Chapter 18

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A raid and hostage

It’s like X.

Almost voicing out vulgar words, Atalante tried her best to suppress the urge to curse. 

Orlando was quite the funny person, wanting the son that he had given up teaching to pass the evaluation to become a trainee knight. 

‘What’s so important about continuing the family’s legacy?’

It was natural that she couldn’t understand their way of thinking as she wasn’t an aristocrat. With a light sigh, Atalante replaced her dagger.

“Oh, why are you putting away your blade…?”

“You, your basic posture is already a mess.”

“What? But I had definitely learned like this at the training center…”

“That’s none of my concern. If you’re going to learn from me, do it according to what I say.”

As soon as she finished speaking, Atalante pressed hard on his shoulders to lower his posture.

Without even giving Archiralph time to be bewildered by the suddenly lowered vision, Atalante had even corrected the way he held the sword. 

In actuality, despite her usage of the phrase ‘basic posture’, Atalante had never learned swordsmanship formally.

Ah, just once. Her stepfather that worked as a mercenary taught her swordsmanship for self-defence. 

Well, swordsmanship was only a small part of it.

From martial arts to shooting. Atalante was proficient at everything related to ‘fighting’.

When the occasional question of where had she learned those skills were raised, she would consistently give the same answer.

“I’m just moving as my body dictates.”

The only thing that could explain her movements was that it was innate.

But if she’d have been weeded out if she had just left her talent alone. Atalante trained herself every single day without fail. 

Thanks to that, while her swordsmanship wasn’t as elegant as a family of knights’, it was specialised in actual combat.

The problem was…

“L–Like this?”

Archiralph met her expectations, which was that he didn’t possess talent for swordsmanship. 

Archiralph seemed to be expressing the word ‘severe’ with physical movements. 

His stiffness was to the point where she’d only see when the members of Argo had held in place for an hour. 

It was the first time Atalante did not see any improvement to a certain extent even though said person was in possession of perfectly intact limbs. 

“I–I’m sorry. The thought of hurting someone else is too… scary.”

“You won’t be able to do anything if you keep thinking like that. You should focus on what you can protect by wielding a sword.”

“…About that, I’m not…”

“Just shut your mouth if you’re going to keep making excuses.”

Annoyed, Atalante grabbed his arm and growled.

“You didn’t put any strength in. You can’t even cut through spinach by swinging it like that.”

She doesn’t know how to cook.

Atalante sighed and was about to rebuke him, before looking at Archiralph with an exclamatory, “Ah!”

She came up with a decent idea.

“Think of it like you’re cooking.”

“What?”

“Pretend that you’re cutting up ingredients while swinging the sword.”

“T–that’s too awful!”

After shrieking, Archiralph bowed his head with a pale complexion. 

Atalante held both of his cheeks. Although he couldn’t see her face clearly as her eyes were covered by the hood, the pressure Archiralph felt from her caused him to tremble without realising that he was doing so. 

“Hey.”

“Y–yes!”

His voice trembled slightly, but Archiralph replied in the loudest voice he could manage. 

“Honestly, even if you’ve received my training today, you would die by the third time you’re sent to participate in a battlefield or subjugation.”

There weren’t any falsities within her voice. It was the truth.

When Archiralph lowered his gaze, Atalante squeezed his cheeks harder with her hands. 

“But you aren’t aiming to become a courageous knight in order to make a name for yourself. It’s to be formally appointed as a knight and marry your lover, isn’t it?”

“B–but…”

“What I meant was to think of the opponents you’ll meet during the knight evaluation as food ingredients. Even if you’re using an actual sword, you wouldn’t injure it.”

“It wouldn’t actually injure…”

Archiralph kept ruminating over Atalante’s words like he had gotten inspiration, before nodding lightly. 

“I–I’ll try and think about it in that way. Food…ingredients.”

“Right. Think about it like you’re slicing, trimming and squashing the ingredients.”

“Uwah, stop describing it so graphically! For some reason, it’s awful!”

Unlike his expression of shock, Archiralph seemed to have realised something, as his eyes twinkled quietly.

While he was still sluggish, the hand holding the sword slowly began to gain strength.

After several attempts, Archiralph managed to cut down the smallest tree in their vicinity.

“Jo–John!”

He looked at Atalante with delight.

Atalante yawned as she gave a light nod. 

She wasn’t sure whether she was teaching him to be a knight or training him to be a woodcutter, but…

‘He can be threatening to robbers if he meets one.’

Although Atalante couldn’t guarantee that he would pass the knight’s evaluation, he would definitely be able to do a chin-up if he continued to train like this. 

‘To think that a man like that will be a knight, the future is dark for the Imperial Garrison.’

Unlike her clicking tongue, a deep line was drawn by the corners of Atalante’s mouth. 

As she looked up at the setting sun in the sky, the thought that she had done something that was not like her. 

“Good job. I’ll be on my way now.”

She had been delayed much longer than her expectations. 

Atalante had originally intended to act perfunctory, but for some reason, she became serious about teaching Archiralph.

“E–Excuse me! If you don’t mind, please come to our mansion for dinner…!”

“Why? Are you going to cook for me again?”

“As much as you want!”

While it was a tempting proposal, she couldn’t afford to waste any more time.

Just as she had furtively questioned Archiralph earlier, it was evident that her whereabouts had yet to be specified properly.

It was not just in the west, but all the branches of the Garrison throughout the Empire had received a report that they seemed to have spotted Atalante. 

‘Perhaps Jenna had a hand in this.’

As the person ranked second when it came to connections, Jenna may have spread rumours in advance before heading towards the Kingdom of Paille. 

But it was too early to be relieved.

She could only say that she had completely evaded the Garrison’s pursuit only when she was isolated in the Black Land. 

“I appreciate your intentions, but I’m busy.”

“W–where are you headed towards? I would like to offer you a carriage or even a horse…!”

“Come here, idiot!”

Before Archiralph could finish his words, Atalante yanked him over.

Bewildered, he didn’t even have the time to yell before falling over Atalante. 

Archiralph only discovered the blood that was flowing from his ear a few seconds after he fell to the floor. 

‘Arrow?’

He came to his senses immediately at the sight of the flesh stuck to the tree opposite him. 

However, the arrow seemed somewhat familiar. 

“Well done, Archiralph.”

The voice that followed was more familiar than the arrow that flew towards them. 

“Oh, Father!”

“I wondered where you were headed at dawn, but it’s commendable. For the first time, you did something Lancers-like.”

“Father, what do you mean…?”

The man who appeared through the bushes was Archiralph’s father, Orlando.

Garrison officers followed closely behind him in a row. They were all fully armed. It was his first time witnessing so many officers being dispatched at the same time.

“I didn’t expect that you’ll catch Atalante. Honestly, I only wanted you to pass the knight’s evaluation, but really…… Well done. If I report this matter to His Majesty, you’ll be promoted to the position of commander without an evaluation.”

He couldn’t understand any of the words his father had spoken.

After blinking for a long while, Archiralph slowly moved his gaze towards the girl that was lying under him. 

“Purple coloured…pupils.”

The girl’s pupils that he was looking at for the first time had a mysterious light. 

The face that was wrinkled in annoyance wasn’t fierce at all. It just looked young and lovely. 

‘It’s, it’s a lie…’

Although he tried to deny it, the evidence was all too clear.

Blood-red hair spilled out from the uncovered hood. 

“We’ve met before, haven’t we? Your disguise was quite flawless. Argo’s boss, Atalante.”

Orlando drew his sword and glared at her fiercely.

Atalante got up with a sigh. Of course, she grabbed Archiralph by the back of his neck. 

“How did the commander notice? You wouldn’t have believed in your foolish son’s conjecture.”

Taking off the stuffy hood, Atalante swept her hair away with light movements. 

While she could run away like this, there was quite a high risk in doing so. 

Orlando might have already taken measures, as she could feel the presence of people throughout the entire Beli Forest. 

‘To think that I didn’t notice this at all, it’s the worst case scenario.’

It was wrong of her to dismiss all the footsteps she felt as belonging to the animals of the forest while focusing on Archiralph.

“I was curious as to what useless things my son was up to, so I looked for him. But the fact that you were here when I arrived… It wasn’t hard after that. A girl that isn’t from this neighbourhood, and used a hood to conceal her entire body. It was too suspicious.”

Spitting out a curse, Atalante gripped the dagger that fell to the floor. 

It was unfortunate that the only fool in this area was Archiralph. 

He still had a dumbfounded expression even though the back of his neck was in her grip. 

“The Garrison could be completely wiped out, shouldn’t you tread carefully?”

Atalante was a little concerned about the arrow that came from an unexpected place, but it wasn’t impossible.

From the way the arrow was mistakenly aimed at Archiralph instead of Atalante earlier, it was clear that their archers weren’t that skilled.

Even though it was quite the threatening line, Orlando wasn’t intimidated, instead bursting into laughter.

“Haha. That’s impossible. We have guns, thanks to the Imperial palace supplying them to us with fantastic timing.”

Ah, in order to catch that single-eyed wolf.

Things have become quite troublesome. With a deep sigh, Atalante wrapped an arm around Archiralph’s shoulders.

The moment he looked up at Atalante grimly, the cool edge of a dagger touched his neck.

“I hate taking hostages, but it can’t be helped.”

“D*mn it, Archie! Why are you still over there?”

Perhaps because it was working, Orlando’s face turned pale.

As Atalante immobilised him with the broad side of the knife, she spoke in a voice that was as terrifying as the blade that was aimed at his neck.

“Your son and I, you can only choose one.”

Quickly.

As she added words urging for an answer, a wicked smile appeared on Atalante’s face.

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