Annan still put iron gloves on “the Father” as a security measure.
This was a unique method of restraining a ritualist.
No one knew what bizarre rituals they had mastered… and they might launch a sudden attack with some odd items.
There was a solution to this problem.
The tool targeted specifically in restraining the ritualist was the “iron gloves”.
It worked similarly to handcuffs but with an additional iron that fixed the joints in its place. The knuckles of the iron glove were slightly bent, neither touching nor completely facing each other. In the end, the prisoner couldn’t stretch out his fingers.
This posture contradicted what a ritual required. Since the handcuffs locked their wrists, their fingers couldn’t move freely.
Only a restraint like this could halt any plans a ritualist secretly harbored.
Of course, the easier and safer way was to chop off their hands and cut their tongues.
But Annan wasn’t going to do that.
He had some use for the ritualist.
Annan sat opposite the ritualist.
“The Father” had his hands restrained, sitting at the dining table with Annan.
The chef had already prepared dinner for Annan.
Annan politely poured a glass of wine for the two of them, but the ritualist didn’t seem to have the intention of enjoying the food and drinks.
The Father acted naturally and sat quietly opposite Annan in the face of a kind treatment.
“I think you probably know who I am.” Annan took a bite of the roast and stared at the old ritualist, “You know what I mean.”
“That’s natural, Your Highness Annan.” The Father lowered his head and replied softly, “I saw you a few times when you were young.”
“How young was I?” Annan asked rhetorically. He narrowed his eyes slightly as if a little displeased. But in reality, he was probing the ritualist.
The old ritualist didn’t look up at Annan but continued to answer, “I think it’s about when you were 6 years old… and when you were 8 years old, we met again once. Not long after that, I came to Noah. After that, I’m only in correspondence with ‘the Daughter of the Storm’ by mail.”
Annan was silent and made a quick calculation in his mind.
This body of Annan Austere-Winter was 14 years old this year. Maria participated in Michelangelo’s ritual five years ago.
It’s probably after that event…
Oh, that’s great.
It’s better that he doesn’t know much about me.
“Maria…” Annan’s expression was a little complicated, but he hesitated to speak.
He looked at the old ritualist and said slowly, “How do you view me?”
“You will be our future Grand Duke, the King of Wolves…” The Father paused for a while and then said gently, “The only heir to the Dragon Throne.”
Sure enough, he knows a lot. Annan came into deep thought, but he didn’t show it on his face.
He frowned slightly and looked at the old ritualist seriously, “That’s not what I meant… You know what I’m trying to say.”
As for what it is?
Oh, I don’t know myself.
Annan muttered to himself silently.
But hearing Annan’s words, the old ritualist was startled.
He raised his head as if it was his first time seeing the future Grand Duke and scrutinized Annan.
Annan looked straight into the old ritualist’s eyes without fear.
After a while, the old ritualist gradually withdrew his gaze and lowered his gaze again.
“I thought you had given up already.” The old ritualist muttered softly.
But Annan didn’t respond to it.
Seeing that there was no reply, the old ritualist sighed and continued, “It seems that you have succeeded.
“It is indeed Reverse Inscription. I can sense that you have resolved the curse of Winter Heart. Your Highness is on the right way.”
“The right way…” Annan murmured and repeated, shaking his head slightly as if silently denying something.
His gazes seemed complex; he sighed slowly and heavily.
The old ritualist who just raised his head saw this scene.
He could only comfort, “You are indeed right. During the year you went to find the Silent Lady, didn’t you avoid that catastrophe? It’s all destined.”
“…Tell me in detail.” Annan was silent for a while before replying in a low volume.
The old ritualist also submitted and persuaded softly, “I think you should have heard more or less about it… In the past year, there have been many disasters in Austere-Winter. I don’t know if you know… Two months ago, the Rotten Man came again. He came to seek you again.
“At that time, the Old Grandmother was still in her Wyrmrest. Her Highness Maria was still cultivating at Storm Cliff, and His Highness Dmitri was studying in the Howling White Tower. So the only one in the Throne Room was your father…”
“Father…” Annan’s voice trembled slightly.
The old ritualist was silent for a while. He then replied, “Grand Duke’s current state isn’t quite optimistic. If you have a chance, I still hope you can go back and visit him… I apologize, Your Highness. I shouldn’t have said that given my duty, but I just—”
“I can understand.” Annan nodded slightly and replied softly.
According to the information he learned, Ivan Austere-Winter was a great monarch, although he was a strict father. He was known for his justice and frugality. Although he was the Grand Duke, he lived and ate with the people. In Austere-Winter Dukedom, where food was scarce, he never wasted food.
Among the people, Ivan’s reputation was outstanding.
Hence, it became normal for the old ritualist to have such thoughts.
“And after that?” Annan pressed on.
The old man paused before continuing, “I don’t know what happened after that. Soon after, Austere-Winter has wholly blocked off any news coming from it. But as far as I know, the Rotten Man took a 14 years old child away at the time and forced him to jump off into the Black Sea.
“I think that should be your stand-in… After all, you left Austere-Winter a year ago. Very few people know about this.”
What? Did I leave Austere-Winter a year ago?
Annan frowned slightly and soon relaxed.
It turned out that the Silent Lady engraved the Reverse Inscription on Annan in person.
Judging from these words, it should be that the Young Annan ran away from home and planned to find Silent Lady by himself, asking for Reverse Inscription to resolve the curse from Winter Heart.
But the position he was lying at when he woke up did seem to be floating from the other side of the Black Sea. A few days ago, when Rotten Man met Annan, he did admit that he pushed Annan into the Black Sea. But, he wouldn’t have mistaken the wrong person.
Could it be that at that time when Annan quietly returned to the Austere-Winter Capital, the Rotten Man who trailed him noticed him and threw him into the sea?
Annan realized some details of the story.
If even “the Father” didn’t know that he had returned to Austere-Winter Dukedom, it meant that most people probably didn’t know about his return. Therefore, this matter should have been kept secret.
But Rotten Man knew about this very early.
“I want to know more about Maria.” Annan asked in a low volume, “And, what should I call you? So do I just call you ‘the Father’?”
“No, no… If Her Royal Highness Maria found out about it, she would have me skinned alive.”
The old ritualist smiled wryly and shook his head again and again, “You can just call me by my name. I’m Vasily Manning. You should just call me Vasily or Old Vasily.”
“…Manning?” Annan repeated slowly.
He had a vague memory of this surname.
Vasily nodded, “You must know my brother.
“He’s Merlin Manning, who used to be the Index Finger of the Right Hand. He’s my brother.”
Credits to MindMatrix for editing this chapter and improving the readability.
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