Author: Dawn

The empress’s chamber was slightly larger and more splendid than the princess’s. However, the difference wasn’t significant.

Mother and daughter. Their tastes seemed to be similar.

“Sir Carl Schurtafen.”

The voice that called me was solemn. Anticipating that the empress might blurt out something unexpectedly, I quickly signaled caution.

There were eavesdropping ears nearby. Imperial dogs existed even near the empress.

This time, it was near the lower window.


A gesture was enough to convey the message. The empress lifted her palm to indicate that everything was alright.

Thank goodness. It meant that she hadn’t called me in haste.

The empress spoke with a slightly raised voice. Her slightly furrowed brow seemed to express dissatisfaction.

“Handsome. Young. More so than I expected. Was the reason you didn’t remove your helmet also because of that?”

“Yes. Even during my mercenary days… I simply wanted to be recognized for my abilities.”

“I can imagine the attention you received. Even I, who was introduced, felt the same way. Despite knowing that, as a mother with a daughter, I became uneasy.”

The empress crossed her legs and tapped the table with her fingernail. It was a gesture that created a pause between her words.

I could understand the empress’s intention.

Perhaps, she had created this situation to avoid some suspicion on my part, so we could have this discussion.

Living as the empress in the empire was by no means an easy task.

It was likely intentional. Slightly open windows and a slightly raised voice were the basis of her thoughts.

“I understand what you’re trying to convey. I will be cautious not to give you cause for concern.”

I also raised my voice. I wasn’t sure if this would have an effect, but what’s done is done.

However, the way she looked at me was a bit strange. It seemed like there was some sincerity mixed in…

The empress let out a deep sigh.

“Right. I trust you. I wouldn’t have said something like this in the first place if things were as they used to be but… I won’t say I’m sorry..”

The wording she used was subtle. Her previous words weren’t just about appearances. I guessed that she was referring to my background.

Nobles usually knew their own positions.

“Leave now.”

That was the end of the conversation. Personally, it seemed half genuine and half masked.

It should have been a warning that I would give through acting, but it seemed that she saw some sincerity in my eyes.

Being a mother wanting to make her daughter an empress, she would naturally feel uneasy in various situations.

But I shouldn’t be hasty.

Although the empress I had heard about beforehand wasn’t the type to do that, you never know.

Anxiety could paralyze one’s thinking. The worry I had when I heard the empress’s summons was in the same context.

If the empress started nosing around here and there, only I would become exhausted. Work would get complicated.

‘I should keep an eye on things, and if necessary, issue a warning.’

That’s about all I could do within my limits.

Whether by status or position, I might be an obvious subordinate, but I came here with the full authority of Duke Haisen.

If I acted as if I was acting on orders from above, the empress would keep quiet as well.

It might be a bit tiring, but since I’d staked my life on being here, I also needed to be attentive in all matters.

The scariest thing wasn’t a capable enemy, but rather the saying that a foolish ally was more dangerous.

* * *

[Great and Dignified Emperor Hasin’s Day]

Two weeks had passed since Carlyn arrived in the empire. On an early morning, he was reading the morning paper.

It was a lodging near the imperial palace given to the imperial guards. He could also serve within the palace. It wasn’t the environment Carlyn favored, though.


The paper he was reading was published by a newspaper agency operated by the Haisen Intelligence Agency.

If Carlyn provided information from within the imperial palace, Haisen reciprocated by supplying information through newspapers.

The carefully arranged information wasn’t exclusively intended for Carlyn’s paper.

Thus, it didn’t matter if the empire’s dogs stole it. It was Haisen’s longstanding confidence.

‘For some reason, the nobles from the 2nd Prince’s faction are busy? They wouldn’t be plotting anything on the Emperor’s birthday. Hmm.’

The emperor in Carlyn’s memory wasn’t at the point of dying yet, but who knows what might happen.

There might have been assassination attempts.

The target might not necessarily be the emperor. In any case, there were precedents, so caution was necessary.

However, this fact couldn’t necessarily be interpreted as the 2nd Prince’s faction plotting something.

Disorder within the empire was something sought from outside as well. There was time to catch one’s breath now.

‘Chances are higher on that side.’

If they were prepared in advance, there was no reason for them to become busy right before the banquet.

It was reasonable to assume that the 2nd Prince’s faction had detected such a plot in advance.

Carlyn thought he should observe the situation once he entered the imperial palace. He had no external assistance.

Since the banquet was today, he had to handle it on-site.

‘It’s better to go in early.’

Carlyn stood up from his seat. It wasn’t such an unusual thing. He usually entered earlier than the shift time.

Emmet was in the command room.

To those who treated him well, he responded in kind. Emmet and Carlyn’s relationship was fine. He had been recognized for his skills through sparring.

The other two guards, however, seemed slightly displeased.

Whether a noble’s offspring or a commoner, they had different statuses from true nobles like them.

Emmet, recognizing Carlyn’s abilities, was satisfied with ensuring the safety of the princess he served.

‘Lucky me.’

Emmet partnered with Carlyn for two consecutive days while gauging the reactions of the other guards.

The favor Emmet had shown toward the princess, who he had spent the most time with, was something Carlyn himself also took into account.

There hadn’t been any special incidents over the past two weeks. In reality, life in the palace was monotonous.

Twenty-four hours of guarding, twenty-four hours of rest.

Of course, as Carlyn who wasn’t a guard, he was busier, but during work, he was mostly just standing.

‘Still six.’

As Carlyn stepped outside, he counted the number of Empire agents surveilling him.

It was similar to what he initially thought. Their suspicion hadn’t abated yet.

Since he had nothing to hide, there was no problem. Carlyn was well aware of the nature of intelligence agencies.

It was a matter of time. Soon, only minimal surveillance would remain, and it would decrease.

The imperial palace was right in front of him. The bustling activity from a few days before the banquet seemed to have reached its peak today.

Glorious carriages were heading towards the imperial palace. As Carlyn entered the palace, he expanded his senses.

Senses open. Numerous sounds reached his ears, and movements could be felt.

However, that didn’t mean he could eavesdrop on everything everyone in the palace was saying or doing.

Even if only briefly, his head would explode.

Especially the extraordinary Sword Master required caution, and there were places that his senses couldn’t reach.

“The Second Prince… seems to be fast asleep.”

Just looking at the woman lying next to him and the bottle of alcohol on the bedside table, it was evident that last night had been eventful.

It seemed like observation would have to be postponed for a while.

And so, until the evening, as the time for the banquet approached, Carlyn hadn’t gained any significant insights.

He had observed not only the Second Prince but also the other princes, and everything seemed to be normal as usual.

Even from Carlyn’s perspective, there was a slight sense of suspicion.

If the Second Prince’s faction had been busy during the early hours, then some message must have reached the Second Prince today in some form.

‘It’s possible they don’t trust the Second Prince.’

Whether acting or genuinely. Nobles didn’t attach themselves to the princes solely because of their imperial aura.

The key seats under the First Prince were already occupied, or there were conflicting desires among various factions, involving hostile nobles and more.

“Well, you’re not late.”

Emmet approached quickly and took a breath. They alternated shifts since they couldn’t skip meals, but it took Emmet longer than Carlyn, who had come back after brushing his teeth.

“Took you a while, didn’t it?”

When Carlyn looked at him, Emmet let out a chuckle.

“They go crazy for ossobuco. Especially the calf brought in from the west.”

Ossobuco. It was a dish made from calf tendons. Similar to braised short ribs, Carlyn also found it delicious.

Despite being the Worst Condition that even ruined his appetite, he had to admit it was impressive.

“You seem to really like it.”

“Well, it’s not like I can have it when it’s not here. Remember that. The calf brought in from the west is the best.”

“I’ll keep that in mind.”

“There’s a good place in the south of Chenarus that’s great at making it too. Would you like to come together with me?”

“I’d be welcome to that.”

After the short conversation, silence settled in. Casual chatting during work hours was not considered a virtue, to begin with.

How long had they stood there like that?

Suddenly, the door opened, and the princess dressed in a gown appeared.

Long blonde hair cascaded down the white dress, with a faint shimmer of silver. She was undeniably beautiful.

“Your Highness, you look splendid.”

Even Emmet, who had seen the princess for a long time, was slightly taken aback, his mouth slightly agape. The princess smiled wryly.

“Let’s go.”

* * *

The Emperor’s Birthday.

With nobles from all over the empire and even foreign royalty gathering, the imperial palace was bustling with activity.

Despite the Emperor’s aversion to crowds, only the essential nobles had been invited, yet the palace was still this lively.

Because of this, security personnel were also in high demand. Just like the numerous dogs of the empire that patrolled every corner of the palace.

‘Just those nearby add up to over seventy.’

It was only natural for the subjects of surveillance to gather in one place, and it was even more natural that many of them were disguised as workers.

Nobles came first, followed by the princess, princes, and finally, the Empress. But the Emperor had yet to appear.

Eyes were directed toward the princess from all corners, just as Carlyn had described to the Duke, she was a beauty that could fit within three fingers on the continent.

Carlyn could see it too. It felt as though she had stepped out of a movie or a game rather than reality.

‘It’s like being inside a game; is it wrong to say that?’

Despite the occasional glances that fell on her, Erendil stood tall, her back straight, her face as cold as ever.

However, it wasn’t just because of the princess that all the gazes were directed. Many eyes were also turned toward Carlyn.

Since Carlyn and the princess were seen together, it had become known that their presence in the palace brought a pleasant atmosphere.

Amidst the quiet, the entrance to the banquet hall suddenly became lively. The Emperor was arriving.

“The majestic and glorious Emperor of the noble Kaiyan Empire…”

Before the knight at the entrance of the hall could finish his sentence, with a thud, the heavy doors swung open.

The atmosphere shifted. The sudden silence was heavy and cold, but through it, the Emperor made his entrance.

Pushing his receding blond hair neatly back, the Emperor looked dignified despite being over fifty.

“No need for introductions. Who here doesn’t know me?”

The Emperor waved his hand casually and walked forward. Two sword masters followed closely behind.

It was Carlyn’s first time seeing the Emperor. He left a strong impression. It was as if he had stepped out of a game, the image of the Emperor was exactly the same.

In the midst of the quiet, only the footsteps of the Emperor and the two sword masters echoed distinctly.

As soon as the Emperor took his seat, he reached for a goblet.

“I’m grateful that you’ve all come. Making such a fuss over an old man’s birthday. Enjoy yourselves, and have a lot of private talks.”

With that, he fell silent. The Emperor raised his goblet with a wry smile, seeming to find this gathering tiresome.

It was the Empress’s duty to break the stiff atmosphere.

“You’re being mischievous even in jest. Since it’s Your Majesty’s joke, everyone, let loose and enjoy yourselves without holding back.”

Though it was obvious that it wasn’t a joke, there was a need to lighten the atmosphere, so the nobles laughed heartily.

The banquet hall began to get a bit more lively again.

Several royals and powerful nobles approached the Emperor and exchanged words discreetly.

Leading the way, various nobles also approached the princes and the princess.

“Of course.”

“That’s right.”


As the princess engaged in conversations, Carlyn looked around the banquet hall.

The operation of his Winds was somewhat limited due to the presence of the sword masters.

The Empress lifted her goblet and signaled for more. A waiting-maid walked out.

Carlyn noticed a subtle change in the maid’s expression. In an instant, Winds enveloped the maid.

Neck and wrists. The heartbeats were faster than average. Carlyn had brought the scent from the bottle with him.

Though he couldn’t detect any strange scents, the situation was peculiar.


As Carlyn took a step forward, the approaching maid stopped in her tracks.

“Sir, why are you like this?”

The Empress inquired, but Carlyn’s eyes were fixed on the maid. Dilated pupils, racing heartbeats.

Was she an assassin, or did she receive some kind of sign? Whatever it was, it meant she knew something.

Carlyn drew his sword. Swish— the sharp sound of the blade cut through the noise of the banquet hall.

As the eyes of the people around turned to Carlyn, the tip of the sword was pointed at the maid’s throat.

The swordmaster next to the Emperor had already placed his hand on his sword.

Amidst the chilling atmosphere, Carlyn spoke quietly without flinching.

“Taste it.”

Author's Thoughts

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