“What is your relationship with him? Are you two lovers?”
I was so baffled by the unthinkable question that I forgot formality for a moment and asked again with a stupidly twisted face.
No, why would he…
Why did the emperor wonder about my relationship with Leone? He also mentioned lovers…
Oh, don’t tell me…
Was it the emperor who I felt spying on us for a moment the previous day?
Certainly, if anyone were to see it, they would have misunderstood.
Since an unmarried man and woman were doing something like that.
How was the relationship between Finisis Duchy and the Imperial family again?
I knew it was not very good, but it could not be said to be bad either, and I was also aware that it was a relationship that had no major contact points.
Thus, my being in a relationship with Leone shouldn’t have any particular effect on the Emperor.
Above all else, I had no ties with him, so there shouldn’t be a problem.
“…It’s a special relationship.”
I could not say we’re lovers because clearly, we were not.
It would be absurd to deny what seemed to be so evident the day before.
Hence, I came up with a comprehensive and ambiguous answer called ‘a special relationship’.
Well, it’s not wrong.
In response to my reply, the emperor just looked at me in silence.
But somehow, I didn’t feel like he was looking at me.
Rather, it was as if he was looking at someone else through me…
It’s none of my business what’s going on between the Viscountess and the Duke anyway.”
The emperor, who spoke bluntly, quickly turned his head.
His face was expressionless as usual, but to me, he looked quite…angry.
“I’ve given you my approval, so you can go now.”
“Is that all you are curious about?”
I asked him as the conversation seemed to be coming to an end.
Why doesn’t he ask about the pen? Wasn’t that why he called me?
If it was about the succession approval, it could be delivered through a servant or through a letter.
But instead, he called me this early in the morning.
And I was so sure that he would be asking about the pen.
But he wants me to just go?
All he asked me was ‘what’s my relationship with Leo?’
That’s all he had to ask…?
What did that have to do with him?
Even if Leone and I were lovers, it wasn’t serious enough to call me out and ask about it.
I can’t figure out what’s inside his head.
Until now, the emperor was the first person that I found hard to read.
“Aren’t you going to ask about the pen?”
The emperor flinched as if he’d just remembered the existence of the matter at that very moment.
He was silent for a moment, then got up first and turned around.
I will hear about it later.”
Leaving those words behind, the emperor left the audience room.
After he left the audience, I got on the carriage which had been waiting for me in advance and left the palace.
As I gazed at the imperial palace, which was gradually growing distant, I recalled the last image of the emperor I had seen.
By the way.…
I opened the window slightly and closed my eyes.
The cool breeze of the early morning air chilled my forehead.
A figure of a man was drawn in front of me.
Stainless silver hair without a single spec of dust, almost felt like it belonged to a holy being.
Dark red eyes seemed to be indifferent to everything, as if there was no emotion in them.
He was a man so beautiful that one might go blind just by looking at him.
I was sure it was my first time seeing him, but…
Why do I keep feeling I’ve seen him somewhere?
I had no contact with him in the past either.
That’s why it was really weird.
It must be my hallucination.
I shoved the unknown familiarity to the back of my head and closed my eyes again.
With that, I fell asleep for a while.
When I woke up, I had arrived at Viscounty Craycia, which was now my home.
Three days had passed since I returned from the Imperial Palace.
In the meanwhile, the banquet ended and Leone visited me.
“Now that you have successfully succeeded to the Viscounty as you wished, you must return to the Guild.”
Having said that, Leone looked at me with a slightly anxious face.
“I should indeed.”
Leone’s expression brightened.
He seemed to be worried that he would be rejected again.
“Then I shall convene the executives right away…”
“No, not like that.”
“Then what do you mean?”
I leisurely tasted the herbal tea that Eril brought.
The flavour had gotten richer.
It seemed that her skill had improved.
“I plan to join as an apprentice.”
“An apprentice, you say…”
Leone’s complexion darkened rapidly.
The hierarchy at the Cheshire Merchant Guild was classified from bottom to top as follow: apprenticeship, lower-rank unit, intermediate unit, upper executives, director, owner’s representative, and the owner (headmaster).
And I said that I would join as an apprentice member there.
“Do you need to go that far?”
Leone asked with a puzzled face, but I firmly nodded.
“There is a saying that goes ‘a hundred battles a hundred victories’.”
“It means that if you know your enemy and know yourself, even when you fight a hundred times, you will win all the hundred times.”
“Of course, Cheshire is not my enemy, but it is true that a lot has changed during my absence.
Don’t you think that I should take a quick look at the downer department before I get down to real business?”
Leone did not respond to my words.
It’s probably because he also agreed with my viewpoint.
It was always the lowest class of a system that could see the most naked side of it.
And that was the apprenticeship at the Cheshire Merchant.
Of course, there shouldn’t be too big of a discrimination in different groups.
I thought there wouldn’t be much problem since it was Leone who managed the Guild.
Nonetheless, on the other hand, since only Leone could manage Cheshire, his eyes would not have been able to reach every corner.
I was trying to see that corner.
A corner that may have been secretly rotten and corrupted.
Then we shall arrange an apprentice position for you.”
“Please choose a role that can experience as many chores as possible.”
One more thing… Eureia, can you promise me one last thing?”
I tilted my head at Leone’s seemingly serious look.
“You must allow me to assist you again at any time.”
Suddenly, I wondered if there was any term about restraint in the covenant that Leone and I had shared.
Sometimes Leone just showed too much loyalty to me, even though my existence would not be so absolute to him now.
Seeing Leone like that, I had a complicated feeling.
I was grateful for his kind heart, but on the other hand, I was worried that he might be too attached to me.
But at the moment, I was more grateful for his heart for me…
“Yes, I will.”
Only after hearing the answer did Leone finally smile.
He then started preparing for me to join the Cheshire Group in earnest.
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