Vol. 19: Chapter 01: Ariel & Zatanna

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Translated by Tianic, edited by Grammarly

[dropcap]I[/dropcap]n the Asmodian Alliance, Brooks Empire, Sunset Plateau. Under the summer sun, the noble emblem on the carriage in the middle of the procession dazzled brightly – it was the royal family sigil of the Brooks Empire. 

A hand pulled up the tasseled curtain on the carriage window, Swiss Hepburn began to survey the scenery outside the window. 

It was a vast plain where a rushing river winded through. The banks of the wide river were full of dense mangrove forests, and a little closer, shrubs, wildflowers, reeds, and a variety of animals. The wilderness can certainly not be seen in the capital. 

By the side of the road, a group of bare-bottomed young children was running after the wagon, their skin tanned by the sun, waving branches picked from nowhere in their hands, and shouting in excitement. 

“This is not Foxburg, don’t drive them away.” Duke Hepburn told his escort captain, “Give them some candy.” 

“Yes, my lord.” The head escort nodded and replied, “The sun is glaring outside, so please remain in the carriage, my lord.” 

“Nothing to be worried about. The sunlight is also Dark Lord’s favor.” Duke Hepburn laughed out loud in a rare moment as he undid his coat, opened the carriage door, and stood behind the carriage driver. 

The chief of the guards laughed and did not stop the Duke, but only became more vigilant of the environment. 

Once he was out of Foxburg, away from the loathsome circle of aristocrats, Hepburn’s mood was clearly better. He folded his arms and began to feel the real summer of freedom, if possible, he also wanted to let his skin be tanned a little. Not to mind the sun, not to mind the etiquette, not to mind everything around him, Duke Hepburn was extremely relaxed. 

“Look! That aunty is so pretty!” The children on the roadside shouted, “So beautiful! Like a bride!” 

Duke Hepburn sighed, bowed his head, went silent, and then got back into the carriage. 

“Is Viscount Gironde’s fiefdom almost here?” It was a long time before the Duke spoke up and asked the lady-in-waiting beside him, “When will we arrive?” 

“In reply to the Duke, we are now walking on the fief of Viscount Gironde.” The good maid served him wine, “In a little while, after crossing the river one last time, we will be able to see Viscount Gironde’s mansion.” 

“That won’t be long then!” Hepburn picked up his jacket and slowly put it on, “Did you write to tell my mother that we didn’t travel as planned?” 

“Without your permission, I cannot write to your mother.” 

“There’s no need to be this serious. Just tell her for me.” Hepburn looked out of the window and said softly, “If mother put you with me on my travels, she must want you to watch me for her, right?”

“My lord…,” the maid’s face showed a difficult expression. 

“If my memory is correct, I’ve never seen you before; and your behavior, education, and temperament do not look like a plain handmaid.” Hepburn smiled faintly, “Which House are you from? Why did you condescend as my handmaid?” 

“I… I…” Hepburn’s smile had a fatal seductive power, the maid completely lost in it. Though her breath became short, and she had to press her hand on her chest, her eyes wouldn’t leave Duke Hepburn’s smile. 

Hepburn looked back at her, “Answer me, okay? You should know that I can not accept an unidentified person to stay by my side.” 

“You will drive me away if I… tell you…” 

“But if you don’t say it, I have all the more reason to kick you out.” Lord Duke put up a hand under his chin, and very sensibly analyzed the matter to the girl in front of him, “I don’t know how you see it, but for me, I’m a frank and honest man. In other words, I don’t like – or I hate it when people deceive me with lies.” 

“I am not deceiving you.” 

“Not telling the truth is deception.” Duke Hepburn’s gentle eyes revealed determination, “Which family’s daughter are you – do you want me to ask a third time?” 

“I… I am…” The maid of honor bit her lower lip, “My name is Ariel Flan, the daughter of Count Flan. ” 

“So it’s Count Fran’s daughter… the king’s goddaughter?” Hepburn was nearly choked by a mouthful of red wine. The shock was considerable, “Lady Fran, please forgive my rudeness.” 

Count Fran was the king’s trusted court member and his status was quite prominent. The House of Fran has been friends with Hepburn’s uncle (the king). However, because Count Fran was not in Foxburg, Duke Hepburn had not met him in person, and the comment was that this Count of the empire was a very spirited nobleman. 

“You don’t really have to care so much about what I think. Being your handmaid was my own wish.” Ariel said eagerly, “You don’t have to be burdened, I’ll go home as soon as the tour is over, if you hate me, I’ll leave as soon as we reach the hotel.” 

“I’m not that bad, am I? Leaving a beautiful lady on the side of the road? Give me some time to think about it.” Hepburn shook his hand, “Who orchestrated this? Your father? The king? Or my mother?” 

“It was… the three of them who decided together.” Ariel lowered her brow and said in a voice too small to be heard, “… they asked me… to accompany you on your travels and to take care of your living… sorry, I once hid behind the corridors of the palace and peeped at you, so His Grace mentioned his plan, I did not object…” 

Hearing Ariel’s answer, Hepburn could not help but laugh bitterly in his heart, he could not afford to offend neither of these three, not to mention the poor, beautiful lady in front of him. From the bottom of his heart, she was already much better than the average noblewomen, it was because of Miss Ariel’s excellence that he doubted her identity. 

Looking at Miss Ariel who was about to cry out, Hepburn felt unlucky. Every time, he thought, I’m the victim and I have to take responsibility for other people’s actions. 

“I can’t do anything about you, so let’s learn to face it! Let me see…” Hepburn his ideas to Miss Ariel, “A noble lady is a noble lady after all, we have to be worthy of our family reputation and honor. You can no longer stay by my side as a maid of honor. ” 

“Yes, Your Excellency.” Miss Ariel’s tears flowed down her white cheeks and choked back a sob as she replied, “I apologize for my recklessness.” 

Her face was burning and her heart was suffocating; for her, being rejected, especially by someone she liked, was an unacceptable humiliation. 

“Hey, don’t be sad yet, I have another invitation for you!” Hepburn certainly knew that the lady was in a low mood, but he did not mind a nasty little joke, “You know, I am an overgrown soldier swept away by the coalition army, I do have some habits – so, would you like to travel with me for the rest of the journey? We, as ordinary friends, abandon all secret missions or purposes, just enjoy the beauty and customs of the alliance?” 

“What does this… mean?” Miss Ariel was still a little uncomfortable with Hepburn’s sudden change. 

“It means that you and I are ordinary friends, and we set out and travel together, without any burdens.” Hepburn explained slowly, “You will get your own room, maids, and be treated as a noble lady. We are friends, it is as simple as that.” 

“So, how do we introduce ourselves to others?” Miss Ariel asked timidly. 

“I’m supposed to be a bit older than you, right?” Hepburn smiled and said, “You can say you’re my sister.” 

“Is that okay?” 

“Sure, let’s just call it a deal!” Hepburn was glad that he had solved another matter perfectly, “I would be honored to travel with you, and of course I would be very grateful if you would not interfere with my decision.” 

“That would be an honor for me too, thank you, Your Excellency, for your generosity.” Miss Ariel said gratefully, “Will you please let me continue to care for your day-to-day life?” 

Hepburn could not refuse Miss Ariel, and could only reply reluctantly, “If it is as a friend, I will accept.” 

“Thank you.” As we speak, the carriage has reached the river, Miss Ariel glimpsed the view outside, “Could you please walk with me outside?” 

Hepburn nodded and stepped out of the carriage with Miss Ariel. 

There was a medium-sized ferry nearby that can load only one carriage at a time. Vehicles to be transported lined up, the guards were parting with the staff to cross the river first. 

Hepburn accompanied Miss Ariel to stroll along the river, after the relationship as friends was established, both relaxed. Miss Ariel held her skirt and squatted down, rinsing her handkerchief in the cool river water while asking Hepburn trifles. Swiss folded his hands, looked at her delicate face, and replied casually. 

“You know what?” When Miss Ariel asked why Hepburn was not yet planning to take a wife, the Duke said in a serious manner, “There is a small fish in the river of the Sunset Plateau, they were only as big as bread crumbs, they will attach to the skin and bit into the body, feeding on your blood.” 

“Ah–” Miss Ariel stood up with a look of panic and looked carefully at her hands, having long forgotten her question. 

“Fooled you.” Hepburn smiled as he picked up his handkerchief and handed it back to her, “Tricked indeed! Your reaction is really cute.” 

Miss Ariel cried and laughed, and was about to return the favor with something she knew how to do, when a scuffle came from the roadside. The two looked at each other and began stepping to the roadside, standing behind the guards. 

A delicate black-dressed individual on a war horse was confronting Hepburn’s guards. The war horse was extremely muscular, the knight on the horse was sharply dressed, the face was covered with a black scarf, and a long knife hangs from the waist. It looked that this one was not to be trifled with. However, the eyebrows indicated that that she was a woman. 

If she were just a plain warrior, the guards should be able to drive her away easily, but what was strange was the lady’s nobility sigil on her waist, which was supposed to be fixed on the chest; and the decorative ribbons, which were arranged in moderate accordance, regardless of the binding style, color, or angle. They were obviously not stolen or robbed. 

“Miss, I have told you.” The rear guard often traveled with Duke Hepburn, he has seen the world. Therefore, he only put a hand on the hilt of his sword, nonchalantly negotiating with the lady, “Please wait a little, we will be ready in a moment.” 

“What nonsense, hurry up and get out of my way!” The lady fiddled with the whip in her hand, not putting this strong guard in her eyes at all, “You have hundreds of horses and ten or so cars, this lady will have to wait until sunset!” 

Even with such bad language, her voice seemed very nice, and to be fair, if her temper wasn’t so bad, her voice would have been more pleasant. 

“We came first, we should pass first.” The guard suppressed his temper, “It is common knowledge.” 

“Oh? Are you saying I don’t know the rules? So what? Are you still going to teach me a lesson?” The lady on the horse laughed with banditry, which made the two nobilities who just caught up dumbfounded. 

“I didn’t mean it like that, I will apologize if my words upset the lady.” 

“Apologize? This you unknowing fool, how dare you accuse a nobleman!” The lady on the horse snorted coldly, “Come over here and fight it out in the warrior’s way!” 

“My lady, I would like to remind you that I am also a nobility.” 

“Seeing how small your sigil is, even if you are a noble, you are a tiny noble, not good.” The delinquent lady had dismounted, “Look at mime, it’s more than ten times bigger than yours. I’ll fight when I say so, come and prove you’re a man.” 

“Miss, that is your formal sigil, this is my daily sigil. You cannot judge by size…” the guard explained, half annoyed and half laughing, who wouldn’t have a headache when encountering such a spiteful lady! 

“What? To fight?” Miss Ariel looked at Hepburn in alarm, “That lady is also a nobleman ah… I’m going to persuade, okay?” 

“Are you sure you can persuade her?” Hepburn replied noncommittally. 

“We’re traveling, after all! We’ll have to experience something like this sooner or later.” Miss Ariel replied with a slightly reddened face, “Besides, with you around, I’m not worried…” 

“Okay, I will be behind you.” Hepburn was confident that nothing terrible would happen with him watching, “This guard is a right-handed sword-user, you have to stand on the left side, remember.” 

Miss Ariel nodded and plucked up the courage to walk up. 

“Miss, good day.” Ariel’s brittle voice interjected into the argument, “Please stop arguing and listen to me, okay?” 

“Ah… such a beautiful lady.” The woman-in-black’s eyes lit up, leaned up a step and shouted, “Your delicate figure just materialized in front of my eyes, where do you come from? Why do you want to surprise the man’s dream?” 

Although it was clear that the other party was a young woman, such strange words still blushed Miss Ariel, big time. While Hepburn let out a silent laugh in the back because such a way of speaking was only recently getting popular amongst the noble ladies in Foxburg specifically used to tease the boudoir friends. 

“Everyone… just… just quiet.” Miss Ariel still wanted to finish her words, “Can’t we discuss it properly?” 

“Sure! Of course I will listen to a pretty lady… However,” the woman-in-black leaned forward another step, “May I have the honor to know your flower-like name? Where do you come from? Any other relatives at home – for the purpose of a sweet marriage, let’s start dating!” 

“I, I, I…” Miss Ariel opened her mouth slightly, already lost, she obviously can not adapt to such a tour event. 

“Miss, you do not need to panic, this young man will be very gentle with you.” The black-clothed woman clasped her hands and smiled badly, “Anyway, no one is around, you might as well obey me…” 

Even if it is a female, saying such things to a stranger was far beyond rudeness, therefore Hepburn can no longer remain silent. He walked up and stood behind Miss Ariel, looking at the strange lady quietly first, giving her a psychological deterrent. 

“You…” the black woman moved her gaze, “Who is she?” 

Miss Ariel looked back at Hepburn, “I, I am his sister.” 

“Hahahahahahahahahaha -” the black-clad woman’s eyes flashed a hint of imperceptible cunning, she suddenly looked up and exaggeratedly laughed, “Today is really my lucky day… . hahahahahahaha!” 

Both people were a bit confused, what kind of good luck was this

“Not bad, really good, my fighting spirit is starting to surge, my enthusiasm is already burning.” The woman-in-black shook her fist and loudly announced, “Two great beauties, I want to take them all, twin sisters!” 

Hepburn bowed his head and sighed, and Miss Ariel was dumbfounded. 

“But your sister likes to wear men’s clothes, which is a nuisance, no ladylike style at all.” The woman-in-black then waved her hand generously, “Forget it, the young lord is very open-minded, I will give your sister time to correct.” 

It seems she didn’t notice who was more unladylike here. 

“Sorry to let you down. You can’t.” Hepburn stood in front of Miss Ariel and said faintly, “As for my sister! She will also refuse your proposal.” 

“Why should you refuse a handsome lord? I’m a glorious warrior!” The delinquent girl was still acting, “If twin sisters don’t work, I’m fine to just marry one alone!” 

“Whether your eyes are good or not, I am a man. And you can’t marry my sister… “Hepburn ruffled his long blonde hair, “… for a simple reason, as a male, you are physically incapable. ” 

“You rude man!” The woman-in-black jumped back, “swish” pulled out the long knife at her waist, the tip of the knife in the air carved out a beautiful arc, her tone has become cold, “In the name of the noble warrior, I challenge you, who dare not answer the battle is a crawling dog! 

“I do not fight with a nameless opponent.” Hepburn replied in his usual bland tone, “State your name and title, and I will give you a little time if I’m in a good mood.” 

“Ha–” The woman-in-black shook the long knife in her hand, and the blade pulled up a cloud of dazzling light, “If you win against me, you will naturally have my name!” 

“Is that so? How about this, if you lose, just shout ten times ‘I was rude, please forgive me, Miss’.” Hepburn glanced at Miss Ariel beside her, “Don’t worry.” 

“Good – take out your weapon and duel in a manly manner!” 

“I haven’t used a sword in a while, so it’s a special courtesy to you.” Hepburn smiled, waved at his guards. Immediately someone brought his matching sword, “I hope you can hold out under my sword for a while and not let me down.” 

“Do not talk more nonsense, this lady still has to rush back home to eat dinner!” The woman-in-black slowly inhaled, her eyes became unusually clear, “Look at the sword!” 

“Dark Temple’s standard technique, not bad.” Swiss thought, then his long sword was out of the sheath. 

“Dang!” With a sound, the swords struck each other and stood in the air. 

“You have to be careful.” Hepburn cautioned softly, “A brutal woman is destined to be punished.” 

“Is that so? You think you have that right?” The woman-in-black didn’t think she would lose, “Don’t you cry when the time comes.” 

“I will be the judge of whether you deserve to be punished or not.” Hepburn took a few steps back, “But I’m more than comfortable dealing with a bratty girl of your level.” 

“Dang dang dang!” The two people’s swords hit each other in the air three more times, emitting a very crisp collision sound. 

The two figures leaped through the field, and the metallic sound of swords clashing with each other came out continuously. 

“Don’t you worry.” A young escort leader standing beside reassured Miss Ariel, “The Duke will be absolutely fine.” 

“But, this is a formal fight!” Miss Ariel didn’t want to be Duke Hepburn’s sister all the time, so how could she not be worried? 

“Although it’s a martial arts fight, it’s also one with a very large difference in strength.” The young escort leader said, “With Lord Duke’s ability, he can end this competition at any time he wants.” 

Hearing these words, Miss Ariel patted her chest and settled her heart a little. Turning her head to look at the chief guard beside her, she was startled by the scar on his face and let out a low cry. She had seen it several times before but never noticed the frightening wound. 

“I’m sorry to have startled you.” The chief guard’s concerned gaze never left the field. He moved a few steps outward. 

“No, I was rude…” Miss Ariel tried her best to hide her fault, “May I know your name?” 

“You can call me Paradise, one of the 3 guard captains.” Paradise still had that cool and calm look, “Always ready to serve you.” 

“You look very pale, are you sick?” Miss Ariel asked in a low voice, “If you can, I have brought some common medicine in my carriage.” 

“You don’t have to worry, I’m fine.” Paradise replied, “I was born with such a pale face.” 

Since she had already expressed her goodwill, Miss Ariel said nothing more, and it was the fight in the field that attracted her the most – the man who was gracefully floating in the shadow of the sword and light. 

“Sunflame – Aurora Break!” The woman-in-black let out a stern cry as her body took to the air, the blade pulling out a piercing line of light and slashing down, the overwhelming momentum causing Miss Ariel to let out a scream. 

“Can’t break.” Hepburn stabbed out his sword, pointing away from the blade, then left hand slightly raised, the two staggered through. 

“Nice material, it’s a pity to make a mask.” Hepburn turned around, raised his hand, and lightly shook the woman-in-black’s mask. 

“Scoundrel – give it back to me!” The woman-in-black’s face was scarlet, her eyes opened in anger, and she shouted in a puff of anger. 

“No return.” Hepburn said coldly, “It’s a trophy.” 

“You…” raised the knife in her hand, the woman-in-black was about to rush up and grab it. 

“You’ve lost, fight again, I’ll take another thing away.” Hepburn said in a lazy tone, “According to the agreement, what should you do? Please keep your promise as a noblewoman.” 

“You scoundrel!” The woman-in-black stomped her foot, took her horse, and walked away, “We’ll see about that!” 

The Duke shrugged his shoulders and walked back to Miss Ariel.

This chapter was originally published on Wuxianation, any despicable reposts or copies without proper citings are strictly prohibited.

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