“Sit over there.”
Duke Bright gestured toward the couch in front of the desk in his Office.
As I was sitting down on the couch, the Duke finally finished speaking to his aide and soon rose from his seat.
“I’ll leave you to it.”
The aide, whom I had seen a few times before, bowed lightly and left the room, leaving the two of us in silence.
“It’s been three days, hasn’t it?”
Duke Bright said as he sat down on the couch opposite me.
He looked at me with an apologetic expression.
“It’s all right.” I said.
“I’ve been busy these last few days, and haven’t been able to pay attention, I’m sorry.”
“You’re busy, so it can’t be helped.”
“Tomorrow, I’ll be free in the morning, and we can pick up where we left off.”
The short conversation ended, and silence soon descended.
Duke Bright pursed his lips as he observed me.
Ever since the day I revealed what I had discovered about the Young Lady Bright, Duke Bright had been careful whenever he spoke to me, as if he were handling a fragile porcelain.
As a result, our conversations often didn’t flow naturally and were often interrupted, like they were now.
Like the Duke of Bright, I didn’t know how to talk to him, so when silence finally descended on us again, it wasn’t easy to break it.
Neither of us spoke, so the air in the office grew heavier and heavier.
“—By the way, why did you suddenly call for me?”
“Oh, that’s right.”
I was the first to break the silence.
When I asked him for the purpose of him calling for me, the Duke of Bright suddenly stood up with an excited look on his face.
“I have summoned you because I have something for you.”
Duke Bright, who had disappeared into the depths of his office, soon returned with a long velvet box.
He set the box down on the table with a careful motion.
I squinted slightly, just staring at the box in front of me.
The velvet box, emblazoned with the Bright family crest, looked luxurious at first glance.
“What is this?”
“It’s a gift.”
“What? A gift? You’re giving it to me?…..”
‘Should I take it?’
I hesitated a little, then stared down at the long box in front of me.
Then Duke Bright urged me to open it.
He said, and, finally unable to resist his urging, I opened the dark blue velvet box to finally reveal a long, slender sword.
Unlike ordinary swords, the hilt was black and silver.
“This sword has been in our family for generations.”
“My father, your great-grandfather, was rewarded with this sword by the emperor at the time, when he married into the imperial family and ascended to the ducal throne after defeating the barbarian invasion. It’s made of molten iron.”
I had already guessed before, just by looking at the black color of the sword’s hilt, but when I finally saw the sword that I had only heard about, my heart instantly leaped.
“This is a Molten Iron Sword…”
I stared at the sword in wonder, it seemed to reflect the night sky.
“You know about it?”
Who wouldn’t? Molten iron is an iron extracted from meteorites, and it is characterized by being lighter and harder than steel.
Swords made of molten iron were sharper than those made of steel, with higher strength and hardness, but also greater elasticity, so they didn’t bend or break when struck by a huge rock.
This is the reason why every knight wanted to have a sword made of molten iron.
However, meteorites were not common, and finding them was like picking stars in the sky.
Even when it was found, it was still not easy to smelt because it was so strong that most materials would not work.
To forge a molten iron sword, you had to pay a master craftsman in the country or seek out dwarves in the Rocky Mountains.
Finding the materials and forging them was a huge undertaking, so owning an Iron Sword became every knight’s dream.
“You can go and give it a try.”
Duke Bright nodded in approval.
I moved my hand as soon as he gave me permission.
I cautiously grasped the hilt of the sword, and it felt good in my hand.
Even though I had just held it for the first time, it fit in my hand as if I had been using it for a long time.
I carefully raised the sword, and the blade came in contact with the light slipping through the curtains.
It started shining left and right like a little star.
After gasping at such a magnificent sight, Duke Bright beamed with pride.
“It seems to fit your hand.”
“It’s much lighter than I thought.”
If I were to exaggerate a bit, it’s like a feather, not a sword.
I can barely feel the weight!
I fiddled with the hilt of the sword, marveling to myself.
As much as I wanted to run to the training hall and swing the sword with all my might, I knew I couldn’t.
As I stared at the molten iron sword with greedy eyes, like a puppy with a tasty treat in front of them, Duke Bright suddenly said, “Hey,” and threw me a bone.
“This sword is now yours.”
Whose is it?
My whole body stiffened at the Duke’s words.
I was so surprised that the sword in my hand almost slipped to the ground.
“This sword… Is it mine?”
“Didn’t I say earlier that I wanted to give you a gift?”
“Well, yes, I did, b—but you’re giving this to me? This molten iron sword?”
I looked back and forth between the sword and Duke Bright with a confused expression.
It’s not like a molten iron sword is a common rock you can pick up on the street.
I couldn’t believe that the duke would even give this precious sword, that was rewarded by the imperial family to me, a mere aspiring knight, as a gift.
“It is said that a craftsman is not picky about their tools, and a knight is not picky about their weapons, but it’s always better if it was good. In that sense, there is no better sword than the molten iron sword.”
To my surprise, Duke Bright was jumping up and down with excitement.
It seems like…
He was really going to give me this sword.
After I realized that, my hand suddenly started shaking.
‘Whoa, whoa. Calm down, heart!’
I took a deep breath in and out to calm my nerves.
Still, my heart continued to beat like crazy.
“This would be perfect for you,” He said, “When I was your age, I also used the same sword.”
“You don’t have to feel bad about using something so valuable—.”
Duke Bright cleared his throat as if to assure me that it was all right.
He spoke with a certain firmness.
“There’s no one else to use it but you, anyway.”
There was a barely concealed bitterness in his voice, and he looked at the molten iron Sword with rueful eyes.
“It was originally meant to be given to the heir of the family, but—”
Duke Bright’s voice trailed off.
His face instantly darkened.
“Archie could not even hold this sword.”
He muttered in a low voice, his blue eyes turning a shade darker as they gazed upon the molten iron sword.
“I thought that even if she didn’t have a talent for the sword, she would still be a perfect candidate to become a courtier because of her father’s brilliant mind, but— it was all my greed.”
The words tinged with lamentation made me feel strange for a moment.
Maybe it’s because I still felt some sort of resistance towards him, after he mistook me for Young Lady Bright, and started berating me.
And although he showed remorse for the last time, it was still hard to believe that the duke actually liked Archie and cared for her.
But seeing him speaking like this, it seems that he really considered Young Lady Bright as a successor.
What must it have been like for him to watch his beloved granddaughter, whom he considered his heir even though he knew she was weak and untalented with the sword, be ruined and destroyed by the malice of others?
For the first time, I actually felt sorry for Duke Bright.
‘The Duke and the Marquis have done the best they could in their own way, but they have been inexperienced parents, and relatives.
I suddenly remembered that Lady Elena had referred to the Duke and Marquis of Bright as such.
She’d characterized them as clumsy, fumbling parents.
‘The Duke has been on the battlefield all his life. He was born a knight and grew up one, he didn’t know what it was like to be congenitally weak, and while he pampered Miss Archie a lot, he still thought that being sick is a weakness.’
‘This is the reason why the rift between the duke and miss Archie was so deep, they couldn’t understand each other.’
She continued, ‘As for the Marquis… He’s been like a wreck for years ever since the Viscountess Sabrina left.’
Lady Elena’s face dimmed when she remembered the old days.
She told me the story of the past in a melancholic voice.
‘His excellency traveled around the empire looking for her whereabouts, just trying to change her mind. That’s why he would often leave the Estate.’
‘Do you mean to say… that Archie was neglected?’
‘Well, yes. They couldn’t afford to care about her at that time. His Highness the duke, too, was often on the battlefield… And both of them were often away and not by Miss Archie’s side.’
The story of Young Lady Bright’s childhood was a painful memory for Lady Elena.
She became emotional several times during the story and had to stop talking, to take a deep breath.
‘Then there was a time when Lady Archie was six years old, she fell so ill that she wandered off into a coma. It brought the Marquis to his senses afterwards, but she had already closed the door to her heart.’
‘After that, he suffered a terrible sense of guilt. That’s why he couldn’t discipline her properly even if she made a mistake.’
‘So basically, you raised her instead of him.’
‘Yes, I’m embarrassed, but yes. I don’t have much to say because I haven’t taken good care of Miss Archie either.’
‘Anyway, it’s not like the two of them didn’t love Miss Archie, what I wanted to say was that, It’s undeniable that they didn’t raise her properly.’
‘Who should be blamed for this?’
After learning about the past, I realized that what happened to me and Young Lady Bright could not be said to be the fault of just one person.
As Lady Elena said, they were all wrong.
The Duke of Bright, the Marquis of Bright, and my mother were all inexperienced parents.
All the damage was done to me and Young Lady Bright.
What should I say?
I pursed my lips a few times.
I felt like I had a heavy stone stuck inside my chest, so I could only shut my mouth.
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