A Barbaric Proposal - Chapter 55
Chapter 55 | A Leash
[Klimah] –‘It’ll be like a maze. The fires will go out soon, so don’t worry about them and focus on counting your steps. You can’t rely on your eyes here. Rely only on the number of steps you’re taking.’
Klimah told her about the path back to the castle in great detail. Rienne didn’t realize the underground of the castle was so intense, nor did she realize there was a road to the outside here.
[Klimah] –’Even the Kleinfelders don’t know about this path.’
Only Sir Henton knew about it. Klimah said this was the route he took to escape with Prince Fernand.
Given that Sir Henton was a member of the Guardian Knights of the Gainers family, it would’ve been something only those two factions would know about. It was probably a secret passage that was reserved should a crisis ever befall the Gainers family.
[Rienne] “But the knights of the Gainers family all died that day, so no one else likely knows about this anymore.”
Now only two people knew about it. Well, three if she counted herself.
The path she was on had no end in sight, and it was a little frightening how it felt like the walls were narrowing in on her. And she couldn’t call the path she was on a simple ‘road’, either. There were some strange structures as well.
[Rienne] “It’s not a door, but it’s not a wall either…What is it?”
It would be nice if she could take a closer look, but it was too dark and she had no light source with her.
[Rienne] “Even if I were to look at the royal records, I doubt there would be anything written about it. They must’ve passed this information along through word of mouth.”
Rienne took her eyes away from the barely visible silhouette, recounting her steps in her head.
[Rienne] “Have the fires gone out already?”
Klimah said that the fires he set were only meant to act as a diversion to take attention away from her, so they weren’t that serious. At least she could take some comfort in that.
[Rienne] “But I’m sure it was still hard to deal with. And everyone has probably noticed that I’ve gone missing by now……”
So, what was going on now because of that?
She was a little scared to think about it.
[Rienne] “. . .”
Suddenly, Rienne’s ankles staggered, and she stopped moving as she felt her body sway.
But she had to think about it, even if it was scary.
Black didn’t know the exact reason why Rienne had disappeared. He might be trying to look for her, but obviously he hadn’t found her yet.
And if she told him she disappeared of her own accord, he definitely wouldn’t believe her.
But if he knew the servant had kidnapped her, that would only worsen Klimah’s sin.
Did that man know Sir Henton’s family was still alive? He probably didn’t. And because he didn’t know, he didn’t do anything about it. If he’d known Sir Henton’s son was being used as an assassin for the Kleinfelder family, he would not have allowed it to continue.
So, in that case, would it be better for her to conceal Klimah’s identity?
Her head was starting to ache. Rienne hurried her steps but the moment she sped up too quickly, she tried to calm herself down, soft yet heavy sighs leaving her as she did.
If that man knew she’d spoken to the servant like this, he would guess that she’d heard about his real name, too.
I don’t know who Prince Fernand is. To me, his name is only Lord Tiwakan, Rienne reminded herself.
So…..they should just get married as soon as possible. That way she could quietly hand control of everything to him. That was the best she could do to atone. That was the right thing to do now.
But in order to do that, first they needed to cross the vast mountain known as the Treaty of Risebury.
And for that, the Kleinfelders needed to disappear.
The Kleinfelders were the focal point of the six families. They were so influential that if they were to disappear, rather than simply one family out of six going away, the power of the remaining five would be cut in half.
And I think I know now what the Treaty of Risebury truly represents.
It was a debt to the crown.
The price of the crown obtained by the previous king was treason. And it was the six families who put that crown atop his head.
But from that moment on, the crown the Arsak family wore was no longer a symbol of royalty or power, but a leash bound to their necks.
That was the reason why the king was tied to the six families, and Rienne couldn’t believe she was only realizing this now.
[Rienne] “That’s why…..”
……Why the Kleinfelders could act as they did.
To them, she wasn’t royalty. She was an accomplice to their dirty deeds.
[Rienne] “…..But now, I’m going to escape from that.”
The bindings of that sin from twenty-one years ago. The six families—no, the seven families had to pay for the heinous sin they committed back then.
Rienne clenched her fists as hard as she could.
I am going to fix this with my own hands. That will be my atonement.
Her heart ached, perhaps having lost the resolve to ever use the words ‘love’ and ‘affection’, only ever speaking of her desire to atone.
* * *
[Mercenary] “We were mistaken, my Lord. She’s not here, either.”
[Black] “…….Is that so?”
Black turned his head, looking back at the massive mansion that had been completely overturned, down to the last bottle of wine in the cellar.
Over a day and a half had passed since Rienne disappeared.
And in that time, the Tiwakan tirelessly searched all places where someone could’ve hidden her.
The first place they stormed was the Temple.
He didn’t even have to think about it to know the Kleinfelders were responsible, so he concluded that they wouldn’t have taken her back to their mansion.
Right at dawn, the defenseless Temple was wiped clean, every corner of it searched and checked for the presence of Rienne or the servant—a known agent of the Kleinfelders. And as they violently tore through the Temple, what was repaired of the stairs was again completely destroyed.
Then there was the Rosadel estate.
The one who visited Linden Kleinfelder in the dungeons with Ellaroiden was the head of the Rosadel family. If he wanted to root out anyone related to the Kleinfelders who could’ve had a hand in this, this was the next logical step.
As the mercenaries marched to the Rosadel estate, somehow their soldiers knew they were coming. The Rosadel soldiers ran to block the road like ants, shouting something or other about Risebury, but he didn’t care.
It was then that Black laughed.
It was a mocking laugh, not loud enough to be heard by anyone, but he literally laughed at how ridiculously foolish it was for them to think they could actually stop him with such small numbers.
They still didn’t understand what the name ‘Tiwakan’ meant yet.
It was clear they didn’t think too hard on why the head of the Tiwakan was rumored to be the illegitimate son of the God of War.
[Black] –‘Stay out of my way.’
With those words, Black had drawn his sword.
Phermos sighed, ordering the rest of the mercenaries back.
[Phermos] –‘You’re going to do this alone? Very well. We will wait here, but don’t put too much effort into it. These people aren’t worth it.’
Disappointed, the rest of the mercenaries stowed their blades.
There were sixteen soldiers in total sent by the Rosadel family to intercept them. He could easily tell their skill level just by looking at how they held their weapons. In Black’s eyes, these sixteen men were just like helpless children.
And the time it took for him to completely annihilate them was over in an instant.
If this were their usual battlefield, obviously he would’ve ordered his men to loot the bodies for whatever useful weapons and belongings they might have, but that was far from his mind right now.
[Mercenary] –‘Sir, there’s one alive. I think he’s still breathing. Should we just let ‘em go?’
Pointing to a body on the ground, a mercenary called out to him.
Black’s answer was simple.
He shook the blood from his blade, gripping the hilt tightly as he strode back towards the near-lifeless body, quickly running the blade across the soldier’s throat, nearly sundering the head from the rest of the body. All without any hesitation.
[Black] –‘The Kleinfelders are next.’
That was when Black had a change of plans.
[Black] –‘If we break them down enough, someone will crawl out eventually.’
At this point, it didn’t matter if Rienne wasn’t there. If he showed his willingness to completely decimate anyone and anything in his path, then whoever had her would eventually bring her back to him.
He wanted to respect Rienne’s wishes, so he tried his hardest to avoid war with the six families, but none of that mattered anymore.
He should’ve killed them all sooner.
He should have persuaded Rienne that none of this would end until they were gone. She wanted to avoid plunging Nauk into war, dividing the nation, but sometimes that was necessary in order to purge them of rotten parts.
Once they arrived at the Kleinfelder estate, the Tiwakan bashed through the door without knocking. They’d done it before, so it wasn’t difficult this time around.
And as the soldiers arrived to defend their lord-less mansion, they were all swiftly and violently killed—their heads cleaved from their shoulders.
They were like children, but it still took some time to deal with them all since their numbers were great. But even then, it took less than three hours for the Tiwakan to take complete control over the Kleinfelder estate.
The front courtyard was like a battlefield. Scattered around the grounds were bloodied corpses, decapitated heads, the few lucky survivors, and the occasional servant, trying to escape the mess.
[Black] “Find those who can speak. Even if the Kleinfelders get wiped out, tell them they can keep their heads if they talk.”
[Mercenary] “Yes, sir.”
As always, the Tiwakan worked quickly.
The most important thing when it came to finding a missing person was speed. Every second counted. After traveling the battlefield for a decade, both taking and rescuing hostages was something he’d done many times. From experience, Black knew that the fastest, most decisive of methods worked the best.
[Phermos] “I actually thought that the servant may have been hiding her here.”
Phermos approached Black from the side.
[Black] “. . .”
[Phermos] “If we can’t find her this easily, then he must’ve hidden her somewhere very carefully. People who were in contact with the Kleinfelder in the dungeons came here and communicated something to the servant, so he might be up to something.”
Phermos’ guess wasn’t wrong.
It was just that Klimah hadn’t brought Rienne back to the Kleinfelder estate.
[Phermos] “How nice it would’ve been if he were simple minded enough to return here instead.”
Phermos paused, speaking with little confidence in his voice.
[Phermos] “But…..he seems oddly trained. I doubt the death of the High Priest was the only thing he was responsible for. Either he’s extremely lucky, or he’s far too skilled at killing.”
[Black] “. . .”
Black’s brow twitched. Seeing that, Phermos immediately amended his statement.
[Phermos] “Well, being trained doesn’t necessarily mean he’s any kind of tactical genius. If he were smart, he wouldn’t act as a servant of the Kleinfelder family while disguising his identity. Especially not if there’s no reward involved.”
[Black] “. . .”
But for Black, who knew exactly who Klimah was, those words were more complex than that.
Even if Manau hadn’t begged him not to, Black had no intention of killing Sir Henton’s first son. Sir Henton had shed too much blood to save one royal prince’s life for him to do that.
And among those lives was the life of his youngest son.
Whether he wanted to be or not, after he’d returned to Nauk alive, he owed them a debt. And he wasn’t about to let that debt go unpaid.
[Black] “…..But it can’t be helped.”
Things were different if Rienne was involved. Even if Sir Henton’s son was working against his better judgement, if he did anything to her, the weight of that debt would disappear like smoke.
[Phermos] “What do you mean, sir?”
But right when Phermos asked his question—
[Mercenary] “My Lord! I found something!”
They finally received some long awaited news.
Even before Phermos could feel any relief, Black was already pushing past him, running off followed by the sound of wind.
* * *
[Mercenary] “This is it.”
What the Tiwakan had found was a hiding space in the detached house.
Well, they were using the words hiding space pretty loosely. To be honest, looking around the place, torture chamber was probably a better way to describe it.
The interior of the house was small and shabby—the air so stuffy, even breathing was difficult. Then, in the corner of the room was a bed, underneath which, there was a hollow gap, a little wider than a coffin.
Feeling around, there was a hidden trap door there, and when it was completely opened, placed inside was a prayer book and a whip studded with sharp blades.
[Phermos] “This must be where the servant was hiding.”
Phermos muttered, clicking his tongue in exasperation as he looked around.
[Phermos] “Find whoever lives here and bring them forward.”
[Mercenary] “Already got ‘em. Here.”
Pushing forward from the outside, another mercenary was grabbing onto the arm of a frail old woman, pulling her into the room.
[Mercenary] “I think she said she owns this room, but I couldn’t really tell. She isn’t really all there in the head, and she doesn’t talk much.”
The moment the mercenary let go of the woman’s arm, she collapsed onto the floor with a dull sound.
The woman was so skinny, it was hard to look at her. The mercenary’s handling of her wasn’t even particularly rough, but she looked frightened out of her mind.
Her hair was lined with white streaks and the wrinkles set around her mouth had deepened considerably, but Black immediately recognized who the woman was.
It was the wife of Sir Henton.
Perhaps she was the reason why the Kleinfelders were able to use Sir Henton’s son as an assassin.
Black narrowed his eyes.
[Black] “……..Where is your son?”
[Mrs. Henton] “……?”
The woman looked up at him, the look in her eyes so shocked, it was as though she’d been struck with something.
[Mrs. Henton] “N, no…no……”
[Black] “Just tell me if he’s here or not. I won’t ask anything else of you.”
[Mrs. Henton] “……..!”
She opened her mouth widely, though she couldn’t make any sounds.
But Mrs. Henton also recognized Black.
That little prince who disappeared twenty-one years ago, wearing her son’s clothing while holding tightly onto her husband’s hand as they fled.
There was no way on earth she could forget such pale blue eyes.
There was no way on earth she could forget such pale blue eyes.
Last time she saw one with such eyes was when he was wearing the clothing her son once wore. And if it weren’t for those eyes, she might have even mistaken him for her own child.
Fooling herself into believing the boy who was bleeding after her husband stabbed him in the chest with his blade was truly Prince Fernand.
But she couldn’t forget.
She would always recognize him.