After hours of hard combat, the route to Tripia was strewn with the remains of undead.
“Damn undead! What a bunch of corpses!”
“Did you see how great manager Aiden was? He took care of all our problems!”
“And that newbie… His skill—maybe the son of an aristocrat?”
“Where did they go?”
Off to the side of the road, away from the mercenaries, Joshua and Akshuler conversed in hushed tones.
“You know, I’m not surprised by what’s out there.”
“A lich, right?” Akshuler nodded. “It’s part of my contract with her.”
“Your contract… Anyways, it hasn’t been long since you got hold of the Laypone, but that Eiden character is quite the story.”
“Eiden is… not exactly fictional.”
“Eiden is a mercenary like me and my father.”
“Ah… You know, you have a reputation for acting like a gangster.”
“Who, me?” Akshuler pulled a face.
“From what I heard from the mercenaries, this is a two-star quest, right? But then there was a horde of undead and dullahans… which would be quite the problem without aura. The mercenaries might quit if this becomes the norm for two-star quests.”
“Well, it was a five-star quest at first, but,” Akshuler chuckled, “with you and me here it’s only two-stars. In my opinion, at least.”
To say that with such confidence… It seemed Akshuler was unaware. They may be up against the most formidable opponent Joshua had faced in this life.
“Did you know that liches also have classes?”
“Huh? Like wizards?” Akshuler cocked his head. “An arch-lich, maybe?”
He really doesn’t know.
“I’ve got one piece of advice.”
Akshuler gave him a puzzled look.
“Remember that no matter how high you are in society, you’re only human.”
“That seems rich, coming from someone who’s barely human.” Akshuler shrugged.
“Most importantly…” Joshua glanced towards the mercenaries. “She’s here.”
“I told you we’d meet her if you took the quest. Come on, we’ve been away for too long.”
Akshuler turned around, hiding his oddly triumphant smirk from Joshua.
Joshua stared at his back for a moment, then shook his head and followed.
Unbelievable… Baron Ashbal sank to his knees, swordless. His hands were stained red by the blood of his ripped palms.
“Mukwolcham…! How did you—!”
Cain stared arrogantly down at the fallen Baron.
“How can a Baron’s knight know a skill like that? How do you know that secret?!”
“Hahhh…” Cain grinned. “My master often tells me that if I stick my nose in places, it’s going to get bloodied.”
“You—” Baron Ashval ground his teeth together and staggered to his feet. He positioned himself as if to attack, putting Cain on guard immediately.
Cain didn’t let it show, but a fight of this level was exhausting.
I have confidence in my endurance, but to keep developing it, I have to pit myself against a variety of strong opponents.
“Your master is a coward. With your talent, the only reason he’d leave you here is to save face.”
“I told you to shut your mouth.”
“You’re the one whose mouth is getting shut!” Baron Ashval roused every ounce of mana in his body. It was obvious that he had earned his position as commander of the 1st Knights—enough mana cascaded off of his body that it crackled against the audience’s skin and shook the air. Soon enough, his sword was coated in a layer of deep blue mana—an aura blade, albeit unfinished.
“In the middle of the training hall—?!”
“Shouldn’t we stop them? The Young Lady is going to go crazy if she hears about this.”
“How are we supposed to stop them?”
The knights’ voices rose, but the choice was taken away from them.
“Please stop!” Cain and Baron Ashval stiffened as the red-haired lady stormed across the training hall towards them. “What is this mess?”
“Y-Young Lady.” Icarus emerged from the corner where she had taken refuge, shaken.
Cain perked up like a dog.
“Baron Ashval has insulted my master!” Cain lowered his head and acted miserable. “I was merely asking questions, but he drew his blade and—”
“What are you talking about?”
“Is that true, Sir Ashval?” Charles gave the Baron an icy look. He bit his lip nervously.
Charles slapped him hard enough to spin his head around. Even Cain winced sympathetically.
“Who am I that you would embarrass me like this? You dare disrespect my guests? Or do you still see me as some girl, even knowing who my father is?”
“N-No.” Baron Ashval didn’t dare raise his head. Charles gave him one last glare before shifting her attention to Cain.
“On behalf of the Knight of Pontier, I apologize to Sir Cain, knight of Sanders.” Charles bowed deeply, to Cain’s consternation.
“Oh, no—Young Lady, this is entirely unnecessary.” He swiftly bent down to match Charles’s bow.
“Please, notify me immediately if you encounter any further issues.” Charles leveled her icy gaze on Baron Ashval again. “As the head of the household, I will no longer sit idle while my family pulls itself apart and insults our guests. Do I make myself understood?”
“Yes,” Baron Ashval replied.
Charles spun around and walked away.
“Princess!” Icarus was fast on her heels.
“Haha…” Cain scratched his head. “I’d better get going… What time was that appointment?”
He vanished, leaving Baron Ashval alone with the knights.
“This… Damn!” The Baron trembled with rage. “AHHH!”
When he was done screaming he glared at the knights. “What are you doing, huh? War is coming! You think you’re prepared?”
Evidently Baron Ashval was the only one flustered.
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