Chapter 11

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A visit by the Grand Duke

 

“Who knows.”

 

Atalante had thought that the innkeeper intended to hand her over to the garrison, but she didn’t feel any hostility within her eyes. 

 

Even though she was given an ambiguous answer, she seemed convinced that the girl before her was ‘That Atalante’.

 

“There’s a wanted poster for you.”

 

It was even issued by the Imperial Family.

 

As the woman continued her words with a trembling voice, she was still looking at Atalante with an uneasy expression, 

 

“The kids over there have already told me about it kindly. Why, have you reported it already?

 

“N—no! What I meant, uh, was that I think it’s better for you to run away quickly…”

 

“What?”

 

“The children deliver newspapers every morning. They return after going through this entire village. According to them, the wanted posters are scattered throughout the village. If even this side of the village has these wanted posters…the closer you are to the capital, the more dangerous it is for you.”

 

Although her words were spoken with a trembling voice like before, she didn’t stop speaking. 

 

The woman that told Atalante about the shortcut from this village to the West without going through the capital bowed her head. 

 

While Atalante didn’t say she would be heading West, she would be able to head towards the Black Land conveniently through the shortcut that the woman had informed her about. 

 

“There isn’t any garrison waiting there, is there?

 

“I—It doesn’t matter if you don’t believe me! I’m…just…”

 

The stammering woman looked up at Atalante carefully. 

 

Warm brown eyes contained a sincere light.

 

“Count Sera… My niece is the girl that was [email protected] Argo, I heard from my brother-in-law that they were the ones who had avenged him. It may not be of great help, but I still want to repay you like this.”

 

At the unimaginable relationship, Atalante’s eyes narrowed. 

 

In contrast, the eyes of the children eavesdropping on their conversation behind them slowly grew bigger.

 

“Thank you.”

 

Thin tears rolled down the cheeks of the woman that had her head bowed. 

 

‘What happened to the girl? I think I’d heard that the engagement was broken.’

 

Atalante, who had been choosing what to say to the woman in front of her for quite a while, soon sighed lightly.

 

“You don’t have to thank me. I’ve handled your brother-in-law’s request and received the appropriate remuneration.”

 

“If it were others, they wouldn’t have accepted a commission to harm a noble! No matter who it was!”

 

“What I meant was, you don’t have to thank the villain.”

 

Refusing her greeting to the very end, Atalante grabbed the doorknob.

 

Just before she left, Atalante called over the little children that was looking at her on the verge of tears.

 

“Take this. It’s a tip.”

 

After passing a gold coin to the girl that approached her, she moved her gaze towards the innkeeper again. 

 

“It’s the payment for letting me know about the shortcut. Thanks to that, I think I can continue to do bad things for a while longer.”

 

Even after she disappeared, the trio stared at the door the villain had opened and left through for a long time.

 

The smile that Atalante showed at the end was too bright and radiant for it to belong to a villain.

 

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The news that the Grand Duke was coming across the border to the Empire had become a subject of great interest, just like Atalante’s wanted poster that could be found everywhere. 

 

This was understandable. The last time he had visited the Empire was around a year ago. 

 

Although it was not a vassal state, strictly speaking, the Grand Duchy of Blanc had sworn fealty to the Empire in the past. 

 

Therefore, in accordance with the customs, Grand Dukes that have officially succeeded the position had to visit the Imperial Palace and give the Emperor his greetings. 

 

However, unlike previous Grand Dukes, Lionel had actually only ‘greeted’ the Emperor. 

 

His attitude of refusing the banquet that the Emperor was personally hosting and returning to the Grand Duchy after half a day had been a topic of discussion by the nobles for a long time. 

 

“Where did the dignity and conduct when he was younger disappeared to?”

 

“It must have been because he succeeded to the position of Grand Duke at such a young age, causing him to gain an overly arrogant personality. This is the reason why upbringing is important. It’s because the previous Grand Ducal couple passed early.” 

 

“Even if he’s yet to be of age, how can he not greet His Majesty properly after ascending the seat of Grand Duke? It can’t be that he thought of himself as equals with the Emperor, and is harbouring rebellious thoughts?”

 

As the nobles condemned Lionel, they secretly contacted the Grand Duchy. 

 

While it’s a country built upon barren land, the Blanc family’s legitimacy and honour weren’t something that could be taken lightly. 

 

It was but a matter of course that Imperial nobles tried to establish ties with the Grand Duchy. Hoping that their sons would build a friendship with him, and also hoping their daughters would look pleasing to him. 

 

As such, the Imperial nobles were busy burying the rumours that Lionel was the main culprit behind the arson in the Grand Ducal castle. 

 

As the dead are unable to speak, and there was no point in undermining the head of a family that they could share close ties with in the future, 

 

However, Lionel’s movements were far more unconventional than they had thought.

 

To be more exact, it was an inviolable madness. 

 

“From the entrance of the Grand Duchy…There was a long line of decapitated bodies…”

 

The nobles that had travelled to the Grand Duchy as a delegation laid sick in bed for days and nights, as if it was agreed upon.

 

And that too. With expressions that were like they had been to hell. 

 

“No matter how cool the Grand Duke is, I don’t want to marry into such a place!”

 

The young ladies that had a crush on him ever since young and followed their parents to visit the Grand Duchy, gave up on Lionel, as if it was natural to do so.

 

His cruelty was enough to erase the fact that he was the head of the Grand Duchy, with a radiant appearance and noble status, possessing a vast territory and military, from their minds. 

 

“I’ll clean what I don’t find satisfactory there and then. Without any exceptions.”

 

The evidence that Lionel kept to his words could be found throughout the Grand Duchy. 

 

When the Grand Duke officially ascended to his position as an adult, he removed more than 20% of the people in his territory. 

 

With an unperturbed and aloof face, each and every one of them, no matter their status or crime, with his own hands. 

 

There was no exception on the day that the delegation visited.

 

At the terrible sight of him taking people’s lives with a faint smile, those that had weak stomachs had to leave. 

 

“It was fortunate that I was too young to be able to go to the Grand Duchy. Brother too couldn’t visit the Grand Duchy as he had a fever at that time.”

 

The Young Lady of Sera County, Milvia, spoke in a sharp voice as she twisted her red hair. 

 

The news of the Grand Duke’s visit to the Empire had long since reached the County of Sera.

 

Due to his ambition, the previous Count Sera, who had personally witnessed the Grand Duke’s notoriety, was the only Imperial noble that hadn’t given up on forging close ties with him. 

 

As such, Count Sera became the only Imperial nobleman that was close to Blanc.

 

The fact that Milvia and Pietro were invited to the Grand Duchy during the last regular meeting was enough evidence. 

 

“You’ve become remarkably quieter ever since you returned from the Grand Duchy. Did the Grand Duke do something terrible this time, just like what the rumours say?”

 

After Milvia’s only brother, Pietro, returned to the mansion earlier than scheduled, he had changed somewhat. 

 

He was often lost in his thoughts, and sighed whenever there was an opportunity to. 

 

As if he had someone he missed. 

 

“…Not really. While the atmosphere had changed greatly from when I was younger, he didn’t do anything violent like the rumours were implying.”

 

“Is his face still the same?”

 

With a fan covering her mouth, Milvia asked the question she was most curious about. 

 

Milvia had never seen him in person, but the young ladies she was close to had praised Grand Duke Lionel Blanc’s appearance several times. 

 

Of course, the end of their praises was naturally followed by the fact that his cruelty overshadowed his appearance. 

 

Instead of answering, Pietro nodded indifferently. 

 

“Hmm, I see. No matter how important it is to establish relations with the Grand Duke, it’s so noisy that I can’t bear staying in the mansion. The fuss is even worse than when His Majesty was visiting.”

 

The Sera family entered a state of emergency as soon as they heard the news of the Grand Duke’s visit. 

 

The already glossy floor was swept and wiped, and perhaps that wasn’t enough, the interior was completely changed. 

 

The brother and sister that was tired of the sudden large-scale construction left the mansion under the pretext of going on a walk.

 

“Stop the carriage.”

 

At Pietro’s order, the coachman brought the carriage to a smooth stop skillfully.

 

Before Milvia could become bewildered, Pietro immediately got off the carriage. 

 

Removing the wanted poster for Atalante that he had only heard of from the bulletin board, Pietro looked at it with a complicated expression. 

 

“The reason behind the Grand Duke’s sudden visit to the Empire was probably…”

 

It was definitely related to Atalante.

 

The boss of an underground organisation that was suddenly mobilised to play the part of a fake sister and attend the regular meeting, the woman that appeared late at night in a mess. 

 

Finally… The unexpected question by the Emperor towards him, who had returned to the Empire.  

 

“Did she not come to find you?”

 

No matter how he thought about it, everything fitted exquisitely.

 

Why was an underground boss, which was regarded as a gray area, placed on the wanted list again for?

 

As Atalante’s clear face came to mind unknowingly and the tips of his ears turned red, someone snatched away the wanted poster in his hand. 

 

“Who is it? How dare you…!”

 

The sharp yell trailed off as soon as he identified the face of the man holding the wanted poster, causing Pietro to close his mouth without being able to finish speaking.

 

“T—the Grand Duke of Blanc!”

 

“We meet again, Young Lord Sera, isn’t it?”

 

The man looking downwards at him with a languid smile was clearly Grand Duke Lionel Blanc, the man that sat on his throne and overused the word ‘kill’.

 

As soon as Pietro came to his senses, the others around him were already greeting him courteously.

 

It would be strange to not recognise him, as the only people that possessed such bright silver hair were the blood relatives of the Grand Duke of Blanc. 

 

As he looked back, Milvia was also bowing towards the Grand duke in a crooked posture. 

 

“Is that Young Lady Sera behind you? It must have been frustrating as you couldn’t leave your room due to traveller’s diarrhea, even after finally getting the chance to come to the Grand Duchy.”

 

What does that mean?

 

Milvia glanced at her brother with a puzzled face. Only after seeing Pietro’s urgent eyes did she quietly bow her head.

 

They’ll discuss that later, but for now, it was more important to not go against the Grand Duke’s mood. 

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