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    “It’s getting late. Shall I go up and check?”

    Kin cautiously asked Karas, who was staring intently at the stairs. Karas, who had shifted his weight onto one leg, remained silent as if he had no intention of doing anything until Abel and his companions, who had gone to the second floor, came back down. However, the prolonged silence was also because the lord had not yet made a choice.

    Would he die instantly, or would he die in agony?

    At first, he was so overwhelmed with fear that he couldn’t think, but as Karas began to gaze at the stairs without urging him, curiosity arose within the lord.

    Who exactly was that man, and why was he trying to uncover the secrets of the duchy?

    However, his curiosity was soon replaced by resentment and anger.

    “It’s a mistake to think that killing us all will cover up your sins.”

    The lord muttered quietly, looking up at Karas who slowly turned his gaze towards him.

    “This atrocity you’ve committed by recklessly invading another’s territory will surely be repaid in kind. If you kill my innocent family, I won’t forgive you, even from the grave!”

    As the lord spat out his words venomously, Kin stepped forward with his sword.

    “Shut up! You are dying because you are guilty. Be grateful you can pay for your sins with death.”

    “Guilty? Guilty of what? What crime have we committed?!”

    The lord shouted until a blue vein popped on his forehead, and Kin pointed at his son.

    “Is he your son?”

    The lord, feeling a sudden unease, nodded to confirm, and Kin spoke briefly.

    “That’s your crime.”

    Kin then turned his head away from the lord, who was frozen in shock and looked at his wife and three daughters.

    “Having him as a family member is your collective sin.”

    The eyes of the lord’s family all turned to the trembling fake. The lord soon cried out, demanding to know what he had done, but the fake, terrified, only repeated what he had said earlier to his father.

    “What good will it do you to know? Now, now there’s nothing left but to die. So just tell him everything you know so we can die peacefully!”

    The lord, clenching his teeth, glared at his son and then looked back up at Karas.

    “Whatever my son did, it’s not a reason to kill my entire family. I don’t know who you are, but…”

    “Shut up! This person is someone…”

    Kin tried to explain about Karas, but Karas stopped him with a hand. He looked down at the lord with an amused expression and spoke dryly.

    “Let him die unjustly.”

    With that, he turned towards the women.

    Swoosh.

    He dragged his sword to the ground and stood in front of the lord’s wife and daughters. Karas slowly raised his sword and brought it to the face of one of the daughters who’s in the lord’s wife’s arms.

    “Open your eyes.”

    “Ah! No, please. S-Spare us.”

    The lord’s wife screamed as she tried to push her daughter behind her. However, Karas, with his sword, showed no reaction, as if he had no heart. Just then, someone interfered.

    “Huff, huff, there is no one!”

    Abel, who jumped down from the second floor, shouted towards the hall and then gasped for breath, his shoulders trembling. Then, seeing Karas pointing his sword at one of the daughters, his eyes widened. He also noticed that the way he held the sword was different from usual. It was a posture not to cut the throat, but as if to stab something.

    Realizing that the tip of his sword was aimed at the girl’s eye, Abel’s blood ran cold. He looked up at Karas, but this time, he realized that he couldn’t stop his emotionless gray eyes with any words. The clever arguments that had stopped him before by saying something about bugs would no longer work.

    It is inevitable. Like Melmond had said, Karas’ killing was something inevitable, but Abel’s heart couldn’t accept it. He turned his gaze to the girl’s mother, the lord’s wife. She was looking at him with teary eyes, shocked by Abel’s shout. Seeing her eyes, as if she was confused as to whether he really hadn’t found the newborn baby, Abel spoke in a calmer voice this time.

    “There was no one. We searched all the way to the bedroom, but there was no one.”

    The lord’s wife recognized the truth in Abel’s green eyes as he talked. That her child was hidden in a safe place.

    However, the other person, who was helping her, had his eyes full of guilt. Tears seemed to overflow from his large eyes at any moment. The lord’s wife felt a rush of heat rising to her throat. Then, as if she had made up her mind, she looked up at Karas and whispered.

    “I will tell you. I also know the secret about Duke Truyde that this household knows.”

    Karas’ eyes, which was staring at Abel, quickly turned back to the lord’s wife. Although the lord shouted not to say anything to his wife, she opened her mouth to Karas as if determined.

    “In exchange for telling you, let my children and I die peacefully.”

    “Fine.”

    With his consent, the lord’s wife, trembling, began to speak.

    “It is said that my husband’s ancestor was a knight for the Duke’s family, he did dangerous things for the Duke’s family. The Duke makes a special poison, and only the Duke’s successor can know the method and obtain its ingredients.”

    Abel and his companions listened tensely to her words. Could they finally obtain information about the poison? However, the following content was completely different.

    “However, the Duke was always afraid. Because there was a place where only the Duke’s secret could be found. So, the Duke secretly ordered the knights to investigate that place. That’s exactly what my husband’s ancestor did.”

    “Where is that place?”

    When Kin asked softly, the lord’s wife sighed and mentioned the name of a certain family.

    “It is Marquis Yan, one of the families in the King’s Heart.”

    ⊹˚. ♡.𖥔 ݁ ˖ ⊹˚. ♡.𖥔 ݁ ˖

    Unlike other nobles, Marquis Yan was the type to wake up early. He had long since stopped attending parties or indulging in a decadent nightlife. But recently, he had many worries, causing him sleepless nights. Thus, he sent away occasional guests, but there was one persistent guest who troubled his servants.

    It was Duncan, whom he had previously given a few coins to and driven away. After receiving a message, the marquis ordered the servant to dismiss him without hearing more.

    “But Duke Duncan insisted that I must show you this.”

    At the servant’s words, Yan accepted the note he handed him. The contents were brief, but he stared at it for a long time before instructing the servant to bring in the guest. Meanwhile, Yan sat in his chair and looked at the note again.

    [Truyde aims to make the King’s Heart his own. The next one to collapse will be Marquis Yan’s household.]

    After a while, with the servant’s words, “You have arrived.”

    Duncan, who now looked like a beggar, appeared in front of Yan.

    He was so thin and old that one could doubt how a person could change so suddenly. If it weren’t for his voice, he would have been mistaken for someone else as his appearance was so shabby. And with a politeness he had never seen before, he opened his mouth.

    “Don’t worry. I didn’t come to beg for money again.”

    The King’s Heart had always been equal regardless of rank. At least on the surface, that is. But now, Duncan was humbling himself as if acknowledging his lower status, and Marquis Yan saw no reason to stop him. He had already fallen to the lowest depths. Under Yan’s watchful gaze, Duncan continued earnestly.

    “I’ve come to warn you to beware of Truyde.”

    “Is it because he wants to make the King’s Heart his own?”

    When Yan raised the note, Duncan nodded.

    “Yes. He is already doing that. Of course, Marquis, you must have noticed, right? He deliberately brought my downfall.”

    Duncan gritted his teeth and spat out the words, his anger rising just at the thought.

    “The temple requires supplies for the prayer. We earned income with those supplies. They vary depending on the occasion. We even deceived people by selling spoiled grains as if they were infused with dragon’s breath, and disguised plain water as holy water. But do you know what they have changed it into now? It’s salt, salt.”

    The Marquis’ eyes narrowed at the word salt. Only war profiteers were associated with salt. Duncan’s following words proved that.

    “The one supplying salt is, of course, a war profiteer. But Marquis, do you know where the income goes to?”

    Duncan’s lips twisted as if he were smiling, but his eyes glowed darkly.

    “It’s Truyde. He said that the wicked war profiteer dedicated his salt mine to him.”

    “……”

    “That’s not all. All the property taken from me has also gone to Truyde! Isn’t this clear evidence that he is using war profiteers to destroy us?”

    The furious Duncan warned the silent Marquis.

    “Next will be you, Marquis. The emperor is coming back, but Truyde will fear the Marquis the most.”

    “Is that so?”

    When the Marquis responded calmly, despite his hardened eyes, Duncan’s expression turned cold.

    “I came here because the Marquis is the only person who has shown me kindness. Do not take my words lightly. Truyde’s next target is the Marquis. It’s not just because he already has the King’s Heart in his grasp.”

    “Then is there another reason?”

    “Yes, it wasn’t only Truyde who feared the Marquis. You know this, don’t you? Each of the King’s Hearts families has its own role, but the Yan family’s sole purpose is to maintain records for the royal family. There’s much talk about the secret of the dragon, but I always suspected one thing. That what you hold is something related to our King’s Heart.”

    Though Duncan’s voice lowered, his eyes gleamed with the madness of revenge. The Marquis looked at him for a while before standing up. Duncan, who had suddenly lost everything, seemed eager to incite the Marquis to fulfill his own vengeful desires. He waited for the Marquis’ reaction with expectant eyes. However, when the Marquis didn’t speak, Duncan urged him.

    “Truyde maintains his position by possessing a weapon that can kill the emperor. No one knows the secret, however, isn’t the Marquis different?”

    “……”

    “Then it will be too late once he has fallen. Don’t hesitate and use that secret to deal with Truyde right now.”

    “Then I guess, I’ll just have to fall.”

    The Marquis added indifferently, looking at Duncan.

    “I don’t know Duke Truyde’s secret. The records our family holds have nothing to do with the dragon’s secret nor the King’s Heart.”

    “Impossible.”

    Duncan widened his eyes in disbelief and glared at the Marquis.

    “That can’t be true. I heard it from my father. Only the Marquis can find out Truyde’s secret! If you’re trying to deceive me….”

    “What good would it do to deceive a beggar like you?”

    The Marquis asked Duncan and turned to the window.

    “What I have is of no use to us.”

    Facing outside, he silently added words that Duncan couldn’t understand.

    Except for one person.

    ⊹˚. ♡.𖥔 ݁ ˖ ⊹˚. ♡.𖥔 ݁ ˖

    “How can the Marquis know Truyde’s secret?”

    Kin asked the lord’s wife again, but she shook her head.

    “They tried to find out, but they failed. The only thing they knew for sure was that the Marquis had something hidden, and if they used it, they could find out everything that had happened in the past.”

    “What is this ‘something’?”

    The lord’s wife shook her head again as if she didn’t know. Then Abel asked.

    “So does that mean the Marquis can find out everything from the past using that?”

    The lord’s wife shook her head again.

    “No. The Marquis cannot use it. That’s why Duke Truyde is at ease. They say that there is only one person who can use it, even if they don’t know what it is.”

    “One person? Who is it?”

    The lord’s wife replied, looking straight at Abel.

    “It’s the real Regas.”

    ⊹˚. ♡.𖥔 ݁ ˖ ⊹˚. ♡.𖥔 ݁ ˖

    Neville returned to the lord’s manor when the sun was almost setting, after obtaining what was needed as ordered by the lord. Arriving at the lord’s manor exhausted, he noticed something strange from the entrance. The open door and the dark interior. Usually, at this time, torches would be lit, but the inside of the manor was dark and silent as if no one was present.

    Feeling uneasy, Neville got off from his horse and entered the manor gate, looking around.

    Where did everyone go?

    Normally, even the old servant who worked in the stables would come out and take the horse, but he couldn’t even see him.

    Having no choice, Neville led the horse to the stables himself. As he brought the horse to its usual place, he noticed that the carriage of the guest who had come earlier was missing.

    How strange?

    He thought the same thing again and just as he was about to tie up the horse, he heard a sound that shouldn’t be heard from here.

    “Waa, waa—”

    It was a small but clear cry of a newborn baby. Neville was startled and ran to where the sound was coming from. In a corner of the stable, there was a small space where the stable keeper cleaned the stable. And there, wrapped in a blanket, was a baby. Recognizing the baby instantly, Neville hurriedly picked her up.

    “No, my lady, why are you here?”

    He asked the lord’s youngest daughter, but the crying newborn baby couldn’t answer. Neville carried the baby and went into the house to find someone who could explain. He found out why the manor was so dark and why the gate was open.

    Everyone in the manor, including the lord and his family, was lying on the floor. Leaving bloody stains on the cold stone floor. The stench of blood still filled the air. Until he heard the baby’s cry again, Neville couldn’t move a single step, frozen in shock.

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