“We have wasted far too much time just getting there and back. We really need to figure out a better way to get there,” Ash complains when the inn fades into the background as the carriage sets.
"Should we push it through?” he asks quietly out of nowhere.
I shake my head. “Not yet. We're not ready.”
“We have been prepared for years.”
I shrug. “I don’t know. I want more.”
His brows draw together but abandons the subject seeing that I don’t want to talk about it.
Thirteen years in this world and I became aware of a lot of things regarding the knowhow of this world. First, this world is based on my own worldbuilding which I used in my books Vendetta and Inamorata. Vendetta happened decades ago and Inamorata is just beginning to unfold. Second, Inamorata was not finished, but the things that I outlined will happen regardless. Since those were just guides for me, I had forgotten most of what I outlined even before I died and reincarnated as Iris. Mariana won’t help me, but I understand her. Ningning… our bond is practically non-existent.
It doesn’t take us long to wait for Kloud. I smile and wave at him when I see him approaching us. Ash remains silent and stays in the background as I hand Kloud a box of macarons we bought from the market. “I hope you like them, Kloud.”
“Merl’s Bakery? Those are delicious!" He takes the box and opens it, he flips it to the top so he can see the muffins inside. “You can have the chocolate ones. I will have the strawberries."
"Ash’ll want the strawberries too. Share with him,” I tell him as he hands me back the box, knowing he'll want to eat them all.
“Come. We need to go back now before the sun sets.” I’m sure that Father already got word of Babos’ death. I need to be there for my plan to go through.
Kloud and Ash board the carriage after me, with Kloud sitting beside me and Ash in front of us. Kloud rubs his eyes as we drive back to the Royal City; he begins to nod off as he closes his eyes. I look down at his hands and notice that his fingers are fiddling with a bracelet that hangs from his wrist.
"What is that?" I ask as I slide my hand towards his.
“It is a special charm that the High Oracle gave to me,” he whispers, his eyes still closed. He opens them slowly as I grab his wrist. “The bead that is attached to the bracelet contains mana.”
I give a stunted nod. I had no idea that the High Oracle would make contact with someone like my brother. Did Mariana tell him to do that?
“It is very sacred then, not meant to be exposed,” Ash comments as he eyes the transparent bead with something moving inside it, a faint light glow that resembles my brother’s eyes.
I grasp the bead in my hand. “Hold on to it.”
“Yes, Sister,” Kloud breathes out and clenches his fist around the bead.
“Do you think Royal Father will bestow me the Grand Kaser?" Kloud asks out of nowhere, his voice is full of excitement and doubt.
I think for a moment. "Truthfully, I do not want to assume, but I am sure that if you show great results, then Father will give that to you."
Ash nods his head in agreement, his hands crossed against his chest. “What your sister said is correct. Grand Kaser is the staff that the Great Elder Kaiser used at his peak. It has so much historical value that none were able to own it after the Great Elder died.”
"Then, I will show Royal Father that I am worthy of the staff," Kloud says with great resolve in his voice, though the doubt in his eyes remains.
"I’m sure you will, Brother. I’m sure you will." I lean back, rolling my shoulders.
“I had no idea my evaluation would take so long to complete. You said it took you less than an hour, including the time spent waiting for your turn. Mine took hours!”
“It’s because you’re an Acquirer,” I tell him. “Mine was like, ‘here I am, my name is Ningning, you’re Iris, right? Let’s be friends!’ While yours have those symbols and dreams and calling and whatever.”
Ash swallows his saliva and shakes his head in amazement and disbelief. “Your vocabulary is really… something. And the fact that both of us understood what you were saying is both amusing and disturbing.”
“Oh, pish posh!” I imitate the way people here act, exaggerating my pronunciation and mannerisms, snapping my fan open and covering half of my face with it while slightly swaying my wrist back and forth.
“You will send Hara Licentia in her sickbed,” Ash deadpans.
“Brother Ash is right, Sister. The Queen will be very disappointed if she sees you do that. Fluttering ones fan as it covers half of one's face is an act of—”
“Urgh! Stop right there, you two. I only act this way because it’s you guys. I’m not gonna act scumbag-y if there’s other people.”
The carriage enters the Royal City and immediately proceeds to Namayana Palace. After dropping off Kloud at the western residence, the carriage arrives at my residence, where Ash and I disembark.
Ash now has a room in the guest chambers on the first floor of my house. I told him to just stay in one of the empty bedchambers on the second floor, but he refused to move in on the same floor as me since it would be seen as indecent.
"Your father would be proud though." I teased him that time. He didn't like that. I knew it was insensitive of me to make that joke, but I did it anyway. And I deserved that flick on the forehead he gave me that time.
My room is completely silent except for the dog's breathing and the cat's meows. As I change into a new skirt and blouse, I hear my name called from the other side of the room. I call back and poke my head out of the walk-in closet.
“You should have called on me, My Lady,” Jenna says as she enters the room with a basket of laundry in her hands. “It’s my job to do everything for you.”
“I can do it on my own now, Jenna. But, thanks anyway.”
She walks to the closet adjacent to the bathroom and puts my things inside. “How was the young prince’s evaluation, My Lady?”
I shrug even though she doesn’t see me. “He wanted to be a Wielder and he’s now one. With his obsession with swordsmanship, he'll be a sword master in no time, maybe surpassing Brother Azraq. If Father gives him the Great Kaser and he acquires a large number of mana stones, he may really be able to surpass him.”
“That is nice to hear.” She walks out of the walk-in closet and starts playing with the cat, who hisses at her.
“It still hates you, huh.”
“At the very least, she is no longer scratching me whenever I approach her.”
A knock on the door draws our attention. Jenna opens the door and I see Sir Jigis entering with a pile of papers in his hands.
“Mayari dwerva, Jigis,” I greet the aging man.
“Mayari dwerva, Dayang,” he greets back. “A summons is dispatched from the King’s palace. He wishes to speak with you. An escort is waiting for you downstairs.”
“In that case, I better hurry.” I nod to him and walk ahead to the drawing room where a designated citizen stands alone in the room.
“Dayang Iris,” the man bows and I nod.
“Let us go. I do not want to make Father wait.”
It is time. The news of Babos' death has reached Father's ears.
Time for an Oscar-worthy performance.
I walk to the main door of Father's office and the designated citizen announces my arrival. I am let in and Brother Lothario and Brother Azraq are already inside. I greet them formally, Father first, then Brother Lothario, and finally Brother Azraq. The door closes and Brother Lothario starts talking immediately.
“Babos is dead.”
I gasp and place my trembling hands over my mouth. I was speechless. I stare at Brother Lothario for a moment and then I look back at Brother Azraq. He, on the other hand, is in silence. He stares at Father and the other says nothing.
“H-how come…? Why— I mean, it’s good that the pig is dead— I mean… sorry for the language.” I raise a hand to my head and clear my throat.
Father rises from his chair. “Some people broke into his house and ransacked it. The majority of valuables and important documents were taken. It is determined that a rival organization did it because some of his underground business was ransacked as well.”
“There appears to be a snitch; the operation was too clean, and it appears that the people who carried it out were assisted by someone who was trusted by Babos and knew the place inside out,” Brother Lothario says.
“Only a piece of paper remains in the scene. It must have fallen out while they were putting things away. It was under the table with the body, but they did not dare touch it. It’d been embossed with strange runes and had a faint scent of weed.”
“It has shoeprints,” I say after looking at the paper they were telling me about.
“And I believe the person pushed it under the table inadvertently without realizing it, which is why they didn't notice it.”
“It's good that Babos is no longer alive, but we still need to know what the documents contain. We need to get to the bottom of his illegal operation and figure out who is working with him.”
Father agrees with Brother Lothario.
“We have already put together a team to take care of this. They are ready. The issue with their cooperation is that Babos had a lot of supporters. We need to ensure that it is not compromised. I will be personally taking part in this operation. Meanwhile, Azraq will look into Count Vremo’s involvement in this case.”
“Now, Iris, I want you to do something.”
“What is it Father?”
He places his hand on my shoulder and smiles. I stand there, speechless.