Chapter 2: The Strongest Spear and the Strongest Shield
“Linus, where were you yesterday?”
A cool breeze, carrying the scent of dusk, fluttered in through the open window on the opposite side.
Linus, sitting leisurely at her desk in the room, reading a book, slowly turned around as she heard the question.
Her eyebrows gently curved as she faced Daniel, who was looking at her with his arms crossed.
“I went for a short walk and patrol, Dani.”
Daniel’s gaze narrowed for a moment before slowly relaxing.
The man, still with a youthful face even in his late twenties, spoke.
“Anyway, you’re still avoiding responsibilities as usual.
Ephinas Benjamin asked you to pay attention.”
“What kind of attention?”
“He said you need more practice with the enchantments.”
Recognizing the teasing tone in that statement, Linus chuckled softly.
Daniel’s eyebrow twitched.
“It means he knows when someone’s used magic.”
Seeing Linus with a proud expression, Daniel lightly sighed, feeling like he understood why his mentor had sent him.
“Seriously, using magic outside is asking for trouble, and you know that very well.
What on earth are you thinking?”
“It’s not a problem if I’m not using magic to threaten civilians.
It’s not just me either.
So, what’s the conclusion?”
“…He said if you’re going to cause trouble, at least give a heads-up.”
“Oh, come on, you think I’m going to cause trouble?”
Rather than feeling discouraged, Daniel naturally thought of Linus as his mentor and one of the highest authorities in the order as he looked into Linus’ eyes which were gleaming with a spark.
Somehow, she seemed more like him than the man he had studied under.
In a way, she was even more feisty than Ephinas Benjamin.
While you’re here, why not give a lecture on casting enchantments? It’s your specialty, after all.”
She was the most likely candidate to succeed Ephinas Benjamin, known as the Guardian of the current era’s temple.
Even though their abilities were practically opposites—Linus excelling in the static arts of magic while Benjamin was a kinetic adept in telekinesis—the two got along quite well.
A commoner-born priest who unusually quickly became a full-fledged priest to a prominent figure in the great temple overflowing with priests from aristocrats.
Daniel always worried about Linus, who acted fearlessly despite knowing that many were trying to find faults in her.
“I didn’t come here to talk about that.
Starting three days from now, there’s a nationwide tour, and they want you to participate too.”
Once a year, the High Priests and the higher-ranking Ephinas would gather a group and tour the nation.
Such movements aimed to encourage local clergy, offer aid to needy regions and gauge the public sentiment.
As it was a gathering where the so-called faces of the Grand Temple were being assembled, the fact that Linus had been summoned itself was evidence of her trustworthiness.
However, she retorted sullenly.
“Wow, is it that time already? There will be a lineup of candidates; they could send someone else instead of me.”
“It’s Ephinas Eir’s order.”
“…Even if I have a broken leg, I suppose I have to participate.”
Her demeanor shifted remarkably quickly.
Among the five Ephinas of the temple, Eir Sandria was the only one Linus meekly followed.
“It’s interesting how you turn into a gentle lamb in front of Eir.”
“Because he’s someone to be respected.”
“It’s quite surprising.”
“Is this what Dani, who can’t utter a word in front of Benjamin, wants to say?”
Linus playfully countered, shutting his mouth in one swift motion.
“So, how long is this schedule?”
“Roughly a month, give or take.”
A single maple leaf, riding the wind, gently descended onto the open book.
Linus lowered it further as the leaf settled.
Lost in thought, she closed the book.
‘No matter how much I think about it, I feel like I should tell the priest.’
In the brief moment that Cordelia had left to attend to something, the man spoke quietly.
A wistful smile crossed her mind as she remembered Noah openly sharing stories about the crystal pendant.
‘…Indeed, you made such a wish.’
‘At that moment, yes.
Will it be of help in resolving the issue?’
‘It’s better than having nothing.
But to bring up this matter now…’
‘It’s a shameless request, but I hope you’ll keep it a secret from Cordelia.’
After a brief hesitation, the man seemed to gather his resolve and spoke.
‘I don’t want to confuse her.
Even though it’s hard to expect someone to believe the words of a person they’ve just met…’
With his long eyelashes, slightly raised eyebrows, and a straight forehead leading to a tall nose, he gave the impression of elegance.
However, the firm lips and the angular jawline conveyed a strong sense of masculinity.
He lowered his gaze with a somewhat distant expression.
‘Could it really not work?’
‘Well, it’s not something I necessarily have to tell her.’
She had a premonition that there was more that the man was hiding, but for now, she decided to let it be.
Hadn’t she always refrained from meddling in others’ love matters? Noah’s expression brightened a bit at Linus’s attitude, who drew a reasonable boundary.
I’ll make sure not to cause Cordelia any more trouble, so don’t worry.’
No, she might be hoping for exactly that.
His resolute expression when speaking made it clear that he wasn’t open to having his thoughts corrected.
Just looking at him, it seemed he couldn’t fathom the possibility of getting involved with Cordelia.
Is this humility or just obliviousness?
It was perplexing, but it wasn’t something she had to figure out.
Cordelia would handle it well on her own.
She would just perform the magic that bound them and undo it in exchange for compensation.
At a glance, the man didn’t seem like someone who would bring harm to others.
Cordelia’s intuition seemed to be quite accurate.
Anyway, if she leaves the scene, it means they’ll be alone for a while…
Surely nothing unexpected would happen during that time, right?
I’ll get ready right away.”
Linus gave her consent to Daniel while looking out the window.
Crimson maple leaves fluttered in the wind.
* * *
“Wow, the weather’s great.
I feel like going out to play.”
It was a sunny afternoon.
Sitting in a chair by the sunny window, Cordelia pursed her lips thoughtfully.
“Oh, please don’t move.”
As he said that, a small gust of wind made Cordelia briefly purse her lips again.
Looking at Noah, who sat across the shaded area, absorbed in his canvas, she subtly asked him a question.
“Noah, aren’t you bored?”
“How could I be bored when I’m with Cordelia?”
His affectionate response instantly swept away Cordelia’s dissatisfaction.
His neatly arranged golden hair glistened brightly in the sunlight.
Gazing at his perfectly sculpted face from any angle, she softly murmured to herself.
Will she ever be able to do that face justice?
Noah, who carefully moved the brush with concern evident in his expression, voiced the question that had suddenly come to mind.
Is it really okay for you to be dating me so openly?”
Well, it’s fine.”
It’s not like she hasn’t dated a guy or two before…….
she stammered and threw up her hands, and Noah snapped at her again.
It seems he’s more interested in movement than in her male eccentricities.
She doesn’t know if she should celebrate this or criticize him for being so uninterested in her.
Despite his mature appearance, Noah was more innocent than she had initially thought.
His gentle and serious nature made it so that if she played a joke, he stumbled over it ten times more.
Perhaps due to her penchant for teasing, he now even appeared adorably cautious, like a baby cat raising its claws in self-defense.
Oh, is this a bit too much?
“Would you be okay getting involved with me?”
“I’m more worried about Cordelia.”
“You can call me Cordy if you’re more comfortable.”
He seemed to play along and listen well when approached with a certain tone, but surprisingly, he was quite stubborn.
It wasn’t that she disliked this cute attitude of maintaining a certain level of respect, but it felt like drawing a line, and that wasn’t exactly her preference.
“Do you have anyone you like?”
As she smiled mischievously and launched a surprise attack, Noah’s brush, which had been moving leisurely, twitched momentarily.
Cordelia, who had been observing Noah closely, felt a renewed conviction in her thoughts.
And it seems like, maybe he’s interested in her after all.
It had been several years since she had been in a relationship, yet how could she not recognize someone’s fondness for her? Even if it wasn’t love, there was an unmistakable liking.
Having witnessed numerous men competing to ask her to dance at events, and hearing praises of her beauty until her ears rang, she could probably line up those who had confessed their love to her and circle her mansion.
So, even if he claimed to have fallen for her at first sight, it wasn’t entirely implausible.
“Yes, there is someone.
But it doesn’t matter much.”
“I don’t expect the other person to know.”
As Cordelia looked at Noah’s face, still smiling without a hint of surprise, she bit her tongue inwardly.
However, Noah’s demeanor was very innocent, making it hard to assert things so confidently.
He never asked anything unless necessary, and he seemed to avoid making contact with her.
Occasionally, his face would turn red if she caught him off guard, and though it was amusing to tease him, his calm personality meant those reactions didn’t last long.
Just in case, she had several employees waiting at her mansion, but it seemed unlikely they would have much to do.
“By the way, why won’t you show me your paintings? I’m curious.”
“I want to show them to you when they look their best.”
“Even if they’re not finished, they’d still be beautiful, right? If Linus approves, you can take pride in them.”
Even the face he made when shaking his head seemed like a perfectly sculpted statue.
Cordelia struggled not to burst into laughter, so as not to end up grinning like her father did while enjoying good wine.
Ah, but she was curious after all.
“Shall we take a break for a moment? You’ve been sitting for a while….”
As Noah turned around to organize the belongings, Cordelia suddenly got up and quickly moved towards where the canvas was.
Perhaps due to sitting for a long time and then suddenly getting up, her legs momentarily tangled.
Still, with the carpet laid out, it should be okay…
Thud, the sound of falling, reached her ears.
With her eyes tightly shut, Cordelia let out a crying sound.
What, doesn’t that hurt?
Something firm yet warm was supporting her body from below.
She subtly opened her eyes and as she lifted her head, she saw thick arms embracing her and a surprised, handsome face.
Their gazes met.
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