“What? Even the Nine Stars?” Duke Agnus burst into laughter.
Although... isn’t this the same as what he said to Babel?
Anyone with such ambition should speak through actions, not words. They have to produce results. Another of his blood stood before him who could live up to such claims—because Joshua was indeed a child of talent.
But that weapon… Duke Agnus frowned, drumming his fingers against the desk.
Everything else Joshua said was fine, but what was with his choice of weapon? He didn’t even want a “big sword”, which was nothing more than a form of bragging. Even if he’d said he wanted an assassin’s dagger, the Duke would have nodded along—albeit reluctantly, because Duke Agnus firmly believed that the sword was the king of the battlefield. The spear, in contrast, was an insignificant weapon with more disadvantages than advantages.
A longer reach? The spear was unwieldy even for its size.
After a long moment, the Duke seemed to reach a resolution.
“Prove yourself worthy of the spear.”
“What do you—?”
“I will test you.”
Joshua’s eyes widened.
Sparring? Again? It’s not bad. No, perhaps it could even be a good opportunity for Joshua; no matter what anyone said, Duke Agnus was one of the Nine Stars – a chance to prove his talent was a once in a lifetime bargain.
“Do you agree?” Duke Agnus asked.
“Yes; however, I’d like to propose some conditions.”
“If I pass the Duke’s test, I hope you will allow me another request.”
“Well…” Duke Agnus swallowed. What the hell is he going to ask for?
“I will tell you my request after the test.”
The Duke concluded that there was no point in protesting if Joshua would answer before he could raise an objection.
“Fine. If you pass my test, I’ll let you use the spear and hear out your request. However—” Duke Agnus scowled at Joshua. “If you lose, you obey my orders.”
If Joshua was right, the Duke referred to accompanying him to the capital, in addition to learning the sword.
Actually, going to the academy was not a bad option. What he needed most was time; it was better to go to the capital, where his safety was guaranteed, than stay here where wolves lurked around every corner.
Most importantly… If I go to the capital, I will find him.
Kaiser von Britten.
—And the many nobles who would become his subordinates in the future. Joshua had memorized every one.
If I can contact them before he does… I’ll have no reason to hide my skills. People would flock to his power like bees to pollen.
When I show them my skills, I can build a force using my own abilities – just like in my previous life. And the foolish young Kaiser von Britten will have his castle crumble beneath him without suspecting a thing. Thus, I will give him the greatest taste of despair in his entire life.
“All right.” Joshua's eyes blazed.
“He… What did you say?” Vanessa goggled at Chiffon.
“Maybe… I think the Duke will take Joshua to the capital.”
“What? Arcadia?” Vanessa frowned.
“If… If Joshua’s talent is real, you have to keep an eye on him a little longer. Undoubtedly, it was a terrifying talent—” Chiffon looked up and immediately clapped his mouth shut. The Duchess cast a murderous glare down at him, such that he struggled to finish his words.
“I’m sorry… In any case, it could lead to a very difficult situation.”
“I’m aware. Arcadia has too many eyes.”
“I have an idea,” Chiffon ventured.
“What is it?”
“I think the Duke is trying to spread the word that Joshua is a C-Class mana user.”
“I’m still hearing that nonsense,” Vaness frowned “I thought it was a good idea—”
“I saw not only the Duke but also the two counts with my own two eyes. Even if it’s not really mana, I’ll give it a try.”
“You’re planning on testing the boy…” Vaness muttered.
Any noble could appoint a “knight”, but it was a different story when it came to classifying them as a mana user. There was only one way to be officially recognized as a C-Class Knight in the Avalon Empire: to prove your achievement to the Imperial Knights.
The Avalon Empire awards incentives to knights according to their Class; upon reaching B-Class, a knight would immediately be awarded a title and territories. In order to prevent such privileges from being indiscriminately squandered by the nobility, it was directly managed by the Imperial family.
If you had the talent, you could contact the Imperial family first. When the Imperial family sees an incredible talent, they would stop at nothing to bring them to their side. Such a thing was only possible in the Avalon Empire, where the Imperial family always trumped the nobility.
“In the past, it was sufficient to display mana to the Imperial Knights. But not anymore.”
“Is that so?”
“Despite being recognized as a C-Class Knight, there were a lot of bluffers who could not wield mana properly.”
“So they fight to determine if they have the swordsmanship skills to suit their Class.”
“Sparring? With the Imperial Knights?” Vanessa’s eyes widened.
The Imperial Knights.
The Knights Templar, made up of over a thousand elite members, was without a doubt one of the most powerful martial forces in the Empire—each and every one was C-Class or higher. In particular, the current commander of the Imperial Knights was one of only five A-Class Masters in the Empire; his skills were a match for anyone.
“If we want to be tested as a C-Class, the Imperial family will probably send a C-Class Knight. Of course, the skills of a C-Class Knight can differ wildly.”
An Imperial Knight who has trained extensively, and a knight who has just achieved C-Class; even if both were C-Class, the disparity was huge.
“Only three—” Chiffon’s eyes sparkled. “I will test if he can withstand three of the Imperial Knights.”
“I see…” Vanessa nodded in understanding.
“There used to be more nuance to it, but… Nowadays, the Imperial family seems concerned with how much mana they can hold… It can only mean that their standards have risen.”
“Therefore… You’re saying the Duke is going to invite the Imperial Knights to test the boy?” Vanessa asked, frowning. Chiffon nodded.
“The Duke values the honor of the family above all else. He wouldn’t miss an opportunity like this.”
“How uninteresting.” Vanessa bared her teeth. “Babel should be enough, but if his eyes wander somewhere else… It disgusts me to see Babel being compared to a filthy maid’s son, Sir Chiffon.”
“That’s why I suggested this.” Chiffon’s eyes lit up. “Doesn’t royal blood flow through the Duchess as well?”
Vanessa’s eyes widened with realization.
“After all this time…” Her cold smile deepened. “I’ll have to call him again.”
Joshua paused as he was walking through the Duke’s mansion. At the other end of the long passageway, he saw another person approaching.
“Babel?” Joshua frowned. It was funny to see him try to challenge Joshua, but he didn’t want to get involved.
Their footsteps echoed down the empty hallway as they approached. Just as they were about to pass...
“What do you want?” said Joshua.
“I… I cannot admit it… The fact that someone like you used mana, and the fact that you defeated me.”
“So what?” Joshua laughed.
“So come at me.”
Joshua saw a fire in Babel’s eyes. It was an emotion he knew all too well.
Not vengeance, nor jealousy.
A sense of victory.
I never want to lose.
Joshua’s smile widened.
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