Predatory Marriage — Chapter 90. Gypsies (1)
Translator: Atlas / Editor: Regan
The sky was dark. Moist air covered the forest in a thick blanket, wafting through the trees, stirring their leaves with uneasy breezes that warned of rain. Dozens of people crowded into the area to breath the fresh air, all present to witness the prince’s hunt.
A hound scoured the damp earth while squires chased away the smaller prey, clearing the Prince’s path so he could hunt more easily.
Count Weddleton stood next to the Crown Prince, holding their horses by their reins. As Cerdina’s biological father, Count Weddleton was obliged to follow Blaine when he decided to go hunting, even though Blaine did not care for his companionship.
The Count brought up several topics over the course of their conversation, skirting his real topic until he finally mustered the courage to broach the subject.
“Was there any discussion of reforming the tax system during the last cabinet council meeting?” he asked. The Prince’s blue eyes flicked toward him, but despite their icy stare, the count refused to retreat. “It seems Princess Leah wants to press on, despite Byun Geongbaek’s opposition…”
Prince Blaine raised an eyebrow. It was the only response to the Count’s questions; his lips were pressed into a thin line. His expressionless face made the Count shiver nervously, and he thanked his lucky stars that Blaine’s bow was focused on a distant bush, rather than something in his own direction.
Silence stretched between them. Blaine narrowed his eyes as a vein swelled in his hand, his arms straining with the effort to firmly draw the bowstring. The arrow flew the instant its point found a target, and an instant later, the bellow of a wounded creature echoed through the forest. A stag bounded out of the bushes, its huge antlers like ivory branches.
Stumbling forward, the deer’s body struck the ground with a heavy thud. Warm, fresh blood flowed from its neck and squires quickly ran to inspect the fallen beast.
“Wonderful, Crown Prince!” Count Weddleton said cheerfully.
He had displayed exquisite marksmanship. Anyone else would have been pleased to demonstrate such mastery and fell a deer so soon, but Blaine simply watched silently.
“Send it to the Queen’s palace,” he said indifferently.
The squires hefted the deer carcass and Blaine stared at the place where it had lain, its blood still staining the flattened grass and soaking into the earth.
“I wonder if the barbarian king likes the hunt,” he said slowly.
“How could he not?” Count Weddleton replied, as if he had been anxiously awaiting an opportunity to speak. “They are beasts by nature. The barbarians are said to forgo weapons altogether, and kill their prey with their bare hands.”
There were plenty of such stories, and Count Weddleton was happy to speak ill of the barbarous Kurkans, who were also rumored to use their teeth to tear into their prey’s flesh once they killed it. Listening, Blaine laughed for the first time.
“I wouldn’t mind hunting with him,” he said, smiling.
The incident with the slave traders had become a subject of gossip throughout Estia and the rest of the continent. Estia was the center of the slave trade, so such stories spread quickly and affected the rest of the black market. Slave traders had been eliminated and their wealth lost. With the supply of such a valuable commodity eliminated, the prices of the remainder of the slaves skyrocketed.
The nobles were enraged and would have complained about all the freed Kurkans roaming the streets, but they were forced to hold their tongues. Slavery was illegal. The slave traders who had lined their pockets with filthy money were now inhabiting the underworld, so the nobles that had employed and patronized them didn’t dare to become involved with the affair, lest they share their fate.
A rumor circulated claiming that Byun Gyeongbaek of Oberde would protest on behalf of the nobles at the next cabinet council meeting. Did he honestly believe that Princess Leah would quietly accept such a protest? The Kurkans hated the man. But it seemed impossible that the matter would be resolved peacefully. Byun Gyeongbaek seemed determined to disrupt the upcoming negotiations with the Kurkans, and some claimed he was trying to provoke a military confrontation.
Leah had to find a solution.
After the action against the slave traders, Count Valtein had lost a significant amount of weight. He had already explained to Leah what had happened, after he had been separated from her that day.
“So I don’t think I can eat meat at the moment… especially not anything raw…” he had concluded, downcast.