Chapter 34

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"Yo-Young Master Babel," Chiffon stuttered upon seeing Babel at the door. Babel had been confined to his room without food or water for days, ever since his second fight with Joshua. Of course, Chiffon hadn't known the reason for his confinement and had been forced to stare at Babel's closed door, clutching his chest.

I did…

Yet here he was, neatly dressed.

"Babel von Agnus has arrived to greet the Duke." Babel bowed. Duke Agnus eyed him contemplatively for a moment before granting him a nod of approval.

"I haven't been able to show myself for some time… and I apologize for that. Still, I'm late for this meeting."

"I apologize," he continued. "I needed time to myself to think."

Has something… changed? The Duke's eyes bored into Babel, making him duck his head. What should I say? Externally, nothing has changed… I can't pinpoint it exactly, but I'm sure something about his atmosphere has changed. It's not a bad feeling.

"Do you have something to say here?"

Babel didn't reply to the Duke—instead, his gaze was drawn somewhere else.

"—Well?" Joshua, suddenly the subject of everyone's attention, shot a puzzled look back at Babel. "Do you have something to say to me?"

"Prince Joshua!" Chiffon shouted angrily. "There are eyes watching here! Young Master Babel is unequivocally your superior here! Please be polite."

"Hah!" Joshua smirked snidely. "Are you his spokesperson, then?"


"I've always thought of you like Babel's loyal dog… You know the only person here who should receive your loyalty is the Duke, no?"

"What a joke! I only speak because the Young Master seems unaware of our laws and etiquette!" Chiffon shouted to hide his bewilderment.

There were invisible lines within the family that even the knights couldn't cross. The Duke wanted their thoughts to be concerned only with their own training.

"Anyone is admirable if they have the skills; if you want to make your opinion known, speak with your skills and not your words—wasn't that the "law" you were talking about?"

"That—" Chiffon looked as if he'd boil over any moment now.

I can't stand the way this boy looks like he's completely broken Young Master Babel.

"—I'm fine, Sir Chiffon."

"Young Master?"

"It wasn't a lie at all, was it?" Babel smiled bitterly.

What does that mean? The vassals rippled with surprise. Did Young Master Joshua really defeat Young Master Babel? How did that happen?!

This guy was full of bluffs… Duke Agnus was equally surprised. He doesn't seem to stand on his ego as he did a while ago. Should I say… he has the bearing of a knight?

The Duke's lips drew into a gentle curl.


"'Speak with your skills'..." Babel locked eyes with Joshua and spoke carefully. "That's how I really feel right now."

His eyes… I've seen it before. Joshua burst into laughter. Right after their second match, he'd had that rotten–fish-like gaze.

"I… will rise higher," Babel muttered like he was hypnotizing himself. "Don't think I'll just look on from the bottom."

"Whatever floats your boat," came Joshua's flippant reply.

"Duke." Babel now turned to Duke Agnus.

"Yes, please speak."

"I wish that, from this time on…" Babel hesitated, then seemed to find his resolve. "I hope that the seat of succession will be vacated."

The conference hall instantly erupted.

"The-the seat, vacated—? My word—!"

"Prince Babel? Are you saying you will even give up your position?"


Babel was the official heir to the Duke of Agnus. Until Joshua appeared, Duke Agnus had no other sons; with Babel's "perfect" talent, his position was indisputable, not even when Joshua appeared.

The boy descended from the Imperial bloodline, and a bastard born from a maid—the gulf between them was too wide to be charted.

And yet, Babel said he would voluntarily abandon the seat.

The name of Agness was a weighty one. A dukedom of one of the continent's three great powers. You would have to be crazy to give up such power on your own, or so the vassals thought.

"When your monstrous younger brother suddenly appeared, did you disappear?" Duke Agnus asked with a stern expression.

"No." Babel shook his head without hesitation. "I just want to compete fairly. If the seat is meant to be mine, it will be mine; there's no need to fuss."

Duke Agnus's smile widened as he looked into Babel's unwavering eyes.

"I'll think about it."

"Thank you." Babel nodded gratefully.

It feels like things are changing little by little. A myriad of emotions flickered through the Duke's eyes as he gazed upon his son. I don't know what form it will take, but I don't think it's bad.

All of this… Duke Agnus's eyes turned to one person: there stood the boy at the center of all these changes. His other blood, with eyes so deep they divulged none of his thoughts.

Duke Agnus smiled. Joshua flinched but didn't look away.

"I look forward to the future," he muttered as they passed.

Then Duke Agnus walked out the door.

His expectations… Joshua chuckled.

A few hours after the meeting had ended, the Lady of Agnus was resting after a walk.

"What are you saying? Are you joking with me right now?" Vanessa looked like she could kill someone.

"I am most certainly not, Duchess."

"My head hurts." Vanessa pressed her palms against her temple.

"Duchess!" Chiffon rushed forwards to support Vanessa.

"When I heard that my uncle was unsuccessful, I felt absurdly angry. But in another corner of my heart, an unknown anxiety crept up… and now—" Vanessa bit her lips hard enough to draw blood. "—it has become a reality."


"You know Babel is my everything, yes?"

"Yes, I am aware," Chiffon answered solemnly. "I'm sorry—I should have done everything to stop the Young Master."

"That boy…" Vanessa shook her head. "I know better than anyone that he inherited that stubbornness from his father… there was nothing you could've done about it."

Vanessa clutched her fiery hair and straightened her back.

"You can't do what the Imperial Knights failed to do." Vanessa's visage became ominous, and her eyes turned cold.

"But—It is unlikely—but, if that child goes beyond simply threatening Babel's position… I'll address him directly."

Chiffon stiffened for a moment before immediately bowing his head. No one was happy when the Duchess herself made a move.

"Do not worry. It will not happen."

"Yes, I hope so too," Vanessa muttered, staring out the window. "Now, what are the future plans?"

"Tomorrow, the Duke will go to the Locke estate."

"The Locke Estate?! What will he be doing in that barren land?" Contrary to the beautiful scenery she saw outside the window right now, Locke Estate was a barren land in the typically fertile Duchy. It lay in their territory's northernmost region—about two days' travel from the mansion.

"It was reported that the monsters of the Black Forest are running rampant again, so the Duke is heading there himself… the two Young Masters will accompany him as well."

"Babel, too?" Vanessa asked, surprised.

"Yes. I thought he would only take Young Master Joshua with him, but… towards the end of the meeting, Young Master Babel volunteered as well."

"... Isn't it dangerous? I heard rumors that the monsters in the Black Forest have become especially ferocious these days." Worry creased Vanessa's face.

"You don't need to worry about that—the Duke will personally assist them."

Vanessa nodded.

"But when will he return?"

"It would depend on the situation in the Black Forest—but at least a week or more, considering the time to travel there and back."

"When he comes back, will he go straight to the capital with Lucia and the child?" Vanessa shook off her pensive expression and looked up.


"Tell him that we'll have a meal before they go… I'll tell Lucia myself."

"Understood." Chiffon made a short bow and left.

Vanessa's eyes glittered brighter than ever as she watched him go.

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