“It is unreasonable for you to catch up with me in such a short time. However…”
“In five…or maybe ten years.”
“Or if a little more time passes, it will be a different story.”
… at the calm voice of Ignet, the four were shocked. Especially Ilya Lindsay.
It was because the Black Knights Commander was someone who would never speak lowly of herself.
She was an existence who was expected to overtake everyone, including the senior swordsmen who had legendary achievements in the near future.
No…she was already was basically in the top 10 swordsmen of the continent and was evaluated as someone who could stand shoulder to shoulder with the top three swordsmen within 10 years.
Such an existence had said those words.
To be precise, she admitted it to people who had started training later than she did.
Everyone was quiet as they heard her words, and the silence continued for a while. Only one person could remedy the situation. Ignet smiled once more and continued.
“Honestly, I couldn’t understand it myself. A year ago, I had already seen you when I came to face the strong ones. I was surprised, and it was fun. I never dreamed that I would turn my head for people behind me, but for some reason, my eyes kept looking as you got closer to me. Even more than the top three swordsmen who defeated me, and the rest of the top ten swordsmen.”
“But that is all. Your footsteps were quickening, but I wasn’t feeling tense. I think it would be more accurate to say that it was just a matter of interest in you all. But…”
‘…you exceeded my expectations.’
When she met them just a year later, Bratt Lloyd, Judith, Ilya Lindsay, and Airn Pareira had improved far beyond what she thought.
The blue-haired kid who had barely crossed the entrance to the Master level created a huge wave that covered the sky.
Judith, who had a flame she couldn’t control, was now controlling it. It was still wild and savage, but she managed to face the sun by finding a way that suited her better than anyone else.
It was the same with the silver-haired swordsman and the blonde one too.
Everyone had greatly narrowed the distance between her. Everyone had grown so high that they could reach the sun in the sky.
Because of that…
The reason she couldn’t appear at the banquet immediately was because she didn’t clearly understand why the gap had suddenly narrowed.
“That means now you understand.”
Bratt asked, and Ignet nodded, and the others only looked at her.
Unlike before, there was no awkward silence. Without hesitation, she answered.
“You people were soaring high together, making up for your shortcomings and boosting yourselves with each other’s help.”
That was what Ignet couldn’t understand the most.
In the final, she won against Airn.
However, it was a completely different victory than she expected. It was breathtaking. Considering the fight they had a year ago, this was something she couldn’t understand since the difference from then was too much.
Why was it like that?
Was the gap shortened due to effort?
It wasn’t guaranteed that he trained more intensely than her. Because she knew Airn was already aware that her persistence and passion were second to none.
However, since she was confident that she worked harder than anyone in the Holy Kingdom, she thought the difference shouldn’t be much.
A gap in talent?
That couldn’t be it either. On the contrary, she would be the one on the higher end of the spectrum when it came to talent.
No, there was nothing lacking in her. In terms of physical strength, mental strength, and everything else, she was the best.
… with such pride, she never communicated with anyone.
She never admitted that she was a weak person and tried to hide it by standing in front of others, showing her good sides alone.
Ignet Crescentia finally realized that this was where she was different from the four people in front of her.
“What I feel for you now isn’t at the level of simply being happy for the growth of my juniors. Fear is lingering around me now. There is an anxiety that you will surpass me at any moment. I now have the fear that I will not be able to rise to the top.”
“The reason I can now confide openly about this shameful and weak heart of mine is because of you.”
With her eyes closed, she thought of the four juniors in front of her. She thought of their actions of encouraging and supporting their friends during the festival. The eyes they had in the waiting room when their friend or lover would walk onto the stage.
After the match was over, the way they would frankly speak and comfort. Although she saw all of this only for a few moments, it was strange because it was different from the way she saw them in the past.
The thoughts about the bonds they made, which had been strengthened as they sat down and talked about everything, were still lingering in Ignet’s head. It was something like sorcery.
She finally opened her eyes and looked at them.
At the four juniors looking at her with deep eyes.
The Black Knight Commander bowed her head to them said.
“I was proud of myself for working hard to break free from my self-righteousness. But it isn’t easy. To those who think they are the closest to it and to those who think it doesn’t matter at all… it wasn’t easy for me to come and say this. As of right now, I only have you to show my weakest parts.”
“So that I can talk with you and be with you here.”
“To learn how to communicate honestly and openly with others… would you please allow it?”
While everyone was looking at this unexpected situation with serious eyes, Airn remembered what happened two years ago.
After the match between Joshua Lindsay and Ignet Crescentia. He didn’t know about it then. About why she got enlightenment through his words.
Now he knew.
A more unrestrained mind than then and a humbler heart.
To Ignet Crescentia, who was truly prepared to overcome the only shortcoming of being perfect, Airn was the first to speak.1
“Can I start at when I was 15…”
It was a story he had spoken of several times in front of his friends. And for Ignet, he said it once more. But no one stopped him.
Ignet listened to him with a different expression than she had in the city of Derinku and Rabat, where the Clown was hiding, and accepted his words with her heart.
Not a lot of time passed, and the story came to an end. However, the talk wasn’t done. Next up was Bratt Lloyd.
“Um, there will be a lot of overlapping content, but let’s talk from when I was a prospective trainee of Krono.”
A high-ranking noble from birth, Bratt Lloyd.
His story was no different from Airn’s.
Jealousy, useless anger, and empty frustration which originated from simple things. Overall, the weak parts stood out more than the good parts.
However, at the end of the story, it felt like he wouldn’t give up. The point was that he had come this far by honestly acknowledging his shortcomings and asking for help, and sometimes giving help.
Ignet nodded her head and looked at Ilya Lindsay.
Smiling back, she started talking about her own story.
“When I was seven…”
She brought out the painful story of how she used to burn herself because of the darkness. It was even more detailed than when she spoke before, and she told the story in its entirety, without hiding and leaving out her lowest and darkest moments.
It was fine. Her heart wasn’t burning like it had been in the past when she hid things. Ilya felt that, and so did Ignet.
A deeper sympathy was established between the two than in the past, and the atmosphere continued when it became Judith’s turn.
“Ah, shit. I am not good at this…”
Ignet watched her continue to speak with many details, listening to all the stories and reflecting on them, embracing their heart and her own.
Ignet closed her eyes, and she finally told hers.
“… I too started in an unnamed alley in a slum.”
Airn’s eyes changed.
He had already heard of her past once. The memories from Rabat’s training hall were still fresh in his mind.
Perhaps, her heart began to change since then and had bloomed into a flower now.
Was she trying to prove that?
The content changed.
Contrary to the past story, which was dry enough to be called hopeless, this was different.
She now included what she thought and what she felt then.
And what she thought now.
She talked about what she regretted and feared back then, the things which hurt her, and what her weaknesses were.
It was a story that was much more candid and unfamiliar than the one Airn had heard in the past. Airn thought about it quietly as he looked at Ignet, who was finally speaking her story without hiding it.
‘… it came down.’
It came down.
The sun was coming down. She, who had been loftily floating up alone, came down.
Some may think of it as regression, and others may say that her lonely but strong past is more suitable for the position of a king like her.
But Airn liked this one.
‘Rather than when floating in the sky far away… she looks bigger now.’
And warmer too. The sunlight that was coming down made Airn smile.
And it will be a lot better. At the end of the story, a thought popped into the minds of the four at the same time.
And no one was afraid.
Being embarrassed about others’ growth, and jealous of others’ achievements.
They couldn’t say that they hadn’t been through such a time. However, there was no one here who would be weak enough to lose themselves in those thoughts.
The five young people were reborn as new beings while listening to each other’s stories and sharing their thoughts. They became better people.
Time went on, and the dark night passed, and morning came. The time for parting ways had come.
“Thank you. I will never forget today’s help.”
“I felt a lot too.”
“Hmm, let’s exchange stories more often in the future. If it’s possible.”
“… let’s train together.”
Airn, Bratt, and Judith spoke in turn, and Ilya nodded her head in acceptance.
“Do you have anything to say?”
“Nothing. I spoke all that I could.”
“Right. Ah. Right.”
Ignet looked like she suddenly remembered something, then made a gesture of walking towards Airn and touched his ear.
What was this suddenly?
Thinking that, Airn put his ear close to her, and everyone looked at them curiously.
It felt like they were exchanging secrets after the nice talk they had openly, so everyone was interested.
But that wasn’t it.
Ignet Crescentia kissed Airn on the cheek and moved back. And then she looked at Ilya and not Airn.
With an evil smile, she said.
“I heard that kissing and hugging Airn gives energy… so I did it.”
“Indeed, the effect isn’t bad.”
Saying that, the Black Knight Commander disappeared quickly, and Bratt Lloyd mumbled.
“As expected, the greatest talent of all time. She has learned to communicate faster than anyone else.”
As Ilya Lindsay growled, the innocent Airn looked nervously at his lover.
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