Alver was startled when I opened the door, but he smiled in the next instant.
“Hello, Prince Claus, can I go in?”
“Of course. Come in.”
“Thank you, sorry for the intrusion.”
Once inside, Alver noticed that Aunt Dayana, Aunt Sera, Andrea, and the others were in the living room. They were talking animatedly about the situation of the fort.
Meanwhile, Ysnay was lying on a nearby sofa, listening to the conversation with a sleepy expression.
The first one to notice Alver’s arrival was Aunt Dayana. She looked at the blonde young man with a soft smile and greeted him.
“You are here, Alver. Did you come to visit?”
“Well, I had a bit of free time, so I thought about visiting you. It’s rather boring in the barracks. I hope I’m not intruding.”
“Of course not. Come, sit. We were just talking about the situation of the fort. Perhaps you can give us some good opinions.”
“It’s a pleasure. Right, before I forget about it, I brought something.” Alver then extended his hand, showing a small bag he had been carrying. “It’s a bag of Dolong, one of the highest-grade teas of the empire.”
I raised an eyebrow. “Dolong? I thought it was pretty hard to get. Even I have not gotten it before.”
I remember it was a kind of tea whose leaves were harvested in the northernmost part of the empire before being feed to a special kind of magic beast. Later, the excrement of this magic beast was collected and then purified and processed, before being turned into Dolong tea.
Supposedly, only ten grams of Dolong team are produced from one hundred kilograms of leaves. Plus, due to the limited number of magic beasts used to produce it, Dolong tea is very rare.
The emperor buys thirty percent of it, and most of the rest is sold to the kings of other countries and the three biggest families of the empire. The small amount of Dolong tea remaining is then auctioned and sold at a sky-high price.
Actually, it’s not as though I can’t get it, but I never cared much about tea, so I have never drunk it before.
“I was a bit lucky…” Alver smiled bashfully. “To be honest, I stole it from my dad before coming. I planned to use it to bribe some officials, but I think it’s better to use it to bribe a prince.”
I chuckled. “Well, that is true.”
“Thank you for the present, Alver.” Aunt Dayana stood up and received the bag of tea. When she confirmed it was truly Dolong tea and there was nothing wrong with it, she nodded. “We appreciated the gift.”
“Actually, why don’t we prepare the tea right now?” Aunt Sera suggested.
I thought for a moment and nodded. “Good idea.”
“Let me. I’ll prepare it.”
I nodded and Aunt Dayana passed the tea to Andrea, who went to prepare it immediately.
Alver seemed pretty happy with the idea of preparing the tea right away. According to him, he had not drunk it yet in fear of spoiling it.
Before long, the fragrance of tea spread to the entire house. Aunt Dayana, Aunt Sera, and the others closed their eyes to enjoy it, and even Ysnay seemed slightly entranced.
I must admit that the tea was very fragrant. It was completely worthy of its title as a top-grade tea. Even someone who doesn’t like tea like me was interested after smelling that fragrant aroma.
When the tea was prepared, Andrea carried it to the living room together with nine cups, one for each person.
However, after the tea was served, nobody drank it.
Even Andrea, who seemed pretty tempted, restrained herself.
Alver seemed to understand the reason for it because he smiled wryly and took the first sip of tea.
“… As expected, it’s good.”
“Really?” Aunt Dayana smiled and grabbed her cup, taking a sip of the tea as well. “You are right, it’s very good! I feel as though the fragrance will remain in my mouth forever.”
With Aunt Dayana’s words, the rest of us started to drink it.
Nothing happened when we drank it. In truth, I knew the tea was not poisoned.
And even if it was, it would have not affected any of us. Much less Ysnay or me.
Alver did not do anything suspicious either. He just continued drinking his tea as he conversed with us.
But after five minutes, Aunt Sera’s froze.
And an expression of terror appeared on her face.
“Sera? What happened!?” Dayana asked hurriedly, but immediately after that, her expression changed, and her body collapsed on the sofa.
“Mom, aunt!” Andrea stood up in a panic, but her body lost strength instantly, staggering and falling on the ground helplessly.
When the rest of the group saw that, they realized that something was wrong.
“You! What did you do!?” Katherine stood up and asked Alver angrily.
She could feel her body turning weak. Moreover, her mana seemed frozen.
The next second, she saw Lina collapse, and then her body lost strength and collapsed as well.
“Katherine!” Rose cried out, but when she tried to move, she realized her body was paralyzed.
In the end, even Ysnay was unable to move. She furrowed her brows in confusion, trying to understand what was happening.
“Poison, huh.” I murmured with a self-deprecating expression. Just like the others, I was not moving.
“Yes, poison,” Alver replied with a calm smile. “And a very powerful one. It can paralyze the nerves and stop the circulation of mana. The better part of it is that it’s useful even in fifteenth-layer practitioners. Moreover, it can be detected only after it breaks out, and by then, it will be too late to do anything.”
“Impossible! I made sure there was no poison in the tea! Moreover, I did not find any sign of poison after I drank it!” Aunt Dayana said with a panicking expression.
“The poison was not in the tea, it was in the fragrance it let out,” Alver explained unhurriedly. “I was not affected because I drank the antidote beforehand.”
After hearing that explanation, a bitter smile appeared on my face.
“The fragrance, huh.”
“Yes. That way, I could be sure you would be affected even if you didn’t drink the tea. Of course, even if you did not prepare it or threw it away, I had other ways, such as a perfume I prepared using the tea leaves.
“Actually, I was also a bit surprised. I never expected all of you to be here. I guess I was lucky. The goddess must be smiling at me.”
“Are you not afraid you will be discovered!?” Katherine growled. “When the soldiers of the fort discover we are dead, they will surely launch an investigation. Our guards should have seen you coming inside the house!”
“You don’t need to worry about that. Before I came, some soldiers asked your men to help them with a small problem. Right now, there is nobody in a few hundreds of meters around here. Then, Claus, what do you think of my plan?”
I looked at Alver and sighed. “Unexpected. So it’s the way I’m going to die, huh.”
Alver nodded. “To be honest, I have nothing against you. Quite the opposite, I think we could have become friends. Unfortunately, I was ordered to kill you. A shame.”
I smiled bitterly.
“It looks like I will die today, huh.”
“I’m sorry, but yes. You should say your last words, Prince.”
“… Actually, I don’t have any last words. I lost, and I accept my loss. But… There is something I want to know.”
“Do ask then.”
“… Who sent you to kill me, Alver?”
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