Chapter 22 – Rescuing a criminal

 

I was woken up by one of the maids. I was feeling tired due to not being able to sleep properly last night. Despite my bed being comfortable, my worries kept me awake most of the night.

 

I had thought about countless ways to save Zwölf but all of them seemed ridiculous and pointless. The only thing I had left was to try to convince Father to get him out of prison. His position made him the direct counsellor of the Emperor and he was therefore able to influence him to some extent.

 

I headed to the castle and was stopped at the entrance by two guards. I was prepared for that and although it was a gamble, showing them the Stalford emblem apparently allowed me to get passed them.

 

I met with a butler who asked me what I was here for and I told him I had an important private message for my father. The butler nodded and left me to wait in a guest room while he went to get Father.

 

While waiting, I overheard a conversation between two maids. It’s not like I was eavesdropping but what they said managed to catch my attention.

 

“Hey, hey, have you heard ?”

“Hmm ?”

“They say the Orcs have made a move on the Dwarves !”

“Really ? Weren’t they living in peace ? Why would they start a war, especially with another race ?”

“Well the Orcs have always been inclined to start wars easily and they are very good warriors too…”

“Are the Dwarves going to be ok ?”

“It doesn’t seem like the Emperor is going to send any reinforcements to the Dwarves, despite our trading alliance with them… It seems he is afraid to get on the Orcs’ bad side.”

“Well there is the sea separating the Sill continent and the Klug continent so we have an advantage over a race as primitive as the Orcs, right ?”

“While that’s true, if the Orcs manage to win against the Dwarves, they could very well take over their fleet to come in Sill.”

“Haa, that’s scary. Good thing that we have top level Mages in the Porcephone Empire… compared to the Orcs and their inexistent Magic power.”

“Yes, I think we can rest without fear.”

 

So the Orcs attacked the Dwarves ? But as the first maid said, there is nothing to fear. Mere Orcs warriors stand no chance against human Mages. I’m not so certain about the Dwarves and their low Magic power though.

 

A few moments later, Father arrived wearing the Archmage’s Robe, symbol of the highest magical might in the country. He had always been a tall man but seeing him wearing this grey and golden silk robe made him look even more intimidating. Unlike me, his hair was perfectly laid back and he was wearing a serious expression.

 

“Arism, I heard you came to talk to me. Good timing, I also had some important matters to discuss with you.”

 

He glared at me with a cold look and I could imagine what the discussion was going to be about. I had lost the tournament after all.

 

“I’m disappointed in the fact that not only did you lose the tournament but you also didn’t even reach the finals. Furthermore, you even lost to a kid from the countryside. You brought great shame to the Stalford family !”

“I… well… it’s true that I lost to Zwölf…”

“Well knowing you, you must also be disgusted to have lost to a clueless person like him, right ?”

“…”

 

What he just said proved that he knew nothing about me. I wasn’t disgusted at all by losing to him, on the contrary I felt some respect for him and his skill. However, Father seemed to think that I was as arrogant as him…

 

“It’s fine though. Since you must feel down, I will tell you a secret that no one else aside from the Emperor and a few others know.”

“Hmm ?”

“Although he is indeed a countryside brat, the Emperor couldn’t afford to have his son lose against him. That’s why he ordered the Elf referee to magically poison Zwölf Kreizig while healing him. It was a simple trick to an elf, as what most people don’t know is that their magical attribute also allows them to use the opposite of their healing Magic : draining Magic. On the surface, the kid got healed but in reality, his Mana was altered by a curse restraining his Magical power.”

 

I was astonished by this revelation. So that’s what the black spots on that Zwölf’s Mana were… But to think that the Emperor himself ordered something like that…

 

“Would he have done it to me if I was the winner ?”

“No. The elf was ordered to only poison Kreizig in the case he was a winner. He told me there was no shame to Orth Porcephone losing to a Stalford so it wouldn’t matter. However, they couldn’t afford to have him lose against that Kreizig kid.”

“And how is that supposed to make me feel better ?”

“Well in the end, that was useless since Kreizig was disqualified. That brat dared sneak in some fire item that allowed him to cast Fire Magic when it was clearly prohibited by the rules. And since it’s improbable that he could win against a Stalford, he probably cheated to win against you too !That means that your reputation won’t be ruined because every spectator now knows that he was only a mere cheater.”

“…”

 

Aah… I see. I was stupid to expect help from Father anyway. After hearing say that, there was no way I could potentially ask for his help in rescuing Zwölf.

 

“So… what did you want to tell me that was so important you had to disturb me during my work, Arism ?”

“Oh, well I already got my answers from you… I wanted to ask you if it was possible that Zwölf had cheated but it seems like he did, hahaha…”

“Is that so ? Then please excuse me but I have to go back to my work. I have a meeting with the Emperor in a few minutes.”

“Yes, of course…”

 

Clueless as what to do, I headed back the the town thinking about other ways to potentially rescue my friend.

 

***

 

Days passed and I still couldn’t find a way to save Zwölf. I knew time was running out as the only punishment for attempting an assassination against the Emperor or his family was capital punishment.

 

However, what could I do ? I couldn’t possibly break into the prison and knock out the guards to rescue him, right ? Even if I did that, then what ? There would be nowhere for us to hide…

 

In this situation I had no ally either… Having no friend aside from Zwölf really worked against me this time. The only person that could have potentially helped me was Zwölf’s father but I knew for fact that he had been arrested during the tournament.

 

It looked like fruitless thinking is all I could do. As I realised how useless I was in this situation, 5 days had already passed since the finals of the tournament.

 

I was walking in the town centre, looking around and trying to find a way by observing my surroundings. Who knows, maybe an unexpected opportunity would come up like in these adventure books I read all the time.

 

However, the complete opposite happened. I was drawn to a crowd of people gathered around a wooden platform but I couldn’t see anything due to my small size. When I finally managed to make my way through the nearest row to get a view of what was happening, it was already too late.

 

The man who had shouted at the tournament, who I recognised to be Zwölf’s father, had been decapitated by an executioner wielding a massive axe.

 

Despite not knowing anything about this man, I felt a huge sadness taking over my body as I blamed myself for my incompetence to save anyone. The pleading eyes of the father added to my guilt as if they were asking me to go rescue his son.

 

I headed back to the manor, only to be sick the rest of the night.

 

Once again, I wasn’t doing anything.

 

***

 

When I woke up the next day, I thought I had an idea with a chance of succeeding, for the very first time.

 

I was from a well-off family so I had as much money as I wanted. And although I had no ally, I could still hire some. Naxus had a mercenary guild and I had heard that the people working there could do almost anything as long as they were paid for it.

 

I hurried over and passed in front of the Adventurer guild. I turned right at the corner of the street and ended up in a shadier part of the city, where the Mercenary Guild was located.

 

I opened the door and was surprised by the atmosphere of the room. I was expecting it to be full of brutes and dangerous-looking people but all I saw was normal-looking people. There were men but also women as well as one or two Half-race.

 

I was welcomed by one of them, who was half human and half rat. His ears were pierced and full of piercings but his face looked human although he had a sly expression. He was wearing casual clothes and wasn’t hiding his rat tail.

 

“Sup’ brat. This ain’t a place for lit’ kids ya know ?”

“Don’t give me that. I’ve come with a fancy amount of money, you know ?”

“Oh ? Now we’re talking. So what’s the job like ?”

“I need you to make someone escape from jail. Can you do it ?”

“That’s very risky mate, ‘specially if he’s a dangerous criminal, ya know ?”

“And I have an appropriate amount of money for the job.”

“Okay, who’s the target and how much we talkin’ ?”

“His name is Zwölf Kreizig. He was arrested last week during the Magic Tournament. And I’m ready to offer 200 Gold Coins for his escape.”

“200 Gold Coins ? Haha, ya must be jokin’ mate. I’ve heard of him, we all have here ya know ? The kid is in deep trouble. He’s going to die for sure. No way am I riskin’ my life to save him for a mere 200 coins.”

“How much would you take then ?”

“500 Gold coins, and now we’re good. Make it 600 and I can even offer you a basement where to hide.”

“That won’t be necessary. Here are 500 Gold coins.”

 

The rat opened his eyes wide as I took the money out of my pocket. I did have a lot of money prepared as I expected the price to be very high.
500 Gold coins was a very high price, one could buy a small house in the city with that. But I was already happy to hear that they were ready to take on the job.

 

“The name’s Blutch. What’s yours, dear client ?”

“My name is… Osmir.”

 

I couldn’t possibly give him my real name. The Stalford name was too famous after all and it would become something big if people learnt that I tried to rescue a prisoner.

 

“Alrighty, Osmir. I’ll be working toward savin’ your lit’ friend.”

“When are you going to get him ?”

“In 3 days, if everythin’ is going well. I just need to gather up a few of my mates, the usual stuff, ya know ?”

“I’ll leave it to you then. Don’t disappoint me.”

 

I left this shady place as soon as possible and hoped for the best. These guys are professionals after all; if he says that he will succeed, I can’t do anything but believe him.

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