「It's hard to play against a woman... but don't take it personally!」
Swoosh! Jerome's foot swipe is about to knock Fransisca's shin off her feet.
But, with a leap, Fransisca drew her sword with a slick motion.
She swings away with a single flick of her translucent, pale tip. Then, a wind rises up, almost blowing the small room away.
Along with the sound of the wind, Jerome's body also gets blown away.
He should have been hit hard against the wall, but he curled up, kicked the wall with his feet, and landed on the ground.
Fransisca, on the other hand, also puts her feet on the floor, swings the tip of her sword diagonally downward, and readjusts her stance to a half-body posture.
Her feet are aligned, and only the tip of the sword she has lowered points toward Jerome.
The mild amethyst gaze now turns sharply toward Jerome.
"—Heeh," Jerome smiles.
「I see. You surely are a good fighter... good enough to conquer the Avalon and to subdue our Vice Knight Commander...!」
Jerome fell to his knees and slammed his fists on the floor.
「...I hear you're not an opponent to be trifled with! But...oh, it's a shame. If I had a sword in my hand now, I would never be as far behind as you are...!」
「I am honored by your compliments.」
「I'm not beaten yet, either!」
Jerome swung his fist upward from the ground.
The next moment, at Fransisca's feet, there is a sizzling sound and an impact is created on the floor.
Fransisca staggered back with her foot caught in it while her eyes blinked.
「You're the one who was distracted!」
Jerome kicked the ground from his low position and leaped toward Fransisca again.
Then, taking hold of her slender hips, he pushes her down with all his weight.
Fransisca's shoulders hit the floor with a thud. However, she escaped the blow by lifting the back of her head.
Fransisca stops breathing.
Seeing her arms tightly grasped, Jerome exhaled and a smile appeared on his lips.
「Just because I don't carry a weapon doesn't mean you should be careless, right?」
「...I didn't expect you. I didn't know you could do magic.」
Fransisca stared into Jerome's green eyes at close range.
「Alexis-sama can't use it. And neither will the other guardians and attackers. I thought that's what Krangal's people thought.」
"Of course," Jerome smiled.
「Certainly the Krangal are like that. Except for mages, they basically never learn magic. But I am different. I have a talent for fighting, but I am not proud of it. However, I want to be as strong as possible. That is why—」
「I see. I admire your ambition. But I'm not going to let you through here.」
「What do you think you can do now?」
「...my purpose has not yet been defeated」
When Fransisca answered clearly, Jerome looked puzzled and then laughed.
「...Haha. You're right, indeed. I'm definitely stuck in this room.」
Jerome's grip on Fransisca's arm tightened.
「But what can you do now? Since you are lying on the ground like this, don't you think you are a rat in the bag? For example—Well, now I can do what I want with you. Like this.」
Fransisca tried to resist, but it was a man and a woman. She was forced into a banzai, but there was no way she could overcome the force of the man's arms.
「—You're so rude..!!」
Fransisca shouted as soon as she could.
Surely, even an ignorant girl like her could sense that Jerome was thinking. What he is thinking now. Where he is looking. Because Alexis has taught her so much.
Now, she glares at him sharply and says in a stout voice, "Let go of me!".
「Is that how you treat the princess of a nation?」
「Not a nation. An exiled country, right. Well—Sagrado Kingdom, which is barely allowed to exist by our country, is essentially an exile! In the first place, you are allowed Alexis to exist...!」
Jerome's eyes are filled with a color of hatred.
He looked down on his brother with a deep-seated disdain—Fransisca was disgusted by the man in front of her as soon as she realized it.
「You don't understand. Alexis-sama's—his good qualities, you can't possibly understand! You cannot understand what happened when you first met me, when you spoke such joking words as 『fate』!」
Fransisca kicked Jerome's legs, trying to pull him off of her.
Jerome must have been caught off guard, because for a while Fransisca only resisted by talking or shaking his hands away. He raised his foot and drove it right into his heart.
Pushing Jerome, who was pale and crouched down, Fransisca got up.
She pointed her sword at Jerome again and looked down at him.
「Please be quiet. If you do anything more, I will have to stab you with my sword!」
Fransisca said firmly, but Jerome just cowered and shivered, refusing to move.
「Hmm... Jerome, sama...?」
"What's wrong?" Fransisca blinked at him.
「...Ah. Just be quiet for a moment...」
Jerome said in an anguished voice, and Fransisca shut her mouth with a start.
Jerome was cowering, holding his crotch.
Fransisca knew that her leg had hit the spot cleanly, but she could not understand why he was writhing so much.
「Oh, um... Are you okay...?」
She was just trying to shake him off.
But Jerome was cowering and didn't move.
（What should I do...）
Fransisca was at a loss for a while.
She thought about calling a maid to take him to the infirmary, but she could not let him out of this room. That is what Alexis wanted... or should have wanted.
In the end Fransisca kept her sword ready and waited for Jerome to get up.
This was not meant to be a big deal. But this must have been Alexis' order.
（Then, even if Jerome-sama doesn't get up, I wonder if I can do something by talking to him...）
It was at that time when she was thinking like this. Just then, a knocking sound was heard at the door.
The door was opened with a bang without a sound.
It was Eden who entered Jerome's room.
Eden was wearing armor and an armet. Because of this, it is difficult to see what kind of expression she has on her face.
But the fact that she came back here means...
（My mission is over, isn't it? Thank God...）
Fransisca is relieved.
As she was about to put her sword away, Jerome, who had been crouched down a moment ago, looked up sharply and said, "Eden!".
「Get this impudent bitch down!」
Jerome looked completely furious.
Eden looked back at Fransisca just as Fransisca put down her sword.
Fransisca, who was facing a fully equipped guardian, took a step back, knowing that she would surely not be able to beat her by sheer force.
Sure enough, Eden grabbed both of Fransisca's arms and caught her firmly behind her back.
However, Eden is silent.
What happened between her and Alexis? Fransisca could not read.
「Eden. Keep the princess at bay. She insulted me twice...! But I forgive this woman, with an open heart. If she agrees to be mine.」
Jerome smiled as he stepped closer.
Fransisca was taken aback.
「...Didn't you say that it is wrong to touch other people's vassals?」
Jerome looked doubtful.
「You are not a vassal of anyone, are you?」
「...Jerome-sama. I belong to Alexis-sama.」
Fransisca confided readily.
Now it was Jerome's turn to be amused.
「...You joke very well, princess.」
「No, I'm not joking, Jerome-sama. I belong to him.」
Fransisca repeated in a mild manner.
The reason for this attitude was that Eden had not strengthened her hand too much to seize Fransisca.
（...She didn't do this seriously...? So, I can get out...?）
While Fransisca was thinking this, Jerome's face changed color again.
His brow is furrowed, and it is obvious that he is frustrated.
It seems that the princess has been deceived by Alexis for a long time. Do not be fooled! He is cunning and cowardly. It is a well-known story in Krangal.
「Is it? I did not hear that when the King talked about the sixth prince.」
「I'm sure the princess has heard of it. He's a unique character to our Krangal royal family—not a hint of royalty, just a bigwig...」
「Yes. The king was very happy when he talked about it.」
Fransisca answered with a smile.
Jerome could not help but feel his irritation building up at her nonchalant attitude.
Jerome finally shouted.
「You are so devoted to Alexis because you only know my brother! So, you just don't know how good I am! Let me show you my goodness...!」
Jerome stepped closer.
Fransisca clenched her fist, while Eden held her arms.
（...Jerome-sama is definitely not in his right mind right now. Now that I have done my part, I have to get out of here. But how do I get out of here?）
Fransisca's lips are tightened, and she makes a pause. That's when it happened.
「...Master... I think it's time to go. It's not like you.」
Jerome stopped moving as Eden said this in a muffled voice.
「What are you talking about, Eden?」
Eden stops talking, as if she has come to her senses.
"You're the one who's not acting like one!" Jerome shouted at her.
「Normally you wouldn't talk back to me. Maybe you need a refresher course?」
Eden was silent again.
Jerome's mouth breaks into a smile at the sight of the silent.
「—Okay, okay. That's enough!」
Eden let go of Fransisca's arm and whispered "...I'm sorry, Princess," so softly that only Fransisca could hear it.
Fransisca blinked and looked back at Eden.
Eden pushes her back and leads her out the door.
Jerome turns to Eden and smiles at her with the same calm smile he has always had. No. In the depths of his smile, there is a simmering passion hidden.
「You know what you have to do now, don't you? Let the reeducation begin, Eden.」
Jerome says in a calm voice.
Eden nodded quietly and reached for her helmet and took it away.
With her vague scarlet gaze toward his feet, she thinks.
（...Master... He doesn't ask me anything. What his brother did to me, what happened to me. ...Master is preoccupied with what is in front of him）
Eden sighs softly as she slowly takes off her armor in front of Jerome.
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