Adelaide looked at the knight who had sat down and introduced himself as Valen. He had an adequate build and average features. On one side of his face, however, was a bruise that still hadn’t healed all the way. It was common for knights to get injured while fighting off demons, but Adelaide knew that it hadn’t happened because of a battle.
“I heard about your situation. That you fell victim to a terrible thing.”
“…that’s right, ma’am.”
Valen’s head dropped as if he was embarrassed by her comment. A smile appeared on Adelaide’s face as she stared at him.
His bruise had been from none other than Kalion’s aide Cedric. She had heard that the head of the knights acted as he pleased.
Just as Adelaide had confirmed, Valen said he had been so eager to contribute to the battle against the demons that he had jumped out alone in violation of Cedric’s instructions. As a consequence of his actions, he had been demoted to apprentice knight after the battle to hold himself responsible.
Then, Cedric had struck him once in the face after Valen had argued that his punishment was too severe.
“Is your face okay? It still looks like it hurts.”
Valen’s fist trembled at Adelaide’s mock concern.
“From what I know, you’re a man of your own… It must have been a great shame for you,” continued Adelaide.
Valen didn’t reply but nodded at her comment as if to agree.
She recalled the cheeky remark Cedric had said to him.
‘You’re a commoner in a high position.’
They said such an elite figure had been punched in the face in front of everyone under the guise of discipline. From then on, Valen had been overwhelmed with unpleasant emotions toward Cedric. He wanted to get rid of Cedric somehow.
As Cedric was the only one among the knights who Kalion trusted completely, even if Valen begged on his knees with tears, no way he’d be sent away. On the contrary, Kalion had even extended his disciplinary period, saying Valen didn’t reflect on himself. Because of that, Valen was desperate to somehow regain Kalion’s trust and get even with Cedric.
However, unbeknownst to Kalion, Haband had always intended to plant one of their kind within the Hessenguard knights. Once succeeded, they would intervene in Hessenguard’s affairs gradually. They intend to reorganize the knight order, too.
Seeing this as an opportunity, Adelaide decided to persuade Valen.
‘If you join forces with us, you can rise to Cedric’s position…’
Without hesitation, Valen had joined as he had been waiting for this opportunity all his life.
Valen had said he avoided Cedric whenever he was present. As he had gotten hit to the point where the bruise was still visible even after a few days, his resentment toward Cedric seemed to remain as severe as the bruise.
Although driven by his resentment against Cedric, Valen’s goal to earn Kalion’s trust was an even greater motivation. He would be easily made a pawn as long as Adelaide chose the right words.
Valen, bowing his head, opened his mouth to speak, “I don’t need anything else. All I wish for is to get rid of the vicious man hovering on Lord Kalion’s side.”
“Alright. I know, because you are greatly loyal to Lord Kalion. If you only wanted money, I wouldn’t have even met you.”
When Adelaide said those words to him, Valen felt himself beam. He seemed proud that he was ‘different’ from others who sold themselves for money. Adelaide held back a scornful laugh. This knight was just a fool.
“You, too, must know this… but Hessenguard needs to be more disciplined. So many people have a knack for disrespecting royalty and aristocrats. That aide especially has a rude tongue,” Adelaide said, her words doused in true anger as she talked about Cedric. How dare he say to her that what Lord Kalion cherished the most was Erna.
Adelaide swore to cut his tongue off and hang it in front of the knight order when she became the grand duchess.
“If such a person is near Lord Kalion, my confidence in the Hessenguard grand duchy will gradually disappear, so I’d like to say something to Lord Kalion out of my genuine concern. But as you know, if I tell him right away, he might think that some random person is coming to him to give advice. So…” Adelaide paused and looked at Valen with feigned sincerity, “I hope you will help me so I can give Lord Kalion the proper advice.”
* * *
Valen bid farewell to Adelaide and left the room. The person in front of Adelaide’s room scanned the surroundings before gesturing to Valen to go. If someone from the knight order saw him frequenting her room, suspicions would arise.
Thankfully, there was no one around at this late hour. Valen left through the annex’s backdoor, and not too long after, he walked toward the knights’ building.
At a distance, he could see Cedric walking from the opposite direction. Valen bent his waist ever so slightly toward Cedric, but his eyes were blazing. Cedric only nodded slightly and walked off, ignoring him. Valen could not help cursing when Cedric had passed by him. He clenched his jaw so hard that anyone could tell he harbored deep hatred towards Cedric.
Meanwhile, the person who guarded Adelaide’s room spied on their brief encounter, which he then reported to Adelaide.
Valen headed to the knights’ building, still irritated. He went into the empty lounge, closed the curtains, and sat down. After a while, a bookcase on one side of the lounge opened and Cedric appeared.
He looked at Valen and said, “Hey. If you’re that good at acting you should have become an actor, Valen.”
“Shut up. My face still hurts, you son of a bitch.”
Valen glared at the giggling Cedric. Prince Adelaide would never know the fact that the disciplinary action was a fabricated play.
“How are things with Princess Adelaide?” asked Cedric.
“She’s quite a looker. But not my type. I,” Valen recalled a gigantic spell that had been demonstrated in the lake region before–a mighty one that had swept away thousands of demons at once, “like a strong woman.”
Cedric clicked his tongue.
“Just say it’s Madam Erna.”
“Shut your mouth. Do you want to see someone die? This is just respect, respect.”
The two’s squabbling forms couldn’t be heard through the door nor be seen through the thick curtains.