Chapter 26

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Early in the morning was the busiest time in the outer walls of the palace. Within these majestic edifices, almost a hundred armored men clamored; they exuded the knights’ pride with every movement.

At first glance, it seemed to be a lot of people; but looking closer, you would see that it was actually a very small percentage of the Imperial Knights. Numbers were not everything, of course—each one of them was more capable than a hundred men combined.

This group of knights and wizards was preparing to depart for Duke Agnus’s territories. Leading them was a small, fair-skinned, middle-aged man with platinum blonde hair, draped in a white robe; his emerald green eyes glittered brightly and seemed as if they peered into peoples’ hearts, and his gaze was cold and imperturbable. He was one of the most powerful wizards in Avalon: the Imperial Chief Wizard, Evergrant von Aswald.

His five aides clustered around him with worried expressions.

“Chief, are the rumors from the Agnus Duchy true?”

Evergrant paused for a moment before replying.

“True or not, we are wizards. It’s our duty to follow orders and remain unbiased… Until we see it with our own eyes, we have to assume it’s true.” In addition to his remarkably gentle personality, Evergrant was well known for the polite way he addressed his subordinates. This, along with his knowledge, won him the respect of those under him.

“This is nonsense. If anyone told me he mastered 2nd-Class at the age of nine, I wouldn’t believe it either… Didn’t Miss Rebrecca enter the 2nd-Class at that age as well?”

If a child responds to mana for the first time around the age of ten, they are dubbed a prospective wizard. Iceline, on the other hand, had mastered the 1st-Class and already entered the 2nd-Class. She was known as one of the continent’s greatest magical talents, and rightfully so.

Unlike swordsmanship, which can be developed by pure effort, magic and sorcery depend entirely on innate talent. As such, the ratio of knights and wizards was heavily skewed—there were only a few wizards in the entire Empire.

That said, knights who can infuse mana into the sword – so-called “mana user” or “higher level” knights – were just as rare as wizards.

“Once a knight can wield mana, even a 2nd-Class wizard struggles to defeat them. By that logic, 2nd-Class wizards will kneel to… a nine year old child.”

“We have to be thorough with our judgement. But if the rumors are true, that kind of talent…” Evergrant’s words were muffled, but the other wizard shook his head.

“I am worried. In our beloved Avalon, the gap between knights and wizards is widening…”

Evergrant’s expression hardened.

“If the rumors are true, I think we should convince him by any means necessary. But if that fails—”

“That boy is a talent His Majesty ordered us to watch. Don’t think about such nonsense.”

“All right.” The wizard immediately backed down for Evergrant.

“Sir Valmont, are the preparations complete?” Evergrant called out to the young knight approaching them.

“Well, as you can see it’s going smoothly.” The commander of the 9th Battalion tilted his head and shrugged. His laziness kicked in at the wrong moment.

“This is for His Majesty and the glory of the Empire,” Evergrant scoffed. “I expect you will leave no room for error—not now, not ever.”

“Hah, how many useless worries do you wizards have?” Valmont was careful to keep his voice too low to be heard.

Evergrant was not a noble—instead, his rank was based entirely on relationships. The favor of the Emperor won him his position as Chief Wizard and treatment better than any high-ranking nobleman. To put it bluntly, Evergrant outranked Valmont in every way.

In the Avalon Empire, the land of knights, wizards were known as a tool of convenience. Valmont, an Avalon knight down to the bone, used to ignore wizards outright. But Evergrant was a wizard at the beginning of the 6th-Class; even in the Empire, he wielded considerable influence.

“If you’re going to act like this the entire mission, I’ll have no choice but to report it directly to His Majesty.” The mention of “His Majesty” made Valmont tremble.

Evergrant and Valmont glared at each other. The bizarre confrontation gathered the attention of the thirty wizards and one hundred knights around them—it looked as if a fight would break out at any moment.

“It’s a joke, it’s ajoke.” Valmont lifted both hands with a friendly smile. “Can’t you take a joke, Chief Wizard? Ahh, it’s so boring. No one has a sense of humor…”

“Relax, wizard.” Valmont patted Evergrant’s shoulder on the way out. “I’ll let you know when we’re ready~”

“That damn bastard!” One of the wizards stamped his foot.

“Halt. It’s already done.”

“But Chief Wizard—!”

Evergrant shook his head, and the wizard could only bite his lip and back down again.

The knights gathered were not aware of the true power of the wizards. In this era of peace, the knights were used to one-on-one battles where their well-trained bodies would not give a wizard the time to harness their mana.

In war, wizards truly shined—but in these peaceful times, there was no way a war would happen.

If they knew what I was thinking, they would be furious.

Valmont laughed so hard he choked. The knights standing nearby had to bite their lips to stifle their laughter.

The angry wizard’s nails dug deeply into his palms. Valmont smirked at him.

“His Majesty’s orders were to send all one hundred knights of the 9th Battalion, including me, to represent the Imperial Knights Templar. The Chief Wizard was well aware of this, and he knew there were ten intermediate B-Class, thirty lower B-Class, and numerous C-Class in the battalion.”

…And you’re probably as old as my uncle. Valmont almost added insult to injury, but decided to wrap it up.

“Well…” Evergrant swallowed nervously. I already knew it, but it’s something else to hear and see it in person.

With those numbers, the 9th Battalion could take on all the knights in the Empire outside of the Knights Templar. Within the Empire, there were only a few known A-Class; below them were no more than fifty B-Class.

“The fact that His Majesty deployed an entire battalion—”

“It means,” Valmont interrupted, “that one of the princes is going on this expedition.”

The crowd was instantly abuzz.

“A prince? A prince is coming with us?!”

“This is even weirder! No matter how talented that Agnus child is, how could they dispatch a whole battalion and a prince? It’s just a bit of mana!”

“And the battalion commander and Chief Wizard together? With this kind of power, no one in the Empire will stand in our way.”

“Well, that’s life.”

Valmont frowned and raised his hand to silence the crowd.

“Do you know which prince is coming?”

“Unfortunately, I did not hear anything else from His Majesty. Matters of the Imperial family are top-secret and totally classified until just before the mission.”

“Hmm…” Valmont swallowed a sigh. “That aside, are you already aware of why we’re going to the Agnus duchy, Wizard Evergrant?”

“You’re talking about the rising star of the Agnus family?”

“The rising star?” Valmont’s eyebrows twitched and his anger rose sharply. Evergrant’s choice of words was provocative: anyone who deserved to be called a “rising star” had the potential to challenge the Nine Stars. Babel von Agnus was a “rising star” because he became a C-Class Knight at the age of fourteen.

“You don’t believe such nonsense, do you?”

“When Young Master Babel became the youngest mana user in the Duchy, everyone reacted the same way.” Evergrant shrugged it off.

“Do you know the second youngest mana user in the Agnus family?!” By this point, Valmont was shouting. “Duke Agnus wielded mana at sixteen! If you’re born from that lineage, fourteen years old just barely makes sense—but this kid! A commoner, a nine-year-old born from a maid!”

Even if the Duke is to be believed, it’s the duty of an Imperial Knight to keep the high-ranking nobles in check on behalf of His Majesty. Even for the Grand Duke Agnus, there’s something fishy about this incident…

Normally, Valmont was endlessly fickle. But now, he had no intention of ignoring this potential threat: if this peace was broken, he was doomed.

The shame… Evergrant clenched his fists. An Archmage on the verge of entering the 7th-Class, the Realm of Demons. No where else would I receive this kind of ridiculous treatment—if not for the Emperor, I would have left right away. But in the near future, everything will change. And…

Evergrant stared coldly at Valmont.

This staid peace will soon come to an end. When that time comes…

“Lord Valmont; Sir Evergrant; what are you talking about that’s so amusing?” One of the palace gates burst open, revealing a small boy flanked by two knights.

“Prince!” The two men knelt before the boy with golden eyes and golden hair—without a doubt, a scion of the Imperial family.

“Yeah, did you say the kid’s name was Joshua?”

“Yes, Prince Kaiser.”

Over a hundred knights and sorcerers were graced by Kaiser’s dazzling smile.

“Joshua… Joshua von Agnus…”

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