The Igrant continent hosted numerous countries—In terms of power, the continent was not lacking in any way. The three major powers in Igrant were the Avalon Empire, the Sallow Empire, and the Hubalt Empire.
There were seven kingdoms, including the Magic Kingdom ‘Terra’. The weakest two were the Principality of Thran and the Heart Kingdom, which had been weakened by almost ten years of civil war.
The three major powers constantly monitored each other, resulting in an unprecedented period of peace. But Igrant was a ticking time bomb—if they continue to build power, it would inevitably explode. The only reason a war hadn’t started yet was because they knew that taking the first step would put them at a disadvantage.
The Avalon Empire was well known as a haven for knights; the Imperial capital, Arcadia, had an especially long history of supporting the knights. Since the knights were as vain as they were skilled, Arcadia was elaborately decorated to reflect their character.
In particular, the grand Palace of the Avalon Empire stood as the tallest and grandest structure in the capital. The Galtika Palace was one of the most beautiful castles on the continent; its majestic walls seemed to reject the merely mundane.
The owner of this palace was none other than the Iron-Blood Emperor, ruler of the Avalon Empire, Marcus von Britten.
The Imperial Courtroom was simple, but exuded the elegance and pride of the knights from every stone. At the end of a luxurious red carpet was a gold-adorned throne, engraved with dragons, which were thought to represent ferocity and fortune, on either side.
Normally, the courtroom was used for aristocrats to report on various policies and situations to the Emperor, but today it was so empty you could hear a chill draft whistling across the stones.
On the throne sat the most important man in the Empire. Emperor Marcus von Britten slumped into his seat, chin resting on his fist.
A man appeared, prostrating himself before the throne. He was clad in black from top to bottom; the mask dangling from the side of his face displayed his membership in the Imperial family’s clandestine forces. Known as the “Black Wind”, he headed an intelligence group which reported directly to Emperor Marcus. Of course, only the Emperor himself knew his true identity.
“Black Wind” stood straightened and began his report in an eerily monotonous voice.
“A warning has come from the Red Wyvern.”
Emperor Marcus’s eyes snapped into focus.
“A child with the potential to become a star has appeared.”
There was a long, pregnant pause.
“...If it’s a ‘Red Wyvern’, it must be Duke Agnus?”
“Yes, Your Majesty.”
“From the Ducal bloodline?” Emperor Marcus’s forehead wrinkled. “If We 1 remember correctly, there was already a child born and raised with half of our royal blood. Our sister is there—”
“Reports say he descended from Duke Agnus, but not Babel von Agnus.”
“What?” Surprise flickered across Emperor Marcus’s normally implacable facade.
“Did the Duke have another child with Our sister?” Emperor Marcus was incredulous. “This is the first We’ve heard of it.”
“That is... “ The man chose his words with care. “I have heard it was not the Duchess’s child.”
“Yes. It is said he was born from one of the Duke’s maids.”
“She…” Emperor Marcus slumped back into the throne, exhausted. After a while, he burst out laughing.
“How fun. That child is a treasure for the ages, and now he has two. We are truly envious.”
“But the princes are talented enough to make the world weep.”
“We disagree.” Emperor Marcus shook his head quietly. “Obviously, there are a few with the qualities of an emperor. But in terms of strength, they’re all lousy.”
The man wanted to say something, but then shut his mouth. The general public would never evaluate the princes that way—the Emperor, a Master, simply had absurdly high standards.
“If the Duke decided to reveal his hidden card now, the boy must have had at least as much talent as that boy Babel?”
“That is—” The man pursed his lips. Again, he was hesitant to answer.
I have no idea how I’m even supposed to begin explaining this.
Emperor Marcus’s face stiffened with impatience.
“—There are rumors that Babel von Agnus was defeated by the boy.”
“What?” Emperor Marcus couldn’t hide his shock.
Defeated? One of the best talents in Avalon, the Empire of Knights?
“Tell Us in detail. Was he already an adult or something?”
“...I believe he’s nine years old this year.”
Emperor Marcus’s mouth gaped open dumbly.
There was no way the man would tell him such a lie unless he’d gone insane. So… it must be true.
“It is said Duke Agnus will request a dispatch of the Imperial Knights soon. In other words, it is assumed that the child is already approaching a C-Class Knight.”
“At the age of nine… Class C…”
Wouldn’t it be really fun if it were true?
Never in the entire continent—nay, in all of history—had this kind of talent appeared. Some would say that this was Duke Agnus’s glory 2, but it wasn’t—it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that this level of talent glorified the entire Empire.
“It’s fun.” A deep smile danced on Emperor Marcus’s lips. “This is really fun. A nine year old bastard defeated the ‘Duke’s treasure’, a C-Class Knight… Hmm… If he really defeated Babel, the boy’s level is obvious. After all, it’s impossible to defeat a mana user without using mana. Hahaha… You truly are the pride of the Empire.”
The Emperor chuckled for a while more.
“Yes, Your Majesty.”
“If you are born from lowly origins, there is a high chance you grew up disrespected by your family. Right?”
“—Yes, Your Majesty.” Seeing the Emperor’s look of anticipation, the man spat an answer immediately. Now was the time to tell him what he wanted to hear.
“That means We have a chance, too.”
“You mean…” The man’s face clenched with worry.
“We want to go there ourselves, but…”
The man was astonished.
Did the Emperor really consider going out and finding the boy himself?
Talk was easy, but the effects would be unimaginable. The Emperor is the Empire—such a move was like the Empire itself bearing down on Duke Agnus.
Emperor Marcus spoke before the man could.
“It’s a pity We can’t because of the swarms of opportunists.” The man breathed a sigh of relief. However…
“Send Evergrant, Valmont, and one of the princes instead.”
The man said “Fuck.” and sighed heavily. The people the Emperor mentioned were the future of the Empire: Evergrant was the current chief mage and had passed the wall of the Seventh-Class; Valmont was one of the ten deputy knights, leading the 9th Battalion of the Knights Templar—he’d risen to his position at the tender age of twenty, and was frequently touted as the next commander of the order.
“Your Majes—Your Majesty,” the man stuttered, having just regained his senses. “To send one of the princes away…?”
“If you set the table, it’s up to us to eat it.”3 Emperor Marcus smiled bitterly, but hints of playfulness leaked through his serious demeanor. “Has anyone else heard the rumors of this monster?”
“Oh, they probably don’t know yet. Rumors will spread quickly, but right now, things are quiet even within the Duke’s family—”
“Then let’s keep this a secret.” Emperor Marcus’s smile deepened. “An eye for talent is also a quality an emperor should have. There are only rumors of this child; the rest is up to them.”
“...If none of the princes make a move…”
“Then, what, aren’t these guys lucky? If that’s the case, We will bring him here personally, in secret.”
“I hear and obey.” The man bowed his head and prostrated himself again.
“We look forward to it. Hahahaha!”
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