LTBE - Chapter 413.2: Her News (2)
“I am the chief of the Inquisitor Hall, Hanks Gray. Welcome to the Inquisitor Hall, Mister Roel.”
“Thanks for your hospitality, Count Hanks. Pardon me for my sudden visit. I’ve heard much about your accomplishments, and it’s my pleasure to meet you in person.”
After the guard took his leave, Roel exchanged greeting the red-haired man.
Hanks’ greeting was formal and slightly cold, and Roel made sure to answer with impeccable etiquette. However, when Roel correctly identified Hanks as a count, the latter stiffened up for a split moment.
There was no doubt that Hanks was one of the most important subjects of the Theocracy, serving as the chief of the Inquisitor Hall. He rarely appeared in public, such that few people were aware that he was a noble on top of a clergyman.
It couldn’t be helped since he had no conferred land, and the Grays had always kept a low profile as most of their house members chose to join covert departments.
There was only one possibility why a landed noble like Roel was aware of his noble title—Her Highness Nora, Holy Eminence John, or a member of the royal family must have told him about it.
With this simple exchange, Roel subtly conveyed the deep trust the Xeclydes had in him to the skeptical Hanks. That convinced Hanks to change his attitude, and he stood up and shook hands with Roel.
“Mister Roel, may I know the reason behind your sudden visit to our Inquisitor Hall?”
“… I’m here to fulfill an appointment.”
“Yes, it was an appointment made through a ring.”
Roel took out an exquisite wooden box from his robe and presented the Xeclydes’ house ring to Hanks for verification. The latter quickly examined the ring before bowing respectfully.
“Lord Roel, please follow me.”
An hour later, Roel discreetly entered a familiar yet slightly surprising location under Hanks’ lead—the Saint Mesit Theocracy’s royal palace.
It wasn’t the headquarters of the Genesis Goddess Church, where Roel had previously met with Holy Eminence John, but the Xeclydes’ Seraphic Burg. There was a subtle but meaningful difference between the two.
Had they met in the church, it would mean that John was officially meeting him as the Holy Eminence, which suggested that the nature of their meeting was work-related. In the royal palace, however, John’s role would have been that of the king and the patriarch of the Xeclyde House, which inclined the nature of their meeting toward a private one.
This meant that Hanks had deemed the ring as a property of the Xeclyde Royal House and not the church, hinting that this was an invitation from the royal family.
The royal palace was as well-preserved as ever, looking immaculate like the white wings of an angel even on a winter’s night.
As the red-haired Hanks led him into the vast palace, Roel noticed that the guards in the vicinity had all been replaced with members of the Inquisitor Hall. Thanks to that, they were able to pass right through the usually tight security checks.
The two of them hardly spoke a word along the way.
It could have been that Roel was thinking too much since Hanks did come across as a reticent individual, but he couldn’t help but feel that there was something peculiar about the latter’s attitude.
As the two of them were closely affiliated with the Xeclydes, it wouldn’t be far-fetched to say that they were allies in the same faction. Yet, over the past hour, he noticed that Hanks had been quietly assessing him with a wary attitude.
Is this an occupational disease?
As intrigued as Roel was, he didn’t pay it much heed. Wariness was the way inquisitors stayed alive, and he would have probably freaked out if Hanks suddenly started cosying up to him instead.
“Lord Roel, His Eminence is in there. I’ll be waiting outside.”
“Thank you for escorting me, Count Hanks.”
Roel politely nodded to the red-haired man before examining the building in front of him. It was less grand than the Saint Seshur Hall, where he was fortunate to have visited several years ago, and the doors were much smaller. Judging from its location, it was likely to be a private audience room for the king and his trusted subordinates.
He quickly tidied himself up before directing a glance at the soldiers guarding the entrance, who immediately caught the drift and pushed open the solemn redwood doors.
Roel gracefully made his way in. Seeing that there was no one inside, he sat down on one of the guest seats and began examining the beautiful ornaments hanging on the walls out of curiosity.
Not too long later, an internal door privy to the members of the royal family opened, and a white-haired elder walked into the room.
Roel stood up and respectfully bowed.
“It’s been a long time, Your Majesty. I’m grateful for this audience.”
“It’s alright, child. We’re the only ones in here. There’s no need for such formality.”
The white-haired elder gently waved his hand with a smile before making his way to the center seat. His tone and movements were casual, not putting on airs at all.
Seeing that, Roel switched to a more intimate tone and smiled.
“Grandpa John, it has been several months since we last met. How are you doing?”
“Don’t worry, these old bones are still hanging on well. It looks like you have grown taller over the last few months.”
The duo began chatting with an amicable tone, reminiscent of a conversation between a child who had just returned from school and a friendly neighboring grandpa. It was so ordinary that it left Roel feeling a little sentimental.
Holy Eminence John was the elder who had shown the most care and concern for him aside from Carter. In fact, John’s support was one of the key reasons why Nora and Roel were able to maintain such a close relationship over the years.
That was also the reason why Roel didn’t hesitate to rush to the Holy Capital upon receiving John’s hint. He knew for certain that the latter wouldn’t do anything detrimental to him.
He cherished the bond he shared with Holy Eminence John, and that was why he was particularly relieved to see the old man’s smile.
The situation shouldn’t be too severe if he’s smiling.
Roel took out the exquisite wooden container and placed the ring bearing the Xeclydes’ insignia on the table. Then, he looked at John with a troubled smile.
“Grandpa John, it’ll be better if you could use another way to invite me over next time. I had the scare of my life when I saw this ring.”
“Hahaha! I wanted to grandly invite you over after your victory at the Challenger Cup, but several problems cropped up along the way. In the end, I could only ask you to come here quietly. I feel rather apologetic depriving the young hero who brought glory to our Theocracy of the flowers and applause he deserves.”
“I do enjoy flowers and the applause, but I don’t have an obsession with them. It’s just that your gift… I don’t think it’s appropriate for an outsider like me should be holding onto it.”
“Outsider? That might not be necessarily so.”
John gazed at Roel with deep eyes as he thought about the room his granddaughter had specifically reserved for the storage of important letters. Roel smiled helplessly in response to the remark before diving into the main topic.
“To be frank with you, it was under Her Highness’ order that I did my best to clinch the champion trophy in the Challenger Cup, but when I returned to the Theocracy, I heard that it has been a while since she last showed her face. I couldn’t get in contact with her via letters either. Grandpa John, did something happen to Nora?”
There was a touch of anxiety in Roel’s voice as he looked at John with a grave look. The old man reined in his smile and nodded.
“Child, I know that you’re worried. That’s also the reason why I summoned you to the Holy Capital. It has been a month since Nora last appeared in public, so it’s inevitable that the world would be worried about it.”
“Grandpa John, did something happened while Nora was awakening her bloodline?”
Roel had only asked this question because he sensed the heaviness in John’s voice, but unexpectedly, the latter fell silent to his question.
“You can say so. It’s still under control at the moment, but… I have an ominous premonition.”
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“Mm. I have a feeling that things are only going to get worse.”
John thought about Nora’s condition and let out a deep sigh. He looked at Roel with a grim expression and said.
“Nora is undergoing Seraphication.”