“My name is Jaken,” he said.
“Jaken?” Joshua cocked his head. He’d never heard the name before.
“Have you heard of an organization called ‘Black Wind’?”
“Black Wind!” Joshua’s eyes widened.
The Emperor’s personal intelligence agency, known only by name except to the highest-ranking aristocrats. They were elites among elites, answered only to the Emperor, and would die for him if he ordered it. Black Wind wasn’t known to the general public, but Joshua was intimately familiar with it from his past life’s memories.
In particular, the Assassin King was a member. Joshua had mixed feelings about them.
“I asked if you were aware.”
“That’s great, although it’s not a complicated topic.” Jaken’s eyes gleamed. He didn’t bother asking how Joshua knew. “By His Majesty the Emperor’s command, I have come to deliver a message.”
“Him? He sent you personally?”
Jaken nodded. “I’ve been dispatched in secret in order to simplify the procedure. Be grateful for his consideration.”
Generally, a proxy had to be treated the same as the person they represented—in other words, even the highest noble, a duke, is forced to bow before the Emperor’s agents. Nobles would usually be polite enough to send someone appropriately ranked as their agent, but some would deliberately send a low-ranking agent to humiliate them.
Joshua despised tedious procedures; typically, he would welcome this, but…
Weirdly, it puts me in a foul mood.
“Are you still talking nonsense?” Joshua’s mouth twisted into a nasty smile.
“What?” Jaken boggled at him.
“You haven’t even delivered His Majesty’s will yet, but it’s obvious this conversation is going nowhere.”
“What… Did you expect me to address you formally?”
“I’ve heard that the Black Wind’s agents abandoned their real names and families. You have no title, but you think you can talk like that to me?”
An institution that reported directly to the Emperor had great authority in the Avalon Empire. Even the Twelve Families and Five Dukes tread lightly around them; it was ridiculous for Joshua to be acting like this.
“Isn’t it the same for you? Strictly speaking, only your father is a nobleman.”
“Oh, so the Black Wind, the Imperial Family’s eyes and ears, doesn’t know?”
Joshua shrugged mockingly.
“Don’t you know that anyone who becomes a C-Class Knight is immediately bestowed the rank of Baron? Or were you completely unaware that I am a C-Class Knight?”
“Hoho.” Jaken chuckled.
“What amuses you?”
“Nothing. Pardon me for laughing. However, the rumors said you were very mature for your age—but it seems like you’re no different from the other kids your age.”
“Ah, they do spread those kinds of rumors, I see.”
“Yes, they do.” Jaken nodded. “I’d like to talk more, but I’m short on time. Even if you concealed your identity, you wouldn’t want a never-ending chat either. I will announce His Majesty’s will now:
“‘Listen, Joshua von Agnus. Your letter to the Fourth Prince was to Our liking. Still, would you not come under Our command? Our hands itch because of this pleasant feeling.’” Jaken coughed. “‘We sincerely hope that you will join the Imperial Knights. We wish for you to entertain Us for a little longer; We have heard how brilliant you are, so you will know what We mean.”
“..Is that it?”
“Yes, that is all. He also mentioned that if a letter of recommendation is required, he would be more than happy to write it himself—and if you can’t come, hang in there.” Jaken stood up. “He also encouraged me to bring you, even if you were kicked out for different reasons.”
Joshua laughed. “I’ve heard he’s a fascinating individual, but His Majesty seems a little different from the rumors.”
“What exactly do you mean?” Jaken’s expression became frigid.
“Nothing.” Joshua shrugged. “I just find it fascinating that he seems to have a perfect talent for spotting talented people.”
“Believe it or not,” Jaken said, “with Babel von Agnus already graduated, you being here will greatly impact your future. It’s not impossible, but…” Jaken walked past Joshua. “Arcadia is different from Agnus. If you fall off the rails, you’ll regret it.”
“Thanks for the advice.”
“The will of the Emperor is absolute,” Jaken told Joshua as he walked out. “Please visit the Imperial Palace as soon as possible. And please take care here.”
Joshua watched Jaken vanish from view.
“Should I move the plan forwards a little?” he muttered.
Joshua took one last glance in the direction Jaken had left, then walked away.
Classes were over. In a vacant lot behind the Academy, a child writhed on the floor surrounded by snickering children. His clothes were caked in dust, and his skin was bruised, cut, and torn. His glossy sky-blue hair glittered in the sunlight despite the dust and dirt.
“Icarus! Veron shen Villas, you motherfucker!” Agareth cradled the bloodied Icarus.
“Whoa, Agareth! Take a deep breath and relax.” The gloomy-eyed boy leading the gang smirked. “Why are you acting like this? It’s not like it’s the first time this has happened. Besides, this guy is just a commoner, unlike last time. He’s got nothing to do with you.”
“Why… Why are you torturing me like this?” Agareth screamed. “What did I do to you guys?”
“Did I ever say you did anything wrong?”
“What?” Gehog, next to Veron, answered him. “If having the wrong older brother was the crime the first time, this time it’s the crime of having the wrong friend.”
“You heard that, right? Now… What did your nerdy roommate do this time?”
Agareth grit his teeth.
“We’ve only been at school for a few days. Do you think he regards us as friends?”
“Hmmm… I’m not sure, but I know he’s outgoing.”
“What?” Agareth was taken aback by Veron’s statement.
“You don’t need to know the specifics. You have a straightforward task: bring your friend here, right away.”
Agareth’s eyes widened.
They didn’t have to explain what they were doing because I already knew. Agareth went through the same thing.
“As you might expect,” Veron exclaimed, “I’m going to kidnap both of you and shatter all his limbs. If that guy pulls any silly stunts, your family might be in trouble. I don’t need to say anything else, right?”
“Don’t worry too much about it,” Gehog said. “He’s from fallen aristocracy with no roots. We ought to come up with a backup plan in case we can’t get someone to vent on.”
“By the way,” Natasha said, nudging Icarus’s head with her toe, ”do you think this kid will be scared even if we threaten his family? He’s adopted anyway.”
“Why are you asking? Adopted or not, we’ll figure it out!”
“Yeah?” Natasha stared at Icarus.
“To put it another way, this guy is a low-value hostage. So, you want to play a little game with me?”
“She’s at it again.”
“It’s a fresh start.” Gehog shook his head, dissatisfied.
“Do you know how sad this guy’s brother made me?” Natasha jerked her chin at Agareth. “He was my taste, but he’s such a jerk.”
If only I were a little stronger…! Agareth bit his lip hard enough to draw blood.
These were the real powers in the Academy, not the Imperial Family.
“You know what happens if your friend is late?” Natasha reached down and tugged on Icarus’s shirt.
“Damn it!” Agareth leapt up, refusing to watch Natasha’s filthy hand unveil Icarus’s pure white body.
“You don’t need to worry about that. I’m already here.”
“Ash pen Frederick!” Veron screamed at him as he recalled the awful memories Joshua had given him.
“Veron shen Villas. You’re doing a great job,” Joshua replied with a chilly smile.
Veron flinched but quickly replaced it with a smug expression.
“Are you going to follow through?”
“Touching my friends is a bigger offense than you seem to believe.”
Agareth’s eyes moistened when Joshua called them “friends.”
“You? You have friends?” Veron shot him a disbelieving expression.
“I’m here to judge you for that crime, so… do look forward to it.”
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