There were two people with the same name in the Imperial Knights, though they had different surnames: Joker Rick Friedman of the 1st Battalion, the second best in the Imperial Knights, and Joker Bersium of the 9th Battalion, under the command of Valmont.
The chances of finding two people with the same name in a small area was astronomical—there were so many names and surnames in the vast expanse of the Avalon Empire. Everyone assumed it was a bizarre coincidence, but there was in fact a reason for it all.
A long time ago, both individuals received identical names from the same entity.
The private office of the 1st Battalion’s captain had a transparent barrier wrapped around the couch. It was silence magic, a barrier that prevented sound from leaking outside.
Within the barrier were them—the two men with the same name. One was a young man with unremarkable looks; the other was a middle-aged man with wavy blonde hair and a luscious beard.
“C-Captain, is it okay to talk in such an open space? We were given orders to be extra careful for now, so—”
“Do you think I called you here because I lack common sense, Higgs Bersium?”
Joker—or “Higgs”—flinched when the other man suddenly used his real name. He dropped to his knees and prostrated before the captain.
“I spoke foolishly. Please forgive me…”
“We have a problem.” The elder Joker’s brow furrowed.
“Yes? If-if there is an issue—”
“I got a message from him.”
Higgs’s eyes widened.
“May Heimdall’s light shine on the continent! Long live!” He slammed his head against the floor three times.
“The reason he wants us to lie low… is to kill the First Prince, Kiser von Britten.”
Higgs’s entire body shook uncontrollably.
“The Emperor is a maniacal tyrant. If Duke Agnus—the one he always calls dirt in his eyes—is gone, he’d declare war on the continent in an instant.”
“The Emperor is not an easy opponent, no. In fact, he’s one of the best. But despite that, his plans for Duke Agnus are taking much longer than expected. I don’t know what the Emperor hopes to accomplish, but his plans have met a significant setback. This order is the result. He needs a compelling “justification,” something beyond what even Duke Agnus could provide: the assassination of the First Prince.”
“That’s…” A cold sweat ran down Higgs’s back.
“The plan was ready—flawless, to say the least. All of the Prince’s guards were my men, and we hired the best assassin there is. But at the moment of truth, the assassin was nowhere to be found.” Joker smiled and licked his lips wolfishly. “Anyways, I’m on probation for the time being. Keep your activities to a minimum, but try to keep your ear to the ground.”
“I hear and obey!” Higgs viciously slammed his head on the floor.
Joker’s eyes sparkled.
Emperor Marcus discovered a young man entering the room.
“Is this real? The extra captain of our Imperial Knights.”
“I greet His Majesty the Emperor.” Joshua presented himself politely.
“Ah, yes… I believe you said something about the Master Battle, if I’m not mistaken.” He grinned.
“Just as you’ve heard, I will participate in the Master Battle on behalf of Avalon.”
The courtroom stirred as the nobles started whispering. It was obvious they all had something they wanted to say, but none were willing to speak up before Emperor Marcus’s imposing presence.
“You went to Reinhardt years ago and brought glory to our Empire—and now you wish to return? In my eyes, this can only do good; however…” His eyes gleamed. “Do you understand that the Master Battle is different from the tournament you participated in before?”
Marcus paused. “What age are you this year?”
“I am fifteen.”
“Fifteen… Yes, you were always someone who refused to adhere to common sense.” Emperor Marcus let out a low laugh and rose from his seat. “Show me. Right here, in front of everyone, show me you have the skill to compete in the Master Battle.”
The nobles’s mutterings surged. Of course, most of them were wondering if Joshua could deliver. The young man himself, however, seemed unphased.
“Before I prove myself, I have several conditions.”
“How dare you try to talk to the Emperor like that?!”
Duke Agnus was grinning, ever so slightly.
“Stop.” The voice was quiet, almost inaudible, but silenced the entire crowd with that single word. “How amusing. You have… conditions.” The Emperor let out a long laugh. “You’re the first person to talk to me like that. I’m quite enjoying it.”
Had anyone else spoken like that, Marcus would have cut their limbs off immediately. But this young man was always adding a little excitement to his mundane existence; Marcus thought he deserved a few snide remarks.
“Please, go on. Anything except leaving the Imperial Palace.”
Joshua was silent, making the Emperor lean into his hand.
“I can’t believe it… Are you really leaving my side? I hate it when what’s mine leaves—more than you know.”
The court was taken aback by Emperor Marcus’s abrupt shift in temper.
“A knight who joined through Berche’s Bloody Battle—”
“I am the law of Avalon.”
There was nothing Joshua could say.
“If you agree, I will add another condition…” The Emperor snatched one of the guards’ sword and sent it hurtling towards Joshua at blinding speeds. In this motion he displayed the highest level of talent: the “heart sword”, the ability to wield a blade with only his will.
It seemed as if the sword would go straight through Joshua—but it stopped, trembling, before Joshua’s face.
There was only one explanation: Joshua was using the heart sword, same as the Emperor. The sword shuddered between the battling forces, and was eventually forced back.
“...I was trying to test your Aura Blade, but it seems you’ve even already mastered the heart sword.” The Emperor’s voice was laden with amazement. “Hahahahaha… AHAHAHAHAHAHAH!” Marcus seemed to have lost his mind; his laughter was unmistakably filled with delight. “Aden. I’ve never been jealous of you in my life—until now.”
Duke Agnus stared at Joshua. He seemed calm, but his eyes couldn’t conceal his amazement.
“Great… hahaha… How am I supposed to act childish if you do this to me?” The Emperor dropped back into his throne. “Feel free to flee. If you bring us a good outcome, your requests will be granted upon my name.”
The nobility stared at Joshua, awed by the Emperor’s unusual words. Joshua soaked in their gazes and savored each word as he spoke.
“I’ll give you more than that.”
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