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It was officially concluded that Catherine Roem had been attacked by an unidentified man and was missing. It was to keep the honor of the Roem family.
However, those who knew better speculated that the eldest daughter of the Roem family had disappeared on her own. There were a lot of people sent to find Catherine that day. Apart from the servants, it was virtually impossible to control the mouth of the security forces.
The world rejoiced at the downfall of the genius painter. Naturally, Catherine was the center of numerous scandals. Among them, the most popular was about how she ran away because she wanted to be with someone of lower status.
The problem was that even the Roem family didn’t know the reason Catherine disappeared.
“Why is Catherine… gone?”
As soon as Chloe brought it up, the atmosphere at the dinner table dropped a surprising degree.
“If we knew why, we wouldn’t be this frustrated.”
Count Roem put down his tableware loudly. It was a wordless act that indicated he was uncomfortable with Chloe’s question.
“From this moment onwards…… I don’t want to hear anything regarding Catherine.”
Thus Catherine’s name became a taboo word in Roem. The eldest daughter, who was once their pride, became a disgrace to be hidden in an instant.
Gerard looked through the people who gathered to see him off. He still didn’t see Chloe Roem among them.
The Roem family recently stopped all social activities and had gone into seclusion. However, he was disappointed that he had to leave without seeing her face.
Leila, who also came to see him off, put a handkerchief in his hand.
“Take care, Gerard.”
Gerard looked at the handkerchief in his hand. He received the handkerchief he’d wished to receive, but he was not satisfied for some reason. What he’d received from Leila wasn’t something that touched him. He was astonished.
Gerard spoke to Frederick, who stood behind Leila with a disapproving look on his face.
“Archduke Anata, you’re here too, huh?”
Everywhere he saw the man, he had an expression that looked like he was forced to follow Leila. Gerard deliberately smiled brightly.
“…I hope you have a safe trip.”
Frederick said, lifting one of his eyebrows. He was feeling quite ironic at the moment. He was quite upset by the fact that it was Leila who handed a handkerchief to the young Marquis of Blanchett.
However, he felt generous after realizing that he wouldn’t have to see that nasty face for a while. It was just a handkerchief.
‘I’m going to be busy. I need to get engaged while the young Marquis is away.’
He couldn’t miss this opportunity. He was going to secure his relationship with Leila while Gerard was away.
“Since everyone is seeing me off, I’ll have to come back safely.”
Gerard replied, looking amongst the people who came to see him off. Then Aiden, who was accompanying Gerard to the border, walked up to him.
“I think we should get going now.”
Gerard nodded and walked to his horse. It was time to leave. The person whom he wanted to see kept lingering in his mind.
“It can’t be helped.”
That was what he said, but he kept looking back until he left the Capital.
The western border was more disastrous than he thought. Due to the Tzuwai people looting, the locals living on the border were unable to lead a normal life.
In the fall when the crops were harvested, the plundering of the Tzuwai began. They did not only steal crops and foods, but also kidnapped girls as young as two or three years old. According to investigations, the girls were used as human sacrifices by cutting their bellies open and using it as an offering to the sky.
Moreover, the Tzuwai even went as far as setting fire to the villages they looted. The homes of Imperial people burnt to ashes in an instant.
A child was weeping sadly beside their mother’s body. There were many dead bodies on the street. The smell of smoke and blood stung his nose. Is this what death smelled like?
“The enemy seems to have already retreated.”
Aiden, who had been investigating the scene, reported to Gerard. They departed right after hearing the news of the attack, but they were a second too late.
“If we go after them now, we’ll be able to catch them.”
The Margrave of Verne frowned beside Gerard as he spoke. It was obvious what that expression meant. Do we have to?
“Excuse me, young Lord. Do we really have to go after them? They have already fled to the border.”
“…What do you mean, Margrave?”
Gerard asked as he turned to Margrave Verne.
“Their territory is on the other side of the border. If we go there recklessly, we’ll suffer a big loss.”
“You don’t have to worry about that. I’ve already researched the terrain outside the border.”
Gerard continued, slowly closing his eyes and opening them again.
“If they touch Hernia… I’ll show them what they’re going to pay for doing so.”
Margrave Verne mentally laughed at the childish remark of the young Commander. It was hilarious that he came with a sense of justice when he was just a kid who knew nothing.
“The only people who died were a few locals, right? There is no reason for a precious person like you to take such a risk.”
“Is this just a vacation for you, Margrave?”
Gerard looked around and asked. A man with burnt skin, another whose arms had been severed, and yet another who was slowly dying under their collapsed house. He couldn’t bear to witness such a disaster.
“This is a place where such things are routine. You can’t compare it to the peaceful Capital of the Empire. What are you going to do if you lay a hand on the Tzuwai people and turn it into a disastrous war?”
Perhaps the Margrave, who had been guarding the western border for a long time, had a point. However, Gerard Blanchett wasn’t raised that way.
“I became a knight to protect the Empire and the weak.”
It wasn’t for the righteousness of justice. He was just trying to do his duty as he had been taught.
“Those who are dying are weak Imperial citizens. Therefore, it’s only natural for me to unsheath my sword on their behalf.”
Margrave Verne was frustrated by Gerard’s answer that sounded straight out of a textbook.
“No, young Lord! I’m not saying to sheathe your sword. Don’t you know the things that needed to be done now?”
“We need to start reconstruction.”
‘He’s a good talker.’
Gerard mentally muttered a cold laugh at the Margrave. He noted the old-looking wall that looked like it had been standing for a long time, a blocked well, and a terrible ditch. It was obvious that reconstruction was not going well either.
Gerard walked past Margrave Verne and headed for his horse.
“Where are you going, young Lord?”
Despite the Margrave’s question, he mounted his horse.
“You can call me Commander from now on, Margrave.”
Gerard emphasized their relation to Margrave Verne. If they had met in a social setting, he would have ignored it, but he did so because this place was undoubtedly a battlefield.
“I understood what you’re trying to say, Margrave. You should stay here, help the residents and rebuild the village.”
Gerard glared at Margrave Verne as he sat on horseback.
“I’ll check on them after I return, so you better do it properly.”
At the end of his speech, Gerard and his men ran off after the Tzuwai people. The Margrave could only cough because of the dust they left behind.
The Margrave of Verne was certainly passive in defending the border. All he did was send his knights belatedly to sort things out. He never went after the Tzuwai people, and the Tzuwai people never went near his castle either. It was an unspoken rule between them.
Helpless locals ended up dying.
Gerard was going to take this opportunity to show the Margrave and the Tzuwai people. That the false peace where only the weak suffered was over.
However, Gerard Blanchett realized that he thought of the war too lightly. The battle with the Tzuwai was more ferocious than he expected.
The Imperial Forces of Hernia often lost their way following the Tzuwai. He thought he had studied the terrain properly, but there were too many unexpected obstacles in the process. He had no way to learn about the tunnels dug by the Tzuwai and the byways known only by them.
Many days passed with vain efforts and retreat. He thought he had found traces of the Tzuwai today, but they were lost again when he returned to his senses.
“There’s a lake ahead!”
The Imperial Force decided to rest near the lake to rest their horses.
Gerard stuck his head in the lake and sat down beside one of the horses who was drinking water. He scanned the faces of exhausted knights.
‘Is this the right thing to do?’
He seemed to make his knights and soldiers suffer for no reason due to his obstinacy. Perhaps it was really because of his own petty sense of justice.
Gerard felt like he was going crazy doubting himself. He was called the best knight of the Empire, but he was only a petty child when he visited an actual battlefield.
He stared blankly at the calmly rippling lake. Strangely, his mind seemed to calm down bit by bit.
He wondered since when it was like this. To him, blue was nothing more than a bond he wished to escape from, but he wondered if he had begun to long for it.
-I’m sure you will achieve a big victory and come back safely, Sir.
At that moment, a calm and pleasant voice rang in his ears. Chloe Roem’s voice.
How could she be sure? Even Gerard had a hard time believing in himself.
A hint of graceful smile flashed across his face. It had only been a month or two since he last saw her, but it felt like years ago.
‘I miss her.’
Gerard jumped up in surprise at his own thoughts. He splashed his face with lake water to cool down.
There were people who believed that he would win and return, so he didn’t want to show his weakness. He wanted to return with the things that Chloe Roem had expected.
That day, Gerard Blanchett was able to find the home of the Tzuwai.
One day, just four months after Gerard came to the western border. He was discussing a strategy on how to block the waterways of the Tzuwai headquarters with members of the government.
The knight who was in charge of the messenger birds ran to him in a hurry. The soldier forgot to knock and his face looked pale.
“Stop for a moment.”
Gerard raised one of his hands to the man who was talking to him. And he turned to the knight who was gasping for breath.
“What is it?”
“I-It’s… about the Marquis!”
“The Marquis? My father?”
“Yes, Marquis Blanchett has passed away!”
At first, Gerard narrowed his eyes because he couldn’t understand what the knight said.
‘Passed away? Died? Who?’
The combination of words floated in his head.
Gerard Blanchett didn’t simply accept the report about his father’s death. He hurriedly wrapped up the meeting and prepared to go to the Capital.
He couldn’t believe it until he saw it with his own eyes.
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