Chapter 116: Thirteenth Episode: Chapter 7
Translator: EndlessFantasy Translation Editor: EndlessFantasy Translation

Politicians are accustomed to treating negotiations as a factor that can hold back invasions. However, sometimes the basis of such a belief is completely unrealistic. This is because the politicians of Westland serve the monarch and the major goal of politics is to perfectly abide to the monarch's will. So... When an Emperor believes that war is unavoidable, politics would become a kind of battle strategy. It maintained its foothold through flawless logic and used quibbles as an excuse for war. Politicians are all adept at this sort of things and when they get down to it, they appear as if they are born to do it. However... Here we should emphasize that the true significance of the wars initiated by politicians is not the brutal killing, but rather it is one that is unseen, a massacre that could nevertheless result in rivers of blood!

Old Kachev is not fond of coffee. This kind of bitter beverage that contains toxic substances was invented for workaholics. For an old man, Duke Kachev's most intelligent trait was knowing how to balance his time. Just as he was now in his dreary little manor, reclining in his chair, assuming the most comfortable position, and savoring a cup of Rose Black Tea. To be frank, such a serene feeling made the old man yearn to leave this world just like that.

"You're still so strong!" Rudolf Hoss gazed at the Cabinet Chancellor reclining in the chair and flashed his signature sneering smile.

"Strong? How is that?" Old Kachev gestured with his hands, "When you find your memory deteriorating and your legs becoming stiff lead rods, I suggest you use a dagger to end your life. Aging isn't something that people like you and I can handle!"

Count Rudolf Hoss nodded, but he was not convinced by Old Kachev's words. Why has this man whose face is full of age spots yet to end his own life? If this Old Fox were to descend to hell earlier, then the Emperor would experience less trouble.

"You didn't expect me to invite you?"

The person who headed the Secret Service nodded, "You know, in the current Dulin, not many wish to have anything to do with me."

"Hehe!" The old man laughed. Apparently, the head of the Secret Service still has a little self-knowledge. "That's right Rudolf! Do you still remember this man Messier De Quixote?"

There was a brief flash of recognition. He somewhat understood what the old chap had to say.

"Of course I remember! Baron Messier is my old friend and also my old subordinate. Why do you suddenly bring this up?"

"Oh! I just heard that Baron Messier has joined the guards and his handling of the work in the Intelligence Analysis Department of the Military Intelligence Bureau is very outstanding."

"Really!" Rudolf exclaimed. "I am happy for my old friend, he has again returned to a familiar post! Messier is simply marvelous in his work. When His Majesty Emperor gave the order to detain and interrogate all the officers of various status in the Southern third province, I even attempted to defend my old friend..."

"That's enough Rudolf, there's really no hope for you!" Old Kachev sat up from his recliner, "Saying these in front of me, do you have no shame? Oh God of Light! Don't you know that the Military Intelligence Bureau already started to operate two years ago? You don't know that Baron Messier was His Imperial Highness Prince O'Neil's family tutor? Don't you know that during the two years the Baron served in the Military Intelligence Bureau, he kept a one-way communication with His Imperial Highness Prince?"

Rudolf's eyes suddenly widened. "Your distinguished Cabinet Chancellor, certain things can't be spoken of carelessly. For instance... What evidence do you have that Baron Messier maintained a one-way communication with His Imperial Highness Prince O'Neil Andrew Morisette?"

"Hehe! Prince O'Neil definitely has a steady source of intelligence. Just check it out and you will know!" Old Kachev gave a casual smile. He did not mind putting it even more frankly. "You are the most efficient person in charge of the intelligence organization in all Westland! So long as you wish to know, then I believe you definitely will! However... I fear that once you learn of the truth, you will develop feelings of having been ridiculed, so... I feel that it's best that I remind you..."

"There's no need!" Rudolf stood up abruptly. He saw one of his subordinates hurrying over. But... In just a split second, a lot of thoughts went through the mind of the astute Head of the Secret Service. Let us not consider the four assassins who blended in together with the guards back in year 791 when His Imperial Highness Prince was ambushed on the mountain road. Let us talk about the recent incident that was debated heatedly regarding the leak of secrets. During the Secret Service Department's investigation, they obtained most of the evidence regarding Marshal Valier Cypress' crimes with ease. If... the Military Intelligence Bureau, which was led by Alan, had someone keeping a one-way communication with O'Neil Andrew Morisette, then development of the defensive war at Saijo Mountain has to be reexamined!

"Commander, an urgent matter!"

Glancing at his assistant, Rudolf nodded.

"Your distinguished Cabinet Chancellor, I have to take my leave. You know, Dulin being in turmoil and all." Rudolf said while stopping the old Duke who wanted to get up to send him off.

"Sir, I also wish to remind you about a matter." Rudolf Hoss bored into the old man's eyes. "I know what you are suspecting, but I think... As of now, it's best for you to find another explanation for the mysteries in your heart! If you intend to make mischief... you will suffer retribution!"

Gazing at the silhouette of the Secret Service's head, Old Kachev could not help but sink into confusion he never felt before.

***************

In the depths of the courtyard, lush trees grew. The midsummer's sunlight was scorching and glaring. The house hid under the shade of the chestnut tree. Behind the house was a land of shrubbery that exuded a mysterious air and was emitting fragrance that filled its surroundings. Surrounding the garden was a row of tall and orderly poplar trees. Crickets were singing joyously on those poplar trees until the birds that were out hunting broke them off.

In the depths of the passageway that led up to the house, a Madam hobbled along. Her wide skirt stirred up the petals that were scattered on the ground. The Madam's footsteps were light and brisk, and her voluptuous breasts jiggled slightly with each step. Marquise Erdogan Vas Ferdinand supported a plate filled with desserts and invaded her father's territory, but the scenery left her astounded.

"Father! Are you daydreaming? Why did that chap, Rudolf Hoss leave?"

Gazing at his daughter who was no longer a little girl, Old Kachev could not help but sigh.

"My treasure! I have to say... Your father is old! Old to the extent that he can no longer accurately grasp the gist of a situation!"

"What happened?" Erdogan edged closer and eyed the dejected old man with concern.

"Rudolf Hoss has spilled the beans! If he does not know the truth of the matter, then he would not have warned me that way!"

"Warn you? How did he word it?" Erdogan placed the plate down and sat down in astonishment. Rudolf Hoss was not just anyone and provoking this intimidating man was not a very smart move.

"Rudolf warned me to not make mischief during this sensitive juncture! Isn't this just too obvious? He definitely knows something, but why didn't he reveal these things to His Majesty Emperor, but instead did not hesitate to... This can be considered, threaten me!"

Erdogan suddenly furrowed her brows, "Could it be? His Secret Service was involved in the Saijo Mountain incident from beginning to the end?"

Old Kachev nodded, "I was just having suspicions about that! The Secret Service investigation on Marshal Valier Cypress seems highly suspicious. Within a short span of time, Rudolf Hoss acquired a large amount of evidence, giving me a feeling that it was all pre-arranged. Or... The Secret Service started collecting accusatory evidence against the Chief of Staff earlier on. But... If Rudolf is aware of the truth, why didn't he express these to His Majesty III?"

"Don't tell me..." Old Kachev suddenly jerked in alarm, "All these are the Emperor's..."

"No!" Erdogan shook her head resolutely, "It definitely cannot be! If you are saying that Marshal Alan is the one who initiated this protracted, great conspiratorial war , then I will readily agree with both hands raised! This is because Marshal Alan is a man of the military and knows what should be done for the Empire's military men or strategic layout of the country to reap the most benefits! As for Alfa III... I know him only too well!"

The Marquise suddenly gave a gentle scoff, "Alfa III is an old and frail, stubborn and paranoid bull. If you do not lash at him with a whip, he will definitely not advance forward! I am confident that the Military Affairs Chancellor knows this far better than me. Only he will know just where to lash this whip and just how much strength is required!"

Erdogan elaborated while refilling her father's teacup. "Father, don't the facts already prove it? The Silver Fox's manipulation of the Emperor has succeeded! He has turned around the whole Empire's military strategy and caused his old rival to face the danger of having his whole reputation being swept away. Once Chief of Staff, Marshal Valier Cypress falls from power, then Alan will be the only pillar of the guards! See just how brilliant this old Marshal is!"

"I know! I know!" Old Kachev nodded continuously. His daughter's analysis still has some standing, especially her comment on Alfa III. But there was another problem! Rudolf Hoss was the most diligent, loyal dog of the Emperor. As soon as this hunting dog realizes that something is off, he will certainly hurry to report back to his master, hoping to gain his master's attention! But this time... Why did Rudolf choose to remain silent?

Titan Empire's Cabinet Chancellor, Duke Kachev Drakas Ferdinand turned around to face his daughter, his facing dripping with a message of malice.

"My treasure, have you realized? We are both no longer young! I... Cannot wait for too long!"

"What do you have in mind?" Erdogan gave a fervent gaze. Indeed as just what her father said, having waited for so many years, now should be their time to make a move!

"A few of His Imperial Highness Prince O'Neil Andrew Morisette's followers have gone missing, but reliable news indicates that they have already successfully infiltrated Deiss with the assistance form the Military Intelligence Bureau!"

Erdogan's eyes suddenly shot wide open, stunned, "Could it be they want..."

"That's right!" Old Kachev nodded affirmatively, "They intend to use force on Deiss! But... They will absolutely not succeed and may even end up paying with the life of our Imperial Highness Prince!"

The old Duke suddenly smiled happily, "Although all the Imperial household members who have the right of inheritance by order are our enemies, my instincts tell me that this valiant young prince is the greatest threat! So... To hell with everything in Dulin! Let us first settle O'Neil Andrew Morisette!"

"Then... Then what comes next?" Erdogan could not wait to hear the answer.

"What comes next?" Old Kachev gave a brisk laugh, "Isn't Duke Andrew about to arrive in Dulin? Marshal Dortmund's political wisdom will absolutely live up to the challenge. Moreover, there are also a few well-known old foxes within the Andrew Family. If the news of Prince O'Neil's passing come from the Deiss' side and we appropriately hint Andrew, he will definitely discover the conspiracy behind the scenes. At that time... I believe that Silver Fox Alan who orchestrated everything will not have a good end! Perhaps... Dortmund will carry out what I intend to do, we can't say for sure, because Andrew will definitely not accept the Family leader that the Imperial Household assigned for him. So... There is no way out for O'Neil Andrew Morisette!"

"Then... after that?" Erdogan bounced excitedly with her breasts jiggling.

"After that?" Old Kachev actually adopted a kind expression. "It should be time for me to search for a suitable partner for my little grandson! It is about time to marry at his age! Doesn't he secretly fancy that young lady from the House of Andrew? I trust that so long as O'Neil Andrew Morisette dies, the Andrews will reconsider their situation in the capital. So... Uniting with the Chancellor's family through marriage will undoubtedly be the best option for the Andrews!"

Erdogan finally knew how to breathe! With a puff, she expelled all the stale air that she has been suppressing within her chest! The delicate and charming Marquise leaned into her father's arms. She gazed up at the sky; if things really develop as how her father said, then she believed that in the near future, the skies of Titan and everything beneath the heavens would belong to her!

***************

Cold! Damp! Without light, nor window! There was actually still a cool place in scorching Dulin! This is the center of the capital's drainage system and countless drainage canals converge here. It has innumerable pipelines that in the end become a huge tunnel entrance in this hellish space. This tunnel entrance is situated in Dulin's outskirts and it emptied all of the capital's filth into a river outside the city. Thus, an average person would not come here to cool off in the shade.

The hub of the drainage system was like a solid bunker, possessing a vast space. On the wall composed of stone and green rocks, people of special needs dug a lot of openings that were sealed shut. A wrought iron fence sealed each of the openings. From afar, you would realize that it was as if were a cave inlaid with countless birdcages.

Suddenly, a mournful and miserable shriek rang out within the cave, causing mice to scuttle away in alarm. A chilly wind that carried the stench of blood blasted through the space. The light from the torches shone upon the ceiling of the cave and the infinite passageways. Under the light, we would discover that those birdcages are actually filled with emaciated and haggard people!

Was this a hell or some other place? What was happening in the center drainage beneath the city of Dulin?

"Heh heh!" Rudolf Hoss gave a menacing laugh that made his assistant inadvertently shiver. The Head of the Secret Service whipped around in the darkness to face the unfortunate prisoners.

"As the assistant to the Chief of Staff of the guards, you should be very clear of your situation! Here is the secret prison of the Secret Service Department. If you can't provide a satisfying answer, then I vow by my status as the Empire's supreme Secret Service operation officer that you will live the remaining of your life in this mix of sewage waste and rats who fancy human meat!"

The man on the chair shuddered slightly. From his tattered military attire, it could vaguely be determined that this prisoner had once been an officer of the guards. However, that was before. This prison was used by the Secret Service for convicts sentenced to death and all the criminals who entered here have yet to come out alive.

Rudolf nodded. He indicated to the thugs on either side of the chair, "Please continue on!"

A leg vise that was regularly used was enclosed around the officer's leg. The poor man's feet were bare and under them was a brazier with burning coals. It is believed that as long as the leg vise was released, the officer's bare feet would step onto the burning coals. His leg was already severely mutilated and was emitting a charred smell. We all know that... The experience of stepping onto a brazier filled with burning coals is definitely not a pleasant one.

"I... I'll tell!" The officer finally gave in! When he felt the pressure of the leg vise, he completely gave up!

Rudolf knelt down, intending to listen carefully to the gratifying oral confession.

"I... I snuck out of the capital to... To deliver a letter for Marshal Valier Cypress!"

"What letter?" Rudolf gestured to his subordinates to release the leg vise and the ropes.

"The Marshal... He... Stated clearly in his letter! He... He plans to flee! And then use the Empire's military secrets in exchange for the protection from the King of Engel Kingdom!"

"Where is that letter?" Rudolf finally expressed a victorious smile. It has ended! This wretched investigation has at long last come to a close!

The assistant to the Chief of Staff of the guards did not speak but only shifted his bottom uneasily.

"I know!" Rudolf stood up and turned towards his assistant, "I hand it over to you. The most crucial evidence is inside his buttocks. Remember! Wash your hands after you extract that letter. I do not wish for His Majesty Emperor to smell the stench of excretions!"

The assistant of the supreme operations officer nodded and gestured to the thugs to drag the officer into an even gloomier corner of the hell.

***************

Rudolf Hoss stood on a platform in the sewers. By his feet flowed a river of filthy and fetid water.

A small boat appeared on the "River's surface" of the sewer. A cloaked figure stood at the prow with a kerosene lamp in his hand. Soon, the boat neared the stereobate of the sewer's shore. Rudolf Hoss helped the person carrying the kerosene lamp to climb ashore with a smile.

"Welcome to my..."

"That's enough!" The old man flipped open the mantle of his cloak violently, revealing a head of brilliant silver hair. "I am not interested in your doghouse, quickly lead me away from this repulsive sewer!"

Rudolf Hoss nodded grudgingly, "This way please!"

Marshal Vann Hewitt Alan appeared furious and has been impatient since he came ashore. He really did not understand why Rudolf would construct the Secret Service's death row in such a place. As if... Only the blend of revolting smells could satisfy the head of the Secret Service!

"Okay, let talk while walking! Didn't you already catch the guy? Why should you still take the risk of arranging to meet with me at such a crucial hour?"

Rudolf shook his head, "I think... We have been exposed!"

"Why do you say that?"

"Just a while ago, I met up with the Cabinet Chancellor, Duke Kachev Drakas Ferdinand. It is evident that this old man has seen through everything!"

Alan knitted his eyebrows, but he immediately relaxed them. "So what if he knows? Can he change anything?"

"He will, of course, take action!" Rudolf retorted with certainty.

"What are you referring to?"

"I am referring to O'Neil Andrew Morisette! If my hunches are correct, our Cabinet Chancellor has a reliable source of intelligence around His Imperial Highness Prince! Because... He actually knows of matters which I am not aware of!"

"Could you be a little more explicit?" Alan still had on that composed look.

"Old Kachev can verify that the head of your Intelligence Analysis Department, which is Baron Messier De Quixote, maintained a one-way communication with the prince all this while! Do not deny that you know nothing of this! This is not the way to treat your partner!" The Head of the Secret Service was gazing at the Marshal with an extremely dangerous glint in his eye.

"Yes!" Alan nodded, "I admit that I know of this, but what then does this signify?"

Rudolf Hoss rolled his eyes, "What does this signify? You still have the nerve to ask? It signifies that the defensive war at Saijo Mountain was a play orchestrated by both you and His Highness Prince! Just that there was a slight deviation that took place in its midst when His Highness Prince was captured! Isn't it like that? Answer me!"

Alan averted his eyes and settled on a random spot, not uttering a single word.

Rudolf was somewhat impatient. He came to a halt in the dark underground passageway.

"To be frank Marshal Alan, even I am impressed beyond comprehension by you! In order to weave a façade of the Deiss mounting a sneak attack and Titan being clueless of it, you prompted His Imperial Highness Prince O'Neil Andrew Morisette to start a defensive war at Saijo Mountain that is seemingly coincidental but is actually carefully arranged. I understand completely! Did the Steinberger Family participate in this plan as well? Their family's First Independent Brigade received their cannons earlier. This is something that only the military can manipulate! Next is the convergence of His Imperial Highness Prince's Infantry Division! After that is the face off in the Saijo Mountain battlefield! Aren't each and every one of these parts of your meticulous arrangements?"

"Yes!" Alan admitted! This Marshal nodded with excessive calm!

Rudolf clapped his forehead violently! "Oh my God of Light! I told you... As a military personnel of the Empire, it is impossible for you to use the Empire's paladin group and gold reserves to take up such a great risk! Orchestrating a skirmish at Saijo Mountain out of the blue can not only eliminate the threat of the Deiss towards the twenty-first region, but force them to retreat quickly! My Marshal, I admit that your plans can only be described as flawless! Perhaps the Deiss will never know why a powerful mixed army suddenly turned up along their advance. All the more, they will not believe that they have fallen into your trap from the start of their operation!"

Alan gave a faint smile, "You are flattering me! No one will be able to accurately predict the things that may happen on the battlefield. I merely took advantage of the opportunities that presented itself before me again and again. The eve before the Deiss launched their surprise attack, I originally intended to let the paladin group and Steinberger's Ninth military camp intercept the enemy army, but this trick would have been too obvious! However, at that moment, His Imperial Highness Prince, having just completed his studies, started out on his Northern trip and this became the first opportunity in my plans!"

"The second opportunity was the ten new models of cannons prepared by the Sukhoi Family for the Steinberger Family. As long as the Steinbergers retrieved them earlier, then they would unite with young Oscar at Grizzly Fortress. Moreover, Oscar's messenger is a child of the Steinbergers. To quell his curiosity, he will definitely alter the route."

"The third chance is because of Baron Messier De Quixote whom you mentioned. He actually maintained a one-way communication with Oscar. When I discovered this, I foresaw a defensive war at Saijo Mountain. I extended the invitation of battle to His Highness Prince through this Baron! Evidently, our immature young prince agreed to it without a second thought!"

"Hehe!" Rudolf suddenly gave a cold laugh, "If you had not put to use His Highness Prince's naïvety, do you think anyone would have cooperated with you?"

"Indeed he has not matured!" Marshal Alan heaved a sigh, "This foolish child! Perhaps I was not explicit enough when I briefed him about the combat arrangement. He only had to force the Deiss to retreat, but instead, he was foolish enough to carry out a full-blown decisive battle with the opponent! You have seen the end result, this young chap got himself captured in battle! Why bother with this?"

Rudolf frowned, "Sir, there is still one point that I do not quite understand. You could have worked out the route of march for His Imperial Highness Prince and exercised your authority to allocate a military force for him, but... There is no way for you to control the Deiss' actions! Why would the Deiss so coincidentally run into the prince's cannons?"

"Hehe!" Alan gave a wry smile, "You've forgotten? The Empire's great Northwestern border area is the domain of the forest wolf, the Steinbergers. Duke Steinberger's frontier army was already mindful of the Deiss' movement. They only need to plant a few patrol groups ahead of the Deiss' route of advance every once in a while, then... Whenever they want the Deiss to leave, they would leave; whenever they wanted them to arrive at Saijo Mountain, they would arrive! Is this so difficult to understand?"

Rudolf finally heaved a deep sigh, "Was the pit stop of the prince's army at the Ninth Military Camp to coordinate the advance of the Deiss?"

"You are already clear about it, why do you still ask?"

"I only want to know what you take me for?" Rudolf Hoss suddenly burst out! "If it was not for the prompting from that old man Kachev, I would have been completely in the dark regarding these!"

Marshal Alan watched the Empire's supreme Secret Service operations officer, "Are you... Regretting your collaboration with me?"

"So what if I am?" Rudolf again snapped back!

"Then... You better pray that His Majesty Emperor never finds out that it was your Secret Service who leaked the highly classified information of the Twenty-First District to the Deiss!"

An impulse to ruthlessly beat the old man up suddenly surged within Rudolf, "You better freaking not forget that it was you who told me about the highly classified information of the Twenty-First District and allowed the Secret Service to disseminate it! All these are your schemes!"

"Yes! Indeed!" Silver Fox Alan nodded with certainty, "But you should also not forget that you are Rudolf Hoss and the people are all saying that there is nothing in this world that isn't to your knowledge! After the incident... Who then do you think His Majesty Alfa III will believe? Is it possible that... You want to confront me before the Emperor?"

"Huuu... Huuu... Huuu..." The head of the Secret Service's heavy breathing rumbled through the sewers. He was suppressing his rage despite wanting to end the man right on the spot! But there was a reason that he could not bring himself to harm Alan! A reason hidden deep down in the depths of his heart!

"Okay!" The Silver Fox suddenly gave the Count's shoulder a few pats, "Embody the courage of having a clandestine love affair with my daughter back in your younger days. You are Rudolf Hoss and there is nothing that can stump you! Besides, haven't we already succeeded?"

Rudolf sucked in his breath sharply and suddenly ducked his head away, "Don't bring up that matter!"

"Don't bring it up?" Alan's eyebrows creased together, his eyes reflected a dangerous glint. "I only have one daughter and she succumbed to the difficult labor. I originally intended to shatter that scoundrel into a million pieces for tempting a married woman! But my daughter begged me to forgive her lover before her passing and to raise her son! So... I allowed that man to live freely in this world, while you! You actually asked that this father not bring up that matter?"

"Marshal... Your distinguished Marshal... I...!" Rudolf bravado suddenly vanished without a trace. His eyes were shining and his words were caught in his throat. "I... I greatly regret that incident!"

"But please do not again use that incident to threaten me! For your sake and my son's! I have already done enough!" Rudolf again locked his eyes with the Marshal's, he can no longer take this from Alan! He felt that it was time to lay out his cards!

"Hasn't your Military Intelligence Bureau started operating? I have completely dismantled the Secret Service Department that I so arduously built up for the past ten years, just for this matter! What else do you want? So... You listen! When the court-marshal has poured out judgment on Valier Cypress, I do not wish to have anything else to do with you! Assume that this is the last cooperation between the Secret Service Department and the Empire's Military Affairs Chancellor!"

Alan huffed out a gentle breath. Whenever he thought about his daughter, his poor daughter, he would be itching to gobble up this man before him! But... He could not do that! He was Vann Hewitt Alan, Titan Empire's Military Affairs Chancellor, the Imperial guard's commander! In this world, there are many matters that are more important than a daughter who betrayed her father and chose disgrace!

"As you say! This will be the last!" Alan expressed his promise. But, hehe! Once this kind of thing takes root, there is no stopping it.

"Hey!"

"What now?" Marshal Alan, who was about to depart from this hellish place, turned his head around, astonished.

Rudolf sauntered up from the shadows of the passage, "Don't you want to find out who is serving Old Kachev by Prince O'Neil Andrew Morisette's side? This person definitely has close ties with His Imperial Highness Prince's family. Otherwise, he would not get intelligence about the prince's one-way communication with others."

Alan shook his head, "The one-way communication between Baron Messier and Oscar was passed on through the Andrew Family's own Military Investigation Bureau. If I wanted to probe into it, I wouldn't know where to start."

Rudolf snickered. "Best go look into it! If a problem arose from Andrew's intelligence system, then the secret agents that you dispatched to Deiss and the Prince's followers will be in danger! Remember, Old Kachev still has an illegitimate child of the Imperial Household in his hands. If anything were to befall your little partner, then the Chancellor will be the first to rejoice!"

Gazing at the Supreme Secret Service Operations Officer who once again slithered back into the shadows, Alan fell deep in thought. A sinister air suddenly hit him and the Silver Fox shuddered! Old Kachev, hehe! If you want a war, a war you will get! It is about time! The old Marshal could not help but think!

***************

"If you want a war, a war you will get! You're blabbering a lot of nonsense!"

Paul looked at the Black Devil who was lying in net trough of the fishing boat and sneered disdainfully. "I'm not teasing you! Just look at yourself! Even if I wanted to kill you, I would also wait until you have recovered from those injuries! Don't take me for a person who will participate in gang beatings and even sneak attacks like you!"

The Black Devil was suddenly rendered speechless. He turned his head around and through the small slit on the ship's sail, he sized up the scenery outside.

***************

The surface of the river was still, without any wind or majestic waves. The Sun hung high up in the sky with a discernible smile. Its smile was like that of a lad from a fisherman's family, returning with a good day's haul. Occasionally, a few fishing boats would drift across the river's surface. The fishermen were as busy as the people on the shore. It happened to be the height of summer, precisely the season to eliminate pests on the grapes. This practice would influence the harvest of the grapes during the fall. However, the grapes planted at Laufenkamen Riverside area was mainly for winemaking.

The season for the grapes to bear fruits was different and thus the wines produced tasted different. The farmers here have already mastered advanced planting techniques and skills in winemaking. During summer, the people would fling the green, unripe grapes into a gigantic cask. As per Deiss tradition, the women would leap out of the casks, singing and dancing as if it were a carnival. With merry dancing, they would step on the grapes, squeeze and press out the juice and after that let out the juice using a faucet at the bottom of the cask. After collecting the juice, they would store them up in the cellar while the residue left in the casks would be the fermented condiments of the grape wine. After three months, when the winery is engulfed in the enticing aroma of wine, the farmers will open the cellar and pour the icy cold grape juice into the wine, blending them together. Finally, it will be verified by the wine taster of the winery as to whether it was the best quality Deiss Laufenkamen original grape juice wine.

Hearing the singing from the women and children trampling on the grapes, the Black Devil, who was at the faintly discernible Fortress in the distance, withdrew his gaze. He turned to face Snowstorm.

"Old friend, why aren't you letting me go? Your mission isn't complete yet."

"You're really hopeless!" Snowstorm gave a snort of derision, "Let you go? Where can you go? Do you know what this place is? Do you know what has become of the other areas in Deiss after we caused havoc in Borensberg? The military has practically scoured all the lands of this nation! I can guarantee that if you leave this private territory, within a day, you will be detained by the searching knights in a pig pen or kennel!"

"What is this place?" The question finally crossed the Black Devil's mind.

"To be precise, this is the private territory of Her Majesty Queen, also the future residence of Deiss' King. So do you understand now? No one will dare act uncivilized here! As of now... This should be the most suitable place to hide oneself within the borders of Deiss!"

After a protracted silence, the Black Devil finally extended his hand towards Snowstorm.

"Shaw Curlink."

"What?" Snowstorm eyed the Black Devil's hand dubiously.

"Let's get to know each other! I'm Shaw Curlink, how about you?"

The King of assassins hesitated slightly, but he didn't let the Imperial Household assassin by the code name of Black Devil wait too long. With an exasperated sigh, Snowstorm grasped the other person's hand.

"Paul!"

"Thank you, Paul!"

Snowstorm suddenly widened his eyes, unconvinced, "Has the Black Devil lost his marbles?"

"Erm... Do not doubt my gratitude towards you." Shaw Curlink read the distrust in the other's eyes.

"I know... That... It is completely unnecessary for you to bother about an assassin who has lost his value. You could absolutely have witnessed with your own eyes the Deiss turn your rival, who backstabbed 13, into hedgehogs, but... You didn't!"

Snowstorm did not try to justify himself. Frankly, he himself did really understand why he saved another man. At that moment, he only felt that finding himself a companion who was fluent in the Titan language to chat for a few days wasn't such a bad idea.

"I don't know how to face you." Shaw finally blurted the confusion in his heart. "I... I can never return to our country, being able to only wander about forever, until..."

"Hey!" Paul interjected gruffly. "Don't equate yourself to stray dogs! Do you want to hear what my suggestions?"

"Your suggestions?" Shaw adopted a puzzled look.

At last, Paul divulged his thoughts entirely. Perhaps he already had such inspiration when he decided to save his old rival, but only now was he truly certain of it!

"Shaw! You indeed deserve to die! But you should not die in the hands of the Deiss, instead you should die by 13's hand! So….. Do you still wish to return?"

Shaw let out a helpless laugh, "Is there still such a chance?"

Paul abandoned the task that he used to appear to look busy. He burst into the fish hold and through the crack, pointed towards the Fortress in the distance.

"Shaw! Do you know why I posed as an idiot in this wretched place, allowing others to ruffle me up as they please?" Snowstorm asked and spat at the corpse beside Black Devil. As it turned out, the old captain of the ship had been silenced.

"Let me tell you, imprisoned there is His Highness Prince O'Neil Andrew Morisette! Do you believe it? If you help me to save His Highness, then you will definitely return in glory! And the Imperial Household of Morisette will no longer look into your being exposed!"

"Can... Can I?"

Snowstorm patted his old rival on the shoulder, "You… Although you cannot even compare to a hair on 13, but if you add me into the picture, there is still a gleam of hope!"

Shaw Curlink could not help but break into a bitter laugh again, "Only a gleam of hope?"

***************

"You have destroyed the last sliver of hope of a Marshal!" Alfa III glared intently at the General of the guards.

"Can General Fabia Munlurgh explain to me what compelled you to expose the crimes of Marshal Valier Cypress?" The Emperor wrinkled his eyebrows slightly. He could barely believe the things that unfolded before his very eyes. When the Secret Service was still reviewing the evidence of the Chief of Staff's crime of treason, the most loyal subordinate under Valier had actually stood out and informed against him!"

"Sire! As a soldier of the Empire, I am ashamed for my previous shallow-mindedness and also for the actions of Marshal Valier Cypress! Just yesterday when I went to visit him, he went so far as to request me in helping him break away from his current situation. Considering all the nation's secrets within the Chief of Staff's grasp, I know that the circulating accusations against the Marshal in Dulin are mostly true! Since he already decided to flee, I will absolutely not allow him to sell out the country's benefits yet another time! So, Your Imperial Majesty..."

The Commander of the Guard's Capital Home Base, General Fabia Munlurgh elaborated while placing two letters onto the Emperor's table.

"Your Imperial Majesty III, Here... Is a letter of my confession, and another is a letter of my resignation! I admit to my mistakes. This kind of shame is as if I have sold myself to the enemy and I am unworthy to take up a military office! But I will testify before the court martial! Marshal Valier Cypress is guilty!"

Glancing at the Commander of the Capital's Home Base who spoke so sincerely, and flicking his eyes towards the two letters on the table, Alfa III sank into complete puzzlement! From the time when the Secret Service investigated the case of Marshal Valier Cypress' missing goddaughter, within a span of a month, countless facts regarding the corruption of the guard's Chief of Staff were dragged out! Could it be... All of humanity wanted him dead? Or... There was a mastermind pulling the strings in the shadows?

"Your Imperial Majesty!" The Confidential Secretary's voice suddenly cut through the study.

"What?" Alfa III said, startled from his musings.

"Your Majesty, Count Rudolf Hoss has already been waiting outside for some time! He emphasizes that the matter that requires your review is highly urgent!"

"Let him enter!" The Emperor gave a start and his eyes darted towards the Commander of the Capital's Home Base who retreated to the side. Things... Could not be that coincidental, could it?

"Your Majesty! Your Majesty!" Rudolf's look as he barged into the Emperor's study was like a curly-haired Pekinese that could not stop wagging its tail. "My Majesty, evidence! The evidence you seek, I have acquired it!"

Okay, there was no longer any doubts! The Emperor adopted a delighted expression, but deep down His Majesty was muttering, "You all better not let me find out who is one causing mischief! If I find out..."

Shooting a glance at the Commander of the Capital's Home Base, the excited Rudolf suddenly developed a sense of foreboding.

"What kind of evidence?" Alfa III smiled.

"Your Majesty!" Shooting a sideway glance at the Commander of the Capital's Home Base who had on a devastated expression and with understanding, Rudolf Hoss spoke. "It is regarding facts of the guard's Chief of Staff, Marshal Valier Cypress' crime of treason. He has written in this letter, willing to use my country's military secrets in exchange for the privilege of political asylum from Engels Kingdom."

"Hahaha!" Alfa III burst into laughter. However, his smile immediately turned into an icy cold paleness. "My Supreme Secret Service Operations Officer, you are only one step behind General Fabia Munlurgh! You know? Just a moment ago, General Fabia already revealed to me evidence of Valier's attempt to flee! Whereas you... My head of Secret Service, are you keeping something from me?"

"This is bad! Very bad!" Rudolf Hoss really wanted to slice a sword through his throat. He should have made inquiries about who was meeting the Emperor in secret! Could it be that... General Fabia Munlurgh was also one of the Silver Fox's chess pieces? No! It couldn't be! There was already ample evidence. How could Alan make such a mistake in the final hours? It was impossible for him to bring in the Commander of the Guard's Home Base Capital. Oh, that's right! It must be like this! Fabia Munlurgh saw that the downfall of his Commander was inevitable so in order to preserve his life, he could only resort to selling out Valier Cypress. That's right! That's definitely it!

But... How could it be this coincidental? The Emperor started to doubt the rationality of the whole matter! This was honestly freaking hitting the mark!

Having thought up to here, Rudolf Hoss unintentionally started to tremble. He gave a deep bow to the Emperor.

"Your Majesty, I have never concealed anything from you!"

Alfa III nodded and shook his head. No one could tell what the Emperor thought.<script>chaptererror();</script>

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