Chapter 2: When She Realized, It was Already Too Late
When the first rooster cried in the dawn, the trainee knights rushed to the training ground after completing their preparations, amidst them, there was a dying pink slime staggering through.
‘This is unbelievable. It truly is unbelievable!’
For the past week, Charlotte had done everything possible to escape from this damned Order of Knights. In the beginning, she held on with the hope of meeting Ethan, but when she heard the news that he had already been dispatched to another region, her fragile patience turned to dust and vanished.
From that moment on, Charlotte aimed to escape. Due to her desperation, she tried to search the opportunity to escape from this place.
‘But there was no such opportunity.’
The surveillance of the Order of Knights was so strict that it could rival the palace itself.
If she slipped out under the pretext of urgently needing to use the restroom during training, they would gradually surround and send her back. If she came out during the early dawn claiming to be thirsty, they would gather saliva and make her swallow it instead…
And even when she said she forgot to wear her underwear, the drill instructor offered her his own underwear, becoming an embodiment of benevolence. On that day, Charlotte’s eyesight, which had seen something it shouldn’t have, deteriorated.
“This place is hell…”
“Yes, it is hell.”
As Charlotte muttered hopelessly, Klaus, who was walking behind her, also murmured.
“Remember the punishment if you complained…”
“But I’m so tired, sniff….”
On the first day of training, the drill instructor strictly prohibited Klaus from complaining, or even sigh. The reason given was that it could reveal their position to the enemy if they were on the battlefield, but judging from the twitch in the instructor’s mouth, it didn’t seem like the only reason.
Anyway, since Charlotte somewhat agreed with the instructor’s opinion, she comforted the sulking Klaus.
“You can do it.”
“By the way, my deteriorated eyesight hasn’t returned…”
“Well, let’s just both do our best.”
Baron scratched his chin and ran to the infirmary with his comrades clinging to his side. It wasn’t because he felt a burning camaraderie or anything like that, but rather because he had been stuck with these two lunatics as roommates.
Long live roommate responsibility.
“Hmm, everyone has arrived. Now, we will continue with the basic training like we did yesterday.”
The instructor, who was left behind, glanced slowly at the seven trainee knights lined up in a row. The ranks of the knights were divided into four levels: Commander, Senior Knight, Lieutenant, and Squire. Being classified as a ‘trainee knight’ which falls under none of the four categories, meant it was even lower than the lowest position. Trainee knights were not yet officially appointed.
“Now, let me introduce today’s training.”
The instructor took out firewood from the blazing furnace and walked somewhere. Where he was heading, there were dozens of rings lined up in a row, looking ominously dangerous.
‘No way, right?’
As Charlotte’s anxious thoughts swirled, the instructor unhesitatingly lit the rings on fire. The problem was that the diameter of the rings were just enough for a person to sprint through at full speed. It seemed to serve no purpose other than that, no matter how she looked at it!
“This is not right.”
“It’s really not right. I can’t do it!”
Two trainees, who had been keeping an eye out on the rings, slowly took a step back and attempted to run. But the instructor was faster in his movements. As if he had anticipated such a situation, he swiftly ran and grabbed the shoulders of the two trainees.
“Trainees, the restroom is not in that direction.”
Then, with a calm expression on his face, he threw the trainees’ body. The two trainees flew gracefully in a parabolic arch, passing through twenty rings and went unconscious valiantly.
“Did you all observe the demonstration by your comrades?”
‘That was a demonstration?!’
The trainees all widened their eyes in unison, but no one could utter their thoughts aloud.
“Well, then, who’s next? Volunteers, raise your hands.”
Perhaps afraid of catching the instructor’s attention, the trainees did their best to diminish their presence and avoid the instructor’s gaze. Charlotte also did her best to naturally blend into her surroundings. Unfortunately, she had already left a deep impression on the instructor due to her multiple attempts to escape.
“You didn’t wear an underwear today either? You’re really…”
“Yes, did you call for Trainee Charles?” As the instructor tried to take off his pants, Charlotte immediately took a step forward. She belatedly realized the relieved sighs pouring in from all directions, now… it was already too late.
“We have a volunteer here.”
With a sneer, the instructor firmly grabbed her shoulder.
“Well, let’s give it a try.”
“Um, did I misunderstand something?”
“Give it a try.”
Standing in front of the blazing rings, she could feel the intense heat on her face. Cold sweat trickled down her back, but she couldn’t escape. It was because she could sense the unwavering determination in the instructor’s gaze, as if he said, ‘If you try to escape again, I’ll wipe the sweat from your face with my underwear this time.’
“No, this can’t be…”
The instructor’s underwear was a versatile item capable of both physical and mental attacks. If she fell victim to it, her sanity would be annihilated. Without a doubt, she would perish!
“Of course, I should demonstrate first!”
Charlotte smiled as if she doesn’t plan to escape and assumed her position.
‘Oh, sh*t, sh*t, save me…!’
At the same time, the amount of cold sweat flowing down her back was increasing rapidly. If she continued like this, she would die, but if she ran away, her dignity as a human being would be done for. In the midst of this desperate situation, Charlotte gathered her courage.
When she recalled the instructor’s subtly yellow-colored underwear—capable of inducing a mental attack—her wavering heart instantly calmed down.
In that moment, Charlotte had an epiphany. Everything in the world depended on one’s mindset, and above all, belief was crucial. Perhaps the instructor didn’t want to show them theoritically just how to cross the blazing rings. Maybe he wanted to teach them using experience. After all, he wasn’t a circus lion tamer, and it wouldn’t make sense for him to make humans do such things.
“I am a genius. I can do it!”
Courage swelled within her. Ignoring the shouts of the instructor and her comrades, she ran forward. With each successful passage through the burning rings, the cheers of her comrades grew even more fervent and resounding.
“Yes, I believe in you!”
“From now on, I won’t curse you as a crazy lunatic anymore!”
There seemed to be some annoying shouts mixed in, but she would deal with them later. Feeling the adrenaline surging through her body, Charlotte sprinted towards the end of the ring, oblivious to everything else.
And finally, she reached the long-awaited last ring…!
“Ah! Water, get water!”
“That bastard’s clothes caught fire! Quickly, spray water on them!”
She left behind a brilliant display as she was spectacularly burned.
───── ⋆⋅☆⋅⋆ ─────
The hellish dawn training had finally come to an end. Charlotte lay sprawled on the training ground, absentmindedly gazing at the rising sun.
A bitter taste filled her mouth.
Her training uniform was singed in several places, and her face was smeared with dirt and sweat. With water drenched all over her, she must have looked like a wet rag from a distance.
But the situation wasn’t much different for the other trainees.
Among them, Klaus had ended up naked after his clothes were completely burned. Fortunately, a commander lent him his underwear to cover his lower body.
“The commander is truly proud of your achievements. You all survived the fiery trial without a single dropout.”
There was no other option but to survive. The commander had used his twenty years of experience to provide customized training to each individual attempting to escape.
She didn’t want to think about what kind of training will continue… she really didn’t.
“Look forward to the afternoon training. Take a moment to rest.”
With a satisfied expression, the commander nodded and left.
Charlotte watched his retreating figure, feeling completely drained. In this moment, the hard ground beneath her felt more comfortable than any luxurious bed.
This miserable situation…
‘Charlotte, remember your resentment from today.’
Tonight, she would definitely escape. Without looking back, she would flee like flower petals in the spring breeze.
‘I am a genius. I can do it!’
With determination in her grip, she clenched her fist tightly.
───── ⋆⋅☆⋅⋆ ─────
‘I can’t do it. I’m a failure…’
She was instantly swept with sadness. Charlotte stood in the Grand Duke’s office, feeling overwhelmed. And, of course, in front of her was none other than the Grand Duke himself.
“Your response is a bit ambiguous. Do you dislike being with me? Your face seems to show a lot of dissatisfaction.”
“Oh no. You must have misunderstood.”
“Misunderstood? Are you doubting my eyes right now? Is that it?”
A faint smile played on the Grand Duke’s lips as he stared at her.
However, the mahogany desk he put his fist on cracked and broke apart with a loud sound, like a crumbled cookie. The high-quality wood that was said to be unbreakable even with an axe nearly turned into dust!
“I believe you! I really do!”
“Is that so?”
“From the moment I heard that the Grand Duke was looking for me, my heart has been filled with overwhelming excitement!”
Charlotte spewed out excuses without much thought, while at the same time reflecting on why she ended up in this pitiful situation.
───── ⋆⋅☆⋅⋆ ─────
TL Note: By the way, the other trainees also called her Sasha, but I don’t think it fits the context considering that she disguised herself as a man. So everytime the trainees appear, I made it so that they called him Charles instead of Sasha.
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