Dinner time arrived without me being able to solve the mystery of the Grand Duke of the North.
Of course, not knowing this information did not affect me at all.
Empress Frédérique, who returned from hunting as the sun set in Yvelines, smiled beautifully and said that dinner was on her.
I was wondering why she was saying something like that when dinner was always on her, but there really was a reason for it.
“Wow, this really is the best villa.”
I quietly mumbled.
The Grand Duke’s vast Summer Palace had many leisure areas set up, one of them being a large grass garden where you could have a campfire and barbecue meat.
Following an attendant, we saw the SUV-sized Elk the Empress had brought back.
To be more specific, it was an Elk-like demonic beast.
“To be able to eat demonic beast meat that her Majesty personally caught…… This is an honor that will be forever remembered in the history of the Viscount’s House.”
Ganael’s gold eyes sparkled like LED lights. My jaws dropped with amazement.
The chef of the Summer Palace and his assistant were busy taking apart the animal.
I could see servants blankly watching as well.
“You can eat demonic beasts. I didn’t know that.”
“The Moutet County and other territories in the north suffered a lot from a lack of food because the winters would be so long. That was why the commoners started working together to capture and eat demonic beasts. The recipes then started spreading to the nobles.”
Benjamin pulled out a chair by an outdoor table for me as he explained. It was an interesting story.
“Thank you very much. How do you take care of the demonic beast’s poison and bodily fluids?”
“If you look over there, you will see that they have gloves on, your highness. However, unlike the south-central region, the poison is not strong in the northern demonic beasts. Most usually disappear after roasting over fire.”
I nodded my head.
Hearing things about people’s lives makes me forget about the fact that this is inside a novel.
There was a large bonfire at the center of the garden cracking with an orange flame that allowed me to see people’s faces every so often.
It was nice that I could eat with Benjamin, Ganael, and the attendants of the Imperial Palace.
It was something that did not happen frequently unless I requested it or was eating in my room.
The hierarchical restrictions definitely seemed looser at the Summer Palace than the Imperial Palace. That was what the Empress wanted.
I’ve been feeling this way since the victory celebration, but she was a really easy going person.
“It’s so good. It just melts in your mouth. It doesn’t have any oily smell either.”
“Right, your highness? The stock is sweet.”
“I never knew that the Iron Crown Deer’s meat would be so luxurious.”
The chef did use some spices, but even without them there wasn’t much stench.
I was unable to hide my shock as I enjoyed the smooth taste of the demonic beast.
The attendants at the other table were chatting, eating, and drinking as well.
Two red pandas were sleeping under the table while Demy was off on his own, wrestling with a plum.
It was such a peaceful and heartwarming atmosphere that my body relaxed.
I suddenly wondered what Christelle and Imperial Prince Cédric must be doing right now.
I was a supporting cast. The QNW world would continue fine even without me, but that was not the case for the two of them.
They were probably going through some explosive growth or doing something amazing somewhere.
I felt a mysterious sense of anticipation.
I took a sip of the sparkling water and apple jam drink to suppress this odd feeling of excitement when I made eye contact with the Empress, who was at another table.
Her cherry-colored eyes that resembled flames were occasionally glowing orange.
Seeing them made me think of Sadie and the suspicious letter again.
I gently bowed and avoided her gaze.
‘Would that punk have handed the letter to the Empress?’
“Try it with the remoulade, your highness. It’s spicier than the one at the Imperial Palace and goes very well with the demonic beast meat.”
I looked into the sauce boat that Ganael pushed toward me.
‘No, then the Empress would have summoned me for interrogation.’
I didn’t know her very well, but I was certain that she would not be sitting back like this if she knew about it.
‘Then is the letter still in Sadie’s hand? Why? What is he thinking? ……Can I trust the Imperial Prince?’
“Hello, little prince. Does the demonic beast suit your tastes?”
A familiar voice echoed in my ear. I snapped out of my thoughts.
I turned my head to see Cardinal Boutier standing in front of the table, smiling with a plate and a glass of champagne in her hands.
Her attendant Natalie wasn’t even with her.
Benjamin and Ganael urgently stood up.
“No, it’s fine. I came because I wanted to join your table for a bit.”
She gently shook her head. The two attendants awkwardly sat back down.
I greeted my teacher with a smile.
“It was delicious. Did you eat a lot as well, your Eminence?”
“Yeah, I’m so full because Frédérique kept feeding me.”
The Cardinal sat down next to me with a complicated gaze.
Her plate only had some simple desserts and fruits.
I cut a piece of the demonic beast meat and dipped it in the remoulade.
“So, did you find out who Grand Duke Yvelines is?”
She asked in a mischievous tone. I couldn’t help but scowl.
It felt as if my emotions that had been suppressed because of Sadie and the letter instantly roared back up.
‘It’s not like I’m an idiot.’
“I’m not sure about it, but there is someone who is number one on my list of potential candidates.”
Her beige-colored eyes opened extremely wide.
She was saying that the Empress was being immature and that it embarrassed her just a few hours ago at lunch time, but she must have been influenced by the Empress out in the hunting grounds as she was clearly teasing me.
I thoroughly chewed the demonic beast meat and swallowed before calmly continuing to speak.
“Mm, I believe that it is probably Prince Consort Alexandre.”
“Oh my, my little prince.”
Ganael, Benjamin, and the Cardinal gasped one after another.
Even the attendant who was walking by with a champagne glass stopped and looked at me.
All of them looked as if their eyes would burst out.
‘Damn it, I guess I’m wrong based on the current atmosphere.’
“……I guess I was wrong.”
The Cardinal’s eyebrows sank a little.
Benjamin and Ganael looked as if they expected this from me as well. I cautiously asked.
“If it is not disrespectful…… May I ask what kind of person his Royal Highness was during his life?”
She smiled bitterly.
It didn’t seem as if she was trying to avoid the question; she seemed to be recalling a moment from the past.
I was about to say that it was okay to not answer if it was too difficult, but the Cardinal spoke first.
“He was someone who was gentle to everyone.”
“He was honest, wise, and always responded with a smile no matter what Frédérique did. Ah, he was the same when I caused trouble as well.”
“You caused trouble, your Eminence?”
“It’s because I was always with Frédérique. Even the smallest of incidents would snowball into something bigger. I’m pretty sure Alexandre was dealing with the aftermath of our issues even when he was just the young master of the Estate.”
She laughed out loud.
The Empress’s husband seemed quite different from the Grand Duke of the North of a Romfan that Jung Eunseo so passionately described.
He seemed more like a warm and loving man than a stoic ice prince.
I thought that the Empress’s husband would be the likely candidate to be the Grand Duke, but, at this point, I think he’s more likely to be a cousin or an uncle or someone like that.
“He was also an amazing mage.”
“I heard about that.”
I quickly responded.
The Prince Consort, who had the nickname, ‘The Thrilling Archmage’, was said to be the Empire’s greatest mage while he was alive.
He was victorious in the Great Clearance of Demonic Beasts as well. Even the Empress, who was a swordmaster, did not win against him very often when they sparred.
He had two specialties unlike most mages.
“He also loved Cédric quite a bit.”
The Cardinal was speaking almost as if she was singing. I recalled how the Imperial Prince had exploded in anger during the Great Clearance of Demonic Beasts.
He was unable to contain his wrath and lit the whole mountain range on fire after seeing an illusion of his father.
Even without knowing much about them, I could tell that their relationship had been quite close.
The conversation stopped for a moment.
The Cardinal was humming what sounded like a children’s song and drinking her champagne while Benjamin, Ganael, and I focused on our meat again.
I peeked at her, wondering if I shouldn’t have asked that question, but the Cardinal just smiled warmly and told me that cutting the meat vertically would make it even softer.
“Now that I think about it, you’ll be able to learn the Grand Duke’s name tomorrow.”
“We’re scheduled to go to the Bell Tower with the divine item.”
That was true.
We were resting because today was the first day of our vacation, but we are scheduled to take the red pandas to see the divine item tomorrow.
The Ark of the Wind Deity, the divine item of the North, was stored in the Bell Tower of Yvelines. It was unlike the Sword of Wisdom that was stabbed in the fields of the plains or the Blessing of the Blue Sea that was stored in the Sarnez Lord’s Castle.
The location of it seemed quite unique.
The Cardinal continued speaking.
“The Bell Tower is where the Grand Duke was laid to rest.”
“Your Royal Highness, we should be able to return by tomorrow morning.”
The Knight Captain gave his report.
The man, Duke Yvelines, who was looking at a map, silently motioned with his chin.
The campsite was silent and serious all the time, similar to the master of this Knights Brigade.
There were gamboge-colored bonfires scattered throughout the forest. Knights sat around each one, resting while drinking coffee or hot cocoa.
The Duke’s eyes slowly moved as he organized the areas he patrolled today.
His gloved finger gently tapped Moutet County, which was located to the right of Yvelines.
Margrave Caroline Moutet was one of the Empire’s few Grade 9 sword users, a sword master.
She and Empress Frédérique had been quite the rivals in the past, but they became extremely close as they aged.
There was no reason for their relationship to become bad since the Count’s House of Moutet had a long history of being extremely loyal to the Imperial family.
Her territory had the Empire’s border to the east and the pirate-filled North Sea to the north.
Most pirates were stopped by Margrave’s knights.
A pirate ship had only made it to Yvelines twice in the past 25 years.
However, there were always the rascals who would hide in the County’s forest before coming past the border into Yvelines.
Their goal was simple.
Yvelines was a mysterious territory, so they all had these wild imaginations about how it must be filled with expensive treasures.
The experienced pirates knew not to enter Yvelines, but there were always the ones who lacked experience and brains.
There were even punks who secretly built mud huts and settled in Yvelines with the items they plundered because there were no taxes or required military service here.
The young Duke Yvelines rarely stayed in the territory, but he would immediately mount a horse and take care of such fools whenever he arrived.
If there ever came a day when this territory became open to the commoners…
If such a day was to come… The Duke wanted Yvelines to be the most peaceful territory in the entire Empire.
“The pirate sweep seemed to go quicker than previous years, your Royal Highness.”
“I’m sure it is thanks to the Margrave’s hard work.”
The Duke responded to the Knight Captain in a low voice.
It was rare for their sweep to end in a day, however, there were an extremely low number of pirates this year.
It was a positive sign.
Young Countess Élisabeth should soon be helping out as well, so everything should progress even better.
The Duke stood up with elegant movements.
“Shall I get things ready to head to the Bell Tower when the sun comes up?”
“I will visit Her Majesty and her Eminence first.”
He moved and his cape made of demonic beast fur fluttered like the night sky.
The Captain bowed deeply.
“Prince Jesse of the Venetiaan Kingdom will be heading to the Bell Tower tomorrow. I was informed that her Majesty and her Eminence will be going as well.”
The Duke’s beautiful eyes blinked once.
That cliff had the temple, the Bell Tower, the ‘Air’ attribute divine item, and his father’s tomb.
That was why they could not send the prince alone.
He thought about something for a moment before speaking in a low voice again.
“In that case…”
“A pirate ship! It’s a pirate ship!”
The knight on guard shouted loudly. The campsite instantly became rowdy.
The knights moved efficiently to put out their bonfires and got into formation.
The Duke moved to the front of the formation without hesitation.
His quaint sword let out a clear sound as the man pulled it out.
He started walking, maintaining a steady gaze forward.
The boundary of the forest instantly disappeared like a veil that had been lifted and a cliff surrounded in darkness appeared.
The Duke’s boots stepped onto the salty dirt.
– Swish, swish, swish.
Numerous spears shot out toward the ocean over the heads of the knights in formation.
However, nobody was shocked about this.
The Duke scrunched his eyes and looked toward the horizon.
The light from the pirate ship was rising up like the sun through the dark horizon.
It was far but he was sure about it.
This was not a regular ship, nor was it a noble’s playboat.
“There is no need for her Majesty to learn about this.”
The Duke proclaimed.
“We will finish them off here.”
His glove was already gone.
The Vice Captain waved his binocular fortified with magic stones at that moment.
“Your Royal Highness, I see a white flag! Those bastards have a white flag up!”
Author listed it as Grand Duke instead of Archduke, which is why things have changed to Grand.