The 11th and 12th Battalions of the Imperial Knights shared a three-story building on the side of the Imperial Palace. Of course, Joshua’s personal office was in this building as well.
Joshua scowled. Is there someone here? His keen senses were telling him that he had a visitor… but they didn’t seem to be hiding themselves from Joshua.
“Hmmmm…” The banquet had begun in the evening and would last until morning. As such, the majority of the 11th and 12th Battalions would be stationed near the First Palace, where the party was being held; in other words, the building should be empty at this time of day.
“C’mon, don’t be like that. Come on in, I won’t bite.”
Joshua froze. “That voice—”
“I just came to take a look at things, but it seems like I made a mistake.”
Joshua sighed and pushed the door open.
“Yo.” The man waved cheerfully at Joshua from the sofa. He had striking silver eyes and was generally very attractive.
Like Joshua, he commanded a battalion of the Imperial Knights—the 9th. Even in a group as prestigious as the Knights Templar, this man was a genius; yet, he was the laziest, most carefree person you could imagine.
Valmont sluggishly buried himself into the sofa, sporting a shocked frown.
“I was surprised to learn that the Princess knew our great captain—like a moth to a flame, was it? A perfect match.”
“Was Captain Valmont keeping track of a lot of things?”
“A lot?” Valmont shrugged.
“Nevermind that. Are you going to leave now?”
Joshua’s eyes widened, but he quickly brought his expression under control.
“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
“Don’t play dumb with me; I’m a lot smarter than you think.” Valmont sat up. “I remember the first time we met each other—Duke Agnus’s estate, right? You were a kid taking his mana exam. That kid surprised everyone with his talent, and then joined the Imperial Knights… and I’ve been watching your progress ever since.
“I was shocked when they suddenly promoted you to B-Class—I mean, you have the potential and the favor of His Majesty, but you’re just too young. But you were like a machine with no brakes; your endeavors didn’t stop there: you smashed through the knights of the top battalions and immediately gained the Emperor’s favor. Then you became the youngest Baron in history…” Valmont stared into Joshua’s eyes, dumbfounded. “Do you have any idea how happy I was when you finally became a captain like me?1”
“Can you stop beating around the bush?”
“Excitement. For the first time in my life, I was so excited it made me shiver. Because of you.”
Valmont’s characteristic disinterest was gone; instead, there was only passion, burning in his eyes like blazing embers.
Hoseungsim…2 Indeed, an undying passion for victory. Joshua knew what Valmont would say next.
“Let’s compete, Joshua Sanders, before you leave. If you leave now, there won’t be any more chances. I beg of you, humor my shameless request.”
“I have one question for you.”
“I don’t understand why the famously unambitious Captain Valmont wants to spar with me.”
Valmont huffed and flashed a smile at Joshua. It was frosty white, colder than the moonlight.
Can a human have such a dazzling smile?
“Obviously… I want to prove that I’m the best.”
The training ground behind the building was lit only by the moonlight.
Valmont used a longsword of average length; Joshua faced him with a normal soldier’s iron spear.
“Are you ready?”
“Of course,” Valmont lazily replied. “I’m always ready. Since I have seniority, I’ll give you the first move.”
Joshua’s lips twitched and his eyes glowed with excitement.
“Well, I won’t refuse.”
As soon as the word left his lips, Joshua’s body shot forward. His speed was beyond all expectations, sending his spear shrieking towards Valmont’s face—the way it obscured the older captain’s vision was an added bonus.
Sparks flew, blades collided. Valmont broke into a sweat, realizing he’d only barely deflected Joshua’s spear.
“I expected it,” Valmont mumbled.
The young man in front of him—no. Joshua was no longer a snot-nosed kid he could test. He was like a mastercrafted spear now, capable of reaching out and piercing the heart of anyone, at any time.
“Please, accept my apologies.”
Joshua stepped back and adjusted his posture, only to be confused by Valmont’s words.
“‘Seniority’... I was making up things. I’m going to give it my all from now on.”
Valmont sprinted forward, slashing at the tip of Joshua’s spear with his sword. Joshua used the recoil to rotate, striking towards Valmont’s stomach. The older man danced backwards and lashed out, only for it to be met by Joshua’s spear again, and again, and again.
Valmont could only sigh; Joshua wielded his spear perfectly. He hadn’t even broken a sweat. That was no mean feat: Valmont’s sword, with his inherent physique and talent, was incredible. Many swordsmen would struggle to even react, such that he was rightfully known as “the Fastest Star of Avalon.”
Valmont stepped back, allowing his adrenaline to calm down.
“Why are you doing that? Is it not worth going on the offensive against me?”
Joshua’s mouth remained firmly shut.
Valmont knew the answer: his opponent, unlike Valmont, was not putting in his utmost effort. Joshua hadn’t even moved—he’d forced Valmont to stay at the edge of his range. Valmont had never seen anyone exploit a spear’s reach so efficiently in his entire life.
The senior captain grit his teeth. “You’re dead wrong if you think you can beat me with such a stupid attitude.”
Valmont raised his sword to point straight up, allowing his face to reflect off of the blade. It was a stance that belonged on parade ground, not in a battle—but the sheer energy could not be ignored.
His muscles clenched and trembled rapidly like they would explode at any moment, beating a near-audible roar into the air. Mana poured from his mana hall, concentrating into his sword.
“This is my best move. If you can stop this, I’ll do whatever you want—because I won’t be able to move afterwards, anyways.”
Valmont’s mana took on a new shape over the blade, to Joshua’s astonishment.
“Aura Blade…” Flawed, but undeniable.
It’s almost like the stars have formed into a halo around his blade.
“It’s my best move. If you can’t dodge this, you’ll be seriously wounded.”
It was a skill only taught to the blood of the Brown family; a secret that had earned Valmont the title of “Fastest Star.”
“Here it goes.” Valmont aimed for Joshua’s right shoulder—if he struck right, he’d be able to avoid causing lethal wounds.
He exploded forwards, faster than he’d ever moved before. He was like a meteor hurtling to the ground, its tail the only indication he was ever there. His sword, too, stitched a bright line through the air.
But even if Joshua struggled to follow Valmont’s movements, his spear was raised and waiting.
Too late. Valmont smirked. He’d crossed the point of no return; already his sword was inside his opponent’s reach and fast closing. The spear, on the other hand, remained stationary.
Joshua’s spear rose slowly to meet the sword.
It wasn’t slow at all. Valmont was mistaken.
A brilliant flash of light lit up the night, and the air was split by an ear-bleeding scream.
“Ugh…!” Valmont staggered back several paces and fell to his knees, propped up by his sword. His eyes were shaking—it was clear he didn’t understand what had happened. He frantically raised his head, casting a frantic gaze forward.
He contended with a single spear. A common iron spear—with more power than any famed blade.
It was clear and strong, not like his imperfect rendition. There was naught Valmont could do but groan.
“Full… Aura Blade.”
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