༺ Albrecht (1) ༻
“You should leave.”
Albrecht spoke. His eyes folded into a half-moon shape as he directed his words to Doran.
Hearing those words, Doran quickly rose up and disappeared without looking back. Then, the tall figure, who hadn’t spoken until now, spoke up and removed his hood.
“What are you doing here, Sir Vera?”
It was a familiar voice.
Turning to face him, Vera was confused, seeing the man in front of him.
It was Count Baishur who was with Albrecht. He was the owner of the mansion where Vera was currently staying.
Vera narrowed his eyes and watched Albrecht and Count Baishur, who were looking at him.
An assumption crossed his mind.
Could they be part of the newly formed group in the slums?
He thought quickly and the answer he came up with was ‘no’.
He knew Albrecht. He knew Count Baishur.
They were never men who would compromise their goals. No matter how important their objectives were, they would not tolerate anything that went against their beliefs.
In other words, they would not sit idly by and let the cartel’s actions go unchecked.
Why are they here?
While he was deep in thought, Count Baishur spoke again.
His immediate guess was that things were not looking good. Vera pushed down the question that had been brewing in his mind and bowed his head forward. The words that came out of his mouth were improvised excuses.
“…I came here to investigate.”
“Since the clinic is not far from here, I thought I should see if there are any risks.”
“Ah…yes. I see.”
A look of understanding came across Count Baishur’s face. He then turned to Albrecht and said.
“Ah, Prince. He is the one I’ve mentioned before…”
“Yes, nice to meet you, Apostle of Oath. I’m Albrecht van Freich, the Second Prince of the Empire.”
Albrecht’s right hand came to rest over his left breast, and he bowed his head slightly, his bright blond hair flowing.
All of a sudden, Vera’s eyebrows rose up. In the midst of his surprise and confusion, he started to feel revolted by the ceremonial gesture.
The reason was… how should he say it? It was because of Renee. He was reminded of how Renee was talking about Albrecht on their way to the Empire.
His voice came out sounding a little revolted, just as how he felt.
“…Nice to meet you, Prince.”
Vera didn’t bother with the formalities. Personal feelings aside, Vera was in a position where he did not have to make any explanations. An Apostle of the Holy Kingdom was more exalted than a King of considerable kingdoms.
Albrecht lifted his head with a faint smile, without a hint of hesitation or confusion in his face.
Albrecht did not seem to mind Vera’s lack of politeness, but still, there was such a thing as pride, and Albrecht continued in a soft tone.
“I’m a little surprised to meet you so suddenly. I heard that the Saint will be giving her blessing on my coming of age ceremony, correct?”
“It seems so.”
Another blunt tone. Vera held on to his rebellious attitude, thinking that Albrecht’s mention of Renee was quite impudent.
“If you don’t mind my asking, may I ask why the Prince is in such a lowly place?”
He asked a question in retort.
With a smile that seemed embarrassed, Albrecht turned his gaze towards Count Baishur and exchanged a look with him.
After a short moment…
“Well, it’s quite an awkward story to tell here.”
A euphemistic refusal came back.
He hid their purpose. With that in mind, Vera’s face was full of suspicion. Then, Albrecht spoke again.
“Perhaps, may I come see you another day? I’ll visit you soon. Here is a bit…”
His voice trailed off, but Vera knew immediately knew what he meant.
He sensed that there were a lot more of them than before.
Did he make too much noise?
Vera pressed down his annoyance and nodded at Albrecht’s words.
He decided that it was best to back off for the moment. It was not an urgent matter, and Albrecht promised to meet up at a later date.
If Vera set aside his personal distaste, what Albrecht said was not because he wanted to avoid the situation.
Vera knew Albrecht and trusted him, so he willingly agreed.
“Do as you please.”
Even as he spoke, his gaze was on Albrecht.
An angel descended from the heavens. The beloved of all that stays beautiful for eternity.
Albrecht’s good looks were known throughout the continent, but Vera did not agree.
His blonde hair was frivolous. It annoyed him as it fluttered about.
He wanted to punch his smiling face.
His puny physique was also something else. The knight was so frail he could trip over and die.
Vera, who had already defeated Albrecht in his past life, began to disdainfully ridicule him in this life for some reason, cutting him down in various ways.
He did so without even realizing it.
In physique and skill, Albrecht was no match for him.
Getting a little more at ease, Vera gave him a small bow, then turned and walked away from them.
Of course, Albrecht, who knew nothing of Vera’s true intentions, unexpectedly smiled as he watched Vera walk away.
“Hmm, what an odd fellow.”
He directed those words to Count Baishur.
Count Baishur gave an awkward smile to Albrecht and answered.
Count Baishur, who had heard the whole story from Marie, shook his head at the sight of Vera keeping Albrecht in check.
The next day, at Count Baishur’s mansion.
Aisha, dressed in a white priestly robe, exclaimed. This was because she was coming along with today’s volunteer work.
“I’m going to help Renee today!”
“I’m in your care.”
Renee smiled softly and held Aisha’s hand.
A small hint of guilt was brewing inside her. She felt sorry for not giving Aisha much attention these days because she was so busy with her volunteer work.
She was grateful to see her so cheerful when she must have been so scared to be in an unfamiliar place.
While Renee was lost in those thoughts, Vera continued to speak.
“We are not going out to play. Refrain from speaking so casually.”
Vera’s words were met with a sarcastic response from Aisha, and a chuckle escaped Renee’s mouth.
“Stop it, let’s go.”
Renee, who intervened between the two because she knew that they would quarrel whenever they were together, started to walk away.
It was a very pleasant morning. Her relationship with Vera was good, and she felt satisfied with her daily work.
It was no different from yesterday.
The volunteer work was still ongoing on 11th Street, and she had to look after the patients by using her divinity.
Although it was simply repetitive labor and could be considered boring, that was not the case for Renee.
Renee, who was innately good-natured and selfless, did not show even a hint of boredom.
It was because the patients thanked her.
She felt a sense of satisfaction in healing other people using her own hands.
Naturally, Renee continued to care for her patients, losing track of time. As the day drew to a close, something unexpected happened.
The surroundings became noisy.
Renee tilted her head at the growing murmurs.
She asked, wondering what was going on.
Vera responded in a slightly uncomfortable tone.
“…His Highness, the Second Prince, is coming this way.”
The Second Prince.
Renee pondered for a moment at those words, then she suddenly flinched at what came to her mind.
A crooked smile came across her face, then she asked.
“The Second Prince? Then…”
“…Yes, Albrecht van Freich. Exactly who you are thinking of.”
There was no doubt that the Second Prince was on his way there.
The first word that came to her mind was.
Of course, there was only the scandal that Vera spoke of. It hadn’t been verified, but she still felt tension.
Renee straightened up, and her expression started to become rigid.
Meanwhile, the murmurs were getting louder.
Among those voices, Renee heard Aisha muttering absentmindedly.
She sounded like she was dreaming.
When Renee heard it, she felt her heart drop with a ‘thud’.
Panic flashed through her mind. After losing her composure for a moment, Renee managed to steady herself.
‘Y–yeah! Men can be pretty too!’
Wasn’t that the appearance that caused a sensation across the continent? Of course! He could be pretty!
Renee took a deep breath and clenched her fists as she listened to the approaching footsteps.
“Nice to meet you, Priests of the Holy Kingdom.”
A clear voice rang out, like a jade ball rolling through space.
Renee had goosebumps at the sound of his voice.
‘W–what’s with his voice!’
Why is it so soft!
He’s supposed to be a man! He’s about to have his coming-of-age ceremony!
She felt like everything she knew was a lie. In a strange sensation of mental collapse, Renee swallowed and answered him.
She couldn’t afford to be flustered. Yes, she needed to have a confident attitude!
We still don’t know! He might not be a love rival!
It’s not right to judge people based on rumors!
Renee turned to Albrecht and asked a question with an expression that was almost painful to watch.
“Uhm, why are you here…?”
There was a desperate wish inside, hoping that he wouldn’t break her heart, and that she could continue to enjoy this good time for a while longer.
However, the world that had always been cruel to her was not willing to grant her desire this time, crushing her expectations.
“Oh, excuse me. I have some business with the Paladin here.”
Again, Renee’s heart skipped a beat.
‘Is he really a love rival?’
As the thought crossed her mind, she heard something that she could not ignore as she tried to push her anxieties away.
“Did you get home safely last night?”
Did the two meet without her knowledge?
Her thoughts raced, and images flashed in her mind.
A dark night with the moon hidden. Two people met by chance.
Suddenly, Renee lost all sense of reasoning as the expression on her face became blank.
By the time she heard his answer, Renee’s hand was already on her cane.
‘…A love rival.’
Alas, the moment to take out the sword had come.
…is what Renee thought.
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