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It won't do. No one can replace Arthur. Not even the man in front of her.
A sharp needle p.r.i.c.kled her chest. Her lips trembled together with her voice. Tears begin to drop. She quickly wiped the droplets away but the tears won't stop gushing out.
"It's alright now. It won't happen again."
Duarte pulled her into a gentle embrace and repeated his consoling words again.
"That incident will never happen again."
Concern showed on his face. He did not understand why he is feeling this way, but there's one thing he is sure of. She brought change to his jet-black heart.
He refuse to believe it. He refuse to admit it.
The evening breeze rustled the leaves. Lin Ling finally calmed down. Standing next to him, her breathing finally went back to normal.
The sunlight shone through the white curtains and into the sweet-smelling room. It awoke the girl who had barely slept enough. When she opened her eyes, it was already a new day. She put on some clothes and walked to the window. Lin Ling then pulled the curtains. Although it is now late autumn, the sun in Rome is still bright and warm.
She does not like the sun here.
It was too hot. Too extravagant.
She heard a crunching noise, and the door swung open. Lin Ling turned her head towards the sound instinctively. It was Percival who came in with her breakfast. He put down her meal and rather than leaving, he stayed put and hesitatingly asked.
"Did anything happened at the palace yesterday?"
Lin Ling was surprised at first. Duarte would probably not tattle the incident to anyone else, so she shook her head in panic.
"I'm fine. Why?"
"Oh, okay then."
He turned to leave, but stopped as soon as he got to the doorway.
"The emperor fancies foreign girls, so..."
He sighed quietly.
"As long you're fine, then everything is good."
She remembered the warning he gave her before she left, and warmth filled her heart. She blurted out her thanks to him.
He did not reply her. Percival merely left the room and was about to lock the door when she heard Duarte's voice.
"Wait a moment."
Since he saved her yesterday, Lin Ling's evaluation of the Dark Duke is somewhat better now. Thus, she was not as hateful towards him compared to their previous meetings.
"Lin Ling, are you feeling better today?"
He seems to be in a good mood today.
That horrifying scene flashed in front of her eyes for a brief moment.
"About that, thank you for saving me."
"Then, what do you plan to do now?"
He did not mince his words to ask for her decision. He slowly approached the girl and whispered next to her ear.
"You've seen how 'great' our emperor is. If you refuse to join my side, I can't guarantee your safety the next time it happens again. So heal up quickly and fight this war with me. Together, we will defeat England. Once we are powerful enough, it is not impossible to topple this country's king. Wrench the highest seat of this country, and no one can harm you anymore."
His voice was impressively convincing. It was almost impossible to refuse.
However, Lin Ling was reminded of Percival's earlier words. Anger erupted in her heart. The hotness spread upwards and into her head. She was very, very mad.
"Duarte, you b.a.s.t.a.r.d! If Xiao Per knew of the emperor's perverted fetish himself, then you should have been aware of it all this while! Why did you dress me up to meet your king? Why did you conveniently disappear when that pervert appeared in the room?! And you came to the rescue just in time! It all matches up! It all makes sense now! Everything happened according to your plan!"
She spat them all out in one breath. When he was still struggling to rebuke her accusation, she swiftly unsheathed his sword and held it by his neck.
"Let me go! Now! Or I'll kill you where you stand!"
He was surprised, but it was only for a moment. He wore back his usual calm expression.
Lin Ling gingerly walked him to the door. The guards by the doorway was shocked to see the scene.
They were about to act, but stopped when Duarte signalled them not to act rashly. They had no choice but to watch Lin Ling walk scot free with her captive.
At the end of the gallery, Duarte suddenly stopped in front of a white vase.
"Duarte, you better not be playing tricks on me, or I will really kill you."
Lin Ling warned him, and her hand moved true to her words.
"That's right, Lin Ling. Do you wish to know why Arthur and his companions have forgotten about you?"
Her hand twitched. "What?"
"To tell the truth, I..."
He did not complete his sentence. Instead, Duarte took the chance when Lin Ling was stunned from his words and s.n.a.t.c.hed his sword away from her. He did not forget to twist her arm as well.
She did not know where the surge of her courage came from, but in retaliation, she stepped hard on his foot. Lin Ling quickly got free once his hold weakened, and kicked her a.s.sailant at his abdomen. She then ran away with all her strength.
"Men! Block the exit!"
He yelled out his orders while in pain.
The surrounding guards jumped to action. All h.e.l.l break loose.
Noticing the blocked path, her only choice is to find a place to hide. While she was running around at the top floor, she saw a boring-looking room and quickly entered without putting much thought to it.
As soon as she did, she surveyed the room. It was indeed an unremarkable room. However, surrounded by a circle of candlesticks, lies a box. There was nothing else in this room.
She took a slow gait towards the box, and peeked inside. She was stunned as she took in what she just saw.
Placed in the middle of the candlestick was none other than her missing phone!
"Ring ring ring..."
Just when doubt washed over her, her phone rang...