Chapter 24

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In the distance, a three-story stone building loomed intimidatingly over its surroundings. While old and well-worn, it was built to last.

It was worth noting that all three floors were used for the same purpose. One floor contains private offices exclusively for the commander and vice-commanders of the Imperial Knights Templar; the widest room, in the middle, was the commander’s office; to the sides were the offices of the vice-commanders in charge of the 1st through 10th battalions.

There was an obvious reason for dedicating an entire floor to the senior leadership: inspiring pride in their duty, motivating them to constantly hone their skills.

Maybe someday I will rise to that position, too.

On the third floor, a young man lay on a sofa inside the 9th battalion office. He had flaming red hair that sparkled like fireworks, but his silver eyes were freezing cold. His visage was the epitome of indolence—it seemed as if nothing could shake him from his laziness.

“This is nice.” The man stretched his legs out on the sofa.

He’d been stuck at the rank of 1st Lieutenant for a long time – and that was fine by him. His favorite pastime was avoiding his superiors’ attention while he mooched around during work hours; after all, there was only one person in this building who was higher-ranked than him.

The—locked—door swung open without warning.

“...You were here too.”

“Yes?” The man didn’t bother sitting up, only turning his head towards the exhausted voice coming from the doorway.

“Commander?” His eyes widened. There stood the only person who could give orders to anyone in the building: Rod den Hogg, the “Master”, the commander of the Imperial Knights.

The man begrudgingly heaved himself off the couch.

“What brings you here, Commander? If you had contacted me in advance, I would have come to see you in person.”

“Are you going to talk back to me like a nerd?” Knight-Commander Rod exasperatedly shook his head at the other man yawning and muttering.

“Ah, I’m sorry. Please forgive me… I must’ve lost my mind because I saw the person I truly admire.

“Valmont, I see you’re still running that deceitful mouth… I wish you would show your respect by actions sometimes, not empty words. You’re not just a knight of the Knights Templar, you lead an entire battalion.”

“Don’t worry, I’m doing my best.” Valmont flashed a playful smile.

“Then why are you here instead of training?” Rod shot him a fierce glare, but didn’t bother pressing the issue.

I know nothing will change—I’ll just end up nagging him again. Valmont dun Brown, you’ve always been like this.

Valmont’s talent was so overwhelming he sometimes made the Commander nervous, but Rod was confident that someone like Valmont was never going to take his place. Simply put, he was born lazier than a barnyard pig.

To be promoted to deputy commander of the Imperial Knights, you must be at least a B-Class Knight – that is, at least an advanced expert. It was as if Valmont achieved this supreme state with half as much effort as anyone else.

“I feel this all the time… but somehow, medicine turned into a stick in the mud. Back then I was so proud, but one day—”

“Chief, if I’m a stick, doesn’t that mean I’m quite useful?” Valmont pouted.

Rod clenched his fists, sighed, and held out his right hand.

“...His Majesty’s decree.”

Valmont wiped the playful expression from his face.

“Kneel and listen.” Valmont quickly dropped to one knee and bowed his head. The golden dragon embossed on the seal parted, revealing the hidden contents.

“...Hear me, proud Ninth Commander. We wish to dispatch the Imperial Knights to the Agnus territories, at the behest of the Duke. We order you to depart in the company of the Imperial Chief Wizard Evergrant as soon as the equipment is prepared.”

Each word shocked him more than the last.

One of the Duke’s largest training halls, located in the most remote region of the Duke’s mansion, was built solely for training the soldiers. Dozens of his centurions were gathered there.

“Hey, did you hear?” A soldier in light leather armor ventured.

“What are you talking about?”

“The stable bastard—No, the Duke’s second young master!”

“Ah, that!” The soldier next to him clapped his hands in apology.

“I heard he was actually a great talent? Rumor has it he even beat ogres with his bare hands?” This came from a young soldier to his other side.

“Hey! Even the knights would be mincemeat if they attacked an ogre with their bare hands. What is that child? Say something that makes sense—”

“Wasn’t there even a rumor that the boy was already using mana?”

“This dumbass, really… You mean to tell me a bastard of less than ten years can become a mana user? What? Then I’m a Master—No, I’m one of the Nine Stars!”

The soldiers around them burst into laughter. Most of them dismissed the rumors as nonsense – they simply sounded too absurd to be true. Any reasonable person wouldn’t believe it—except…

“Hey Rols! Answer us! Where did Roid and Gort get off to?”

“Yeah, Rols! You said you’re going to trash that Lucia girl! Didn’t the three of you always bully that kid?”

“Well, with that face and body, of course she’s going to catch someone’s eye… Ah, shoulda slept with that maid—”

“You’re so small, you can barely get yourself off. It should be me.”


The centurions bantered on, but Rols couldn’t say anything. After what he saw that day, Rols was quiet as if his tongue was cut off.

“You’re such weird bastards… I have no words.”

“Did you really ravage Lucia, after all this time? Women of Lucia’s age are hungry – I bet Rols was so small, Lucia was disappointed—”

“This idiot talks with his crotch. When’s the last time you got laid?” Again, the centurions’ laughter filled the hall.

“By the way, who called us today?”

“I think it was a Red Knight.” At the mention of the Red Knights, Rols slumped and his eyes lost focus.

“The Red Knights… Hahhh, it’s going to be a long day.”

“Does sparring take days or something? Let’s just finish this quickly and go get a drink.” All of the centurions wore a resigned expression.

The centurions’ training was unusual; they were expected to lead 100 soldiers, so they were directly trained by knights with command experience. The Duke’s three great orders of knights took turns training them; among them, the Red Knights were famous for being the most difficult. Given their relative influence, the Red Knights worked the centurions hard to avoid being underestimated by the other orders.

“Attention!” At the cry of the 1st Battalion leader, the most senior of the centurions, all of the centurions stood to attention.

Small footsteps echoed in the silence.

“...Rols? Are you okay?” Rols shuddered uncontrollably when he saw the knight arriving. The reaper of that day—that terrible day—appeared before him once more…

“Hmm? Why did the knight bring a child with him?”

“Wait. Isn’t that the kid from the stable? Why is Lucia’s kid—”

Rols, rattled by each passing word, managed to slowly raise his head. He met someone’s eyes and groaned.

“Young master… Joshua.”

“Young Master, today’s training will be useful to you.” Cain, clad in iron plate engraved with the symbol of the Red Knights, looked around.

Why is a Knight of the Red using honorifics for such a child? The centurions’ ranks rippled.

“I am Joshua von Agnus.”

“...Hey, that kid—”

Joshua could hear the centurions muttering, but continued.

“Everyone here is a loyal servant of the Duke, yes?”

The silence was suffocating.

“Your skills are probably good, if not great.” He looked around, eyes lingering on Rols. “All of you… come at me.”

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