Titan Beneath the Heavens
Chapter 195: Twenty-second Episode: Chapter 5
Chapter 195: Twenty-second Episode: Chapter 5
Translator: EndlessFantasy Translation Editor: EndlessFantasy Translation
A week had passed since the Holy day of God of Church's year 800. In other words, it was now year 801. The new year had come amidst peace and even the coldest of the people had joined the crazy partying people on the Holy day of God. From Dulin's large streets and narrow alleys all the way to the faraway towns and villages in the suburbs, passionate Titans had deployed many methods to celebrate the occasion bestowed by victory and God. The nobles had hung colorful lights and the Golden Lion Flag at each of their house entrances while the commoners had filled a large tin basin with their homemade food for the local priests to enjoy when they visit their homes with new year wishes.
The Titans emphasized traditions. Thus, there were many kinds of rules in the first week following the Holy day of God. For instance, they would be required to pray at churches on the first Monday, invite all their relatives and friends to their homes on the first Tuesday, bake a special type of cake on the first Wednesday and many more.
The festive traditions for each location were different and there would even be some sort of disparity between two nearby villages in the same province. However, in most of the locations in Titan, the first Sunday after the Holy day of God would usually be a great day for wedding ceremonies as husbands and wives who had tied the knot on this day would receive the most genuine blessings from God. Although all the new couples who had their weddings in churches would be acknowledged by God, the first Sunday after the Holy day of God was different as it would be engulfed in a festive atmosphere due to the special occasion.
The coming wedding ceremony of the Titan Guards' Division Commander of the First Artillery Division, Lieutenant General Tove Van Sukhoi and Marquise Lado Boude would be held on such Sunday. The guests attending the ceremony were not many; they included Discount Sukhoi's superiors and family, and also the relatives of Marquis Boude.
Around noon, the wedding had ended in a casual manner in Dulin Scott Cathedral. This was because there were more than ten wedding ceremonies for new couples to be held in Dulin Scott Cathedral on this day. In fact, it was all thanks to the persuasion of Prince O'Neil that Torry and Marquise Boude's wedding had been able to take place at noon, the best time possible.
On Tahas Street, the Sukhoi family had purchased a huge mansion for the new couple. The spot had initially been occupied by Monbie Fragrance Museum, which was one of the few constructions of the Protestants. Countless flora which gave off fragrances had been planted in the large garden with the sixth-century style and the observation gallery. Unfortunately, the museum had been closed due to poor management and this had left regrets in Torry and his bride. Therefore, they had decided to preserve the original structure of the Fragrance Museum, in contrary to renovating the entire building to a residential villa.
His Imperial Highness Prince O'Neil Andrew Morisette regretted not able to make it to the artillery Lieutenant General's wedding ceremony. It was not quite appropriate considering his relationship with Torry but he had no choice. The Imperial Prince was bearing the positions of Marshal of the Guards, Chief of the Military Intelligence Bureau, and leader of the Andrews. One could only imagine how busy he was with all these positions!
On the night of the fourth day, there was a sudden emergency news from the Deiss branch of the Military Intelligence Bureau. Her Majesty the Empress of Deiss had married her aunt to the crown prince of Ollier. This was definitely an abnormal occurrence! It should have been the Foreign Affairs Ministry which first notified Titan and not the Military Intelligence Bureau. Along with the news of the marriage, the Supreme Commander of Deiss had summoned Marshal Kaydron and more than ten other reserve guards who had been stationed at the Northern borders for a long time.
Well then, here came the headaches for Titan. Oscar was pondering about this matter during the wedding ceremony in Monbie Fragrance Museum. The Deiss would not hide Marshal Kaydron and the ten other border guards and that this group of experienced elites would definitely show up at the Northern borders of the empire, which meant that the temporary cease of fire between the Deiss and Olliers would bring unprecedented pressure to Titan. Judging from Silver Fox Alan's response, one would know that the matter was not as simple as it seemed on the surface.
At a corner of the garden where the Northwest wind could not reach, the Marshal of the guards and the Supreme Chief of Staff were roasting the brazier together. Even though the young Imperial Highness the Prince had kept on adding more carbon to the brazier, Alan and Robin were still shaking and had admitted the fact that they were now old and useless. This could not be helped.
"What'll be the next step of the Deiss?" Robin looked at Alan worriedly.
Silver Fox said nothing and shrank his neck further into the thick fur coat. The Chief of Staff of the Guards then turned toward His Imperial Highness the Prince who was sniffing nonstop, "Hey little guy, what say you?"
Oscar experienced some snots and he seemed to be showing some early signs of a cold. However, he was not bothered by this, "Who knows! But there won't be more than two possibilities! One, it'll be a large-scaled advancement launch in spring or summer this year. Two, it'll be the continuous reinforcement until Queen Opareal thinks that it's time to attack."
"But, speaking of which…!" Oscar suddenly paused his words, threw the brazier aside, and slumped into the reclining chair. It was time for him to lay out all his cards, "Both of your names aren't on the guest list of the wedding, so you're not here to see Torry, are you?"
Silver Fox grunted lowly, the fellow opposite him was quite vigilant, "That's right! We're here for you!"
Oscar shrugged, "Do you mind a transparent and honest discussion? I'm aware that the two of you are not as concerned about the Deiss as you seem to be!"
"Yes!" Marshal Robin nodded, "Marshal Alan and I have been thinking that the potential advancement of the Deiss is still within the capabilities of the Northern Army Group to withstand it. So, the outlook at the Northern borders isn't that negative yet!"
The Chief of Staff of the Guards' eyes met with those of Alan while he was speaking. Robin rubbed his palms, it was time to give the little fellow some suggestions.
"We're concerned about the Southern front!"
Oscar nodded in understanding. Things were not far from his speculations!
"What of the Southern front?"
Silver Fox knocked on his teacup, signaling for Robin to speak his mind, "Before the festive day, the military had not been informed about the sudden military movements of the Southern Army Group of such a large scale. This is neither legal nor reasonable!"
Oscar grinned softly, "This is an official order of the newly-established unified government of the Five Provinces of the South. The Southern Army Group is to first inform the government and then the army of the Guards."
Alan shook his head. He just knew the young man would say something like this, "Oscar, let's not beat around the bush anymore! Marshal Robin and I know what General Eugene and your Southern comrades are busy with. But you must tell us, the invasion toward the Slovenian Empire, when will it be? Where will it be?"
Oscar shook his head with a bitter smile, "To be frank, I've yet to gather my thoughts on this."
"Thank God!" Marshal Robin patted his forehead. "To be honest, you've told us the truth, which means that there's still room for discussion regarding this matter. If you happened to have come up with some lies, Marshal Alan and I might give you some trouble."
Oscar's gaze lingered on the bodies of the two Marshals for a moment, he was puzzled, "Could it be that…you don't plan to stop me from acting alone?"
"See! My guess is correct, isn't it?" Alan suddenly turned toward the Chief of Staff with a bitter grin plastered across his face. "I just know that this fellow will settle the Southern front behind our backs."
Robin shook his head and looked at Oscar with concern, "My little student has grown up, he now had a formidable military force comprising of more than four hundred thousand men and a troop of Southern soldiers loyal to him. If he doesn't do anything, I think even the God of Light will have to punish old people like us!"
Alan nodded in agreement. Then, he turned to face Oscar, "Don't you get carried away, little fellow! We don't support your actions, but we only hope that you can get some enlightenment!"
"What kind of enlightenment?" Oscar stared at Alan in slight disbelief. He had not expected for the empire's military represented by Alan would compromise with him on the matter of the invasion of Slovenia.
Marshal Robin pointed at the West with his finger, "We've beaten the Hoillanders, Leblesians and the Farans, but this is only temporary! Even if the expansion toward Slovenia is compulsory from the perspective of the defensive structures of our country and our historical mission, the Westerners will never just sit out from your invasion plans!"
"Please…" Oscar whined, "Don't call it an 'invasion', that's just unpleasant to hear. Alternatively, you can replace this word with armed intervention or resolving territorial disputes!"
"It's all the same…" Alan spared a glance at the stubborn Imperial Prince in a mocking manner. "The Westerners will definitely get smarter next time. They'll prepare a huge army group and plan the direction of their attacks and the starting location of the battle in more detail. In other words, once we've been hit with the second defending war, we won't get past it that easily as the first time! As for you at this moment, you have to mobilize the Southern Army Group to offend a sovereign country with long-running history and coastlines of hundreds of kilometers! I only want to ask you, once the forces in the South have been dealt with, what will you do if the Farans chose to strike hard at this time? Don't tell me that you're going to return to Vielonna from a thousand kilometers away?"
Oscar shook his head, "I must say that the real battle plans have yet to be finalized. I'm just planning that the foundations of the Southern armies won't have to be mobilized, we'll only need the Military District Eight of Westria Province and Military District Nine of Bodega Province to maintain the order of the territories. The real primary force of the invasion will be Red Tiger Front of the Narcissus Knights, and…"
"Hold on…did I hear that wrong?" Silver Fox cut off the Imperial Prince's words all of a sudden. "Are you saying the Red Tiger Front?"
Oscar chuckled, "Yes --- the Red Tiger Front! A swift assault force comprising entirely of cavalries! This is just a concept, I can only come up with more solid arrangements of the whole matter once Red Tiger has gone back to Narcissus County."
Robin and Alan could say nothing else. They exchanged some looks and seemed to have noticed the concerns of each other. However, what Alan was concerned about were the desires for expansion and spirits for invasion displayed by the young man unconsciously. On the other hand, Robin was worried that his little student still lacked the courage, experience and power to command the entire troop in a full-front war.
"The matters we've been discussing just now…is Her Majesty the Empress aware?" Alan started looking around him while he spoke. Nevertheless, his question was still quite sharp.
"I believe that Her Majesty has already gotten hold of the news," a faint smile was still plastered on Oscar's face.
Silver Fox sighed, "You guys are still young! There are some things that you shouldn't regret only after you've known about it many years later."
"Regret?" Oscar exclaimed, "Indeed, I've come across a very regretful thing!"
"Oh?" the Chief of Staff stuck his head closer. He saw that the Imperial Prince had already signaled for his Military Intelligence Confidential Secretary to open his briefcase and took out a thick scroll.
Oscar removed the cow-skin cover familiarly and then extended his arms at the two Marshals. A string of French characters had been recorded on the document in clarity –"Regarding the Anti-Titan movement in Church's year 800 – also the analysis reports of Titan's political, military and geographical affairs".
"Just for this piece, my Military Intelligence Analysis Officers and I have been working for three days and two nights, and there's only one conclusion!" Oscar knocked on the cow-skin cover of the document. "The bastard who had edited this war memo is a f*cking genius! He's Karlchette Nierer, and I believe that both of you have heard of this name, am I right? That bastard who had made the 'Bloodbath of Saint Hailey'!"
The Chief of Staff, Marshal Robin took the thick war document into his hands. His Staff Headquarter was also full of experts in the field of analysis works.
"Don't have any doubts!" Oscar raised his volume. "Marshal Alan's concerns are all written on his face. If we still remain seated here in peace, I believe that in the near future, the new term of the Anti-Titan Alliance will invade Dulin while holding this piece of document."
Marshal Robin had already opened the table of contents of this document. With just a single glance, he shoved the document to Alan's eyes.
"The first section…overview of the Titan's Guards, the second section…the key strategies of the assault on the locations near Vielonna of Burton Province, the third section…summaries of the strategies employed by the West in their invasion of Dulin, the fourth section…several suggestions regarding the offenses of the Deiss King's national army's Northern front…"
"Three-sided siege?" the Marshal of the Guards' eyes bulged.
Oscar nodded in affirmation, "Yes, it was a three-sided siege and the accuracy of their invasion phases could even match that of the top administration units of the towns in our country!"
The Imperial Prince rubbed his fist, "I should've expanded the scope of the search. I feel so terrible about letting some bastard like Karlchette Nierer live for one more day."
Alan furrowed his eyebrows, "Could it be that you've not considering of mobilizing the secret agents of the Military Intelligence Bureau to settle this guy?"
Oscar shook his head with a troubled demeanor, "The acting King of Faran had already hidden him. My Military Intelligence personnel can't locate him. Moreover, Faran's Aragon had also enforced their measures against our Secret Service and Military Intelligence Bureau. I can't allow my precious intelligence agents to risk their lives."
Alan nodded in agreement, but he also had some complaints, "It's really unnecessary to let this fellow stay alive any longer in this world!"
"Of course!" Oscar grunted coldly. However, he instantly switched to a joyful demeanor and placed his arm around the old Marshal's shoulder. "I'm going off to the South soon. Although the departure date has yet to be confirmed, I can only hand Dulin and this matter to the both of you!"
The Chief of Staff and the Supreme Commander smiled bitterly in unison. This young comrade of theirs was not quite a responsible person.
"I wish that you won't get into any trouble in the South."
Oscar reacted to the words of Silver Fox Alan by laughing aloud, "Never mind troubles! At the very least, the military intelligence has yet to show what are the exact troubles of Slovenia's potential resistance, I'm still concerned about the Westerners. If they really happened to choose this document as their invasion blueprint, I believe that when that time comes, the empire will encounter massive army groups with more than one million men at the three defensive fronts. So, while I'll be enjoying the sunlight on the shores of Disin Sea immersing myself in the sea breeze, both of you might very likely be faced with a battle of unprecedented difficulty. Don't you rant to me when that time comes!"
Alan and Robin's smiles turned even more bitter. If things really turned out like what Oscar had described, they would rather not have heard and done anything.
Vijdeline husband and wife walked toward them, carrying their child in their arms. Oscar signaled at the two elder Marshals with his gaze and Robin and Alan stood up quick-wittedly. They seemed to know the past between the Imperial Prince and the Sukhoi Mistress. Regardless, the two Marshals had still engaged in a conversation with the famous master of firearms and had even played around with the quiet little Micath. However, the older people did not feel comfortable. They had no idea how to describe the little fellow who greatly resembled Oscar! After all, the legal husband of Lady Vijdeline was just at the side while the child's biological father just shrank at the corner like a pitiful worm.
Maybe they had been affected by the awkward scenes, the two Marshals had bid their goodbyes soon enough. While they had represented the entire military in presenting their best wishes to the artillery general's marriage, people could see that the Marshals had their attention elsewhere.
Oscar did not understand why he had to shake hands with Vijdeline's husband. He still recalled that this fellow with the nickname of "Flea" used to be a mere servant of the Sukhoi Mistress, but this very servant was now Vij's husband. This awareness made Oscar feel helpless and angry, but he thought that he did not have many reasons to be furious, nor should he glare at the person with a frivolous or impatient demeanor.
Although he understood perfectly it was inappropriate, Oscar still did so! He was a man, not a player or a person who relied on women for their means of living. He would get envious as well as angry. So, Baron Viesharl had left the place with some excuses before His Imperial Highness the Prince's temper had flared. We could not see what feelings the husband imposter bore when he had showed up. We could only notice some traces of sadness and depression in his eyes.
Oscar held Vij's hand and carried his eldest son who had yet to be capable of speaking in his embrace. The family of three were strolling in the garden which had been covered in a faint layer of snow. The Imperial Prince's…how should he address Vijdeline? Oscar was not clear as well. We could only say that he had plucked a white flower for the lady and she had accepted it. She had even pinned the pure white flower on her brooch and directed an extremely unnatural smile at the man. Throughout the entire duration, the two had said nothing.
Little Micath was already quite heavy. Once he felt that his shoulders were turning numb, Oscar then placed his son on the ground. At the balcony connected by the hallway, the magpies amid the snowy trees and silver flowers had attracted the little boy. He took out the slingshot from his pocket and chased after the plump birds which were jumping around. A naïve, romantic atmosphere had been aroused by the small child amidst the serene surroundings. Oscar looked at Vij beside him and felt that there was a stark contrast between them and the vibe in reality.
Maybe he had lost his patience, Oscar suddenly grabbed the woman's arm. Just as he expected, the woman furrowed her eyebrows and yelped softly.
Vijdeline folded the sleeves of her fur coat with caution. Her forearm was strapped in a white bandage which was giving off the strong smell of anti-inflammation mercurochrome solution.
"A bullet scratch!" the woman let out a breath in relief. She seemed to have brushed against yet another close call but the man beside her who was concerned for her was already furious.
"What have you been doing? Do you really have to arrange the experiments yourself? Do you really have to stand so close in front of the tall furnace? Do you really have to deal with gunpowder?"
"Oscar, enough!" Vijdeline called to a stop, "Otherwise, what else can I do, what else can I do?"
Oscar calmed his agitated emotions and caressed Vij's golden hair, "I just don't want you risking your life. You can always take part in research jobs away from danger and you don't need to stay in the smelting factory and gunpowder lab all day."
Vij shook her head. She had the drive to showcase her talents and the ambition to devote her everything. She was different from the rest of the women in the world as there was only one Vijdeline in the entire world. Her name had been carved onto the military's gunpowder weapons which were waiting to be assembled.
"I've already tried my best to stay away from danger!" the woman had finally put down her front. She directed a gaze to the man, attempting to assure him that everything was fine.
Oscar was speechless. His line of thought wandered to Vij's husband, whose gaze was indescribably strange. This had brought unjustifiable concerns to the Imperial Prince.
"Is everything alright?"
Vij nodded, "Still peaceful."
All of a sudden, Oscar turned his head backward and gave a signal to Paul and Back Devil who had concealed themselves somewhere near behind him.
Instantly, the two loyal bodyguards showed themselves. They understood that their master objected to any interferences from outsiders.
"Just as you've guessed, Alan and Robin have selected Great Titania as the experimental unit of the new army!" Oscar said while pulling the Sukhoi Mistress into sitting on the recliner chair on the balcony. A stove was burning next to the recliner chair, and there was another pot of hot black tea on the stove.
"Isn't it time for you to tell me? Why is it Great Titania? Initially, I had thought of getting a unit from the Southern army, just like the Military District Eight Second Corp of General Silvio Barrick. In my opinion, there's no second troop more fitting than this elite team!"
Vijdeline smiled while shaking her head, "Do you really think so?"
Oscar also followed suit and chuckled, "It's just my imagination. It would be ridiculous if Alan was to assign the modernized troop in the Southern army group! But, I still don't understand! Marshal Robin had also picked Great Titania, could he not see through Alan's intentions of using this new troop to monitor my hometown?"
The Sukhoi Mistress shook her head once again and patted the snow off the man's body, "Oscar, I must remind you! You're the prince of the empire, the Marshal of the empire. If you're still considering about the consequences to Andrews whenever you're looking at an issue, your vision will be restricted in an extremely narrow scope and this is the reason as to why you've failed to comprehend the meanings of the new troop's placement in the military areas of Great Titania."
Oscar furrowed his eyebrows and thought for a while, "Are you saying that I should stop taking Andrews' losses and gains into account when I'm thinking about an issue?"
"That's about it!" Vijdeline finally nodded. "But, how much of Titania do you understand?"
Oscar shrugged, "The descendants of the pathetic Royalties who had been exiled by the Morisettes, the very first shapers of Titan Empire! Other than these, what else is there?"
Vijdeline waved her hand, "It seems that I must let you meet the Duke Hank Burtnot Titania. Allow me to arrange a secret meeting!"
Oscar's brows sank even deeper, "Secret meeting? Is this even necessary? If I have the time this year, I'll definitely return to Narcissus County and won't it be better if I just make my visit at that time?"
"This isn't about courtesy!" Vijdeline shook her head so hard like a rattle drum. "As the former ruler of the dynasty, the existence of the Titania family is extremely delicate! Are you still not familiar with that section of history? How had the pioneer emperor of the Morisette Dynasty been crowned?"
Oscar pondered for a moment, "From what I know, the Persians had come! Titania family had no means of overturning the crisis of the empire. Thus, the Morisettes had used the nobles whose hopes had gotten bigger and the soldiers who wished for victory to their advantage to invoke a palace revolution, then…Titania had lost, and in fact, they had lost to the extent they had been left with no means to strike back at all. They could only hand over their Royal powers and be assigned to a province to sit as Dukes."
"Indeed, things had been like this. But it had not been exactly like this either!" Vijdeline looked at the man with slight worries.
"I've been suspecting that the Morisettes had been able to sit on the throne due to the compromise of the Royal family of Titania. If the Royal family of Titania had really lost to the point that they had been left with nothing to retaliate, the Morisettes should have killed all of them instead of preserving a legal Royal bloodline all the way till this day!"
"What do you mean?" Oscar did not understand Vijdeline's words at all.
"Actually, I'm not too clear either!" Vijdeline turned her head away in annoyance, "Looking through the history in hindsight, the Titania family had always been the most loyal servants of the Morisette Royalties, isn't this strange? The statuses of these two families today is the other way round!"
Oscar shrugged, "What is there to feel strange about, isn't the Andrews like this too? Even if the Morisette royalties had their own suspicions toward the guardians of the Eastern borders, my family has still been upholding the imperial system of the dynasty. Otherwise, I believe that Andrew won't be the Andrew we know today anymore! I'm guessing that the Titania family also has more considerations about its stability over other matters."
Vijdeline shook her head once again, "Your explanation seems to be able to clarify the issue but Titania family symbolizes the former imperial system and is completely different from the Andrews. The Morisettes had preserved Titania's bloodline only because it had not wished to bear the charges of regicide. This matter had been reasonable back then but what about now? I think that there's a matter which deserves our attention!"
"Which matter?" Oscar's curiosity had been aroused. While the Andrews had been centuries-long neighbors with the low-lying last royalties, this was his first-time hearing someone doubting this silent, historical royal family.
"Do you still recall that particular military operation where the deceased Alfa III His Majesty had disbanded the House of Lords?"
Oscar nodded in affirmation, "I was there!"
Vijdeline gestured with her fingers while listing, "The Four Military Houses which had been in charge of executing the Royal missions were Hagrid of the South, Steinberger of the Northwest, Andrew of the East, and Titania of the Central East! What did this imply? You've studied military affairs, now look at the status of Great Titania Province. What can you think of?"
Oscar pondered, and shook his head, "The East has rejected the Andrews but the West has aided the capital. I can only say that these are mere geographical borders, what else is there?"
"The key is that I'm not clear if there are any other meanings to it too. But this time, I've finally testified my deductions. The new firearm troop belongs to the Titania family and this should be an emergency measure left by the Guards or even the empire's Royalties!"
"Emergency measure?" Oscar's eyes widened. However, he was back to laughing with a disdain soon enough.
"Vij, it's enough! You're overthinking. There's only one corps of the Titania's family private armed forces. It is insufficient to pose any threats to the Andrews and won't have any supporting effect to the capital as well!"
"No! No! I'm not talking about the military affairs, what I'm saying is about the bloodline and status of the Titania family! Only this family can be considered as the true ruler of Titan Empire, without them, we won't have the Titan we see today!"
"That's right! So what?" Oscar chuckled again, "Are you worried that they'll restore the lands? If there's a possibility of their restoration, I'm afraid that Alan won't equip Titania with firearms as well!"
Vijdeline turned her head away in annoyance, "Forget it then! My words can't get through you!"
A snowball suddenly fell onto the Imperial Prince's head. Oscar did not dodge but instead took the blow firmly. Little Micath was laughing with sounds unique to a child. Oscar leaped down from his seat and swiftly rolled a snowball. As a result, his little son had run over quick-wittedly.
"Come, Vij! We don't have many chances to gather together as a family!" Oscar exclaimed in joy and then chased over by tracing the footprints of his son.
Vijdeline had stood up from her seat. She was smiling rather bitterly not because of the current awkward situation between her and Oscar but due to her doubts if the man she had chosen had the resolve and charisma. She thought that she had already pointed out the infuriating matter by mentioning the relationship between the Titania family and Morisette Royalties. However, her man was just like a fool and had not been moved at all.
"Maybe, now's still not the time!"
Looking at the father and son playing around in the garden, Vij bent her body and picked up a ball of white snow. It seemed that it was now the time to release herself. Her future with Oscar was still in a thick fog with nothing to be seen.
Right when the sunlight was the harshest in the evening, the accumulated snow in Dulin had begun to melt away. The winter of year 801 had not been considered cold. After the several early waves of chilly currents, the empire's capital had already regained its energy and liveliness.
Starting from the Tower of Heroes to the city's South, the Paladins had cleared the drains. The melted ice and snow had descended in piles from the tower at a great height and had transformed into a fine drizzle later and after that, the Road of Kings had turned busy. The soldiers of the Guards had cleaned the roads while the snow water had washed clean the greenish white surface of the marble road. Whenever the royalties' vehicles drove past the slate, the flowing water would transform into several lovely ripples.
Reaching Hamilton Palace, sceneries of rainfall from the massive roof could be seen under the sunlight. The melted snow water flowed from the various carvings of religious figures and splashed onto the ground nonstop, resulting in occasional clashing sounds while hitting the iron-like slates.
The walkway in front of the palace was occupied with newly-planted flowers, all the way to the Eastern sky where the sun set. There were the green woodlarks, tallow roses, white Faran cherry blossoms, and the most dazzling winter hollyhocks. When the sun had set in the East, only had these colorful flowers closed up, whereas the bees which had been circling them all day had also vanished in an instant. No one had any idea where these diligent bees would be landing as the entire world outside the palace was the coldest when the snow was melting.
Obeying the promise he had made with his wife, Prince O'Neil had held another family dinner at the Hamilton Palace. Since it was a family dinner, the restrictive courtesies of the palace had naturally not been of use. The guests had included the family of Discount Sukhoi who had just wedded together with the Mistress of this family and the Marquis Boude's family who had been serving at the empire's Agricultural Ministry.
Even without the high-ranking officers and royalties who loved the fun but spoke no meaningful content, His Imperial Highness the Prince's dining was still seated with more than thirty guests. Oscar had ordered his palace chef to serve local Faran dishes and had used fresh ingredients from the sea which were rare in this season. His Imperial Highness the Prince loved seafood, but this was before a portion of his intestine had been removed. Digestion of food required extremely strong stomach and intestinal functions. As for O'Neil Andrew Morisette whose stomach would hurt even with few more gulps of cold water, eating seafood was naturally out of his league.
Regardless, the guests present had still shown a great response for such rare things like seafood especially the raw oysters served on the ice tray. It was an exclusive appetizer of Rodia, the taste of the flowing juices with every bite was simply astounding. Oscar's appetizer was the duck blood broth with scallops,whereas his main courses were some roasted mutton with creamy beans, roasted clam with beef fillings, and lastly the foie gras dish, the most renowned Faran dish. His Imperial Highness the Prince himself had handpicked the raw foie gras to be fried with olive oil. The feelings of spectating the cooking skills of the chefs were just more addictive than tasting one mouthful of the dishes in satisfaction. Of course, the end results would not be disappointing. Oscar could not stop complimenting the fried foie gras which had been sprinkled with truffle, sweet vinegar, almond and caramel.
When the dinner had proceeded to the stage of desserts and the demonstration of salads, Empress Alanis who had seemed distracted the whole time had finally spoken. She did not give her blessings to the newlyweds nor had she addressed her regards to the agricultural ministers. Her Majesty said to the cautious Lady Vijdeline in a straightforward manner, "Bring your child along with you to move into the palace! Have some fun here before you go!"
"How can I disturb your Majesty?" Vijdeline exchanged glances with Oscar promptly who was seated at the main seat on the right side of the dining table.
"Not at all, how will I be disturbed?" the Empress raised her head and sized up the Sukhoi Mistress and her husband playfully, "I believe that Oscar wants nothing more than this!"
Along with Her Majesty's words, those at the scene had put down their cutleries in utter silence. Even though there had not been any change to Her Majesty the Empress' intonation and demeanor, those who were quick to understand the situation had felt bone-deep chills.
The Imperial Prince had fallen silent for a moment and then laughed as if nothing had happened. He spread his arms toward Lady Vijdeline, "You may not have known, but Her Majesty the Empress has been yelling to live separately with me!"
Alanis turned her head away in disgust. She despised the man's tone which sounded as if he had no business in this matter.
"Everyone in Dulin knows! Don't be bothered, Lady Vijdeline, my Oscar will never simply get a room for him to relieve his depression!"
Oscar's face had finally darkened. He waved his hand at Her Majesty the Empress who was seated at the far end of the long dining table, "You just intend to ruin everyone's mood, don't you?"
Alanis drank some liquor, and this resulted in her face to be blushed. After hearing clearly her husband's accusations, she stood up proudly. The royalties instantly followed after the empress who was leaving her seat, and everyone proceeded to give a deep bow at Her Majesty the Emperor who was about to take her leave.
Facing Oscar who was still seated as calm as ever, Alanis smirked softly, "Do I not have the rights to relieve my stress? Or are you saying that you're ordering me to leave?"
"Your Majesty!" Vijdeline said while leaving her seat with Little Micath, oblivious to everything, in her arms, "Are you willing to bring me to have a look at my room? I still have a lot of interesting encounters to share with you on our way!"
Oscar glared fiercely at the Sukhoi Mistress who intended to relieve the tension. However, Vijdeline seemed to not have noticed the flushed man at all. She had reached the front of the empress and gestured at Her Majesty the Empress with the child in her embrace.
Alanis took the child into her arms and chuckled and kissed the little boy on his forehead. Little Micath looked at his mother innocently as he was not used to being carried by different people to and fro.
Her Majesty the Empress held the little boy with difficulty. The child who would be turning four years old soon was even heavier than she thought.
"I'm so jealous of you!" Alanis whined at Vijdeline. Among her words, there was the addition of unprecedented genuine.
Vijdeline thought of Her Majesty the Empress' miscarriage all of a sudden and could only laugh with slight fear. Everyone knew that it was never good news to have invoked an empress' genuine envy. This matter might be extremely dangerous too. Oscar was speechless and had only directed a glance at Paul who had concealed himself at the walkway. Instantly, the King of Assassins had understood his meaning! Following the silhouettes of the empress and Lady Vijdeline, he trailed after them.
"Well then, let me tell everyone a joke!" a sharp laughter suddenly erupted from Torry's young wife.
Oscar and the dazed artillery Major General looked in that direction in unison. Discount Sukhoi's wife had already changed from her faint-colored feminine costume. Now, she had her golden hair tied up, revealing her fair, petite figure. After speaking up while opening her folded fan, the alluring Viscount rose from her seat like a mistress and slightly bowed at the Imperial Prince and the guests present.
"There's an infamous addict in the city of Dulin! One day, he had discovered that his wife was also smoking opium. Thus, he had given the unfortunate woman a heavy beating! In the end, he had even said to his wife, if you dare to smoke one more time, I'll stuff your nose into the cigarette holder!"
Those present at the dining hall laughed except Oscar and Torry who were still plastering a cold demeanor.
Lady Lado Evelyn dropped her smile and extended her arms at His Imperial Highness the Prince in a helpless manner, "Is it that…is it that it's not funny at all?"
Torry spared a glanced at his old friend's facial expression and he could not help but wish to give his wife a few slaps. Was this woman a fool or had she transformed from some other being? Did she not know what the joke implied?
The artillery General pulled on his wife's skirt secretly but O'Neil Andrew Morisette whose face had completely darkened stood up.
"Your joke is absolutely hilarious!" Oscar tried his best to nod at the Viscount with the kindest expression he could muster, "I must thank you, today…has it been a whole day? Only your joke has truly allowed me to relax!"
The servants pulled away from the Imperial Prince's seat for him. Then, Oscar left the spot without looking back. Until the silhouette of his old friend had completely disappeared, Torry held his wife's face.
"My baby, if this is during earlier times, I'll say that you've gotten your life back!" the General of the Guards sized up his wife endearingly, but he had already lowered his voice, "Little fellow, you did it on purpose, didn't you?"
The Viscount chuckled menacingly and bit her husband's ear, "There's some issue with your master's brain! This is Dulin and he still wishes to show his displeasure to Her Majesty the Empress! Your sister is much smarter than him!"
Torry suddenly held his wife's face, "My baby! You're not serious, are you?"
Lado Evelyn sized up her husband's facial expression. She knew it was time to stop.
"Don't worry! I was just splattering nonsense!"
Torry immediately pecked his wife on her cheek and hugged her tight, "You've scared me! You've scared me…"
The Viscount patted softly on her husband's spine and had kept on consoling the Artillery Division Commander who had been shocked. However, a beam of light full of cold vengeance and deep hatred suddenly flashed across her eyes. Nevertheless, when her husband had once again turned his face toward her, the pair of eyes which had been a stark contrast with her alluring beauty had been replaced with an endearing gaze, skilfully masking all emotions unknown to the public as if she was pulling off magic tricks.
This night, the empress husband-and-wife had all suffered from insomnia! Oscar had kept on smoking like an addict while his wife had also drunk nonstop like an addict. Maybe, deep down in their hearts, the patience they had allocated for each other was near the brink of their limits. Maybe, at this time the next day, this bit of patience left would vanish amidst the provocations, clashes, hatred and gossips!
When that time comes, between Oscar and Alanis, what would be left?
This was indeed suspicious as they used to be so loving!
However, there were still some doubts. Did they really not love each other anymore?
Baron Ogeiro closed his historical book and kept his feather pen. Before he ended the journey today, he sized up the table littered with cups and plates and the palace illuminating with lights one final time. It seemed that the time had come for the melodies to end and the people to be dismissed.
Vijdeline nodded with a bitter grin. She could only hug the man tight but there was nothing the embrace could do to bring momentary peace to her soul.