Chapter 579: Damn the Prince
In that moment, Dagori froze.
On the other side of the glass, Thales was equally shocked.
“Wh, why?” the wine merchant asked subconsciously.
“You know why.” Raphael’s smile was undiminished.
Dagori sat upright and asked anxiously, “Bud, buddy, did you say you…you serve the kingdom?
“Which department, specifically?”
Raphael nodded with growing interest. “How odd. You are not afraid of the blood-sucking Department of Finance, nor the intimidating police force, nor the preeminent Department of Justice.
“It’s only when you hear the name of a prominent foreign noble that you lose your calm.”
He seemed to realize something and started to look around nervously. “This isn’t just some police station, is it?
“Who do you actually work for?”
Raphael scoffed, “Oh, maybe you’re worried that the Duke of Iris Flowers will find out that Dagori Moss—the competent businessman who benefits from him, receives instructions from him and acts as his agent in the Central Territory wine business—stuffed his own pockets behind his back, enjoyed huge amounts of kickbacks for so long, and operated so many private businesses elsewhere…”
Thales saw Dagori shudder at Raphael’s every word.
Raphael smiled amiably. “And he actually had the audacity to say that the business failed, and moan about hard times to the duke?”
Dagori’s breathing began to accelerate. He took a hard gulp. “Listen buddy, there must be some misunderstanding between us. I don’t understand anything you said…”
Raphael picked up the document and left his seat, as if he was clocking off and leaving. “Don’t worry, we’ll arrange for a carriage in a moment, and send you home with great fanfare to thank you for your cooperation and honesty—right after these evidence are sent to Jade City into the hands of Duke Zayen.”
Dagori froze. The smugness and confidence from before had disappeared from his face.
“You…can’t…” he started, but couldn’t manage to get his words out.
Raphael tilted his head sideways and smiled snidely as he lay down the last straw, “After all, you know, the kingdom’s Secret Intelligence Department cannot carry out illegal torture.”
In that instant, Dagori trembled violently!
“What? The king, kingdom’s what department?” the wine merchant asked blankly.
The Barren Bone man smiled and turned to leave.
“Wait a minute!
“I remember now. I remember!”
Perhaps the last sentence was too overwhelming. Dagori fell off his chair, got up from the ground in a panic, and cried, “There will be a huge amount of capital flow coming in today. I guarantee that those who are owed wages and arrears will receive their money soon. There will be a large amount of surplus too. I would like to donate all of that to you personally, buddy. Or your department, to support your work… Could you just…make it seem like I was never here…”
Unmoved, Raphael merely put on a wicked smile. “Don’t worry, you are familiar with Big Boss Catherine, aren’t you? When you are out, the Blood Bottle Gang will surely take good care of you?
“Or I heard that the custom in Jade City is to take people out to sea in a boat, and no matter what happens on the high seas, it has nothing to do with the laws of the kingdom…”
He squinted and grinned. “We have no jurisdiction to deal with it even if we wanted to.”
Everything Raphael said seemed to spur a thought in Dagori.
Dagori ended up crying louder, and terror filled his eyes. “No, no, no, please. This…this is equivalent to killing me… I, I’m also a citizen of this kingdom, you can’t leave me for dead…”
Raphael reacted by smiling apologetically. “Not at all. The Duke of Iris Flowers is magnanimous and amicable, maybe he won’t mind?
“After all, you have such a big family. You had to support them.”
Dagori was trembling. He was stupefied as he stared at Raphael blankly.
Raphael was smiling as before. Gleeful, he turned around to look at Dagori and waited patiently for a reply.
After a full ten seconds.
Finally, Dagori could not bear the pressure of Raphael’s gaze and collapsed to the ground.
“Alright, alright. Whatever you want, I’ll…I’ll give it to you.”
He had fallen apart completely. Tears and snot came streaming down his face as he sobbed, “Just, just don’t tell the duke… I, I… I just wanted to earn a decent sum before retiring… My family…”
Raphael chuckled. He was delighted.
“Welcome to the kingdom’s Secret Intelligence Department, Mr Moss.”
Satisfied, he leaned over and helped the shaking Dagori up.
“Don’t worry, under our protection, you won’t retire so soon.”
Dagori stared blankly at the young man in front of him. His face had become thoroughly numb.
At the other end of the room, Thales turned to Morat in disgust. “This is how you recruit people and win them over?”
The Black Prophet chuckled softly in his wheelchair. “I know you despise such methods.
“I don’t despise it. It’s just that…” The prince shook his head and said uncomfortably, “This reminds me of Shadow Shield.”
“We’re doing it right, then,” Morat sneered, “Because this is how our division of labor works: we stay in the dark and do the dirty work. You stand under the sun and condemn the dirty work.
“Here’s to a happy collaboration.”
Thales glanced at the Black Prophet and furrowed his brows.
On the other side of the glass, Raphael finally managed to pacify Dagori—who had collapsed and surrendered—and helped him back into his chair.
“Now, can you answer my question?”
Dagori’s eyes were red. Wiping the blood off his nose with a handkerchief, he looked up in a daze. “What, what question?”
Raphael repeated patiently. “Why, why is the future of the wine industry in the kingdom dim?”
Perhaps traumatized by his experience in the past ten minutes, Dagori was stunned for a while before he came to himself.
“Yes, yes,” the wine merchant replied bitterly, “Although it was only a rumor before, it was confirmed last night…
“Now, it should have been spread to all wine merchants across the kingdom.”
Raphael’s gaze flickered. “What happened?”
Dagori, who had just experienced a life-changing moment, pursed his lips and replied reluctantly, “That prince.”
Hearing about himself, Thales was taken aback.
Dagori continued sullenly, “Our wise Prince Thales, the Duke of Star Lake does not like wine.
“At the banquet last night, the wine produced from my winery was served to his table, and he didn’t touch any of it.
“Not a single drop.”
He said resentfully, “Even when he was toasting, he just pretended to drink it, then deliberately poured it away.”
Raphael responded with an “Uh huh” then asked, “Perhaps the wine you produce isn’t to his taste?”
“Hah, the prince doesn’t like to drink, or the wine doesn’t suit his taste, what’s the difference?”
After having his psychological defense mechanism demolished by Raphael, Dagori, opening up, started gabbing incessantly. There was despair and resignation in his voice.
“And not only does he not drink,” the wine merchant said bitterly, “He doesn’t like other people drinking.”
Thales looked up, bewildered.
Raphael frowned too. “Really?”
Dagori chuckled sardonically. “Yesterday, at the royal banquet, although I didn’t go, I had a friend who went. He saw with his own eyes, before the hostage-taking incident, a noble young lady who was very beautiful and had a good family background, asked the prince for a dance.
“In the end, because she drank two glasses of wine before talking to the prince, she was chided by His Highness in public, and came back crying.”
Raphael continued to doubt, “Are you sure?”
“It’s spread throughout the debutante circle!”
Dagori spat and went on in contempt, “His Highness rejected every girl who had drunk wine. Even when his aunt had a few drinks, he did not show any mercy and drove her out of the banquet hastily!
“There was another servant who testified: After the banquet ended, when His Highness was talking to Duke Zayen in private, all he drank was water!”
Raphael pondered for a while. “That’s it? All based on the trivial happenings at the banquet last night?
“Perhaps this is just an excuse you found to disguise your behavior for running off without paying your debts after your business failed, implicating hundreds of families…”
Dagori interjected indignantly, “I told you. I’m just going abroad for a vacation… Listen, rumors that the prince hates drinking have been around for a while, it’s not just last night.”
“How do you mean?”
Dagori snorted, “First, it came from Northland merchants from the Black Sand Region. They spread the word that Prince Thales and the current King of Eckstedt fell out over a glass of wine and now hate each other.
“I don’t know how the prince lived in the north, but the way he has presented himself since his return to Constellation is obvious: he leads a simple life and touches neither wine nor women.”
Dagori raised his finger and continued in all seriousness, “In Blade Fangs Camp, my colleagues in Western Desert prepared a pot of fine liquor. They bribed Legendary Wing’s soldiers and prepared to dedicate it to him, at the same time taking the opportunity to advertise the liquor. In the end, the prince did not give them any face. He smashed the pot without taking a second look at it!
“He’s the heir to the kingdom, you know.
“That’s how the rumors started.”
Dagori exhaled disgruntledly, “And I just heard about what happened this morning: Prince Thales’ two personal guards—royal guards, from the esteemed families of the Seven Jadestar Attendants—had a little too much to drink last night, which inadvertently fueled the hostage-taking incident.
“So the prince ordered for them to be whipped, right at Mindis Hall. They were whipped half to death. Rumor has it that he counted off the number of whips himself.”
Raphael listened attentively while he cast a sideways glance towards the one-way glass.
Dagori tilted his head backward in despair. “That’s just great. Soon the whole of Constellation will know that the future king does not like to drink, and dislikes people who drink.
“Damn the prince.”
Raphael coughed. “Maybe you have overreacted, and the prince’s dislike of drinking doesn’t have that big of an impact…”
“Oh! He’s the prince! The future king!”
In a bad mood, Dagori interrupted the Barren Bone man impatiently, “Everything he does, every detail of it, has an extremely huge impact, alright?!”
Raphael did not speak.
The other side of the one-way glass sank into dead silence.
“Listen buddy. You’re still young, but I have seen it, I know…”
Dagori wiped his nose with the handkerchief. “The impact may not be that instant, but over time…
“It will gradually become a common practice in the upper-class circles of the capital: In order to please the prince and get close to the duke, at first, a small proportion of people will start to drink less. Then everyone will follow the trend of drinking less. Then some influential people will advocate abstinence, which will extend to a general attitude against drinking in Eternal Star City, and finally the kingdom will enact laws to restrict or ban alcohol…”
Raphael was doubtful. “Aren’t you exaggerating?”
Dagori shook his head. “Okay, maybe I’m embellishing a little. But buddy, you work in public office.
“Whatever the genteel favors, the lower classes will be even more fervent about.
“Haven’t you heard of that? When a glass drops in Renaissance Palace, a skull drops in the borders of the kingdom.”
The wine merchant glanced at Raphael and chuckled sarcastically, “And do you know how many glasses Prince Thales broke at the banquet? Hahahaha…”
His laughter was discontented and bleak, and gradually faded off.
“If the king turns their nose at a group of people, when they reached the bottom, people will drive them towards a dead end.
“If the duke gives something a second look, when it reaches the general public, it will cost a small fortune or even be priceless.
“People have taken the ramblings of bigshots as words of wisdom and attempted to interpret them, and even studied them in academia…
“Or if some noble from a prominent family forgets to wear his long trousers when going out for a walk, this will be regarded as a new style, a fashion trend, and attract the worship of the masses, where everyone scrambles to imitate it…”
Dagori continued resentfully, “Haven’t we seen enough of such occurrences?”
The wine merchant sighed. “Power is a fishing hook, attracting everyone to draw close to it, all for a measly bit of bait.
“How do you think I earned my fortune otherwise?”
The interrogation room was silent for a while.
“So you closed down the winery after deliberate consideration,” Raphael said plainly.
“Do you think I wanted to close it down? Believe me, if I don’t cut my losses and exit now, a few months later when the rumor that the prince does not like drinking becomes common knowledge, my ledger will only look worse, and my backer in Jade City will be even more unhappy.
“And I am not the first person to find out: the nose of the market is more perceptive than mine, and the gold coins only follow power.”
He pouted. “Just last night, after the banquet, six of my buyers who are nobles withdrew their orders for next month. They said that their own wine production was sufficient.
“There were ten more this morning…”
Dagori’s eyes glazed over. “I had initially thought that, after the prince’s return, after the royal banquet was held, the capital that had been in hibernation for years would see many dinner parties and there would be a sharp increase in demand for luxury alcohol such as ours.
“So I expanded my scope of partners, bought several more wineries in anticipation of increased production, and borrowed a lot of money for this…”
He scoffed and wiped the last bit of blood off his nose, then threw the handkerchief on the table.
“Now, now I can only cut my losses.
“At least in the foreseeable future, I will no longer receive a sizeable order for banquets big and small throughout the capital.”
Raphael was silent for a while before responding, “From what you’re telling me, you are only the first person to act according to rumors. There will be more people who will be hit by this and lose their jobs in your industry?”
Dagori groaned, half-crying.
“What can I do?
“I’m in despair too!”
He was downcast. “But who is the one who made wine merchants lose confidence, tanked the prospects of the wine industry, and made all my workers lose their livelihoods?
“If you’re launching an inquest, don’t find me. Go find our beloved Prince Thales who has declared to the world that he hates drinking!”
Moss slumped into his chair and muttered for the second time, “Damn nobles.
“Damn the prince.”
The interrogation room fell silent again.
Raphael sighed. “Very well. Thank you for your opinion. I will make sure he knows.”
“Make sure he knows…”
Immediately, Moss, who was indulging in his slump, realized something.
“No no no, I #&%￥&…”
The wine merchant’s expression changed upon his newfound realization. “Don’t record that sentence please… Sunset knows that my entire family is loyal to and wholeheartedly supportive of the Jadestar Royal Family!”
He waved his hands fervently as he tried to explain himself to Raphael.
But Raphael just glanced at the one-way glass before gesturing to have Moss taken away.
“It’s true. My mother can testify! I have been a loyal supporter of His Highness since birth…
“Aren’t we on the same side? You can’t set me up like this!”
The wine merchant’s words slowly faded off, but could still be heard saying, “What was that again, uh, may the Duke of Star Lake be in good health and be crowned king as soon as possible…”
“Oh no, don’t get me wrong, I support His Majesty King Kessel too! I sincerely wish the Iron Hand King a long life and an eternal rule over Constellation…”
The door to the interrogation room closed. Dagori’s voice disappeared completely. Raphael exhaled and looked towards the one-way glass.
On this side of the glass, the Black Prophet looked at the prince with subtle interest.
For a good few minutes, Thales slipped into a silent daze.
And was left speechless.