Chapter 76

“So, Sophia. L, long time no see…”

The young man spoke while sweating buckets. He was dressed up in red and adorned with a pure gold belt, but because he was so fat, he looked rather comical.

“Right. Long-time no see, Lord Enzo Nobira.”

Sophia would have much preferred to get as far away from the fatso as possible, so she replied in an apathetic voice.

“Hahaha! You two look wonderful together standing beside each other. Now, Enzo, you are going to give Lady Sophia the present you prepared for her, right?”

Baron Nobira spoke with a smile. He was in his mid-40s and looked like an older replica of Enzo with his ugly features and obese stature.

“He, here. It is… made by one of Catalan’s most famous craftsmen. I thought it would look good on Sophia…”

The two people’s fingers lightly brushed each other as Enzo held out a wooden box carved with the Nobira family’s insignia. Enzo had sneakily stretched out his fingers.

Sophia looked at Enzo with a stiff expression as if she had touched a bug. In that brief moment, she had seen the lustful desire held in Enzo’s eyes as he glanced at her embarrassingly.

‘I can’t believe I have to live with this perverted pig… ah….’

“Please open it, Lady Sophia.”

Never mind the gift, she wanted nothing more than to give a good slap across the pervert’s face. However, Sophia held back her urges and opened the wooden box under the gaze of Baron Nobira and Sir Filmore.

“Ah…!”

Sophia grew wide-eyed. The gift contained a blue sapphire necklace enveloped in exquisitely crafted gold. It was indescribably beautiful. In normal circumstances, she would have put it around her neck without hesitation, but Sophia held back.

As she stared at the sapphire that shimmered a yellowish blue color, she remembered the eyes of the young man who had looked at her with unforgivable shame. She felt her mood sour.

‘No, wait. Ah, yes, there is a way.’

Sophia’s face, which was starting to become distorted, loosened at the thought.

“This is pretty. Thank you, Lord Enzo Nobira.”

The sight of Sophia being nonchalant after seeing the breathtaking necklace and closing the wooden box made Enzo feel dejected. Baron Nobira and Sir Filmore also frowned slightly. Then, Sophia smiled as soft as she could before continuing to Enzo.

“I would rather spend more time with Sir Enzo rather than receiving such gifts. What do you say that we go for a stroll together?”

Sophia reached out her hand with those words.

“Heuk!”

Enzo became startled and let out an unplanned gasp. Even Filmore, who knew Sophia well, looked at her with a stunned expression.

“Hahaha! Of course! Of course! I should let the young people spend some quality time together! Excuse me for not realizing this sooner. Go with the lady, Enzo.”

“Ye, yes! Yes!”

Enzo shook like a quiver and grabbed Sophia’s hand. He was so excited that his face became bright red and snorted with delight. The man and the woman slowly moved towards the garden with the maids accompanying them. Only Baron Nobira, Filmore, and a few servants were left on the shaded balcony.

“Haha! What a well-matched pair! Wouldn’t you agree, Sir Filmore?”

“Yes.”

The sight was reminiscent of a pretty lady rolling around a large ball. Everyone secretly thought so, but Filmore nodded while hiding his true thoughts.

“Anyways, I heard that you’ve experienced something unpleasant in Elma. If you want, I could send my soldiers right now and…”

“No, it was our mistake, and you should never resort to such a method right now.”

“Hmm…?”

Nobira narrowed his eyes. Something about Filmore’s words sounded a little strange. Filmore sent the servants away with a gaze and leaned closer to Baron Nobira before speaking in a low voice.

“Baron Nobira, please listen carefully while remaining calm.”

“S, sure.”

Baron Nobira nodded with a nervous expression. He had known Filmore for more than ten years, but Filmore had never spoken with such caution before.

“Three years ago… The executed criminal. Gray Valt, did he have any brothers or sisters?”

“…!”

Baron Nobira almost jumped up from his seat in surprise, but he remembered Filmore’s words and shook his head while resting his trembling hand on the table.

“N, no. He served me for almost twenty years, but I’ve never heard him mention any siblings, and I’ve never heard of anyone coming to see him.”

“That… You mean he could have hidden it from you purposefully.”

“Well, that could be, but considering Gray Valt’s personality… No but wait, why are you bringing up such a topic all of a sudden?”

Even now, Baron Nobira had a hard time falling asleep when he thought about the incident from three years ago.

In addition, he had heard rumors of Prince Ian bringing this topic up in banquets on his way back to the imperial castle. Baron Nobira had felt so nervous and uneasy that his constipation had developed into a case of hemorrhoids.

He worried that one day the imperial soldiers would rush into his land at the prince’s command. Unease would spread throughout his territory if they tried to reinvestigate the treason from three years ago. And now, even Filmore was bringing up this topic which made Baron Nobira feel hysterical.

“The one who was responsible for the commotion in Elma this morning, his name was Raven Valt.”

“Va, Valt..?”

Baron Nobira opened his mouth in shock.

“Is, is that true? Valt? N, no. Do you think he’s related to the dead Gray Valt?”

“I don’t know that yet. But, in our current circumstances, we can’t just pass it off as a mere coincidence.”

“Of course! Come on, let us send our soldiers right now and get that…”

“Calm down. I let him go on purpose.”

Filmore spoke in a soothing voice to Baron Nobira, who had a pale complexion.

“What?”

“They said that they were going to Toro village. I heard your knights, Derek Ramelda and Ruv Tylen are not getting along very well these days? He was planning on taking Ramelda’s side to fight for him.”

“Hmm! Well, disputes between knights are common. It happens all the time…”

Baron Nobira tried to dismiss the issue. Filmore was the High Lord’s right arm. If Filmore caught wind that control over the land was weakening due to an internal strife, he would definitely report it.

“I have no intention of interfering with what’s going on in your land, because it’s under your authority, Lord Nobira. It’s just that I’m curious as to why the man named Raven Valt came to Sisak at this moment to fight on Ramelda’s side against Tylen. Even more so since Tylen is the one who took over Gray Valt’s land.”

“Hm…”

Baron Nobira nodded in understanding.

“So, what do you think we should do?”

“For now, please keep a close eye on the situation. Pretend to mediate the issue between the two knights, and when they start fighting, support Tylen so that he will win the battle. I will contact Lord Bresia to send troops. A dispute between two knights should be settled by their master. When the battle comes to an end, you and I will capture him.”

“Hoo! We don’t have any excuses to detain him right now, but that won’t be an issue then.”

“That’s right. It seemed like his group was not composed of people who would die easily. We must capture them alive and figure out their intentions.”

“That’s a wonderful idea! I will do that. Hey, go get me some paper and pen!”

Baron Nobira’s face finally lightened up. But Filmore, who had devised the plan, still had an unsatisfied expression.

‘Raven Valt… He is not an average guy. If capturing him is difficult, I’ll have to kill him with my own hands.’

Filmore’s eyes glared with determination after making up his mind. But there was one thing that he wasn’t aware of. His plan had already gone awry from the very beginning.

***

“B, by this time next year, everything here will belong to Sophia. W, whatever you want, I’ll do it for you!”

Enzo tightly held on to Sophia’s hands as he spat out his words under the changing colors of the autumn trees.

“Hmm…”

Sophia pulled her head back slightly without giving an answer. The maids and servants watched from far away to ensure that the two people were having a good time. They probably couldn’t hear, or clearly see what was happening.

“Hey, S, Sophia…”

A glimmer of desire flashed in Enzo’s small eyes, and he stretched out his other hand towards Sophia. Sophia Bresia was counted as one of the most beautiful girls in Sisak. Even though they weren’t married yet, maybe tonight, just maybe, he would…

Thud!

“Ugh!”

Sophia pushed him away with a cold expression, and Enzo widened his small eyes in surprise.

“Whose hand do you think you’re holding, you dirty pig? You smell horrible, so don’t come near me.”

“So, Sophia…?”

Enzo replied in shock. Sophia was looking at him with a venomous expression. Until now, she had been happily holding onto his hands with an angelic expression, so why did she suddenly…?

“What? You thought I would like you just because you got me a little necklace? Hmph! If I asked my father, he could get me thousands of things that are more expensive and prettier than that! You, have you forgotten whose daughter I am?”

“Ah…”

All his desires had already long disappeared into the air. Enzo Nobira felt embarrassed, scared, and hesitant. The angelic lady disappeared, and Sophia Bresia, who had acted like a queen and ignored him since childhood, had returned.

“What a fool. I am only marrying you because I have no other choice. If you ever touch even a single hair on my head without my permission, I am going to kill you. For now, I’ll act the role of your fiancée in front of other people.”

“Ye, yes…”

Enzo nodded his head eagerly while sweating twice as much as before. However, he kept on stealing glances at Sophia’s white hands and exposed neck. It seemed like his carnal desires as a man had not completely dissipated.

Sophia opened her lips as she noticed his gaze, “Why, do you want to hold my hand again?”

“N, no. Of course not.” Enzo hurriedly spoke.

“You know what happens if you lie in front of me, right? Be honest.”

As Sophia’s eyes waned again, Enzo switched from shaking his head from side to side to nodding up and down.

“T, that’s right! I want to hold it. I want to hold hands…”

Enzo responded like a well-tamed pet dog. Sophia gave a victorious smile at his response and spoke in a subtle voice.

“Good. Now, if you listen to me well, I will let you hold my hand, and maybe I’ll let you do even more.”

Sophia snuggled to Enzo’s side while holding back the disgust she felt from his smell.

“Re, really?”

He looked up with the expression of a dog drooling for treats. Though in Enzo’s case, it felt more appropriate to call it a pig.

“Yes, of course.”

“W, what do you need? What do you want me to do?”

She came closer and whispered into Enzo’s ear, in the softest, gentlest voice she could muster. He squealed like a rutting pig.

“The truth is, today, I met this mercenary in Elma. And that rude man just…”

***

Raven and his companions finally arrived in Toro village as the sun peeked through the top of the western mountains.

Including the dozens of households around the stream, Toro was a fairly large village with a population of about 200 when all the nearby residents were counted. The unease between Ramelda and Tylen seemed to have impacted the village as well. Even though the sun had not yet fallen, the village was quiet and had a tense atmosphere.

The residents were frightened by the sight of Raven and his companions walking into the village. The frantic sound of doors closing and windows locking could be heard as they passed by.

Raven and his party headed to the only pub that was located in the middle of the town. Inside, dozens of villagers and mercenaries were enjoying their food and drinks at their tables. It was like every other night. But as the six mercenaries walked in, the whole pub went silent.

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