“As I thought… It was you, Young Master Ryan.”
Again, Ian carefully observed the face of the young man who was coming out of Romella Village in front of him. With an intrigued face, Ian started to walk forward.
“Since the incident last time… I figured you would be staying with the Mogared Family?”
The incident on the day of the successorship announcement… Ian was recalling the incident where Ryan was infuriated like lightning in the corridors of Iphalleta Family mansion.
Ryan was looking at Ian. When Ian casually asked, Ryan tightened his fists.
“I was shunned by them. It seems the Morgared House learned about the incident. They were essentially saying they don’t need a hunting dog that has lost his teeth.”
Ryan opened his tightened fists. He looked bitter somewhere. Ryan casually glanced at the sword that was hanging on his waist and asked back,
“What about you? What brings you all the way out here? You aren’t even with Riley? You are alone?”
“Ah, I am…”
Ian agonized over how to respond to this question. He decided to just give a wishy-washy answer. Ian said,
“It just so happens that the Count told me there is an errand that he wanted me to handle near the Romella Village, so I’m currently carrying out a mission.”
“Riley won’t like having you separated from him. Ian, I am surprised that the rascal allowed this.”
Having heard Ryan’s question, Ian flinched his shoulders. Ian avoided Ryan’s gaze and answered as if he was muttering.
“Well, I am also… like you, Young Master Ryan. Perhaps I should also say that I became a hunting dog who lost his teeth? I have been surpassed by a new servant. I am not saying I could never catch up, but… That new servant happens to be so incredibly skilled, so…”
He was rambling on. In addition to him being surpassed by Nainiae, he was also quietly suffering the incident where he didn’t get past the teleportation portal that she made. Ian asked Ryan,
“Who would she be?”
“Ah, this is…”
Thinking that he was late in introducing her, Ryan was going to quickly introduce Iril to Ian. However, his lips were blocked by her arm.
Wondering what this was about, Ryan floated a question mark on his face. Iril whispered quietly to Ryan so Ian would not be able to hear it.
“That man… Is he strong?”
“What did you say?”
“That grandpa. I’m asking if he is strong.”
Ian waited for Ryan’s response.
“Is he strong? That is…”
It would be odd for anyone who lived in the Iphalleta Mansion to not know how strong this old butler named Ian was.
In the past, the man used to be called the hero mercenary. There were even rumors that, besides Count Stein, the only one who was skilled enough to fight Ian would be Ryan, the first born.
Even though Ian didn’t learn swordsmanship from the Iphalleta House, the old butler had acquired a solid swordsmanship over his life. He was acknowledged as magnificent by not just mercenaries but the people of the mansion as well.
Ryan replied with silence, so Iril decided on her own. She tilted the tip of her lips and mumbled in sleazy way,
“He must be pretty strong?”
Intrigued, she looked at Ian. Iril took a step back and said to Ryan,
“All right. Actually, this turned out preety well. Let’s do it right away.”
“Right away? Do what right away?”
Looking at Iril’s smile, Ryan had a bad feeling about this. He waited for her next words.
“This is the second test.”
Ian was not able to hear what they were whispering about. Ian furrowed his brows. Iril handed over something that she had been hugging to her chest.
It was long and flat. It was wrapped in bandages. With the object handed to him, Ryan looked at Iril, wondering what this was.
“Try fighting with that.”
It was a mysterious object. Ryan stared at it and furrowed his brows as if he still didn’t understand. Watching the man’s reaction, Iril pointed at Ian with her finger and said,
“Against that grandpa.”
Ian flinched his shoulders.
Perhaps it was to agitate Ian. Unlike the whispering voices they used earlier, the words could be heard a lot better. Feeling wronged, Ian looked at Iril.
“Excuse me, young lady. I don’t know how you know Young Master Ryan, but… I’m not at the age to be called a grandpa.”
Ian was requesting Iril to correct what he had just heard. However, Iril ignored him and just stared at him. Again, in a barely audible voice, she said to Ryan,
“My grandmother can live only if you pass this test.”
Having heard her whispers about her grandmother’s life being on the line, Ryan stared at her face from the side. Ryan directed his gaze at the object that was handed to him from Iril.
“Young Master Ryan?”
Ian was looking at Ryan and Iril. Ryan’s eyes were gradually showing animosity and Ian also narrowed his eyes.
“I don’t think I’m old enough to be senile. Young Master Ryan… Your hostility is… directed at me?”
Ryan didn’t answer. He untied the tightly wrapped object and realized what it was. He gasped for air.
‘… A sword?’
It seemed Ian was also surprised. His narrowed eyes suddenly widened.
Ryan held the sword. He felt a solid sensation through his palm. Ryan gulped and said,
“Now that I think about it, when I was at the mansion… I don’t recall ever having a duel with you. This turned out well.”
Ryan aimed the sword, uncovered from the bandages and continued.
“I wanted to fight a duel against the famous figure who made his name known across the land as the mercenary hero.”
Ian was intensely staring at the sword that was aimed at him. He then moved his gaze to look at Ryan who was burning with hostility.
“Young Master Ryan.”
“I am no longer a bastard who deserves to be called a young master. Aren’t you already well aware of that?”
“Your sword...Please draw it.”
Having heard what Ryan had just said, Ian crumpled his face and brought his hand toward the treasured sword he had hanging on his waist.
* * *
“There is no color?”
Dumbfounded, Riley looked at Inaril who was sitting on the other side. He slowly got up.
“What are you…”
“… There probably isn’t.”
Before Riley could ask Nara, Inaril, the woman with blinds on her eyes who was sitting in front of the fireplace, spoke.
“It is obvious that I do not have a color.”
Nainiae had been holding her breath and observing the three people in front of her. Having heard what Inaril said, Nainiae carefully walked toward Inaril.
“Excuse me. May I touch your hand for a moment?”
Sitting in her chair, Inaril smiled gently and nodded.
“Of all tea I ever tasted, your tea was among the best with great aroma. How could I not allow you such a simple request?”
Riley didn’t understand why Nainiae had asked such a question. Soon, Riley saw the hand that was on the armrest of the chair and furrowed his brows.
‘It cannot be…’
The strange feeling that Riley had been sensing ever since he had first met this woman was due to her hand… To be exact, it was because of her skin that was pure white like snow. Riley had just realized this.
Nainiae carefully touched the top of the woman’s hand that was on the armrest. Nainiae was surprised all of the sudden and took the hand back.
Just like Riley from earlier, Nara asked with a puzzled look on his face. Nainiae bit her lips and nodded to respond.
Nara tumbled and walked toward the fireplace. Just like Nainiae had done earlier, Nara also touched Inaril’s hand.
“T… This is?!”
Nara stared at Inaril with an intense gaze and repeatedly opened and closed his mouth like a fish. Inaril could not stand the awkwardness and the silence. She broke the silence first.
“Yes. Mr. Basilisk shouldn’t be able to see my color. That’s because my body…”
She rested for a moment and continued in serious tone,
“… already died 30 years ago.”
Nara and Nainiae were holding both of Inaril’s hands. Having heard her voice, they mumbled in order,
“30 years ago…”
“… body already died?”
Having hearing Nara and Nainiae, Inaril had a bitter smile on her face. She slowly nodded and explained briefly about how she died.
“By the sword of a very magnificent Hero.”
Below her blinds, a teardrop rolled down along her face. Having noticed this, Nainiae thought it would be better not to ask any questions. Nainiae shook her head toward Nara.
“… If you really are someone who has already died 30 years ago…”
Riley was not interested in why or how she died. Riley asked in serious voice,
“… then why are you here?”
With a sad look on their faces, Nara and Nainiae watched Inaril cry. They held their breaths and turned to look at Riley.
‘Uuuu. Young Master!’
Riley didn’t give a damn about the gazes he received from Nainiae and Nara. Riley didn’t take his eyes off from Inaril who was sitting in front of him. He crossed his fingers between his hands and continued the questioning.
“How could you have a conversation with us? Are you a ghost or something?”
Riley was no longer talking to her in a respectful tone. Inaril turned her head toward where Riley was. She shook her head.
“In that case, are your eyes drenched in pitch black color?”
Nainiae and Nara’s shoulders flinched.
“Y… Young Master?”
“Eyes being drenched in pitch black color? That is…”
Despite Nainiae and Nara’s reactions, again, Riley didn’t mind them at all. Thinking about a purple human who he had run into before, Riley said,
“A dead person is alive and moving. That’s a little strange, don’t you think? Even that famous Priestess does not possess the ability to revive the dead.”
Feeling the tension, Nainiae and Nara looked at Inaril who was sitting in her chair.
“By any chance, could you show us your eyes…Could it be that you cannot show them to us because of a sword wound?”
Having heard Riley’s question, Inaril vacantly opened her mouth. However, somehow, she looked relieved. Inaril said,
“… It is you.”
Riley crumpled his eyebrows.
“I have a responsibility that I must fulfill even in my death.”
With a smile, Inaril got up.
“It was definitely here…”
She was trying to get to the fireplace and extended her hand toward it. Wondering what she was trying to do, Riley hardened his face.
“Wait! Your hand! Hand!”
There was fire burning in full force in the fireplace, yet Inaril was putting her hand in there. Nara panicked and tried to stop her. However…Inaril’s hand was quicker. Her hand was already inside the flames.
Inaril was putting her hand into the fire, and Nara tightly closed his eyes. However, even after a while, he couldn’t hear anything. Nara tried opening his eyes a little.
“Excuse me… What are you doing now?”
Inaril tried opening and closing her hand that she just put inside the fireplace. This time, Inaril furrowed her brows.
“I… Isn’t that hot?”
Inaril went back to digging inside the flames with her hand. Nara asked if she was all right. However, he could not hear the response for that question.
“… It’s not here.”
“Huh? Why is it not…”
Inaril stopped her words before finishing the sentence. She suddenly turned her head.
* * *
It was at a forest on the outer edge of the Romella Village. Breaking out in a cold sweat, Ian was pushed back.
With a vacant look on his face, the young man there had no choice but to watch the old butter being pushed back. He had been chasing the swift movements of the girl’s arm.
“Gramps. What are you?!”
“I said what are you!”
Iril the girl swung her sword in a large motion and pushed back the old man once again. She then shouted at the old butler that she was fighting.
“That swordsmanship…Where did you learn it!!”
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