Chapter 0121 Sica
It was fifteen minutes later that Crimson Sword and Ilarion returned to the 『Kingdom Magic Research Institute』.
It was only about a kilometer away.
Abel, Warren, and Ilarion went straight to the basement with the leader in a bag.
It was the room where Hector of 『Dawn Star』 was interrogated.
Abel asked Ilarion, dropping the still-unconscious leader to the floor.
“Gramps, what were the contents of that barrel?”
There was something that a man like Ilarion was anxious about. He would be lying if he said he wasn’t curious.
“That’s what they call 『black powder』.”
They were certainly black … and Abel remembered that they were like powder or sand.
“Originally, it is something that shouldn’t be in such a place. I’d love to get this guy to spit some information out …”
After saying that, Ilarion’s words stopped.
Now, for the first time, he looked at the leader’s face properly … and it was a face he knew.
“Isn’t this the half-brother of Finance Minister Fuka …”
Ilarion made a deeply surprised voice and Abel asked quizzically.
By involving his younger brother in a conspiracy … wouldn’t he be suspected of being involved as soon as it was revealed?
Abel thought so with common sense.
“Although he is his younger brother, there must be about fifteen of them. His father is an energetic one. He is the youngest brother among them … he is more than thirty years younger than his eldest brother Fuka.”
“I’m surprised you know him then.”
Abel was honestly impressed by the amount of knowledge Ilarion had.
“Because the brother directly older than him is working at my place, that is, here.”
“He’s a researcher here. So, when he was still coming over from their mansion, this boy sometimes came with him. His name was … Sica? By the way, his brother is Saca.”
It wasn’t that his amount of knowledge was great, but that he was the younger brother of his subordinate.
(The eldest son Fuka, the fourteenth son Saca, the fifteenth son Sica …? Is that right?)
Abel was organizing the information.
Mainly only the names of the brothers …
The leader, Sica, according to Ilarion, woke up.
“Ku … where is this?”
“So you’re awake?”
Ilarion answered the man’s monologue. And the man soon realized that the old man in front of him was Ilarion.
“It’s been a long time, Sica.”
“W-Why are you …”
“Here, you can tell if you look at this guy?”
Ilarion called Abel to stand beside him.
“You were the one just now …”
Seeing that, Sica, who was the leader, was at a loss for words.
“Well, that’s that. And, Sica, as you know, your brother Saca works under me. Oh, to be more precise, he works in this building.”
“Then, here is … Ilarion’s House”
“Yup. It will be really painful to tell Saca that you had betrayed the country.”
Ilarion shook his head.
“W-wait! I did not betray the country …”
“Then what was hidden in that location! That was 『black powder』!”
Sica couldn’t continue his words.
“You know … what that is? That is something not meant to be stored in such a place.”
Sica drooped and muttered in response to Ilarion’s words.
“That’s what we took back …”
“Took back? From whom?”
Sica did not answer the question and remained silent.
Abel couldn’t stand the silence … instead, he moved to solve the question he had been thinking about since he saw the barrels in the previous place.
“Hey, gramps. Tell me while Sica is keeping silent. What are the 『black powder』 in the barrels?”
“Hmm … it wasn’t until Abel became an adventurer that it was mass-produced. So you wouldn’t know. That is … a powder that explodes when a fire is brought close to it.”
Ilarion replied seriously to Abel’s question.
“Explode … Does that mean something like the Fire-Attribute Magic <Explosion>?”
“Yes. In the central nations, mass production is done only in the eastern part of the Kingdom. Well, mass production per se, but it is not at a large quantity. However, depending on how it is used, it will change the form of war. Therefore, it is not exported. Of course, the existence itself is top secret even in the Kingdom. It is only stored in Slanzewi to the east and here in the royal capital. I and Alchemist Baron Kenneth Hayward created the storage facility for the royal capital so we are aware of it but … a lot of care is needed when storing it. Those barrels, of course, were created through alchemy, but they are still quite unstable.”
During Ilarion’s, Sica shook his head several times.
It seemed that he was in conflict internally.
Seeing that, Ilarion gently called out.
“Sica. Is it because some of your brothers are involved that you are so worried?”
His words struck Sica … a few moments later, he raised his face with a snap and stared at Ilarion.
His eyes were wide open.
“I know. You are loved by all your brothers, even, Fuka, who is nearly thirty years older.”
Ilarion paused there.
It seemed that Ilarion already had an idea of which ‘brother’ was involved.
“Abel. I can guarantee that is it fine, may I reveal your identity?”
Abel was surprised by Ilarion’s sudden proposal.
At this timing?
Abel’s gaze at Ilarion said that.
However, it took only a few seconds of hesitation.
“Well, that’s fine.”
Abel shrugged his shoulders and allowed it.
“Thank you, Sica, the real name of this adventurer Abel is Albert Bethford Knightley, the second prince of His Majesty Stafford IV.”
When he heard that, Sica opened his eyes wider than before, and this time his shoulders slumped down.
“Do you understand now? It’s best to say everything here now. Before it is too late. Ilarion Baraha and Prince Albert will be witnesses to your testimony. Even taking extenuating situations into account, there isn’t anybody better for this?”
(I see, so that was why he needed my identity. If one of his brothers has extenuating circumstances … or even if that wasn’t possible, we would be able to prevent his house from getting exterminated … if Sica cooperates.)
20 seconds after Ilarion’s persuasion.
Finally, Sica opened his mouth reluctantly.
“Ilarion-sama has already noticed, but this is to help my eldest brother Fuka …”
Sica started, biting his lips.
“Is it related to Knight-Captain Baccara?”
“Yes, rather, the Knight-Captain is the heart of it.”
“I see. Those barrels were branded with the royal vault’s seal, and the Kingdom’s Knights’ Order manages the vault.”
Abel listened to Ilarion and Sica’s conversation without saying a word.
He was trying to understand what happened during the eight years he left the court and became an adventurer.
“Yes. The Knight-Captain was selling the 『black powder』 stored in the royal capital vault through illegal channels. We were retrieving it.”
Ilarion was a little surprised to hear Sica’s explanation.
“I’m surprised you managed to do so against Knights.”
“No, Knights did not manage the transport. It was a trading partner … a caravan.”
“Well … who is the other party?”
Without changing the tone of the words, in a sense casually, Ilarion asked the core question.
Depending on this answer, it could be a big problem.
“I don’t know exactly who they are.”
Both Ilarion and Abel were let down by his words.
However, the meaning of the following words was very heavy.
“However, we ascertained the destination. It is the northern city of Carlyle.”
The words shocked them.
The northern city of Carlyle.
It is the capital of the Flitwick Duchy and is the second largest in the north.
And the current Duke of Flitwick is Raymond, the younger brother of King Stafford IV.
In other words, Sica’s testimony indicated treason of the King’s younger brother.
As expected, Ilarion was stunned because of the seriousness of the matter.
Originally, the relationship between Stafford IV and his younger brother Raymond was by no means good.
The reason may be that they are half-brothers, the sons of the first queen and the second queen, respectively.
Also, as Stafford IV had mastered both magic and swordsmanship at a high level and had a high level of political skill, it would have been difficult to be compared to him.
Raymond wasn’t incompetent at all, but he was a little introverted compared to his brother Stafford, who was broadminded and attractive, and Raymond wasn’t as charming or charismatic as he was.
But for the royal family, that was enough.
A younger brother was just a younger brother. The brother’s spare.
If a younger brother surpasses his older brother, a civil war would happen if there was an internal squabble … and if the Empire intervened at that point, the country would be in danger of collapse.
However, even though it was sufficient for the royal family, the younger brother Raymond was also a human being.
There were emotions and pride. Especially as a member of the royal family.
Even in a normal home, complex emotions between siblings can occur.
That would be compounded in a royal family.
“His Highness Raymond … It would be hard if Duke Flitwick is involved … And Sica. How would Fuka be involved here?”
Ilarion asked how Finance Minister Fuka would be involved in this issue.
“My brother … pays the Knight-Captain for the black powder. On behalf of Duke Flitwick. And he’s withholding the black powder purchases in the tax reports for Carlyle.”
The Finance Minister had the right to collect taxes from the aristocrats.
Of course, the amount of tax collected was not uniform, and it was complicated and changed year by year depending on the power relations within the Kingdom.
If you are a powerful aristocrat, you will be able to put pressure on the amount of tax collection to be extremely small.
It was a story that would anger the public if word got out …
Taxes were not fair in any world.
On the contrary, if the aristocrat loses his power, he would be slammed with taxes.
Fuka’s excellent skill as a Finance Minister was his exquisite 『adjustment』.
He brilliantly dissects the influence and relationships of each aristocrat and of course, the change in yield due to the climate; relationships that are complicated and mysterious that can’t even be calculated using mathematical formulas.
By doing so, there would be as little dissatisfaction as possible, but the total collection amount would be as expected.
That was Fuka’s outstanding skill.
During tax collection, the tax collectors submit various reports.
Fuka, the Finance Minister, is obliged to compile them and report to the King.
Among them, matters regarding the military, magic, and relationship with other countries must be reported.
Those were absolutely necessary from the perspective of national defense.
However, Fuka buried the tax collection report on Carlyle and reported it as 『no problems』.
That was clearly national treason in the light of the law of the Kingdom.
“I see. He doesn’t report regarding the military matters, the 『black powder』 which is one of the most important secrets in the Kingdom, in his tax collection report, and he’s even paying for it … It would be difficult to defend him.”
Ilarion’s words caused Sica to slump even more.
“But why does Fuka patronage the Duke of Flitwick so much?”
“It’s for Luca.”
Sica replied Ilarion’s question with his head hanging down.
“Luca? Isn’t he the fourth son? The second and third sons died in the last war, so now he is the younger brother just below Fuka. What happened to Luca?”
(The eldest son Fuka, the fourth son Luca, the fourteenth son Saca, and the man in front of him is the fifteenth son Sica …. The name information had been updated …)
Abel groaned in his heart. And he shook his head.
“Luca is currently being held by the Handal Union.”
The Handal Union.
It was one of the three major powers of the central nations, along with the Kingdom of Knightley and the Debuhi Empire.
Its territory borders the eastern part of the Kingdom and parts of the north.
Ten years ago, they were defeated in a large-scale war with the Kingdom of Knightley.
As a result, neighboring countries such as the Inbury Duchy, which had been treated as client states, became completely independent.
In addition, a part of the territory of the Union was also ceded to the Kingdom, and the country suffered considerable damage.
With that history, of course, the relationship between the countries was not good.
Nonetheless, a peace treaty had been signed, diplomatic relations had been restored, and people were coming and going.
“What is the relationship between your brother, who was captured by the Union, and giving 『black powder』 to the Duke of Flitwick …”
After saying that, something seemed to flash in Ilarion.
“No way … that rumor.”
“Yes, that rumor is true.”
Ilarion muttered, Sica affirmed it, and Abel asked.
“It was rumored that the Duke of Flitwick, His Royal Highness, had signed a secret agreement with Sir Aubrey of the Handal Union.”
Sica explained the rumor.
“Secret Agreement? Sir Aubrey is the de facto leader in the current Union after the war?”
“Yes, he’s a man we’re wary of.”
At the time of the war, Abel was still in the royal palace, so he was in a position to have access to quite a lot of information about the situation in other countries.
As one of the princes, he was still learning about the situation in each country, although he was not as adept in judgment as his older brother, who had a weak body but excellent brain and had already gained a reputation as a sharp and able man.
“Secret Agreement … Duke Flitwick wants the throne, Sir Aubrey wants … the territory lost in the war?”
Abel described a possible scenario.
“Well, that’s what was rumored. The diplomat who accused him committed suicide in a protected mansion after the first hearing, so it remains a mystery.”
“His mouth was sealed huh.”
Hiding the truth by faking it as suicide … it seemed to be the same in any world.
“But … it’s such a huge matter that big names are in play … Isn’t it dangerous for you to rob the black powder? It will be revealed someday.”
“Yes, I’m prepared for that. Right now, a separate corps should be rescuing Luca. There, Fuka had ordered elites under his direct supervision to do it. The black powder transaction is just a means to save time for this rescue operation … The black powder we stole is evidence, but it’s also a secret item that many don’t know the real number of. So nobody could pursue it openly.”
Sica fully affirmed Ilarion’s worries.
“Hey, I’m just checking …”
Ilarion tilted his head to Abel’s question.
“Knight-Captain Baccara removes the black powder from the vault and sends it to the Duke of Flitwick. The Finance’s aide, Sica, steals it from the side and hides it. Because his younger brother is taken hostage, Fuca pays the Knight-Captain for the black powder. In addition, he is withholding the reports about the black powder. Am I correct so far?”
“Yes, that’s right.”
Sica affirmed Abel’s explanation.
“Then what is the Duke of Flitwick, who has been robbed of black powder … doing?”
As promised, the Knight-Captain withdrew black powder from the vault to hand it to the Duke of Flitwick, and receives money from the Finance Minister. There was no problem there.
However, the Duke of Flitwick had not received the goods …
“At first, we let them take the real black powder, but now we exchange it for a fake and the fake is transported to the capital city of Carlyle.”
Abel was convinced by Sica’s explanation.
(If they get their younger brother back, they will have various bargaining chips against the Knight-Captain, using the black powder that he stole as evidence … politics is difficult.)
Abel honestly didn’t want to get involved too much.
Of course, he knew that he wouldn’t be able to do that as part of the royal family.
Just when they had finished confirming all the information.
The earth shook.
“Is it an earthquake? That’s rare in the royal capital.”
“No, that was not tremors from an earthquake just now …”
Then Ilarion rushed out of the room.
“Sica and Warren remain in the room. It’s bad if others see Sica.”
With those instructions, Abel also charged out of the room and ran up the stairs to the first floor.
And they went out of the building almost at the same time.
Both looked around.
They saw smoke rising from the east.
“Wind, carry me in your hand <Float>”
After the super-fast chanting, Ilarion’s body levitated on the spot.
Ten meters, twenty meters … The height soon exceeded the Ilarion House.
“How is the situation, gramps?”
He heard Abel ask from below.
With that, Ilarion slowly descended to the ground.
“It’s that building. Probably the explosion is from 『black powder』. It seems that the whole building was damaged.”
“Damn. Did they erase the evidence first?”
They didn’t know who made their move. It could perhaps be just an accident.
However, the timing was too good for that.
It was natural to think that the explosion was deliberately caused.
“I’ll check the scene and tell you later. Abel, I request you ensure the safety of Sica.”
“So there’s a possibility that they will also try to erase Sica?”
Abel nodded and answered Ilarion.
“Yes. By the way … I wonder if 『Dawn Star』 managed to escaped properly …”
When escaping from the building, Ilarion whispered to Hector, the leader of the Dawn Star, to escape immediately …
“They’ll be okay. They are C-rank adventurers even if they are rotten. If Ilarion hurries to escape … I think they would have gathered the scent of danger.”
An adventurer who has risen to C-rank would have a strong ability to avoid crisis.
Abel had high assessments of adventurers because he was an adventurer too.
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