A suffocating silence blanketed the classroom.
Most of the students were thinking the same thing: “What did he just say?”
I don’t know what family he belongs to, but that boy is pretty interesting.
His appearance doesn’t match his personality—what a strange kid.
Surely he knows he’s talking to the heir of Count Sten?
Despite the Count’s apathy towards the title, he was head and shoulders above any other count; in fact, the Sten family was powerful enough to fend off one of the Twelve Families or Five Dukes. It was no exaggeration to say that their family’s status rode entirely on the shoulders of Count Arie bron Sten.
Amaru made it well known how proud he was to inherit the Sten legacy.
“Did you… just say something? Just now?”
Joshua met Amaru’s gaze with a politely blank expression. “I said, ‘The rapier is the greatest piece of rubbish ever made… and only girls use it.’”
The cadets exploded.
“This—! This dumbass—!”
The second and third years were especially noisy.
“Who is he? He must be a freshman, because this is the first time I’ve seen him. Do you think he comes from some great family?”
“Ah, let me in on the talk! Did you hear any rumors that the son of a high-ranked family was coming?”
“But what’s he going to do next? Is he completely insane?”
Kane, the underclassman swordsmanship professor, frowned at Joshua. For a moment, he pondered the idea of Joshua being the son of a powerful lord, but he quickly recalled that there wasn’t a single child on the admission list that sparked his interest. Not a single one came from the upper nobility.
“You said… the rapier is a piece of garbage…?”
Amaru leapt from his seat.
“Stop!” Kane brought his foot down. “Fighting amongst cadets is strictly forbidden!”
“I’m a proud member of the Sten family! Are you telling me to stand idle while our name is insulted?”
“You…” Kane trailed off. He knew that the blue-haired boy’s words were blatantly insulting. With Amaru’s pride, Ash’s opinions were like a gut punch.
“It’s ludicrous,” Joshua said. He snorted and grinned cruelly.
“Why are you insulting the weapons you don’t use and only put the ones you do use in the spotlight? Isn’t this textbook asshole behavior?”
“This motherfucker!” Amaru’s face flushed scarlet, like his head could pop at any moment. “I’m just telling it like it is!”
“‘Like it is’? Let me repeat what you said: ‘All weapons besides swords are useless’. Is that right?”
“Yes! The Masters, the country’s heroes, except barbarians like the Mercenary King, use swords.”
Joshua lips twisted into a lopsided grin. In his first life, he’d come to despise this mentality. These stereotypes were deeply entrenched in these people’s brains, like the roots of an old tree.
I could tell just by looking at the instructor—the man didn’t even blink at what Amaru said.
Joshua’ twisted smile stretched wider. How much scorn did I receive just because I wielded a spear?
The spear was a symbol of bravery, selflessness, and righteousness. I tried to show that to the rest of the world, and all I got was scorn and contempt. But this life, I’ll show you.
“Fighting between cadets is strictly prohibited.”
Amaru froze awkwardly, but a snide smile quickly found its way onto his lips.
“What? You’re going to quote the rules now like you didn’t want to punch me a second ago?”
The other cadets chuckled.
“But.” Joshua stood and faced Kane. “If it’s for practical training, it wouldn’t break any rules.”
“You want a real fight…” Amaru pondered it and then nodded enthusiastically. “A practice class is scheduled for tomorrow.
“Excuse me, Instructor. Please give me a chance to prove to my classmates that I’m not a liar. If you approve this sparring session, I won’t argue anymore.”
“Well…” Kane sighed deeply.
Regardless of the students’ backgrounds, the teachers always overruled them within the Academy. It’s how they ensured equality. Kane wasn’t easily fazed, either, but, given the circumstances, he couldn’t turn Amaru down. There was a distinct possibility that the issue would spiral out of control if he left it alone.
It’s going to be a long year.
“Fine. The sword, however, is prohibited for sparring. You may use the wooden sparring weapons in the Academy storehouse; anything else, I will not allow.”
Amaru’s face brightened. A wooden sword was perfect for breaking limbs.
I’m going to crush you.
At the time, no one knew that this incident would permanently change the teaching of swordsmanship in the Academy.
Jero had been using the Arcadia branch’s secret room frequently lately. Many wealthy clients visited the Moon Gate in recent years, and they all wanted something big and flashy.
Maybe I have too much daily clothing. Jero scratched his head absently.
An expressionless man sat in the chair across from him. Jero didn’t know the knight’s identity, but the family he came from could not be overlooked—his armor was embossed with the shield-and–sword motif of the Marquis of Villas.
I don’t think the Marquis has been involved in any particularly troubling instances recently… Jero was skeptical, though. Wouldn’t it be an issue if everything ran too smoothly? Well, I’ll find out if I just ask him.
“It’s a privilege to meet a knight of the illustrious Marquis of Villas. I am Jero, an informant.”
The brusque greeting made Jero hesitate, but he didn’t let it show. Only a newbie would allow the client to see their emotions.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Sir Muker. So, how did you come across our branch…?” Jero went straight to the point, knowing that these kinds of people didn’t appreciate circling the topic.
“I’d like you to find everything on one boy… or person.”
“Regarding this… boy—”
“It’s a young man named Ash pen Frederick. At this time, he’s enrolled in the Imperial Academy.”
“Ash pen Frederick?” Jero cocked his head.
“While I’m at the Academy, I’ll go by ‘Ash pen Frederick’. Find me there if more information comes in.”
“Do you have any idea about his origins?”
“Wait…” Jero smiled. “I know, roughly.”
Muker’s eyes widened. “Tell me everything there is to know about the boy. I’ll pay you as much as you want.”
Jero appeared to contemplate something.
“As you are aware, the information our organization handles is quite costly.” The informant smiled sweetly.
“If it’s about money—”
“Especially!” Jero cut Muker off. “Especially if it falls under our organization’s unique management.”
“Do you have to take extra precautions?”
There’s something about that kid. I knew it! He couldn’t be ordinary if a vast organization like the Moon Gate put him under special management. I expected it but actually hearing it is like being struck by lightning.
“Tell me. I’ll pay as much as you want—”
“One… million pieces of gold.”
“...What?” Muker stared blankly at Jero.
“Ash pen Frederick’s information is worth one million gold.” Jero emphasized each words to make sure Muker didn’t hear anything wrong.
“The Moon Gate will not accept this request unless you can pay.”
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