translated by Tianic, edited by MadSnail.
Note: Please click on the character name for their illustrations.
Characters in this chapter:
- Cohen Kheda: The main character.
- Iva Merlin: A down frustrated nobility in Winper City, a gambler.
- Dior Merlin: Iva Merlin’s daughter, a business whiz.
- Fischer Summers: Cohen’s friend and a prince of the Swabia Empire.
[dropcap]D[/dropcap]ior Merlin cutely puffed as she stood on the balcony. Recently she has been having her unluckiest days. She sold three pieces of clothing for a whopping price of fifteen golds to a curt and rustic businessman who almost drove her crazy. Unexpectedly the man bought the clothes, which made Ms. Merlin indeed joyful for a good while. Who would expect that she would come across two robbers on her way home! Fortunately, she had been practicing fencing since childhood that helped her escape the danger.
She wasn’t planning to attend the banquet. However, it was too boring at home. At her arrival, she was caught in a conversation with the playboy Joy. This man has been acting crazy since he met her a year ago. His disgusting and boring love letters filled up Ms. Merlin’s dustbin, while Joy still enjoyed doing it.
As well as Mr. Prie, a man whose one leg was already in the tomb and age almost matching Dior Merlin’s grandfather’s, brought up an unreasonable demand at the last feast.
“Am I that kind of a woman?” Dior Merlin said resentfully to herself, “Despicable swines!”
What a lovely starry night. Dior Merlin got off the balcony chair and recalled her childhood.
She was born with a male character: never want to lose to anyone at anything. Dior Merlin dared to fetch bird eggs by climbing on the trees, as well as kick the neighbor noble kid’s ass. At her eighth birthday, she had received her first red pony. Her riding maester was so frightened that he never expected such a student to be both talented and girly.
Dior’s father once rubbed her head and said, “Dior, if only you were a boy, the Merlin family would be so much better.”
(Why am I not a boy? No, even if I’m a girl, I will be no worse than boys!)
Dior Merlin’s mother had a sapphire necklace. At night, the necklace would reflect deep blue lights by the moon and stars. The naive Merlin as a little girl would hold on tight to it with her tiny hands and beg her mother to put the lace on her neck.
“My Dior…” Her mother rubbed Dior’s cheeks, “On the day when you are married, I will put on this necklace for you myself.
Since then, Dior Merlin had been longing for her marriage. She desired nothing but her mother’s promise that she would give her the necklace. However, that day will never come. Her mother passed away when Dior was only fourteen years old.
After her mother died, Dior’s father had become even more unreasonable and absurd. He had been spending time on the poker and whorehouses regardless of the businesses. Actually, the businesses were usually her Dior’s mother’s affair to attend.
At the age of fourteen, Dior Merlin had learned how to deal with tenant-peasants and tax-collectors. She had been feeding her pleasure-obsessed father with money she made through hardship. The funny thing was, now she was at her seventeen’s and eligible to just find a guy and get married. What about her father? At such moments, Mr. Merlin could not help but feel powerless.
For those who chased after her, Dior Merlin treated them with an attitude like playing with pets. She even liked the way others complimented and praised her beauty and youth. She liked to watch their passionate eyes dim and even would give them proper encouragements at the moments when the guys almost lost their courages.
“Mom, are these so-called men? Are those noble?” When it was night and quiet, Dior Merlin would tear and gaze at her mother’s photo and ask, “Why would you marry a man like this?”
“No! I can’t be depressed!” Dior Merlin urged herself, “Tonight, I will make Joy beg for mercy like a Pekingese, then I will kick him away with laughter! I am the strongest and I will not lose to anyone!”
Ms. Merlin prepared her strategy and altered the position of her chair and made an extremely charming smile.
Then echoed the sounds of steps, which belonged to Mr. Joy. He approached.
“Did you find any witnesses?” Dior Merlin said with her cute voice, “Mr. Joy?”
“I’m sorry.” Mr. Joy said helplessly, “I did not.”
“I see…” Dior Merlin flirted with her folding fan, “I recall that many have been calling you ‘Sweetheart, darling, sweetie, bunny or piggie…’, am I right?”
Mr. Joy looked at Ms. Merlin’s flashy eyes and almost cried out.
“Oh! Ms. Merlin! Please believe me! I… I am very sincere!”
“But… how are you going to prove your sincerity?” Dior Merlin flashed her eyes, her curled eyelash flirted Mr. Joy’s heart.
“I… I…” Mr. Joy suddenly jumped onto the balcony fence, “I will jump from here, to prove my love for you!”
“Oh?” Dior Merlin took a look at the height and compared it with Mr. Joy’s guts, and said, “If you say so, I’ll be waiting in the room.”
Dior Merlin entered the room and sat in a chair close to the balcony and waited for Mr. Joy to come back in and apologize for his cowardliness.
Normally, Dior Merlin would have been right, that Mr. Joy possessed no courage to jump, though the balcony was not that high. However, there was another man, an all-black man, a man who wore black and a piece of black cloth covering his face.
The poor black man has been squatting there for quite a long time. It was unexpected that once this show started, it never ended. The time Dior Merlin has entered the room, the black man’s feet were already feeling numb.
“Luckily they will be gone soon… he’s gonna jump.” The black man felt relieved, “You shitty melon! I’ve gotta relax finally.”
But he waited and waited, Mr. Joy who stood on the fence did not show any intention to either jump or look backward. It was obvious that Mr. Joy was considering an important issue.
“You mother melon, just jump!” The black man cursed silently. Such feeling as ‘life’s notwithstanding squat’ was unbearable.
Mr. Joy was still considering “To jump or not to jump, that is the question”.
“I can’t do it…” The black man slowly stood up and rubbed his numbing calf and nearly fell over, “I don’t care…”
“If I jump, Ms. Merlin must definitely understand my feeling, but it’s too high…” Mr. Joy gazed at the ground as high as two persons combined, “I’d better go back and apologize to Ms. Merlin, but she would never forgive me…”
However, behind this destined unlucky Mr. Joy, a black clothes man whose eyes emitting green light raised his leg.
“You bitch… lingering here makes my legs asleep…” The black man shook his head and threw his foot, “Let me help you!”
Mr. Joy’s mouth widely opened, both of his hands pulled the hair and he cried in a sad manner as he fell.
The banquet was held on the first floor. The second floor was reserved for the guests as a resting area. At this moment, there was nobody on that floor. Dior Merlin who stayed in the room suddenly heard a servant yelled, “Mr. Joy jumped off the balcony!”
Although she did not know the reason Mr. Joy suddenly became such brave, Dior Merlin stood up and headed toward the balcony. She did not want anyone to die tonight, as she didn’t want anything to do with Mr. Joy because Mr. Joy’s parents were excruciatingly annoying.
On the balcony, the black man who kicked off Joy was in a good mood. He grinned and turned back then intended to get off the building and return home.
It was unexpected that he came across Ms. Merlin who came by. They now stood face to face.
Both of them were not prepared for this and unaware of what to do.
Dior Merlin reacted rapidly as she jumped backward and opened her mouth, ready to yell. The black man knew if she made a sound, he would be in trouble. So he rushed in at the moment Dior Merlin retracted then threw and fixed Ms. Merlin on the thick room carpet with one hand on her tiny mouth, the other pushed on her left hand.
Nevertheless, our Ms. Merlin’s right hand was still free. And now, she moved it.
The black man had no choice but to fix Dior Merlin’s right hand on the ground with his forehead. But Dior Merlin’s character did not allow her to give up without resistance. Thus she fiercely made use of her left hand to pull the black man’s hair, then her leg under the skirt swept toward the black man.
The black man grunted due to his hair being pulled. So he leveled his leg to block Dior Merlin’s attack. However, Ms. Merlin’s continued attacks kept coming. Thus the man in black simply just impatiently twisted Dior Merlin’s legs with his own.
The two were in a deadlock in such weird position.
Dior Merlin’s chest fluctuated heavily because never has a young man kept such a close distance from her body! She was fierce! So her hand that clenched on the man’s hair firmly.
The man in black was having a hard time as well. He gasped for air, his hair hurt that was pulled hard by Dior Merlin. Besides, he had to grab her right hand, seal her mouth, fix her left hand with the head as well as keep their legs twisted. The current pose was even harsher than the one he made squatting on the balcony.
Now, Dior Merlin could even kill a man with her look. She kept struggling, yet a girl’s strength was after all limited. Now long after, Dior Merlin was exhausted.
The black man felt the hand that grabbed his hair loosened, in order to show no intention to harm, his hand on Dior Merlin’s mouth loosened as well.
Now, Ms. Merlin was able to breathe with her mouth. She gasped and calmed down. Due to the black man’s covered face, she could only observe his face outline. The man too was watching her, emitting wish for peace from his eyes.
The two gazed at each other, their breaths smoothed and forces on hand became gentle. A peaceful way to fix this current issue is at hand.
“Ms. Merlin!” Someone knocked the door from outside, “Is everything alright?”
The man in black became again intense once he heard someone was here, his palm covered on Dior Merlin’s mouth tightened up. Then, of course, Ms. Merlin would not back down. Thus her hand that grabbed the man’s hair tightened as well. Both of their gazes became vicious and hostile, and the atmosphere on the balcony became tense once again.
“Ms. Merlin?” The one outside the door was unaware of what he said had caused such serious outcome, he kept knocking, “Ms. Merlin, is everything alright?”
To take a look at Dior Merlin, she too had strongly mixed feelings. She could choose to keep struggling, however, if she was seen by anyone who came in that she was forced into being twisted with a young male, she could never clear up with it. What she hated, even more, was this despicable man sealed her mouth. If she kept on the silence, the one outside will come in!
Thinking about that, Dior Merlin glared at the man in black.
The black man was ever so crying for bitterness. His head hurt, waist sore, feet numb… He thought for half a moment to know what she meant by looking at him like that.
He shook his head at Dior Merlin then slowly removed the hand from Dior Merlin’s tiny mouth, and reached the Black Iron dagger hidden on his calf.
“If this bitch screams, I must cut her throat…” The man told himself, though he was not sure he could do it.
“I’m fine.” Dior Merlin eased her mind and sided her head to tell the one outside, “I was tired and took a rest, what is it?”
“Oh, it’s alright.” The outside said, “Mr. Joy slipped off the building.”
“That’s unfortunate…” Dior Merlin said pitifully, “Is Mr. Joy wounded badly?”
“No, Master sent a carriage to take him back. You have your rest, I’ll call you in when the banquet is over.”
After talking with the servant, Dior Merlin turned and found the young man beside snickering. Though his face was covered, she could tell from his eyes, the man was snickering hard.
Dior Merlin glared at him again.
The man in black stopped the laugh and shook his head again. He let go of her hand and untwisted the legs.
Dior Merlin listed the black man’s hair and instantly pushed his chest. The two split.
“You dared to mock me!” The once lovely Dior Merlin now looked as fierce as a crazy she-wolf, “What right do you have to mock me, you coward thing to not face a lady!”
“Did I? Why do I not know?” The man in black acted as if he did not mind, “Oh! You are saying about earlier. I was laughing about that mister… As for your comment on me afraid of facing a woman, I think some other ladies have more right to speak.”
“Why did you laugh at him?” Dior Merlin knew by instinct that this man knew a lot about her.
“Oh… about the way he fell off, funny.” The man grinned and found himself a chair.
“You saw him jump?”
“Far more than seeing.” His eyes wandered around, “I kicked him off…”
“You…” Dior Merlin was speechless.
“A man like him, no, I can’t call him a ‘man’…” The man in black said lightheartedly, “What a balcony no higher than a toothpick, he just lingered there. I got impatient and annoyed, so I kicked in some extra help. By the way, when you see him someday, tell him ‘You are welcome.’”
“Aren’t you afraid that I will scream?” Dior Merlin felt helpless with a man like this, “You bloody murderer!”
“I don’t care. If you make a sound I’ll cut your throat… with this…” The man in black revealed a black dagger, “And flee.”
“Is this all you can do?” Ms. Merlin was not at all afraid of the dagger. Out of no reason, she just knew that this man will not hurt her, though he looked disliking.
“What do you expect, my lady?” The black man already found a path to go down the building, “Tie you up and smell your hair perfume? Or kiss your tempting lips… If you agree, I’m not gonna say no to take an even bigger advantage from you…”
“Rascal!” Dior Merlin grabbed a flower vase and smashed over, however, the vase was held against by the black man.
“Looks like an expensive bottle…” Man in black checked the way to get downstairs then considered the vase was much too large, thus he put it aside.
“Hey! Get me something…” The black man approached, “I don’t wanna come back empty handed.”
Dior Merlin flipped her hand and intended for another slap but shamefully got caught again.
“Err, headache.” The man in black dodged the lady’s another kick and conveniently took off her hairband, “This will make do.”
“You thief!” Dior Merlin reached out her hands, “Give it back!”
“Funny, you. Have you seen any robbers give their trophies back?” The black man put away the hairband, “See ya…”
Ms. Merlin helplessly watched this man jump over the window and. She felt suppressed.
“Say…” Who would expect the man’s head appeared again by the window, he asked, “What’s the place down here?”
Dior Merlin almost fainted out of anger. She replied roughly, “Kitchen!”
“Oh, got it!” The black man nodded, “Word of advice for you, wanna hear?”
Dior Merlin haughtily humphed.
“Loose the rapier, take this…” The man in black put a thing by the window and disappeared.
Dior Merlin watched the window waiting for the black man to show once more. She often came across such guys who would do anything to catch her attention. However, this man never reappeared.
She slowly approached the window, the black’s figure which was jumping over the garden fence caught in her eyes and disappeared into the darkness.
A scabbarded dagger was left on the windowsill.
Dior Merlin fetched the dagger and examined the craftsmanship. She was so sure that the dagger was forged by excellent dwarf forgers. She exclaimed lowly while slowly pulled out the blade. It was actually a black steel forged dagger. Dior Merlin was a businesswoman for years, she naturally knew the value of such a dagger, which was not supposed to be owned by ordinary noblemen.
On the dagger handle covered pieces of unknown fish skin wrapped by a thread. The way it was twisted was peculiar. Everything appeared to be special like their owner.
Who was… exactly this man in black?
Dior Merlin decided to come back to this question at home. She put away the dagger and found another hairband for her hair. Then she rearranged her evening dress and went downstairs to bid farewell to the hosts.
“Hey! Fischer! How was it?” Cohen Kheda merely took off his black outfit then saw Fischer, who was under the alias October, came in.
Fischer cried gloomily, “I won…”
“You’ve won, then why the weepy face?” Cohen raised his head and asked, “How much did you win?”
“Too much…” Fischer sighed, “I’ve got 4800 pieces of gold from Iva Merlin, give or take, along with the elder nine hundred more…”
“Ah…” Cohen blinked, “Didn’t you promise to control yourself?”
“I knew! It’s all your fault, your wine!” Fischer said, “When I sobered up, everybody’s face on the table was as white as sheets! Iva Merlin, he was too over his head, he cheated during the last round and was seen by us…”
“What did they say?”
“Will pay within ten days… nobody busts him out at the moment.” Fischer shook his head, “What now? This time people may die…”
Cohen called Jack in quickly and whispered to him. Jack left at once.
“You write a letter to Iva Merlin immediately. Tell him to extend payment date for another ten days. Besides, tell him, all believe that he was too drunk at the last few games, we forgive him!”
“Damn!” Mr. Kheda watched the night view from the window, “I wish for less trouble. I need to take a look.”
Dior Merlin hummed light solos and walked in foxtrot to cross the lengthy aisle in her mansion. Her one hand nipped the dress’ end, a scabbard dagger dangered on the other hand’s little finger.
She was going to say goodnight to her father, and ask about how much he lost tonight.
“Good evening, Miss.” Dior Merlin reached her father’s study door. The maidservant greeted her.
“Good evening! Is my father back?” Dior Merlin put a rose from the banquet into servant’s front pocket.
The maidservant smiled and accepted miss’ flower and said, “Yes, but he doesn’t seem happy.”
“Ah… no worries, let me talk with him. Take a rest, you. Thanks.” Dior Merlin was in good mood today and intended not to fight with her father tonight.
“Yes, miss.” The maidservant opened the door.
Dior Merlin entered her father’s chamber and saw a middle-aged man drinking on his study, a drowned gladius was presented on the desk.
“Did you lose again?” Dior Merlin walked close to him and took away her father’s glass, “I told you to give up on poker, that’s not a game for you.”
“Yes… I lost…” Iva Merlin swallowed on his bottle, “I lost everything.”
“Yeah? How much did you lose?” Dior Merlin asked. Her father would lose almost every other day.
Dior’s father did not reply, but fetched the blade and pointed toward his heart.
“Dior, you must help me…” He said, “Or I’m so screwed…”
Dior Merlin took a deep breath and was ready to accept the fact her father had lost a lot.
“Tell me, how much did you lose?”
Mr. Merlin said, “Dior, I am truly sorry…”
“How much is it?”
Iva Merlin held out four fingers and shook them.
“That’s outrageous! That’s ridiculous you lost forty pieces in one night! You know…”
Iva Merlin said miserably, “Not forty…”
“Is it four hundred!” Dior Merlin puffed her eyes, “That’s almost all our processions!”
Iva Merlin lowered his head and said in a barely noticeable voice, “Not four hundred…”
Dior Merlin slumped by the chair and felt powerless.
“If you don’t tell me how much you lost… I swear I’ll leave you from now…”
“I… lost…” Iva Merlin stared at the floor, “Nearly five thousand… golds…”
“I am sorry! I really am! I am really sorry!” Iva Merlin raised his head and gazed at his daughter.
“I knew this day will come, I just didn’t expect it’ll come so soon… we have to beg for a living now.” Dior Merlin was completely mad, “Mr. Baron! Have you thought about which street we are going?”
“More to that…” Out of reasons of either afraid of begging or regret for his daughter, Mr. Baron welled his eyes, “They saw me hiding cards…”
“I swear I didn’t do it on purpose! I drank too much.”
“You have to believe me! I didn’t mean to!”
“Go to hell!” Dior Merlin gazed at her father coldly and stood up, left the room.
Iva Merlin lowered his head once again.
“Bang” Dior Merlin kicked the door open and gathered the gladius, cane knife in the bookcase, spear hanged on the wall… everything that could end one’s life within a short time. Then she left again.
“You’d better go to back to sleep!” She stood by the door, “Tomorrow morning, if you are not dead, then get up and make me breakfast!”
“I AM YOUR FATHER!” Iva Merlin shouted, “YOU HAVE TO SHOW ME RESPECT!”
“SHUT UP!” Dior Merlin did not even bother to look back, “NOW I’M YOUR FATHER!”