Chapter 15

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True to its reputation, there were quite a number of training facilities in the Agnus estate. Each group of knights had a dedicated gymnasium and there was even one for individual training. Past the third-largest of these gymnasiums was a stone building with a red cross flag waving above it: the headquarters of the Red Knights.

“Captain, this is Cain.” Cain knocked on a certain door.

“Come in.” Cain was already a bit out of sorts, so he was startled by the sudden reply. Behind the door he found the commander of the Red Knights neatly sat in the middle of the room.

“I was told you needed to see me.” Cain saluted his superior.

“Well,” Chiffon nodded slightly. “I need you to do something.”

“Please name it.” Cain straightened.

“Perhaps today or tomorrow, the Duke will call you.”

“Why?” Cain’s eyes widened slightly. He may be a member of one of the most successful orders in the estate, but he was only a low-ranked knight himself. The number of times such a knight encounters the Duke could be counted on one hand.

“Don’t be too nervous, ‘cause I’ll be with you… along with the two counts and their daughters…”

“Are you talking about Count Rebrecca and Count Wagen?” Cain’s eyes widened further. He’d heard they were visiting the Duke, but what could bring such a collection of high-ranking nobles together?

“Hmm… It seems that the Duke intends to test Master Joshua.”

“They are testing the Master?” Cain stared blankly at Chiffon.

“Obviously, Lord Joshua is suffering from congenital mana disorder, but the Duke has doubts. So I’ll nip it in the bud. This time, we can blow away any lingering suspicions.”

“You’re saying…” Cain gulped, but Chiffon was tranquil.

“It is a subordinate’s duty to alleviate their master’s worries. I’ll amputate the crippled limb.”

What did he just say? Has he gone insane!? No matter how high-ranked you were, to say such a thing about the son of the Master without a hint of regret...

There must be some sort of relationship between Master Babel and Sir Chiffon… Cain could no longer deny it. It’s no wonder Sir Chiffon is biased.

Knights of the Duchy choose their masters, but it only changes priority. No matter which vassal they pledge their loyalty too, they ultimately take orders from the Duke.

I guessed Sir Chiffon pledged himself to Master Babel, but I never knew he’d be so blatant as this. This was bad—Cain had already committed himself to Joshua, after all.

“You don’t have to put up that facade.” Chiffon eyed Cain’s troubled expression. “He’s also a child of the Master… even if he’s a mistake. Don’t tell anyone, or you’ll be punished.”

“Right.” Cain nodded reflexively.

“So I thought I’d try something different. In order to confirm the truth of the rumors, we decided he should spar with a knight in front of everyone, including the two counts.” Chiffon locked eyes with Cain. “His opponent is you.”

Damn it… Cain knew this would happen.

“During the battle… find the right moment to use your mana.”

“You want me to use mana?”

“Obviously, don’t use it openly. The spectators will be masters of war—in short, the very kind of people most sensitive to mana. Even a subtle flow of mana won’t go unnoticed. Instead, you will only infuse the tiniest bit of mana into your body… If Master Joshua really has a congenital mana disorder, that alone will be fatal.”

Congenital mana disorders were a terrifying thing. It was more than a lack of mana: the body was actually fatally allergic to it. Any mana – even naturally occurring – being injected into their body…

Even left alone he wouldn’t live to see 18 years. If it’s really a congenital mana disorder, his life is in jeopardy. But the Master Joshua I saw...

“For now, you just have to wait. Be prepared,” Chiffon continued, unaware of Cain’s thoughts..

“All right.”

“See yourself out.”

Cain saluted and turned away.

This isn’t so bad. With such a small amount of mana, the commander won’t notice if I don’t use any at all. Cain had decided to support Joshua. There was no way he would harm the boy, even under orders from his direct superior.

I’m not suited for these kinds of things. Cain moved away from the office with a determined expression.

I hope everything goes as planned.


“Brother Babel!”

“Huh?” Babel turned his head behind him. “Charles?”

“Long time no see!” Charles clung to Babel.

“When are you—” Babel abruptly realized Charles was not alone.

“Long time no see, Young Master.” Iceline lowered her head. Babel stared blankly as she greeted him with an elegance beyond her age.

“Iceline, you’re here too.”

Charles’s eyebrows twitched.

“Oh, I see...” Charles quickly interjected herself between them. “I heard you have a younger brother!”

“Brother?” Babel frowned. “Maybe… that peasant bastard—” Iceline’s chilly gaze shut his mouth.

“You’re not talking about the maid’s child, are you?”

“Yes? I knew he was a bastard, but a maid’s son?” Charles rolled her eyes.

“Yeah. The dung shoveler is trying to show off.”

“Oh.” Charles adopted a pitying expression. “A Duke’s child and horse dung… how pitiful.”

“Don’t pity him!” Babel’s smile turned shifty. “He was born from dirty origins and with mana disorder.”

“Ah! I heard that too. He has the Curse of Mana, right?” Charles clapped her hands, saying ‘Cheap!’

“Hah, the heavens must be angered by his mere existence.”

“But they said… it might not be the curse after all.” Charles tilted her head.

“What?”

“The Duke said he would test it himself.”

“What are you talking about?” Babel frowned. As the atmosphere curdled, Iceline stepped forward.

“They want to confirm if the rumor – of Master Joshua beating the three centurions – is real. That would also prove if he has a congenital mana disorder or not.”

“Iceline?” Babel flinched at her quiet voice.

“That’s why my father is organizing a sparring session. That way, the most subtle flow of mana will be easily captured.”

“Why is Count Rebrecca…?” Babel trailed off with a confused look.

“This is what Duke Agnus asked for,” Iceline answered.

“Father?” Babel suddenly grinned sharply. He turned to Charles urgently.

“When?”

“Yes?”

“When and where are they sparring?”

“That is… Maybe today or tomorrow. The Duke said it would be held in the small theater.”

“Hmm.”

I don’t know what you’re thinking, but it’s a pity it won’t go anywhere. Babel clenched his fists tightly. He couldn’t forget his strict upbringing—even when he’d used mana at only fourteen, his father had no special reaction.

Are you looking forward to next year? Go right ahead. A deep chill settled in Babel’s eyes. If he’s still alive by then.


By the time Joshua left the ancient ruins, the sun was past its apex.

“What a day,” Joshua sighed.

I have to… No one will go looking for a bastard who was practically thrown out, but… Most likely, he would have been found out by morning. He moved quickly.

The Duke’s mansion appeared in the distance. As Joshua approached, his eyes widened: standing in front of the entrance door was a familiar figure.

Is that Cain? Cain also noticed him. They slowly closed.

“Where have you been?”

“Some morning exercise.” Joshua resisted the urge to walk away.

“That stick?” Cain cast a glance at Lugia.

“My training weapon.”

“The commander is looking for you.” Cain looked like he had more questions, but he didn’t inquire further.

“‘Commander’? Are you referring to the leader of the Red Knights?”

“Yes.” Joshua stared at Cain. Cain took a hesitant breath. “Probably because of the spar.”

“What?”

“It looks like the Young Master’s skill will be judged by the Duke.” Cain paused and examined Joshua. “Your opponent will be knocked over immediately.”

“Well…” Joshua gulped.

Apparently, Duke Agnus had noticed his skills to some extent. Otherwise, there was no reason to talk much less test his so-called “skill”. After all, Duke Agnus’s hunger for talent was legendary.

What is this… Joshua lifts his head to look at Cain, who gives him a pitying look.

I’ll show you. Joshua harrumphed. Cain misunderstood.

“Don’t worry. I have no intention of seriously sparring.”

“You mean you have no intention of winning?” Cain nodded back.

“I’ll just pretend to lose. So don’t worry—”

“How funny.” Cain’s eyes widened at Joshua’s cynical muttering. “Are you going to rig the game?”

“That—” Cain struggled to answer.

He’s right. I wanted to watch over the Young Master for a long time… I can’t harm him.

However…

“You knights have the right to choose your lord… But I, too, have the right to choose my subordinates.” Cain was frozen stiff. “The most important thing in the relationship between master and subordinate is mutual trust. I have no intention of entrusting my back to such a petty, weak-minded person. If you want to see the real me… Do your best.”

“After all, why else do you wield the sword?”

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