Princess Sersiarin quaked before the man’s presence, even before he approached. She couldn’t understand his demeanor, and she was no slouch. Her senses were quite developed, blindness aside.
“W-wait!” She clutched her fluttering chest.
“I will visit Hwahwa Palace soon,” he muttered, just loud enough for her to hear. “Your medicine is already finished.”
“It’s payment for the debt I owed in my past life.”
“Wait, what?” she called out, but the man was already gone.
“Princess? If you run off like that—”
“Ellen…” Princess Sersiarin sighed, noticing the amount of attention she’d garnered.
“Are Baron Sanders and Princess Sersiarin well acquainted?”
“That’s nonsense. The Princess only goes out on select occasions.”
“Do they share anything in common?”
Sersiarin could feel the weight of their whispers and their eyes bearing down on her. If she kept drawing attention, it might put Joshua at risk.
He said he would come. The Princess clenched her little hand. Let’s just calm down and not make a fuss.
She couldn’t hardly see an inch in front of her, but that made the sensations that much more distinct. One aura stood out in the midst of so many others: his, blinding her heart’s eyes.
“I’m sorry, Ellen.” She smiled apologetically at the maid.
“You did nothing wrong, Princess.”
Sersiarin gradually worked her way out of the limelight, allowing the banquet to settle.
“I have something to report, Your Majesty.”
“There are certain locations you need to pay particular attention to.”
“...The Great Plains of Kraden?” The Emperor cast his thoughts over the vast expanses of the northern continent.
“Yes. The first battle will have a great effect on the future wars.”
“The Swallow Empire has a fairly large share of the Great Plains.” Marcus rubbed his chin while he thought and then smiled. “I think this is where the messenger will shine—not fighting for Swallow, but for Avalon.”
“Do you believe him, Your Majesty?”
“Believe?” Marcus guffawed. “I have no faith in anyone. I only care if they’re useful or not.
“Now, the ideal situation would be for Aden to fall there. Even better if I could bring Duke Lucifer of Swallow with me.”
“The Black Wind and the messenger agree. We believe that in order to bring Duke Aden von Agnus down, we will need the power of at least three Stars.”
“Because he is also a Star… and the difference between them is huge.”
“Yes, Your Majesty.”
Emperor Marcus rose to his feet. “For now, it is obvious that the demise of a renowned figure like Aden von Agnus would be catastrophic to the Empire as a whole. But a sword that can’t be used, on the other hand, is worthless garbage no matter how famous it is—that’s what irritates me the most. Despite his abilities, his pacifism makes him as insignificant as a half-penny.” The Emperor bared his teeth in a twisted smile. “If he’s so adamantly opposed to war, he’ll be the first person I’ll place in command of it. Jaken!”
“Yes, Your Majesty?”
Jaken closed his eyes and loosed a heavy sigh.
“The plan will be finished soon. This is a ten-year strategy—Don’t rush, take it slow and report regularly.”
Joshua halted outside of the banquet hall’s massive entryway. There was a man leaning against the far wall, clearly waiting for him.
Cain, now almost in his thirties, grinned at Joshua.
“I saw everything, my lord.”
“Is that right?”
“From start to finish—I saw everything, my lord.” Cain strode towards Joshua, his frustration clearly visible.
Joshua gave him a confused look.
“You threw me into the deepest pits of hell and here you are, having a good time with your ladies! Are you a demon?!”
“You don’t get it? Look here. See?” Cain held out his palm. Every centimeter was covered in calluses, evidence of his suffering. “I swung again and again, thinking only of my master! I didn’t even attend weddings, I’ve never even held a woman’s hand! All I exist for is to swing this awful hunk of metal for you!”
“That’s a dangerous thing to say—”
“Are you kidding me?” Cain cried, “I’m serious here!”
“Oh, sorry.” Joshua was quick to mollify his knight. “I’ll find you a wife.”
Cain hesitated. “...Are you serious?”
“Yes.” Joshua nodded without hesitation. “Have you ever known me to lie?”
“No, my lord.” Cain clasped his hands together fervently. “Please, my lord. She should be a lovely and honest lady if at all possible. For example, the two ladies the master was spending time with in the banquet hall earlier—”
“I don’t think your training is the reason you didn’t get married.” Joshua shook his head. It was obvious which women Cain was talking about, and Joshua wasn’t happy about it.
“Since you came to find me, do you think you’ve already reached that point?”
“That hurts. I’ve spent, like, a hundred years with that devil Duke and almost turned into literal garbage.”
Joshua was obviously perplexed, which made Cain’s smile stretch even wider.
“Ah, there’s so many monsters out there that making comparisons to humans is kind of pointless—I mean, I’m sure that my abilities aren’t that bad. Heh. Now I can be proud of my skills; second only to my master!”
Joshua laughed. “Confidence is important. Just don’t get overconfident.”
“How could that happen?” Cain looked astounded. “Rather, standing at your side—”
“Please accept my apologies for interrupting your conversation.” A messenger approached. “There is a visitor waiting for you outside the Palace.”
“A guest? For me?”
“Yes. He stated that he was looking for Baron Joshua. Guests are, as you know, not permitted to enter the Palace without invitation.” He cast a meaningful glance at Cain.
“How did you get in, Cain?”
“I got in using Duke Agnus’s name, but,” he shrugged, “as you can see, I’m not allowed into the banquet hall. It isn’t easy getting a look inside. The Imperial Knights had eyes that could kill.” Cain gestured towards the knights guarding the back door.
“The Duke will be angry if you keep acting like this.”
“But everything turned out fine! I won’t use the Duke’s name anymore.”
“How long has it been since you did something like this?”
“It’s a bit late, but isn’t it time I swore the Knight’s Oath, my lord Baron Joshua Sanders? As a knight of Baron Sanders, I won’t need the Duke’s name anymore—and I already got his permission.”
Joshua just walked away. “Think about your actions.”
“Wait for me, my lord!” Cain hastily followed.
“Was there a problem?”
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