“It hurts, heal me.”
“But you said you didn’t need it just now…”
“So, you won’t do it, then?”
“Oh, goodness. How could I defy my lord’s orders? Truly, this is beyond reason, I say!”
Desperate to survive, Charlotte stubbornly turned her head to look at her surroundings, the Grand Duke’s shirt was wrapped around his arm like a bandage.
Given the extent of the wound, it seemed like it would take more time than expected.
She clenched her lips and tightly gripped the hand that held the bandage, her knuckles white.
“Why do you have such an expression for such a trifling wound?” The Grand Duke, his visage imbued with bitterness, murmured something, yet Charlotte’s immersed mind paid it no heed.
Charlotte stood beneath a towering precipice, its summit concealed by distance. She raised her head with fervor, indirectly acquainting herself with the expanse of its profound height.
“Should we do this?”
“Are there no alternative paths of escape?”
In a moment of vexation, she bit her tongue, leaving a faint imprint.
“With ample time, why such haste?”
“Would you prefer being confined with me within this cavern for a lifetime?”
“I would not mind that.”
The Grand Duke exhibited no inclination to flee. While his arm suffered, his thoughts seemed preoccupied with creating a life here with Charlotte, even formulating plans to that end.
By now, Idris would have likely realized their absence and initiated a search, placing him in a rather pitiable state.
Charlotte subtly scoured the vicinity of the cavern, disregarding the Grand Duke’s muttered words. However, despite her efforts, he discerned no means to go up.
At the very least, reaching a path frequented by people seemed a necessity to await rescue or make a decision. However, they were left with no options.
“The capacity to confront the world hinges upon one’s heart, and above all else, faith.”
At that point, a sentence from the instructor’s lesson flickered through her mind. The blazing ring had certainly posed a threat, yet she had succeeded in surpassing it due to her belief in her capabilities.
Could that scenario be any different from confronting a precipice?
With renewed determination, Charlotte resolved herself. For the sake of survival, she would ascend this formidable cliff.
“Sir, have you ever climbed a cliff before?”
“Why do you look at me like that?”
His quick-wittedness bordered on the supernatural. Charlotte cautiously selected her words.
“Usually, during the climbing, the experienced lead the way, clearing a path. Is that not the usual approach?”
“…However, this time, I wish to lead the way, if Your Excellency permits.”
Charlotte inwardly lamented. To plummet from the precipice to her demise, or to turn into a mushroom roast under the Grand Duke’s gaze.
If she were to choose between the two, the former option seemed to exude an overwhelmingly human dignity.
‘Yes, I can do this!’
With renewed courage, she clasped the rock before her and commenced her climb.
‘I can do it with my flexibility. I’m like enoki mushroom…’
And then, regret enveloped her.
Even when viewed from below, she had assumed the journey wouldn’t be easy. However, facing it head-on revealed a level of difficulty that made her want to bite her tongue and welcome death.
Compounded by the precipice’s rugged nature, there was no point along the way where she could release her strength and find rest, even for a moment.
“Darling, if you’re struggling, you can lean on me.”
“No! I am okay, ugh, truly!”
It was an universal truth to vehemently deny any difficulty when asked by a superior. Well, if one wasn’t afraid of the aftermath, they could probably admit to being tired.
‘Be sure not to underestimate the finely honed intuition acquired in the presence of superiors…!’
Nevertheless, it was time to find a resting point. Her arms and legs, which were clinging to the rock, had started to tremble. The relatively fragile foundation of the nearby rock contributed to the extreme difficulty of the ordeal.
The suspended rock disintegrated at random, reminiscent of a game of minesweeper.
“Your Excellency, let’s take a rest to distribute our stamina.”
“Then, I shall proceed.”
Just a little diagonally upwards, there was a broad ledge where she could sit down. From there, it would be great to assess the current progress of their climb and estimate how much further they needed to go.
‘Well, I’ve managed to climb quite a bit.’
Lowering her gaze for a moment, the ground seemed so distant that it was barely visible. She raised her head again and clenched her teeth.
“Not much farther to a resting point. Just a bit more…”
Her fingertips were losing strength, and her limbs had long since lost sensation. In truth, she felt that if she remained like this, she would inevitably plummet to her death.
In a haste to rest even a little sooner, she extended her arm urgently.
Coincidentally, at that moment, the rock she was holding onto broke weakly. Her center of balance wavered, and her perspective swiftly reversed. Just then, as she awaited the nauseating sensation of falling, she shut her eyes tightly.
Suddenly, she felt a breath on her face; it was either an expression of anger or a sigh of relief, but his breath, filled with fervor, was felt on her face as though it carried a searing heat.
“Have you lost your mind?”
The low growl of the Grand Duke’s voice resonated like a threatening beast. He barked at Charlotte, who still stood there dazed, not yet comprehending the situation.
“If you’re feeling weak, shouldn’t you speak up? Have you gone mad from wanting to meet your demise?!”
“Even lunacy has its limits. Do you realize that if you fall here, there might not be a single bone left intact?!”
Her heart raced. Already in a near-death situation, the surprise of his sudden outburst made her hands tremble. His accusations, from wishing to die to being terrified, were like waves crashing over her.
Her lower lip, clenched tightly, quivered slightly.
Read up to  advanced chapters on my ko-fi page. 1-2 release per week. Thank you for reading! If you enjoy it, consider supporting the author by buying the raws or opening up the chapters, also rate it well on NU. (ᴗ͈ˬᴗ͈)ꕤ.ﾟ