I didn’t chat with Sisi for long. Anyway, we reached a common conclusion; however, she didn’t plan to stop me from going to the South. I left the palace in the afternoon. The imperial palace was most lively at night, yet it was evidently tense this time. I didn’t know if it was due to my arrival or not.
As I went to get on the carriage, someone pressed their hand on the door all of a sudden. He was a strange man wearing a hat and a dusty windbreaker. I thought he was a beggar at first glance, but I doubt there’d be a beggar with a notepad and pen.
“Apologies for holding you up, Count Lin Dongqing. If you do not mind, would I be able to ask you a few questions?” The man with the messy beard bowed.
The coach checked for my reaction. Since I didn’t display too much hate, he didn’t chase the man off. I didn’t think there were journalists in the era we were in. He might’ve just been an errand boy for some official, though. I had plenty of experience dealing with journalists and the paparazzi, and they were much worse than the man in front of me.
I nodded: “What do you want?”
“Thank you very much for listening to me, Count Lin Dongqing. I came to ask about the war in the South. Her Majesty has not made any comments on it all this time. She has not drafted men or enforced martial law. She, as a matter of fact, has not made any preparations. Lots of people are looking to do leverage the war for business, but it has not started. The nobles are also wondering when to flee the imperial capital. You are a high-ranking official; you would not be back here solely for a honeymoon, would you? Do you have any news you could share with us?”
I called it. I have to give credit where it’s due: he was a brave soul. If Count Lin Dongqing was an unreasonable man and a cold-blooded killer as Veirya was, he’d be dead already. He either had to be someone who could do anything for money or he knew me incredibly well.
“This concerns national politics; it’s not your business. There’s no need for you to ask, is there?”
“Count Lin, I believe you know that information is money.”
He kept his hand pressed firm on the door. I didn’t mind sharing the news. In saying that, I had to avoid inciting panic. Sisi and Veirya were pregnant. Therefore, I couldn’t live in a chaotic city with soaring prices. I had to be cautious.
“… I’m sure you already know that a war has started. We don’t decide if there’s a war or not. It’s already started. The moment they invaded our lands with hostile intent was the moment the war started.”
“So, you mean to say that Her Majesty will continue the war and kill all of the enemies at all costs?”
“No, I never said that. I’m not a military general, and I certainly can’t decide if the magnitude of the war will worsen. I only provide suggestions. Her Majesty makes the decisions. If those are the sorts of questions you have, you’re better off asking Her Majesty personally.”
I made sure to quickly shoot down his claim. He spiced up my statements on his own accord. All I said was that a war at started, Her Majesty’s political decisions weren’t my business.
I had no need to continue talking to him, so I pressed my hand on his. “I must be on my way now. If you’re done asking questions, you should get going, as well. I don’t know much more than you do. See you.”
“Ah, oh, sure, sure. I wish you a happy marriage,” he expressed, releasing his hand.
I placed my cane into the carriage then got in. He shut the door and then tapped on the carriage, signalling for the coach to go. I buried my face in my hands and began to think.
I couldn’t let the two kids go yet for I had some questions to ask. I was unsure if others from their place could communicate with me. Nevertheless, I had a translator around. I could communicate with the boy, which meant that his people could communicate with us. In other words, they weren’t barbarians. They must’ve had their own culture that just happened to differ from our own. I needed a spectacular victory to attain the power to start negotiations. I could also bring Leah, who could help me negotiate with them. She had a passive ability to win people’s trust and make them friendly with her, which was my security measure. I needed to go to the South. All I hopped was that there wouldn’t be any danger and take too long.
When I reached our house, the steward took my cape from me and courteously asked, “Count Lin, did you meeting with Her Majesty go smoothly?”
“Oh, yes, it did. Thanks for asking.”
“I am glad to hear that. Would you like some tea and rest now or do you have other plans?”
“I’ll take a break.”
When I reached the stairs, I caught Ross peeking out from the corner, ears up as straight as blades. He looked grumpy as though he was bullied. He ran over to me and in a loud voice, inquired, “Count Lin, is there something you are not pleased with me about, or are you sick of my dull self?”
“Huh? No.” I didn’t know what Ross was talking about. I had just returned and had yet to say anything.
“Th-then why did you bring a boy back?! Is he your pupil, too?! Why do you need another pupil when you have Ross already?! Is it my fault?!”
“Hang on a second. Ross, one, you’re a boy. Second, he’s not my pupil. Third, in the scenario that he was my pupil, you have no reason to be jealous! There’s a monogamy law, but there’s no law against having two pupils!”
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