Chapter 22

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A Sweet Price.

 

“Name it.”

 

Lionel didn’t take long to respond. 

 

“I’ll do all that I can to help you. Please feel free to speak.”

 

His sky blue pupils gleamed with devotion. Atalante felt a prick of her conscience momentarily, but it wasn’t difficult for her to ignore that discomfort.

 

In order to survive and take care of her members, she was capable of anything. Even if everyone pointed their fingers at her. 

 

“As you are probably aware, I am currently being pursued by His Majesty the Emperor.”

 

As long as he possessed eyes, the Grand Duke would definitely have seen the wanted posters that were everywhere. 

 

He had probably learnt her name because of the wanted posters. 

 

When the Emperor’s name was mentioned, his eyes became terribly subdued 

 

“Before coming to the West, I met with Emperor Kaiser.”

 

“…What did you say?”

 

The wariness that filled Atalante’s purple eyes intensified. 

 

She couldn’t make any conclusions yet, so she can’t lower her guard rashly. 

 

How deep was the ‘love’ that he spoke of, how much trust did he have in her, and how was his actual relationship with the Emperor like…

 

There was a lot of information she needed to obtain. 

 

“I hope that you won’t misunderstand. I only met him to see how far their pursuit has progressed.”

 

“I’m not too sure as I’m not an aristocrat, but isn’t that remark quite disloyal?”

 

Finding her narrowed eyes lovely, the Grand Duke spoke in an amused tone.

 

“Strictly speaking, I’m not an Imperial citizen. It isn’t concerning to me what the Empire’s monarch thinks of me.”

 

“Wow, it’s closer to treason this time round, isn’t it?”

 

“Treason. I wanted to try it once, but I don’t have a master to commit treason against.”

 

The previous grand dukes had implicitly regarded the Empire’s monarch as their master. 

 

Although they don’t experience the oath swearing ceremony like ordinary knights do, it was naturally considered in this manner as the Grand Duchy protected the Empire’s borders, 

 

As Atalante stared at the man behaving completely opposite to the customs, his following words left her astonished. 

 

“If you could become my lord, it would be an honour.”

 

It was the norm for vows to be formed between men. 

 

Regardless of gender, it was natural that the lord was in possession of a much higher status and position than the knight.

 

“…The Grand Duke is going to regard a commoner as his master?”

 

“What do you mean, commoner? You’re the head of an organisation. You don’t have to be overly modest.”

 

It was the first time that someone said words of acknowledgment for her deeds.

 

It was only natural as no one would recognise a person that does evil deeds for a living. 

 

Staring at him dazedly, Atalante’s face immediately crumpled. 

 

Her heart palpitated at the ticklish sensation that she felt for the first time. 

 

“The story is wandering off the point… Please continue talking about the emperor.”

 

Atalante muttered to herself, and avoided his blue eyes by looking away. 

 

She didn’t want her nervousness to be noticed by him.

 

Without turning his gaze away from her, the grand duke continued speaking. 

 

“It seems that that incompetent emperor has yet to grasp your route.”

 

Her sigh of relief only lasted for a moment, before Atalante’s brows furrowed again. 

 

“But didn’t the Beli branch of the Garrison just find out about it?”

 

At her words, Lionel gave a languid smile, as if he had anticipated her reaction. 

 

“Don’t worry about that. I’ve already taken care of that.”

 

“You’ve taken care of that, what exactly did you…?”

 

“What has happened today will not reach the Emperor’s ears. The several shots fired will be reported as shots fired in order to catch the man-eating wolf.”

 

“How did you do that?”

 

The Garrison officers wouldn’t have covered up today’s events obediently.

 

This was because catching the boss of the criminal organisation that the emperor had personally placed on the wanted list would definitely result in a first-class promotion or more as a reward. 

 

Could he easily cover up an extremely important event that was directly related to their accomplishments?

 

“It may sound a little uncomfortable,”

 

Lionel rubbed his chin lightly, before he tilted his head to the side and asked, “Should I tell you about it?”

 

‘It’s obvious even if he didn’t tell me. More than that, what was he acting cute for?’

 

It was more unbelievable that the tyrant that could hurt others without batting an eyelash was Lionel, who looked beautiful while fluttering his eyelashes. 

 

While thinking that she shouldn’t judge people based on appearances as expected, Atalante pressed on her temples, 

 

She didn’t know what exactly he did, but he must have threatened the Garrison officers in a terrifying manner. 

 

Atalante suddenly became worried for Archiralph, but she restrained the urge to ask about him. 

 

“In conclusion, you’re saying that I’m safe for now, right?”

 

“That’s right.”

 

“But the problems are only beginning. The emperor will keep trying to find me, and my members…”

 

Atalante was listing out the things that she was worrying about, before coming to a stop. 

 

If she was asked why the Emperor was so persistent in his pursuit, what should she respond with?

 

For her, it wasn’t any easy decision to make, whether to reveal or hide the fact that the Emperor was the one behind the commission for his assassination.

 

‘Above all, would this man still love me despite knowing that I’m an assassin?’

 

Confusion tinged Atalante’s purple eyes. 

 

Taking a step closer to her, Lionel spoke in a gentle tone. 

 

“I’m aware that it was Emperor Kaiser that instigated you to assassinate me.”

 

Immediately after he finished his words, as if something was caught in her windpipe, Atalante coughed repeatedly. 

 

Her cough only subsided after drinking the glass of water the Grand Duke personally poured for her.

 

“Why, why did you have such a thought…!”

 

“You can be honest with me. In the first place, the Emperor wasn’t the type of righteous person that would suddenly plan to wipe out a criminal organisation, and I found his actions of only looking for their boss odd. Most importantly, the timing matched perfectly.”

 

The emperor’s order for her capture and Atalante’s infiltration of his bedroom coincided. 

 

Unable to come with a rebuttal, Atalante tucked the hair that was stuck to her cheek behind his ear.

 

“You’ve even figured that out, and yet you still came to look for me?”

 

“Yes.”

 

Letting out a faint sigh, she stared straight into Lionel’s eyes and opened her mouth. 

 

“The person that tried to kill you?”

 

He seemed to not understand what Atalante’s words meant, blinking momentarily without answering.

 

His long eyelashes fluttered gracefully several times, before Lionel’s mouth formed a beautiful arc. 

 

“I don‘t understand what that has to do with this.”

 

“What?”

 

“In any case, I’m still alive and you’re unharmed. If I had to elaborate further, you only tried to kill me because of the Emperor’s instigation, so it’s irrelevant.”

 

“Accepting that instigation was my will. I don’t understand. How could you fall in love with someone that tried to kill you?”

 

No matter how enchanted he was due to the drug, he didn’t forget about what Atalante had done.

 

Was the feeling of love strong enough to be able to cover it up? 

 

Whatever the reason was, it was something Atalante couldn’t understand.

 

Lightly licking his lips, Lionel continued in a softer voice than before. 

 

“I too, have never thought that I would fall so deeply…in love with someone.”

 

Lionel leaned a little further towards Atalante with a questioning look on his face. 

 

“You had certainly tried to kill me. The same goes for me. But Miss Atalante, I could see you even when my eyes were closed, and my fondness for you makes me go crazy all the time…What’s so important about other matters?”

 

It was the first time in her life that she received such a passionate confession. 

 

It was definitely a lie if she said that she was calm after receiving such a confession. It’s just that…

 

‘You don’t actually love me.’

 

The corners of Atalante’s mouth was visibly distorted at his words, as his feelings were all because of the drug. 

 

“Rather, I should be grateful that the Emperor sent you to the bedroom that day.”

 

“You mad–!”

 

“I know what kind of assistance you want from me. Ensure the safety of you and your members, right?”

 

Lionel spoke in a polite tone while lightly holding her small hand that was full of calluses. 

 

Atalante nodded slowly instead of shaking off his hand. 

 

‘But how?’

 

While she had made up her mind to make full use of the Grand Duke, she didn’t have any other ideas besides hiding in the Grand Duchy of Blanc. 

 

Well, that should be enough. In any case, the Grand Duchy of Blanc was completely autonomous, and the Emperor couldn’t search his territory without prior notice.

 

One thing that she was worried about was…

 

‘The fact that the emperor seems to know a lot of secret information about the Grand Duchy.’

 

Even the secret passage that led to the Grand Duke’s bedroom, that was evident that a spy was possibly planted in the Grand Duchy. 

 

She presumed from the secret passageway that the Emperor possessed even more information than that. 

 

Even if she puts her trust in the Grand Duchy of Blanc, she couldn’t be completely at ease. 

 

Atalante couldn’t help but sigh at the thought that she’d have to live as a fugitive for the rest of her life. 

 

‘I wanted to live quietly with my family in a small estate.’

 

That future has become an unreachable dream. 

 

Just then.

 

With Atalante’s hand in his, the Grand Duke slowly lowered his posture.

 

They didn’t have anything in common, other than the fact that they were both orphans, but before a commoner girl, a noble grand duke…knelt down.

 

“What are you doing?”

 

Although Atalante shouted with an absurd expression, the Grand Duke didn’t pay it any mind. 

 

Rather, Lionel looked up at her earnestly with his blue eyes filled with affection, and spoke in a sweet tone. 

 

Rather, Lionel, looking up at her with eager eyes, spoke as sweetly as the wall filled with affection.

 

“I will ensure the safety of Argo’s members and grant you everything that you desire.”

 

“Get up, and… I’m not an idiot. I know that safety cannot be guaranteed for life.”

 

“It seems that I’m speaking too vaguely. I’ll help you and all the members of Argo stay safe for the rest of your life.”

 

Atalante’s eyes widened at his resolute answer.

 

“There’s nothing more repulsive than an empty promise.”

 

Perhaps expecting that she would ask a question in reply, Lionel took the initiative with a soft smile. 

 

“Without anything in return?”

 

Atalante asked with a doubtful voice.

 

Lionel’s eyes turned brilliant at her words. 

 

Like spindrift, his azure blue eyes gleamed and shone. 

 

“It can’t really be called a price, but won’t you accept a request of mine?”

 

“…Fine. We do owe a debt to each other, and because it would also set my mind at ease.”

 

As soon as Atalante gave him her consent, he became a little more respectful. He looked up at her with a knee on the ground. 

 

“In that case… “

 

The words that followed made Atalante want to hit her head against a hard wall. 

 

“Please marry me.”

 

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