Chapter Twenty-Six: Dimitri

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I stepped into the Xavier mansion after an awfully noisy carriage ride with Aaron's continuous bickering and Cesar's ignorance to it all. Although I was physically present at the Xavier's, my mind was still at my father's study, unable to forget his watery eyes. Before I realised, I was already in front of Duke Zenos.

He stepped closer to me and placed his finger on my furrowed eyebrows, "What has got you in a bind, Eli?"

"Ah...it is nothing of concern," I replied, hastily.

He eyed me with suspicion, "If you insist then I will not ask further."

I sighed, "Thank you for your consideration."

He smiled gently, "Take a seat. I will tell the servants to get you some tea. What tea would you prefer?"

I returned his kind smile, "Any tea would do, My Duke."

His mischievous gaze laid upon me, "Any tea? Really? How about chamomile tea?"

Wait...isn't that the tea we had before our kiss at the garden? Is the great Duke Zenos who is infamous for his cold demeanor really 'teasing' me? As you wish, I will play along.

An expression full of mischief also found its way to my face, "Oh my, I would absolutely love that. It is my favourite tea. After all, how can it not be with all the beautiful memories linked to it?"

His cheeks slightly turned a warm shade of red as his lips curled into a shy smile, "Is that so? I will tell them to prepare that for you right away."

Woah woah woah, is that Duke Zenos blushing? Did the sun rise from the west today? I am witnessing a lot of weird things today.

I felt my cheeks grow warmer as well.

"Thank-k you-u...so...shall we discuss the contents of the talk you had with the Crown Prince at the ball?" I said, in hopes of changing the topic.

Duke Zenos quickly shifted to a rather serious tone, "It seems like the attempts to take the Crown Prince's life are only increasing by the day. However, that is not what I wanted to discuss with you today."

"If it isn't about the Crown Prince then what is it about?" I questioned, confusion visible in my voice.

"Several murders have occurred in the town. The culprits have no pattern or a specific target. Above all, these murders are too gruesome to be done by someone in the right state of mind. There are torture marks throughout the victim's body and all their lives ultimately succumbed to excessive loss of blood," he accounted, grimly.

This sounds familiar. Isn't this what I heard from the men at the corridor of the palace?

I decided to confirm my suspicions, "Do the culprits leave behind a note written in the victim's blood which says 'Hand the treasure of Dimitri or we shall paint the Empire red'?"

His eyes widened, "Yes but how do you know?"

"I overheard some palace officials discussing about it at the ball," I replied, guiltily.

Annoyed, he responded, "This is supposed to be confidential. I need to enforce stronger laws on these officials it seems."

I coughed, "It was partially my fault too. Can I ask you something?"

Duke Zenos nodded, "Without a doubt, yes."

Curiosity overtook me, "Since the night I eavesdropped...I mean I mistakenly overheard them, I was wondering what the 'Treasure of Dimitri' meant."

He began his history class, "Dimitri is a kingdom the legendary Red Dragon ruled over. It is said that a long time ago when all that existed was war in the world, a Red Dragon descended from the heavens in the form of a human. She had glimmering amber eyes and burning red hair. She fought alongside five men and her wise nature and valiance quickly brought an end to the long war. The era of The Great War came to an end as she distributed the world into five pieces of land and named each of the men King of each land. One of the five men was the First King of our Empire, Uzyne Surek Cicero. He respected and admired the Red Dragon and asked her to stay in his country. However, the Red Dragon replied 'My job is done. If again the humans are taken over by greed or selfishness, I will appear'. Supposedly, she left for a small, well-hidden countryside, named Dimitri and bore an offspring. A lot of stories were made and ultimately it was said that she became the Queen of Dimitri and that her Royal descendants might still be alive. Rumour has it, all her descendants are male which I find rather odd as the Red Dragon herself was a female. Well, at the end of the day it is all a myth. These murders are probably done by a fanatic who read too many children's books. The 'treasure' part bothers me. I have no clue what it could mean."

I was left in awe, "How fascinating..."

He chuckled at my gaping mouth, "I thought everyone learnt this in history class."

I always avoided classes or in general, people, because of my fear of them. I was bad at socialising and was constantly met with pitiful or harsh remarks regarding my late mother.

"I used to doze off during class," I lied.

"That does not surprise me a bit," he responded, teasingly.

As I was about to protest, Rey rushed into the study, "My Lord, pardon me for entering abruptly."

Duke Zenos excused his sudden action, "It is fine. I am sure you have a good reason for it."

Rey's face turned more and more concerned by the second, "Lady Eliza...someone has arrived from your estate..."

Surprised, I asked, "Why? Did something happen?"

"That-t...I-I don't kno-w how...to say-y this..." Rey's voice stuttered.

I stared at him with firm eyes, "What is wrong, Rey? It is fine so calm down and tell me."

Rey cleared his throat and took a deep breath, "That is...the Marquess, has passed away."

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