Chapter 20

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Huge thanks to ErLa Inertia for your kofi! (1/1)💕

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That night, in the woods.

 

Orlando, Archiralph and the other members of the Garrison forgot about etiquette, as they looked at the Grand Duke holding the wanted person.

Some had already forgotten to breathe and turned pale from fright.

Well, etiquette wasn’t important right now.

Along with the sound of a gunshot, the Grand Duke suddenly appeared and pulled Atalante into his embrace without regard for his own safety. 

As such, the bullet which was aimed straight at her heart had only grazed Lionel’s shoulder lightly without harming the small villain. 

“Y–Your Highness, Grand Duke Blanc?”

Still unable to grasp the situation, Orlando continued to call the Grand Duke instead of asking what was going on. 

Lionel Blanc’s notorious reputation was well known, but it was his first time seeing the Grand Duke in person. 

Nevertheless, Orlando could recognize that he was Lionel with a glance.

It wasn’t just Orlando, but all the knights that were gathered here managed to recognise him instantly. 

This was because the only person possessing such bright silver hair and beautiful features was the most noble of nobles, the Grand Duke Lionel Blanc. 

“Why has Your Highness journeyed here…?”

He had apparently visited the capital in order to find his ‘Grand Duchess’. 

Even the Western aristocrats, who lived a fair distance away from the capital, had long since headed towards the capital in order to meet the Grand Duke once again. 

There wasn’t any reason for such a Grand Duke to travel towards the Beli Forest, which bordered the Black Land. 

Wandering if he was hallucinating, Orlando blinked several times, but the image of the Grand Duke before him had only become clearer. 

“Who are you?”

Only then did Lionel shift his gaze from Atalante, towards Orlando. 

His brows were tightly knitted with annoyance. 

While he still had an oddly youthful appearance even though he had already become an adult three years ago, Orlando shivered at the sound of his cold, oppressive voice. 

As Orlando swallowed dryly, he tried his best to not stutter while courteously giving him his greetings.

“I greet the Guardian of the North. I’m the commander of the Garrison’s Beli branch in the Third District of the West, Orlando Lancers.”

“Sir Lancers.”

As soon as Orlando finished his self-introduction, Lionel called his name with a cold voice without giving him a moment to spare. 

Why could he feel the killing intent contained within his words, even though he was addressed courteously? 

“Please…speak, Your Highness.”

“Who was the culprit behind this wound?”

“What wound are you referring to…Oh!”

The pitch black cloak that the Grand Duke was wearing was slightly ripped.

A clear wound caused by a bullet could be seen from within. 

Although it was a minor wound that could barely be classified as an injury, the person that was injured held such importance. 

‘I wouldn’t be hung in front of the city gate for daring to hurt the Grand Duke of Blanc like the rumours say, right?’

As Orlando recalled the cruel punishments Lionel enacted in the past, his eyes trembled like flies. 

Even if he had to put away his pride as an aristocrat and position as commander for a while, he had to ask for forgiveness. 

This was because he only had one life.

Just as he was about to kneel down, a clear voice rang out in the darkened forest. 

“I–I was the one that did that!”

“Archiralph!”

While Orlando looked at his son contemplatively, Archiralph opened his mouth a little faster than Orlando.

“I–I’m not adept at handling guns, p–please forgive me f–for daring to hurt Your Highness’ body!”

“My body?”

“Yes, Your Highness’ shoulder…!”

The Grand Duke only lifted his head to check his shoulder at Archiralph’s words. 

Rather than a wound, the word ‘scratch’ was a more fitting description, and it merely left a trace that wasn’t even itchy. 

Lionel lifted his head somewhat tiredly and looked at the trembling Archiralph. 

“That’s not the wound I was referring to.”

“What?”

“One on a slender arm, and on an originally delicate leg…No, one on a thigh.”

It wasn’t until a few minutes after the Grand Duke spoke did Atalante realise that he was referring to the places she had been wounded. 

Slender and delicate? What nonsense was he talking about?

“No, that’s–”

“It’s alright, you don’t have to say anything. It would be better for you to receive treatment as soon as possible. Paul!”

He sounded as if he were calling for a dog he was raising.

At the sound of his name, Paul slipped through the gap in the line of Garrison officers, and ran over while panting.  

Atalante didn’t notice this when he was beside the Grand Duke, but Paul possessed a stature that didn’t lose to those knights. 

“Your Highness! Why did you disappear suddenly? You’re really going to kill me with anxiety.…! Heok, why is the lady in this condition…?”

“The right arm and the left outer thigh. The lower wound is very deep, and needs to be sewn.”

The Grand Duke conveyed her condition plainly to Paul, who was still breathing heavily.

Only then did Atalante start to feel pain from the areas that she had suffered injuries earlier. 

Perhaps his words about the thigh wound being deep was true, as her leg felt numb, like it was paralysed. 

“Lady, let me carry you on my back.”

With a heavy sigh, Paul turned and faced her with his back. 

‘I can’t believe that I’m carrying the boss of a criminal organisation on my back.’

While cursing his fate, Paul waited stiffly for Atalante to get on his back. 

But even after waiting for a long time, he didn’t feel any weight on his back. 

Turning around with a puzzled look on his face, Paul was greeted with the Grand Duke staring at him with a disgruntled gaze. 

“This isn’t to my liking.”

“Your Highness has to hand over the lady so that I can escort her to the carriage.”

“I don’t like it when Miss Atalante touches you.”

‘Have I become some sort of pathogen?’

Paul swallowed down the rising quip and tried not to have impure eyes. 

On the other hand, the way the Grand Duke addressed her with honorifics caused Atalante’s lips to move slightly without her realisation. 

It wasn’t surprising that the Grand Duke knew of her name, as the wanted posters were littered throughout the country. 

But to address her as ‘Miss Atalante’.

Even if she searched the entire continent, the number of people that the Grand Duke had to address with honorifics could be counted on one hand. It probably constituted a few members of the Imperial Family. 

‘Was it…the power of love? How absurd.’

Atalante sighed deeply while thinking that Esma’s potions had a profound effect.

“It wouldn’t take long to get to the carriage, so please bear with it even if you find it unpleasant.”

Unaware of Atalante’s innermost thoughts, Lionel pressed a light kiss on her crimson hair.

“W–What do you think you’re doing?”

‘I’ll kill you.’

Unfortunately, Lionel threw his cloak over Paul before Atalante could spit out her next words.

“Be careful not to touch Miss Atalante at all.”

“Yes, I’ll be careful, as I don’t want my hands to be cut off.”

While Lionel was still looking at Paul with a displeased gaze, he immediately laid Atalante onto his back with careful gestures.

When Atalante was wrapped in the Grand Duke’s pitch black cloak, she held her breath, as the Grand Duke’s distinctive scent seemed to penetrate her mind strongly. 

“I will follow behind soon, so go ahead first and get treated.”

“Why are you treating me… like this?”

Atalante stared at his face after speaking with awkward honorifics. 

She didn’t want to be polite, but she had no choice. 

If she spoke informally to the Grand Duke once again, the lord chamberlain might just fall to the ground with her on his back.

Lionel didn’t frown, even when he heard a sharp remark from a lowborn. 

On the contrary, a smile that was brighter than ever appeared as he leaned his upper body towards Atalante.

“Didn’t I tell you this previously? I’m in love with you.”

There wasn’t an inch of falsehood in his blue eyes. If she was unaware about the existence of that drug, Atalante might really have believed that the Grand Duke was really in love with her.

Lionel looked that sincere.

The Emperor’s pursuit was the only thing in her mind, and she completely neglected to consider a situation where she would face the Grand Duke. She thought that he wouldn’t personally come to find her. 

No matter how much love he felt due to the drug, what kind of madman would travel all the way from the North to the borders of the West? 

‘There is one, right here.’

Instead of rubbing her throbbing temples, Atalante looked at the silver-haired man with a more piercing gaze.

“…Hey.”

“I’m very curious about what you’re going to say, but your injury is much deeper than I thought. I’m afraid that we’ll have to delay the conversation till later.”

Lionel lightly brushed his lips against the back of her hand, which was pale, perhaps due to her injury, and gave an affectionate smile. 

At the same time, Atalante clearly spotted the strange desire that filled his eyes.

“Off you go.”

While speaking coolly like he had never laughed, Lionel kicked Paul on his shin lightly. 

It was such a graceful movement that none of the people present felt that the Grand Duke had ever hit his Lord chamberlain.

Of course, other than the person involved, Paul.

‘Are you talking about me?’

While trying hard not to use unfaithful eyes to look at his master, Paul started moving forward.  

He made every effort not to touch Atalante by mistake.

When they were completely out of sight, Lionel turned his gaze towards the group of Garrison officers.

“You.”

Even though there was quite a distance, Archiralph could hear Lionel’s voice calling him clearly.

Instead of answering loudly, he quickly nodded.

“You’re the b*stard that shot at Miss Atalante.”

The Grand Duke had actually addressed the boss of the criminal organisation ‘Miss Atalante’.

Archiralph still couldn’t understand the current situation.

He couldn’t figure out why the Grand Duke had suddenly barged in, or why he saved the notorious Atalante without regard for his own safety.

But the one thing that’s certain was, that cruel man was very angry right now.

“Her shoulder and leg, you’re the one who did them all?”

When Archiralph didn’t answer, a slight frown appeared on the Grand Duke’s face, as if he was trying to press for answers. 

He spoke with an extremely suppressed voice, as if he had reached the limits of his patience. 

The strong killing intent that could be felt from afar caused Archiralph’s knees to wobble.  

The person that shot Atalante in the thigh was the deputy commander that infiltrated the forest, while the one that shot her arm…it was his father. 

“Y, y–yes, I, I’m…!”

“No, Your Highness! I’m, I’m the one who did it!”

But before Archiralph could speak, Orlando stepped forward and fell down at Lionel’s feet. 

At that sight, Archiralph paled and also knelt beside his father immediately.

As Lionel looked down at the two men claiming to have shot Atalante, he ran a hand through his hair irritably.

“Noisy.”

At his brief remark, not only Archiraph and Orlando, but the Garrison officers that stood behind them became silent.

“I have to go after her quickly, so I should finish this quickly.”

While gazing longingly in the direction Atalante disappeared in, Lionel murmured softly.

‘What’s with that reaction? It seems that he cares about Atalante…? No, that’s just ridiculous.’

As Orlando’s mind was filled with questions, the chilling sound of a sword being drawn resounded, and a sharp blade was pointed in front of his eyes. 

“I’m running out of time, so I’d like you to answer my question properly.”

Lionel used the tip of his blade to lift Orlando’s chin and asked in a chilly voice. 

“Who was it that shot at Miss Atalante?”

‘How dare you.’

A tenacious glint shone in Lionel’s eyes. 

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