The author has indicated that the English title is ‘When the Third Wheel Strikes Back’ in nod to Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back. As we are in the very early stages of the translation and the author has graced us with an official name, we will start using it. You will see TWSB from here on!
The author also joked that this beginning arc is called the Phantom Spy (in line with Star Wars Episode 1). Fun fact, the word for spy used here can also be used as a unique name for Korean tea manufactured in a specific time frame, and Jesse loves tea so I personally want to call it the Phantom Tea arc.
“Cédric Riester! See what happens if you break my sword again!”
Élisabeth Moutet, Vice Captain of the Imperial Guard, was shouting loudly as she chased after a man.
The corridors of the Romero Palace, the residence of the Imperial Prince, had many more attendants and guards than the Juliette Palace.
However, none of them were shocked to see this woman who dared to shout at the Imperial Prince like this.
They just looked at the two of them with expressions that seemed to be saying, ‘here we go again,’ as if this was normal.
“Why don’t you share it with the whole world that you are overflowing with aether?”
It was understandable that she finally released the anger she had been holding in. The Imperial Prince’s condition had been visibly much better lately.
It was to the point that he was unable to control his ‘strength’ during sparring and broke his opponents’ swords or lit their clothes on fire.
This was a significant change from how he used to suffer from aether depletion for such a long time.
However, Élisabeth could not laugh as this was already her fifth sword that was broken and sixth uniform that was burnt at the sleeves.
“I will prepare it right away, your highness.”
“I will take a juice please.”
“Of course, young Countess.” (TL Note: So, the novel addresses any individual [both male and female] who is set to succeed their parent’s position as young Count, young Duke, etc. So if you see them addressed like this, just know that they are the official heir to inherit the title in the future!)
The Imperial Prince called his attendant, David Capuson, to ask for coffee instead of responding to his close friend’s grumbling.
Élisabeth had quickly ordered something as well.
Cédric would never give her a proper apology or a response, so she might as well get a refreshing and delicious juice out of it.
The two of them sat down comfortably inside the Imperial Prince’s office.
“Prince Jesse asked me a question yesterday. He asked if I knew about the wooden window in the Confessional being broken. Apparently, the cord was cut too.”
Élisabeth instantly gulped down half of the pineapple juice that Capuson brought her.
She took off her jacket and wiped her forehead and neck that were full of sweat from the sparring.
Her short olive-colored hair that was usually tidy was a tangled mess right now but neither she nor the Imperial Prince cared about it.
“I made up an excuse about how I thought it was already like that because it was an old temple and that we were planning on asking for it to be renovated. You know I suck at lying, right? I’m sure it was visible on my face, but Prince Jesse just let it go.”
Her grey pupils glared at the Imperial Prince with annoyance. The man was still stoic.
“I don’t want to lie to his highness again. Be careful.”
Prince Jesse was a very good person who always gave a listening ear for others, unlike the rumors she had heard.
She couldn’t believe that her friend threw a dagger and threatened the prince who would have listened to him without any issue.
She knew that this guy had quite the temper, but she didn’t think that he would be unable to control himself in that state as well.
“Why don’t you just tell him the truth? You’re going to be getting his help like every day.”
“It’s not every day.”
The man finally spoke. His orange-colored eyes looked disgruntled.
“What’s wrong? Did I hurt your pride? You really……”
Élisabeth clicked her tongue and took another sip of juice.
Cédric was deep in thought without even taking a single sip of his coffee.
Telling Prince Jesse his situation was something he had not even considered.
He was the Imperial Prince and would soon become the Imperial Crown Prince once his engagement was finalized with his ‘Political Partner.’
He could not share his condition, something that was a big secret in the Empire, with a diplomatic hostage.
It didn’t matter that the prince had his life threatened by the Holy Kingdom and that he was pretty much alone here in the Empire.
“Something is weird about the Duchy.”
“What are you talking about?”
Élisabeth put her cup down on the table.
Her voice was low as she noticed that the Imperial Prince was not just trying to change topics.
“I guided the divine beasts to the border of the Imperial Capital and the Sarnez Duchy, but those animals were unable to determine the direction of the divine item.”
“……Do you think you need to go closer to the Lord’s Castle?”
Cédric silently tilted his head.
As Prince Jesse had already realized, there were not many records or information about divine beasts.
Cédric had no luck, even after going through the most secretive locations of the Imperial Library.
However, he was sure that divine beasts were able to feel the aura of divine items from a distance and that their natural instincts would guide them to the divine items.
Divine beasts were said to be ‘messengers of the Almighty God’ sent to protect the divine items.
In that case, the ‘Blessing of the Blue Sea,’ the divine item that has been guarded by the Sarnez Duchy for generations, should have released an aura to draw those divine beasts in as well.
But those small divine beasts…they showed no special reactions even after they arrived at the Duchy and just roamed around the Imperial Prince’s feet.
He got on his horse thinking that they would go find the divine item on their own if he left them there, but the divine beasts followed him all the way back to the Imperial Palace.
That was not good.
“There’s no way that divine item got stolen too, right?”
Élisabeth mumbled in a serious tone.
She recalled the theft at the Temple of Vigilance that had been a major issue not too long ago.
“Maybe a thief who only aims for divine items has appeared.”
The Imperial Prince cut the young Countess’s imagination off with a sigh-like comment.
He felt as if he would have to do as she said and take the divine beasts closer to the Sarnez Lord’s Castle.
These divine beasts might be stupider than he thought and need to be right in front of the divine item to do their part.
The potential of the divine item disappearing was just speculation. No, it better be just speculation.
“I need that divine item.”
It was sort of a solution for him. Élisabeth quietly nodded her head at the Imperial Prince’s comment.
His engagement to young lady Sarnez would be helpful to Cédric in many ways.
This was especially true because the family’s divine item was to be given to him as a wedding gift.
The ‘Blessing of the Blue Sea’ was said to be the optimal treasure to handle his chronic aether depletion and his ‘power’ that he could not control.
“But doesn’t it feel nice to use Divine Power? I heard that it feels like you are unhindered. It’s supposed to give you a sense of freedom.”
It would be a lie to say that he didn’t like his ability that he was able to enjoy for the first time after receiving the prince’s aether.
But he was not going to increase the number of annoying things he needed to do in order to maintain it.
His ‘power’ was just a petty trick that would disappear once he married Christelle de Sarnez.
The Imperial Prince called his attendant again. He handed his now cold coffee and asked for sage tea instead.
* * *
“Thank you very much for the meal.”
“Eat as much as you want. I told the chef to keep it coming.”
I chuckled modestly.
I confirmed that Cardinal Boutier picked up her fork before picking mine up. (TL Note: It’s respectful, especially in Korean tradition, that the oldest person at the table starts the meal.)
The luncheon menu was magnificent.
I didn’t know it was such a good thing to be taught by someone very high up in status.
Rolling around the office floor as if I was sweeping it was all worth it for this.
“I can send a message to the Vatican if you wish to meet a Holy Knight.”
The Cardinal sliced a well-roasted asparagus as she spoke.
I raised my head while chewing on a piece of duck meat.
“I know that child was a Holy Knight as well, but I’m sure you did not have a nice conversation with him.”
That ‘child’ she was talking about was Peter, one of the assassin twins who tried to kill me. (TL Note: It was changed from Pierre to Peter because there is an actual Pierre in the future. Past chapters should have all been changed to Peter as well.)
Synkie was a priest while Peter was a Holy Knight.
I had asked her about Holy Knights around the end of our lesson, so this must be a continuation of that.
“Yes, ma’am. But I was still able to tell what that punk’s ability was. It should be ‘air.’ ”
She responded. I recalled the information I learned a few moments ago.
Unlike priests who hold aether, the Authority of the Almighty God, in its purest form, Holy Knights had aether in one of four forms to use it.
I had pretty much anticipated it from when she said four forms, but the author of ‘QNW’ split the Holy Knights’ aether forms into water, fire, air, and earth.
The inspiration must have come from the Four Elements Theory.
Peter tried to suffocate me, so that bastard’s ability was ‘air’ for sure.
“There is no need to do that, your Eminence. I’m sure I’ll run into a Holy Knight sooner or later in my life.”
“Yes, that is true.”
The Cardinal smiled brightly and turned toward her plate.
I dipped a piece of bread in my moules marinières sauce as I finished my thought.
Holy Knights only have one attribute of aether until they die, and the amount of aether that is consumed varies depending on the person’s abilities.
I naturally thought about the little kid who showed up in my room last night.
Cédie had been silent when I asked him if he was a priest or Holy Knight.
“Do Holy Knights or priests have a lot of reasons to use their Divine Power until they reach aether depletion?”
“It is rare for priests.”
The Cardinal sternly responded.
“Priests will generally never run out of aether unless they use their healing powers excessively.”
“Mm, I guess you are an exception.”
‘That wasn’t me using it excessively…that was someone’s kid stealing it from me.’
“But Holy Knights are different. The existence of the aether itself in its special form eats away at the Divine Power, and it taxes their Divine Power once more when they release it out of their body. It’s very taxing because Holy Knights frequently use their abilities to protect priests.”
The Cardinal’s eyebrows sunk a little. Her smile seemed a bit awkward.
“The reason that Holy Knights and priests move around in pairs is for a stable supply of aether.”
Basically, she was saying that the efficiency went down.
Priests like me were fine because we used pure aether, but Holy Knights used aether in other forms like water or fire, so they needed much more resources.
“Your Eminence, I’ve learned that Holy Knights are only born in the Holy Kingdom.”
I asked her another question.
This was the reason I didn’t think that Cédie was a Holy Knight.
This was the heart of the Riester Empire, far, far away from the Holy Kingdom.
“I don’t know how it actually is, but that was what I read in books. ‘Priests may make their first cry anywhere on the continent. It is because the Almighty God looks over all humans. However, Holy Knights only open their eyes on the land of the lord’……”
“It is because they must protect the Almighty God with their lives.”
The Cardinal finished the statement for me in almost a whisper. Her eyes looked extremely mysterious as we made eye contact.
– Knock knock.
I blankly looked into her eyes for a bit before I snapped out of it.
I turned toward the door to see the Cardinal’s attendant walking into the dining area.
“Please forgive me for interrupting you during your meal, your Eminence. Your highness.”
“It’s okay. Did something happen?”
“Her Majesty has sent out the invitations for the Spring Ball. I wished to deliver it right away as it was an Imperial Message.”
“I see, I guess it is already time for that to come. Thank you.”
‘Ah, it’s finally here.’
I wasn’t going to be there, but my heart couldn’t help but beat wildly.
I was surprised that they knew that I was at the Empress Palace and sent my invitation here as well.
The attendant put my invitation on a silver plate and approached me while the Cardinal was opening her invitation.
“This is your invitation, your highness. Here is also a message from Lady Sarnez.” (TL: It says wife of Duke but I just went with Lady over Duchess because there are actually a lot of female nobles in this novel (like young Countess Moutet). Christelle and any other daughters will have YOUNG in front of them for young lady versus lady like mama Sarnez here.)
I questioned my ears as I looked at the Empress’s Crest that was stamped in a cherry-colored sealing wax.
“Yes, sir. It says, ‘a message for the honorable Prince Jesse Venetiaan’ on it.”
“Why would Lady Sarnez send me a message……”
Natalie, the attendant, had an awkward expression on her face. She seemed to be asking me how I expected her to know that.
I forced my fingers that didn’t want to move to grab the letter.
It felt extremely heavy, even though it was probably just my imagination because it had the main character’s family name, ‘Sarnez’ on it.
“Lady Sarnez should be at the palace right now. Did she give it to you just now?”
Cardinal Boutier asked Natalie.
“Yes, your Eminence. I was told that Lady Sarnez handed the letter to the Chief of Staff on her way to greet Her Majesty with young lady Christelle.”
I watched the Cardinal nod her head before looking back down at the letter in my hand.
Her signature, ‘Lady Isabelle de Sarnez,’ was very visible.
I couldn’t feign ignorance or dodge it because it was marked directly for me.
The thing that I was more worried about was Christelle’s existence.
I even got a bit scared knowing that she was at the same place as me right now and that I could run into her in this Empress Palace.
“I wonder what this is about.”
I opened the neatly folded letter. I really hope this is just a greeting.
What could this letter be?! And it’s mamma Sarnez and not the MC who wants to speak to him?!