As soon as the news about the emperor’s demise spread, the emperor’s brother, Prince William, secretly ordered a proper “handling” of Louis and Edward, the rightful successors. Prince William’s men escorted the two brothers to the country’s outskirts.
Although the emperor was claimed to have died from over-exhaustion, the brothers knew their father was actually killed by their uncle even if they did not know exactly how he did it. Now, Prince William ascended the throne and became the reigning emperor. Shortly after becoming the emperor, he reached out his evil arm toward the previous emperor’s two sons. The two brothers were taken to a mountain in the outskirts of the country, where they stood next to a cliff.
Edward: Louis, are we going to die?
Louis: No, we are not. We will make it back alive.
Mercenary: Don’t lie to yourselves. You’re not going to make it back.
Mercenary: “The emperor is dead. His two successors slipped and fell down a cliff while taking a stroll.”
Mercenary: Prince William, ah, Emperor William will give the previous emperor’s sons a proper burial. Hahahahaha!
The mercenary pushed Louis and Edward toward the cliff. They would have surely fallen if they had taken another step. Triggered by the peril, Louis erupted with power! His irises turned red, and something reminiscent of a black bone wrapped around his neck. Louis was exploding with unusual demonic power and thirst for blood!
Demonized Louis: I will not let him do whatever he likes!
The mercenaries were scared to see Louis’ strangely terrifying change. They hurriedly took a few steps back and unsheathed their swords —
The mercenaries were no match for the demonized Louis. Those who charged at him were knocked off the cliff while the rest of the mercenaries used Edward as a shield and began slowly retreating. However, Louis did not intend to let anyone leave; he dashed toward the mercenaries, knocked their weapons away, and threw all of them down the cliff, just as they had planned to do with the two brothers.
Edward thought he was also going to die in the hands of his brother, so he closed his eyes and waited for his death...
Demonized Louis: Ed...Edward...?
Just as Louis’ hand was about to thrust into Edward’s head, he suddenly recognized his only brother. It was at this juncture that his mind started to return to his body. Although there was only a bit of rationality in his mind, it was enough for Louis to suppress his demonic power and restore his body back to normal.
Louis: ...I am fine. I won’t let anyone, not even William, cause you any harm.
Edward: What happened to you just now...
Louis knew he could no longer hide the truth. While walking back to the castle, Louis began to explain to Edward: they were actually half-brothers, with a same father and different mothers. Edward was born to a Human concubine, but Louis was the son of the Demon queen.
Louis’ mother did not die of illness and instead, she merely lived alone in a secluded place after the awakening of her Demon blood. Because of the inter-race development throughout the years, she thought she was the last individual with the Demon blood. None could have imagined that this weak lineage could still pass on to Louis.
The first time Louis burst with demonic power was when he learned of his mother’s death and he fell into depression. Luckily, when Louis was given the news, there were only the emperor and him, which hid his power from everyone else. Since then, Louis listened to his father and learned how to control his Demon blood. It was also why his secret was kept hidden until now.
Officials who supported Prince William began to exploit the fact that the rightful heirs to the throne were missing and moved that Prince William, another member of the royal family, be the next emperor, because a country cannot be without a governor. Prince William also played along: he pretended to refuse the throne at first but reluctantly accepted their suggestion later —
Louis: We shall not have our uncle burdened with this heavy responsibility, because I have returned!
Just like a hero from fiction stories, the dust-covered Louis returned just in time for the royal council to decide who the new emperor should be.
Prince William: Louis! Your Highness...and Prince Edward...
The shocked expression on Prince William’s face delighted Louis, but his immediate change of tone caused Louis to be cautious again.
There were countless of officials who supported William; he had also seized control of the country’s army. If they had no concrete evidence, they could not accuse Prince William for plotting against the previous emperor, or people would only think that he was trying to defame him. Hence, Louis knew it was not time to deal with the sly prince yet.
A few months passed and Louis’ first birthday as emperor was drawing near. It would also be the day that he enters adulthood, so everyone in the country was preparing for the celebration banquet.
On such a happy day, Louis was contrastingly serious as he looked out the window. He was devising a method to deal with Prince William. Though he successfully ascended the throne, Prince William had never ceased his scheming to gain the crown from Louis.
If he could get rid of both Louis and Edward, he would be the next emperor. To protect themselves, the two brothers acted completely different from before. Louis was originally wise and compassionate, but now, he pretended to care for luxurious matters and handed almost all stately affairs to his uncle. Edward, on the other hand, changed from a worrier to someone who always smiled. No matter how Prince William ridiculed and mocked him, he did not break his smile.
Suddenly, a swallow flew to Louis, interrupting his thoughts. He recognized that it was Edward’s friend, whom Edward claimed to have met at the hunting grounds. Edward protected it from Prince William, so it returned the favor by working for Edward.
Swallow Manservant: Your Majesty! Prince Edward is in danger! Prince William took him to the dungeon!
Louis: What? What happened?
Under the swallow’s guidance, Louis arrived at the cell where Edward was confined. All the guards were Prince William’s men, so they realized why Louis had come and stood up against the emperor...
Paying no attention to the guards’ warning, Louis entered the cell and saw Edward hanging; next to him stood Prince William who was enjoying Edward’s pained expression. As soon as Louis saw Edward, he dashed to him and examined his condition. Although he was furious, he suppressed his anger and asked the sly prince with a calm voice:
Louis: Uncle William, what has Edward done to receive such a serious punishment?
Prince William: He attempted to usurp the throne! He should be sentenced to death right now!
Prince William ordered his men to show Louis the laurel branches, which Louis picked up to observe before asking with bemusement:
Louis: I do not understand what you mean, uncle. How do these laurel branches relate to usurpation?
Prince William: Your Majesty, rumor has it that laurel branches are used to dispel evil.
Prince William: And Prince Edward was going to give them to Your Majesty as a gift. That means he deems Your Majesty an evil he has to dispel!
Upon hearing that, Louis silently slid the laurel branches in the shape of a fan between his back and his sash, resembling a peacock spreading its tail, only with shorter “feathers”. After looking at his body from different angles, Louis smiled, as if he liked the gift much.
Louis: Hm, not bad! Edward knows me well.
Louis: It just so happens that I was looking for an accessory to increase my glamor.
Louis: But feathers seem to be a bit scarce. Is this accessory not finished yet?
Prince William: With all due respect, Your Majesty, did you miss something? Laurel is an evil...
Louis: Well, I think you are the one who has missed something, uncle William. Laurel stands for glory and victory, which perfectly suits me, the emperor.
Louis: And it can dispel evil, right? A lot of evils are indeed lurking around me.
While Louis said this, he kept staring at Prince William, as if he was able to read his mind and was sending him a message: I’ll always be two steps ahead of you. With no reason to linger on the argument, Prince William could only order the release of Edward before he left with his men.
Since then, Prince William would send someone to give Louis peculiar accessories as gifts. It was not only to test if Louis really liked the accessory, but also to embarrass him for wearing such eccentrical items in front of his subjects. Surprisingly, Louis happily accepted all the gifts and changed his accessories every day. However, the two brothers were still living under the “threat” of Prince William...
Louis and Edward each earned their own ironic title: the “Emperor of Elegant Clothes” — the one who only wore elegant clothes and paid no attention to stately affairs; and the “Happy Prince” — the one who only knew how to smile no matter where and when, respectively.
Life threatening traps were normal for the two brothers. Poisoning, assassinations, and defamation happened in various forms and means.^ ^ To deal with the assassination attempts, Louis assigned every trustworthy guard to protect Edward, while he turned himself into a puppet emperor for Prince William.
Aside from assassinations, Louis and Edward also had to avoid being poisoned. The kitchen utensils were originally ceramic, but when Louis once found out his food was poisoned, he used his pretense of love for luxury and changed all ceramic utensils to silver in the name of glamor.
Their personal items were also sprayed with slow-acting poison. Louis knew it would not affect his demonic body, so he personally used all those items and left Edward with the safe ones. This was why the sly prince’s schemes had never achieved their intended effect.
Although Prince William did a myriad of evil deeds in the background, his exterior disguise was also perfect.^ ^ In case there were any unfavorable policies, Prince William would act before Louis could say anything. He would pretend to be falsely accused and claim that he had reminded Louis, but he could not help when the emperor forcibly enforced the policies, so the emperor should be the one to take the blame.
Prince William’s scheme caused the people to slur on their emperor, damaging Louis’ reputation while raising Prince William’s. If he had to take the throne by force in the end, he would have not only excuses to justify his actions, but also the people’s trust.
Everyone in the country thought Prince William did everything for the sake of the country, but he was actually involved in embezzlement and bribing. Goals were his only concern, not the means.
Louis knew clearly of his crimes, so whenever Prince William wanted to divert the public treasury as his own, Louis would use the money to buy treasures he liked. His subjects took him as a self-indulgent emperor, but he would rather give the treasures away as gifts or resell them instead of leaving the money to the sly prince.
Louis: ‘William’s policies always leaned toward the aristocrats. People of the lower hierarchy are suffering.’
Louis: ‘There is no way I can let him continue implementing his unjust policies.’
Louis: ‘But I only have a few people who were loyal to my father. All the others are on Prince William’s side...’
Louis: ‘If I do not have concrete evidence of his crimes, the officials will accuse me of gratuitous allegation...’
To ensure everything he held dear would be safe, and also for the country which his father had shaped, Louis worked with Edward and the Swallow Manservant to find evidence that can bring Prince William to justice.
Louis sent a number of men to search for evidence of Prince William’ s wrongdoings and schemes of taking the throne, but the sly prince’s henchmen outnumbered Louis’. They could only find proof of defalcation related to his henchmen instead of Prince William himself.
Later, with the Swallow Manservant’s help, they gathered information on the henchmen’s dirty private transactions. All the evidence seemed to point to the sly prince, but there was no clear mention of Prince William himself. Using such evidence to accuse Prince William would not be enough and would only end with dismissal of the charges.
Louis: They worked in groups. There must be more clues than these one-sided records...
Louis: That slick rat must have written down everything to avoid losing any money.
Edward: Does that mean...we only have to find his account book?
Louis smiled without answering; Edward already comprehended his plan. Since that day, the Swallow Manservant sneaked into Prince William’s mansion every night. After nights of investigation, it found out that Prince William’s account book should be in a secret room. However, they did not know where the lever was, and without it, there was no way they could enter the room...
After deciding it was time to deal with Prince William, Louis and Edward searched for evidence of his crimes, but was surprised to find that the sly prince worked with extreme caution. No matter how much evidence they gathered, none of them was sufficient for the emperor to accuse Prince William.
With strenuous effort, the Swallow Manservant finally found clues as to where Prince William’s account book was located. It was stored in a secret room, but the Swallow Manservant could not get to the book even if it wanted to help.
Louis was perplexed. He once tried to personally visit Prince William’s mansion, hoping to find the account book’s whereabouts. However, his uncle watched him closely. The prince followed the emperor wherever he went. Left with no other options, Louis could only remember the structure of the mansion and drew a map afterward before discussing with Edward.
Swallow Manservant: I am sorry. My body is not convenient for me to find the switch.
Louis: No need to blame yourself. We will figure out a way.
It was midnight. Everyone was asleep, but Louis was still awake, busying himself with finding a method to handle Prince William. He took a stroll in the castle and looked down at the entire country from a balcony. Fire was burning gently all over the place, glittering like the beautiful stars in the sky.
Louis: ‘Father, you treasured this country so much. I will protect it even if it means I have to sacrifice everything else.’
Just then, Louis caught a glimpse of someone stealthily climbing across the castle wall. The figure looked around before hastily running into the castle.
Louis searched through the castle for the suspicious intruder and finally found him in a long corridor.
Louis stood at a corner and observed the intruder who seemed to be seeking around.
???: Humph! This castle is really huge! Where do they store their treasures?
Louis: ‘Looking for treasures? Could it be a treasure hunter?’
Louis kept following the thief. Although the thief looked like a simpleton, his moves were especially agile.
Louis: ‘He should have no problem getting William’s account book.’
Just as Louis was thinking of a way to get the thief to work for him, the thief inadvertently triggered a hidden mechanism of the castle and drew the guards’ attention. The thief could not help but stomp his feet in anger while murmuring:
???: Wow! You don’t need that many traps to protect your castle, do you?!
???: ...anyway, I won’t be THE thief if it’s too easy.
Before the guards arrived, the thief had already escaped from the window. Louis had no intention to let the guards see him wandering around either, so he hurriedly returned to his room.
The next day, Louis put on his mask of luxury again and wanted to hire a tailor to prepare new clothes for his parade. It was already a characteristic associated with Louis, so the officials did not think twice of it even though they did not want him using their money either. At the same time, Prince William was happy to see Louis flaunting his uselessness to his subjects, so he agreed to the emperor’s request.
Edward: I don’t think that individual will show up. He must be afraid of getting caught because he is no tailor.
Louis: Rest assured. He will come, because he’s arrogant enough to show up and he’s proud of what he does.
Just like Louis had predicted, the thief actually came to apply for the job on the day of admission. Louis could tell it was the thief with one glance; he walked to the thief and immediately chose him to be the tailor. Looking at this individual, Louis could not help but feel excited.
Louis: ‘This way, my plan can finally be executed.’
To persuade the thief, Louis had already devised the entire plan in his mind...