༺ Arden, the Renowned Household of Swordsmanship (2) ༻
The most influential household of the south was the Dunareff, whereas the representative one of the east was the Arden, without any question.
They were the guardians of the far east.
In the west of the El Rath Kingdom were both Xeruem and Zeon, the two sacred chapels of two religions, while the south had fertile lands as well as a trade route with the archipelago underneath.
On the other hand, the east and the north were the cause of distress for the kingdom, but were lands that had to be protected.
In the north was the North Kingdom, the union of barbarians, as well as wicked demons. The east had touching borders with the empire of pagans, but the biggest problem was the endless horde of demonic beasts that tended to come from the barren lands of the far east.
The north and the east of the kingdom had never been peaceful since the establishment of the kingdom.
Not a single time.
And if the citizens of the kingdom were asked about why that was possible, they would all shout out the name of the Arden family.
“Captain Lunia has returned!!”
The front gates of the main family opened along with a sonorous roar as hundreds of Arden’s disciples welcomed us in.
“Welcome back, Captain!!”
Seeing hundreds of people bending their backs at once was an impressive sight that you wouldn’t even see in movies.
Even though I said hundreds, that was only when I was counting the ones wearing black uniforms. There were workers repairing the buildings and roofs as well as servants which added up to an incredibly large number.
The one that spoke to Lunia before anyone else was an old man who looked like a butler. Despite his slim body, he was definitely not a normal person which could be proven by the Chinese war sword hanging on his waist.
“Captain Lunia. Thanks for your work in hunting demonic beasts.”
“How are the other groups?”
“All the groups have returned except for Groups 13 and 19.”
“Send a messenger hawk and see what is going on. Have groups with fewer casualties on standby.”
“Yes Captain. And…”
The old swordsman wearing butler clothes turned towards us. To be exact, he was looking at Alicia who was standing right next to me but Lunia opened her mouth before he could say anything.
“They’re her friends. Guide them to a place to stay at.”
“Alicia. You come with me.”
With an intimidated look on her face, Alicia followed after Miss Lunia who was still giving off a chilly aura. Yuel seemed bugged by that sight, and asked after tugging at my sleeves.
“Where is Alicia going?”
“This is her house so she probably has her own room.”
“Esteemed guests, please follow me.”
We followed the butler to the guest rooms and unpacked our belongings in our designated rooms.
Two hours later, I was resting at the given room when the same butler came looking for me.
“Mister Korin Lork. Captain Lunia is looking for you.”
Right, I was waiting for it. There was the talk about marriage, and there were a lot of things I wanted to ask her.
“This is Captain Lunia’s building.”
Her house was as tranquil and rigid as herself, but the garden, ponds, and the antique pieces of artwork decorating the corridor indicated the position she had in the Arden family.
She was one of the successor candidates. If Alicia wasn’t there… no, even with Alicia there, Lunia was pretty much already set in stone as the future family head.
Lunia was standing firmly and behind her was her house that would come out in a palace in Korean historical dramas.
As always, she was a very upright person. Her long hair was falling down in a straight line as if they were being supported by metal frames, and despite the abundant lines of her body that couldn’t be hidden with a martial uniform, she still reminded others more of a grand general ruling over the world than a soft lady.
“Why don’t we sit.”
I sat down on a cushion in front of a small table and so did she, before picking up a teapot and pouring its content onto the pre-prepared cup.
“So, I heard you’re almost 18.”
“I am the same age as your sister.”
“I will ask just in case. Are you married?”
“Umm… Of course not.”
Picking up her own cup, she drank her tea. It was such a simple set of movements but even that was void of any noise.
“If you do not have a partner yet, what do you think about marrying me?”
“…Are you serious?”
“Do I look like someone that would spout falsehood?”
She wasn’t… I had known this person for over 3 years and I had never seen her tell even the smallest of lies.
“Objectively speaking, you are a magnificent seed. Your martial talent, as well as your hard-work are exceptional. And your face, well, I would say it’s not bad according to my standards.”
“I didn’t know you cared about appearance as well.”
“I am also a woman. Of course I would be interested in the face of my spouse that would embrace me at night… Do you by any chance have sexual dysfunction? That would be slightly problematic.”
Noona! Aren’t you a bit too straightforward?
“What exactly is your intention? If you are suddenly asking for marriage, you should explain the reason to me at the very least.”
“Hmm. I thought boys your age are so healthy they think about marriage just from touching hands. If a woman at my level asks for your hand in marriage, I believe it would be normal to accept it at once.”
“Most teenage boys are stupid, but they are not stupid enough to decide about marriage just like that.”
“…For the most part.”
Well… Lunia was indeed a beauty. Her body resembled that of a top-notch model and the abundant feminine lines of her body made her both cool and beautiful.
However, this was different from that. Marrying into the family as the son-in-law was a totally different story.
“Have you heard about Alicia becoming the Captain of the 5th Sword Squad?”
“Yes, I did.”
That was in the newspaper that I read before getting on the wyvern. Even Alicia didn’t know about her own promotion but she had to become one because it was personally declared by the Sword Emperor, the previous family head, who still had an absolute position in the Arden family.
“That senile old man suddenly showed up and declared to make Alicia captain over the 5th Sword Squad.”
I had a rough understanding of the situation after hearing that.
“Well, it was only a matter of time after beating me in the Sword Challenge. I was going to make her go through a procedure and let her take over the 2nd or the 3rd Sword Squad, but…”
It was unfortunate timing – Garrand the Sword Emperor, who lived by himself in seclusion away from other people, suddenly showed up and appointed Alicia as the captain of the 5th Sword Squad.
And that just happened to be when there was a reporter in the Arden family.
“But how is Alicia becoming a captain related to you proposing for marriage?”
“The old man left immediately after saying that, so my supporters started fretting over it. I’m sure you would understand as the one who gave advice to Alicia and came up with that cheeky plan.”
I had a rough idea of what was going on.
Before, Lunia’s position in the Arden family was matchless. Even though both Lunia and Alicia were successor candidates, Alicia was far from her level in both legitimacy and skill.
However, Lunia’s social position must have started wobbling after her defeat, because she, the alpha of her group, had lost and was no longer at an advantage in terms of skill.
“Political marriage… is it?”
“Exactly. Currently, there are many ongoing talks and proposals with the rich families of the east and famous swordsmen.”
“Recovering the previous position with a political marriage. It is definitely a strong political move.”
“However, I do not like that. I am too good to be treated like an item in the marriage market.”
“Is that why you want to fake a marriage with me?”
“That is exactly correct.”
I understood what was happening, but there was still an unresolved question in my mind.
“But who would dare force you, Lunia Arden, to marry someone?”
How could there be someone who could coerce that heaven-defying Lunia Arden to have a political marriage?
Although there was the saying that no parents in the world could win over their children, the opposite was also true.
Alicia was stormed by visitors immediately after she unpacked her belongings in her room.
“Miss Alicia! I am Blah Blah Blah and I run a dojo in the village under Octagonal Mountain!”
“Miss! Do you remember me? I saw you back when you were very young; you have grown so much!”
It was her first time seeing all their faces and she was also very unfamiliar with the expressions on their faces.
Alicia was the result and proof of an illicit affair that wasn’t even from a concubine. That was why her presence was barely ever acknowledged in the Arden family.
The atmosphere had changed ever since the Sword Challenge with Lunia, and even in the summer holiday, she had seen a few expectant people but it wasn’t to this degree. As for why they were being so explicit with their approach, she could only think of one reason.
“It’s probably… because of grandpa.”
He was like the emperor of the Arden household. Sword Emperor Garrand – it was by his sudden demand that she had been appointed as the captain of the 5th Sword Squad.
“What is he thinking…?”
It had been like that all along. Garrand had ignored all the objections and had forced Alicia to become a successor candidate. It was ever since that day that she, the nuisance of the family, had turned into more of a nuisance that was ignored and disregarded.
“Miss. This is a sword we made at our smithy…”
It was then. Someone walked into her room after pushing the door wide open.
She was a beautiful lady with jet-black hair and a sharp pair of eyes that resembled obsidian, who gave off a similar aura to Lunia.
“L, Lady Sophia…”
Sophia glared at the merchants and dojo instructors that were visiting Alicia. She, the blood-related mother of Lunia Arden, was the lawful wife of the current family head, Jade Arden.
“Do you have any more business?”
“N, no we do not!”
After receiving a glare from her, the uninvited guests hurriedly left the room. Before long, it was only Alicia and Sophia that were inside the room.
“Right. It has been a while.”
Her dark eyes turned to Alicia and she spoke with a voice that was as apathetic as her eyes. Ever since the beginning, Alicia couldn’t help but shrink tremendously when being on the receiving end of her gaze.
“I am sure you have heard it. Father has appointed you as the captain of the 5th Sword Squad.”
“Yes… but I…!”
“Father’s commands are absolute in Arden. It will not be reversed by something as trivial as your opinion.”
There was no hint of condemnation nor criticism in her voice. Sophia simply stated facts with a composed voice.
“As the captain of the 5th Sword Squad, you shall push yourself for the glory of the family and the protection of humanity.”
After saying that, she placed down a sword.
It was a large single-edged sword that was so long that it was only a little bit shorter than Alicia herself.
“That is the Commander’s Sword, the symbol of a captain. Choose members of the household at will; command them and distinguish yourself during your stay.”
Alicia didn’t refute. Or rather, she couldn’t. The attitude of obedience and submission that was engraved into her from childhood was always there.
In spite of knowing that these people would never accept her until the end, she still obeyed them.
Alicia stumbled out of her room.
Staying in her room would only make her meet more uninvited guests, and she thought training with Korin would be a better option.
Walking out of her building, she was headed to the guest rooms when a familiar voice echoed from somewhere nearby.
“Good. I will be waiting for a positive reply from you then.”
“Well… sure. I guess it’s not a bad thing for me.”
Those were the voices of two people she was very used to. After realizing that it was a conversation between her older sister and Korin, Alicia quickly hid herself unconsciously.
She then carefully looked at Lunia.
Despite her usual cold and indifferent expression, the corners of her lips were faintly pointing up and her dry voice seemed more excited than usual. That was the slight show of emotion that Lunia showed very rarely when talking to someone she was fond of.
『Korin Lork. How about you marry me?』
Alicia suddenly remembered what her sister suddenly said. That sentence which suddenly came out of context seemed just like what Lunia would say.
Was there a reason? Probably, because there was no way her older sister would have talked about something as serious as marriage without any proper reason.
But did that mean she didn’t have goodwill for Korin? That was probably not true.
Something Alicia felt during the prac test of the interim exam was that Lunia was harboring both curiosity and goodwill for Korin.
Respect for a warrior who reached a certain threshold as a swordsman, as well as her long-time wish for the Domain. Putting aside all that, Lunia wouldn’t have given such a proposal if she wasn’t interested in the man called Korin.
Alicia liked both of them.
Lunia was her older sister of admiration, who had been like a mother to her when she was young. Although there was an unwanted conflict between them right now, she sincerely hoped for her happiness.
Korin was also a special person to Alicia.
He had trusted her talents, pushed her forward and helped her survive against her older sister’s followers.
A marriage between the two of them, meant that her two favorite people would be becoming closer than anyone else.
‘They look good together as well…’
Lunia was the future successor of the family who led forth the swordsmen of Arden with her innate leadership and charisma, whereas Korin was an exceptionally skilled warrior and a good person.
Unlike herself who was lazy and cowardly.
Those two were an amazing pair and it was a combination of her favorite and respected people. It was great that the two of them would be forging a deeper bond.
Should she support them then?
She wasn’t sure.
It was probably either because she was too happy or because of how sudden everything was, but Alicia was feeling restless and fidgety.
3 days went by after our arrival at Arden.
Meanwhile, Yuel was busy collecting information about the ‘Forest of Demonic Beasts’ beyond the borders of the kingdom from the spirits, and Alicia was busy running around greeting everyone. It seemed that there were a lot of things for her to do like finding members and other administration work.
What was I doing in the meantime, you ask?
“Was today an enjoyable day? The actor’s voice was even better than I expected.”
“The catchphrase that it was the voice of heavens wasn’t that much of an exaggeration, was it?”
“More importantly, Korin. I want to know if you enjoyed it.”
“Umm… yeah. It was a new experience and it was fun.”
“Hmm, that is good then. All that matters is your enjoyment.”
On the way back to the main buildings, we were walking past the servants that were sweeping the gardens. They stole glances at us but Lunia didn’t care a single bit about them and kissed the back of my hand.
“Today was another enjoyable day.”
“…Isn’t kissing on the back of the hand something I have to do as a man?”
“Hmm… I guess I did what I usually do to ladies as a habit. I will lend the honor to you next time.”
As expected of a renowned hero; she was closer to a gentleman than a lady.
– Oh my oh my…!
The people nearby created a fuss after seeing that but Lunia didn’t seem to care.
“I will see you tomorrow. There are a lot of things I have prepared for you.”
3 days after coming to Arden; I was being fervently seduced by Lunia.
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