Chapter 18

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Avalon Empire, one of the three most powerful countries on Igrant. It had long been a country with strongly centralized power. There were many nobles who boasted great power, but all bowed before the authority of the Imperial Palace.

This was owed to Marcus von Britten, the current emperor and only Sword Master in the Empire, who had ruled the throne with an iron fist for over a decade. Now in his late thirties, with the support of numerous nobles, his continued reign was assured.

Emperor Marcus von Britten’s temper was famous. In front of him, any noble who bared their teeth were purged – he firmly believed there was no such thing as a permanent friend, even a family that had loyally served the Imperial family for generations.

No mercy for a traitor to the crown!

It would not be an exaggeration to say that it was his determined personality that defined the present-day Marcus von Britten, the Iron-Blooded Emperor.

Matching his awful personality, the Emperor had a sister: Duchess Vanessa von Agnus, the legal wife of Duke Agnus and mother of Babel von Agnus.

A chandelier adorned the ceiling of a large room, luxuriously furnished and lushly carpeted.

In the middle, she sat with legs crossed on a soft sofa made from high-quality furs.

From the sharply raised eyebrows, to the dull blonde hair, to the faint wrinkles of age, to the black dots beside her eyes, Duchess Vanessa radiated intimidation. This woman, whose beauty had not faded with age, was the wife of Duke Agnus.

“I have something to report,” said the man kneeling before her.

“Tell me, Sir Chiffon.” It was none other than Valderas den Chiffon, commander of the Red Knights.

“That is—”

Seeing his hesitation, Vanessa tilted her head questioningly. Chiffon sighed.

“—It has to do with Young Master Babel.”

“Babel?” Vanessa straightened. Babel is her son. When it came to him, the Duchess was famous for handling it roughly.

“What happened to Babel?”

“...The Duke tested Prince Joshua.” At “Joshua”, Vanessa’s long eyebrows twitched.

“I don’t think it’s right for you to call him that in front of me, wouldn’t you agree?” There was a chill in Vanessa’s voice.

“...Sorry. The Duke ordered a spar with a knight to test Joshua.”

“Really? How odd.” Vanessa made a ridiculing face. “A mere maid’s child. What did he do to deserve that kind of treatment?”

“It seems the Duke was trying to confirm the truth of the rumors about the centurions… And the other day I reported that Joshua had a congenital mana disorder…” Chiffon trailed off with a look of regret. “The child was born with a mana disability.”

“What of it?”

“It—” Chiffon bit his lip and continued with difficulty. “He used mana.”

“What?” Vanessa frowned as if she’d misheard.

“Joshua used mana. Perhaps comparable to a C-Class Knight—”

Vanessa leapt from her seat like a startled cat.

“Are you joking with me, Sir Chiffon?” Her gaze was murderous. “Mana? At that age? With that background?! He’s neither a wizard nor a knight, but you’re telling me he used mana?! Does that make sense?”

Vanessa strode right up to Chiffon and lifted her hand without hesitation.

Damn! With a loud smack, Chiffon’s head snapped to the side.

“What is your mission?” Vanessa growled.

“To assist the Duke. Duke Agnus—”

“Not some frivolous thing like that!”

“—To help Prince Babel and the Duchess become greater than anyone else.”

“How do you think you are doing right now?” Vanessa glared directly into Chiffon’s eyes. “Did Sir Chiffon perhaps forget his only purpose in life?”

“In any case, the truth—” Before he could finish, Vanessa’s hand was raised to strike again.

“Young Master Babel—” Babel’s name made her pause. “They sparred. At that point, I knew it was mana. Their mana collided, I’m sure of it.”

“However,” Chiffon looked up stiffly. “Young Master Babel lost.”

Chiffon took the Duchess’s slap with closed eyes.

“AAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHH!” The sounds of agony and anger shook the luxurious room.

Joshua returned to his assigned room and collapsed onto the bed.

It’s difficult. After his return, this was the first time he used mana in combat—in real combat. There was a good reason for that, but… Even considering my age, this body is too weak.

Joshua took a deep breath.

This feels like hell. His body was not trainable at this age. Was he not a bastard, thrown out of the mansion to clean horse dung for the rest of his life?

I was too busy being bullied. Even the word “training” was a luxury back then.

Joshua had a sudden thought, and paused to mull over an earlier conversation.

“Did you say they were from Duke Pontier and Count Rebrecca? Those people, I mean.”

Oddly enough, he and Cain seemed more familiar after the fight and spoke casually.

“Yes, they are.”

They were like rich people watching a chicken fight… disgusting…

It was true that the Pontier family was great, but… they would fall the same way as the Agnuses. The emperor would earn his nickname – the “Iron-Blooded Emperor” – for none other than the Pontier family.

It was a huge shock at the time. Wiping out an entire bloodline—no less than a Ducal house, the highest of nobles—down to its roots. Afterwards, the Emperor announced it was for nothing but “treason against the Imperial family”.

Joshua didn’t even know the exact story; he was too young at the time.

Another memory came to him.

The other girl – I remember she was not from the Duke’s family. She was a high-ranked official, but not quite a Duke. But Joshua was sure she was fallen nobility, because he had no memory of such an outstanding individual in the few descendents of the Fallen Dukes.

Then there’s only one option left.

The house of Count Rebrecca—a place Joshua had no memories of.

Avalon Empire’s first Seventh-Class Archmage; the Cold-Blooded Slayer; the Ice Flower…

“...Iceline,” Joshua muttered.

In his past life, she didn’t have a full name; it was said her name was buried with her family. They had no special relationship back then, but it was different now. This time, the more connections he had the easier it would be to achieve his goal.

Thump! Thump! Thump!

Suddenly, Joshua was roused by a knocking on his door. It was not a light knock—it sounded almost like someone was kicking the door. Joshua opened the door right away.

“Hi?” Charles, a pretty girl with flaming red hair, smiled at Joshua. “Are you Joshua von Agnus? Oh, do you know me?”

Charles powered through Joshua’s stiff silence.

“I’m Pontier – Charles de Pontier. I come from the fifth generation of the Ducal houses, same as you. I heard them say you’re younger than me, so can I talk more comfortably?” Charles paused her babbling to clasp Joshua’s hands. “Ah! Well, I’m not the kind of person who would discriminate against your mother because she’s a concubine so don’t worry. Well, feel free to call me ‘sister’.”

Joshua’s eyebrows twitched.

“Let’s go in and talk. I have a lot to say.” With that, Charles strode into his room—or would have, but Joshua quietly blocked the way.

“What? Let’s talk!” Charles gave Joshua a puzzled look.

“Hey.” His chilly voice made Charles flinch and tremble.

“Go away.”

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