Chapter 8: Envy, Hatred, and Poverty I
Rather than feeling despair at the sword pointed at his face, Ignatz Navy felt the flames of envy burn him as he glared at the wielder.
“Why!? Why is it always you!”
The target of those words was the knight Oran who stared back at his former friend with icy eyes.
Oran himself appeared calm, but his master, Herscherik, knew that a fire of hatred was blazing within the man, urging him to get revenge. If commanded, he would cut Ignatz in half. The only thing holding Oran back was his obedience, as he waited for Herscherik’s order.
“He was a lot easier to catch than imagined.”
Marcus, sitting beside Herscherik, said as he elegantly sipped on some black tea.
Just a moment before, his expression was melancholic, as if all of the world’s despair had filled him, but now an underwhelmed look, aimed towards Ignatz, had completely replaced it.
(Yup, and my eldest brother is more amazing than imagined.)
Herscherik recalled the events that had just happened.
When Ignatz entered the room, Marcus put on the look of a seductress and began an act to make the man fall. Of course, this wasn’t the erotic type of “fall.” In the beginning, Ignatz questioned Marcus’ sudden change in behavior, but he ignored it and made a great effort to win over the prince, eventually succeeding. His acting ability was so advanced that worried Herscherik shouted in his head, “Brother, you’re not serious, right? RIGHT!?”.
If it wasn’t for how exception Marcus’ acting was, in continuing to deceive someone who had already realized they were being deceived, Ignatz might have become too suspicious. The man was by no means stupid. If there was anything off, there was the possibility of the plan being discovered.
But the moment he brought out a glass jar containing individual and carefully wrapped candies, the drug, Oran burst through the room at Herscherik’s signal and restrained Ignatz.
“This is just a piece of candy! Prince, this is an unjust arrest!”
Seeing how this man would not give up this farce made Herscherik let out a sigh in exhaustion.
“You were just telling us the toxic symptoms of drug use like, ‘If you eat this, you’ll forget all the bad things,’ ‘You’ll feel good,’ and ‘You wouldn’t be able to let go,’ right?”
“I didn’t say it was a drug!”
Herscherik let out another sigh at the man’s cry. What stubbornness.
“Just give it a rest.”
Oran’s voice echoed with deep hostility.
“We’ve uncovered the truth that you were selling this drug as well as cornering her in the past out of hatred.”
“…Hey, hey. The one who should give it a rest is you.”
Ignatz shot a provoking glare straight at Oran.
“The one who cornered her was you, not me.”
Those words were like a switch to Oran. Although Herscherik and Marcus sensed the danger in Oran’s change, Ignatz continued.
“Because you didn’t know her anguish, ignored her, and only looked at yourself, she turned to the drug! I didn’t do anything!”
Being told this, Oran weakly lowered his weapon. Ignatz smiled in victory. But in the next second, Oran raised his sword, intending to make this vile man feel the full brunt of his hatred.
This voice was certainly not rough. The calm yet absolute command stopped the knight.
Oran faced his master with an imploring look, but Herscherik remained composed.
“Ignatz, this is not a drug, right?”
After confirming that Oran had stopped moving, Herscherik pointed at the glass jar.
“Ah, yes. These are but simple pieces of candy.”
“Okay, in that case…”
Herscherik grinned. Although the boy was smiling, Marcus, who sat next to him, felt chills run down his back.
“Let me see you eat them all.”
Still smiling, Herscherik rose from the sofa and reached for the glass jar. Then, he grabbed a piece from inside and held it out.
“If it’s candy, you can eat the whole jar, right? Should we prepare some tea?”
Ignatz retreated, trying to distance himself from Herscherik and the candy. But Oran swiftly circled around him and blocked his exit.
“Why are you running away? If this is just a simple piece of candy as you’ve stated, you can eat it, right?”
“Hey, why aren’t you eating?”
Herscherik pressed Ignatz. Seeing the man’s silent reaction, Herscherik stopped smiling.
He removed the wrapping, and the drug really did look like a piece of candy.
“You really don’t want to die, huh. Just like them…”
He discovered later on that practically all those who were held captive by the drug and tried to quit died. Even the aristocrats Herscherik and Oran worked hard to get a hold of died within two weeks, unable to escape the toxic poison.
“Despite knowing that the victims would still die regardless of if they stopped, you continued to sell it. That I cannot forgive. And…”
Herscherik continued. Like with the drug, he was also angry about this.
“You said that it was Oran’s fault that his fiancée died, right? Keep those ridiculous ideas inside your delusional head. Oran worked hard for both his and her sake. It’s just sad that they went their separate ways in the end.”
There will be many times where your hard work would not be reciprocated nor appreciated. That was what Herscherik believed. There’s no person out there whose life goes exactly as imagined. The only places where that could happen were in stories and delusions.
Herscherik glanced at Oran.
“…At first, I thought about keeping quiet about this. The reason why Ignatz targeted her was for her family name, her reputation, and to create a connection to the drugs. That was why he approached you as a friend, as well as her. That was his goal from the very beginning.”
Then Herscherik shot a cold glare at Ignatz.
“I heard that she sought advice from you as a friend. You told her things that incited her anxiety, causing her to turn to the drug.”
This was the conclusion of Kuro’s investigation.
Oran’s and Igantz’s classmates in the Academy knew that Ignatz was targeting Oran’s fiancée out of envy. But from their view, the love between Oran and his fiancée was mutual, so they believed that Ignatz, while being an aristocrat, was lower than them and couldn’t do anything about it. Besides, they didn’t bother to warn the two about those around them who were even more envious of their relationship.
But the incident happened, the fiancée’s death was declared to be caused by sickness, and Oran’s grades took a nosedive.
Apparently, they were laughing when they told this to Kuro. To such aristocrats, there was nothing sweeter than another person’s misery.
Humans possess various emotions: bright emotions like happiness, love, and adoration as well as dark emotions like envy, anger, and fear. All of these are needed to form a human heart.
That was why things like the classmates’ and Ignatz’s envy weren’t necessarily bad or evil. The issue was that Ignatz wasn’t using this envy to better himself; he acted to push others down.
“I’m not saying that everything you’ve done is wrong. But…”
In one swift move, Herscherik put the piece in his hand into Ignatz’s mouth, left half-opened in negligence.
Flustered for a moment, Ignatz hurriedly tried to spit out the drug. Rather, he ended up in a coughing fit, attempting to throw up the contents of his stomach.
Naturally, Herscherik had expected Ignatz to spit out the drug and put the piece he had grabbed back in his mouth.
“I will not allow you to insult my knight and his fiancée.”
Herscherik declared to the man who was on all fours.
Oran stared at the prince. Despite his small stature, it felt like Herscherik’s presence in the room was large.
(This is the youngest prince…?)
Marcus was at a loss for words toward this sight.
Just a few weeks ago, he viewed Herscherik as his youngest and smallest brother. He was favored by their father, looked plain in comparison to their other siblings, and was quite smart for his age. If the prince hadn’t come to him asking for help, his initial impression of the boy would have never changed.
(The real Herscherik…)
The boy who smiled next to his father.
The boy shaken by a huge misunderstanding.
The boy who ran around to resolve this case.
And the boy who was trying to protect his knight.
Which was the true him? Marcus believed that all of them were real.
Even though Herscherik was driving Ignatz into a corner, it was most certainly not his only objective doing this.
His number one purpose was to save his knight’s heart. Proof that it was working was that Oran had extinguished his anger towards Ignatz and was returning to his normal self.
The thing Marcus couldn’t do two years ago, Herscherik had easily accomplished it.
“Well then, Ignatz.”
Herscherik said as he looked down on the cowering Ignatz.
“Where did you buy the drugs?”
“Eh? Hersche, what do you mean?”
This unexpected question caused a question mark to appear above Marcus’s head.
“This man doesn’t have the ability to refine such a drug. This drug was created by those in the Research Bureau and requires an expensive and elaborate process to produce.”
Herscherik resolutely stated.
It was stated in the records that initially, this drug was meant to enhance a person’s strength. It was a doping drug that would turn a normal soldier into a powerful weapon. The true essence of this drug was to enhance the human while also erasing their fear. But because it was viewed as inhumane, research was halted for an investigation when the criminal stole the drug. And that criminal and official passed away two years ago.
“Two years ago, a government official sold the drug data to an outsider. The drug had a short circulation period. Within a few months, the criminal and those involved had practically all disappeared.
In the first place, why was an enhancement drug stolen? At that time, the Research Bureau had other worthy drugs like a cure-all and a restorative drug. Yet, the official didn’t sell data on those, but rather leaked the enhancement drugs?
(It can only be understood that the drug was stolen for a specific purpose beyond profit.)
The goal was the drug data while money and such were only side benefits. And after that two-year gap when the connection to the kingdom faded, the drug resurfaced. Almost as if they were performing an experiment with a different version.
Herscherik looked down at the man.
“Who’s the one on top? If you help us, your sentence can be lowered, perhaps?”
Herscherik grinned. However, both Oran and Marcus understood that deep down, Herscherik would not forgive him, but they kept quiet.
Ignatz’s lips were tightly sealed. The man was so stubborn that the color of his lips even changed, so Oran purposely brandished his sword. The man’s bluish face reflected off its polished surface like a mirror.
Ignatz’s lips moved slightly. But his voice was so faint that the two next to him couldn’t hear.
“Say it clearly!”
“…I don’t know!”
In reaction to Oran’s demand, Ignatz shouted and slammed his fists to the ground like a child throwing a tantrum.
“I… I just bought it off from some kid! I don’t know who’s on top!”
Herscherik recited the words and began to think. It didn’t seem like he was lying.
Then he looked at the glass jar filled with the wrapped pieces of the drug. He felt like he had seen that wrapping pattern before
(…It can’t be!)
This unexpected realization made Herscherik speechless. No, he had considered the possibility, but he had hesitated to believe it.
“Brother Mark, I’ll leave this to you. Oran, ready the horse immediately!”
Herscherik panicked. Oran tilted his head at his master’s state.
“Prince, you discovered something?”
“Oran, I want you to listen calmly.”
Despite saying this, Herscherik was the one who was the least relaxed.
“I believe that the kid he’s talking about belongs to the orphanage.”
Herscherik’s declaration halted Oran’s brain.