Contrary to Diart’s opposition, claiming that it was dangerous, the hunting competition turned out to be quite peaceful. Of course, that was only true for the noble ladies in their designated area.
A scream echoed through the forest, making it difficult to distinguish whether it was a human or a beast. The delicate noble ladies, who were as easily frightened as birds startled into flight, clutched their hearts. At this point, one had to wonder if the hunt taking place on the other side of the forest was for capturing monsters or people. It seemed like a small war, and who knew if they might end up fighting each other with swords.
Thwick! An arrow flew and hit its intended target accurately. Before I could lower my bow with satisfaction, the noble ladies surrounding me applauded as if they had been waiting.
“Oh my, incredible! You hit it again!”
“Your aim is always on point!”
I knew they were just flattering me, but it didn’t sound bad to hear. After all, it was true that I hit the mark every time I shot.
‘This is the true skill of Jumong’s1Jumong, also known as King Dongmyeong, is a significant figure in Korean history and mythology. He is a legendary founding figure, believed to be the founder of the ancient kingdom of Goguryeo, one of the Three Kingdoms of Korea. According to legend, Jumong was the son of Hae Mo-su, a deity, and the daughter of the River God Habaek. people.’
I thought proudly as I headed toward the fallen prey. The noble ladies followed me closely, chattering away. It was a rabbit with antlers, a cute-looking creature compared to monsters.
“I heard you haven’t been practicing archery for long, yet your skill is amazing. I should work harder too.”
Leticia said, clapping her hands together with a smile. Most of the noble ladies had failed to catch even a single small monster, and Leticia was the only one boasting skills comparable to mine.
They were clumsy, but more than that, they were too busy trying to please me to bother with the hunt. This was evident in the way they clung to my side and groveled.
“By the way, is what you’re wearing the hunting outfit that Madame Veronica made?”
“Yes, you recognize it?”
“It’s embroidered with her signature ‘B’ logo. Madame Veronica doesn’t make outfits other than dresses, so it seems Duke Wheaton paid attention.”
Leticia glanced at the noble ladies and spoke as if giving them a hint.
“I was surprised when you arrived at the central courtyard earlier. I didn’t know the Duke had such an affectionate side. He only had eyes for Roeni all along.”
Leticia brought up this topic because she was well aware of the rumors circulating in society.
“Is that so? I’m embarrassed.”
“Oh no, don’t be embarrassed. It was just so heartwarming to see how well you get along.”
“He’s been behaving differently lately. A few days ago, he… well…”
To amuse ourselves with the game Leticia had set up, I took out the handkerchief that Diart had forced on me before leaving the carriage earlier. I never expected it to come in handy like this.
“Is it a pig? Or… um…”
I glanced at Leticia, who was tilting her head, trying to figure out the embroidered pattern on the handkerchief. Everyone around us was looking at the handkerchief. Their eyes contained a subtle hint of ridicule. It was clear that they were looking down on the poor embroidery skills, which were one of the virtues of noble ladies. Are they really trying to preserve their pride in this situation? But the person who embroidered this handkerchief that you’re mocking, well…
“The Duke personally made me this handkerchief.”
I could hear people gasping around me. Everyone was unable to hide their astonishment. Even Leticia had a truly surprised expression. After all, an embroidered handkerchief was usually a gift that women gave to their lovers.
“This is… a rabbit.”
“Are you saying that Duke Wheaton personally embroidered this rabbit?”
“Yes, can’t you see the initials, my ‘R’ and the Duke’s ‘D’ here?”
I swallowed the fact that I couldn’t lift my head due to embarrassment because Diart, who stubbornly insisted on embroidering initials even though I protested, said that he read it in a book called ⟨The Crying Prince at My Feet⟩.
Leticia, who struggled to find the initials amidst the messy embroidery, clapped her hands in genuine admiration.
“Oh my, how romantic!”
The expressions on the noble ladies’ faces were worth seeing. They had obviously seen him escorting me out of the center square, but they probably didn’t expect him to go this far. I wore a triumphant smile, and another scream could be heard from across the forest. Everyone turned their heads toward the source of the sound.
“I heard about it, but I didn’t know it was this severe.”
Leticia shook her head in disbelief. Now I understood the meaning behind Diart and Duke Feischer’s words, telling me not to be surprised no matter what sounds I heard in the forest.
Leticia let out an exclamation as if she had suddenly remembered something.
“It must be because Roeni inherited Duke Feischer’s hunting skills. Your father was said to be the most skilled archer in the Empire. They say he has never lost in a hunting competition.”
“Is that so?”
Although Duke Wheaton mentioned that Duke Feischer had excellent archery skills, I didn’t realize it would be to this extent. I felt a sense of pride for some reason.
“He always mentioned how he regretted not being able to see those skills because he hadn’t participated in hunting competitions for several years. Thanks to Roeni, he was able to participate this time.”
She smiled meaningfully without saying anything, and the expressions of the noble ladies turned pale.
Well, it did make quite an impact in the central courtyard, right? Being escorted in, surrounded by the only three dukes in the Empire. It must have been quite a shock for them to see Roeni Wheaton, who they thought was neglected, was actually loved. They must have become anxious about whether they had done anything wrong to me all this time.
The ladies on the other side of the room had never directly taunted me, but they had sided with Countess Myrus or Viscountess Weston. They kept their eyes peeled, seemingly ready to pick at any flaws.
As I turned my head towards them, they quickly averted their gaze with contemplative expressions. I couldn’t help but laugh at the refreshing feeling.
* * *
I came out of the white flag area with a pleased expression, holding the hunted beasts. I met eyes with Diart. He was standing at the entrance, crossing his arms and looking imposing as usual. His face was covered in blood, so much so that it made me stop in my tracks. The noblewomen who were following me let out small gasps and stepped back.
Diart called my name, urging me to come closer. He looked like a demon himself, but his voice was quite gentle, and I found myself naturally approaching him.
“Are you hurt?”
I asked, furrowing my brows when I saw the blood on his handsome face. He grinned and shook his head.
“It’s not my blood.”
…Then whose is it?
I was too scared to ask, so I stayed still as Lambert, who was standing behind him, chuckled and spoke.
“He caught a petera.”
I didn’t know what that was, but it probably didn’t die gracefully. Diart turned his gaze towards me, and his lips curled up when he saw the game being carried by the servants.
“Looks like you had fun.”
Not as much as you, I think. Diart’s oddly cool expression reminded me of his character settings for the first time in a long time. He was a war demon who could even intimidate his allies. His blood-covered figure was just as he was described in the book.
Unlike me, who had been preoccupied with other things, the noblewomen seemed to remember something and couldn’t approach us.
Diart took my hand. Unlike the other parts of his body, his hand was clean without a drop of blood. He looked down at our hands before turning around. Leticia watched me being dragged along by Diart and waved.
“Did anything happen in the forest?”
During our journey to the campsite, Diart didn’t let go of my hand. It seemed like our contact didn’t just neutralize the curse. The fatigue that had piled up during the hunt seemed to melt away as I looked at his hand, which looked twice as big as mine.
“Did anyone bother you?”
Diart asked, and I raised my head. His silver hair was dyed red by the setting sun. His deep golden eyes were looking at me under his thick eyelashes. I don’t know if it was a temporary impulse from being in an unfamiliar place or if I really had become strange, but my heart trembled as I looked at his face.
- 1Jumong, also known as King Dongmyeong, is a significant figure in Korean history and mythology. He is a legendary founding figure, believed to be the founder of the ancient kingdom of Goguryeo, one of the Three Kingdoms of Korea. According to legend, Jumong was the son of Hae Mo-su, a deity, and the daughter of the River God Habaek.