Chapter 41

(Please note, not edited/checked/PR-ed. You may run into a questionable grammar or two. If you happen to spot them, please let me know in the comments below. Thank you!!)

“Master, this is….?”

Dawson slowly folded the scroll and lowered it back into the drawer as if he was handling a sensitive bomb that could go off on the slightest tremor.

The old outfitter replied with a tone of voice that suggested that he was troubled as well, although it was disguised well.

“The order came in only this morning. There was an incident involving a member of SOIR and the citizens of the Empire. Because the matter involved Invokers, the internal disciplinary committee had the jurisdiction over the investigation. However, additional information uncovered by our agents reveal that the head of the committee, Grand Elder Grisham is intimately involved with the suspect.”

The old outfitter paused here, as the needle he wielded slid into a small and delicate part of the fabric. He concentrated until that was done, and only then did he continue.

“The Grand Elder, therefore, is now seen as a saboteur actively engaged in bringing disharmony to the Empire’s stability. It is our duty to serve the appropriate justice. Your role is to locate the target, eliminate and temper evidence to make it seem accidental.”

Dawson glanced at his former teacher. All he could see was the back of the head, ash-white hair neatly combed back. In that moment, he wondered about the types of emotion rolling around inside the old outfitter’s mind.

What would it be like to order the death of someone who was pretty much a friend?

“Master…. I see that information extraction is not requested. That is irregular. Your additional orders regarding that?”

Originally this wasn’t what Dawson wanted to ask. However, he knew very well his old teacher was silently going through hell inside. So to be on the safe side, he didn’t say anything that might disturb the carefully cultured facade of the outfitter.

Throughout history, many incidents required cooperation between SOIR members and Special Bureau agents. And for sure, many of them were dangerous, life-threatening affairs. In a backdrop like that, it was inevitable that bonds were forged between people. It was no exception for the old outfitter in this regard.

He and Grisham had a long history together. Sometimes, on opposite sides of the fence, at loggerheads over the handling of judicial matters. Sometimes, as reluctant allies in a hunt to rid the Empire of villains who wish to harm its health.

Basically, they were two wise and old warriors who had recognized each other. From that mutual recognition, the two built a working relationship that saw shared prosperity. It was an amicable friendship.

But now, an order came from the highest office in the Empire. And the order called for the elimination of the outfitter’s friend. Of course the old teacher was not a happy camper.

Dawson knew his teacher well enough to know that he’d put the completion of duty above all else, regardless of the personal cost.

So, rather than say things that could only anger the teacher, he decided to hear the man’s thoughts through an indirect line of questioning.

The old outfitter shook his head after hearing Dawson’s question. “No need. The evidence has been compiled. The order given…. is absolute!! As agents, we must carry out our mission no matter the sacrifice.”

The outfitter lowered his busy hands and rested them on his lap. He remained still, never showing his face to Dawson.

The silence continued like this for a while longer, before it was broken by the outfitter’s calm voice. “The HQ does not know of your return to the fold. I shall keep it that way until the threat against Lady Lizbeth is neutralized. Your anonymity is safe for now. On my part, I will dig out more about The Children of the Amber. When I recover something useful, you’ll be informed of it as well. So, focus your energy on this mission, nothing else. Understood?”

Dawson frowned imperceptibly for a moment before turning on his heels to leave. And as he went past the door, he murmured softly.

“….Yes, sir.”


Damien’s brows twitched funnily. The reason for that was fairly simple to deduce to anyone who saw the so-called letter, left behind by Jonas Bremble with Ged’s granddaughter.

It was, logically speaking, not a letter. Nope. Rather, it would be better to call it a journal. It was a book, in other words. It was not something he’d be able to skim through in one sitting.

Damien felt peeved. And rightly so.

I don’t have the bloody time to go through this. Bah. Shouldn’t have cared in the first place….

Damien groaned inwardly, knowing that it was too late to go back on his word. After all, he did say to Gemma that he’d take a look at this…. letter, and see what’s what.

See, the thing was, he had this bad premonition about this whole thing. Although he wasn’t too terribly interested as there were much, much more urgent matters on his hands, it was definitely a curious turn of coincidence that someone who should have been kicking it nice and easy in the Capital’s high society was slumming it out in a…. town that was a million miles away from the twinkling starlight of glamorous lifestyle.

And then…. There was also the matter of Dukakis’s missing adjutant that could be linked to this incident as well. No, not “could,” – Damien’s sensitive intuition was telling him it was without a doubt, linked.

That young man hadn’t surfaced as yet from whatever hole he had fallen into. Even his close relatives had no news of him. Obviously, the man’s wife was suitably frantic for her missing husband’s safety.

Since that guy was somehow involved with this funny business of Jonas, Damien figured that if he could unravel one mystery, then the other would come undone by itself.

His past experiences told him that a person missing for this long either didn’t want to be found or was most likely rotting in a shallow grave somewhere. Or, already had become Fiend food and now, a fertilizer.

Since none of his personal articles were recovered, Damien assumed that it was quite likely the missing man was dead and buried. If he was in hiding, he’d at least try to reassure his family of his wellbeing, but because such a thing didn’t happen, the likelihood of the death was higher.

What a smelly business this was.

Sighing, Damien pondered for a bit, staring at the leather-bound and foreboding cover of the letter from Jonas Bremble.

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He was no longer in Ged’s workshop. In fact, he was sitting on the bed in the room he rented from a kind aunty. The rent was cheap, food tasted good, and he was assured of better privacy, compared to an inn where any ol’ bums could come and go as they pleased.

Of course, there was always a threat of nightly raid performed by his enemies. But he wasn’t too worried – the aunty in question was an inactive Adventurer ranked Silver so she was no mug with her fists. It was the same for her husband, too.

Anyone foolish enough to try breaking in would instead get their bones broken. So yeah, Damien was perfectly happy here.

As he was pondering, he heard a soft knock on the door. It was the aunty, carrying a memo delivered by a local Adventurer. In it, a communication from The Capital. He thanked her and exchanged small talk before she went away.

Reading the memo, Damien frowned a little. Michelle had to go to Lafayette, leaving Lizbeth behind. Thankfully, an acquaintance stepped up to fill the void, but it felt just a bit too convenient to him. What a timing, he mused to himself.

Also, there was that thing about the partial destruction of Lafayette. That surprised him greatly.

“Two Divinity-class beings, huh…. Must’ve been something else.”

Damien muttered slowly before putting away the memo. He closed his eyes and fell back on the bed, feeling mentally tired. The past couple of months, he’d been on an edge while traveling around the Northern borders, checking out the situations there with Dukakis’s men as well as hired Adventurers.

During that time, they got ambushed twice. People died. Things got tough. Worsening weather didn’t help either. And now this? Lafayette destroyed, more people died? Many of them, most likely his friends?

His head ached. He was feeling worse than before.

Damien needed a good, long rest. Even he knew that. Yet, Jonas’s letter waited for him to crack open the seal and read its “world-changing” contents.

Massaging his temples helped a bit, bringing some clarity to his weary mind. Finally, Damien toughened up his psyche and picked up Jonas’s journal. Delaying wouldn’t help anyone at all so might as well get it over with ASAP.

The cover was worn-out and faded, its leather showing the signs of a long-term use. It wasn’t in tatters but pretty close. After flipping through the pages, Damien realized that rather than a letter with an excessive amount of needless writing, it was a diary instead.

On the first page, Jonas wrote thus:

Dear Sir Damien. I entrust this record of my thoughts and the events witnessed by my own eyes with a heavy heart, knowing that by the time you read this, it is quite likely I will no longer be among the living.

What you are about to read in here are not lies, nor have I hallucinated them during a bout of madness. All of it, I swear, is real, truly occurred, and I bore witness of their veracity before the uncompromising judgments of the Gods.

I came to Marlborough not to seek the aid of you but from your father, the honorable Count Lomax. He’s the only man wielding a considerable political strength that was not affected by this, for a lack of better descriptor, scandal.

I came in contact with the young adjutant under Sir Dukakis in order to facilitate the meeting, as he was an old friend.

But alas, my enemies, and indeed the enemies of the Empire and all her good citizens, have interfered.

This leaves me with very little choice but to rely on you, Sir Damien. It is truly a stroke of heavenly luck that I have run into you that evening.

I pray that you’ll find the trustworthy recipients for the contents of my writing, my testimony. My final will.

Thank you in advance, and may the Gods bestow you a good fortune as well.

Sir Jonas Bremble.”

“Hmm, for a guy who seemed to be half dead, he sure wrote a long-winded introduction, huh.”

Damien murmured to himself, before flipping to the next page. He checked the date written on the top left-hand corner and confirmed that it was written many, many years ago. The content of the page was about the day Jonas entering a famed Knights’ Academy in the Capital.

That confirmed Damien’s suspicions. It’d be a waste of time to go through it all, page by page.

Somehow, he had to find the relevant page out of these walls of text as he didn’t want to spend the mental energy reading about the early life of an overtly ambitious young man trying to make it in the society.

Good thing Jonas had carefully labeled each entry with the corresponding dates, otherwise Damien might have had to sit through the dang thing for hours on end, trying to locate all those “world-changing” contents hidden within.

He casually flipped the pages until a date caught his eye. It was the day Jonas came to Riverfield to talk to him. Curious as to how the man saw him, Damien began reading, only to feel a desire to rip the journal in half and track the writer down so he could beat the living daylights out of the feckless punk who badmouthed him.

In short, Jonas was an ass. He totally looked down on Damien, calling him a few unkind words to describe him.

Obviously, such evaluations made Damien nearly chuck the damn journal out the window and be done with it. But he held back. It was not nice to speak the ill of a dead man, regardless of how unlikable that person was.

Taking a deep breath to calm his angry mind, he flipped through the man’s impressions on the near-death experiences of the Sacred Acre.

The next entry was about the time Jonas met Marquis Phillips for the very first time. The impression of the imposing man was just as Damien expected – imposing.

From this page on, things got a bit more interesting.

“Wow. So Jonas got to work on building the Sky Arks, eh. Lucky guy,” murmured Damien.

Jonas went into a great detail about the piece of strange, blue-colored parchment that was as large as a military map that had dimensions and internal layout of the Sky Ark written on it, called a Blueprint. He also stated that the writings on it were mysterious and unknown.

A translated version of this Blueprint was delivered to Jonas from the Marquis a few days after the meeting. By then, he was on his way to a secret location far from the Capital, or for that matter, any settlements of note.

And to Damien’s surprise, that secret location was outside the borders of the Empire, up North, in a valley deep inside the Northern Mountain ranges. As to why such a location was chosen, Jonas didn’t know. But at least Damien was able to figure out why Jonas chose to come to Marlborough – other than the stated reasons – it was the nearest big city that could be reached by foot from where the construction was taking place.

Initially, the building of the Sky Ark itself was proceeding swimmingly. No delays, no unexpected accidents, no rioting workers, nothing.

But then, one year into the construction, something strange happened. No, rather than calling it something, someone came to “improve” the working conditions. Jonas described this someone as a Visitor.

A Visitor, from another Realm. Not only that, but several of them.

Damien sucked in his breath. His mind shook slightly at the revelation.

Just as it was with every literate person of the Empire, he knew the story of the Ten Realms and how Aeterna filled in the spaces between them. He also knew of the World Tree and how this wondrous being connected all the Realms.

But never have he heard of an instance where Visitors from another Realm making an appearance.

Hurriedly he dived in the journal for more info, only to feel a bit disappointed when Jonas simply noted that the Visitors were humans, just like everyone else. No special distinguishing features, no strange and wonderful quirks, no common-sense defying abilities – none whatsoever.

Jonas was able to learn the important fact that the Blueprints had come from these Visitors. And that these men and women were contributing much to the advancement of the Empire from behind the scenes. Things like improvements of the road surfaces in the Capital, for example, were accredited to the Visitors and their practice called Science.

The Visitors improved how the horse-drawn carriages rode on the rough grounds by introducing items called the dampers. They even suggested that the highways should be maintained and patrolled in order to stimulate inter-city trade thus boosting annual revenue collected in taxes. New military tactics were passed down, new medical procedures, new printing techniques – all of them, gifted by these Visitors from another Realm.

Damien stared long and hard at that foreign word, Science, wondering what it could possibly be. A religion? A belief system? A system similar to Invocation, in order to wield Aeterna?

Whatever it was, it sure sounded mysterious. To create a flying object like the Sky Ark where even the most powerful Invocation had failed, this Science sounded like a powerful weapon to possess.

However, wonderment ceased there.

Because, some of the workers began to go missing. There were a fair few other races participating in the construction work, and they were the first to disappear.

As the on-site supervisor, Jonas had the responsibility to investigate the disappearances. However, whenever he tried to delve into the mysteries, he was cut off by the orders that came from above. He was told to not mind the unimportant details and focus on achieving the objective.

Only allowed on

And that’s what Jonas tried to do. He really did. However, as these things go, he happened to witness the Visitors forcibly kidnapping a Caniduskin worker, bundling the unfortunate man into a cage-like metal box and enter through the intense white light created by what Jonas could only describe as a pair of spinning giant metal rings.

Jonas was shocked and horrified, Hoping that this was just a one-time deal, Jonas came to the hidden spot in the valley where these rings were located as often as he could in order to assuage his fears. And he saw these Visitors routinely kidnapping people. Sometimes, even Fiends, plants, animals and Awakened Beasts.

Once, Jonas witnessed a lesser Earth Drake being dragged off by a squadron of men wearing clothes with varying shades of green and brown patterns, called Khakis. Even he could tell these men were soldiers from the way they talked and acted. But they were dressed too lightly. No plate armors, no helmets, no spears, no bows and arrows.

Only armoring they wore, were on their heads, a roundish black metal object. As for weapons, many carried daggers but the main arms seemed to be short, slender black cylindrical objects that made a series of sharp, thunderous noises when pointed at a target.

The destructive power of these items was truly unimaginable – Jonas wrote in the journal that a handful of those cylindrical weapons could wipe out a regiment of an army in a proverbial blink of an eye.

Damien was unconsciously gripping the journal hard, his knuckles turning white. He even forgot about the passage of time, too absorbed in the tales told in these pages to notice.

Suddenly, he felt quite thirsty. Leaving the journal on the bed, Damien went to the lone water pitcher and drank out of it straight, not even bothering with a mug. The liquid felt cold as it slid down his throat, refreshing his head and helping him to gather his thoughts.

He had learned quite a few shocking facts so far. One, the Empire’s higher-ups were in contact with these so-called The Visitors. And they possessed the means to easily suppress the denizens of this Realm.

Two, these Visitors, for some reason, were kidnapping people. And the higher-ups, most likely, knew about this yet chose to ignore it because the benefits were greater. Thus, the lives of the citizens were treated as a necessary sacrifice for the greater good.

Damien wasn’t sure whether many would agree, though – the inherent stability of the Empire, and its prosperity, laid with the various races cooperating and existing harmoniously. Each and every race that formed the backbone of this nation had their distinct, specific pros and cons.

By working together, the good points could be enhanced while the negative aspects were erased, bringing wealth and prosperity to all. That was the foundation of the Empire.

But now, the officials of this very Empire, who should have been upholding this foundation, were turning a blind eye towards the races’ kidnappings. This was a serious issue no matter how one cut it.

If the respective Elders of the different races learn of this crime, then the repercussions would be severe. Maybe not to the extent where the Empire crumbled to nothingness, but enough to cause serious political upheavals and a period of instability that could prompt the enemies to crawl out of the woodwork, vying for blood.

Damien took another long swig of the water and returned to the journal. Even though what he read shocked him, he repeatedly told himself that unless proven, he had to take the words written here with a healthy dose of skepticism.

And he needed that skepticism as soon as his eyes settled on the contents of the next entry in the journal.

That day began just as any other before it. However, during the middle of lunch, an unannounced person intruded on the construction site. He came with a veritable retinue of men and women seeing to every one of his needs and wants, which was galling to see right here in the wilderness where comforts of civilization are ages away.

Who he was, what his station was, what his purpose was – none of that was disclosed to me, the director of the operation. How angry I felt then, it could not be put down to words. Even my considerable vocabulary isn’t sufficient for this purpose.

Instead, he shoved a crest of the Imperial Family in my face. As much as I hate to admit it, that crest alone means this man possesses the right to supersede my authority.

Even though it was unfair if one took to account all my contribution to this project, there was no reason to voice my displeasure, as it turned out that this person merely wished to speak to the Visitors. For that purpose alone, he has traveled all the way from The Capital. He could’ve simply used a communication crystal but no – he had to come here and bother me at this critical juncture.

The Visitors does not know our language, save for their leader, a man in early-to-mid thirties. The content of the discussion that ensued between the person from the Capital and the leader of the Visitors was unknown to me. I was left out of the loop once more. It’s infuriating, to say the least.

But for what it’s worth, it seemed to be satisfactory as the man from the Capital left with a wide grin on his face.

However, the another trouble started from there.

A few days later, the Visitors showed up with strange contraptions, telling me to mount them on the Sky Ark. Since I didn’t know what those were, plus there was no mention of such things in the Blueprints, I naturally refused and sought out clarification from the Imperial Institute.

I was told to heed the request.

After the bizarre contraptions were mounted, the Visitors then decided to test it.

To my shock, the contraptions were weapons. Weapons of unparalleled destructive power.

Until now, all Sky Arks are designed for the civilian use. Not a single one is fitted with a weapon. Not one.

Mine is no exception – my Sky Ark, which I have poured all my being into. Yes, it’s going to be bigger and more advanced in design, but still, its purpose is clear. Or was.

To serve the community, to shorten the travel time and distance, for a safe travel across vast distances quickly.

Yet, in a blink of an eye, my Sky Ark was turned into an ultimate weapon.

Not only that, today I was given a brand new Blueprint. Then, I was told, rather rudely, to modify the Ark. It’s still far from complete so modifying certain areas should not be difficult, but even I can tell that my Ark will become a flying fortress sturdy enough to withstand an Elder Dragon’s attack.

In other words, I am asked to build a warship.

Naturally, I will make sure this new direction of the project is a resounding success. After all, I always thought it was strange that not even a single Sky Ark was commissioned for a military duty.

But now, I am sure my Ark will be the very first one to soar the skies displaying the proud and noble crest of the Empire’s military might. It shall show the enemies of our glorious nation something to fear.

I’m given an indelible chance to leave my name in history. Well, now that is one opportunity I shall not miss.”

Damien checked the date of the entry. It was still more than a year ago. Something happened since then that made Jonas into a desperate bum.

Impatiently, he flipped to the next page and resumed reading. It was all jumbles of Jonas’s thoughts and useless information so Damien had to flip quite a few pages until another date caught his eye. From there on, he began again.

Today, that man from the Capital came by again to speak to the Visitors once more. This time, he seemed to be in a hurry. He looked agitated, less happier than before.

What could they be talking about? Hopefully, it’s not about speeding up the construction. It’s not possible unless you supply me with more workers for all those the Visitors took away, and then some.”

The next entry on the opposite page. However, the way it was written showed that it was scribbled in haste.

The man from the Capital stayed over. I overheard something crazy, between him and one of his followers. To confirm, currently heading towards the area controlled by the Northern Lepudia tribe. They have been supplying several important materials needed for the Sky Ark’s completion until now. It will be disastrous for the project if what that man said was true.”

Damien narrowed his eyes. Northern Lepudia tribe supplying the Sky Ark construction project with materials? It was true that the Northern Mountains were abundant in Aeterna-rich ores and materials. Geographically, it shouldn’t be too surprising to hear this.

Yet, currently the said tribe was in dire straits. No, they might have perished by now. So, where did that leave the project?

Suddenly, he felt the timing of the aggression shown by the invading Tigris tribe was too good to be a coincidence anymore.

But he still had to keep a skeptical mind. None of this was confirmed. It was, still, just a writing of a potentially deranged man.

I’ve arrived at the Lepudia’s territory. I confirmed with my own two eyes. We are supposed to be on friendly terms but the hostility shown to me was unbelievable. That damn Fool from the Capital did something unnecessary and made a deal with the barbarians of Tigris. Why? For what? I do not know. But many in Lepudia are dead. And they are blaming me for it. I need to hurry and leave.”

This passage was written rather poorly, unlike the previous entries. Obviously, Jonas didn’t have the time to sit down and write properly.

The quality of writing dropped further in the next entry.

On the run. My men, dead. Tigris responsible, not Lepudia. Sent people after me. Managed to cut down some of the pursuers. One of them was a Captain-rank, I think. Anyways, he knew some things. Made him talk.

Tigris want the Mystic Totem, whatever that is. Right now, I don’t care. Getting back to the construction site the only priority. Or I’ll die here.”

Damien furrowed his brows. He knew that Tigris was searching for the Tribal Mystic Totem of the Lepudia tribe. And they were willing to rampage in Marlborough for that. After all, acquiring or destroying it was the sign of the victory in the tribal warfare.

However, how the hell did that and the man from the Capital have anything to do with each other?

I’m back, but something’s wrong. All the workers are gone. Missing. There are more Visitors here now. I’m told I need to return to the Capital. The reason is not given. Atmosphere is bad.

But I saw a representative from Tigris here. The deal with Northern Lepudia is over. And I heard it all, straight from the mouth of the fool from the Capital. He was sneering at me, laughing at me. Bastard!!

The Visitors want the Totem. They want it for Scientific reasons, whatever that is. And they are willing to commit genocide for it. The Fool from the Capital is willing to accommodate the request. In return, he wants the Visitors to complete the Ark faster and outfit it with weapons.

The Fool wants to start a war. Not with any other countries, not with the dormant long-eared ones in the East, not with the sea-faring pirates of the Southern Isles, nor to conquer the dark lands further South of that. No, not even to explore the rumored Holy Continent to the West.

This fool wants to start a bloody civil war. Just to hand-deliver the Imperial Crown to the Second Imperial Prince!! He wants a show of power to scare all the opposition into hiding, even if it means citizens of the Empire will suffer!! Including me!!

Damn it all to hell!! I did not sign up for this!!”

At this point, Damien nearly dropped the journal. His face was now as pale as a sheet of paper. Taking another deep breath, he steadied his trembling hands, continuing to remind himself that none of this was confirmed. That, all of this was nothing more than a rambling of a mad man.

I somehow escaped my forced confinement and now am wandering the wilderness. I know a place in the borders where I can slip through. But where can I go?! Obviously, Marquis is aware of this plot. More than likely, he’s a part of it. So I can’t return to the Institute.

What about my old acquaintances in the Capital?

No. I can’t trust them. I know about the succession battle. The sides are chosen already. And I’ve been away for too long. Who knows where the loyalties lay now? Allegiances can shift according to the flow of wealth. I can’t trust anyone, at all.

Wait. Maybe I can go to Marlborough. Count Lomax’s household, last time I checked, isn’t involved with the shenanigans of the Capital. Maybe they are not intimately involved. No wait – the Count Lomax household is allied with the Grand Duke’s faction, not with the Queen’s side. That’s right.

This means… Yes, I should contact the Count. It’s the only way.

If I remember correctly, one of my mates is serving as an adjutant there. He was one of those do-gooders back then, so maybe…. Just maybe, he’s clean enough for me to rely on. He’ll listen if I plead earnestly.

I must use this knowledge as a leverage. I must survive this hell and come out of the other side, alive. I’ve worked too hard until now.

I can not throw it all away. I will negotiate for favorable terms. Then, I shall take all I’ve learned to the Capital, and expose all those who have conspired against the Empire – and me!!

I’ll endure. Just watch, I will!!”

That wasn’t the end of the journal. There were few other entries after that, but none of them gave him any new information, other than a rough sketch of a map where the strange, spinning pair of circles were located in the Northern Mountains. Jonas noted that the circles seemed mechanical and not easy to move to another location. If anyone wanted to, they could just go and find it, using the map.

In another page, there a rough portrait of a man, with the caption below – “The man from the Capital.”

Damien couldn’t recognize the man. Not surprising, really, considering he hadn’t socialized with many, back when he was still living in the Capital.

The final entry was full of gibberish. But Damien could just about make out the tone of despair in the entry. In it, Jonas was sure that his only reliable contact was dead, the pursuers from the Queen’s faction taking care of him.

And when he saw Damien that night, Jonas thought of tracking him down and asking for his aid but was unsure where his allegiance lied. So, he didn’t carelessly approach. He observed Damien leaving the city to visit the blacksmith on the outskirts a few times, and made a mental preparation to intercept him.

However, before he could do that, Jonas caught a frostbite while staying outdoors and was quickly losing the mobility of his foot.

And by then, Damien was out of the city, checking out the borders. So, all Jonas could do was to leave the journal behind with the blacksmith. Or his granddaughter, for that matter.

Damien massaged his temples silently. His headache had exploded into a full-on march of the Imperial Army, trampling down on his head relentlessly.

He threw the journal on the bed angrily and began pacing the bedroom.

In all honesty, Damien was too stumped for words. He had no idea what to do now.

He came here to deal with The Children of the Amber, not this…. monumental mess.

Damien stopped pacing about and sat down on the bed, thinking.

No, wait. None of what Jonas wrote down here can be proven. Nor can it be summarily dismissed. Visitors and all that is one thing, but the kidnappings and the attempt to start a civil war is truly a grave accusation labeled at this noble from the Queen’s faction.


.Damn it, what should I do? It’s obvious Dukakis and Father do not know of these plots unfolding behind their backyard. At least, Dukakis would’ve mentioned it to me if he knew.

But more importantly, how did such important matters escape Dukakis’s meticulous attention? It’s just not possible.

Something else is going on here.

Damien glanced at the journal, his eyes narrowing. He was on another crossroad, one he didn’t want to be on. Too late now to back off.

If everything written on it was true, and indeed Jonas had died, then this journal became the last will and the testimony. In the laws of the Empire, this meant the accusations contained within must be thoroughly examined. The parties involved would be unhappy with that outcome, for obvious reasons.

They would spare no expense to destroy any and all evidence, including a journal so damning like this. And by extension, all who clapped their eyes on the offending book as well.

That included Damien, now.

He grasped the journal tightly. He wasn’t sure what would be the best way to handle this delicate situation.

But whatever the case may be, he needed to hide this journal first. And then, figure out what to do.

As he fidgeted around the journal’s worn cover while lost in thought, a sliver of a pocket opened up and an item, a locket, fell out.

Damien picked it up and carefully opened the latch. In it, he saw a tiny portrait of an old, dignified gentleman and a young boy sitting on his lap, also looking dignified and serious.

The boy was Jonas. As for the old gentleman…. probably his grandfather. The two looked alike so it was easy to tell they were related.

Sighing, Damien put away the locket in the pocket on the journal cover, wondering whether if he could locate Jonas now. If he could, then….

Then nothing. Finding the snobbish nobleman would do nothing. The core of the trouble remained the same.

Fine, I’ll have to talk to Dukakis about this. But before that, let’s make sure of the reasons why he hasn’t even heard of this noble from the Capital leaving the borders to rendezvous with foreign agents. There could be someone in his camp blocking the flow of information.

If so….. looks like my workload just increased a bunch, didn’t it.

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