The Regressed Son of a Duke is an Assassin chapter 16

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The Regressed Son of a Duke is an Assassin Chapter 16

Episode 16: The Emperor’s Tour (3)

The situation concluded relatively early.

The demonic beast that appeared was the ‘Big Snail’, a giant snail-type mid-level beast that inhabited the desolate forest in the west. They secreted highly concentrated acidic fluids capable of melting and polluting skin upon contact. If left unattended, they could release a foul stench in the area, so early suppression was crucial.

Under the command of Duke Vert, a purification operation was carried out, successfully eradicating the Big Snails and preventing the spread of contamination. The imperial army’s support as additional forces made completion smoother.

“I’m not as agile as I used to be,” Emperor Dione said with a down-to-earth smile as he sheathed his sword.

“We have subdued the demonic beasts, Your Majesty, so perhaps it’s time for you to retreat to the rear now.”

“I know that without your prodding. By the way, has the imperial princess evacuated safely?”

His concern for his daughter’s safety came belatedly, but the knights informed him that she had safely made it to the rear.

“That’s a relief. Let’s go straight away then.”

While fire mages took care of the remains, the Emperor headed to the rear where the princess awaited.

“You’ve worked hard, Father.”

Princess Arin was the first to run up and greet him as he arrived at the rear camp.

“Luckily you’re safe.”

Fortunately, it seemed she had waited quietly without issue.

“……!”

Their eyes met as the princess lifted her head.

Her gaze was filled with even more intense contempt than before.

Instead of camaraderie, animosity had only deepened.

The course of events had moved contrary to her father’s hope, but it was better this way rather than clinging to a rotten lifeline.

As the commotion settled, the sun had shifted to the western edge of the horizon.

“Why don’t you return to Belias? I have already sent a message to the estate managers to prepare for your restful stay.”

My father wanted to guide the Emperor to a place of safety, but the Emperor seemed unwilling, coincidentally.

“Hmm, is that really necessary? I’ve decided to spend the night here at this rear camp instead.”

“But, Your Majesty, even though that may be…”

“I don’t particularly wish to enjoy luxurious treatment all the way out here. In an emergency, I should fight as a knight, should I not? Besides, there are matters I wish to discuss with you.”

Though it was a camp near the border guard, it was unquestionably on the front lines.

It was unprecedented and dangerous for the Emperor to spend a night on the front.

Yet, knowing the Emperor had another purpose in mind, my father promptly ordered the preparation of royal lodgings.

Princess Arin stood gazing blankly at the dwelling taking shape.

Was the princess, too, going to stay here?

Well, it wasn’t my concern.

Once the Emperor’s tour was over, there would be no need for us to remain.

It might be best to end my encounters with the princess here.

With no additional reports, I naturally returned to the camp with the other knights.

* * *

“It’s been a long time since we’ve shared a drink together, Willius.”

Drinking on the front lines was strictly prohibited and subject to harsh military law, yet there are those above such laws.

Though a glass of wine was poured, the Duke had yet to take a sip.

“Sian, was it? Your son… for such a young age, he’s quite respectable.”

The Emperor’s earnest praise elicited no reaction from the Duke.

“He has much to learn. I’m grateful for your kind view.”

“Much to learn…”

The Emperor heartily emptied his glass and then asked with a significant smile, “Does the boy intend to follow the will of the house…?”

The Duke did not respond immediately.

“We shall wait and see. Even if he wishes it, it’s not something that can be achieved through desire alone.”

The Emperor filled his glass with a carefree smile.

“Indeed, before being a guardian of the continent, aren’t you someone’s father? It would be strange if a parent didn’t worry about their child. I’m the same…”

Silence fell briefly.

The Emperor’s somber look settled in, and the mood darkened naturally.

After emptying another glass, the Emperor began the real conversation.

“Assassination events have occurred across the empire, targeting certain nobles. Pervasive and indiscriminate…”

“Is there a common link?”

“A link? Yes. Each assassinated noble was a corrupt official deep in sin. Their bodies were found gruesomely dismembered…”

“Tch!”

The Duke’s eyes visibly wavered, able to infer the culprits from these two facts alone.

“Couldn’t it be the followers of the Dark Mist…?”

“It’s still conjecture. But the imperial court is nearly sure of their involvement. Who else but them would conceive such deeds?”

This was known as noble hunting.

There was only one group willing to undertake such insane acts.

“Then we should soon form an investigative team to begin the pursuit, should we not?”

“Pursuit? Well, yes, we must. They are causing chaos in the land, after all…”

However, the Emperor seemed more interested in something else.

While rolling his glass, his complex feelings were apparent.

“How do you view the Fifth Princess’s position?”

The mention was somewhat out of the blue.

“To be frank, doesn’t she have no bearing on the throne? I understand she lacks supportive factions…”

“To lack a supportive faction means she could be easily exploited anywhere.”

“!”

The Duke grasped the Emperor’s implication immediately.

“Are there movements to link Princess Arin with those villains?”

The Emperor nodded without a word.

This was the distant position from the throne.

Yet, it was an ideal excuse for political manipulation.

Presently, the Emperor was watching intently, or such a movement would be futile, but the fact that there was awareness showed how complex the empire’s situation was.

Likely, if there was any actual action, it involved the forces of the current Queen’s side, the Nephilis Ducal House.

“What sin could the young girl have committed? Yet, as long as I’m here, there shouldn’t be any significant problems.”

The Emperor took another drink.

The Duke knew how much anxiety the Emperor held for some potential.

“I have a request, not as an emperor but as a friend.”

“Speak, Your Majesty.”

“If, just if, I were to die before you… could you discreetly escort that child away? Let her live simply as an ordinary person, unrelated to the imperial household.”

The Emperor, fearing the impending storm after his demise, thought it unlikely the young princess would survive it.

He wished for her peaceful life as a father more than as an emperor.

“I shall heed the Emperor’s command.”

Without a moment’s hesitation, the Duke accepted his request.

“I’m such an inadequate emperor. If I had my way, those dark villains would kill every fool in the imperial court.”

The Emperor revealed his intense inner thoughts, slightly drunk.

The Duke was forced to think as well.

Why had they appeared at this period?

Those not appointed by the gods among them.

The god of the Dark Mist, Aer, and his followers, the Mist, the continent’s premier assassin guild.

After a period of invisibility, their reappearance meant there was a reason.

Whatever the reason, it would bring significant changes to the continent’s precarious balance.

Though it would likely not be for the better…

“The Mist…”

The Duke gazed somberly into his wine.

The enigmatic figure he had encountered in the valley the night before vividly haunted him.

* * *

The sun was setting when dark clouds suddenly gathered.

– Patter-patter

Soon after, heavy rain began to pour from the black sky.

-Boom!

Thunder rolled ominously.

While most people would burrow under their blankets, my body was very twitchy.

Just as rain brought out certain creatures from the earth, there were beasts that emerged only on rainy days here.

Damp from rain-soaked earth, sticky beasts full of moisture would appear, and I couldn’t resist tasting their blood.

Despite their more repulsive appearance compared to other beasts, they had health benefits and should not be dismissed.

“I won’t be too long since missing a day of exercise can disrupt the flow.”

After changing, I donned a black raincoat hanging on a pillar.

Securing Ceyram within my attire, I was about to leave the tent when…

-Tread-tread

Suddenly, unfamiliar footsteps approached.

Given their direction and echo, they were clearly heading toward my tent.

I focused on the leading footsteps. They were unfamiliar but recognizable from recent interaction.

Demure yet assertive; noble rather than knight; child rather than adult; female rather than male.

“……!”

Only when those mysterious steps reached my tent did I identify them.

The tent opened, and a red brooch symbolic of royal status was the first to catch my eye.

Slowly lifting my head, I faced an unexpected night visitor.

“Where are you off to…?”

It was Princess Arin, who should have been at the rear camp.

“Who has come…?”

Startled by the sudden visitor, Emily peeked out.

She wouldn’t have recognized the princess’s face, but upon seeing the brooch on her chest, her expression turned to utter shock.

“Pr-Pr-Princess!?”

A cry somewhere between a scream and a cheer.

To make matters worse, at my side, a black mist began to emerge.

[Good morning, Master~]

She’s got some nerve calling it morning.

[Huh? Master, why are you so stiff?]

Casually stretching, she poked at my motionless body.

The moment she noticed the princess at the door, she clasped her mouth in an unexpected shock.

[Master, do you fancy this kind of… taste?]

Ignoring the worthless chatter.

“Sorry for coming suddenly. I was told I could find you here…”

“Are you looking for me?”

“Yes. If you’re not too busy, can we talk?”

Her request for a sudden conversation was somewhat baffling.

Outside, she was escorted by several guards.

This is suddenly attracting a lot of eyes…

If I leave now to exercise, it’ll only raise suspicions.

It seems I’ll have to postpone tonight’s training.

“Please come in, Princess.”

With a slightly reluctant face, I welcomed her.

(To be continued)

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