TWB (Novel) Chapter 136

C136

That was Bianca's conclusion. Even if she had to endure the pain of losing him twice, she vowed not to succumb helplessly to reality.

Wolves don't eat the meat given to them by humans, even if they are thin from hunger. A sentinel and wild pride make them rise.

People have always thought of Bianca as a fox.

With a delicate and sensitive nature, she shook Zachary from top to bottom. All she did was convince Zachary to get what he wanted...

That was the same evaluation even after she assumed her duties as a countess and revealed herself as a saint.

But she was the wife of a wolf.

The wife of a wolf is also a she-wolf.

Did she become a wolf by supporting her husband to protect Arno, or was she a wolf that snuggled up from the beginning? In the midst of everyone's confusion, Bianca continued speaking.

"The life or death of the Count is unclear, but we have the next Count Arno.

The next Count Arno!"

Everyone knew what that meant.

Everyone's eyes changed at the existence of a new life that could become a successor. In the midst of dark clouds, a ray of hope descended.

Bianca noticed the people's will in the territory shifting. The thin fingers holding the skin tightened. She had to make a final statement. Bianca took a breath. The dry smell of the winter wind penetrated her nostrils.

Bianca leaned forward and braced herself against the railing. So that everyone in the territory could see the despair on her face.

She shouted as loud as she could, drawing strength from the depths of her lungs.

"So, raise your swords for Arno! Pick up your bows! No matter if it's a rock! As long as you have strength in your hands, take everything you can and defeat them!"

"Whoaaaaaa!"

Bianca's desperation ignited them once more. In response to Bianca's will, everyone raised their hands to the sky and shouted. The cry was so loud it gave her goosebumps.

Just as Bianca had made a decision, the servants also made a decision. It wasn't just the fear of defeat that shook them with Zachary's death.

Now that the master is gone, the reality is that no matter how hard they fight, they had no reason to continue this war!

They needed a focal point, a symbol...

And Bianca provided that justification. For the next Arno and for their future.

The Arno territory didn't give up.

------

So the war extended to a long-term one. Vincent, who counted the food reserves, gave the positive news that they could still survive for another three months.

The servants were also filled with enthusiasm. Everyone got to work.

Rather, it was Jacob's side that was annoyed. No matter how long he waited, the Arno territory showed no intention of surrendering, so he felt frustrated.

When your head is confused, your hands and feet are too. Jacob made repeated mistakes because his hands and feet didn't move correctly.

That didn't mean Arno would win. It was literally like a taut rope, or a balance that barely held. If even a small weight were lifted on this side, the balance would soon be disturbed.

Both Jacob and Arno tried to put their own weights. He sent messengers to everyone who could be attracted as reinforcements. However, as everyone went out to support the war on the border, there was hardly any positive response.

Whose reinforcements would arrive first?

Amidst the slow-escalating war situation, a cloud of dust rose from the horizon beyond the distant plain. It seemed that an army had arrived.

As expected, the cavalry soldiers raced towards the Arno estate. The sentinel who was observing the situation from the top of the tower saw it and shouted loudly.

"Reinforcements! Reinforcements are approaching!"

"From whom?"

Upon hearing the sentinel's report, Bianca urgently asked. But the sentinel didn't immediately give an answer. Due to the considerable distance, it was impossible to immediately discern who the opponent was.

"It's still far. If they come a little closer, I think I'll be able to make out the origin of the reinforcements."

The sentinel focused and looked towards the horizon. Everyone nervously swallowed their saliva. The brief moment felt unusually long.

Blanchefort? Some vassal of Jacob? Or the Paladins?

Bianca or Jacob, which side would they support?

The tense soldiers' necks trembled violently. It is not an exaggeration to say that the victory or defeat of the war depended on the strength of those reinforcements, so it was natural for them to be anxious.

After a while, the sentinel gasped. Upon recognizing the family's flag, he immediately shouted loudly.

"Black wolf!"

The black wolf is the symbol of the Arno family. The eyes of everyone who heard the sentinel's cry widened like lamps. Bianca too. Her heart began to beat strongly.

"It's the Arno family's flag!"

It was something to be happy about because it was not Jacob's ally, but Bianca felt even more anxious. It was because she would confront whether Zachary was alive or not much earlier than expected.

Maybe Zachary is still alive... No, don't hope too much. Maybe it's just Robert and Sauveur returning...

She tried to remain calm, but the hope that once sprouted shook her.

And Bianca was not the only one with such expectations. Vincent, who was beside her, also urged the sentinel.

"Who is leading the vanguard army?"

"...A wolf."

"A wolf?"

The sentinel rubbed his eyes and looked at the reinforcements again and again in this unbelievable situation.

Was what he was seeing really true? But what he saw did not change.

As soon as he was convinced of what he had seen, he hurriedly shouted.

"It's a carved helmet of a wolf. It's the Count's helmet!"

The sentinel's jubilant cry echoed through the Arno castle. The corners of the sentinel's mouth twisted ridiculously.

Bianca looked at the sentinel expressionlessly, not comprehending. No, it felt unbelievable.

The sentinel was also acutely aware of Bianca's feelings. In this castle, the most heart-wrenching thing he has seen in his life is probably Bianca's current state. The sentinel smiled widely.

Then, with confidence, he told Bianca.

"The Count, the Count is here!"

----------

Before going to the Calya forest to verify the authenticity of the lace brought by Viscount Huegh, who arrived at the border, a lengthy debate arose in the headquarters about whether it was right to enter an obviously trap-laden place.

The situation was questionable, but Zachary was stubborn. It was a stubbornness that did not waver even though he knew it was suspicious, making it nearly impossible to convince him.

At least knowing that Bianca was not involved would give him a more flexible plan to defend against the trap. As much as he knew that, the breadth of his thinking was narrow.

At that moment, there was one person who took the lead. Unexpectedly, it was Sauveur.

"Hold on a moment."

"What's the matter, Sauveur?"

"The lace... Can I take a look at it for a moment?"

"What do you mean by looking at it?" Everyone who didn't understand Sauveur's words had a perplexed expression on their faces.

But there must be some reason for Sauveur to say that. Zachary gladly handed the lace handkerchief to Sauveur.

Sauveur looked at the lace pattern with a furrowed brow. Sauveur's complexion, who had been observing the lace for a long time, brightened up.

"This... It's not something Madam wears. Madam made it as a gift. The edges are different."

Everyone murmured upon Sauveur's confirmation. They wondered how Sauveur knew that.

As a commoner, Sauveur was far from having knowledge about luxury. It was strange for such a Sauveur to remember lace edge patterns. Confused, Robert asked foolishly.

"How do you know that?"

"I often watched from the side when Madam made lace. I think Gaspard knows too. He used to mention it in passing. He probably didn't say it thinking this would happen..."

Sauveur responded with an air of self-importance. He spoke condescendingly, but the reality was that he could only catch glimpses of it when he went to fetch snacks.

Of course, it wasn't that Sauveur distinguished the lace pattern in detail. Fortunately, it was a type of pattern he had seen, so it was quick to understand. Anyway, he got lucky this time.

Zachary asked, frowning as he looked at the lace.

"So, is this a gift then?"

"Yes. Madam made a distinction between items for personal use, for gifts, and for patterns given to the maids. She said it was to mark the difference... There were very few laces she made for herself. Among them, the lace used by Madam herself is a very intricate and sophisticated pattern. This is not hers at all."

---------

Bianca had differentiated it to the point where Sauveur could be certain. She may have just been trying to differentiate between premium items and supply for sale, but fortunately, she was able to distinguish them.

Zachary once again calmly observed the lace. He remembered the lace handkerchief Bianca had tied to his arm during the joust. The handkerchief was so heavenly and splendid that it couldn't be compared to the current one.

This one was also eye-catching, but it was definitely simpler than Bianca's usual style.

"Of course..."

When Zachary agreed with Sauveur's words, everyone around him was startled. They thought they were all the same, but they never imagined that Bianca would have her own system and rules.

The one who was particularly surprised was Marceau. Marceau noticed Bianca's deliberate attempt to promote the lace business.

Bianca's work was not for sale. It could only be obtained through friendship... People would fight to get lace from the general supply, but those who obtained it would fight to get the lace produced by Bianca. And the only way to get that superior lace was to please Bianca.

Not just among women. Men who wanted to gift lace to their wives or lovers would also follow Zachary.

Even now, the influence of the Arno family was great, but only out of fear caused by Zachary's prestige. Bianca's lace would shift their influence towards a softer side.

"As expected, it was the right choice to suggest Catherine become friends with Bianca," Marceau thought after seeing her dealing with Viscount Volne at the banquet hall. Marceau clicked his tongue.

When it became clear, given the circumstances, that Bianca was not involved in this, Zachary let out a sigh of relief.

"So, who is the owner of this handkerchief?"

"As far as I know, the only ones who have received a lace handkerchief as a gift are the royal family, including Princess Odelli, the queen, and the crown princess. Oh, there's also the Archbishop of Lahoz."

It was Robert who answered. Although Gaspard was Bianca's full-time escort, it was the job of the three commanders to worry about Bianca's security. Since they never knew when her escort would change, Gaspard reported on all of Bianca's movements to some extent.

Henry, who had been silently listening to the story because he knew nothing about Bianca or the lace, spoke up late.

"If it's the lace handkerchief that the saint gave to the Archbishop of Lahoz, it's already in the Vatican. It was offered as a holy item."

"Then someone must have stolen the royal handkerchief."

Robert nodded. As soon as the outline of the truth was revealed to some extent, Henry's complexion, who had been worried about the saint's safety in his heart, cleared up. Henry insisted sternly.

"I'm glad it turned out that the saint has nothing to do with this. There's no need for the Count to enter a dangerous place. Let's punish Viscount Huegh right now for disturbing the order."

"One moment."

Marceau intervened.

"Stealing a royal handkerchief is a matter of bribing a maid... Could Viscount Huegh have done this alone?"

Everyone shook their heads simultaneously, as if they had planned it. The Viscount Huegh they knew was an incompetent man full of greed and pride. They all gathered to talk about Viscount Huegh's shortcomings.

"...Viscount Huegh is not capable of that."

"Besides, he's a bit of a coward. It would definitely be strange for him to show up in person."

Marceau nodded. That wasn't the only strange thing.

"Moreover, using the handkerchief to lure Count Arno and trap him... The plan itself is simple enough for even a child to think of, but there was a prerequisite that could cause concern in this plan."

"What is it?"

"The belief that Count Arno never moves. But did Viscount Huegh even consider that?"

The relationship between Viscount Huegh and Zachary, as everyone knew, was not good. All these proposals from Huegh would be subject to suspicion.

So it was important for this plan to get Zachary out of the way despite knowing it was a trap, using Bianca's security as a means.

But Viscount Huegh is a selfish person. Can he really think about the feeling of moving out of fear for his wife's safety?

A man can only see as much as his container. This plan was not made by Viscount Huegh. Someone had to turn Viscount Huegh into a puppet...

Marceau lowered his eyes and muttered quietly. It was a strong remark, and there was a great commotion.

"Viscount Huegh belongs to the faction of the second prince."

"Do you think Viscount Huegh could have been ordered by the second prince?"

"No way. Besides, aren't we in the middle of a war with Aragon right now? What will happen if Lord Arno, who is in charge of the border, is defeated and Aragon devours Sevran?"

Henry was perplexed. His common sense couldn't comprehend Jacob's behavior. Marceau asked, stroking his smooth chin.

"But don't we prefer to check? It would be good to expose the true enemy hidden in the fog."

"How?"

"By doing what they want."

Everyone was surprised by Marceau's simple words. Robert cautiously expressed his concern.

"There will be an ambush."

"We already knew there would be an ambush. So, wouldn't it be possible to prepare enough? Rather, you could strike them from behind."

"Mmm..."

Marceau asked Zachary. Zachary, who had been silently listening to the story until now, groaned softly and slammed the table.

Seeing that Zachary didn't take his offer too negatively, Marceau added with a smile.

"And what if Count Arno pretends to fall into their trap and die?"

"Die?"

"Yes. If they believe the count is dead, Viscount Huegh will surely run to someone, and it will be clearer if we follow him. Besides, he will be careless. Wouldn't it be better to strike the enemy from behind?"

At Marceau's suggestion, Zachary crossed his arms and pondered.

Marceau's conjecture was correct.

Zachary also believed that Jacob would be behind Viscount Huegh. Bianca also said that Jacob was responsible for all of this. Moreover, she warned him to be careful of assassination attempts.

If it is discovered that Jacob used Viscount Huegh to trap Zachary, he may not be able to get rid of him, but he could chain his feet. At least he could get him out of the capital.

And it would be easy to deal with him since he would be away from the capital. Zachary had nothing to do with that kind of thing, but he was willing to get his hands dirty if his opponent was Jacob.

His hostility towards Jacob wasn't solely because of Bianca's words that Jacob had killed him in a past life.

Zachary vividly remembered what Jacob had done to Bianca. The blue bruise that remained on her forearm...

"Kill him. It's okay to pretend it was the enemy's fault."

What Bianca had repeated over and over again. The opportunity to do what she had asked for opened before his eyes. So he had to do it. Zachary nodded cheerfully with an attitude that couldn't be more relaxed.

"Alright. If that's the case, we'll have to figure out where the enemy could have set up an ambush. Robert, bring me the map of Calya Forest right away."

-----------

After that, things unfolded as expected.

As soon as the vanguard led by Zachary entered deep into the center of Calya Forest, the enemy attacked them. The path was deep and narrow, so the vanguard became isolated, and the enemy surrounded them.

Viscount Huegh saw the opening and escaped. Zachary deliberately let him go but hid in a safe place, boasting of his intelligence.

A rain of arrows fell upon Arno's troops, who were driven into a dead end. Knowing this, they all went with shields to defend themselves from the arrows.

They exchanged glances under the shield they held over their heads.

They intentionally shuffled the lines so that the enemy could believe they were terrified by the unexpected attack.

And while they searched for the right moment, Zachary deliberately fell as if he had been struck by an arrow in the middle.

"Count!"

"Count Arno!!"

When everyone around Zachary, including Zachary's entourage, shouted his name and embraced him, it was Viscount Huegh who widened his eyes in surprise.

"Are you alright, Count?"

"H-He's not breathing!"

"It's impossible!"

The viscount's head felt dizzy from the shocking news he could hear even from a distance. He couldn't believe that "that" Zachary had died so easily. His heart was beating rapidly. Did he truly kill Zachary with his own hands?

The chaos of the battle prevented him from accurately understanding the situation. However, only the atmosphere made it clear that Zachary's condition was grave. Soldiers gathered around Zachary. For a moment, he saw Zachary, drenched in blood.

Ha!

Zachary was not yet dead, but it seemed evident that he would die soon. An unfamiliar exhilaration enveloped Viscount Huegh. A sense of achievement shook him more than reason. It was the second time in his life that he had overcome Zachary, following the succession and subsequent expulsion.

The corners of Viscount Huegh's lips, intoxicated by the situation, curved upwards. In his mind, a plausible image of himself standing over Arno appeared like a dream.

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