The Price of the Secret
(……….I had made my resolve but still………)
Francesca sighed in resignation.
“That’s a surprise. I never thought a human being with such skills existed in this world.”
Leonardo let go of her wrist, so Francesca took a step back.
He had already lost all interest in the assassins that had attacked him. He was constantly looking at Francesca with interest.
“The strength of skills is decided at birth, and cannot be changed…….that is a basic fact of this world, but you can interfere with it.”
“I don’t think it’s that big of a deal…………”
Though she said that, even Francesca understood the reality.
For example, there was a huge difference between, let’s say, a fire skill that was used by a noble or one used by a commoner.
But with Francesca’s skill, she could enhance the commoner’s skill to be as strong, if not stronger than the noble’s skill.
That was something that could fundamentally shake the core value of this world that was built on the fact that [The more high class their blood, the stronger their power].
And in fact, Francesca’s skills didn’t give a temporary effect, they were designed to grow and nurture other skills.
Meaning its effects would last forever.
And the enhancement effect could be applied a total of 9 times on each person. Meaning if, let’s say, a person had a skill that was considered lvl1 at birth, she could make it into a lvl10 skill instead.
If it became public, everyone will want Francesca’s skill for their own gains. The royalty and nobles will of course want to further enhance their powers, and even people from other countries will seek her.
Even in the game, Francesca always tried to keep her skills hidden. But, in the game, after a point, the truth is leaked from somewhere, and thus she becomes a target for Leonardo.
(AAAAAAHH, this is going to become just like the game now………at least only my [Enhancement] skill has been leaked right now. The other two are still hidden but this was still real bad……..)
Leonardo wiped the blood on his cheeks with the back of his hand, and then gazed down towards Francesca as he continued to question her.
“Why did you show your skill to me?”
“Eh? Why, you ask………”
On being asked what she thought had a very obvious answer, Francesca tilted her head.
“You saw you were getting targeted from the third floor right? By an assassin. Since he was using a presence concealing skill, even Leo-……….ah sorry, even Aldini-san wouldn’t have sensed him.”
“That’s not what I mean.”
It seemed he didn’t find her answer satisfactory so she ended up tilting her head again to the other side this time.
“I only know about one of your skills Aldini-san, the one which immobilized the group of assassins.”
“I don’t which other skills you might have, so I had no way of knowing if you could stop that last assassin or not, right? So, by strengthening you, and resetting the usage limit on the skill I do know about, I allowed you to take care of the situation.”
Leonardo, both amazed and astonished, looked down on her again.
“If you hadn’t tried to save me, you could have kept your secret.”
Francesca could only blink and stare at him hearing those words.
“Even if I got killed by those assassins, you could have simply left me alone, no? You had no reason to put yourself in danger, and neither did you need to rush here. In fact, you would have been released from our engagement as well. Sounds like the perfect ending for you.”
“And yet, why?”
Leonardo was looking at her as if he was really looking at something he couldn’t comprehend.
That’s why, while still surprised, Francesca opened her mouth to speak.
“—–There is absolutely nothing more important to me than a person’s life!”
Even her very important secret was below that.
“I mean, yes, if possible I would have liked to keep my skills a secret between just myself and Papa but……….But, if doing so would put Aldini-san’s life in danger, then it wasn’t worth it. I’m genuinely glad you are safe.”
“Also, I finally understood why your mood had been so different from the morning. Since you showed up at school yesterday after such a long time, it made all the assassins hidden among the students move as well right? That’s why you came to school again today, to clear them all out all at once but, you didn’t want to drag innocents into it so you were purposefully trying to keep everyone away from you by scaring them.”
What Leonardo said to her, when they talked early in the morning was definitely because of this as well.
She did think it was strange that he came so early as it was quite contrary to his usual character. But, that was probably him trying to seem alone and act all defenceless to try and lure the assassins out to attack him.
“You said something like that to me because you didn’t want me to be in danger……….am I right?”
Leonardo’s smile disappeared, and he continued to look at her with his expressionless cold face.
“Your power of imagination is certainly abundant.”
“I don’t think I was that far off the mark though…….But I suppose, because of the house you were born in, you too have had to bear a lot of burden by yourself huh.”
Francesca too understood that somewhat.
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“You don’t hide the fact that you are the head of the Aldini family because you don’t want people to get involved in incidents like this. If they are all scared of you, and ostracize you, they’ll also avoid getting dragged into danger as well.”
“……….Aldini-san, if that’s why you have been the way you are then………”
Francesca looked up towards Leonardo and spoke earnestly and with respect.
“Your actions are a proof that you are quite kind in actuality.”
Leonardo’s eyes opened wide in amazement hearing her words.
He then quickly cast his eyes down as if in deep thought and then quickly showed a smile and spoke.
“……….You know, I’m shocked how you have been able to live safely up till now.”
“Wh, what’s that supposed to mean!??”
His words seemed like they were scorning her actions.
“Surely, even you are aware of how naïve you sound right? Although, I suppose I should praise you for remaining so sensitive even while living as part of the underworld. I wonder if its thanks to the Calvino family’s head that he was able to keep you so sheltered………..”
It was true that her father was constantly doting on Francesca. But, Leonardo continued to ponder and amended his own theory again.
And then stretched his hand towards Francesca’s cheeks.
“——-perhaps you are just that strong yourself.”
Leonardo’s beautiful face once again bore that deep, incomprehensible smile he would often show.
“Francesca……….My dear fiancée, you are both beautiful and strong.”
He looked at Francesca, as if he had found a new favourite toy, or at least that’s how his gaze felt to her.
“But you are a bit too careless. In return for keeping your secret, and as punishment for being so defenceless, would you listen to one of my own selfish demands?”
She was already getting blackmailed. And before she could realize what was happening and guard against it, Leonardo dragged Francesca into a tight embrace and hugged her.
And then, in a sickeningly sweet voice, he spoke in her ears.
“………Call me by my name, even in the school.”
This was not how things were supposed to go.
While chewing on those words, Francesca covered her face with both hands in despair, and then slowly squeezed out the word “Leonardo…….” out of her mouth.
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