flower submerged in the liquid. On top of having a glass stopper at their mouths, they were also airtight sealed using wax.
“I had made preparations to ship them. However, seeing how we can’t expect to be able to refine new batches of Suimo, it can’t be helped.”
Malacia took out two vials from the row and handed them over to Lutora.
“The stoppers on the vials have conical plugs. If you take out the stopper, the ‘Suimo’ inside will stick to it. Take a drop of that and mix it with milk or other drinks and give it to Lady Melia. This would be Lady Melia’s first time using Suimo, so I believe that a drop should be sufficient.”
“The records state that the Dragon Priestesses usually consume a vial every month. If we regulate the dosage, the Suimo in here should suffice. There are chances that we can make a new batch of Suimo if the growing buds of Dragon Sleep bloom, however, the hopes of that are thin.”
Giving out a sigh, Malacia closed and locked the shelf.
“As long as Lady Melia plans to use the Suimo in here, we cannot sell any. I have to think of alternative methods to get funds.”
“That, you’re talking about the Royal Family’s embezzlement of the Shrine’s funds, right?”
At Lutora’s question, Malacia gave a nod in reply.
“Morino told you about it?”
“Ahh… He explained it to us. Hearing that the late King and his close relatives had embezzled funds. His Highness deeply lamented.”
“That’s why you shouldn’t worry about the Shrine’s budget. Morino said that he will go through the account books and calculate the appropriate budget for the Shrine.”
“What a fool.”
He thought that he had given information that would put Malacia at ease, but he was quickly disparaged.
Seeing Lutora flustered, Malacia let out a second sigh.
“Did you think that the Child Prodigy Morino went over just that?”
“What do you mean?”
Lutora had clearly been made a fool of. After Malacia rubbed his brows with his free hand, he voiced out his exasperation. Just like that, Malacia quickly turned his back to him and walked back onto the original passageway. Tuning slightly to face Lutora for a moment, he continued to speak without pausing his steps.
“Think carefully, Lutora.”
“Think carefully about what?”
“No doubt the Shrine’s funds were embezzled. But did you know that I have appealed multiple times for the to be budget reconsidered, only to have all my pleas crushed under the hands of the royal family?”
“‘Although the former Prime Minister attempted to somehow accommodate them, his hopes were in vain’… is what you must have heard, am I right? And you thought that it was true?”
Even as Lutora was doubting his ears, Malacia did not turn to look back even once.
“He… Lord Anderheim has a huge influence. Even if it is the royal family, it would be difficult to ignore the intentions he clearly spoke of… usually, that is.”
“It was on purpose. And everything… was for the sake of His Highness the Crown Prince. You should know that the Crown Prince’s mother lacks substantial backing.”
Crown Prince Vikram’s mother was the Queen of Palcemith, Illumina.
Although Queen Illumina was the daughter of an Earl from a neighboring kingdom, her status was not high.
She fell in love with the king while studying in a foreign nation and thus, married him. Soon after, her family was caught up in a scandal and was wiped out. Although she gave birth to the crown prince, she has no backers.
“The late king deeply loved the queen. The fact that he did not take in a single concubine speaks volumes of his true feelings. His son, the Crown Prince was the apple of his eye. That is why he needed a backer… that too, the most influential person in the kingdom.”
“And that was…”
“Yeah. Lord Anderheim. However, he had his own circumstances and would not support the Crown Prince out of his own will. Thus, they thought of a roundabout way of deceiving him. The late King embezzled the funds from the Shrine and the former Prime Minister who saw through it gathered evidence, and finally coerced the late King to make his only daughter Julieta, the Crown Prince’s fiancée… is the scenario they made up.”
“The one who proposed that the Shrine should sell Suimo to make up for the lack of funds was also Lord Anderheim. The late King used the embezzled money to slowly win over the relatives and the rebellious retainers to his side. So that everything would work to their advantage once the Crown Prince came to the throne.”
Malacia remained calm and explained to Lutora who was shaking his head in disbelief.
“You’re free to not believe it. But, it is better to inform Prime Minister Morino of it. If he has the leisure to calculate the amount of money that has to be returned to the Shrine then he should rather put it to use thinking of ways to further solidify the Crown Prince’s foothold. The kingdom has just lost a rare guardian in the form of Lord Anderheim. It wouldn’t be surprising if anything happens.”
They reached the end of the stairs that led back to the surface.
Malacia placed his hand on the door through which light filtered in and muttered.
“When Lady Julieta was betrayed by the Crown Prince. The one who despaired the most was undoubtedly Sir Anderheim.”
Lutora was biting his lip behind Malacia’s back.
He felt that he had misunderstood everything.
Malacia: “I’m worried this puppy is a little too gullible.”
It’d be nice if ya could give the TL some coffees ya’ know? *wink* *wink*
Please spare a coffee for the editor as well, thank you.(V’s fixed the payment issue now)