The man who introduced himself as Victor Adelphe guided him to a modest black carriage that did not match his splendid entrance.
Eugène got into the carriage under his guidance.
As soon as the door of the carriage closed, it started moving without a signal.
Perhaps it was something was planned in advance, as the movement and tracks perfectly meshed like clockwork.
That wasn’t the only unusual thing Victor did.
As the carriage departed, he lowered the window coverings on all four sides and turned the carriage into a secret compartment.
Even so, it was around the end of the day, so the inside of the carriage quickly became dark.
“Nice to meet you, Vice Admiral Chastan.”
Eugène nodded in response to the man’s greeting.
“Nice to meet you, too.
I’m Eugène Lothair de Chastan.
If you don’t mind, may I ask for your real name?”
When Eugène asked a question as if he were curious, the man smiled and answered meekly.
“My name really is Victor.
It’s also true that I’m the owner of the Adelphe Chamber.”
The superficial familiarity he had just seen was hard to find in him now.
There was only refined politeness that did not deviate from the courtesy of dealing with a person you meet for the first time.
Eugène looked at the man’s face silently.
He was quite amazing.
The same face, the same clothes, but the expression alone made the person look different.
It’s not as if the atmosphere changed, as it’s often said, but as if he were another person all this time.
“I couldn’t get in touch with you in advance, but you’re surprisingly unperturbed.
Not to mention how you improvised when I spoke to you on the spot, perhaps you knew that there would be a call?”
The man asked a question in a curious manner.
“It was merely a presumption.”
“Then can you deduce whose calling it is?”
“Her Highness The Grand Duchess’ intentions have already been relayed to me by His Excellency The Marquis.
In that case, there’s only one other person left for me to see.”
His demeanor, as calm as stagnant water, was not made up.
From the moment he heard the circumstances of his divorce trial, he had guessed that there would be a call like this.
That’s why he didn’t stay at the Marquis’ residence and left.
“Then there must be a lot that you’re curious about, but it doesn’t seem like you have any questions.”
“If there’s anything I need to know, I will surely ask him first.
I don’t mean to tire you both with useless questions.”
The question the man posed seemed simple at first glance, but his intention was not.
It’s because rather than answers, what he wants is to observe his reactions.
However, Eugène did not wish to waste his energy on the already complicated act of reading the other person.
After all, the person who has the decision-making power is ‘him’ whom they will meet later, and if the matter is unable to reach a conclusion with him, there was no point in saying anything here.
You’re not wrong.”
The man laughed quietly.
It was joined with an impressive and meaningful smile.
Eugène carefully observed the man and muttered the name he had given.
It was a name he had never heard of before.
He introduced himself as a merchant, but if he was just a merchant, the two of them would not have met at that place.
At first, he thought the man was just a mere puppet, but maybe he held a position higher than that.
We’re sorry for MTLers or people who like using reading mode, but our translations keep getting stolen by aggregators so we’re going to bring back the copy protection.
If you need to MTL please retype the gibberish parts.
“I would like to give you two caveats to apologize for the discourtesy I had previously committed.
First, you must never disclose what you experienced today.
It is not allowed to keep a personal record of it, let alone divulge it to outsiders.
Second, please make a decision with prudence.
His will is as that of the empire.”
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Pa kjr yfmjerf tf gfjilhfv atja atf wjc kjr vblcu tlw j mbcrlvfgjyif ojnbg.
Ca olgra uijcmf, la rffwfv ab yf j rlwqif kjgclcu, yea tlr kbgvr mbcajlcfv tlcar atja Seuècf mbeiv erf erfoeiis.
Pa kjr lcvffv j qglmfifrr ojnbg ab ufa lcobgwjalbc atja mbeiv qbrrlyis rjnf tlr ilof lc remt j mbwqifaf rajaf bo lucbgjcmf jr tf kjr lc cbk.
Seuècf rilutais ybkfv ab fzqgfrr tlr ugjalaevf.
“Thank you, Mr.
I will keep that in mind.”
He could sense another smile on top of his bowed head.
Seems like he was smiling again.
Eugène then smiled face to face at the person who was immersed in the darkness.
But his smile was terribly bitter, unlike that of the one sitting opposite.
The enemies he had fought so far had a definite form.
Whether it was a pirate, a privateer, or a capricious sea, the enemy’s identity was always clear, and so was his reason to fight.
Nevertheless, his current situation was such that he could not be sure as to who was an ally, let alone an enemy.
His enemy was all the circumstances surrounding him, and every person could be either an enemy or an ally, depending on the situation.
That uncontrollable ambiguity calmed Eugène.
The carriage, which had been moving for a long time, finally stopped inside of a stable with a stone ceiling.
When he came out, all the doors leading to the outside were closed and a servant with an expressionless face was waiting for him.
The servant came to meet him with a torch and took the lead in silence as soon as he got off the carriage.
In response to that unspoken request, Eugène followed in his footsteps.
The servant led him to a secret passage made under the floor of the stable.
The length of the secret passage guided by the servant was surprisingly not long.
As if it was just another route leading to the main building with a stable, it stretched out in a straight line for a while, then connected to a staircase going up.
Eugène looked at the course of the passageway and noticed that the mansion was not located on the outskirts.
If it was a place where one had to be vigilant about the entry and exit of outsiders, it must be also a place where one had to pay attention to the neighbors’ eyes.
As he reached the end of the stairs, the servant knocked on the wall.
There was an empty sound of knocking on the stone wall, and the stone door, which looked like just a wall creaked and turned sideways.
After opening the door, the servant took a step back and made room for him to enter.
He didn’t say a word until the end.
Eugène followed the servant’s careful guidance and moved toward the door.
The secret passageway was connected to a well-decorated nobleman’s study.
Just like in the carriage, the elegant study, with all the windows covered with dark curtains, had a dark and cozy feeling.
A man was sitting with his back on a chair slanted at an angle in front of the fireplace.
Seeing him sitting comfortably by the fireplace with his feet stretched out and his back leaning against the backrest, made him feel as if he had trespassed into the study of a gentleman who was resting.
Did he sense my presence? The man reached out over the backrest and called Eugène.
Eugène approached him as called, stopped at a distance one step away from him, knelt down on one knee, and politely expressed his courtesy.
“Baron Amieux sees His Majesty the Emperor, Lord of Ardi, Kleman and Nervoge, Ruler of the Neutel and Salpine Rivers, and Protector of Lex Ardica.
May Your Majesty reign forever.”
“Next time we meet like this, you can skip such a grand greeting.
It’s already enough to hear rhetoric as fancy as the coronation crown, with a few modifiers during an audience.
Why don’t you sit there?”
A languid voice fell over Eugène’s head.
It was a low-pitched voice as if he had woken up while dozing, but the Emperor’s words were an imperial command, so Eugène had no choice but to follow it.
He sat down next to the chair where the Emperor was sitting, as per his order.
As he sat there, he could see the front of the Emperor reclining comfortably on the backrest.
The Emperor had been yawning for a long time as if he was really asleep, seemed to have felt Eugène’s gaze, and turned his head to look back at him.
The Emperor’s eyes were slightly teary.
“Oh, I’m sorry.
I dozed off for a while.
As you may know, the most important thing in war is not fighting, but organizing the post-war documents.
It’s a war that lasted five years, instead of just a year, so it’s not easy to take charge of it.”
The Emperor muttered, rubbing his eyes with his fingers as if he could not sleep.
It was an easygoing attitude that was quite different from the terrifying rumors, but Eugène did not simply believe it.
What’s frightening about the Emperor was not his attitude, but his actions.
The Emperor was a man who could strike a hundred people in the neck with a smile, and Eugène was well aware of that.
If one were to make a mistake by being deceived by the gentle atmosphere, they could not guarantee their future.
“I’m much obliged to Your Majesty.”
“If you’re sincerely obliged, why don’t you recommend someone? Do you know any talented person who’s good at accounting and diligent? It’s truly frustrating that there suitable and competent person to take on the job.
Are talented people that scarce in this vast empire?”
The Emperor grumbled as if he were chatting with his friends.
Hearing the Emperor’s words, Eugène thought for a moment and answered.
“If it doesn’t matter that he’s not from the nobility, then I know someone who can be of use.
Henri Diragra is a tax collector in Trierrehan, well versed in the Great Code, and proficient at accounting.”
The Emperor’s eyes widened at the straightforward answer.
This was because Eugène’s reaction was not what he had expected.
According to his experience, hearing this kind of an issue rarely compelled a person to immediately recommend someone.
Even those of higher authority and status than Eugène didn’t.
It was natural to want to put one’s own person in an important position that influenced state affairs, but recommending a person to the Emperor also meant that they were vouching for that person, so the responsibility was heavy.
This was because, in the worst-case scenario, it was possible to jeopardize one’s own life solely by putting a good word for the wrong person.
For that reason, even the great aristocrats who were good at politics could not readily come up with an answer to such an unexpected question.
At best, all they would do was bow and request some time to ponder.
However, Eugène was only briefly lost in thought but gave an answer immediately, and there was no hesitation in that answer.
For the Emperor, who knew that he was not a rash man, such an attitude of Eugène was very surprising.
“If the person you recommended causes harm to the empire, you wouldn’t be unaware that that sin could be implicated in you as well.
With that in mind, do you still recommend him?”
Was the answer that came out too easily suspicious? The Emperor looked at him as if to test.
But Eugène held on to his answer without a hitch.
There was certainty in his answer.
“Yes, Your Majesty.
“The person you recommend is the one who will be in charge of this country’s finances.
Hearing all that you said, it seems that he is a local tax collector, but do you think it’s okay to suddenly summon such a person to the capital and give him such enormous authority and responsibility?”
“If he wasn’t the right person, would I have recommended him? I spoke of him because I thought it was appropriate to take into account the concerns of Your Majesty.
He is sincere and diligent in his work.
Not only is he good at arithmetics as he studied mathematics in depth, but he is also skilled at accounting and finance, so his task of handling large assets would certainly not be inadequate.
However, one of his greatest strengths is knowing the right fit.
He’s flexible and is well aware of how to finish things off flawlessly.
On the other hand, he is a great man who has no greed as he’s fully aware of his place, is timid, and places great importance on his own life.
He may not be suitable in the long run, but I believe he’s a person who has the ability to put out an immediate fire.”
The answer was quirky and interesting.
But what really struck the Emperor’s fancy was that Eugène’s answer was not merely bragging about wit.
If his words were true, Eugène was recommending a talent that could be hired immediately.
Unlike other aristocrats who clumsily try to form a sound argument, the reason for the recommendation was extremely reasonable.
After all, completely clean management did not exist in reality.
Aren’t most of the officials pretending to be honest on the outside, doing bad things behind the scenes? In that case, it was not a bad choice to entrust a seat to a great person who can’t create a big accident even if he were to cause a trifling mishap.
“You must have guessed the reason I called you, is that right?”
Just having a short conversation was enough to know.
He was a conversationalist when it came down to it.
Satisfied with Eugène’s answer, the Emperor stopped insinuating and got down to business.
His voice still sounded young and he spoke with a smile, but it contained a dignity that had not been found in its previous form.
Even though he was three years younger than Eugène, he was the Emperor.
He was the monarch of an empire who ascended to the throne at the age of ten and held the throne for twenty-two years.
Natural dignity, as if inborn, weighed down on Eugène like concrete.
Eugène lowered his head, calmly withstanding the tremendous weight.
“Yes, Your Majesty.
“If you have any guesses, would you tell me? Why did I call you?”
The Emperor asked, as if genuinely curious.
I want you to tell me how far you’ve gotten with merely your intuitions.
Behind the gentle smile, he could feel his sharp observational gaze.
“Were you not trying to find the timber of Your Majesty’s conviction? I believe Your Majesty was wondering if this plan was to be used once and thrown away, or if it would continue to be useful afterward.”
Now that this had happened, Eugène decided to go forth frankly.
He honestly decided to beg for his life.
“My plan? What do you think my plan is?”
The Emperor asked again with interest. Keep going.
Eugène was reluctant but continued to speak at will.
“My wife is not chaste, but she is a cautious person, so she’s not someone who would openly engage in adultery.
It’s even harder to believe that Prince Merrick, who should have been modest as an heir to the throne, was exceptionally senseless.
So there’s no way the rumors came from those two.
I think it would be impossible, unless someone intended it, that rumors of a secret affair between a man and a woman had spread to the point of being known not only to the nobles but also to the general public.”
Eugène said no further, but his intentions were clear.
But the Emperor didn’t even blink an eye after hearing that he might be behind the divorce trial.
“The problem is my wife and Prince Merrick.
Rumors are merely rumors and cannot be evidence.
No matter how much it’s talked about, it would have been enough to ignore them according to the customs of the social circle, but the fact that he went to the court and requested a trial was probably because there is some undeniable evidence.”
Unlucky. Following the Emperor’s urging, Eugène sympathized with the plight of his wife, who must have been unexpectedly stabbed in the back.
In hindsight, her situation was not much different from his.
“It may be an assumption, but my wife is pregnant right now.
That is why he cannot claim to be innocent.”
Eugène quietly confessed what he had guessed as he came in the carriage and looked at the Emperor.
The Emperor quietly smiled at his straight gaze.
It was to confirm Eugène’s conjecture.
Noticing his response, Eugène sighed inwardly. Just as I thought, of course. If it wasn’t for pregnancy, his wife wouldn’t have done such a reckless thing.
There was no other way, so she had no choice but to take such an escapade.
If he had always stayed at the imperial court like any other noble, the situation might have been different.
It would have been enough to have given birth to the child and insisted that it was her husband’s just like how other aristocratic women did.
But, unfortunately, her husband, himself, had been out at sea for several years.
The last time Eugène met his wife was two years ago, so the number of months of the child cannot be correct.
If she were to give birth like that, the child would be deemed illegitimate.
And according to Lex Ardica, which is strict in protecting the family lineage to such an extent that it is nicknamed the Family Code; if a married woman of a noble family gives birth to a child that turns out to be illegitimate, all three people – the child, the mother, and her lover- should be beheaded.
Usually, it was overlooked, but when the crime was obvious like this time, there was no way to avoid punishment through any means.
However, even in such a dead-end situation, there were always shortcuts.
Although it was a method that was not commonly used, if you divorce first before being accused of adultery and officially remarry the child’s biological father to make the child legitimate, then there would be no punishment as it would not be counted as ‘the deceiving of one’s family lineage into another’.
Perhaps the wife remembered that and filed for divorce.
Eugène, thinking up to that point, suddenly realized something.
The sin that the wife directly admitted was ‘adultery’, not ‘pregnancy due to adultery’.
There was no way that she had already acknowledged that fact.
In order to survive, the pregnancy must not be revealed until the divorce was finalized.
They must have been more desperate to keep a secret because all of them were directly related to the lives of three people.
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