The Pareira estate is a small but wealthy one.
Due to the close proximity to two kingdoms, it had a high volume of trade, and the situation improved after Baron Harun Pareira took up the role of Lord and brought in Guilds.
In addition, thanks to the daughter, who is a promising sorcerer named Kirill Pareira, the status of their family was much higher than before.
That made the surrounding estates jealous.
‘I’m sure that Viscount Gairn…’
Marcus’s expression hardened.
Even though the five estates around them kept checking on them, the Gairn’s were particularly severe.
For them, who served as the head of the southernmost region of the Hale Kingdom, the Pareira family wasn’t welcomed.
The most vulnerable prey of the Pareira family was in the wagon alone.
‘I wish we would just pass by them…’
Of course, that wouldn’t be possible. Whatever the circumstances, the six southern estates of the Hale Kingdom have a friendly relationship.
And when two families of close distance meet, just passing by them wouldn’t be polite.
Unsurprisingly, the wagon on the other side slowed down and approached. The wagon of the Pareira family, too, slowed down.
A strange tension rose between the two wagons, which stopped at a safe distance.
Moments later, two figures appeared from Gairn Viscount’s wagon.
The servant gulped.
Aaron was the second son of Viscount Gairn, who was a year younger than Airn.
However, in terms of personality, he was far worse than adults.
In fact, whenever he visited the Pareira estate, he would constantly ignore Airn.
And when the Lord got angry at Aaron for crossing the line, the young one would often run away like a loach, saying that he acted like that because he was still young and didn’t know better.
In other words, he was the worst person Airn had to face.
“… young lord, did you hear?”
“It’s the Gairn family. Young lord Aaron Gairn and… Sir Jack Stewart got off the wagon.”
“Will you stay inside the wagon?”
It would be rude to not show his face, but he could make up an excuse that Airn was ill and couldn’t greet them.
Rather, for Marcus, it was more important that his young lord doesn’t get offended.
As he was thinking, Airn shook his head.
“It’s fine. It wouldn’t be polite.”
‘He’s definitely changed.’
He was still expressionless and said little.
But it was different from before. It couldn’t be explained in detail, but… but he felt stronger.
Marcus clenched his fists. Wiping the sweat from his forehead, he opened the wagon door.
He looked after the young lord who followed him.
Soon after, he met Aaron Gairn, the second son of the viscount, and greeted him.
“I greet young lord Aarin Gairn and Sir Jack Stewart.”
Aaron Gairn replied with a slightly startled expression.
Even Jack Stewart and the other men behind him had the same face.
It was because the physique of Airn, who was too lean before, was larger.
Aaron Gairn thought.
‘Tall… did he grow taller? No, I think that his body has improved.’
It was a sloppy body no more.
However, this made Aaron feel even worse. The muscles he could see over the clothes made him ever flustered.
It has been only a year since he went to swordsmanship school, and he changed like this?
Of course, there was nothing more shocking than that.
He was just a little perplexed. Wasn’t it natural to be shocked seeing a guy who was supposed to be a weakling for the rest of his life improve?
He quickly changed his expression and asked with a smile.
“Are you coming from the Krono Swordsmanship School?”
“Yes, that is right. For some reason, I see that the Gairn family is coming from our estate…”
“Ahh, I was out running an errand for my father. But it has been a while. Nice to meet you, Airn?”
“Woah, it looks like Krono is good at teaching. Airn changed so much that I don’t even…”
Aaron was a year younger, but he didn’t use honorific terms. It wasn’t strange.
It was because of the difference between a Baron’s son and a Viscount’s son, and there were many cases where they were called friends with just a year difference between them.
Of course, the two weren’t close at all. Aaron’s tone was rather ignorant and bewildering for others.
It still is.
“Well, are you going to continue practicing swordsmanship in the future?”
“Probably? Well, it must be a little odd to learn from other places. And you even started so late.”
‘That damned boy!’
Marcus was furious.
He felt agitated about how ignorantly he was speaking with his young lord and the fact that he thinks that Airn failed Krono.
It’s been a long time since even the servants forgot that Airn couldn’t get along with others.
However, Aaron Gairn didn’t even think before speaking.
The way he talked, his expression, from head to toe, everything!
Maybe, everyone in the Pareira family had the same agitation towards Aaron.
However, Airn wasn’t agitated.
“Is there anything else you need to say?”
“If there is nothing else, I’m going to move. It has been a long journey. I want to get some rest.”
Jack Stewart, who was standing behind Aaron, was once again shocked to see Airn speak so calmly. So was Aaron.
However, his emotions were more of annoyance than surprise.
‘How dare he!’
The one across from him had changed.
It was a short interaction, but he knew it.
Airn wasn’t the same as before.
The former Airn couldn’t even make eye contact with him, and he would never answer so straightforwardly.
He would always make excuses to get away from Aaron.
Perhaps that was the only effort that Airn made in his former life.
Why wasn’t he the same now?
Why was he standing in front of Aaron and saying everything he wanted to?
Where was the deadbeat noble? With just a little struggle, didn’t he get kicked out of the swordsmanship school after a year and was returning to his family?
The moment that thought passed his mind, Aaron Gairn vowed to not let him go.
“Ah, it’s nothing. Let’s shake hands before we go.”
His expression almost distorted at Airn’s question, but Aaron forced a smile. And continued talking.
“Did you know? Did you know that swordsmen can tell each other’s skills just by holding hands?”
“This is my first time hearing this.”
“Oh my, you don’t have enough information because you have been inside the estate for too long. Sir Louis Sogard, a famous swordsman, said that. In fact, there is nothing more important than grip strength in swordsmanship, so this is obvious. Isn’t that right, Sir Jack?”
“That is right.”
“Look. Even the best knight in our family says so.”
“As a senior who learned swordsmanship for six more years than you, I’ll take a look at how much your skills have improved.”
Aaron Gairn stretched out his right hand as soon as he finished speaking.
Marcus’s expression twitched as he watched it. Jack Stewart watched the situation with a little bit of curiosity.
And Airn Pareira.
After a while of thinking, without saying another word, he took the other person’s hand.
Aaron, who saw it, was filled with joy and immediately gave strength to his hand.
‘Ah! If I use too much strength, he will remove his hand right away. Should I do it slowly… uh?’
Something was strange?
It was the expression on Aaron’s face. He looked at Airn with eyes that said that ‘it can’t be’.
The moment their hands met, he knew that it wasn’t going to be easy.
A sturdy hand that didn’t even twitch.
The second son of Viscount Gairn felt anxious and put in a bit more strength.
At that, Airn just watched silently.
‘What do I do?’
As said before, Airn wasn’t stupid. He knew how to clearly distinguish between ridicule, disregard, and coldness from people.
It wasn’t because it didn’t hurt, but it was because it didn’t even matter.
Even before scabs formed on his hands, the gazes of those around him were a bigger wound to Airn, and those wounds never healed.
He hid himself in sleep and the dark so the wounds wouldn’t get infected.
A life of running away.
‘Do I still need to run away?’
No. It wasn’t like that.
If it was his former self, Airn would have surely run away. For him, there were a few opponents who were fearful, terrifying, and tenacious like Aaron.
For Airn, the opponent in front of him was like a natural enemy.
But not anymore.
Having received advice from Ilya Lindsay, Bratt Lloyd, Judith, and many other trainees, he didn’t feel any fear towards Aaron.
‘Then, should I fight?’
He didn’t know the answer.
After the final interview with the school master, the boy began to differentiate between his own power and the power of the man in his dreams.
The more he pondered, the clearer the answer was.
That his current growth wasn’t because of his own abilities, but only because of the dreams. And that Airn was just sitting silently.
The boy didn’t have the confidence to corner an opponent. He didn’t change that much.
The handshake continued as Airn kept thinking. Airn didn’t even realize that Aaron was struggling.
Aaron wanted to see a wrinkled expression on Airn’s face. To at least hear him groan in pain.
However, Airn was at peace.
It wasn’t just his body, he continued contemplating and contemplated some more. There were just too many thoughts that were unresolved for Airn.
But Airn decided on how to deal with the current situation.
His gaze looked at the opponent’s hand.
‘There is no need to be arrogant, right?’
He looked into Aaron’s eyes.
Pressure which neither hides nor escapes.
It came out involuntarily. Of course, there was a difference between Airn and what Ahmed or Ilya Lindsay had shown.
However, this was enough.
Aaron Gairn jumped back in surprise.
His face soon turned red.
It was because his pride was hurt, and he felt ashamed.
‘Did I withdraw my hand first?’
He didn’t want to admit it.
However, he couldn’t fool himself. He knew that very well.
Before that, he couldn’t overpower the opponent with his own strength.
He was curious.
How did it happen? How did the deadbeat noble, who was nothing more than human garbage, create such pressure?
Was a year enough for such a lowly person to change? Or was he overthinking it?
However, there was something else he was feeling.
‘I want to run away.’
He was now feeling the same emotions that Airn felt a year ago.
He couldn’t do that.
If he stepped back like this, he couldn’t save his face.
He couldn’t go back to the wagon because he was worried about what Airn would say when he returned to the Pareira mansion and what the servants behind Aaron would say behind his back.
Even the black cat, which was watching them from the grass in the fields, was annoying.
Anxiety spread over him that even animals would make fun of him.
At that moment, Jack Stewart, who had been silent until then, opened his mouth.
“Young lord Airn Pareira said that he wanted to relieve his body by getting home. It wouldn’t be polite to hold him here.”
“Ah, Is-is that so?”
“It is. Wouldn’t it be?”
The knight looked at Airn, and the boy nodded. Then Jack bowed.
“Then we will start moving too.”
“… ah, right. Ah! Airn, it seems like you turned out to be quite good. Of course, we’ll need a real match to find out!”
“Then, I’ll be leaving!”
Watching the two of them say their goodbyes, Airn didn’t even respond to them. The servants and soldiers who pulled the wagon were all polite and bowed.
However, Marcus seemed pissed.
‘That lowly bastard!’
The results weren’t bad, and it was clear what that kid’s intention was right from the beginning.
That guy was anxious to disgrace his young lord, and Jack Stewart, who clearly knew the kid’s intention, didn’t even stop his own young lord, they are all the same lowly kind.
Of course, he couldn’t speak out. Because he didn’t have a title, nor was he in a situation to speak out.
In the end, all he could do was sigh.
It was time for them to return to their wagon.
“He’s good at escaping because he’s scared.”
A sudden, provocative remark.
Aaron Gairn, who was returning to his wagon, turned and looked wide-eyed when someone said that about him.
“How dare you!”
He couldn’t remember any feelings of anxiety or fear he felt a moment back. Everything he felt was replaced by rage.
How dare someone say such a thing about him, the son of the Gairn family?
What kind of messed-up person would say that!
The answer came out right away.
“It’s me. What will you do?”
People’s attention that was on Aaron, who wasn’t that tall, was redirected to a voice that came from a lower position.
A black cat.
A small cute creature that looked like a wild animal, standing on two legs, added more words.
“What are you staring at?”
A talking cat.
A word popped into the minds of everyone who encountered the impossible.
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