Chapter Nineteen: Scapegoat

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What is this situation I am currently in? I remember enjoying the earthy and sweet aroma of the chamomile tea under the warmth of the sun. The marvelous and breathtaking view of the Rosario fields was the perfect accompanist for my leisurely tea time. So, why exactly is Sir Aaron, shouting in such an unruly manner whilst grabbing Cesar's collar, blocking my view and destroying my peaceful tranquility?

"You think you can guard her? I have guarded our Miss since she was a baby in her diapers!" Sir Aaron shouted with his chin up.

Wait, isn't that a bit of a stretch?

Cesar did not reply as he continued to blabber.

"I know the Miss better than you. I was the one who saw her bawl her eyes out when her new doll's neck broke apart from its body," Sir Aaron stated, as if it were the greatest accomplishment of his life.

How does he even remember that so specifically!? Okay...there is no need to be embarrassed. Any child would be traumatised if their doll's neck were to fall off...

Once again, Cesar did not respond.

I doubt that Cesar is even listening to what Sir Aaron is saying. He is in his own world. I feel bad for Sir Aaron.

"I also know that Miss always used to throw the carrots and brocollis in her dishes, from the window while no one was looking," Sir Aaron said, proudly.

I take it back. I don't feel bad for him at all. I can feel Mariah's glare burning a hole through me.

As I was about to stop Sir Aaron from disclosing another embarrassing story from my childhood, I was interrupted by a sharp and deep voice, "You have some very interesting childhood tales, Eli."

"Mariah...," I whispered.

Mariah leaned in to reply, "Yes, Miss. No matter how unfortunate and unbelievable it is, Duke Zenos is indeed standing behind you and has most probably heard everything from the very start." can't be. I thought this situation couldn't get any worse but I have been proven wrong.

I took a deep breath and faced Duke Zenos to say, "My Duke, please excuse me for a bit as I pluck out some weeds from my beautiful field."

I turned to fix my eyes on Sir Aaron and ordered, "Sir Aaron, it seems like you are full of energy today. Why don't you go to the Knights' training halls and train the newly recruited knights?"

As I threw him a look which delivered the unsaid words 'I will deal with you later', Sir Aaron hesitantly replied, "Ye-s...Miss-s" and ran off.

"Thank you for patiently waiting. Please have a seat, My Duke," I said, maintaining my composure.

"It's such a shame that you sent him away. He was quite an amusing guy," Duke Zenos joked, his eyes lighting up with mischief.

"I was simply cleaning my fields. I can't attend to an esteemed guest such as Your Grace in a place which contains dirt," I stated with a poker face.

Grinning from ear to ear, Duke Zenos replied, "I see. By the way, why are you talking to me formally and not calling me Zen?"

I slightly parted my lips and mumbled, "Ah...yes...Ze-en-n."

"Good. Now let's get down to business. I would like to talk to you privately," Duke Zenos requested as he glanced towards Mariah.

I looked towards Mariah and in response she nodded and walked away.

Duke Zenos excused Cesar and continued his talk, "I am here today to talk to you about Mary, the palace maid who attempted to assassinate the Crown Prince. I did a background check on her. She hailed from a poor family and her father did not really help their case as he was a gambling addict. They acquired multiple debts as well."

"Then she agreed to assassinate the Crown Prince for a hefty sum of money?" I asked.

"Yes, that is most likely it. I also learnt that she frequently used to leave the palace and was once spotted, by one of the workers of the palace, in a dark alleyway talking to a hooded man," Duke Zenos informed.

"Forgive me if I offend you...but did the Royal family use this as an excuse to say that the culprit is not from the palace but someone from outside?" I questioned, carefully and hesitantly.

"You are correct. They used this piece of information to remove the Royal Family from being a part of the suspects for the assassination, which would leave only two families, the Xavier and the Valerio. Still, they can't really narrow it down to these two Dukedoms purely based on the factor that magic was involved due to the existence of magic stones," Duke Zenos voiced.

I completely forgot about magic stones. While the Xavier Dukedom is known for its military force, the Valerio Dukedom produces magic stones and sells them. Magic stones are stones which are imbued with magic and can be used by people who do not possess it to perform magic. As only the Royal family and the two Dukedoms can use magic, magic stones are very popular amongst the other people who do not possess it. However, they are very expensive and can mostly be afforded by nobles.

"But does a magic stone contain enough magic to make a person vanish along with all of their traces?" I asked, curiously.

"It would, if the magic stone was custom-made for this purpose," Duke Zenos stated.

"Then the culprit could be someone aside from the three families," I said.

"It's a possibility. Oddly enough, the previous place she worked at before coming to the palace was Baron Guile's mansion," Duke Zenos added.

It was well known that Baron Guile was an avid supporter of the Third Prince and was a part of his faction. It would make perfect sense if he was the one who tried to assassinate the Crown Prince to put the Third Prince on the throne. But still, something feels off.

"Is something bothering you?" Duke Zenos asked, staring at my grim expression.

I answered in response, "Ah, it's just that, don't all the pieces fit together too easily? It's almost as if Baron Guile is being used as a..." I paused but Duke Zenos completed my statement, "Scapegoat."

"Exactly. There could be someone else behind him, someone much more cunning and deceitful. They prepared Baron Guile to take the fall for them if things got rough," I replied, confidently.

"You might be right. It could be that Baron Guile was merely a pawn, thrown away after his purpose was fulfilled. However, most of the evidence points at him and it was also discovered that he had been purchasing magic stones in bulk since the past month. Whoever is behind him, planned everything very precisely," Duke Zenos said.

As I wondered what to do, Duke Zenos continued, "It may not be possible to avoid Baron Guile's execution but I will secretly keep on looking further into this matter even after the official investigation stops."

"Hmm...that would be wise," I agreed.

The tense atmosphere was broken by the arrival of a third party, "Well well well, who do we have here? Duke Zenos, what are you doing with my daughter alone?"

This voice indicated the start of another series of complications...

Writer's note: Heyy guys. Thank you so much for continuing to support 'the golden rose'. I would like to let you guys know that I will be updating 'the golden rose' usually in one week or two weeks time.

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