“Are you Rena Ruber’s maid?”
Angie, a boy in a priest uniform, asked with a gentle smile.
At the sudden approach and question, Uni looked up and down with an annoyed face. It was too bad of an attitude for a maid.
So Angie added with a puzzled expression as if surprised by the action.
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“Umm, do you know that the priests who enter the Imperial Palace are all nobles?”
“So what? You’re a nobleman, so do I have to bow to you?”
Uni asked with a sharp voice, and Angie became more awkward after her reaction.
The maid was still young, so he thought she didn’t know what she was doing, but it was not like that. The maid was fierce towards the boy, regardless of whether the priest was a nobleman.
Angie blinked his eyes at the hostility and bad treatment he had ever received for the first time in his life.
“I don’t mean that, I just have a question for you…”
“Then, introduce yourself first before explaining the situation. What is it?”
At Uni’s rebuttal, Angie was speechless once again.
It was the first time in his life he had ever heard someone admonishing him in this way, even after including his father, the Marquis, or Prince Rubid, and the Cardinal. No one had ever treated Angie this openly except for Her Majesty the Emperor.
“If the only thing a nobleman does is to introduce themselves, I understand. Now get out of my way because I’m busy.”
“Understanding and sectarianism are different.”
Uni degenerated the heir of the Marquis into an incompetent person and moved on again. She was going to wait and see how he’d react.
But just as she was about to pass by, a roar of laughter erupted from the side.
“You speak really well.”
Angie smiled and admired it. It wasn’t an angry smile at all, so this time, it was Uni who found the situation awkward.
‘What’s with this guy?’
Uni thought that this noble young master would get angry and spit if she shot at him in moderation.
“That’s right. If one has any questions, they should introduce themselves and explain, yes.”
But instead of getting angry, the guy who was supposed to be the young lady’s younger brother laughed with a haha and nodded his head.
Then he asked in a still bright voice.
“Hey, are you busy?”
“Then can I help you?”
At the unexpected words, Uni shut her mouth and looked at Angie.
The lady told her to avoid anyone approaching her. But she also said to make friends if they’re not dangerous.
This guy was definitely the latter. Moreover, there was no sign of insidiousness like the old butler of the Ruber family. Whether he was stupid or bold, he exposed his bare face as it was.
Uni’s cheeks swelled slightly as she looked at Angie. She didn’t like his face that resembled her lady, but at the same time, exactly because it resembled her lady, she couldn’t be harsh to him.
So, in the end, Uni pretended to lose.
“Do you know how to change bed sheets?”
At that time, Rena was just beginning her busy schedule for the day in her uniform.
The first schedule was to meet the Southern Duke. Rena followed the Southern Duke’s servant to an empty room in the palace.
The Southern Duke stood in front of her with a stiff face.
The voice of the Southern Duke was dark. It was completely different from yesterday.
Rena also erased her smile and greeted only with her eyes.
The atmosphere between the two was different from usual. It was because there was a critically ill patient over the door.
“You’ve made a trip all the way here…”
Another servant hurried out as the Duke’s servant sent the message. They were taken aback and brought the Southern Duke and Rena into the room.
As they entered the bedroom, they heard the sound of breathing.
The Southern Duke came personally, but the person on the bed did not get up to greet him. More precisely, it couldn’t have happened.
The person’s muscles were all dry and twisted, and he couldn’t lift a single hand.
“How is his condition?”
“He cannot use his hands, so we only feed him thin porridge.”
The person lying on the bed was the Southern knight who had been deprived of life by Clavis the day before.
A man who once had a particularly thick neck and stiff shoulders, but could no longer be described like that, lay shabbily.
“The doctors say it is malnutrition. If he eats well, he will gradually recover, but since he’s weak to the limit, it will be difficult to come back as before.”
The Southern Duke let out a long, silent breath. What stood in the silent old man’s eyes was the responsibility and anger at this unjust situation.
“Can you hear me?”
The Southern Duke bent down and asked the man lying on the bed. Then the man barely opened his eyes.
“I’ll prepare some people and a carriage, so when you can move, you can return home. I’ll send them a letter in advance.”
The man slowly moved his eyes like a drunken man, looking at the Southern Duke and Rena standing behind him. Then his face became twisted and he began to cry.
He wept like a beast. Neither his eyes nor his mouth were wet, so he only cried with his voice.
He then repeated that he was sorry. He was talking to both the Southern Duke and Rena. Rena and the Southern Duke, who came out after seeing the straw doll-shaped knight, looked at each other with thoughtful faces.
The two people who lived on the battlefield were accustomed to injury and death. However, this time around, they couldn’t act like it was nothing, because something that shouldn’t have happened happened.
It would have made more sense if they lost someone to the dead, but after losing the knight to the Emperor’s coercion, a greater sense of defeat came upon them than on the battlefield.
What made it even more crazy was that they couldn’t properly protest against the Emperor’s tyranny. Everything in the Empire was in the hands of the Emperor, and the Duke was no exception.
The Southern Duke put his hand over his darkened eyes. Then Rena broke the silence and said.
“The power of the Cardinal is like the power to harm people, not the dead.”
The Southern Duke knew that Rena was criticizing Clavis and nodded in agreement. However, what Rena wanted to say was not just such a complaint.
“The power to reap life, isn’t it useless to the dead?”
As Rena added, the Southern Duke’s expression changed.
The Emperor’s power must be the power that God has given to fight the dead, and of course it must be an effective ability for the dead.
However, Clavis’ ‘frailty’ was a power that would work only for the living, not the dead.
“…There are many ways to use those powers.”
In response to Rena’s suspicion, the Southern Duke explained it unconsciously.
“Only the dukes know how to do it. Clavis must be the same. Don’t jump to conclusions that what you saw yesterday was all he had.”
It meant not to doubt the power of the Emperor.
However, that attitude seemed closer to ignoring the fearful facts than blaming a rash young man.
Rena asked back because of the strange feeling.
“Do you also use your powers in various ways? Come to think of it, I’ve never seen you use your powers before.”
Rena briefly recalled her mercenary days.
As it turns out, the Southern Duke did not use his powers on the battlefield. The Southern Duke’s ‘firefight’ was an excellent ability to deal with the swarms of the dead along with the Northern’s ‘slash’, but Rena had never seen even a small spark in the South.
[T/N: Back in Chapter 31 I translated it as ‘strife’, apparently they imply the same meaning, just a play of words, so I changed them to ‘firefight’ now because his ability is literally summoning flames]
The Southern Duke answered Rena’s question with an uncomfortable face.
“Fire can’t be reasoned with. You don’t know what it will burn and what it will not burn.”
“Are you saying that you didn’t use it for fear that the soldiers might be caught up in it?”
“If that was the case, I would have gone far away alone and threw a fireball. But no.”
“If you make a fire often, you will be possessed by the fire. So in the end you will burn everything as you please.”
Rena tilted her head at the vague words. To that, the Southern Duke added bluntly.
“Let me tell you about my grandfather. He burned the dead every time, and in the end even burned his family members and burned himself to death.”
The Southern Duke’s voice was calm. It was an old story from more than half a hundred years ago and there was no need to worry again.
The Southern Duke lost his family in fire at the hands of his grandfather. His father, his mother, his brothers and sisters, his first wife and children.
He later inherited his powers from his grandfather, but he was terrified of his powers and did not use them sparingly.
‘So this is the South?’
Rena listened to his story and thought secretly.
Lynn’s sadism and the curse behind the power, such as the North’s compulsory execution, were all just not revealed as Lynn said.
One by one, Rena suddenly became curious about the situation.
What kind of curse was placed on Clavis, who snatches the lives of others?
Even though it must have been quite a terrible curse, the human could still laugh.
With a plausible hypothesis, she remembered Clavis’ smirking face, and Rena bit her lips tightly.
Meanwhile, the Southern Duke sighed, unaware of Rena’s thoughts.
“In any case, I’m in trouble. I have to discipline the knights further.”
Even yesterday morning, he thought that the knights would follow Rena obediently. Then something just had to happen half a day after he thought that.
The Southern Duke touched his forehead thinking that yesterday’s event would make the kids’ hearts run wild again.
“Even if the expedition is the same, there will be shifts to protect the crack soon. It will be difficult.”
“They can’t even stand guard.”
“It is possible if they just stand still, but if the dead approach through the crack…”
At Rena’s concern, the Southern Duke kept his mouth shut.
The crack in the Doom Palace was to be protected by each region taking turns.
And the Northern region, who had been protecting it for a week, had executed quite a number of the dead in the meantime.
Recalling that fact, the Southern Duke quickly turned serious. Beside him, Rena added.
“It’s hard for me to keep the rift alone. Fighting and blocking are two different things.”
That’s right. The Executioner could slaughter as many as she wanted to, but she wouldn’t be able to catch them all by herself.
If the dead who escaped from Rena’s side disturb the Imperial Palace, it will all be the South’s incompetence, negligence, and responsibility.
At Rena’s confession, the Southern Duke’s face was stained with anguish, and Rena, who was throwing the bait, brought out the main point at that point.
“To fill the gap, we have no choice but to seek outside help.”
“What do you mean by outside?”
“For example, the East…”
“The East? As if that bastard would help!”
However, Rena’s sketch was discolored as the Southern Duke began to swear as soon as the word ‘the East’ came out.
“Don’t say nonsense! Instead of asking the East for help, I’d rather make a pact with the dead!”
The Southern Duke even regarded the Eastern Duke as a worse opponent than the dead. At that violent refusal, Rena was also curious about it.
Why did the Southern Duke get so angry even though they were just talking about the East? The Duke was not even an adolescent anymore, but an elderly man.
It seemed too sensitive to say that he was just temperamental, so Rena asked honestly.
“Is something wrong with the Eastern Duke?”
“Wrong? Ha! I just don’t want to deal with that guy who has abandoned the dignity of a duke and the way of human beings!”
Seeing that the face between his white eyebrows and his beard was red, it looked like he was genuinely angry.
Even after shouting like that, the Southern Duke continued to curse Lynn for a long time, and Rena wondered if he was not relieved even after shouting like that.
Then he turned his arrow to Rena, who brought up the topic of the East.
“Anyway, why did you bring up the Eastern Duke?”
To make matters worse, this old man was quick-witted.
As Rena hesitated at the sudden question, the Southern Duke asked again with a harsh face.
“Is it because there’s Ruber in the North, so you’re looking to the East, or do you have a personal interest in that damn bastard?”
It was a snarky question with no room to escape.