The large stage in the center of the banquet hall could accommodate a considerable crowd of men and women as they danced in exquisite harmony.
But not right now. The entire banquet hall was enveloped in a profound hush; no one could do anything but stare—even those deep into their cups couldn’t tear their gaze away from the couple ascending the platform.
And then… they danced.
“...They’re beautiful…” Senna unwittingly blushed. Their dance was as graceful and lovely as they were; every move was like art brought to life, drawing the audience’s enraptured gaze with an almost magical magnetism. Senna was enthralled—and so was everyone else.
Problem was, Charles and Joshua were having a conversation that had nothing to do with that.
Charles was bewildered. What is it about this man that makes him such a natural? She was deftly led by Joshua and couldn’t help but blurt out her thoughts.
“Do they teach the Knights how to dance?”
Charles’s prickly comment made Joshua pause.
“What can I do?” he asked, smiling kindly back at her.
“You haven’t changed.”
“Neither have you, Young Lady?”
“This is all within your expectations, isn’t it.”
Joshua gave her a questioning look, which made her blush and look away.
“If I dance on stage with you, Prince Kiser will stop bothering me. His dignity is more valuable than his dance partner.”
Joshua was taken aback. “You’re overestimating me,” he said with a hearty laugh.
“Why did you save me?” Charles asked, undeterred. “The Young Master—the Baron could have been in huge trouble for that.”
“Well… Let’s say I felt bad for breaking a promise.”
That wasn’t the answer I expected—not at all. So he remembered?
As the dance wound down, Charles came to a resolution and opened her mouth.
“I have a question—”
“I can’t help you this time—”
Charles stared at him.
“I’m still a member of the Imperial Knights.”
“I’m not sure what you’re talking about,” Charles huffed. “I was just wondering how you got so tall.”
As soon as the music came to an end, Charles curtseyed and quickly distanced herself.
Charles spun around and strode away, leaving the rapid clack of her heels behind her.
“Your temperament hasn’t changed.”
“What?” Joshua spun around. “Excuse me?”
The voice had come from outside the stage, as if waiting for the dance to conclude.
“...Princess Sersiarin.” Joshua’s words verged on a groan.
This woman, though descended from the noblest blood, suffered misfortune like on other.
Hubalt, the Holy Empire: one of the three great powers of the continent. In the midst of the Imperial Citadel was a massive temple, as befitting of a “holy empire” in the service of the gods.
Hermes Temple, guarded by thousands of priests and paladins, was the permanent residence of the Pope, one of the dual rulers of the Hubalt Empire.
The somber, sunlight ambience of the ancient marble edifice was marred by a furious debate taking place in the corner.
“I’ll never understand His Majesty the Emperor’s views. Is he planning to send Sir Christian to the Reinhardt Masters Battle?” The first man to speak was undeniably a paladin; his immaculate white armor, emblazoned with the golden wings on the breast, made that obvious.
“The Pope agreed as well.”
“That makes it even more perplexing, High Priest!” a young priest fumed. “Why reveal him to the public now, after he’s been hidden so deep?”
“One key fact seems to have escaped Sir Modrian’s notice.”
“Does it matter?” Paladin Modrian, the heated young man, tilted his head.
“Doesn’t the Pope’s agreement mean that he—the man you look up to so much—has accepted it as well?”
“The commander…” Modrian sighed.
“Sir Chrysler jean Sebastian, Knight of God.”
The commander led all of the paladins of the Hubalt Empire. Among them were three hundred “White Knights”, the most divine and powerful of them all. They answered to no one but God, and were the only superhumans so devoted.
“Sir Christian is the best disciple he has… and he wouldn’t be able to join Reinhardt’s Battle without permission. Sir Christian has been a Master for a long year now, by human standards. He’s our Empire’s secret weapon.”
“We’re God’s knights, first and foremost,” a different man, also a paladin, said. “I’m not sure why people cling to such fame.”
“From what I’ve heard, Sir Christian’s participation is motivated by two things.”
“Duke Altsma will be participating in this year’s Master Battle.”
“Duke Altsma of Swallow? He’s the one who was disqualified, right?”
“Right. He’s the one.” The High Priest, Harold, stepped forward and looked Modrian in the eyes. “Like Emperor Marcus, a lunatic of his time, Ulabis, Prince of Thran, voiced his desire to participate in this Master Battle. Duke Altsma’s reentry isn’t just about restoring his dignity—it’s also for revenge.”
You couldn’t become a Master just by becoming an A-Class Knight. Masters enjoyed international, intercontinental privileges, hand-tailored to their personal needs; as such, every Master had to be recognized in front of the entire population of the continent. That is, during the Reinhardt Master Battle, also known as the People of All Continents Festival.
“Because of the tournament structure, the two of them could square off in the near future—if they’re lucky. Duke Altsma is not concerned about the title, which he could restore quickly by attaining recognition from the Masters of other kingdoms.”
“What’s the other reason, then?”
“Five years ago—do you recall the new talent picked at the Reinhardt Battle? The monster,” the other paladin whispered. “He was only ten years old at the time.”
High Priest Harold nodded in agreement. “His Majesty the Pope was unconcerned at the time, but His Majesty the Emperor was. No, the entire Imperial Palace was in chaos; everything that happened in Reinhardt is inextricably linked to political power. By the way, they’re saying that monstrous child from back then is going to participate in the Master Battle.”
Modrian's eyes widened.
“So this time, our Empire has decided to dispatch someone with the potential to shake the continent: Sir Christian. He is the most talented of the unofficial A-Class Knights.”
“Isn’t that excessive? A fifteen-year-old at the Master Battle?”
The High Priest shook his head with conviction. He knew that when it came to these monsters, common sense held no sway.
“He’s a very capable kid,” Harold noted, “this Baron Joshua Sanders.”
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