“This—!” The first one to notice the Duke’s strange reaction was Chiffon, who stood guard at his side.
Despite Chiffon’s concerned inquiry, Duke Agnus remained intently focused.
Babel’s face squirmed; he itched to know what the Duke had found out. Joshua’s face, however, was wracked with worry.
Damn it, Joshua thought to himself. He didn’t bother worrying about the Duke’s grip on his wrists, because there wasn’t a single thing he could do about it.
Right now I’m not Joshua Sanders, the strongest Spear Knight of all time; I’m only Joshua von Agnus, the nine year old boy.
So there wouldn’t be anything of interest about his body.
But when the Duke’s eyes popped out of their sockets, it felt like Joshua had been dunked in ice water. If Duke Agnus sensed something he shouldn’t have, all his plans would be thrown into chaos.
What should I do? A cold sweat trickled down Joshua’s back.
Duke Agnus mulled over it with his eyes closed for a long moment before speaking.
“Yes?” Chiffon asked blankly.
Babel smirked as if to say “That’s right.” Chiffon burst into laughter.
“Duke, of course—”
“I’m not talking about the mana hall.” Duke Agnus quietly shook his head. “Hmm. It does feel different.”
Chiffon’s eyes widened.
Mana is in every living creature in the world, whether a knight or a wizard. It was in the general populace, and even inside base creatures.
Mana is a driving force of life.
The total absence of mana is like black magic. That’s why Duke Agnus was so intrigued when he examined Joshua’s body.
“What is this? Where the mana hall should be, there’s something… foul, sticky, and lumpy.”
Joshua had controlled his expression until now, but his eyes popped wide open.
Alarms rang in his head.
He had not paid much attention to the lack of mana in his body, because his mana technique, at a certain level, would assimilate his internal mana with the natural mana in the environment.
He knew he could still use mana. But what the Duke was talking about might be connected to his “regression”.
“Maybe…” Chiffon picked his words carefully. “I’ve heard stories of children born without mana.”
“Well…” Duke Agnus swallowed stiffly.
There were cases of children being born without an ounce of mana – about 1 in 100,000 – known as “congenital mana disorder”. It was said to be a curse from God, and would kill the child before they reached eighteen. There were no exceptions.
Given its rarity, Duke Agnus knew only what he had read.
But it doesn’t seem to be a disability. Duke Agnus murmured inwardly. He locked eyes with Joshua, making him jump.
Duke Agnus stood with a smile.
“Duke?” Chiffon’s worried voice pulled him out of his musings.
“What do you—” Chiffon blurted.
“If the child really has congenital mana disorder, then the rumors must be false.” Duke Agnus shook his head. “I’m going to behead those three right now. A centurion belongs to the estate. They should act like it.”
“I apologize for my moment of indiscretion.” Chiffon dropped to a knee. The Duke nodded in acknowledgement, then turned his head to Joshua.
“You… prepare a room for him to stay in.”
“Duke?” Babel jolted.
“Is there a problem, Babel?”
“That’s—” Babel bit his lips when Duke Agnus’s cold gaze fell on him. “There is none.”
“You can tell Joshua about living in the mansion.”
Babel took a minute to compose himself.
“Yes.” He replied, weakly.
“Starting tomorrow, teach Joshua the basic knight’s training. If he has the talent, you can teach him the Red Knights’ mana techniques.”
“Yes? But, Duke, master Joshua is obviously—!” Chiffon choked on the end of his sentence. He was afraid to say that Joshua might have congenital mana disorder.
“There is plenty of time. It doesn’t have to be done quickly. It would be even better if it turned out he’s not suffering from that curse.”
“—I obey, Duke.”
“And…” Duke Agnus looked at Joshua strangely. “I can’t wait for a year.”
“If something changes in you then—” Duke Agnus’s mouth hung open as if he was about to say something, but he turned away. “—I look forward to returning from Arcadia next year.” 1
“Chiffon, remain here.”
“Yes!” He answered vigorously.
All three watched the Duke’s figure disappear.
“You should stay here for a while.”
Joshua didn’t respond.
Were the rumors true? Chiffon frowned. I heard he lived in a stabled ever since they were thrown out of the mansion. This room is more spacious and better furnished than a peasant’s entire home.
The boy remained expressionless. Chiffon sighed in frustration.
“Call me if you need anything.” Chiffon knew the boy was the child of a mere maid, so he left without further decorum.
The door shut. Joshua sighed.
Joshua let his body melt into the bedsheets.
“I could fall asleep right now...” Joshua mumbled, fighting his heavy eyelids.
Duke Agnus was probably referring to when he would return to the capital city of Avalon, the Imperial Castle Arcadia.
Duke Agnus spent most of his time there. He had probably returned to the Agnus estate for recreation, though he was the type of person who didn’t understand how to rest.
You look forward to seeing me in a year. Did the Duke know something Johsua didn’t? Whatever it was, it couldn’t be good. The fact that anyone knew his hidden cards is a risk, because it had been his leash in the past.
I can’t come up with anything right now. Joshua shook off his restlessness.
“Babel von Agnus…” Joshua chuckled. Babel’s last words were still lingering in his head.
“Watch your step! I’ll cut your limbs off if you’re trying to fool everyone. Same for your maid mother too…”
Strange things were happening inside his body right now and he had a feeling he could solve it.
“I need to restore my strength… and for that—”
Having just entered the Duke’s lair, Joshua knew he needed to stay low-key and avoid suspicion. That’s why he’d avoided seeing his mother, whom he missed so much.
After midnight, I’ll go look for you. In the dim setting sun, Joshua’s eyes glittered brightly.
Arkady → Arcadia ↩️
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