`It couldn’t be more stuck up,’ thought Calian as he steered Raven along the road.
Raven was currently walking with its head held high through the crowd that was split in the middle like waves. It was clear from the way that it was clacking its hooves louder than usual that it was enjoying the crowd’s attention.
‘I’ve seen many horses in my life, but I’ve never seen any quite like this one.’
Calian took his eyes off Raven’s black mane that fluttered in the air every time it took a step.
Looking back, it was Calian’s first time properly traveling outside the palace since he woke up in Kyris. Although he had gone out to the plaza in order to catch up to Alan, he didn’t have the chance to look around since it was dark and he could only think about Alan back then.
Kyrisis sure has good infrastructure. It’s quite impressive that a road like this connects to cities all over Kyris.
The Royal Road was quite impressive in that it was a bold move that could only be carried out by a powerful nation. This road was a sign of confidence – confidence that no enemy would dare use this road to attack Kyris.
They would have taken this road to attack Secretia.
It was a memory that he couldn’t avoid remembering. Calian’s gaze traveled over to Franz, who was sitting on his horse with his eyes closed.
‘…he sure has a temper,’ Calian thought, glancing at the cuts that were etched onto the back of Franz’s hand.
‘I just thought that the son took after his mother. I never expected that they would be on bad terms.’
That morning, Calian had unintentionally heard Franz yelling at his attendants. He had kept the window open to enjoy the nice weather, and Franz’s room was directly above Calian’s.
Calian was surprised to hear Yan mutter something about Silica visiting again. He never knew that Franz and Silica didn’t get along.
“It seems like we’re almost at our destination, Your Highness,” whispered Yan.
Calian finally shooed away his thoughts, moved his gaze away from Franz, and looked around the streets.
Gorgeous buildings – although not as luxurious as the mansions on Aynansha Street where the noble families lived – lined up one after another. They were on Astrisha Street, a central region for high-end stores and cultural facilities for nobles. The showground owned by Pollun Merchantry that was at the end of this street was their destination.
Calian glanced at the group of children who were watching the march of the King from afar. Judging from their outfit, they don’t seem to be children of nobles… maybe they came all the way here just to watch.
When Calian smiled gently at the group of commoner kids, they seemed visibly shocked.
“They’re quite cute,” chuckled Calian, appreciating their innocence.
“They look older than you, Your Highness,” replied Yan, raising his eyebrows as if Calian had said something nonsensical.
Calian smiled awkwardly.
He was still not used to being trapped in such a young body.
Just then, he noticed another boy who was standing a little distance away from the group, although gazing at the march all the same.
The clothes that he wore seemed much more ragged even in comparison to the commoners around him. He was staring at the knights of Kaela, who was wearing their ceremonial attire as they guarded Rumein.
While everybody else stared at the King, Queen, and the princes, he was the only one whose gaze was elsewhere. Finding it strange, Calian subconsciously focused his attention on the boy.
Calian’s smile disappeared from his face.
His aqua hair stood out even from afar. His skin was slightly on the darker side, and he was already tall for a child.
Although he was very similar in appearance to the child that Calian intended to find and keep as his guard, he couldn’t be sure of it because of the distance. Just as Calian wished that he could take a closer look, he heard Yan panic beside him.
“Why is he doing this all of a sudden…?!”
Calian turned towards Yan in surprise to find his attendant flustered as he tried to steer Raven, who had strayed to the side towards the boy with aqua hair. Raven had once again read Calian’s thoughts. Calian hurriedly stroked the side of Raven’s neck.
“No, Raven. Not now. You can’t go that way,” whispered Calian.
Raven finally turned to the front and started walking again. Yan, who was surprised at Raven’s sudden defiance, sighed in relief.
“I’m incredibly sorry, Your Highness.”
“That was my fault. It’s alright.”
When Calian glanced at the side once again, the boy with aqua hair was nowhere to be seen. Calian desperately looked around as if he were looking for something very dear to him.
Kyrie was an orphan who had taken refuge in Secretia after losing many things in Kyris. He was also a genius swordsman. Bern recognised Kyrie’s talent and taught him how to use the sword; Kyrie, in return, gave Bern his life.
On Bern’s final day, Kyrie had used his body to shield Bern from a rain of arrows.
‘Wait for me. I promise that I’ll go to find you soon.’
Calian tried his hardest to calm his racing heart and determined to delay his contact with Kyrie.
“We have arrived, Your Highness.” As Yan spoke once again, the knights busied themselves and started moving into position.
The showground appeared before them. The outer wall was constructed with stone; its black and white granite appearance reminded Calian of the palace’s Narsil Pavillion.
Soon, Calian dismounted from Raven’s back, and Yan handed over Raven’s reign to the showground’s servant.
“His Highness is very fond of this horse, so please take care when handling him. Promise me to be very, very careful,” said Yan with a tone of pity in his voice.
Yan knew how bad Raven’s temper was, and Yan’s face spoke for himself: When His Highness isn’t present, he’s quite… tricky.
To their side was a red carpet that stretched all the way to the front gates of the showground. It was clearly set down to greet the royal family.
“You have my welcome. It is my greatest honour to have you.”
And there stood Melfir Pollun.
Melfir Pollun was a round man with short grey hair.
The first impression of Lennon Brissen, the owner of Brissen Merchantry, and that of Melfir Pollun, the owner of Pollun Merchantry, showed great contrast. In that short moment of greeting, Melfir met eyes with every member of the royal family and smiled.
It was an action taken to examine the other party while leaving an impression of himself. He was clearly different in gravity from Lennon, who never thought before he spoke.
“Please allow me to take you inside,” said Melfir, leading the way.
As Calian followed in, he looked around to search for the place where the accident had occurred. Not long after, Calian’s eyes sharpened as he focused on one area.
‘So it’s there,’
It wasn’t difficult to find the object that had caused the accident. It was a large basket that contained petals and confetti that would embellish the show’s finale. That was the only temporary structure held by a rope.
The showground was an oval-shaped field surrounded by eight floors of seats that were occupied by the audience. The middle area was reserved for the royal family, and the basket was hanging from far above.
‘So that’s what’s gonna be causing the accident. There’s no way that the knights wouldn’t check on it beforehand, though.’
The royal family had been accompanied by their knights all the way to the venue.
The Knights of Kaela, the King’s personal order of knights, only guarded Rumein closely, while the Royal Knights of Pavel were in charge of guarding the rest of the royal family and examining the people and various structures in the area.
Therefore, knights from Pavel must have examined the rope that held the basket.
If there was an accident even after examining the rope, then Pavel must either have decided to knowingly ignore it or not check it in the first place.
Pavel, of course, was an order of knights under Brissen.
Calian grumbled internally. ‘You really can’t trust anyone.’
When the royal family stepped onto the platform where the reserved seats were, the audience all stood up and showered them with a welcoming applause. Rumein waved his hand in response, and Melfir gestured towards the seats.
“Please come this way.”
Rumein and Silica each sat in their seats and Randall and Franz followed. As usual, Calian was the last to be seated.
When Calian was passing Melfir, he slowed his pace and whispered as he brushed past the round man:
“I feel slightly uneasy about what’s above. Go take a look.”
For a split second, Melfir’s gaze lingered on Calian.
However, Calian looked down and sat down in his seat as if he hadn’t said anything. Melfir also straightened his back without saying anything else.
‘I can’t give him any further explanation since I’m not in a position to openly help him. I expect him, however, to catch on quickly as an owner of a merchantry.’
If Melfir didn’t understand him and the accident were to happen, Calian planned to pull Randall close so that he wouldn’t be injured. As long as it isn’t found that Randall was the target, Melfir would be able to escape death.
Melfir glanced at his own seat that was next to Rumein’s. He could sit and talk to Rumein for the whole duration of the show without being interjected by other noblemen. Needless to say, it was not easy for a Baron to sit next to Rumein for such a long time.
He didn’t have to think for long. Melfir glanced again at Calian, who seemed as nonchalant as ever.
Melfir pursed his lips and turned to face Rumein.
“Your Majesty, I must now head downstairs to direct the show. Please excuse my absence and rudeness.”
Calian smiled subtly. A smart man, he is.
He threw away the chance to converse with Rumein after hearing Calian’s brief warning. He was cautious enough to prioritise a preventing possible accident over gaining an immediate benefit.
Having been excused by Rumein, Melfir left the audience’s seat. Not long after, the host of the show walked into the middle of the field.
“It is my greatest pleasure to host our very special guests.”
The host took one hand and placed it on his stomach and bowed towards the reserved seats before bowing once again towards the rest of the audience.
“And welcome to all of you who have gathered here today!”
The audience responded with a loud applause. When the host gathered the audience’s attention, he put on a serious face and livened up the atmosphere.
“The Astricia Pollun Showground that you are in today is built on a very historical land. Where I stand is none other than that special place where King Hatsuara stopped Queen Sispanian, who was about to return to her land after the Battle of the Gods!”
The audience burst into laughter, knowing that all horseback riding showgrounds in Kyris claimed the same about their own showground.
“Then, without further ado, let us begin!”
The show began as the host retreated inside after his opening speech. A team of jockeys came into the showground on their horses and proceeded to perform many tricks, such as doing a handstand on their horses and running under the horses as the horses galloped along.
Calian watched them, slightly bored. He himself used to do most of these tricks with ease. Of course, the majority of the audience who did not have that skill set oohed and ahhed as they watched the performance.
Silica was still holding her fan. Every time the jockeys performed dangerous tricks, she covered her face with her fan as if to announce that she was too fragile-hearted to watch it happen.
Since Silica was sitting diagonally in front of Calian, which was the direction of the field, Calian had to watch every act put on by Silica.
‘That’s the same Silica who blatantly spoke of killing me right in front of my face.’ Calian turned his head to avoid having to look at her aggravating act. This time, his eyes met with Franz’s, who was fiercely glaring at Calian.
Calian’s animosity toward Franz had enlivened on his way to the venue as Calian was once again reminded of Kyrie’s death. Thus, Callian glared back at Franz with no intention to hide his resentment.
Just then, a jockey who was riding on a galloping horse jumped up and landed perfectly on the saddle of another horse that was running from behind. The audience clapped and cheered loudly, and Franz took this opportunity to open his mouth.
A chillingly ominous and sinister voice oozed out of Franz’s lips, just loud enough for Calian to hear.
“How nasty, wicked, and cunning…”
He was speaking to Calian. Calian didn’t know what irked him this time, but that’s how Franz started off his sentence.
“You don’t even know your place.”
Calian scowled at this absurd string of events. Silica was trying to poison him, and now her son was cursing him out.
‘Is this fucking idiot for real?’
Calian had almost flung himself at Franz when he remembered that there were watching eyes. He persuaded himself that there was no need for him to deal with Franz right now.
Calian closed his eyes.
When he opened them once again, his sharp glare and scowl had disappeared. He reverted back to his expressionless face that he always put on when facing Franz. Franz’s mouth twitched.
“It’s disgusting. It makes me want to puke…”
That wasn’t the case for Franz. He didn’t know how to hold back his anger in concern for his surroundings.
“…the vulgar, filthy blood that runs in your veins.”
Randall flung open his eyes and turned to Franz.
So did the knights and the attendants who were standing behind them. Everyone was staring at Franz.
His sunken eyes also turned towards Franz.
The first act had ended and the audience had fallen silent when Franz’s voice echoed like a church bell. Everyone who was in the reserved seats area had heard Franz.
‘Franz… ‘ Silica’s face crumpled miserably.
Silence persisted as everyone held their breath.
Calian took his hands and covered his face, unable to hide his expression any longer.
Under his pale hands, Calian’s lips drew a long upward curve.
Original Translation: Wordexcerpt
Edited by: Tani Andris
Let me know if you spot any mistakes!