With a slide,
Mariv opened the drawer of the tea table to retrieve his glasses. Then, he gestured to his aide to bring the documents. Like a shadow, a man waiting nearby placed a report covered with a leather case before them.
Do you know of the magic stones?
Yes, I am aware.
Ian nodded politely with a proper seated bow, but Romandro, with his feet numb, ended up causing a commotion with his choking. It seemed Ian wanted to keep something about the magic stones hidden, yet the word had just come from the princes mouth.
As Mariv frowned, the aide approached with a handkerchief and gently suggested stepping outside. Coughing and spluttering in front of the prince was surely inappropriate.
Lord Romandro, perhaps you should get some fresh air outside.
Yes, indeed. Excuse me.
Romandro glanced worriedly at Ian as he rose, wondering if he could manage alone. But it was an unnecessary worry. Ian, undisturbed, continued to examine Marivs face.
With Romandro gone, Mariv put on his glasses and gestured. It was a sign that Ian could check the documents.
When the Ministry of Magic assigns a division, theyll likely consult your preferences first.
Ian smiled inwardly as he flipped through the pages. The first page was filled with information and illustrations of the high-grade magic stone, Luron. Had Romandro been there, choking would have been the least of his problems.
The Magic Stone Management Division is always short-staffed. Magicians only seem interested in their magical training and mental exploration, not so much in auxiliary research like magic stones.
It might be similar to how knights prefer wielding swords over researching weapons.
Seeing Sir Ian, it seems you have a deep talent for scholarly pursuit.
It was an order to join the Magic Stone Management Division.
Ian smiled and nodded. He would have to consider the overall situation, but in front of the prince, he had no choice but to agree.
Yes, Your Highness. I always feel a thirst for more knowledge due to my lack of learning.
Moreover, this was a significant gain, if nothing else.
To have the information about magic stones, which remained only in scattered, faint memories, organized and provided like this! Judging by the thickness of the report, it was clear that it was directly extracted from the Ministry of Magics information.
Thats fortunate. If you are assigned to the Magic Stone Management Division and inform us of the magic stone deposits, I will actively support your donation matter. Especially focus on the Luron mentioned on the very first page.
It wasnt an offer of ten thousand gold coins but a promise of assistance. It seemed to imply that he might convene the council again to reverse the decision
Ian momentarily lost his words and slightly opened his mouth. Setting aside the unfair proposal, he was trying to gauge Marivs intentions.
Ian was already aware of Gales intention to acquire the Luron magic stones. Since his main support was the Ministry of Magic, it was somewhat understandable. But the involvement of Mariv, who was entirely unrelated, suggested that more complex political maneuvers were at play.
And speaking of Luron deposits, doesnt that mean Bratz? Although there might be other places, Bratz is undoubtedly one of the major deposits.
What then, after its discovery?
If the intent was to monopolize Luron before Gale, things could become simpler. But on the contrary
What if the plan is to eliminate Luron so Gale cant use it?
Like Gale, Ian would find Mariv a challenging figure to deal with. Not to mention the mines of Bratz, the Luron Ian had brought could evaporate in an instant.
Ian bowed his head for now, showing his intention to obey the command.
Thank you for your words. I will do my best.
Mariv, seemingly satisfied, smiled and removed his glasses. From experience, those who didnt question why when given orders usually performed well. Curiosity piqued, Mariv continued with a question.
By the way, Sir Ian, are you always so compliant in your responses? We havent known each other for long, yet all your responses are so positive, it makes me wonder.
Ian met Marivs blue eyes. It was hard to read the expression of a prince, but he could sense a subtle playfulness. It was a question that would have been deemed highly threatening by someone else.
Ian promptly averted his gaze and responded.
Ever since Lord Romandro was dispatched to the frontier, I considered myself in the presence of Your Highness Mariv.
Dislikes her, it seems.
It would be more accurate to say he disregards her.
Romandro, as if each word weighed heavily upon him, coughed unnecessarily and looked around, even though it was just him and Ian in the carriage.
It seems likely that the next Emperor will come from among the other princes.
It was just a corridor he passed through every day out of habit. A definitive catalyst was needed to bring forth unconsciously ingrained information, something as direct as the current Emperors face, for example.
We shall see them all at the New Years celebration.
Unless something extraordinary happens, that is. Its the most important and grand event in the Empire.
The New Years celebration. Even setting aside the title conferment ceremony, it was bound to be a significant occasion. Ian noticed the scenery changing in the darkness as they neared the central main building of the Second Imperial Palace.
Were almost there.
Unconsciously, Ian pressed his face against the window.
Please, let me off here.
If Lord Romandro is spotted near the Ministry of Magic, it could lead to unwanted rumors. My face isnt well-known yet, so it should be fine for me.
Its alright. I just plan to step out and take a look around.
It was a logical argument. If Romandro, known as Marivs subordinate, was seen loitering, who knows what rumors might spread? In the Imperial Palace, even ones breathing had to be cautious.
Ian. If something happens, come running.
What could possibly happen in the Imperial Palace, Lord Romandro?
Ian glanced back at him as he stepped out of the carriage.
Just in case. What if he found traces of Naums magic in the annex? And what if he could return to his original form, his original time? This could be the last moment Ian shared with Romandro.
Ah, yes. I should have properly said goodbye to Beric.
That was a bit regrettable. But what could be done?
After all, I was never meant to be here.
Ian patted Romandros shoulder and smiled bitterly.
I truly thank you. And for taking good care of Beric too.
Why all of a sudden? Hurry back. Beric will throw a fit if youre late.
Ian didnt respond to the encouragement to return quickly. He just left a smile behind and followed the familiar path. At some point, he realized he was running as his breath became heavier.
Back to the original world, and to find Naum-
To save him . Naum, Ians sole mentor and friend.
A small building made of salmon-colored bricks came into view. It was a rest area used by the Ministry of Magics guards. Turning here would lead directly to the annex.
His heart pounded, but his steps came to an abrupt halt.
The annex is gone.
Gone . Instead of the expected Ministry of Magics annex, dozens of majestic trees stood in its place. It was too unkempt to be a garden, yet too structured with randomly placed flagpoles to be a natural space.
Ian walked between the trees, unable to hide his dismay. Moonlight filtered brightly through the swaying branches. The colorful flags fluttered in the wind as well. The sense of wonder was fleeting, as Ian turned at the sound of someone approaching from behind.
Aha. You must be Ian?
The man had black hair and piercing eyes, his large and sturdy physique coupled with sharply cut features giving off a decidedly cold impression. Despite the entirely different aura, Ian immediately recognized him as Marivs brother.
What a pleasure. I am Gale.