Pig’s surprise faded instantly, quickly replaced by feelings of humiliation and irritation.
Count Shibre was an equal to any of the Twelve Families now. Who in their right mind would dare to interrupt his approach on Charles?”
Charles’s eyes widened with understanding. “Why are you—”
“Who are you to behave this rudely?”
“Rude?” The handsome man tilted his head curiously.
“Isn’t it obvious you’re ruining the mood? We were talking before you barged in.”
“Ahh.” The man nodded and laughed loudly.
He’s laughing!? Pig’s face reddened.
“Are you sure I’m interrupting something here? I don’t think I am.”
“Haah.” Pig’s face twisted. “Is that so?”
“Did the lady take your hand? It doesn’t seem like it.”
The man returned Pig’s murderous gaze with a brillaint smile before turning his attention towards Charles.
“Did I guess correctly, Princess Charles?”
“I mean… I…” Charles, suddenly ashamed, tried to avoid meeting his eyes. “I’m—”
“Young Lady Charles! Think about the future of your family!” Pig cried like a fat blob of oil. “If you refuse me now, I’ll make certain nothing will go according to your plans.”
Charles bit her lip. She wanted to avoid harming her family, even if it didn’t hurt her personally.
But… Her jaw took on a determined set. I don’t want to appear weak. I always thought this way, but this man makes me feel so much stronger.
She turned and looked Pig straight in the eye.
“As I said before, my answer is ‘no.’”
“Are you serious—Oh, come on! Princess Charles, you will be sorry.”
“Oh, how the world has changed such that a Count’s son can threaten the daughter of a duke,” the other man mocked.
“How dare you speak like that to me? Do you want to suffer?” Pig reached up and grabbed the man’s collar. “How dare you act like a bastard in front of the great Shibres? What’s your name?”
Pig’s sudden actions drew the attention of the other aristocratic children, who cast curious glances their way. Pig was known for flaunting his noble blood, and occasionally liked to put on a show.
The other man stared down at Pig, who continued to clutch his collar, and slowly opened his mouth.
“Baron Joshua Sanders.”
Their surroundings immediately erupted into noise.
“Joshua Sanders? That Joshua Sanders?”
“Oh, I know! That kid?”
“I heard he was good-looking, but I didn’t think he’d be this good-looking. And this is the first time he’s shown himself in the social world.”
“The youngest officially titled!”
Pig heard none of this; he was caught up on a single word.
“Baron? That’s your title?” He cast a dismissive glance at Joshua. “You’re just some low-class motherfucker, yet you dare offend me?”
Joshua expressionlessly peered down at the squealing Pig and slowly peeled Pig’s hand off of his neck.
“It’s not just Baron…” Joshua flung his hand away, filling the room with a sickening crack.
“Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhh!” Pig howled, clutching his disjointed wrist.
“It’s official Baron.” Joshua leaned in towards Pig, close enough for their noses to touch. “That makes me superior to you, a Count’s son. I have an official title—does that make sense to your big fat head?”
“Go away, you crazy—”
“I’m completely sane, you know.” Joshua reached out again.
Joshua looked over to his side.
“Don’t bloody your hands because of me.”
“But it’s not because of the Young Lady.” Joshua shrugged and clenched his outstretched hands.
“Ugh!” Pig’s eyes rolled back into his head.
Joshua slowly rose to his feet, examining Pig’s limp body with a twinkle in his eye.
“What are you doing?” Joshua found himself surrounded by knights in light armor. The 1 stamped on their chest pieces marked them as knights of the 1st Battalion.
“What are you doing all of a sudden, captain?” A middle-aged knight, the most senior-looking, walked up to Joshua. Besides the captain and the unit commander, this neatly groomed man, Baron Hughes, was the strongest knight in the 1st Battalion. Though they were both barons, Joshua was slightly outranked by Hughes.
“You don’t know?”
“That’s why I’m here.” Baron Hughes met Joshua’s gaze. “This is excessive. Remember, the captain is here to guard this location.”
Joshua looked away. “That’s not the case.”
“Hah.” Baron Hughes was surprised by Joshua’s uncharacteristically meek behavior and just watched him go, drawing everyone’s attention as he went.
Charles stared at his back with a solemn expression and soon followed.
Charles found Joshua on the patio. Under the bitter moonlight he exuded an even more intriguing aura than he had in the raucous banquet hall. Her gaze flicked over the gleaming black earring on his right ear before she spoke up.
“You haven’t changed. Self-centered jerk.”
“People don’t like to change.” Joshua smiled, but didn’t look away from the moon.
Charles’s gaze wandered over the walls silently for a few moments, before she joined Joshua in staring into the sky.
“I know you went overboard on purpose.”
“What makes you think that?” he asked, his gaze still fixed on the rising moon.
“Because the Joshua von Agnus that I know would never lose his cool. I realize now that your ‘rash’ actions were trying to protect someone… your mother.”
Joshua laughed. “You have a very subjective opinion of me. Why?”
“It’s just…” Charles’s ruby eyes twinkled in the moonlight. “...a woman’s intuition?” She grinned and turned to face Joshua. “Now those lads back there will change their behavior because of your example.”
“Whatever the method, I’m glad I could help.”
Charles’s brilliant crimson eyes finally drew Joshua’s gaze down. In the silence of the tranquil night, interrupted only by the sounds of insects, their eyes met.
Something inside Charles burst into tears.
You still don’t understand? Did you ever stop to think about it?
Does he understand what it means for a noblewoman to gift someone their family crest?
“You can go in now… I’d like to be alone right now.”
Charles clapped her mouth shut, leaving her words unsaid.
It was a thrilling ride. Though brief, Charles was happy to think of this meeting as a passing romance.
But why…? The reason her heart, normally as steady as a rock, was in such turmoil…
I’m annoyed. Charles chewed her lip.
“Please excuse me.” She abruptly spun around and strode towards the dance hall.
Joshua watched her go with an odd expression.
“Come out now,” he said to air.
“...Are you going to come out?” Joshua narrowed his eyes and an invisible energy leeched off of his body, forcing a silhouette to stagger—but it quickly recovered and rushed Joshua without a moment’s hesitation. Joshua slapped the blade away, lighting up the night with a shower of sparks.
“You! Who are you? How did you know about the Jinsal Energy?”
Joshua’s mouth stretched into a wide grin when he heard the assailant’s voice.
“I’m curious as to how you know Jinsal’s secret. Only a few Dark Elves know.”
The robed figure’s blue eyes went wide with shock.
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