Chapter 60

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Elizaveta was babbling nonsense, suggesting a bill to impose taxes on men’s body hair care for public health hygiene, or sharing some irrelevant foreign story about a royal princess almost certain to become the next monarch who was unexpectedly on the marriage market despite her status.

“Ah, I see.” (Ivan)

“I find that story interesting.” (Elizaveta)

“Well, indeed.” (Ivan)

“I know it, right!.” (Elizaveta)

Ivan was a person overflowing with sociability, demonstrating his ’empathy’ ability by lavishly displaying modern social skills represented by “[Hmmm, I see].”

Elizaveta, who had been looking at him as if he were quite pathetic, sighed deeply and finally returned with a serious expression.

Consistently serious, Ivan, who had only partially (actually, almost entirely) listened to her words, now focused as she began the main topic.

“I presume you are cognizant of the significant assault on Frechenkaya orchestrated by the dwarves, Vanka?” (Elizaveta)

“Yes, Your Highness.” (Ivan)

“And you are mindful that they retrieved artifacts from the excavation during the operation?” (Elizaveta)

“Yes.” (Ivan)

Though he hadn’t observed it personally, he grasped the situation from that fateful night on the rain-soaked streets of Frechenkaya.

There was extensive terrain destruction, and the dwarven weaponry possessed the potential to bury an entire city if activated proficiently.

Drilling machines, drilling artifacts. Perhaps the dwarves called them differently, but on the frontline, these massive structures were roughly referred to in that way.

Due to the thorough extermination in the past war, it was believed that these artifacts no longer existed in this world.

“I see, Enrique managed to slaughter all the dwarves… but in the end, we only found traces of those artifacts.” (Elizaveta)

“Traces, you say…?” (Ivan)

“Traces of extensive operation that could collapse the entire eastern part of Frechenkaya. Look at this record.” (Elizaveta)

Elizaveta handed over a document with a confidential seal.

– A colossal structure was detected in motion beneath eastern Frechenkaya. 75% of the underground waterways in the east were obliterated, and drainage facilities citywide ceased to function.

– The artifact, traced after the destruction, is presumed to have almost immediately halted attempts at collapsing operations.

– Track the movement path of the structure.

– Traces are lost near the University of Jan’s.

– An unidentified underground joint was discovered beneath the University of Jan’s after magical probing.

– All attempts to enter the area failed.

– Evacuation of all undergraduate students and submission of a comprehensive construction plan. Refer to Attachment 12pg for details.

“Hmm….” (Ivan)

Ivan closed the file, lost in thought.

An unidentified joint in the university’s underground?

“Is there a reason why excavation has not been attempted in the underground joint?” (Ivan)

“According to our experts, initiating large-scale excavation underground poses a significant risk of ground collapse. There’s a high chance of a massive collapse starting from the university building, affecting both on-site workers and the university itself.” (Elizaveta)

“So, you’re not implementing evacuation as stated in this report…” (Ivan)

“This is the opinion of our magical engineering department. Take a look at this.” (Elizaveta)

The hastily scrawled document handed over required slightly higher security clearance.

– Probe results confirm the installation of a large-scale enchantment inside the University of Jan’s underground joint.

– This enchantment is establishing its own defense system. The overall operation of the system is deduced from the loss of the Dwarven excavation artifact.

– The installation year of this enchantment is estimated to be a minimum of 1500 years ago, a maximum of 2500 years ago….

“…Does this make any sense?”

“It does seem strange. Honestly, I find it hard to believe. Well, with most of our magical engineering department’s work being like this, what can you do? Either believe it or cover it up. It’s likely one of the two.”

Elizaveta shook her head.

“If the ground collapses, it’s certain that the large ancient magic array and Dwarven excavation artifact buried in the underground joint will be lost.” (Elizaveta)

“Is reverse engineering possible?” (Ivan)

Ivan grasped Elizaveta’s intention at this point.

The ambitious military commander now seeks to obtain both the ancient relics in the university’s underground and the Dwarven excavation artifact.

However, the Dwarven artifact is irreparable with human technology. In fact, even with Dwarven technology, it’s impossible. The design technology has been entirely lost, and it was a machine so complex that reverse engineering is impossible.

However, regardless, if a complete specimen exists, there might be at least something to gain. It might be a slim possibility, but it’s better than nothing.

If it’s buried beneath the capital’s underground, not investigating would be foolish.

At the same time, attempting it publicly in the bustling underground of the University of Jan’s, where international dignitaries’ offspring are studying, would also be foolish.

“We’re not asking for patriotism, Vanca.” (Elizaveta)

“….” (Ivan)

“Let’s make a deal. It’s a risky and crucial task that cannot afford to fail.” (Elizaveta)

“Your orders, I will listen.” (Ivan)

Ivan nodded heavily.

“Enrique has sent dwarves to pursue along the underground tunnels of Padun. The intelligence department is focusing all its efforts on monitoring the nobles in this city. And in the underground of this university, there’s an artifact whose installer, purpose, and timing are unknown.” (Elizaveta)

Elizaveta was looking at him with burning eyes.

“If it’s dangerous, destroy it. If it’s useful, bring it to me. Inconspicuously. For me… no, for the sake of this country, exert your efforts once more.” (Elizaveta)

“Yes, Your Highness.” (Ivan)

It was a prompt response.

Elizaveta looked at Ivan with a puzzled expression.

No, typically when given instructions outside official duties, at least there’s some indication of reluctance, right? Even if he’s not the kind of bureaucrat who readily accepts orders, still.

She had casually handed over a vague and risky project with no proper information or support, and he responded so promptly?

“…Did you happen to hear the part where I mentioned it’s a deal?” (Elizaveta)

“Yes, Your Highness.” (Ivan)

Elizaveta wore a somewhat perplexed expression.

Normally, in a deal, the value tends to rise according to the necessity. If she said she needed it this desperately, wouldn’t he have to offer something even more substantial on the other side of the scales?

However, the man before her, as always, merely nodded without making any demands.

As usual.

“Well… um. Isn’t there anything you desire? Position, goods, honor, rights… something like that?” (Elizaveta)

“Do you recall the command you gave me, Your Highness?” (Ivan)

“Hmm?” (Elizaveta)

“The letter, conveyed through Dmitry.” (Ivan)

“Oh, the letter. But why…?” (Elizaveta)

Elizaveta is an incredibly shrewd individual. She remembers every official document she has issued herself.

Politics is a delicate operation, even a simple word could carry complicated implications.

So, even for a private letter, considering the potential political misuse as a royal missive, her letter to Ivan was delicately and carefully adorned with metaphors.

Roughly the content was… well.

– If you have a wish, I will repay it threefold.

This is an old saying of the Krasilov. Grace and resentment are always repaid threefold.

So, let’s skip this.

– If the payment is insufficient, we’ll compensate with our friendship.

– If even that doesn’t cover it, we’ll settle with our memories.

“Ah….”

When Elizaveta looked puzzled, Ivan nodded heavily with an adult-like attitude.

“If it is His Majesty’s will and Your Highness’s grace, it is more than sufficient for all reasons accepted by the divine. The quarterly donations that Your Highness generously sends have been more than enough.” (Ivan)

Ivan is an ambitious person. He operates an orphanage for the sake of his own hypocrisy.

Feeding and caring for war orphans requires a considerable amount of money. Ivan had accumulated enough wealth through his long military service, and he also received official sponsorship funds from various high-ranking officials, including the princess.

He is a contemporary familiar with capitalism. Moreover, he has served in the Royal Guard and has a military-political career, having had connections with high-ranking military officials. (This implies he engaged in domestic intelligence.)

Therefore, Ivan understood that Elizaveta’s ‘deal’ was essentially a blank check. It was almost like an uncashed promissory note.

However, at the same time, Ivan was a ‘practical’ person.

‘If there’s a dungeon beneath the academy, having a hidden artifact is literally common sense.’

Dungeons should have rewards. This is such a serious principle in classic literature that it’s almost obsessed with copyright lawsuits. It’s a principle even found in ‘Dungeons and Dragons.’

Moreover, if a dungeon is assumed to be a hidden quest with ancient mysterious magic set by the princess herself, how incredible must the item sleeping there be?

Assuming he was commissioned to independently clear such a dungeon and then asked for support.

From the princess’s perspective, such thoughts might arise.

“Well… The expenses seem higher than expected. How about dispatching additional field agents to diversify the risk?” (Ivan)

People in this era are by no means fools. Moreover, the princess is exceptionally outstanding among them.

So, if a princess were to blindly say, ‘Oh, I trust Ivan, so let’s generously pour money into this special operation and just watch him perform it alone!’ What is the probability?

Tends to zero. Politics doesn’t work like that. Investors don’t check and audit financial statements of their investments quarterly for no reason.

As a rational, skeptical, and sensible modern individual, Ivan accepted this mission without uttering a word.

With this, the princess now has a ‘political or psychological debt’ to him. Unlike tangible debts, these intangible debts have a much broader range of applications.

Elizaveta is currently the most powerful figure in the city. In fact, one could argue that all administration in the Kingdom of Krasilov is moved by her hands.

Utilizing the ‘debt’ of such a powerful figure, Ivan can provide advanced education and improved nutrition to all the orphans without worrying about funding.

If he were to receive compensation purely in material terms, it might be a one-time occurrence. However, in this case, how much economic support could be obtained under the pretext of ‘sponsorship funds’?

Ivan nodded proudly with a sinister and thorough feeling of committing wicked and meticulous corruption.

After carefully collecting the organized reports, he respectfully saluted with perfect court manners and left the chancellor’s office.

Elizaveta stared at his back for a while, then, with a dry expression, she washed her face and buried herself on the sofa.

“…Idiot….”

The royal guard officer, who heard an incomprehensible murmuring, turned his expressionless face and looked out the window.

It was summer.

*

“I’ll give you half the kingdom.” (Elizaveta)

Uh, no. That’s too typical.

“Don’t you want the most noble person in this kingdom?” (Elizaveta)

Crazy, this sounds too succubus-like. Let’s refine it a bit more… Yes, romantically.

“I’ll give half of myself. Will you give half of yourself?” (Elizaveta)

This one sounds decent.

Elizaveta murmured to herself while looking at the chancellor’s office mirror for a long time.

With a dedicated princess face, offering her own self as a reward after assigning a difficult mission.

This was the scene 30 minutes before Ivan, with a heart full of loyalty to the kingdom, accepted the mission without any compensation and left.

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