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    Re-translated & Proofread: May 15th ’24

    “Ian, my little child. Ahem.”

    The tutor cleared his throat and glanced at Ian. The illegitimate child receiving this letter was illiterate, so he must have asked someone else to read it for him.

    The most natural choice among them was the tutor.

    Ian’s eyes sparkled as he rested his chin on his hand.

    “Please continue reading, teacher.”

    “Are you doing well there? Thanks to Marquis Derga, your mother is comfortable. I’m happy day by day without having to work. You too should be grateful to the marquis and diligently pursue your studies. Although Young Master Chel is your half-brother, don’t forget that you must serve him. Take pride in becoming a symbol of the truce. Above all, strive to build a strong relationship with the Cheonrye tribe. You and the young master are the hope to carry on the generations.”

    The tutor, who was reciting the letter, furtively gauged Ian’s reaction.

    “And I have a favor to ask.”

    Yes, and here comes the crux of the matter.

    “I heard the Cheonrye tribe smokes Gureut leaves instead of cigarettes. Your mother would like to taste it too. Next year, when you come for your birthday, could you secretly obtain some seeds for me?”

    Gureut leaves were a kind of stimulant used by the Cheonrye tribe.

    They chewed the leaves or rolled and burned them. It was a secret of the Cheonrye tribe, and even the exact plant and how it was made were unknown.

    One thing was certain: they would bite on a leaf before entering battle.

    “And a flower bloomed in the pot you cherished. Once you cross the border, I won’t be able to see you anymore.”


    “The last line reads as follows. If this letter reaches you, please write a verse of the song your mother often sang to you. I love you always, my son.”

    Presumably, the dried flower petals in the pouch were the real gift sent by his mother. Also, only the last paragraph would be the genuine letter content. She had used her wits in her own way. By requesting a code, she made it so that the marquis had no choice but to deliver the letter and send a reply.

    ‘It seems like Mother took the opportunity of sending a letter to mix in a request to smuggle Gureut leaves…’

    What was puzzling was Derga’s approach. Why was he tempting Ian in such a convoluted manner?

    If he had simply threatened his mother’s life and ordered him, as he had done before, Ian would have complied. There would be no reason to beat around the bush like this.

    “Sir Ian?”

    “Yes, teacher. Thank you. Please keep today’s letter contents strictly confidential.”

    “Of course.”

    Surely, there were more hidden intentions behind Derga’s actions. Ian resolved to uncover them.

    The tutor took out a clean piece of parchment and asked.

    “Will you write a reply today?”

    “No, I have too much to say, so I think I need to gather my thoughts first. I’ll ask you next time.”

    “Is that so? Your mother must be waiting.”

    He’s urging me.

    But even if he wanted to write, he didn’t know the lyrics to the song, which was troublesome.

    ‘If I write the wrong lyrics, there will be an uproar on Mother’s side. She’ll know something has happened to me.’

    The shackles not only bound Ian but also served to protect him. What if his mother, misunderstanding, took her own life? There was no predicting how Derga would react to tighten his grip on Ian.

    ‘In the worst case, I might be confined until the day of the truce ceremony.’

    It seemed best to meet her in person.

    Fortunately, tomorrow was the day of the luncheon with Sir Mollin.

    If he played his cards right, he might be able to gain two things: an opportunity to leave the mansion and Derga’s intentions.


    “Oh, Sir Mollin.”

    “It’s been a week, Marquis Derga.”

    As previously arranged, Mollin visited the mansion with his attendants. They were two young, hearty-looking men, clearly Mollin’s juniors whom he was mentoring in the central administration.

    “Pleased to meet you, Marquis.”

    “We sincerely appreciate your hospitality for the luncheon.”

    The men, introduced as Mac and D’gor respectively, kissed the back of Marchioness Mary’s hand. The marchioness smiled gracefully and brought her son Chel forward.

    “I hope you have a pleasant time.”

    “Ah, is this Young Master Chel? Then this one is…?”

    In fact, there was no room for confusion.

    As he had heard, Ian had radiant golden hair like sunlight. It was merely a formality for the sake of courtesy.

    “I’m Ian.”

    “Nice to meet you. I’ve been eager to see you after hearing about you.”

    “Please call me Mac, young master.”

    Chel had a displeased expression at being addressed with the same title as Ian. But what could he do? He couldn’t grumble in front of the adults and Ian. Chel merely stuck close to his mother’s side and walked towards the garden.

    “As expected of the Bratz estate. The garden is magnificent.”

    “Receiving such praise from someone from the capital, it seems my luck is good today.”

    Trivial exchanges gauging each other’s refinement took place. There were no ill intentions behind them. It was a natural yet habitual practice among the nobility.

    “Master, shall we bring in the appetizers?”


    At the steward’s signal, servants entered, pulling trolleys.

    “What would you like for the aperitif?”

    “Since the weather is clear, I’ll have sherry.”

    “What about you, Young Master Ian?”

    At Mac’s kind question, Ian almost reflexively asked for the same thing.

    Sherry was a white grape wine. It was an ambiguous age for drinking alcohol. He smiled brightly and requested a fruit beverage.

    “You look much better than last week.”

    Mollin smiled benevolently as he wiped his hands. Although bound as a sacrifice for the truce, in the old man’s eyes, Ian was as fresh as could be.

    “Perhaps it’s because I was looking forward to today.”

    “Haha, is that so?”

    “Actually, I had many questions about the capital. Last time, I only talked about myself, so it was a bit disappointing. Right, Father?”

    At Ian’s smooth words, Derga coughed and stroked his beard. In the meantime, the servants set up aperitifs and simple salads.

    “Yes, what are you so curious about? In fact, even in the capital, people live pretty much the same. I’m glad I brought Mac and D’gor today. As an old man, I’m not well-versed in the affairs of the youth.”

    Ian started with trivial matters.

    What do students in the capital study, how do they spend their leisure time, have they really seen a mage, and so on. When the topic of mages came up, the eyes of Mollin, Mac, and D’gor sparkled.

    “I’m particularly curious about what you usually eat in the capital.”

    “Just because it’s the capital doesn’t mean it’s special and abundant. All the specialties from the territories go to the palace. Above all, there’s hardly any farmland in the central region.”

    “There’s no way other than what the merchants distribute.”

    “That’s right. So, the famine in the capital comes not from the dryness of the land but the dryness of the wallet. Adjusting the appropriate supply and demand is one of the palace’s roles.”

    Unlike Chel, who merely rolled his eyes and pretended to know, Ian leisurely played along and led the conversation. Mac and D’gor exchanged meaningful glances.

    ‘He’s clever for a lowborn bastard, as they said.’

    His insightful ability to hit the core and his concentration, unusual for a child, were remarkable. Ian casually sliced his steak and added.

    “Food is the most basic necessity, so the supply should always be plentiful. It would be great if a new food source were discovered.”

    It was a light remark, not emphasized. As casual as talking about the weather. The adults all focused on Ian’s words. Derga and the marchioness wondered why he was so talkative today, while the guests seemed intrigued.

    Especially Sir Mollin.

    “A new food source. I’m curious about your insight, Sir Ian.”

    “There’s not much insight to speak of. What we thought was inedible might turn out to be a precious ingredient upon closer inspection.”

    “Hahaha, could such a dream-like thing happen?”

    “You never know. The starving will eat anything to survive. If you examine their insides closely, you might make a good discovery.”

    He had no intention of revealing Gulla right away. He planned to keep it to himself until the right opportunity arose, but he thought it would be fine to drop some hints. Then Mac added as if he had remembered something.

    “Come to think of it, I heard they make stew with seafood shells in the slums. Surprisingly, it tastes good. Have you tried it, Sir Ian?”

    It was the first sharp question amidst the well-intentioned conversation. Ian, who was so poor that he lived in the brothel district. He could be called the poorest of the poor.

    ‘Unexpectedly fierce.’

    Ian swallowed his laughter inwardly.

    The central government and the frontier had a relationship of mutual checks and balances. The palace was implicitly approving of sending Ian instead of Chel.

    However, if Ian’s qualifications were questioned after he crossed over to the Cheonrye tribe? If that caused harm to Bariel? It would give them grounds to effectively pressure the frontier.

    Therefore, there was only one implication behind the question.

    ‘Ian, you’re from the slums, aren’t you?’

    Making him acknowledge the hastily whitewashed background of the illegitimate child with his own mouth. With three central government officials hearing it simultaneously, there couldn’t be a more definitive testimony.

    “Ian? Sir Mac is asking you a question.”

    The marchioness urged with a smile. She seemed unaware of the political intentions exchanged in a single sentence. Of course, the same went for Chel.

    “I don’t think he-“


    As Chel stuttered, trying to blurt out something, Derga quickly rebuked him. Clang! Startled, he dropped his fork. However, Derga disciplined his son with an indifferent expression.

    “Didn’t Sir Mac ask Ian? It’s not polite to interject. Be careful.”

    It meant to shut up.

    Chel closed his mouth, looking like he was about to cry, and Marchioness Mary grasped her son’s hand under the tablecloth. Her gaze toward her husband was quite sharp. As if asking why he had to yell like that for not such a big mistake. Wasn’t her son already discouraged from last week’s blunder?

    “I have never tried it.”


    Ian put down his knife and answered firmly.

    For now, it was better to show an obedient attitude next to Marquis Derga.

    “Although I grew up outside the mansion, Father always took care of me warmly. I am, after all, of the proud Bratz bloodline, no matter what anyone says.”

    “Oh-ho. That’s certainly true.”

    It was an amusing situation where everyone knew it was a lie but pretended not to notice.

    Mollin had a very satisfied smile. As if he had cleverly seen through the attack that came without warning.

    “For that reason, I haven’t had the opportunity to try it, but I would like to if given the chance.”

    Derga frowned but couldn’t say much. Ian’s answer was sharp and quite natural in the flow of the conversation.

    “Is that so?”

    “In fact, is there any distinction between high and low in what comes from nature? If it can alleviate hunger, isn’t that alone something to be grateful for? Not to mention if it’s a delicacy.”

    For a moment, Mollin felt a sense of déjà vu at Ian’s answer.

    He was sure he had heard that argument somewhere before…

    “You say the same thing as His Highness, the prince.”

    D’gor scratched the itchy spot.

    ‘The prince? Who?’

    Based on Ian’s era, the current emperor was several generations removed. And there were quite a few princes on top of that. Usually, they had more than ten children each.

    In other words, even Emperor Ian didn’t know who the prince from a century ago was.

    “I’m referring to His Highness Gale, the Second Prince. While discussing street food with the nobles, he made that remark very calmly. Haha.”

    Although they couldn’t say anything in front of him, they must have gossiped behind his back. Saying that a prince of a nation had made an uncultured remark.

    By the way, Prince Gale. It sounded very familiar, as if he had heard it somewhere…

    “You two would get along well if you met.”

    “How could Ian dare to do that?”

    “No, I think it’s an excellent opinion.”

    D’gor smiled and waved his hand at Derga’s pretense.

    He was sincere. In an era where tens of thousands starved to death each year, what did it matter if it was just street food? Survival came first.

    “Reputation is truly a fearsome thing. No matter how much it is street food, it has value, which is why it’s consumed.”

    “That’s right. But reality is even more bleak. Even among the commoners, they wouldn’t even glance at the food the lowborn eat.”

    At Mac and D’gor’s lament, the marchioness interjected.

    “Even if a new crop is discovered, it will take a while for it to spread, right?”

    It was not a bad topic, but the context was off. Ian unconsciously shook his head.

    “No, Mother. In fact, distribution is not the problem.”

    “Really? Sir Ian, it seems you have an opinion.”

    Mollin’s tone was as if testing him. Ian smiled as if asking why he was acting like that when he knew everything.

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