Eugène, sitting opposite the Emperor in an ordinary carriage with no distinctive features, looked out the window without hiding his bitter expression.
The street was named La Lune, but it was unlikely that the moon could be seen from a place like this.
Even in the middle of the night, music was playing everywhere in the mansions that were lit up like daylight.
The lights were so strong that the stars in the night sky could not be seen.
Even the full moon, which had risen to the fullest, had a faint presence as if hidden in the shadows.
Even though it was close to midnight, the street was crowded with people coming and going, so the carriage repeatedly stopped.
From the streetscape alone, the city seemed not to be in the middle of the night, but in the early evening.
“I feel like you’re becoming more and more audacious.
Am I simply overthinking it”
The Emperor kept changing his hat as if the wig he was wearing was uncomfortable, and spoke casually.
Eugène smiled bitterly and looked back at the carefree Emperor.
“It is not me who is audacious, but Your Majesty.”
“What did I do”
“Let’s take the current situation into consideration.
Your Majesty refused to bring along the guards and decided to travel in disguise alone.
How can you do such a dangerous thing when you know what sort of wicked event could befall on you without notice”
“What do you think would happen if I didn’t refuse to bring along the guards Must the guards be on each side when I’m traveling in disguise Do you want me to show off who I am”
“Isn’t it something you had deduced from the moment I asked you to accompany me Surely you didn’t expect me to attend an aristocrat’s party with my identity exposed, did you”
Eugène sighed and shut his mouth in response to the calm Emperor’s answer.
Of course, he didn’t expect him to do that, but he still thought that a few guards would catch up in the dark.
Baron Bouilhet, a primary court attendant who’s part of the royal guards, also shared the same opinion as Eugène, but the problem was that the Emperor, who was the main concern of the guards, did not even want to think about it.
It’s better not to do anything that will catch you by the tail until you uncover their true nature.
… What did he mean by true nature Whose true nature
Eugène had no idea what other incident he had involved himself in this time either.
The Emperor and Baron Bouilhet both seemed to know something but gave no proper hint.
As the Emperor insisted, he really did step out in disguise, and thanks to this, Eugène had to follow in his footsteps with the enormous burden of fear that the Emperor might be assassinated if he made a mistake.
“It is your attitude, not the guards who are not here, that puts me in danger.
What sort of judgment is it to use honorifics with the Emperor who came out in secret”
The Emperor gave a light warning and placed a butterfly-shaped velvet mask on the bridge of his beautiful nose.
Eugène wore a plaster mask he was holding in his hand, followed him, and swallowed the anxiety rising from deep inside his chest as he reconfirmed the presence of the sword he was wearing on his waist.
He thought that a cutlass was too conspicuous, so he opted for an ordinary longsword instead, but the current situation made him feel uncomfortable even with a weapon.
No matter his thoughts, the industriously running carriage soon reached the mansion they were invited to.
When the carriage stood in front of the entrance, a uniformed servant ran out and opened the carriage door.
Eugène came out before the Emperor and looked around.
We’re sorry for MTLers or people who like using reading mode, but our translations keep getting stolen by aggregators so we’re going to bring back the copy protection.
If you need to MTL please retype the gibberish parts.
Count d’Estuaire’s mansion was larger than expected.
Knowing the plight of the fallen eastern nobility, he did not expect much, so he was inwardly surprised when he saw the splendid three-story mansion.
It would have cost a fortune to maintain a mansion of this size in La Lune.
How Count d’Estuaire, who had no real territory, was keeping up with this sort of lifestyle was a mystery to him.
“Ktlr kjs, Zs Obgv.”
Ktf Swqfgbg uba boo atf mjggljuf jcv qgbevis qgfrfcafv atf lcnlajalbc jr lo tf kfgf atf wjrafg.
Ktf rfgnjca mtfmxfv atf lcnlajalbc, uelvfv atfw, jcv ifv atfw lcrlvf.
Ktf yglutais ila qbgmt kjr yerailcu jr atf uefrar xfqa jgglnlcu bcf joafg jcbatfg.
Seuècf fcafgfv atf ogbca vbbg ecvfg atf rxliioei uelvjcmf bo atf rfgnjca jcv kjr bcmf jujlc jwjhfv ys atf rqifcvlv lcafglbg vfmbgjalbc.
Jbeca v’Sraejlgf’r wjcrlbc kjr oeii bo fifujcmf jcv rbqtlralmjalbc ecldef ab j kfjiats jglrabmgjalm ojwlis.
As he walked down the hallway past the ornate porch, he saw precious porcelain bottles and paintings from the East placed throughout.
There were vases filled with fresh flowers at each window, and all the candles that lit up the night were fragrant candles.
The extravagance of the mansion shone, even more, when they entered the salon where the ball was to be held.
Heavy dark green velvet drapery decorated the entirety of the spacious salon.
Huge drapes that descended from the ceiling intricately adorned the edges of the salon, which from a distance, seemed to divide the space and isolate it like walls.
It’s no illusion.
It’s indeed dividing the space.
As Eugène got closer, he could see the true colors of the divided space.
The space divided by the walls with heavy curtains was transformed into a structure like the balcony seats of an opera house.
There was a splendid reception set for each compartment, and the place where the servant guided them was one of them.
Aren’t balls simply social events Eugène frowned and looked around since he did not understand the idea of decorating the salon in such a way that if you were to look at them from the outside, you could see the people sitting inside, but if you were the one sitting inside, you could not see the person next to you.
The Emperor, unlike Eugène, who could not hide his doubts, acted naturally, as if he had already expected this.
As they sat down, the servants served simple food and champagne.
Although there were many kinds of food, they were all plain amuse-bouche, instead of full-fledged meals.
“You’re sticking out like a sore thumb.
Will you continue to act so countrified”
Eugène continued to look around, with deep creases on his forehead.
The Emperor thoughtlessly scolded him by saying that he didn’t like that attitude, picked up a glass of champagne, and forced him to take it.
Naturally, Eugène had no choice but to take the glass the Emperor gave him, and leaned against the backrest.
“Your… No, Sir Gersen.
May I ask you a question”
Eugène, clutching the glass so hard to the point that it stood a risk of shattering, all because of a throbbing migraine, asked quietly.
The name ‘Sir Gersen’ he put in his mouth was a fake identity instructed to him to use by the Emperor himself.
The Emperor nonchalantly tilted his drink and looked at Eugène, letting out a deep sigh.
“Are we in a brothel right now”
The Emperor smiled at Eugène’s serious question.
“What you just said sounds quite amusing.
Do you not doubt that your relative is a souteneur”
“I noticed from a while ago, but most of the guests are men.
Occasionally, there were women who accompanied them, but their behavior seems unfitting for them to be noblewomen.”
It was fair general knowledge, but there was no case where there was such a significant difference in the gender ratio between men and women at a typical ball.
As far as Eugène knew, there were only two places where strictly men were infested.
The military, or a brothel.
Moreover, from the moment he first saw the mansion, he doubted how Count d’Estuaire could retain this great wealth.
When the eastern nobility was still strong, the family of the Duke of d’Estuaire was considered one of the wealthiest in the empire.
But their wealth came only from a land of abundance.
The Duke of d’Estuaire, a representative of the eastern nobles, had no ties to the capital due to his estrangement from the court, and thanks to this, when Eugène left the capital, he was on the brink of decline, just like other eastern nobles.
No matter how rich you are, if you don’t have a flowing income for thirty years, the tide is bound to turn.
Though there was no knowledge of Count d’Estuaire’s family raising an excellent merchant, besides, that kind of rumor never passed by Eugène’s ears in the past month.
He didn’t want to picture this with his only blood relative.
But no matter how much he dwelled on it, there was nothing else to guess.
The Emperor sipped the champagne, scoring Eugène’s quick judgment.
His guess was correct.
“Count d’Estuaire is a smart and shrewd man.
He’s extremely astute and is fairly good at figuring market values.
Among them, the most famous is the aesthetic sense of discerning jewels.
They say he has an intuition to recognize pearls in the mud.”
“Did you need pearls from the mud too”
“No, I don’t.
But I felt the need to find out where the pearls came from.
If it’s about discerning, aren’t you quite remarkable too After all, you identified the source of the most famous pearl in the capital at once.”
Eugène understood the Emperor’s words and took a low breath.
He knew from the beginning that the Emperor didn’t come out without a proper reason.
However, since he didn’t know what kind of place Count d’Estuaire’s ball was, he could not read the exact thoughts of the Emperor.
But now he understood exactly why the Emperor wanted to bring him here.
When the story he shared yesterday and the current situation intertwined, the outline of the entire matter became clear.
Eugène belatedly realized why and felt like he had been hit in the back with a hammer.
A beautiful courtesan whose origin was suspicious.
As soon as the story was told to the Emperor, the Emperor brought him here.
Just to see if he can recognize the identities of other women.
What on earth does this mean
Oh my God.
It was only then that Eugène realized the scale of the case he was involved in and felt troubled.
The Emperor thought that Madame Schuabel was a spy sent by the Federation of Five Nations.
Not only that, but he was now also suspicious of the existence of spies other than her.
He was not one to be driven by mere suspicion, so there must be a good enough reason for that.
However, even if the suspicion was correct, it was not a matter for the monarch of an empire to come forward on his own.
Eugène only now understood why Baron Bouilhet’s face was unusually grim as he saw them off, and swallowed a groan.
“… You have too much faith in me.”
Eugène, unable to openly rebuke the Emperor for his recklessness, whispered quietly while resting one hand on his throbbing forehead.
The Emperor smiled faintly, pretending to lift a glass of champagne.
“Sure, I do.
Enough to entrust my life to you.”
The door to the salon closed as all the guests arrived.
Eugène couldn’t say anything more and only shook his head and looked ahead as the murmuring around him subsided.
The servants obscured their vision by putting bells on the numerous oil lamps placed near the wall and instead, lit the candlesticks on the stage, placed only on one side of the salon.
As the musicians hidden behind the curtains played a gentle melody, a man walked out onto the stage and greeted the guests.
“Thank you to everyone who came to our mansion today.
My name is Virginie Bernal, who, thanks to the grace of Count d’Estuaire, has arranged the auction for today’s charity jewelry auction.”
The man who stood on the stage pretending to be an auctioneer looked about forty at first glance.
He didn’t wear a mask like everyone else, and although he wasn’t as fancy as a trained employee of an aristocratic family, he was well-dressed and courteous, earning the favor of guests.
“The first jewelry of the day will be presented by a young lady as pure as a dewdrop fresh from an abbey.”
When the auctioneer called her name, a girl holding a jewelry box came up on stage. Around seventeen or eighteen The young girl, who had not yet lost the fluff on the nape of her neck, possessed a lovely beauty with round cheeks and large green eyes radiating a youthful look.
“This beautiful girl’s name is Anais.
She’s a young lady who’s of noble blood, as you might know by her name itself.”
She was forced to commit herself to the abbey due to circumstances that could not be told to others, but with the help of an unnamed benefactor, she was able to receive an education commensurate with her status.
However, not long ago, the benefactor’s support was suddenly cut off, and she was forced to leave the abbey.”
Eugène could easily tell that the auctioneer was lying.
The girl’s hands were too rough for a woman who had only been educated in an abbey, and although they were covered with powder, there were small burn marks near her wrist.
Such burns were caused by iron and were common wounds that maids in a laundry suffered from.
She was not an illegitimate child of an aristocratic family, but in reality, a grisette who wanted to become a lorette.
“The helpless young lady, who had no one to turn to, has come all the way to the capital to find out about the circumstances of her benefactor but is in a difficult situation since she has been unable to reach him.
Then she came into contact with us by chance, and the generous Count d’Estuaire, aware of the situation, was willing to be the temporary guardian of this pitiful lady.”
When the auctioneer’s introduction was over, the girl took a soft step toward the center of the stage.
She set the jewelry box down on the central table and opened the lid.
The contents could not be seen from this direction, but as her large eyes widened even more, it seemed that the box contained quite valuable pieces of jewelry.
For a moment she looked at the jewelry as if possessed.
As if blinded by the brilliance of the jewelry, her green eyes sparkled with ecstasy.
The girl was so fascinated by the contents of the box that she stood still for a long time, but came to her senses at the urging of the auctioneer and pick up a piece of jewelry.
The jewelry she picked up were gorgeous platinum earrings adorned with rubies the size of a fingernail.
She hung the ruby earrings on her ears with trembling hands and stepped forward on the stage.
A bell rang from the dark corner of the tent. Ding, a clear sound of the bell rang once.
The auctioneer heard the sound and called the auction price.
“Coming at fifty dinars.”
Ding, ding. Two bells rang one after another.
“Coming out at one hundred and fifty dinars.”
As he observed closely, it seemed that each bell was fifty dinars, and the calculation was done by adding the bells ringing at the back to the previous auction price.
Even though the bells were ringing in different places, the auctioneer managed to calculate the price and proceeded with the auction.
The fact that those words meant that he was auctioning off the girl’s ransom at a jewelry auction was obvious to anyone.