Chapter 580: The Prince Likes Them
It was only after a long while that Thales recovered from his emotions of distress and helplessness.
“What is this?”
He turned to Morat, who was seated calmly.
The Black Prophet smirked, “What do you think it is?”
Thales was silent for a few seconds.
“When my father sent me over,” the prince’s voice was solemn and bleak, “He told me that I should come see the mess I’ve made.”
Thales slipped into a daze momentarily.
Morat said quietly, “You’ve seen it then. The liquor industry in the capital will see a considerable period of panic and depression, at least.”
Thales clenched his fists.
“Damn the prince.”
“Everything he does…has an extremely huge impact, alright?”
He could still hear Dagori’s voice in his head.
“But I didn’t do anything,” Thales muttered.
The Black Prophet sneered. “At your level, doing nothing can also be a gesture.
“Whether you intend for it to be or not.”
Thales frowned hard.
“At least have a little, even if it’s just a few sips.”
He recalled what Princess Elise said to him on the day of the banquet.
“But I’m willing to bet that, by tomorrow, you will feel like everyone is watching you.”
‘Everyone is watching you…’
Thales took a deep breath. Tormented, he groaned through gritted teeth, “They shouldn’t have…interpreted it that way.”
“But they did just that.”
Morat’s voice seemed to come from another room, but did not sound any less piercing. “And the fact that you left your country and journeyed to Northland to serve as a hostage for the past six years, being confined within high walls?”
“Forgive me for my honesty, but you should count yourself lucky.”
Thales’ expression was somber.
As his thoughts flowed, a new guest arrived in the interrogation room.
Raphael picked up a pen, turned to a new page in the document, and looked coldly at the stout old man with thick limbs and a nervous expression.
The newcomer was getting better treatment than what Dagori had experienced. Although he was also brought in with his face covered by a hood, the old man was not shackled nor chained, and was able to move freely in his chair.
“Jilburn. My name is Jilburn, sir.”
Also in stark contrast to the arrogant wine merchant, the seated old man was obedient and even a little flattering.
“Jilburn Filson. Everyone calls me Old Jilburn or—Old JB.”
Out of view, Raphael pursed his lips.
“So, Jilburn Filson, do you know why you are here?”
Jilburn forced a smile. “To be honest, no, not really. May I ask who you…”
“Police,” Raphael replied promptly without looking up.
Compared to when he was interrogating the wine merchant previously, the Barren Bone man was indifferent and aloof.
The old man was stunned for a second.
“Impossible.” Old Jilburn smiled, wagging his finger at Raphael. “I have a relative who works at the police station. I know their procedures, and it’s nothing like this!”
The Barren Bone man looked up expressionlessly.
The old man looked around, and there was a gleam in his eyes as if he had a sudden realization. He was somewhat excited yet curious at the same time.
“I know this style of doing things,” Old Jilburn said with an enigmatic yet self-satisfied expression. He leaned over the edge of the table, close to Raphael. “You are the Secret Intelligence Department!
Looking at the old man who was winking at him, Raphael’s expression shifted slightly.
“I have experienced it. Long ago, when the serial vampire murders occurred in the capital.” Old Jilburn nodded with a smile, clearly very theatrical. “A fight broke out in my shop between the infamous curfew police and agents from the Secret Intelligence Department…”
Raphael gently smacked the table, interrupting Jilburn’s words.
“You are right.”
The Barren Bone man’s eyes were profound and mysterious. He leaned in towards Old Jilburn and whispered as if he was narrating a ghost story, “We are the kingdom’s Secret Intelligence Department.
“We work for the Black Prophet.”
The old man’s smile froze on his face in an instant.
On the other side of the glass, Thales frowned and turned to Morat, but the old man in the wheelchair was calm as a rock.
Meeting Raphael’s malicious gaze, Old Jilburn blinked bewilderedly and looked around the interrogation room again.
“So it’s, it’s really the Secret Intelligence Department? That Secret Intelligence Department?”
Old Jilburn’s gaze landed on the fresh bloodstain on the table. A thought struck him, making him shudder.
“You’re, you’re not bluffing?”
Raphael snorted in disdain.
The kingdom’s Secret Intelligence Department.
The Black Prophet.
The Secret Intelligence Department that had to meet a quota of ten kills every day, and the Black Prophet that took a bath in the blood of children every night…
Thinking of various mysterious legends, Jilburn chuckled nervously before shrinking into his chair.
His eyes were fixed on a small spot along the edge of the table and he did not dare exhale.
‘First of all, I am not a child anymore. I won’t suit the Black Prophet’s taste.
‘And I hope I’m the… eleventh person here today?’
At this thought, Jilburn burst into tears.
“So, Old Jilburn, what do you do for a living?”
“What do I…do?”
Jilburn repeated it blankly at first. Once he got a hold of himself, he cleared his throat loudly and began to tremble visibly.
“I, I run a blacksmith shop in the Twilight District. I’ve been doing it for years, bl, bl, bl, bl, blacksmithing.”
Raphael chuckled a few times. The old blacksmith trembled in rhythm with his laugh.
“I heard that you received a big business order this morning?”
‘Big business order?’
Old Jilburn’s face turned white, but he quickly suppressed his shock.
“Yes, yes, yes. A business order. Not exactly big, just a small one…” With a sullen expression, Old Jilburn cajoled, “Ahem, well it’s not really small either, hehe. Middling I guess. Middling, middling.”
Responding with a plain “hmm”, Raphael raised the pen without looking up. “You…”
Old Jilburn’s expression changed suddenly and he yelled, “I have never forged any prohibited weaponry!”
Raphael was taken aback by the blacksmith’s sudden outburst.
“Military swords, military axes, military hammers, battle helmets and armors, battle horse stirrups, battle shields, crossbow parts, trebuchet parts, Mystic Gun buttstocks, Crystal Drop alloys, kitchen knives longer than half a foot, steel spear tips, lethal arrows, I have never made—” a stream of words came out of Old Jilburn’s mouth like rapid gunfire before he paused right at the end of the sentence, “—any of it!”
He denied desperately with wide eyes.
Seeing the nervous and trembling Old Jilburn, Raphael, who was ready to forcibly extort a confession, put down his pen and remained silent for a while.
“Sounds like you’re quite familiar with…prohibited items?”
Old Jilburn trembled again.
He realized something, knew that the situation was taking a turn for the worse, so desperately forced a smile. “Hehe, I’m just interested in the law… You know, law and order.”
Raphael looked at the document and raised his pen again. “You…”
Old Jilburn interjected frantically, “And I definitely did not sell to them!
Startled again, Raphael put down the pen again, somewhat exasperated.
Jilburn’s expression stiffened.
He looked away, rubbed his chin awkwardly, and muttered softly. “Well, uhm, you know. Th…them…”
Raphael grasped the trick. He put down the pen and closed the document, leaned his whole body back and scoffed coldly.
The Barren Bone man’s actions made the blacksmith shudder inadvertently. Flailing his arms, he exclaimed, “But but but they are nobles!
“Even if their families do not hold any official duke titles, they are at least scions of government officials, so it should be legal…”
Raphael exhaled, crossed his arms, and narrowed his eyes.
This made Jilburn panic again. He changed his tune, “Even if it’s not legal, they will have ways to circumvent it! I had no choice but to sell to them…”
Raphael tilted his head and appraised the old man. “You…”
Jilburn’s expression changed again. He blurted loudly, “I only received a deposit!”
He raised his hands and cried out, “I haven’t delivered the goods, haven’t forged any samples, haven’t sketched the models and haven’t even ordered the raw materials!”
Jilburn explained nervously as he scrambled to fish out a fancy piece of paper from his inner pocket, “Look, this is the entire order of those customers! All of it!”
Baffled, Raphael looked at the order form quavering in the hands of the old blacksmith.
He hadn’t even…asked anything yet?
“Alright.” The Barren Bone man took the paper from the old man with mixed emotions and a sense of frustration that only he knew. “You seem much more open to discussion than the last guy.”
‘Maybe I should go back and look up this old man’s background.
‘To see if he is… a distant relative of the Karabeyan family?’
After handing over the order, with a grievance that said “I have contributed to the kingdom” etched across his face, Jilburn asked warily, “This isn’t illegal, is it?
“Even if it is, could this be considered as…coming clean?”
Raphael looked at the order and uttered a random “uh huh”, which again scared the daylight out of Old Jilburn.
Raphael began to read aloud so the people on the other side of the glass could hear him, “So and so hereby places an order for a longsword with specifications as follows: it has to be recognized as a noble’s sword at a glance; it has to be made with premium materials; the color should be friggin’ cool; the sword should be shiny; it should be convenient to maintain; it should look as heavy as possible but be as light as possible; it would be best if it is distressed with traces of wear, to let others know that it has been wielded in battle a great deal…”
On the other side of the glass, Thales frowned.
Under Jilburn’s anxious but fawning gaze, the Barren Bone man continued to read the first line in the order, “The grip must be comfortable; it has to produce a whooshing sound when swung; it should be energy-efficient when attacking and defending; the design and style should express heroism and chivalry, as well as elegance and sturdiness, be fashionable and classic, splendid and plain, simple and profound; most importantly, the bearer should look dashing when carrying the sword, allowing a painter to capture this from all angles…”
Raphael looked up, perplexed.
‘What is this?’
‘Those invincible holy swords in knight novels that slay gods and demons?’
“See, err.” The old blacksmith rubbed his hands together awkwardly and bowed his head, feeling embarrassed. “About Par, Party A.”
With a peculiar expression, Raphael stopped reading the other terms on the order.
“So do you know what are they plan to do with the items in this order?”
Old Jilburn caressed his belly.
“Hey, as you’re aware, these patrons are nobles. How could I possibly—”
“Hmm?” Raphael snorted disdainfully.
“—know but I accidentally heard something!” Old Jilburn looked solemn as he changed his tune in the nick of time.
Raphael squinted at him.
“They, these noble scions who are ordering weapons one after another, most of them are going to…” Old Jilburn paused and smiled flatteringly, “Duel.”
Even though he half anticipated it, Thales still felt his chest tighten.
‘Duel,’ Raphael pondered and nodded. “Do you know why?”
Old Jilburn seemed ecstatic at the mention of this. “Why else. Of course it’s because the Duke of Star Lake adjudicated the case last night wisely and was able to defeat the hostage-taker in an earth-shattering duel with his dexterous skills. The news has spread throughout the capital so now the noble scions are scrambling to…”
In that moment, Thales could only hear buzzing in his ear.
Didn’t he make it very clear in order to eliminate the impact? “Since you have decided to… enjoy its conclusive convenience, then you have to bear its barbaric and antiquated price.”
‘Why are there still some, some who…’
In that moment, Thales was a little afraid to look at the reaction of the Black Prophet beside him.
He forced himself to turn his attention back to the interrogation room.
“There was a pair of brothers from a noble family who said they intend to duel their father, because he has disregarded his position in the family hierarchy and stole their sweetheart at the banquet… Oh, would you look at that…”
Old Jilburn’s eyes sparkled when he gossiped.
“They ordered two swords, and specified that the material and design had to be identical as an indication of fairness, because they wanted to duel each other after they killed their father! Hehe so I said, what about your father’s sword? So they ordered a third sword! Hehehe, idiots, am I right…”
Raphael looked up.
The blacksmith suddenly choked on his words.
“Shortage of materials, the stove doesn’t heat properly, the apprentice is on strike,” Raphael’s voice did not waver, “Or you fell in love with a gentle and sexy young widow in the countryside and plan to sell the shop, retire and marry her…”
“Huh? Gentle and sexy?” Old Jilburn was puzzled.
“You know,” Raphael paused and said expressionlessly, “Party A.”
The Barren Bone man coughed.
“I don’t care what excuse you use.” Raphael handed back the order to Old Jilburn indifferently. “Refund the deposit and cancel these orders.”
The old blacksmith was mildly stunned.
“Cancel? This is such, such a big order…”
Raphael ignored him, took out a document and lay it in front of Jilburn. “If there are no further issues, have a look at this confidentiality agreement, sign it, and you may leave.”
Old Jilburn glanced at the agreement, and fidgeted with the order in his hand, and said reluctantly, “But, I have no good reason to cancel the order in such a short time…”
With a sudden movement, Raphael grabbed Jilburn’s hand and stared at him with a piercing gaze. “In that case, you can be wrapped in bandages for two months and say that your arms are broken.”
Jilburn was scared out of his wits. He could not do anything except let the Barren Bone man grip his wrist.
“Go to the Department of Finance and show them the seal on this agreement,” Raphael said calmly, “Someone will reimburse you for the liquidated damages and bandages.”
Old Jilburn felt aggrieved.
“But it won’t work,” he made a last-ditch effort to argue, “I’m not the only blacksmith in the capital—although I am indeed the best. Those bratty scions will definitely go to other shops. Might as well I make a few inferior and blunt…Ah ah ahhh gentle!”
Amid Old Jilburn’s squeals, Raphael clutched tightly onto his wrist and threatened, “So, you want us to pay for medical expenses as well eh?”
Old Jilburn let out a few muffled sobs, put on a smile that was uglier than his crying face, picked up the pen and obediently signed the document, indicating his firm support for the Secret Intelligence Department’s decision.
Raphael let go of the panting blacksmith.
“Hurry up, we have to deliver agreements to several other people still—that, or medical expenses,” the Barren Bone man said coldly.
Rubbing his wrist and crying, Old Jilburn immediately stirred when he heard this.
“Ah, don’t leave out Blacksmith Karachi on South Street. I’m mentioning just in case. That old bastard is despicable. More than once he’s made prohibited weapons for scum like the Blood Bottle Gang and the Brotherhood over the past decade, while spreading lies that the weapons were forged by me—don’t believe anything he says…”
Another piercing gaze by Raphael stuffed Old Jilburn’s words back into his mouth.
The old blacksmith could only pout as he continued to sign page after page. “Fine I understand. You bear a heavy responsibility to suppress the harmful custom of dueling and maintain the legal order and stability of the kingdom. I get it, I get it…
“But these matters will be settled as long as you catch the duelers… Why bother small businessmen like us…”
“You see, this here is the problem.” Raphael supervised him to ensure that he signed the entire agreement, and glanced towards the one-way glass half-intentionally. “If the kingdom expressly prohibits them, their dissatisfaction and resentment will be directed upwards.”
Raphael looked at the old blacksmith. “But if a supplier like you cancels for some reason…”
He squinted and leaned closer to Old Jilburn, “Do you have an opinion?”
Old Jilburn understood implicitly. His head shook faster than the bellows he had at home. “No, no…”
The old blacksmith finished signing the agreement and handed it to Raphael obsequiously.
Raphael inspected the signature on the agreement, folded it over, lit a candle and sealed it.
“Very well. As a reward for your cooperation…
“For the next few months, the regular soldiers of the royal family will have an increased need for equipment, and will even need to recruit blacksmiths to directly forge weapons. There will be a large batch of new orders.”
Jilburn’s eyes lit up in awe.
“But it will only be for the army and the people who hold this agreement.”
Raphael narrowed his eyes and held up the sealed agreement. “Do you understand?”
On the other side of the one-way glass, Thales watched on quietly as a hood was put over the head of the ecstatic Old Jilburn and the latter was escorted out of the interrogation room.
“I apologize.” Seated in his wheelchair, Morat picked up his cup of tea and grinned. “Raphael rarely handles such basic matters. He’s not very skilled at it.
“But don’t worry, we will have someone talk to the craftsman afterward and follow up on his ‘mental health’ regularly to ensure that he will not resent you for this nor harm you by spreading rumors.
“Or…leak the information about orders being placed for specialized dueling weapons. ”
Seeing the Black Prophet’s cryptic smile, Thales felt uneasy.
“I thought that the nobles of Constellation would despise the customs of Eckstedt,” the prince confessed with difficulty as he stared at a stain on the glass.
Morat put down his cup.
“Dueling was a martial arts custom that originated from the Empire in the first place. In those ancient times, it carried the spirit of chivalry and filled the void that justice could not reach.”
The old man in the wheelchair was stoic, like an outsider. “Do you know, from Empire to kingdom, how many centuries our ancestors have spent, how much blood and tragedy they have experienced, how much they have had to sacrifice—human lives included—before these antiquated rules and vulgar customs that have been gradually phased out over the years, that ignore justice and are barbaric, were eliminated?”
His words were like a blade, cutting Thales open over and over. “But now, what people see are only the acts of Polaris, which they swarm to emulate.
“Especially the tale of you using your wisdom to escape death in Eckstedt in the name of a duel.
“In addition to your unprecedented charm that won the admiration of countless young men and women last night…”
The Black Prophet shook his head but did not go on.
But this was enough.
Thales was expressionless.
Was this what he brought to Constellation?
Rescue D.D and Anker, but eventually kill…more people?
“Whatever the situation, you always attempt to find a win-win solution, a perfect choice, to meet your own high expectations.”
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King Kessel’s words echoed in his ears:
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