Supreme Magus Chapter 260: Crossroads Part 1
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"Your Ladyship, to what do I owe the pleasure of this call?" Lith gave her a bow. Not only Mirim Distar was his sponsor at the White Griffon academy, but she was also his most powerful backer.
"First of all, congratulations are in order. The ranking you achieved brings great prestige to both our households and puts a muzzle on all those who wanted to prosecute me for strong arming Linjos into accepting your application."
"I'm sorry to have caused you so many troubles." Lith bowed again, aware of the meaning of her words. The Marchioness was a busy woman, she would never call him to exchange niceties.
Hers was a business call and she was reminding Lith about how much he owed her before asking him for a favor.
"Don't be." She dismissed his apologies with a wave of her hand, surprising Lith quite a bit.
"Politics work like that. If you cannot attack someone's actions, then you attack their reputation. Remember this well, once you have made some powerful enemies, they will criticize you no matter what you do.
It's something you must get used to, if you ever decide to join the political arena."
"Thanks for your concern, but it's not my intention. I plan to devote my life to magic and magical research. Wealth and status are just a mean to an end to me. I think the Marquisate is in good, capable hands already."
Lith chose his words carefully. The Marchioness' game was still unclear to him, so he decided to make it clear that he had no desire to become one of her competitors. Once he became a mage, Lith would receive a last name and a noble title.
Yet unless he also accepted the role and responsibilities that ruling his lands implied, he wouldn't become a true noble. His title would simply be nominal, giving him status and authority over the lesser nobles, but no wealth or annuities.
Many Professors of the academy had chosen that kind of life, serving their country with their magic rather than as feudal lords.
"Thanks for your kind words." The Marchioness nodded her head in approval.
"Now let's get down to business. The reason I called you is to inform you about the progress we made with the sealed box and the coded message you delivered to me. Sadly, despite countless hours of studies, my Forgemasters were unable to open it. It detonated leaving behind little clues. If only we had more than one, things could have been different." She sighed.
"The contents we managed to salvage matched your hypothesis. It contained a lot of alchemical tools that could have been used to synthesize and transport the toxin. It also carried enchanted items, but the explosion destroyed them leaving nothing we could identify."
'Damn! I know that already.' Lith thought. 'If only I had a decent excuse to provide her some of those useless trinkets I found, I could understand the bigger picture. Too bad there was no way to explain my stockpile of boxes.'
"On the bright side, we have finally managed to decipher the message." The Marchioness continued.
"It contained a series of instructions and names. The instructions explain the timing and dosage of the toxin, so at this point is irrelevant information. The names are quite interesting, though. They belong both to members of the academy staff and the students.
"We know from the royal constables' investigation that only a part of the academy staff listed was involved in the poisoning scheme. The others were simply approached and found ill-suited for recruiting because of their loyalty to the Kingdom or simply due to their cowardly nature.
"The problem is that we cannot interrogate students as we did for the staff. Accusing young heirs of noble households of treason would mean to implicate the whole bloodline. Those are more intricated than a spiderweb.
"One wrong move without hard evidence could escalate things, especially if the kids are actually innocent. Just being publicly suspected of high treason would mean for the households to lose their reputation, upsetting the balance of power in the Court.
"As I told you earlier, in the political arena it's not enough to be guiltless, you must also appear guiltless. The slightest suspicion can make you persona non grata in the right circles, not to mention your business relationship with the other nobles or the Crown.
"It can turn a family on the rise into one in decline. The Crown can't allow itself to lose even a single ally, that's why I have thought of an unorthodox method to continue the investigation…"
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Yurial Deirus was having the hardest time of his life, to the point that he often remembered Balkor's attack with nostalgia. At least back then he had friends and enemies. A safe zone and a danger zone. Everything was perfectly black and white.
Now his whole world was in shades of grey so similar between them that the only way to distinguish sh*t from chocolate was by the smell. His parents and his future in-laws paraded him almost daily during social events and parties, forcing Yurial to always keep his uniform and the golden pin on.
The situation caused him a huge amount of stress, since he was forced to spend a lot of time with Libea, his future wife, while pretending he enjoyed her company. The more Yurial knew her, the more he found himself contemplating Lith's suggestion about how easy it would be to arrange for her to an 'accidental fall' from a window.
Also, every time someone complimented him for his achievement, Yurial prayed to the gods to make him disappear or put him out of his misery, whatever they found more convenient.
Linjos's trickery with the rankings was like a poisoned knife in his heart. With each present and congratulation he received for his undeserved position, his condition got worse.
In two months, he had barely the time to touch a single spellbook. Yurial felt like an exotic beast, no one was interested in what he thought or had to say, only in the griffon shaped golden pin.
To avoid another relapse in his addiction to tranquilizers, Archmage Deirus, his father, had assigned him a personal assistant whose only task was to make sure Yurial would remain clean.
Yurial's father had chosen for him a stunning young woman, so to not ever leave him alone, even at night. Yet her well paid care and attention only contributed to making Yurial feel like a puppet.
'Neither my father nor Libea's family trust me. If this is how I'm going to live my life after I graduate, then I'd rather fail. I have no say in what I do, where I go, not even about who I spend my nights with. What good is to be a powerful mage if I'm only a spectator in my own life?'
The only silver lining in his current predicament was that the Ernas family attended to most of the events he was forced to took part in, allowing him to spend some time with his friends.
He and Lith called each other from time to time with the communication amulet. Every time Lith told him about his slow life in the countryside, Yurial couldn't help but wish their roles were reversed.
In his eyes, Lith's life was perfect, with a loving family, no responsibilities and a bright future ahead, while his own resembled more an elaborate form of torture with each passing day.
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