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Ryuu Kusari no Ori -Kokoro no Uchi no “Kokoro”- - Chapter 8.26
In the administrative district of the northern part of Arcazam.
Egrod was in a room on the second floor of the mansion he had rented for his stay, and was looking out over the garden below him.
Beyond his gaze, the Knights of the Iron Skeleton, which he had commanded, were training.
The Iron Skeleton Knights are Egrod's personal knights and are one of the most powerful in the Kingdom of Forsina.
Although the quality of its personnel is not as high as that of the Silver Rainbow Knights, it still possesses high leadership, organizational, and overall strength, backed up by the strict discipline and training characteristic of the military.
While watching his own knight order undergo rigorous training, Egrod felt a sense of excitement in his heart.
By nature, Egrod is a military type of person, and watching this kind of training is how he spends his spare time.
After watching the knights train for a while, Egrod rang the bell that was placed by his side.
"Mekria, are you there?"
"Yes, I'm here."
In response to Egrod's call, Mekria appeared.
Upon seeing Mekria, who was bowing to him, Egrod asked her a frank question.
"You invited that boy to join us, didn't you? Have I not told you that I would let that opportunist take the risk for us?"
Egrod called Mekria to ascertain why she had recruited Nozomu at the opening party.
Before the party at the opening festival, Egrod had told Mekria not to be involved with Nozomu.
However, at the opening party, Mekria even used an aphrodisiac to try to recruit Nozomu to her side.
It was an act that could be described as disloyalty, and it was only natural that Egrod questioned her about it.
"My apologies, but I thought it was necessary to maintain the connection for later use."
In response to Mekria's explanation, Egrod furrowed his brow and stroked his beard as he pondered.
He knew that this woman would never behave in a way that would draw attention to him without a reason.
Although Nozomu Bountis is still a student of the academy, he is on good terms with the Francilt household, and their relationship is already recognized by those around them as an open and public one.
If the Francilt household were to find itself in trouble, Nozomu Bountis would undoubtedly make his move.
"Are you suggesting that we should intervene if it works and further reduce Francilt's power?..."
"Yes, it has always been the usual thing in a war to seize the opportunity and take the initiative..."
"But although that opportunist is a little shaken by the agreement with the Waziart household, he is still capable of making a decisive move. As long as they still have the geographical advantage, a half-hearted intervention would be a bad idea."
"But, as the saying goes, to kill a tree, one has to start from its roots..."
While showing a certain understanding of his subordinate's words, Egrod was determined to maintain his non-interference.
On the other hand, Mekria advised her lord that a certain degree of contact was necessary.
Even though both sides agreed on the basic principles, there was a clear difference in the details of their opinions.
"Hmph. As usual, you're a shrewd woman."
Egrod's words and attitude toward Mekria were somewhat indifferent and devoid of warmth, as one might expect when dealing with a trusted subordinate.
Mekria, too, was accustomed to Egrod's responses, which were completely devoid of any kind of intonation.
"... I understand what you're trying to say. I'll let it slide this time. But I will not tolerate any further intervention. Be dismissed."
In the end, Egrod forgave Mekria's arbitrary decision at the party, but made it clear that he would not tolerate any further intervention.
Although Egrod and Mekria had a relationship of master and retainer, and Mekria acted on her own initiative, their exchange was still too cold considering the fact that Mekria was a subordinate on whom Egrod had placed a great deal of authority on.
As Mekria was leaving the room, a man of mature age wearing black armor entered the room.
He is the leader of the Iron Skeleton Knights Order and one of the trusted subordinates that Egrod brought to the city.
His name is Berdik.
Because he was entrusted with an important position, his figure exuded a stern and strict atmosphere, but he was not so tall that he somehow reminded one of a young bear cub.
"Master, what's wrong?"
After saying only that to Berdik, Egrod began to watch the training session of the Knights Order again.
"Were you calling for her, sir?"
"Yeah, I had something to ask her. So, how did it go?"
Egrod brushed aside the questions of his subordinate and urged him to report on the matter he had asked for.
Berdik glanced at the entrance where Mekria had left as if to make sure, but immediately turned to his master again and began to report the matter he had been investigating in an eloquent manner.
"I have investigated, but I could not find any evidence that she was involved in the Ken Notice case, since all of our investigators were captured or killed. However, it appears that she had brought a man to Arcazam prior to the incident."
What Egrod had Berdik investigate was a background investigation into Mekria's activities while she was in Arcazam. It was a kind of supervision.
However, the personnel sent by Egrod had all been detained and kept in isolation due to the combined efforts of Zonne and Jihad.
Therefore, it was not possible to obtain any supporting evidence for Mekria's activities while she was in Arcazam.
However, they were able to obtain some evidence of Mekria's attempts to contact people outside of Arcazam.
Among them, Egrod was curious about one person she had called in as a bodyguard.
"Hmm, the Corpse Raven huh?"
"Yes, a highly skilled mercenary whose origin, background, and real name are completely unknown. However, he is a genuine maniac whose thoughts and actions do not make sense, as he kills not only his targets but also his employers on a whim."
"I see, the skinny guy who was next to Mekria at the opening night party."
The Corpse Raven.
The Corpse Raven is a maniac whom Mekria brought to Arcazam as her personal bodyguard, a mercenary who possessed extraordinary skills as an assassin.
He has reaped so many lives and shed so much blood that his nickname, which had taken root as an omen of death, became the name by which he is known.
Among the people he has killed, there are some who belong to the "S" rank, and his ability and lunacy to easily kill even his employers have earned him a reputation as a dangerous man of the highest level in many countries.
"It seems that before coming to Arcazam, he was employed by the Cremazzone Empire."
The Cremazzone Empire. The moment that name was mentioned, Egrod's stern gaze hardened even more.
"By any chance, was the Corpse Raven hired at that time?"
"Yes. He was a member of the Vuitton faction that won the war."
The Cremazzone Empire is a powerful nation, but for the past decade or so it has been fraught with internal strife due to factional rivalries within the country.
Recently, however, the main figures of one faction died one after another, and the factional conflicts were quickly resolved.
And if the side that won the conflict had a presumed S-rank assassin who was "hired by the hypothetical enemy" to come to Arcazam immediately after the conflict was resolved, the situation would become all the more suspicious.
"Honestly, I don't trust her. It is true that her abilities are outstanding, but I don't know what she is thinking, and above all, I don't know where she comes from."
Another problem here would be that Mekria herself was of unknown origin.
Mekria was a woman who had served in the Fabran family even before Egrod had yet to become the head of the family.
According to her own story, she was from a village that was destroyed in a bandit attack, and she studied under a master of the stream techniques, but her master passed away.
After that, she was looking for a place to work to make ends meet, and came to Fabran of her own accord.
"But she is a capable woman. She has a good track record."
At first, Egrod thought that Mekria was a mere young girl of unknown origins, but she has made many accomplishments with her outstanding skills.
She even helped to put the foolish former head of the family into retirement, and her achievements were second to none among Egrod's subordinates.
However, Egrod is also one of the sly-old-fox aristocrats.
He sensed that Mekria was hiding some kind of ambition behind her courtesy to him.
"She is certainly ambitious. I don't know what she really wants, but she has an unusual ambition inside of her. But whatever ambition she harbors, if it actually benefits us, she will be rewarded accordingly..."
Whatever her ambitions might be, if they were not hostile, and if they were accompanied by actual benefits, Egrod would give proper credit to her accomplishments.
He believed that a ruler needed to be able to swallow both the clean and the dirty.
In fact, he has awarded Mekria with a considerable fortune and a spacious mansion.
But at the same time, it meant that if she were to betray him, he would eliminate her immediately.
"As for the Francilt family, it seems that they are starting to negotiate with the Waziart family... I wonder, is it really possible? To negotiate with such a dangerous race like vampires..."
The common perception of vampires is that they are monsters that suck human blood and turn them into monsters.
They have a long life span, powerful magic, and numerous unusual abilities.
Even if one were to take into account their weaknesses, such as the fact that they cannot survive without blood, they are still a race that is much more powerful than humans.
In fact, there are stories of villages and towns destroyed by these blood-crazed vampires, and one would normally think that negotiation with such a race would be impossible.
"If it were ten years ago, it would have been impossible. But now, if we set up the conditions and limit the number of people in contact with them, it would not be impossible, although it would be difficult..."
However, contrary to Berdik's expectation, Egrod's words were an approval of the Francilt family's actions.
Berdik tilted his head at his master's words, which were contrary to his own opinion.
"My Lord, are you acquainted with vampires?"
"No. Vampires, for example, have not been out in the public eye for the last hundred years. But if we knew that there is a possibility that we can have a chance to study them, it would be a different story. In that sense, this city's raison d'être is not something to be abandoned."
Berdik could not fully read Egrod's thoughts.
But he was also convinced that if his master said it was possible, then it must be true.
Berdik had been discovered by Egrod when he was just a soldier, and he had risen to the rank of Knight Commander.
He was so proud of his own loyalty to Egrod that he was willing to kill even the king if Egrod wished to do so.
"Anyway, there is no need to worry about it now. Just keep monitoring and gathering information."
Egrod ended the conversation by saying, in unspoken terms, that he would slay them mercilessly if they turned against him.
Berdik, the leader of the Knights of the Iron Skeleton, also returned a deep bow to his master's intention.
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