Episode 9: A Bet and An Oath (II)

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It must be something he wanted to confirm in front of their mother.

“You are a very faithful son.
Are you giving back the love you received?”

Deltinus’ sharp voice cut in.
Yulif narrowed the distance between him and Deltinus.
After stopping at a reasonable distance, Deltinus tilted his head and looked up at the sky.

“You think I hate you for no reason?”

“No.”

“What do you mean ‘No’? No reason? Or is it about me hating you?”

Well, which one?

Even Yulif, who thought about it, did not know which one it was.
Maybe both.

Deltinus revealed this and laughed silently.
He bent down and touched the polished tombstone.

“It wasn’t that I hated you from the beginning.
Although I was envious of my handsome brother, I didn’t want to kill him.
Because we were good friends with each other in the Imperial Palace, where people of our age are not common.”

“Is that so?”

A story he had no interest in.

Yulif answered roughly.
He actually hated the reality of needing to face Deltinus like this right now.
But he had no choice but to be patient.

“Well, yes.
Today I will tell you about a moment that made me hate you.”

Deltinus faced Yulif and draped his hips on the tombstone.

Yulif visibly furrowed his brows, but then he smiled.

“It was the day of the imperial event that mother and father had to attend.
I was playing hide-and-seek with my innocent brother.
Count Podisak was our horse riding teacher.
We hid together in the closet.
From afar we could hear Count Podisak calling for us.
Your clothes were hanging in the closet.”

Deltinus’s eyes were distant as he traced the old memories.

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Oddly enough, Yulif hardly remembered that despite having a good memory and being able to remember most things. 

“You look like you don’t remember.
But I did.
You fell asleep in the closet and I suddenly had this thought.
If I go out in your clothes, will people really recognize me? Wouldn’t it be great if people didn’t recognize me?”

Deltinus laughed like a naughty boy.
But soon his expression turned cold.

Yulif noticed the dagger he had hidden in his clothes.

“I changed into your clothes and went out of the closet.
And I met Count Podisak face to face.
Since I had to change my clothing in the closet, I didn’t do it very well.
Do you know what the Count said? He said, ‘Your Majesty Yulif, I see you must have come from a nap.
Your shirt is crooked.’  And then he kindly re-buttoned my shirt and straightened my hair.
That stern Count Podisak!”

Deltinus shrugged his shoulders and let out a ‘tsk’.
It was an unpleasant laugh, like an empty shell laughing.
Yulif said nothing.
Deltinus spread his arms wide.

“I ran to my parents as well.
Could it be that my parents who gave birth to me couldn’t tell the difference? Our mother, the empress, came out first.
She looked at me and smiled kindly.
It was the first kind smile I had ever seen.
And she called my name ‘Yulif, did you come to see me alone? I’m proud of you.
Where is your brother? In another accident?’”

A chilly silence fell over the graveyard as Deltinus shut his mouth.

“It was the first time I had ever seen such a gentle and kind imperial mother.
She was so sweet and kind that I started crying on the spot.
It seems that the imperial mother realized then that it wasn’t you.
She scolded me with the expression I always saw, one as hard as a statue.
She said, ‘Are you just joking around!’ It was the imperial mother who was deceived by the joke, but why was she angry with me? While she couldn’t properly distinguish her sons.
Huh? As soon as she knew it was me and not you, her expression changed.”

(PR/N: Deltinus uses a formal way of addressing his mother, so I opted to go with ‘imperial mother’ instead of just ‘mother’.)

In an instant, a flash from a blade appeared in front of Deltinus’s chest.

A dagger was placed between Yulif and Deltinus.
Deltinus rolled the dagger with a cypher blade to and fro in his hand like a toy.

Despite the aggressive hand movements, Yulif did not blink an eye.

Deltinus didn’t think he would be intimidated at first, but there was something special about Yulif’s calm demeanor that touched Deltinus’ nerves.

The dagger, which moved even more daringly, approached Yulif as if threatening, and then repeatedly moved away as if teasing.

“After that, similar things happened several times.
I thought it would change as we got older, but our voices became similar.
If I hadn’t grown my hair, there would have been plenty of people who couldn’t tell the difference.
There must have been several people who bowed their heads to you, right? Oh, is that still the case?”

“What do you want to say?”

He had no intention of listening to Deltinus’s nonsense, he was tired of his feelings of inferiority.
No matter how patient Yulif was, he was also human, so he had limitations.
Canaren was waiting alone in the room.
He wanted to go back as soon as possible.

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While Yulif tried to resist the urge to grab his collar and throw him onto the floor, Deltinus pushed in his characteristic sullen face.

The tip of the dagger he was holding was gently pressed against Yulif’s neck.
He stopped at a point right before a cut could be made.

“I want to make a simple bet.”

Bet? It was a light word that did not fit the flow.
It was hard to see it as something suggested with pure intentions.

‘What other tricks are you playing?’

Yulif’s question was solved by Deltinus’ next words.

“If she can tell you apart from me, you can do whatever you want.
I won’t care if you marry the girl or whatever.”

“Are you serious? Your Majesty would never offer a bet in my favor.”

“Are you so sure of victory? What an arrogant guy.
But it won’t be as easy as you think.”

Deltinus smiled and whipped the dagger.
Yulif narrowed his eyes.
The sharply forged blade cut through Deltinus’s dark hair in an instant.
His cut hair covered the insteps between Deltinus and Yulif

Deltinus waved his hand a couple more times and cut his hair down to a length comparable to that of Yulif’s.
It was a dagger, not scissors, and his hair was a mess because it was cut randomly without looking in the mirror.
Nevertheless, the atmosphere of the two people, who were completely different, had changed in a similar way.

“For two weeks, we can wear the same clothes, and wait for the girl to choose.
But the girl shouldn’t know about the bet.
It’s more dramatic when she chooses without knowing.
Isn’t this fair enough?”

“If Canaren chooses His Majesty.”

“It will be up to her.
I am already looking forward to it just by imagining it.”

Deltinus had a fishy smile.
It was intended to provoke Yulif.

Yulif seemed to think this bet was in his favor.
Deltinus didn’t really care whether he would win the bet or not, he could do as much as he wanted.
More importantly than the outcome was the process, that was, whether Yulif would accept the bet.

The imperial mother must have thought that the oath was the lifeline that saved his brother.
Reality was not as romantic as one might think.

The oath was a leash for a dog who did not listen to his master.
If the leash was broken, as one might have guessed, the dog would be anxious to bite its owner.
When emotions begin to mix, weaknesses would inevitably be exposed.
Yulif knew that well, so he had never been emotional.

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However, the present Yulif became very emotional whenever Canaren was involved.
He had the instincts of a blood-related brother, and the senses of a lord who had observed for a long time.

It didn’t matter at all why Yulif was obsessed with Canaren.
He hung himself because of Canaren.
Only that fact mattered.
(PR/N: ‘hung himself’ as in ‘risked himself/ put himself at risk’.)

Yes, Canaren.
That little beautiful golden bird was this dog’s only weakness.

“As an older brother, this is the extent that I can yield to my younger brother.
The choice is yours.”

Oh.
Deltinus added, as if he had forgotten.

“Don’t take it as a sign that if you don’t accept the bet you’re free to do whatever you want.”

Now he just had to wait.

Deltinus had a serious smile on his face.

‘Now, the leash has loosened.
Show me your true nature that has been suppressed.
Quickly.’

“All right.”

Yulif replied in a stoic tone.
The smile slowly disappeared from Deltinus’s lips.

“Do you mean that you accept the bet?”

“That’s right.”

“Huh, okay? I was worried about what would happen if you rushed to kill me.
It’s no fun at all.”

The dagger lifted Yulif’s chin.

Yulif gripped the dagger with his bare hands.
Soon, blood flowed from his hand.
The blood that flowed down the dagger was also smeared on Deltinus’s gloved hands.

“Instead, don’t touch Canaren until the bet is over.
In any way.”

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“You can do it if you want.
How can a great brother join in the play of his poor brother? This brother is very touched.”

Deltinus bowed exaggeratedly and sarcastically.

Yulif did not reply but gripped Deltinus’ wrist tightly with his hand that held the dagger.

There had been no physical contact like this since childhood.

Deltinus tried to shake off Yulif’s hand, but Yulif’s grip was far beyond the expected strength.
It was a terribly shameful fact that Deltinus could be easily overpowered by him and it felt as aching as if his bones were shattering.
He bared his teeth wildly.

“Take your hands off me!”

“It is the secret spell of the blue serpent.”

As if the task was over, Yulif let go of his hand without any regrets.

Suddenly, a dark blue snake pattern was engraved on the forearms of the two.

The Blue Serpent’s Secret was a contract in which one’s life was the collateral, and it was a high-intensity contract that was usually made only between wizards.

So he was going to nail him down.
Especially when it comes to promises, Yulif, who didn’t forget even the smallest of things, made the contract first.

‘Are you saying that the oath is not gone?’

Deltinus looked down at the snake that was strapped to his arm.
The blue color was sultry, and it looked even more bizarre, with blood stained on its greedily swollen body.

‘If the oath wasn’t gone, how can you do this…’

“I’ll leave now.”

Yulif turned around without any regrets.
Far from living; it was a simple attitude that Deltinus could not feel even a handful of malice from.

The certainty that the oath had not been broken turned into doubt again.

Deltinus threw his bloody dagger to the floor.

‘I don’t know what the hell it is.
If this is the case, the only choice is to win the bet.’

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