Chapter 24

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“I heard you drank the poisoned Carcalos on behalf of my lord.”

“Yes, I did.” Was he going to compliment me? Was he going to thank me for protecting his lord? With an expectant gaze, I saw the corners of his mouth twitch.

“You’re quite healthy for someone who drank poison.
Were people telling the truth? Or were you lying?”

“Why would I lie?”

“I refuse to see my lord swindled.”

I was baffled.
I endured the irritation that was desperate to rear its ugly head.
“Thank you for your concern.”

“You’re welcome.
Did you find out who did it?”

“…”

Should I just punch him? I was very tempted, but I held back the urge.
He was the knight commander of the Order of Phyllia.
Nothing good would come from beating him up.
I repeated this thought to myself 500 times.

Ignore it.
Happy thoughts.
Happy thoughts!

“In any case, what brings you to the armory? I doubt you’re here for a stroll.”

“I’m here to see you, Sir Cross.”

“…Me?”

“Yes.”

As soon as I nodded, the knight who kept glaring daggers at me blinked.
He looked concerned.

“Why?”

“I have a favor to ask.
Please do it.”

When the word “please” came out of my mouth, those amber eyes trembled.
For a moment.

“I must decline.”

“I haven’t even said anything yet.”

“I will not listen to your request.”

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Even before we met, I had a feeling I was going to fail.
“Good.
I didn’t expect you to anyway.”

Then he looked at me.
He was waiting for me to continue.

“Do you want to make a bet?”

“…A bet?”

“The loser has to do what the winner says, regardless of what it is.
Well?” I smiled.
I could see he was seriously considering it.
This was a great opportunity to order around a witch.
However, the Pumpkin Knight was always unpredictable.
I decided to sweeten the deal.
“I’m not forcing you to do it.
It’s fine if you’re scared.”

“…”

“It’s not a crime to say you’re afraid of something.
A person needs the courage to admit one’s weakness…”

“What are your conditions?”

Ha! I knew it! I injured his pride if only a little bit.
It was easier than I thought.
Appreciating his foolishness, I cleared my throat.
“Hmm, it’s simple really.”

Yes, it was very simple.

“How about arm wrestling?” It was too easy that even a gallant knight such as Evan would think it was ridiculous.

“Arm wrestling? Me and you?”

“That’s right.” Have I seen a man so obvious? “You won’t back down, will you?”

I rolled up my sleeves, and he scoffed.

The word “victory” was already shining in his pumpkin-colored eyes.
“All right.
But if I win, you’ll have to stay in your room for the rest of the day—no, for the next month.
Do you accept?”

“Sure.”

Evan nodded and smiled as he made a gesture.
The squires, watching from afar, groaned and brought a large table for us.

“You would be naïve to think I plan to go easy on you, my lady.”

“I never even dreamed of it.”

“I insist you give up and ask for another round.”

“Who knows? You might eat your own words.”

He smirked and put his arm on the table.
Looking at him, I quickly grabbed his hand.
His amber eyes showed the slightest hint of surprise.
He was so confident, huh?

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It was too late for him.
“Miss Betty, you will be the witness.”

“My lady!”

It was useless to try and persuade me when I had come this far.
She will have to be the judge.

“W-Well, let’s begin!” Betty shouted reluctantly.
She began to count from five.
Four, three, two, one…

Crash!

I threw Evan as hard as I could.

“Oh, Sir Cross!”

“Gah!”

The onlookers’ jaws dropped when they saw what happened to Evan.
Frightened, they ran to him.

“Are you all right?”

“Sir Cross, are you hurt anywhere?”

Many of the squires asked if he was fine, but I didn’t hear any answer from the knight who was in a daze.
Did I overdo it? Was a witch always this strong? After the Carcalos incident, the remaining mana in my body became concentrated in order to speed up my recovery.
Of course, it would thin out within a few days.
In other words? I was invincible for a time.

“I won, right?”

“This… It’s impossible!”

“How does it not make sense? You experienced it yourself.”

“Something was off! Let’s do it again!” Evan stood up.

I didn’t bat an eye.
“Did you forget what I said earlier?”

“You…!”

“Is the knight commander of the Order of Phyllia someone who contradicts himself? All while… the squires are here?”

Oh, dear.
As he covered his mouth with his hand, Evan was stunned and muttered something under his breath.
I wonder how long he stayed like that.

“Damn it!” Curses resounded through the room.
“…What do you want?”

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That’s more like it.
“I wish to go outside the castle.”

“…Excuse me?”

Evan and Betty took a deep breath.

“You’ll have to escort me, Sir Cross.”

***

“We’re doomed.”

“…”

“Except you, of course.
My lord is surprisingly weak to my lady.”

I turned my head toward the source of whimpering that was to my right.
Evan looked like he was going to die.
Sitting next to him, Betty was in a puddle of tears.

“I’ve gone mad.
Mad I say.
To bet against a witch… I was insane!”

Oops.

Evan sighed in exasperation before pulling his hair.
“Argh, if my lord found out, he’d kill me!” The cause of his anxiety was none other than the almighty Lukas Havel.

“You don’t have to tell him when he comes back.”

“It’s not that easy!” the knight shouted.
“You know nothing of his true self! He’s intelligent, too intelligent for that matter.
And he is evil incarnate! Even the devil himself would cower before him!”

As a quick reminder, the “he” Evan was referring to was his flawless, almighty lord.
He was so shocked to have lost to a witch that curses poured out of his mouth.
Of course, Evan had always been an impolite person with his dignity as a leader intact, but even that has disappeared.
At this moment, he was nothing more than an annoyance.

“Mr.
Alan said he’ll be back as early as tonight.
At worst, he returns the day after tomorrow.
As long as we’re back before dinner, we’ll be fine.”

I did my best to console him, but it didn’t work.
I couldn’t believe he was complaining on such a nice day.
I wanted to send him back to the castle, but I couldn’t.
He was my precious shield.
The butler quickly blocked the door when I said I wanted to go out for a while because I had business to attend to; however, as soon as I mentioned Evan and his tears, Alan changed his mind and told us to come back soon.
Indeed, the Pumpkin Knight was excellent despite his appearance.

It was a shame he was annoying.

“He’s at the border near the Kingdom of Byrne.
The distance is… No matter how fast…” After calming down, Evan muttered to himself.

“Now that I think about it, why did you stay at the castle? You’re the knight commander.
Aren’t you required to help out your lord?”

“I do not have to work today.”

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“…Even if you’re more or less the de facto leader?”

“Am I prohibited from taking a break?”

“Not necessarily…”

It was weird for him to be proud of the fact he didn’t have to work.
People should have vacations, but can the knight commander be absent during an important mission?

“Havel has a good welfare system.
Even then, there are plenty of skilled knights in the Order of Phyllia.” His words were full of pride.
For a moment.
“Yet I lost to a witch and found myself in this situation… If I had known earlier, I would have given up my vacation and followed my lord to the border.”

He began to grumble again.
Evan would much rather head to the battlefield than escort a witch.

“We’re immediately heading back to the castle once you’ve finished your business.”

“All right.”

“And we shall have that rematch,” he added.
Seeing him raise his arm, it was clear he wanted to play again.

“Will do.
But you have to pay for each round.
You must be aware that nothing in the world is free, right?”

“…I understand.” After hesitating for a moment, Evan nodded.
I thought he’d argue with me, so it was unexpected.

I guess I can use it to my advantage later, hmm? I smiled, thinking this outing wouldn’t be the last.

“Over there, you’ll see the shops.
They’re completely outside of Havel Castle,” Evan explained.

I noticed a large gate in the distance.
There were many buildings lined up along the street behind it.
That was our destination today: the city.
Excitement coursed through my veins, and I was overwhelmed with the urge to sprint.
If Evan hadn’t stopped me, I would have already run past the gate.

“Remember to never take off your hood.
Your hair and eyes are too unique, so you’ll be found out.”

“I know.”

“Also, don’t stray too far from me.
I can’t protect you should the circumstances call for it.”

“I’ll be careful.” My gaze was fixed on the world outside the fate.
I wanted to go out as soon as possible.

The knight sighed as if he had given up.
“Why do you want to go into town? You mentioned you had something to do.”

“Yes, that’s correct.”

I nodded in response to his words.
There really was important business to take care of.

 

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