Chapter 141

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Once again, Joshua was surrounded by nothing but darkness. There was one change, though—he wasn’t alone this time.

- Speak your name.

A different consciousness invaded Joshua’s thoughts.

He knew the owner of that voice, now.

“Duke Altsma.” Joshua peered ahead. In this place between reality and who-knows-where, Duke Altsma was no longer a rotting corpse. There stood Duke Altsma in his prime, an honest-looking middle-aged fellow. Fully human, and a Master no less.

“My name is Joshua Sanders.”

- Joshua… Sanders.

Duke Altsma tilted his head thoughtfully before nodding.

- Are you the one they were calling a monster in Avalon?

Joshua was not surprised. After coming back to life, nothing surprised him anymore.

“Do you regret it?”

Duke Altsma remained silent, prompting Joshua to speak again.

“A death knight can only be made from a knight of the highest order. But without the knight’s consent, it would be impossible to create a monster like that. That’s what makes them so rare. Unlike a wizard, a knight is more than willing to die for their ideals.” Joshua’s eyes flashed. “A knight is the paragon of their country; there is no greater shame for them than to degenerate into an undead monstrosity.”

- I know.

“Is it about revenge?”

- Revenge?

Duke Altsma thought about it for a while and shook his head.

- This is not about Ulabis. We were enemies, he had every right to fight me.

Ulabis and Duke Altsma would be compared long after the Duke was dead. Ulabis would someday be known as the Knight of the Red Flame and one of the Nine Stars, but that day was a long way away.

For now, he was just a knight who had just attained A-Class. The mere fact that he bested a behemoth like Duke Altsma was enough to rattle the continent, but for the Duke to shake it off so casually was unprecedented.

However, the revenge Joshua spoke of was not against Ulabis.

“Demero belle Grace.”

The whole mental construct they were in shuddered as Duke Altsma became agitated.

“Did you not know the identity of the one who killed you?”

- Is that it? You say it?

“Perhaps I know something you don’t.”

Duke Altsma didn’t speak for a long time.

- His Majesty… No, Demero belle Grace was the first lord I served when I became a knight.

Joshua’s eyes widened1 slightly at the new knowledge.

“Then—”

- It’s more than just revenge. This is a betrayal. Even when he vanished, leaving only word that he would cede the throne to his younger brother, I, his knight, remained silent.

- I must’ve been a terrible person in my past life… I’m weaker than the master I was sworn to protect. I’ve never felt like this before. I can’t believe I was born just to become a monster…

Joshua was beginning to sense Duke Altsma’s emotions. Frustration, despondancy, powerlessness, and rage filled the hitherto empty void.

Joshua knew how it felt to be betrayed by your master. He would be furious.

A face appeared in Joshua’s mind—Duke Altsma’s first master, who seemed to know no wrongs. The things Duke Altsma felt as he wielded his sword for his master were clearly conveyed.

If we meet again, I could introduce you to a very nice lady—

Joshua shook it off.

- You must be wondering why a man with no regrets like me did such a thing. Honestly, it's not that I didn’t want revenge, I was just curious. I wanted to understand his motives.

“There’s a tragic saying that those without dreams or hearts are the ones in power.”

Duke Altsma’s expression told Joshua that he did not understand.

“The unification of the continent.”

Duke Altsma’s eyes flew wide open.

“When his own homeland is weak and powerless, conquering the continent is a pipe dream. The story would be different if he had more power, but even then—”

- Hm? I wonder if he really conspired with the Avalon Empire.

“Avalon? What do you mean?”

- You must have heard that his son, the War God, escaped to Avalon, no? Demero definitely knew that Draxia belle Grace and Emperor Marcus were connected in some way.

Most likely, though, it was a transactional relationship. Draxia would be standing at the Fourth Prince’s side in the future, not Marcus von Britten’s.

That was the only conclusion that made sense.

Joshua grimaced.

On top of all that, there was a substantial chance that the man who took down the paladin Christian and converted Duke Altsma into a death knight was one of Kaiser’s people as well.

The design on the door was suspicious.

I don’t know where it came from, but it seems genuine. If the lich, Heinz, was the same person and not just someone linked to him… Joshua clenched his fists.

It was a very powerful force.

Duke Altsma took a step forward.

- Now that I’m here, such things are irrelevant to me.

- You need to kill me.

Joshua blinked.

- The power you now possess is capable of liberating me. You may be a total stranger, but please.

“So you feel… regret.”

- I do. I regret it. I was overcome with an all-consuming sense of betrayal. I still want to know, but not enough to be a black sorcerer’s puppet.

- If I do not escape, I will be manipulated against my will. So before my honor is completely tarnished, destroy me.

Joshua silently gazed into Duke Altsma’s eyes.

“...I refuse.” He slowly shook his head. “Even if it was the wrong choice, it was your choice. You alone are accountable for it.”

- Heh.

Contrary to Joshua’s expectations, Duke Altsma grinned and then collapsed to the ground.

- You are correct. I cannot allow another person to carry my burdens. This defeat is mine alone, and yet I continue to bandy words.

“I have a suggestion, although you may have realized already.” Joshua stepped forward.

- A suggestion?

Duke Altsma gave him a suspicious look. Joshua nodded reassuringly.

“I will accompany you on your journey. I am not a particularly pleasant person. I’m not even old enough to shoulder someone else’s burden—but a mutually beneficial agreement is a different matter.

“It’s a reasonable bargain. You lend me courage, and I will follow you on your journey. Even if that path is thorny and filled with sorrow and anguish, I will follow you. Even though you hail from another nation and another people, I will follow you. Those are my conditions.”

The space was held in a pregnant silence. Duke Altsma looked bemused, while Joshua continued to stare into his eyes.

- How amusing.

Duke Altsma’s laughter filled the void.

- I think it would be more entertaining watching the continent’s greatest talent develop than it would be working as a warlock’s servant.

“So you agree. Lugia!” The evil magic dormant in Joshua’s body was released.

- I’m looking forward to this.

Duke Altsma then transformed into a black sphere and was absorbed into Joshua’s body.

  1. My dude you just said nothing surprises you anymore. ↩️

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