Kalion doubted himself the moment the words left Erna’s mouth. Strange… my recovery is almost completed though. He couldn’t have heard her correctly without having gone a little crazy in the head. But if he were as sane as he could be…
Kalion placed his hand on Erna’s forehead with a grim expression to which Erna replied quickly, “I’m not crazy, you know.”
“Then why did you say such a thing?” asked Kalion.
At his question, Erna pinched his cheek while telling him what lovely words those were. The normal Kalion would grumble with a “What do you think you’re doing,” but today his stiff face wouldn’t relax.
How could he hit Erna? Even worse, unsympathetically? He knew the extent of his strength very well.
The knights’ training included physical exercise. Even in circumstances where weapons were absent, he had to use his body to fight. And no one in the entire knight order still hadn’t been able to beat Kalion in that field.
Through body strength alone, there were some stronger than him. Because strength is based on natural muscles and skeletons. However, Kalion’s continuous winning streak in physical combat wasn’t just because he had a good physique. Rather, he possessed good technique: using the tiniest amount of strength to produce a powerful attack.
As he’d learned by instinct—not by someone else’s teaching—Kalion would use his bare fists more than his swords during his fights with demons.
If someone like that were to hit a person unsympathetically…
Kalion stared at Erna who was standing in front of him. She almost came up to his shoulders. Of course it wasn’t that Erna was short, Kalion was just too tall. Still, in his eyes, she was small and fragile.
Her height wasn’t the only small part about her. Her wrists, arms, and waist were all tiny. What would happen if Kalion were to truly hit her?
Kalion recalled a wooden pillar that had existed at the training grounds at one point. It had been erected on the ground right in the middle of the training field for body training.
Cedric had shrugged his shoulders, saying that he had saved it—the 1,000-year-old tree that had grown tall and strong in the empire’s forest far up north—after the knights tore up the training scarecrow.
“Would you like to give it a strike, Lord Kalion?” Cedric had asked Kalion.
The one who’d struck the training scarecrow the most was none other than Kalion. He truly swung at it with the intent to demonstrate to the others, and he remembered it snapping off like sorghum.
When Cedric had looked at him with a look of ridiculousness, Kalion had been embarrassed and blamed him for buying a feeble tree, but Cedric’s resentment must have remained since then.
Kalion had disliked Cedric’s taunting as he said, “Don’t tell me you’re going to break this too!” So, Kalion wanted to hit the tree with all his might, and indeed, with every ounce of strength he could muster, Kailion had thrown his balled fist at the newly erected wooden pillar.
Then, the wooden pillar, which knights had been described as not easily destroyed, cracked with a thunderous sound.
What would happen if Kalion were to hit Erna like that? For a moment, a not-so-good thought appeared in Kalion’s mind.
“If I truly hit you, you’ll d… no, you’ll be injured badly.”
He couldn’t let the word ‘die’ come out of his mouth. He didn’t want to use dreadful language with something that pertained to Erna.
“Well done. I trust that you’re that strong,” replied Erna.
“What in the world are you trying to do?”
“Well… I’m trying to move the way you want me to.”
Erna recalled the chaos that had persisted in the Grand Castle over the past few days. Kalion was not the only victim of the poison by the unknown culprit; the members of the Grand Castle were also becoming affected one by one.
Up until a few days ago, they’d all gotten along well, but now they not only raised their voices—“Who are you closer with, Lady Erna or Lord Kalion?”—but they also bickered—“Where is Lady Erna’s hometown? Where are her relatives?”
It would be nice if it ended there, thought Erna.
“Do you know a rumor going around that I poisoned you?” Erna said, holding in a sigh.
“I also know there’s one going around that the poisoning incident was plotted by me,” replied Kalion.
“This has given Haband and Aether the confirmation to actively intervene in Hessenguard. Aether will send soldiers to catch the culprit and protect you, and Haband will send soldiers to protect the princess because she’s in trouble…” Erna muttered. She did not want any of those things happening.
Ten years ago, when the two kingdoms had gone to war over Hessenguard, there was too much blood spilled on the land. Beyond the capital, there are still many cities that haven’t been restored from the attack at that time. Nevertheless, the citizens of Hessenguard still welcomed the grand couple when they visited. They loved Kalion and Erna for the sole reason that the war was no more.
Erna could see that the war had been so disastrous that even the children of looters were welcomed. But what if the troops that reminded everyone of that period came here? It would stir the emotions of the masses. As the grand couple of Hessenguard, Kalion and Erna had to stop that from happening, for the sake of the citizens of Hessenguard.
“We have to appease Haband and Aether. You remember what they wanted, right? Either we make a successor or…”
At Erna’s words, Kalion remembered the long-forgotten correspondence between the two kingdoms: either they have a child within a year or return to their home countries if they don’t.
“…we return to our home countries.”
The two countries wanted to reclaim the fine wizards and knights, and in turn, send more obedient people to Hessenguard.
“If we give them what they want, they’ll hush for a while.”
“So you told me to hit you.”
“These days our relationship has been goo… don’t laugh.” Erna pinched the cheeks of the grinning Kalion. “Anyway, if we suddenly split up, I don’t think they’ll believe us unless it’s that bad. So while we’re at it, I hope you smack me in front of plenty of people.”
At that, Kalion jerked his head back. If he were to hit her convincingly in front of others, they would believe that the grand couple’s relationship was completely doomed.
Though he had killed before, he’d never once laid a hand on a woman. That fact was well-known among the people of Grand Castle. Hitting her in front of others… would make them believe their relationship was in tatters.
Even though he could guess the reason for her telling him to hit her, Kalions still said, “I cannot.”
Erna looked at Kalion, who listened as if he understood but responded otherwise.
“I am going to find another way. How can I hit you?”
Kalion turned his body away from Erna as if he were unable to finish the conversation. Erna sucked a breath and sighed as if telling him to listen. But Kalion completely blocked his ears and made a face that said he didn’t want to listen.
The next day, however, he had to change his mind.
Because one of Erna’s aides had been discovered dead.