“How dare you defy my words? I should really pluck out all your beard and bury it in my backyard…”
“Yes, did you call for me?”
Charlotte immediately saluted with a composed smile.
At the mention of plucking out beard, Baron flinched, but Charlotte stood tall, staring straight ahead without pretending to know anything.
However, despite her efforts, the Grand Duke pulled up the corner of his mouth and stood up from his seat.
The sound of his footsteps echoed through the silence as he descended the stairs.
“So, you’re the pretty man from Group 1.”
“I had expected as much, but seeing you again, you’re quite…”
‘Don’t come this way. Don’t come toward me!’
While displaying a clear and innocent smile, Charlotte internally pleaded for him to extinguish the flame of interest. However, unfortunately, the Grand Duke halted his steps in front of Charlotte.
“…Nice to meet you again.”
Feeling an instant sense of crisis, Charlotte smoothly took a step back as if she was a flowing water.
‘Why can’t I retreat?’
With Michael Jackson’s moonwalk, she wanted to hide herself, but unfortunately, the Grand Duke tightly gripped her shoulder.
There was a gleam in the Grand Duke’s eyes.
“You truly left an impression.”
“To think that the person who made me a laughingstock in front of everyone and the person who caused a commotion with swords in the sacred testing ground are the same person.”
Cold sweat trickled down Charlotte’s back behind her fake smiling face.
“Now I understand why each of your expressions, your actions… irritates me.”
“We were destined from the beginning, weren’t we?”
The man in front of her seemed to have a talent for turning romantic lines into horror movie dialogue.
Charlotte subtly averted her gaze from his crazed stare.
In response, the Grand Duke’s eyebrows twitched slightly, expressing his displeasure.
“Everyone, pay attention.”
“Yes, Your Excellency!”
“I want to fight this pretty guy here. Anyone with objections, raise your hand.”
Unsurprisingly, no one raised their hand.
In the testing area filled with people, not even the sound of breathing could be heard!
‘Friend, you’re going to intervene, right?!’
Charlotte stared at her long-time friend Johan with an expectant gaze. However, he, too, was doing everything in his power to avoid the Grand Duke’s gaze.
She had a strong gut feeling that things were about to go downhill.
The man with a twisted smile placed his hand on the hilt of his greatsword.
At the same time, Charlotte heard a resounding sound of air by her ear. She instinctively dodged, but a few strands of her hair fluttered, being cut.
Everything happened in the blink of an eye.
The Grand Duke, with his massive body, casually swung his greatsword without any preparatory stance, aiming directly at Charlotte’s neck. If she had been even a little late, what would have fallen to the ground wouldn’t have been hair, but her head.
“What are you doing?!”
Chuckling lowly, the Grand Duke immediately initiated the next attack.
The heavy greatsword produced a threatening sound as it sliced through the air.
‘A greatsword swung with such monstrous speed, and with one hand at that?!’
He was an opponent she had never encountered before in her life.
She couldn’t bring herself to truly attack her teacher and father figure, the Marquess, but among the people she had trained with, there was no one who could match her skill. Knowing that it would be difficult to win, Charlotte’s azure eyes blazed with a fighting spirit.
“Yes, I agree. Let’s have some fun!”
Dodging the attack and swiftly sliding backward, she then leaped forward.
While the destructive power of the greatsword was overwhelming, it limited the freedom of offense and defense.
To avoid the sword aiming for his throat, the Grand Duke had no choice but to step back.
“The Grand Duke was pushed back?!”
“What on earth is happening? That little brat…”
‘Just because he managed to dodge, he’s acting all high and mighty.’
Hmph, Charlotte snorted and was about to follow up with a combo attack, but then, he suddenly said, “Ah, I get it. You’re not an ordinary little brat.”
The Grand Duke, who had thrown his greatsword without hesitation, caught Charlotte’s sword with his bare hand. Although he was wearing thick leather gloves, the sharpness of the sword was enough to cut through the leather and deeply pierce his hand. Nevertheless, the Grand Duke didn’t even blink and grab the sword.
In order to prevent the sword from being taken away, Charlotte gripped the handle even tighter, but her wrist was instantly twisted.
Facing an attack she had never seen or heard of before, she could only let go of her sword in the end.
“What’s the meaning of this? You almost dislocated my wrist!”
“Yes, I’ve made up my mind.”
“Let’s meet often from now on, shall we?”
The Grand Duke, having taken off his gloves, lightly patted Charlotte’s cheek with his blood-stained fingers.
Seeing this, the knights rushed over to assess their lord’s injury and hurriedly escorted him out of the testing area, as if it was a matter of urgency.
“What in the world…”
While Charlotte was absentmindedly scratch her chin, the two instructors who were overseeing the duel approached her from behind.
“Follow us, Charles.”
“Can I visit the Knights now?”
“Visits from outsiders are only allowed after four weeks.”
“Really? Haha, you inspector have quite a sense of humor.”
Four candidates passed the third round, while there were some candidates who didn’t pass, all members of Group 1 were considered to have passed due to the suspension of the exam.
Charlotte followed the inspectors, somewhat reluctantly, along with the other candidates.
Although there were many twists and turns along the way, she had finally passed the entrance test and would be able to meet Ethan.
Her heart raced with the realization that her efforts were not in vain.
“From now on, you will stay here.”
“Congratulations on passing the entrance test for the Black Dragon Knights.”
“Starting tomorrow, you will train as trainee knights and we expect good results from you.”
After finishing their words, the instructors didn’t linger and left them.
Baron and Klaus, who were about to enter inside the room after saluting them, lightly tapped Charlotte’s shoulder, which had remained stiff like a stone until then.
“I don’t know what happened, but let’s go inside and rest for now.”
“You worked hard today, Charles.”
Confusion swirled in Charlotte’s mind.
‘What on earth is going on?!’
It wasn’t until a moment later that Charlotte discovered the whole truth.
───── ⋆⋅☆⋅⋆ ─────
Late at night, when darkness had descended upon the land, a dim moonlight cast its glow through the bedroom window.
The Grand Duke sat on the sofa, his chin resting on his hand as he gazed down at his long shadow cast on the floor. At the end of his gaze, a blood-stained glove was haphazardly thrown.
Upon seeing it, a certain face naturally came to his mind.
“Look again! My smile is the most captivating in the world! There has never been a man who wasn’t enchanted by my smile!”
With a cotton-candy pink hair, clear azure eyes, and delicate features that complemented her slim jawline, she possessed a striking and eye-catching beauty. He thought if she was a woman, she would have surely swept through high society, but Charlotte in reality, had never bothered with such mundane social gatherings.
“It seems he’s not just beautiful, but also fascinating…”
A snort escaped him as he thought of her smiling face.
Raphael had many enemies.
Both in the military and the political realm, there were countless people who sought to kill him. They piled up and could even make mountains.
The factions opposing Raphael didn’t hesitate to employ any means necessary, but realizing that violence was futile against a war hero like him, they soon changed their tactics and started using beauty as a weapon.
He felt sick and tired of it.
The execution grounds were filled with women who had infiltrated with impure intentions, and their lives was at stake every day. Because of that, most of the servant in the mansion were replaced with men, but when things didn’t calm down, he eventually spread a rumor as a special measure.
‘Raphael Astrid La Ludovica was into men.’
The rumor that the Grand Duke was into men spread quickly throughout high society, like wildfire.
With the rumor, the movement of female spies came to an abrupt halt.
“With such timing, a wishy-washy brat appears.”
The moment Raphael confirmed the palm of the brat’s hand, who was persistently begging for a chance, he couldn’t help but let out a hollow laugh.
A knight’s skill is evident from calloused palms. That brat was a real swordsman.
“The second phase of first and second test has concluded.”
“Yes, it seems like a monstrous fellow has joined.”
Although he reluctantly allowed him to pass in front of the mansion, he didn’t expect him to survive.
When he heard the words ‘monstrous fellow’ for some reason, the brat’s impudent laughter flashed through his mind, but he quickly dismissed it.
It couldn’t be true.
However, the moment he saw him again at the third test, Raphael had no choice but to acknowledge it.
“Now I understand. Every expression of yours, every action, is the reason that stimulates me.”
“We were destined from the beginning, weren’t we?”
There were two possibilities. Either he was a spy or just a strange kid. Regardless of the kid’strue identity, it meant that he would be deeply and relentlessly be involved with Raphael’s life.
The Grand Duke chuckled softly as he glanced down at the fallen glove on the floor.
It was a glove made of dragon leather, known for its high defense and anti-magic properties. It was durable enough to withstand the fangs of a demon with bare hands, yet it was torn to shreds in an instant. The sword that kid had wasn’t an ordinary metal sword. And it certainly wasn’t a sword that an ordinary commoner could wield.
“I don’t know who it is, but it seems that he was carefully chosen this time…”
If that was the case, then he should let them enjoy the show.
“Let’s enjoy this for a long time, pretty man.”
His joyful yet eerie laughter sent shivers for those who heard it.
───── ⋆⋅☆⋅⋆ ─────
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