Chapter 47 – Vakunau, The Capital of the Nakran Empire (2)
Her face brightened upon hearing his words and the steps of the knights which were perfectly synchronized, were momentarily disrupted. Their panicked voices could be heard all around.
“That’s what our captain said, right?”
“He must be crazy.”
“Did after visiting Erha Empire, he became insane?”
With their voices in her ears, Alice was stunned. It looked like Lawrence was never the type such words.
“Why on earth would….”
“I told you I wouldn’t hide it.”
“No, even so…”
Lawrence didn’t want to keep his feelings anymore. Alice was a powerful princess of the Nakran Empire, and was brought here under the order of the Crown Prince of the Nakran Empire, Daniel.
“But that’s not all.
His only thought was to bring the Princess back to the Nakran Empire yet after going through so much with Alice, he fell in love. It was out of his mission, but his thoughts had completely changed.
The moment he saw Alice’s tears in front of Erha’s palace, he realized he couldn’t let her go. Just then, his wariness only increased as they walked.
Even when he saved her from drowning in the lake, or when he used his sword skills to defend her when she was chased by assassins, he couldn’t control his deepening feelings.
It broke his heart to realize that he had given him so much of his heart, while she would only get sold and forced into an arranged marriage. Before reaching the Nakran Empire, Lawrence’s mind had become twisted. If Alice wanted him, he would take her and not let go.
It was a good thing she didn’t dislike him based on the redness of her ears. He smirked as he thought about her, while the knights around him shuddered at the sight of their Captain’s strangeness.
“The captain has gone mad.”
“I suppose so. Why does he smile like that?”
“It’s like he’s got a barbarian in front of him. It’s a strange laugh, like he’s aiming for something.”
After tuning out the chatter of the knights, Lawrence spoke softly to Alice.
“That’s the Duke of Littenverk.”
Where his finger pointed, a magnificent mansion stood. A building that looked nothing like the architecture of the Erha Empire. Alice gasped in admiration at the antiquity of the building.
“Not as nice as the Marquis Hamilton.”
“No, it’s really nice.”
Alice’s admiration was genuine. The Marquess of Hamilton’s history wasn’t very deep. It was not long since he rose to the rank of marquis. There was no elegant taste because it was an extension of a building that collapsed.
The most expensive materials were used to renovate the Marquis’s house, some of which are no longer available, such as the Hithen wood that was used to build the Duke’s house in Littenverk that graced her eyes.
It is said that long ago, the gods of the Nakran Empire blessed this tree. It was a legendary tree that was cut down by those who sought its blessing, and now not a single sapling can be found.
“I’ve never seen a mansion built from a Hithen tree before.”
“You know it well.”
“It’s an expensive tree.”
Lawrence marveled at Alice’s discernment and knowledge, but he laughed it off as nothing. For Alice, the woman who ran the business, to not know the Hithen tree was to be unworthy of her position as the head of it.
Hithen wood was the most expensive material traded in the Nakran Empire. When an old mansion was sold, the first thing to be assessed was whether it was made of Heathen wood. It was so famous that there were priests who specialized in appraising it.
‘I’m still a tad surprised.’
The Duke’s house in Littenverk was beautiful, with the properties of the Hithen wood that she had heard about. It glowed purple in the sunlight and turned white when the light faded.
This made it impossible for intruders to enter the white house at night. The black shadow of an intruder in a white mansion would be sure to be spotted.
“Are mansions made of Heathen wood common in Nakran?”
“There are few left.”
The Nakran Empire was a place where many noble families fell, and new ones rose. Among the fallen noble families, those with mansions made of Hithen wood were the first that were sold to pay off their debts.
Mansions made of sacred wood were carved into pieces and made of woodwork, and there were only few big mansions made of Hithen wood like this one.
Lawrence’s shoulders rose in response to Alice’s continued admiration. Hearing Alice, the head of the most expensive family in the Erha Empire, speak of it like that made the Duke of Littenverk’s mansion, which was nothing special to him, seem extraordinary.
“Shall we go in?”
He held out his hand to Alice and she accepted his escort. A handshake would have been better, but this was Alice’s first entrance into the ducal residence, and it was better to be polite to show her that she was important.
As Alice walked slowly under Lawrence’s escort, the Duke of Littenverk’s butler came out and bowed to them.
“Welcome, Your Excellency.”
“Long time no see, butler.”
“You were with smaller company than when you left.”
“The rest will be here soon; I came early for a matter of business.”
“I will prepare a bath.”
Lawrence interrupted the butler’s assurances that everything was in place to make her comfortable.
“Give Miss Alice’s room to her.”
“What room should I give to Young Lady?”
“To the bluebird’s room.”
The butler looked surprised for a moment, then hastily composed himself and bowed respectfully.
“At your service.”
Alice, who thought she was used to aristocratic etiquette by now, felt quite awkward at the butler’s demeanor. Her eyes flickered for a moment at the polite demeanor, so different from the butler at the Marquis of Hamilton, but she straightened her expression.
She was here now as Lawrence’s guest, and she could not afford to be belittled by the butler. It would be a disservice to Lawrence as well. She couldn’t hurt him, who had taken the risk of bringing her to the Nakran Empire.
“Take care of her.”
Alice moved, guided by the butler, and Lawrence never took his eyes off her back. Once she had ascended to the second floor and disappeared beyond the wall, he turned back to the knights huddled behind him.
His face completely devoid of expression, the Templar’s chattering mouth shut.
“There was movement on the Empress’s side while you were gone.”
“Any word from the rest?”
“There were those who delivered the mark, but there are only about fifteen of them.”
“Five are missing.”
That meant five who had moved to escape the assassin’s pursuit but were either dead or too injured to be contacted. Lawrence gritted his teeth.
“This debt will be paid someday.”
“With their lives.”
One of the Templars listening to him said through gritted teeth. They had all risked life and limb to protect the border, and to have one of them to get killed unjust was a humiliation, at that was within their duty.
“They will survive.”
“There’s been no news yet, so let’s all refrain from speculation.”
It was Lawrence’s words that calmed the resentment. The Dukes of Littenverk had lost much on this mission. Daniel had given them the Abyss of Diamond, the treasure of the imperial family, but that was all.
He didn’t pay for his travel to the Erha Empire, and he didn’t give him a single horse. Being with Alice on this trip had taught Lawrence something.
‘Nothing was indeed free.’
He had done countless things for the Empire of Nakran due to loyalty, all for nothing.
But all he got in return were the deaths of his loyal knights. The imperial family took no responsibility at all. At first, he didn’t buy the knights’ loyalty speeches. Born a member of the Duke of Littenverk, his loyalty to the Imperial of Nakran was a given.
Then he saw Alice and realized. The imperial family and his own family were separated. She was born as a Princess of the Nakran Empire, but she was raised in the Erha Empire.
‘But that doesn’t mean she has an unending loyalty for the Empire of Erha.’
It was that way. Alice gave money to the imperial family because she wanted something, not out of loyalty, yet no one could do anything for her.
Even the crown prince’s cruelty was stopped by the empress. That was the price she paid for bringing money, not loyalty to the imperial family.
‘What about us?’
When the Duke of Littenverk was helpless to the circumstances, they seized the opportunity to bring him down. Realizing that, he became firm not to make a move unless there was a price.
‘I will never allow the deaths of my knights to be all for nothing.’
It was the Duke of Littenverk who delivered the consolation money for the dead knights. The imperial family of the Nakran Empire did nothing.
When he told the knights of his resolve, they nodded in agreement. Their unity continued until Alice was shown to her chambers and the butler descended.