At that moment, goosebumps rose all across the young lord’s skin and cold sweat dripped down his back.
Today’s Janus didn’t seem like the man he’d been with these past few days.
Though the mercenary merely smiled and stared at him–though there was no overt threatening behavior–Ayra’s instinct was sounding an alarm, urging him to run away immediately…

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    ‘Even another mage barely noticed the movement of mana; are you saying that he noticed that I’m reading his stat window?’

     What could ‘bad ending’ even mean? Janus seemed determined to harm Ayra on grounds of suspicion.
He was uncertain of what trickery–what magic–this mage had placed upon him.
Ayra’s heart throbbed with pain momentarily, but he ignored that for now.

     ‘I’m not too sure, but I’m half-confident.’

     Ayra pondered over the choices yet again.
If you change the subject, it’s a bad ending; deny it–bad ending.
Feigning ignorance leads to a bad ending as well.
In other words, the artificial spirit was currently warning Ayra that Janus was capable of causing a ‘bad ending’ for the young lord.

A very keen, capricious, and self-centered being…

     He could sense that even without the spirit’s warning.

     Drenched in cold sweat, Ayra decided on something after contemplating for a while.
Avoiding Janus’s gaze, he sent the mercenary sidelong glances as he began to speak in a hesitant voice.
His words slightly trembled.
“You could tell…that I played a trick on you?”

     “Hm?” At the unexpected answer, Janus raised his eyebrows.

     In order to remain calm, Ayra coughed in vain a few times, sighed, and then coyly winked at the other.
Then, he gently reached out his hand again.
His heart raced anxiously.
It was fortunate that he had a good excuse to disguise his poor acting skills.
“Why are you ignoring me? I think I’m going to stumble, so grab it.
Hurry.”

     Janus blatantly stared at Ayra’s white and beautiful hand before holding onto it.
The young lord stumbled into Janus as if he was staggered by the wind.
As thick arms wrapped firmly around his waist, Ayra automatically gasped.

     After staring bluntly at Ayra’s pale face, Janus asked in a languid voice, “So, you played a trick on me?”

“That’s right… You said it yesterday.
You asked if I hired you to guide me in order to seduce you.
You’re right.
That’s why I… messed around a little.” 1 With that said, Ayra closed the stat window.

     Pebble quickly dove and hid on his owner’s body.
The telepathic artificial spirit seemed relatively relieved, so Ayra reckoned he had made a good choice.

     “I wanted you to like me, so… Was I being too impolite?”

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     When Janus didn’t say anything, Ayra’s heart pounded faster.
Perhaps due to the atmosphere, Ayra felt as if the arms circling his waist were squeezing tighter and tighter.
Ayra bit his lips and continued, “Don’t you feel better about me…to some degree?”

     After speaking, the young lord looked up; Janus’s face was right there–right before his nose.
When Ayra swallowed his dry saliva, Janus chuckled.
His laugh carefully did not bare his teeth–it was as if the mercenary was stating that he’d generously forgive Ayra’s nonsense.
“Sure, I feel something like that…”

     “You feel something?” Ayra asked blankly.

     At that moment, the young lord felt as if his back were breaking–Janus had squeezed and embraced his hips hard enough to elicit a gasp from the young lord.
However, Ayra couldn’t moan even once; the other had pressed down upon him.
The soft touch of his lips consumed Ayra.
Startled, he opened his lips, and a tongue pushed through.
His heart was beating so loudly, and his head felt dizzy.

     His body heated up as if hot lava flowed in his blood vessels–perhaps he should blame the blood pouring forth from his pounding heart.
Ayra didn’t even notice that the earthquake was gradually fading away; he could only tremble his body.

     Finally, when Janus released him, Ayra shyly stood there, legs trembling.
He couldn’t blame the earthquake for those trembles this time either.

     “Fine–good.
I also liked you quite a lot.
I’ll forgive this sort of cute trick…” Janus said as he placed his hands on Ayra’s flushed cheeks.

     At those words, Ayra hesitated and called back the stat window as a test.
Once again, the mercenary seemed to notice when the window manifested–glancing briefly at its position in the air–but Janus didn’t react much.
Something definitely had changed, though.

 

[Janus Rehzedt’s Affection has increased by 1.]

[Current Affection: 2]

 

     ‘It did go up by one, at least… Alright, confessing your affection to someone, in both reality and in games, would be considered a standard attack strategy.’

Though Ayra smiled despondently inside, he took care not to show any of that emotion on the surface.
Janus looked at something past the collapsed wall, took his hand off of the young lord’s face, and withdrew.
Though the earthquake may have ended, the ground was still trembling trivially due to the aftershocks.

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     Janus narrowed his eyes in a smile.
“It seems I have to go now.
See you later, Ayra.”

     “Alright, Later…”

     Without even pausing to listen to him, Janus sprightly jumped over the collapsed wall and left.
Even though the wall was half-collapsed, it was still the height of an adult man.
The mercenary’s movements were light and efficient, though.

     After staring blankly at Janus–as the man disappeared from view–Ayra sighed and sat down where he stood.
After he calmed his pounding heart, he looked around and groaned.

    The earthquake may have only lasted two or three minutes, but the consequences were great.
A large part of the ramparts was completely destroyed.
Ayra stood up, giving one last lamenting look to the ruins of the castle wall.
He finally recalled where he had seen the clover symbol at the steamed bun shop.

     He hurried along the chaotically messy road.
His foot was caught in the debris–and he nearly fell a couple of times–but, he didn’t care.
When he finally reached the store and confirmed what he had been searching for, his eyes widened.
Even in the aftermath of such a strong earthquake, the signboard was still intact, hanging and swaying.

     But it wasn’t like that in Ayra’s dream.

     He recalled the nightmare he had shortly after unlocking his power: the nightmare in which the Solar territory collapsed and burned to ashes.
The four-leaf clover sign that fell at his feet…and the monsters that chased after him…

     ‘It’s as if that were some terrifying premonition.’

     Not all mages had predictive dreams.
Was it different for mages that have awakened to non-physical abilities? But, his own awakened abilities were nowhere close to that sort of magic field, wasn’t it? Still, something felt wrong about dismissing his dream as mere coincidence.

     Ayra’s gaze naturally turned towards the white castle that belonged to the ruling family of this land.
Fortunately, thanks to some mage’s contribution to the castle’s construction, the castle did not appear to have suffered much damage at a surface glance.

It was at that moment–a new notification window had popped up.

     Above the pure white castle, a huge, crackling notification window–large enough that it couldn’t be ignored–had manifested.
Ayra’s eyes, which looked like pure silver in the sunlight, trembled.
He couldn’t believe what he had just read, so he read the notification over and over again, rubbing his eyes.

     However, the contents of the notification window didn’t change.
Letters that only Ayra could see cast a faint yet gigantic shadow over the city.

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[D-234 days until Solar Estate’s ruin.]

 

     “There’s 234 days until the destruction of the territory…?” Dumbfounded with surprise, Ayra, lips still swollen from Janus’s rough kisses, muttered.

 

5 minutes before chaos

      As Ayra hurried back to the castle, the ground kept rumbling from the earthquake aftershocks.
Though the citizens seemed slightly panicked, Ayra saw, as he returned, that no one seemed seriously injured.
Ayra’s gaze wandered from the dust-covered citizens to the gigantic notification alert atop the fortress castle.

 

[D-234 days until the Solar Estate’s ruin]

 

      Ayra bit his lips slightly, red blood trickled from his swollen lips.

     ‘Though this may have borrowed a game system’s structure, we’re not within a game.
That means there must be people who aim to destroy this land.’

      Faint lines formed on the young lord’s forehead as his gaze grew sharp.
Who would want to destroy this land? His guess, that someone may have deliberately orchestrated his family’s murder, had gained more credibility.
Again, he recalled his dream of the devastated territory.

     When he arrived at the castle, several people–including Ginas, the knight commander, finance minister, and administrators–were having a grave conversation.
When Ayra, who was supposed to be within the castle, entered through the main gate, everyone’s eyes widened.

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      Startled, Ginas rushed to Ayra, “Ayra-nim! Just where have you been?”

“Just went outside for a brief moment.
More importantly, the lower walls have completely fallen.
Some private residences have been destroyed as well.”

     At Ayra’s explanations, Ginas’s face darkened with concern.
It seems like the news of the wall’s collapse had not yet reached this place.
“Understood.
Since we don’t know when another earthquake will happen, it’d be best if you’d stay inside.
Sir Bloom, take Ayra-nim to his bedroom safely…”

     Ayra stepped forward, blocking Ginas from calling Bloom to escort him inside.
“No.
I have no intention of returning to my room.
First, we should send down the knights and soldiers for repairs.
After that, we should hold the succession ceremony immediately.”

In the face of the earthquake disaster or the D-234 days ruin notification window, there was little time for manners or courtesy.
He needed to sit in the Lord’s seat as soon as possible and gain the lay of the land.

      However, Ginas’s response did not showcase his willingness to hurriedly fulfill Ayra’s orders.
“However, it hasn’t been long since the previous lord has died…”

     “My late father would have wanted me, his child and legitimate heir, to succeed as soon as possible and stabilize this tumultuous territory.”

     When Ginas seemed troubled and hesitated strangely, Ayra shot him a suspicious and inquiring gaze at him.
No matter how the governor may act as the lord’s proxy in this situation, the governor would still not be able to exercise all the lordly rights.
The absence of a proper lord in this disastrous situation could lead to fatal consequences.
Now that the territory walls have collapsed, the territory is vulnerable to external dangers.

     Thus, trying to postpone the succession ceremony was quite suspicious.
The young governor seemed to realize that; he bit his lips and responded, “Yes.”

     “Then, let’s deal with the current situation first and begin the succession ceremony.”

 

 

TL: 234 days left~
And whew, so much danger/work for just 1 point of affection increase T_T

수작을 부렸어, the phrase used here, has a double meaning.
It can mean to play a trick/mess around in a sense where one harms another…or it could mean playing hard to get (playing tricks) in a relationship.
Ayra is playing on that double meaning. 

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