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HASR’s Birthday Release (1/5)
“This isn’t a good development, Lutora.”
“To think that the evidence we wanted to use would end up being the noose around our necks.”
Morino sighed deeply. Having looked through the leather folder full of contracts passed to him by Morino and understanding what Malacia had meant by “Anderheim’s situation”, Lutora once again looked up at the ceiling.
Away from the gloomy two, in a corner of the office, two children with a similar face sat side by side, knees touching, on the long fur carpet, opening a large book taken from the bookshelf.
In the Royal Office.
Morino, who was welcoming Lutora for his regular report, had deep bags under his eyes and looked exhausted.
On top of the follow-up investigations of the revealed truth, there were also petitions from various state organizations, preparations to be made for the Dragon God Festival and the coronation ceremony five months later as well as settling the guest list, maintenance and security for the roads, investigation of the taxes… the list of things he needed to do just kept getting longer.
Anderheim, who had been Prime Minister before him, had a thorough understanding of whom to delegate the state affairs to, as well as how to distribute them to prevent dissatisfaction. However, Anderheim had been angered by the unreasonable treatment of his beloved daughter and had resigned from his position.
All the heavy responsibilities and the baton of command fell to the new Prime Minister Morino, a barely sixteen-year-old who had none of the necessary know-how.
“While it’s not impossible, we’re far too short-staffed. The evidence you’ve recorded, rather than being a double-edged sword, is more likely to become a soldering iron. One wrong step, and we’ll be scalded past the point of recovery.”
What Lutora was doing while staying in the temple was recording conversations through the magic stone, saving it as evidence.
Of course, any identifying details of private consultations or confessions were deleted, but any of Head Priest Malacia’s conversations and accompanying actions were all sent to the office.
The audio recorded through the magic stone could be paused at will, however, the contents could not be altered. In other words, for a given length of audio recording, the recording in the middle would be reliable evidence, but the beginning and end of the audio would be judged unreliable. After all, it could be suspected that something inconvenient was recorded and cut off so that it was not saved.
Melia’s violent actions and Malacia’s countermeasures to them, additionally, Lutora’s words requesting for Suimo to be given to Melia, were all unfortunately recorded in the most inconvenient part of the recording.
Should this audio be used as evidence of Malacia’s wrongdoings; Melia’s violence, as well as Lutora’s careless words, would also have to be submitted as evidence.
The audio continued to Lutora giving Melia the Suimo, and the fact that Melia had started wallowing in the drug.
Neither of those facts would allow them to escape unscathed.
“Who heard this audio when it was transmitted to the office?”
“Fortunately, it was just me. Sigurd was at the Asbal estate guarding and keeping an eye on Lady Julieta, and Jorga had immediately left after sending me these contracts, just as Lord Anderheim had predicted, to suppress the revolt that broke out at the border. His Highness accompanied Sir Jorga. Nasha was in the middle of her lessons and wasn’t around.”
“I see… It’s great that His Highness and Nasha didn’t hear it.”
“Yes. Also… ”
Morino hung his head, and let out a long sigh.
“Regarding the Suimo that was found in the merchant goods headed to Cemtoah… Just now, I found out its intended destination.”
On the night of the banquet, they had prepared this to corner Head Priest Malacia should the opportunity arise.
“The destination was a wealthy water merchant family in Cemtoah. That family has a daughter who has fallen ill with [Junkusa Disease].”
The Junkusa Disease was an incurable illness with multiple outbreaks in Cemtoah. One theory was that a local Cemtoah disease evolved as it was transmitted by humans, but nothing has been confirmed. Should one contract it, their extremities would start to decay. As if they had severe frostbite, their fingers would turn black and crumble, following which it would spread to the rest of the body via blood. The most frightening part of this disease was not the grotesque rotting appearance, but that the pain of the decaying body remained till the end.
“Both her arms are lost to the elbow, and legs are lost till the knee. For the sake of their daughter who could only suffer intense pain while waiting for her death, the parents had exhausted all their means to contact an intermediary to buy Suimo. However, that was…”
“…confiscated by us.”
Morino’s beautiful face twisted with regret.
“In the end, her internal organs started to decay. Unable to bear watching her suffer from the pain in her last days, the father… personally ended his daughter’s life.”
There was no need to ask what the expression of the hunched over Lutora was.
His fist was clenched so tightly that his fingernails drew blood and his hunched back simply trembled with the force of his emotions.
“Lutora. I am guilty of the same.”
“I… If I hadn’t confiscated that Suimo.”
“It was I who asked you to do it…! Believing that it was for the best. Believing it was justice, without a trace of doubt!”
It was far too late. Even if they regretted it, even if the hidden circumstances were known to them now.
As he struggled with the depths of the sins he now bore, small hands gripped Lutora’s arms from both sides.
“Sir Lutora, what’s wrong?”
“Sir Lutora, don’t cry.”
He drew his eyebrows together. Gazing up at Lutora’s face from below, looking as if they would cry too were the twins, Cain and Abel.
Amongst the orphans that Lutora was instructing in swordplay, these two were remarkably outstanding in their talent.
The elder of the two, Cain’s sword skills were decent and he had an introverted personality, but he was also very smart. The younger one, Abel tended to leave the thinking to his brother and was rather rough, but when handling a sword, his natural talent was outstanding.
The two were very attached to Lutora and were habitual offenders of raiding Lutora’s bed every night.
“Sir Lutora, are you being bullied?”
“Sir Lutora, tell me who’s bullying you! I will beat them up!”
Abel was swinging his fists and snorting wildly, while Cain, with tears at the corners of his eyes, was about to cry.
At the affection shown to him by the twins, who had barely turned eight, Lutora laughed weakly.
Lifting the twins onto his left and right thigh, Lutora bumped his forehead lightly on their round heads. The body warmth of the twins clinging tightly to him slowly melted the coldness in Lutora’s heart.
“Cain and Abel. They’re quite sensitive to emotions, aren’t they?”
“Yeah. And not just that, Cain is really smart and Abel is quite talented in swordplay. Although I also wanted to introduce them to Father, not just to you, Prime Minister Morino.”
Just like Sigurd, who had left the Asbal family. Talented children could be invited to be Knights, regardless of their birth. Lutora had been thinking of introducing the twins to his father, Knight Commander Jolga. By the way, when Morino had first met them, he had asked seriously, “Who did you have these children with?”
“Lord Anderheim’s predictions were spot on. Sir Jolga detoured to the knight garrison on his way to the castle and dispatched a squad to the suspected area of a revolt. The revolt broke out right before the squad arrived. Thanks to that, it was reported that the revolt was swiftly suppressed.”
“I see. That’s great to hear.”
“Yes. When His Highness and Sir Jolga return, we’ll invite Sir Jolga and discuss our future plans.”
“That’s true. For now, we can’t let His Highness…”
“Agreed. We can’t let him know.”
Hugging the twins tightly, the two men sighed again. Then the sounds of violent knocking at the office door reached their ears.
“Hey! Morino, Lutora! Are you in there?”
The voice they heard from beyond the door was a high-pitched voice, tinged with irritation, they were very familiar with.
“What’s wrong, Nasha?”
Morino stood up, but before he gave his permission to enter the room, the wooden door was opened. Uncaring about the hem of her dress dragging on the floor, entering with large strides was the former Sacrificial Priestess, Nasha Laturi. Yes, this person.
“Nasha, isn’t it currently time for your lessons?”
“Aren’t you scared of angering the head maid?”
Without replying to Morino’s or Lutora’s questions, Nasha pursed her lips and took a look around the room as she slumped her shoulders dejectedly.
“Nee. Prince Vikrum has yet to return?”
“His Highness is currently at the border, handling a revolt.”
“I know that! But isn’t Sir Jolga leading the troops? Surely it should be fine for the Prince to return earlier.”
“Nasha, that’s not possible.”
“His Highness headed to the frontlines in order to make his dignity and competency, as the next King, known. As he is with Sir Jolga, the degree of danger is less and it’s a necessary action as an administrator.”
“Even though I’m this lonely… the Prince is so unfeeling.”
Once again, they were on different wavelengths.
Nasha did not listen to their explanations. Like the past few days, she should have fought with the instructor of her lessons and had run to the office seeking comfort from her friends.
“Hey Abel, it’s a princess.”
“That’s right Cain, she’s so pretty.”
The words were exchanged in a whisper while sitting on top of Lutora’s lap.
Nasha dropped her gaze to the owners of the voices and was shocked to see the twins.
“How cute…! Are they Lutora’s children!?”
“Why are you asking that too!? When did I have children? These are two kids I’m looking after at the temple’s orphanage. Look. Cain, Abel. This is Lady Nasha. She’ll be the next Queen. Go on and greet her.”
Nasha smiled and approached the sofa as she bent over. The twins slid down from Lutora’s lap and bowed their heads, greeting her with a short “I’m Cain” “I’m Abel”. At the nervous expressions of the adorable twins, Nasha’s mood was lifted.
“So you two are twins. I have a younger twin sister as well.”
“Lady Nasha is a twin too?”
At Cain’s words, Nasha nodded in agreement, smiling happily.
“My sister is very lively and she’s called Melia. She has the same face as me, so you can tell right away.”
“Melia? The Dragon Priestess, Lady Melia?”
They tilted their heads as they asked, Cain in confusion and Abel in curiosity.
“Do you know her? Right now, she should be in the temple, like you.”
What Abel delivered next while nodding was the cruel truth that only children could say.
“Every day she shouts “Give me more medicine”. That Lady Melia, right?”
Please spare a coffee for the editor, thank you.