< — Ever After — > (2)
“Son of Sir. Elliot. We have troubled you to come all this way.”
Looking at the dark-haired man that was sitting behind the desk, Boris clenched his trembling fists.
“No, sir! I was not troubled at all!”
Boris was completely unable to think of a proper greeting. His mind was frozen. As he stood there as stiff as possible, Dean tapped his back from the side, startling him out of his trance. Boris hurriedly took out the message in his chest pocket and handed it to the Duke.
The content of the message from Callis Elliot was mostly about the border and some news about the north. The most particularly important part of the message, was concerning the movement of the barbarians. The barbarians were a tribal group that bordered most of the northern part of Xenon, which was the territory of Taran.
They frequently came down from the border and plundered whatever they could get their hands on. There were hundreds of small barbarian tribes, so there wasn’t a clear target for them to war against. Whenever the band of robbers were directly caught, the other tribes would deny all knowledge of them and claimed they were not involved.
Since the barbarians were a group of horse riders, the speed with which they attacked and withdrew was instantaneous. Because their purpose was solely to plunder food, whenever the situation turned slightly unfavorable, they would quickly take to their heels. For them, there was no such thing as honor or chivalry.
“When was the last subjugation?” (Hugo)
“A year and two months ago.”
“So it’s time to clean up the pests.”
The indifferent muttering was tinged with the thick smell of blood.
In order to stop the looting and prevent the barbarians from gaining too much momentum, the Duke regularly dispatched knights and led them into battle, with him personally leading at the front. In the nation, it was believed that the Duke of Taran was protecting the nation from the barbarians. That belief wasn’t wrong, but it wasn’t true either.
The Duke did not drive the barbarians into a corner. Even though if he seriously made up his mind, he had the capability to go to war and completely wipe them out so much that they wouldn’t be able to stir up trouble for the next few decades, the Duke did not do so. The barbarians were a necessary evil for the Duke of Taran.
The barbarians had to exist in order for the Taran family to have a purpose to exist. As long as the troublesome barbarians existed, no one could carelessly touch the Taran family.
The secret room of the Taran family contained the teachings of the ancestors that talked about how to handle the barbarians. First, do not let the barbarians gain a pivotal figure and set up a nation. Second, do not weaken the barbarian forces too much.
These were the principles that had never been shaken so far. Up to this point, this was knowledge that the elite knights were privy to. But there was also another secret that was only known to the head of the Taran family. The barbarians were sacrifices for calming the madness flowing in the Taran blood.
Under the justification of protecting the nation through war, they were able to kill as much as they desired. For many generations, the head of the Taran family had come to use this method to suppress their instinctual craving for blood. And that cursed blood also flowed in Hugo’s body. Even without his nauseating birth secret, Hugo sometimes had doubts as to whether he was really human.
‘A year and two months, huh. I have never not killed something for more than a year.’
The impatient thirst in his body could not be resolved without seeing blood. If he held a woman, it would settle down to some extent, but even that had a limit. But right now, his condition was very good. The desire for murder did not soar. Rather, he was annoyed. It was probably okay to just send the knights, was there a need for him to personally attend as well? The problem was that the content of Calliss’ message was ominous.
‘They have a pivotal figure and are integrating the tribes…’
The fact that they would be facing a bigger enemy if the barbarian were to established a nation was only a secondary issue. The main problem was that dealing with the barbarians would then become a nation-to-nation affair. If this happened, there would be less room for the Taran family to interfere. And as a result, the influence of the Taran family would diminish. Hugo could not let that happen.
He couldn’t hand over the Taran family to Damian with its power weaker than it was now. Otherwise, where was his dignity as a father?
* * *
Hugo summoned the knights that were above division leader to his office. He assigned tasks to the knights that guarded his wife, the knights that shall remained in the capital, and the knights that would join the ranks for the punitive expedition.
“Dean. I need you to keep doing your work here.”
“Yes, my lord.”
Dean replied without any questions. He was left to guard the Madam in the capital.
Roy lifted his hand.
“I want to stay in the capital.”
All the eyes on Roy were saying, ‘What whim hit this guy in the face today?’. This was the very same guy that was always the most excited and jumped to the forefront every time they went to subjugate the barbarians. They all knew how vexed he was for not being able to attend last year due to the duty of guarding the Crown Prince.
Thinking that Roy had not thrown away his habit of irritating people into a duel for no reason and hurting blameless people, Hugo’s gaze turned fierce. Here he thought Roy would stay quietly after the coronation party, but it looks like his body was getting itchy.
Seeing the ominous look in his Lord’s eyes, Roy flinched and quickly added:
“I mean I will do the job of guarding the Madam. It’s not that I’m worried Dean can’t do it. It’s just that everyone else have been going to the north and back, but if Dean continues to stay in the capital, he’ll lose his wild side.”
“…he’ll lose his battle instinct you mean.”
When Hugo corrected him, the knights burst into laughter. Roy didn’t look ashamed, rather he talked boastfully.
“A man shouldn’t care about those small stuff.”
Hugo wondered if he should suspend the talk for now and beat up this punk.
“Plus, it’s much better for me to be here when the lord is not around. Ignoring skill, Dean has all his holes plugged. Even if something happens to the Madam, he will definitely say, ‘you can’t do this’ first.”
Dean’s expression stiffened while the other knights struggled not to laugh as their shoulder trembled.
“As for me, I will beat them up first. I might not look like it, but I protected His Majesty for over a year. I’m telling you, I saved his life, you know.”
Look at me, I’m so great. Seeing the triumphant air around Roy, Hugo let out a sigh. Who knew where the guy tossed out his age, there was no sign of improvement in his childish actions. Hugo had given up; Roy would likely never change.
“Dean. What do you think?”
“Roy’s suggestion has reason to it. When it comes to flexibility, there is no one better than Roy. I will follow your order, my lord.”
Hugo was worried. Roy’s skills were outstanding but the biggest problem with him was his uncertainty. No one knew when and where he was or what he was doing. Hugo had heard that Roy was called the Mad Dog. It was really a good nickname for the punk.
‘If he’s ordered to do something, he definitely does it.’
The problem was that he didn’t care about the means or the method. Come to think of it, the means and the method that were used in order to protect his wife didn’t matter. Even though Hugo was worried about Roy causing trouble beside his wife, he was at ease placing his wife’s safety in Roy’s hands. He would be a strong watch guard.
With his worries coming to an end, Hugo left the duty of guarding his wife to Roy, and Dean joined the ranks of the knights for the punitive expedition.
 Honestly not sure what to call this [조장급]. According to what I found, it’s not a title. More like a team leader of sorts.
 The joke disappears in the translation. The word for [wild side] is yaseong while the word for [battle instinct] is taseong. Roy mixed it up.
 ‘All his holes plugged’. He’s saying that Dean is too rigid/too stuffy. This was the best translation, albeit a liberal one, to somewhat keep the joke.