Jed and Diego, who were cousins and friends, used to call each other by their names without caring about their social status, just like when they were young.


As they grew up, Jed started using appropriate titles according to their social status, but now he wanted to talk to Diego as a friend.

“Is it because of May?”

“Are you crazy?”

Diego’s thick eyebrows twitched in disbelief.

“That’s nonsense.”

“That’s what I see in your emotions.”

“Are you jealous without even realizing it, despite being number one?”

“I’m not concerned about rankings.”

“But now that the rankings are mentioned, maybe you didn’t want to fall behind me.”

Jed flicked May, who leaned on his shoulder, with a fleeting glance.
May had her mouth slightly open, lost in a daydream.

“It’s not because of May, right?”

“I said no, because I don’t like guys.”

When Diego frowned, Jed didn’t ask any further.

Jed brushed May’s stray hair behind her ear.
Sunlight illuminated her beautiful features that had been shadowed by her hair.

“May likes me.
I like it when May likes me.”

“Are you crazy?”

“So, even if you start liking May later, I won’t give in.”

As the conversation didn’t get through, Diego gave up on talking.

“Fine, I’m leaving.
Whether you wake up, talk, or live there.”

Diego left Jed and May behind.

* * *

When I opened my eyes, it was late afternoon, and the sun was setting.
I was lying on my bed in my room.

Huh? Didn’t I fall asleep as soon as I heard the rankings? Who brought me home?

Amidst the confusion, I felt grateful to be within the top 30.

When I lost all the beads I had painstakingly collected, it felt like my world was crumbling.

I’m glad I didn’t give up.


Then, I recalled the conversation I had with Diego in the early morning.

‘I have clear evidence that you entered my tent.
Are you going to deny it?’

‘Yeah, I did enter your tent.
I was going to throw away your pouch.’

‘I knew it…!’

‘But I didn’t actually throw it away.
Ask Jed.
It was part of our plan together, so in the end, I didn’t take it.’

‘Jed… Jed was also planning to throw away my pouch?’

‘Jed called you at 8 o’clock, right? He kept you occupied while you were away so that I could have time to discard it.’

He promised to share his emotions whenever I wanted to hear them, said it was fortunate that I was a woman, and even said he liked me to some extent.

All those sweet words that made my heart flutter were not sincere at all.
They were merely a means to buy time to steal the beads.

I murmured as I looked at the ceiling.

“How pathetic, May.”

I was so pathetic, not knowing any better and getting excited over such things.

I sighed and sat up.

“Now I shouldn’t attach any meaning to Jed’s words.”

Whatever he says, it doesn’t matter.
That’s right, I should do that.

“In the end…”

Because of our difference in social status, we can’t be together anyway.

Thunk! My door opened, and Ellen and Joan entered my room.
Joan was holding a cake.

“You’re awake, my Lord?”

“Congratulations on passing the first round of the Arcus Tournament!”

“Here, have some.”

Upon Ellen’s words, I blew out the candles on the cake.

“Thank you, Ellen, Joan.
But who brought me home? I don’t remember anything after falling asleep at the Arcus Center…”

“Master Bloche brought you here.
He said you were tired and deeply asleep.”

“Ah… It was Jed…”

Now, disappointed in Jed, I felt pathetic realizing that I had received his help.

To shake off this gloomy feeling, I changed the subject.


“By the way, it’s a mocha cake, right? What’s the occasion? It’s a step up from the coffee-flavored cookies.”

Ellen and Joan had prohibited me from drinking coffee, as they believed the caffeine would hinder my growth, even when I turned fifteen.

I occasionally had coffee-flavored cookies, but I couldn’t consume anything else with a coffee taste.

Chocolate is allowed to be eaten, but not coffee.
I must have consumed a large amount of caffeine through chocolate already!

“This mocha cake is a congratulatory gift.
You’re still young, so you shouldn’t drink coffee, but since you like the taste of coffee, I made a mocha cake for you.”

Still young.
With less than two months until adulthood, I couldn’t help but let out a bitter laugh.

“Thank you.
Let’s eat it together with Ellen and Joan.”

I went out of bed, and Joan smiled as if she had wanted to eat it secretly.

“Great!”

* * *

For the past few days, Persis wanted to have a proper conversation with May, but he didn’t have the chance.
May was busy with the Arcus Tournament, and she looked tired when she returned home, so he couldn’t keep her for long.

Feeling restless for some reason, Persis used May’s advancement to the second round as an excuse to find her.

Knock knock.
May opened the door at the sound.
Usually, Ellen would have opened it, but she was momentarily absent.

May’s eyes widened in surprise when she saw Persis.
It was unusual for him to come to her personally.

“Why are you here…?”

“I came to repay you for the birthday gift I received.”

Persis handed May a gift box.
She received the gift with a fluttering heart.

“You said you kept using a 5-year-old handkerchief, so I prepared a new one for you.”

When she opened the box, there was a silver silk handkerchief inside.

“Thank you.”

It wasn’t a grateful response out of joy, but rather a polite expression of gratitude.
Persis didn’t feel at ease with that.

“If there’s anything else you want, feel free to tell me.
I can buy you anything you want.”

“It’s okay.
I don’t want anything.”

Maybe wanting to end the conversation quickly, May tried to close the door after saying goodbye.
Before she could close it, Persis held onto the doorknob.

“Do you have anything else to say?”

Although the door between them was technically open, they couldn’t get any closer as if there were an invisible barrier.

That fact pained Persis, but without showing it, he conveyed what he wanted to say.


“Congratulations on passing the first round of the Arcus Tournament.”

“…Thank you.”

May seemed indifferent even when receiving a gift or congratulations.

Soon, the door closed, and Persis couldn’t easily leave, held back by lingering feelings.

* * *

The second round of the Arcus Tournament took place a week later.
Except for Galley and Velta, who didn’t pass the first round, the nine members decided to stay at Nine the night before the tournament and go together.

The members who arrived first were in the main room.
Isabella was among them.

Isabella had been looking forward to the day she would meet May again.
She had even dressed up to make a good impression.

Isabella shook Diego’s arm, who was sitting next to her.

“Brother, when will Sir Duke come?”

“I don’t know.”

“You’re the president, how can you not know?”

“He’ll probably come today.”

Unsatisfied with the answer, Isabella pouted her cheeks.

“You’re mean.”

However, Diego couldn’t pay attention to his beloved sister’s words.
He had been disturbed for a week because of Jed’s words.

The question of whether he liked May.

When he washed his face in the morning, when he ate, when he practiced swordsmanship, right before falling asleep, and when he woke up in the morning.

The irritation grew as it continued to cross his mind.

‘Do I like May?’

There was no way that was true, but let’s say he did like a girl.

‘But why does it have to be the unimpressive May Flotina?’

‘No, absolutely not…’

Diego shook his head in denial.

‘Why do I like his?’ 〈I’m confused too he dosent know she is a woman now but there was she here〉

* * *


As soon as most of the Nine members entered the main room, I came face to face with Diego, who was staring at me suspiciously.
On the other hand, Isabella, upon seeing me, ran towards me with a bright smile.

“Kyah! Sr Duke!”

Isabella ran towards me but stumbled and tripped.

“Princess…!”

Before Isabella could fall, I quickly knelt down and caught her.
Thanks to that, our eye level became similar to Isabella’s gaze.
I looked at her with a concerned expression and asked.

“Are you okay?”

Isabella nodded at me, her cheeks blushing.

I helped Isabella up.

“You could get hurt if you fall.
Don’t run next time.”

Isabella blinked her eyes at me, then suddenly burst into a wide smile.
Without any opportunity for me to stop her, she hugged me tightly.

“I like you, Sir Duke! I want to marry Sir Duke!”

“!”

At the shocking declaration, Jed and Clovin glanced at Diego.
Even I stole a quick glance at Diego’s face.

Under normal circumstances, he would have tried to kill anyone who dared to propose to Isabella.

“….”

Strangely, Diego showed no reaction.
He just stared at me.

‘Is this some kind of joke telling me to leave?’

But it didn’t seem like he had any life in his eyes.
It seemed like he was lost in thought.

“….!”

Then, belatedly realizing the situation, Diego furrowed his brows and snapped angrily.

“What are you doing? Aren’t you two going to separate?”

Isabella let go of me and stuck her tongue out at Diego.

“Nyah~ I’m going to marry Sir Duke.”

“What?”

Diego grumbled, as if asking what nonsense this was, but Isabella paid no attention to him.

I smiled wryly and sat down on the sofa.
Coincidentally, I was sitting face to face with Clovin.

“Clovin….”

Suddenly, the conversation between Jed and Diego that had come to my ears flashed in my mind.

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