C277: Master of the Imperial Castle (2)
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The woman in the gazebo was like a work of art made of nothing but beauty. Silver hair that looked like it had been woven from threads of moonlight, braided and tied into a bun.
Clean skin without blemishes and features that show no flaws.
The overflowing beauty was so heavy that even a famous painter could not dare to try to paint it.
She wore a dress of only two colors, gold and silver, symbolizing the sun and the moon, and even the splendor barely supported her nobility.
As beautiful as she was, she also possessed an enormous presence that is hard to describe. Even as she sat still and sipped her tea, she exuded an indescribable charisma.
“I brought a guest as you instructed me, Princess.”
As soon as Passius spoke, her gaze shifted from one side of the garden to the other.
Her amber eyes fixed not on the man who had called her, but on Rudger.
“You have come.”
A beautiful, powerful, clean voice. It was a voice he hadn’t heard in seven years.
First Princess Eileen von Exilion. In fact, the next emperor stared at Rudger with an emotionless gaze.
Ordinary people would naturally bow their heads but Rudger did not shy away from that gaze. Instead, he met it head-on and stared at Eileen.
A faint smile appeared on Eileen’s bored face.
“You’ve brought the right person. Good work, Lord Passius.”
“I just followed orders.”
“While you’re at it, I’ll give you another order. I want to have a conversation with this person alone, so step back a little.”
Passius was taken aback by the words, but as soon as he remembered the word ‘order,’ he bowed his head.
Passius went back the way he came and disappeared from the open space.
Left alone, Rudger stared at Eileen, who was still sitting on the observatory.
“What are you doing, not coming up?”
Realizing that there was no avoiding it now that he had come this far, Rudger made his way to the observation deck where Eileen was sitting.
Each step he took up the marble staircase made a beautiful keyboard sound.
Magic had been carved into the marble itself, and it was designed to resonate with sweet music just by stepping on it. It was truly a space made for the high and mighty.
The observation deck was not so high. At the top of the stairs, Rudger casually sat down in the empty chair across from Eileen.
“Cheeky guy, I haven’t asked you to sit down yet.”
“Isn’t that what you asked me to do?”
“Ho-ho. Don’t you know who I am?”
“You are First Princess Eileen von Exilion.”
“Even though you know that, you don’t look down but face me confidently. You’re a man full of spirit as I’ve heard.”
Eileen smiled amusedly.
It was a beautiful smile that any man would immediately be captivated by, but Rudger did not fall for it.
“I heard you wanted to see me.”
“May I ask why?”
Rudger asked straightforwardly because he had no intention of wasting time.
She hadn’t expected him to be so straightforward, but Eileen’s eyes lit up with interest.
“Why do I have to tell you?”
Her words had a lot of meanings but Rudger didn’t let them sway him.
“If you don’t tell me why, I won’t know.”
“The world calls you a genius, but is this something that even a genius’s intellect can’t figure out?”
“I do not consider myself a genius, which is why I do not know what the Princess intentions are.”
The words were spoken without any hesitation. It wasn’t an act of humility to lower his status, but rather something he could only say because he genuinely thought so.
“Well, if you’re that curious, I’ll tell you. The reason isn’t that grand, really, it’s just that the teachers of Theon are visiting the palace and I wanted to meet the rumored man myself.”
“You mean the rumors?”
“Yes. I have my own interests in the magical world and in Theon. It’s where my dear little sister goes to school after all.”
One of Rudger’s eyebrows twitched at the mention of the Third Princess Erendir.
“But I heard one person’s name a lot in my ears. The creator of source code magic, the inventor of coordinate designation magic, and the one who has even succeeded in increasing the amount of mana emitted.”
As she said that, First Princess Eileen added an afterthought.
“Oh, and did I say that he became the planning director of Theon?”
“So you knew all that.”
“I can’t help but notice since it’s what everyone talks about. The difference is that while others may forget about it quickly, I don’t.”
I don’t forget.
Rudger narrowed his eyes to the strange heat felt in Eileen’s words.
“You must have a pretty good memory.”
“Yes, it’s a problem because it’s so good. I remember what happened seven years ago as vividly as last night.”
“. I have especially good eyes to see and ears to hear, so I often hear things that others don’t.”
“That’s not unusual, I suppose. All great minds have people like that.”
“Yes, but I am not like them. Their eyes and ears are limited to their own courtyards, but I see farther.”
Eileen took another sip of tea and Rudger also naturally drank the black tea.
“Among them, I hear a lot of strange stories that others don’t know. Are you curious?”
Rudger’s expression remained unchanged as he replied, his eyes seemingly piercing.
“I’m not really curious.”
“I find it curious that you are so uninterested in a story that others would be dying to hear. Or is it because you don’t need to know?”
“I’m saying I don’t need to know.”
“What, it’s not a big deal. It’s just the identity of a great hunter, a criminal of the century, a mysterious thief, and a legendary mercenary.”
Eileen smirked at Rudger, not even bothering to hide it now. It was as if she were asking him if he was going to go through with it.
Rudger sipped his tea wordlessly, savoring the flavor, then silently placed his teacup on the table.
In a peaceful landscape with birds chirping and warm sunshine Rudger opened his mouth quietly.
“You left out one thing.”
“What are you talking about?”
“He did some detective work in the middle. It wasn’t that long, but it was popular among people.”
“Hmm. I didn’t know that.”
“If you look up Eugene-François Vidocq, I’m sure you’ll find some material.”
“Do you have any other advice?”
“All I know is that he’s currently teaching magic in Theon.”
At that, Princess Eileen held her belly and laughed. It was an uncharacteristic look for a princess, but beautiful nonetheless.
“Now you don’t even try to hide it!”
“I just know that there’s no point in trying any further in front of someone who already knows.”
“Then why don’t you cut the crap, I don’t think you’re the kind of man who’s developed manners in seven years.”
“I’m a teacher at the Academy of Magic, so I’m being polite in front of someone who might be the next emperor.”
“Not the next emperor, but the actual emperor.”
“The hooded figure running in the alleyways is now a new person.”
“Isn’t the shadow that used to rip and kill people being polite now?”
The two did not even think about hiding their true feelings from each other anymore.
Eileen, who smiled as if she was having fun and with a dim gaze, asked Rudger.
“You’ve come to see me because you’re finally willing to serve me again?”
“I did not come to see you. I came on business, and you called me.”
“You said you respect me, but you speak very ambiguously. Why don’t you just speak casually?”
“I can address you in the highest terms if necessary. Do you command me using your authority?”
At that, Eileen waved her hand.
“Forget it. You wouldn’t have run away that day if you did as you were told.”
“Is that why you investigated me?”
“Because I was curious as to why the man responsible for creating the next Emperor, disappeared from his lofty position.”
“You’re not the emperor yet.”
“Soon I will be, so why did you run away?”
“Because power and fame are not what I seek.”
“And yet you’re quite famous now?”
“That’s because I am now a teacher, Rudger Chelici.”
In fact, he didn’t expect to become so famous at first, but later planned to use it to his advantage.
Rudger didn’t bother to explain it to the woman in front of him.
A beautiful woman, but also a deadly poison, she was not to be shown anything that might suggest weakness.
It’s too late now that she knows what he’s been up to.
“Were you responsible for the recent events in Leathervelk? No, I suppose not. I can’t think of anything that Sir Trina wouldn’t know about.”
“That’s an unfair assessment.”
Rudger said so and asked stealthily.
“Since when have you noticed anything about me?”
“My chess piece in Leathervelk kept failing to move forward. Since then, I’ve got a hunch.”
“You’re the only one who calls her a chess piece.”
“So I’m the pinnacle of this country.”
These were words that could only come from someone who had never doubted her own abilities and power. Worse was that Rudger couldn’t argue with the brazen declaration.
“That’s why a man who once worked as a shadow dagger is no match for the imperial family.”
“Didn’t I tell you that I was visiting in the course of my duties as a teacher?”
“You’re lying. You may fool others, but you can’t fool me. You must be here for a purpose.”
Eileen had a point but even if she knew that, there was no reason for Rudger to tell her.
“Are you looking for something?”
Rudger glared at Eileen when she asked if he was looking for something.
“I guess I got it right.”
“It seems that you’re deliberately trying to figure it out even though you already know it.”
“Not already. I had to work pretty hard to figure it out. It was a bit of a struggle because it had to be done in secret so that no one else would find out.”
‘Hard work’ might seem like an empty word, but knowing Eileen, Rudger was surprised to hear her say it.
“I wonder what effort you’ve made?”
“Nothing much. I bought every piece of art from the Kunst auction house that was released, every single one.”
Eileen corrected her remarks.
“No, not ‘every single one,’ because one was left out.”
“With the cooperation of Luke, I found a list of auction items to come out of the Kunst auction house. And compared to the collected list, there was only one missing.”
“It’s strange, though. It’s not like it has any special powers or anything, just a missing piece with no known purpose.”
The woman in front of him, the one he’d faced seven years ago, when he’d first assumed his false identity knew more about him than anyone else.
How many valuables he’d robbed from the Kunst auction house.
He even took them by all sorts of different routes, dividing them up instead of selling them in the same place, and disposing of them over time. Still, Eileen was relentless, and she recovered it all on her own.
It was crazy, to be honest but she did it.
At this point, he didn’t even think about getting angry.
To be honest, he even felt relieved. He didn’t have to make up lies on the fly to hide, or bother to see what the other person was really thinking.
In a way, it’s a great way to have an unmasked and honest conversation.
“Well, it’s no big deal, it’s just a collection I’m putting together for my own personal hobby.”
Eileen could see the intent in Rudger’s eyes.
“Ha. That’s really interesting.’
It’s been seven years. Not forgetting for seven years, she persistently tracked and raked in information. She thought she had the advantage, but this man showed no signs of panic. On the contrary, he’s looking at her with a challenging gaze. No, it’s not a challenging gaze.
‘I’m waiting for my challenge.’
It was a real blow to Eileen’s pride.
She was supposed to be the one getting all the information, holding the high ground, looking down. Instead, it was Rudger looking down.
“The Empress must have a lot of hands, then.”
“It was you who sent the lieutenant general to Theon Magic Festival, and you probably had him contact me on purpose to add credence to your suspicions.”
The words sent a shiver down Eileen’s spine but she quickly regained her composure and squinted at Rudger.
“Did you notice that, too……?”
“I can’t say I did, since the other person acted as if they had no idea about it, so I’m glad you outlined it.”
“It seems that it was not the privilege of only one side to be able to check the opponent in the process.”
“It’s no use trying to trap me with weakness, because I’ll just disappear, as I did again.”
“And if I try to oppress you with my strength? This is my domain. I have no fewer than three masters at my beck and call.”
“Will you do it?”
“Do you think I can’t?”
“Then do it.”
There was no worry or fear in Rudger’s voice. That didn’t mean to say that she wouldn’t be able to call the Royal Guard. Rather, it was the other way around.
“I’m not sure I’d recommend it.”
Even if all of them were gathered, this man was only saying this because he was confident of fighting all of them.
“I’ll leave the choice to the Princess.”
Sapphire-blue eyes stared at Eileen.
“Just like that day seven years ago.”