“Don’t greet him now—isn’t there something more urgent we need to attend to?” Duke Agnus’s soft voice rolled over the knights. Joshua eventually closed his mouth.
Viscount Vig’s voice was lingering in Joshua’s mind for some reason.
Considering the total population of the continent, aristocrats were a rarity. Physical ability? Irrelevant. Inherited status, caste, origin, and blood ties determined everything; commoners were less than bugs to the ranking nobles.
Still, Joshua smiled bitterly.
“You. I’ll watch you,” muttered Viscount Vig with a glimmer of contempt in his eyes before towards the Duke with a sunny expression. “Duke, it’s a little modest, but I humbly prepared dinner… why don’t we head inside and unwind a little before we set off—”
“My knights are not that weak.” Duke Agnus shook his head firmly. “If it was a break, everyone would have been too drunk to continue moving. Hmm… however—ANYONE WANT TO REST?!”
Who could say yes before such an intimidating presence?
“We will leave right away.”
“Please allow us to accompany you.” Viscount Vig spat his thoughts out into the open. When subjected to the Duke’s questioning gaze, he continued: “Unfortunately, my abilities are too lacking to handle it myself—but as the Lord of the estate, I can’t just bite my fingers on the sidelines, can I?”
Duke Agnus showed a worried expression. Seeing this, Viscount Vig pressed forward.
“The knights and the soldiers gathered are thinking the same thing.”
“We want to be of help to the Duke!”
“We are honored to accompany the Duke!”
The shouts of the assembled knights of Locke, in such numbers, filled the air.
Duke Agnus sighed.
“What do you think, Anna?”
“Oh! You don’t have to worry about her at all! My daughter will certainly be of some help to the Duke.”
“Are you saying you want to take this child into that dangerous place too?” The Duke frowned.
“Sylph.” A gust of wind blew, followed by murmuring. Then, the ground and wind shook.
“What—?” muttered Armand, the 4th-Class wizard.
“As it turns out, I just recently learned that my daughter has a talent for elemental arts!” Viscount Vig stepped forward with a pleased expression.
“Ah, I see…” Duke Agnus let out a small sigh.
Joshua turned to examine Anna. There were only a tiny number of people with a talent like Anna: like magic, the elemental arts are exclusive to those born with the talent—even the lowest rank of Elemental Artists, the junior Elemental Artist, had only a few hundred members across the entire continent.
The rarity of Elemental Artists was no different here in the Empire. At that age, with that kind of talent, her renown would quickly spread across the Empire into the entire world. However, this “Anna” was entirely absent from Joshua’s memory.
This girl… her face is familiar, somehow… Maybe I saw her somewhere…? She had a pretty but commonplace visage, yet something about it tickled his memory.
Hmm… Oh? Joshua tilted his head. He realized Anna’s gaze was firmly fixed on one place.
Babel von Agnus—who, on the other hand, had his eyes still glued to Joshua like he hadn’t even noticed the girl.
Babel and this girl—
“Great, let’s go together,” the Duke decided.
“However, the Red Knights will take the lead, and the Locke Estate’s forces will be in the rear. The rest of us will stay in the center.”
“We heed and obey!”
Duke Agnus nodded.
“Prepare to depart immediately!” The troops quickly erupted into a hubbub of preparation.
Joshua, however, couldn’t shake the uneasiness lingering in his heart.
If it’s someone important enough to affect my plans, I’ll think about it… For now, we’ll keep moving. Joshua set his thoughts aside and followed the Duke towards the gloomy forest.
In the glorious palace of the Avalon Empire, the Iron-Blooded Emperor sat upon his throne.
“...I mean, it was…” the Emperor muttered softly to himself, while the man who just delivered his report prostrated before him. The silence stretched for a long moment while the Emperor mused.
“—It’s fun!” Marcus burst into laughter. “Not only did he live up to the rumors, he even made the B-Class Knights—the pride of the Empire—back down.”
Genuine joy danced on Emperor Marcus’s face.
“Evergrant, how did he look to you? We want to hear your personal opinion—not as a knight, but as the greatest wizard in our Empire.”
“As Your Majesty said, it is difficult to make a hasty evaluation. The mana of a wizard and a knight are too different, particularly in the way they exercise it.”
“Just your hunch is enough for Us. How far do you think that child will grow?”
Evergrant fell into a deep contemplation while the Emperor waited with a patient smile.
“...It would be too abstract to speak from the perspective of a wizard, so I’ll use the Imperial Knights as an example.”
“That’s good.” The Emperor nodded. He was a swordsman himself, so it was only natural that he would understand it better this way.
“First: Sir Valmont, who was with me a few days ago. While I just met him in person, I can say that if I ever had the chance to face him in a one-on-one battle—” Evergrant paused. “—I would never be bored.”
“Ha!” Emperor Marcus nodded eagerly.
“Valmont is the youngest battalion commander in the Empire—I could count his ilk with my hands and have fingers to spare. Though, Your Majesty could do much better.”
Emperor Marcus was the only one who recognized Evergrant in Avalon, a country that habitually disrespected wizards. He was also one of the few people who understood Evergrant’s true skill.1
“But Young Master Joshua? He indeed felt different.”
“Are you saying you couldn’t win a fight with him?” The Emperor’s eyes were wide with surprise.
“It certainly felt different, but,” Evergrant shook his head. “I wouldn’t… for now.”
“Then you mean…”
“Within the next ten years, possibly sooner, I will begin to lose. That is my sincere feeling.”
Astonishment colored the Emperor’s eyes. The wizards were terribly rational beings, and Evergrant was a wizard among wizards.
By the way…
“Answer Us one question.”
“Anything, Your Majesty.”
“What do you think the outcome would be if you and I had a one-on-one match?”
Evergrant’s eyes widened with astonishment. In the end, he could manage no words.
“...Ha.” Emperor Marcus eyed Evergrant. “HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!”
His laughter grew tinged with madness.
“THIS IS FUN! A shame We only could send the prince. If We knew, We would have come to see the child ourselves! If nothing else, We must see the child.”
The Emperor snapped his fingers. A man in black slipped out of the shadows without a sound and prostrated himself before the Emperor.
“Jaken, can you keep that child tied up here in the Imperial Palace, even for a little while?”
“From what I know, the Fourth Prince is already preparing to do so.”
“Kaiser?” Emperor Marcus was surprised.
“A little while ago, the Imperial Knights received a letter of recommendation from the Fourth Prince. The subject of the letter was, of course, Young Master Joshua von Agnus.”
“A letter of recommendation, you say… So that’s his way. Although it was made for a specific purpose, the idiot battalions, the 11th and 12th, were bothering Us…” Emperor Marcus’s smirk deepened as he spoke. “Report the progress of that situation regularly.”
“I heed and obey, Your Majesty.”
“Joshua von Agnus… Maybe he’s perfect for ‘the job’.”
I think what the author is trying to say is that the Emperor has a better grasp of peoples’ power than Evergrant does. ↩️
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