It was chaotic as soon as I got off the carriage.
I could see close to a hundred people.
I cut through the crowd of people whispering and greeted Marquis François Duhem.
“Hello, Marquis Duhem.”
“Your highness! I’m glad to see that you are well. How are you feeling right now?”
The biggest thought on my mind was for him to let go of me.
The Marquis’ light pink eyes were full of excitement and joy despite the duel not having commenced.
I had no idea why someone who should be looking over his territory in the south was at the Imperial Capital again.
“I’m not sure. I hope there are no major accidents.”
“As expected of a royal priest. However, the cost of mocking his Royal Highness’s honor is not light! Welcome, young lady Sarnez. Your hat is magnificent.”
“Thank you, Marquis Duhem. Your jacket is quite desirable as well. Are you the emcee today?”
“Of course! I couldn’t miss such an opportunity.”
‘Why is someone who is a Marquis trying to be at every single event in the Empire?’
Benjamin and Ganael got off the rear carriage and walked up to me as the two drinking buddies happily chatted away.
Sir Geens was with them as well.
The nobles seated in the stands were fanning themselves while looking at me while I tried my best to pretend that they were not there.
There were some Pair de Riester I met at the victory celebration, but most were people I had never met before.
“Is this area exclusively reserved for duels?”
Benjamin nodded his head.
“To be more specific, it is the area for duels of the royalty, your highness. This place was created in the outskirts because magic cannot be used in the Imperial Palace other than at the training grounds. It is because the training ground is reserved for the Imperial family and the opponent may feel significantly threatened if they duel in the Imperial Palace.
“That is true.”
Even I wouldn’t want to do that.
Dueling against a member of the throne was burdensome enough. My spirit would be dead long before the duel if it happened in the royal family’s home ground as well.
I slowly took in the duel location.
The battle ground was located to the Northwest of the Imperial Palace, in an extended area of the mountains behind Juliette Palace.
Large lush trees in the rear created a good amount of shade as they formed a wall.
There were large stadium-like stands to the left but they were decorated with expensive mosaics that only nobles would feel comfortable sitting there.
The right side was the wall at the boundary of the Imperial Palace.
‘You’re that good at fighting? Follow me to the roof.’
This seemed like a perfect recreation of that cliché line if you changed the roof to the Imperial Palace.
“Please come this way, your highness! I will personally escort you to your seat.”
“Thank you very much.”
The Marquis stepped in to personally escort me despite there being attendants from the Imperial Palace.
The rest of the group and I silently followed him as we couldn’t even fathom the thought of defeating this powerful celebrity.
I took a closer look to see that the VIP area at the center of the stands was empty.
I didn’t want to accept it, but that seemed to be our seats.
“Marquis Duhem, are there usually this many spectators for a duel in the Empire?”
The duels that I read about or saw in movies usually had the two participants and a few witnesses but there were too many spectators today.
“This is the first imperial duel in about twenty years. Most of the nobles sent their attendants to stand in line since early this morning.”
‘So it’s basically chaos.’ I had that thought as I nodded my head.
I was relieved that I did not bring the red pandas to such a chaotic and scary place.
I couldn’t stop Percy because he came and went like the wind.
“Is young Duke Blanquer strong?”
“Yes, your highness. He is one of the best in the Empire as he is a Grade 8 mage. It is not like the Blanquer blood disappeared. However, he will not be able to defeat his Royal Highness.”
He winked and flicked his fingers. His use of dramatic gestures had not changed.
“Of course, I’m sure he won’t die. His Royal Highness is not the type of person to take his cousin’s life and the young Dukes of the House of Blanquer have received the blessing of a divine item for generations. Longevity is that family’s specialty.”
“A divine item?”
I questioned my hearing and asked back.
There were a total of four divine items in the Empire and Christelle and Imperial Prince Cédric possessed one each.
The Ark of the Wind Deity in Yvelines did not choose a master and remained in the Bell Tower.
Then that only left one.
“There are divine items to the North and East of the Empire as well.’
Cardinal Boutier’s voice brushed through my mind. Yvelines was the North she mentioned.
‘The Duke’s House of Blanquer is a household of mages who have a long history in the eastern part of the Empire.’
……And the Duke’s territory was in the East. ‘This is how things are progressing?’
“Do you mean that the Duke’s House of Blanquer is guarding the divine item?”
“That is correct, your highness. It is called the Sacred Bow of the Tree of Life. It is famous for giving a long life to those who serve it.”
I knew about that because I read the fairytale by Grand Duke Yvelines, Prince Consort Alexandre.
However, nowhere in the book did it mention that the divine item was in the territory of his family, the House of Blanquer.
The book with the map of the divine items was not very helpful either because it just showed the location of the divine item.
The Sarnez territory was listed in large letters not because it was a Duke’s Castle but because it was a famous place. That was not the case for the other territories.
‘Damn it. Is it okay to have a bad relationship with such a family? Is the progression okay?’
“I hope you enjoy the duel.”
Marquis Duhem escorted us to the empty seats before smiling elegantly and walking back down the stairs.
Benjamin and Ganael slowly started opening the picnic basket.
Christelle stopped receiving snacks from the two of them and observed my expression.
“You have quite the serious look on your face, your highness. Please don’t worry. Nobody will die.”
She smiled as if to console me and handed over a small basket the size of my palm.
I could smell the aromatic fragrance of popcorn. My eyes became even clearer after taking a bite.
I recalled a conversation I just had with Christelle in the carriage.
‘That’s right. I want to see the remaining divine item.’
‘……Is it just a coincidence? Can I just ignore this?
Is it a positive flow of events for the male lead to clash against the heir of the family guarding the final divine item just as the main character showed interest in it?’
“It looks like all of the important guests have arrived. We will now start this sacred duel!”
I was almost scared by the loud clapping and fans tapping as soon as Marquis Duhem said that.
It wasn’t as intense as during the Great Clearance of Demonic Beasts.
However, it still filled the area and sounded as if the tension could be cut at any moment.
A man walked out from the left side of the battlefield at that moment.
Anybody would be able to tell that this was young Duke Robert Blanquer. I thoroughly observed the man.
I remembered something Eunseo told me in the past.
‘Second bro, anybody who is handsome has an important role. You need to pay attention when you read.’
‘They could have an important role even if they are not that handsome.’
‘No, ugly people are frequently extras.’
‘But there is no way for a handsome dude to be an extra. Handsome dudes are at least good at something.’
Her theory did not seem completely wrong. For example, look at Christelle and Sir Geens seated on either side of me.
Christelle was the main character of QNW while Sir Geens was a mercenary moving at crown princess Elise’s request.
Young Duke Blanquer, who seemed to be around the Imperial Prince’s age, was tall, slim, and handsome.
It was the type of guy Eunseo would have been like, ‘what is his name and where does he live?’ He had that pretty face she liked.
He didn’t seem like the type who would receive a serious injury or log out in a place like this.
The stands became loud as I was deep in my thoughts.
“My goodness, his Royal Highness looks amazing as usual.”
“I thought that the sun had risen from the west. It was just his Royal Highness.”
All sorts of praises poured out from behind the fans covering the nobles’ mouths. The problematic man appeared from the right.
His hair that was as dark as dusk before the sun rose was fluttering in the wind.
His orange eyes that were glowing like jewels were only focused forward.
His face was extremely handsome at a different level and the presence he was giving off made it seem as if this bastard had already won.
The number of swords around his waist were, one, two, three……
“Wait, why does he have four swords?”
“Maybe he is planning on chopping off a limb with each sword, your highness?”
A noble seated behind me whispered to me. I smiled bitterly and turned around.
“Thank you for the explanation, madam.”
“It was my honor, your highness. It is nice to be in your presence again.”
My eyes opened wide.
The old woman wearing the dark jade-colored dress with her white hair elegantly done was definitely Sarah Belliard, the Managing Editor of the < Biweekly Riester >.
It had been about two months since I last saw her. My reaction made the group turn their heads toward me.
Everybody other than Benjamin seemed a bit shocked.
“I needed to watch such a precious duel in person.”
“I’m guessing you are going to write an article about it.”
“Of course. The three of you left for the Imperial Capital immediately after the Great Clearance of Demonic Beasts. It was so disappointing.”
She waved her opera glasses as she responded.
The reason we headed up to the Imperial Capital immediately after the Great Clearance was to avoid her tenacious interview request.
Everybody at the time knew that Lady Belliard had personally traveled down to the Duhem March.
I quietly gulped.
A giant in the media world was watching, the Imperial Prince looked as if he was going to pummel someone to the verge of death, and his opponent was from the family with the Empire’s final divine item.
Furthermore, the main character had been diligently building connections with divine items until now.
Although she didn’t know about it, I also had a divine item after having absorbed the divine item in the Temple of Boundaries.
“It looks like the witnesses are now entering. His Royal Highness’s witness is Vice Commander Moutet as rumored.”
Lady Belliard sounded entertained as she leaned back.
I looked forward again.
Vice Captain Élisabeth, who was wearing formal attire instead of the Imperial Guard uniform, was standing next to the Imperial Prince.
She had a calmly sunken look on her face.
I’ve never read romfans before but anybody would be able to tell that this was not a good sign.
Even if she could not stop the duel in the middle, she needed to be able to give the Imperial Prince some advice.
I felt that things would get quite twisted if he severely injured the young Duke.
“Oh my, who is that? A healing priestess?”
“That is the young Duke’s younger sister, young lady Eva Blanquer. I heard that she will be receiving the bishop ordination next week.”
I heard the nobles seated in front of me whispering. I turned toward the direction as well.
I saw a girl in a priestess robe who seemed to be in her teens tying her scarf to the young Duke’s scabbard.
“Young lady Sarnez, could you please lend me your handkerchief?”
Christelle’s eyes opened wide but she still pulled out and handed over a sky blue handkerchief.
It was only then that I remembered borrowing one in the Imperial Family Library. ‘Sadie burned that one up though.’
“Thank you very much. Please request his Royal Highness return both of them.”
I stood up from my seat.
I could feel everybody looking at me but I took a deep breath and pretended not to notice.
“I will do so, your highness.”
The main character must have understood my intentions as she smiled and responded.
I nodded my head once and quickly descended the staircase.
I couldn’t help but wonder if I was unnecessarily acting out again.
However, ominous feelings tend to never be wrong. It wouldn’t hurt to be cautious.
“…What are you doing?”
“Giving you some encouragement, your Royal Highness.”
I stared at the swords dangling on the Imperial Prince bastard’s sword belt before starting to tie the handkerchief on the Sword of Wisdom from the Flaming Star, since I had seen it many times and had gotten attached to it.
My hand moved as slowly as possible in order to buy myself some time.
I could feel the Imperial Prince glaring at me with discontent above my head.
I did not beat around the bush and got right down to what I needed to say.
“You cannot severely injure the young Duke, your Royal Highness.”
“You might not know this, but Lady Belliard is here.”
“I have no reason to be wary of her.”
The Imperial Prince sharply retorted.
Vice Captain Élisabeth, who was standing next to us as if to protect us, was looking at me with an amused look on her face.
“I know, your Royal Highness. But the Duke’s House of Blanquer is in the east of the Empire and borders the Holy Kingdom. The young Duke will have that important role in the future. Is there a need to leave a serious injury that cannot be healed?”
“It will be a detriment to the Empire.” He scowled once I added that part.
“You speak as if you have become a person of Riester.”
Honestly speaking, I didn’t think that what he said was wrong.
“The young Duke mocked you and your father.”
His low-pitched voice sank low. I slightly frowned.
It wasn’t really my father, but the young Duke was definitely in the wrong. ‘He does deserve to be punished.’
“As the master of Romero Palace, I cannot overlook this.”
“But you can finish it quickly without torturing him, your Royal Highness. I thought you said you were overwhelmingly strong.”
I tried my best to take my time to tie the handkerchief but my hand didn’t slip because I had plenty of experience after being in charge of little Eunseo’s hair every morning.
Christelle’s initials, C. S., were clearly visible on the handkerchief. It was perfect.
“Thank you for requesting a duel on my behalf, your Royal Highness. However, I hope that you will control yourself considering the future. I am saying this for the two of your benefit.”
He was as sharp as a ghost. ‘Oops, I can’t bring Christelle up right now.’
I immediately pulled out an excuse.
“The young Duke is someone who will protect the border and you are my friend, your Royal Highness. What I am trying to say is that I hope there is no trouble afterwards.”
Jesse is never going to give up on his dreams of getting Cedric and Christelle together.