In the President’s office, two men sat facing each other at a large table, leisurely enjoying their tea. One of them was the President; the other was the Etiquette teacher, with his mouselike, triangular face.
“President, are you sure you don’t want him out of the Academy?” The teacher seemed frustrated.
“Even if he’s Duke Agnus’s, he’s up against three families! Furthermore, Marquis Villas and Marquis Crombell. Between them they control half the Empire.” The Etiquette teacher became more and more agitated. “Life is a series of decisions! You have to be alert and focused at times like these—do you understand that these choices will shape the rest of your life?!”
Suddenly, his voice became low and serious.
“Today… Central politics have a lot of potential if managed properly, especially if you’re in the right position. For instance: you, President, have the potential to be Prime Minister. I strongly advise you to pursue the position.”
“Did Marquis Villas say that?” The President’s eyes brightened.
“Don’t fret. It’s not just the Marquis Villas. Marquis Crombell also said he’d support you; both of them wish you luck.”
“Why are they…” The President was dumbfounded.
“Are you talking about Marquis Villas? He’s a military commander, so it’s not impossible—but the military holds a greater regard for people, you know.”
It wasn't just the warriors. All of Avalon’s knights admired him as a role model.
It’s no good if they’re envious or jealous. The President grumbled to himself. Someone whose cup was never full…
“What made Marquis Crombell say such a thing?”
“He…” The teacher cautiously peeked around and leaned in. “Did you hear that Marquis Crombell and Duke Pontier’s trade war has escalated into physical violence?”
The President gave him a tiny nod.
It wasn’t a little war between lords in the countryside, as sometimes happened. It was a battle between two powerful families—the most prestigious, some might say. It was an event big enough that most of the nobles of Avalon already knew.
“With rumors spreading that the Mercenary King has thrown in with Marquis Crombell, everyone expected his victory would come shortly. I thought the same thing: the only difference between them is their titles; the two families split the Empire's commerce almost perfectly in half.”
“Were the rumors true?” The President’s eyes were wide with disbelief. “What does His Majesty say about this?”
Technically, the Mercenary King was an outsider here. In the larger context of the Avalon Empire, he was an obvious stranger—not a member of the feuding families. Is the Emperor supposed to sit idle while an outsider intervenes in the affairs of his vassals?
“How could such a moron comprehend the profundity of His Majesty’s words? I’m sure everyone thinks the same,” the teacher assured him. “The important thing is that His Majesty has no intention of interfering despite the Mercenary King’s involvement.”
“Well.” The President sighed deeply.
“Anyways, it was reported that Duke Pontier sent Princess Charles directly to Duke Agnus some time ago.”
“How does that make sense?”
The Etiquette teacher nodded. “In this critical time, he risked everything by sending his daughter to Agnus. Isn’t the reason obvious?”
“He sought assistance from Duke Agnus?”
“Well, I wouldn’t be surprised if he did. They’ve been close for quite some time now.”
The President silently pondered the Etiquette teacher’s remarks.
“If you have any more concerns, just leave it to me. More than a hundred students have already filed a complaint; if you try and use that as an excuse—”
“Pre-President!” The door burst open and man dashed inside.
The Etiquette instructor scowled at the man, while the President eyed him intently.
“Why are you—”
“You need to see this! Hundreds of students are protesting outside! Also—”
“Didn’t I say we don’t need to do anything?” The Etiquette teacher smiled slyly and shrugged. “The students will do it for us: by eliminating the ‘evil’ Joshua von Agnus, the Academy’s ‘justice’ will be restored.” He burst into laughter.
“You see…” The man cautiously interjected. “It’s… the opposite.”
“What?” The Etiquette teacher bent his head at him.
“They’re protesting against Raksha, not to have Joshua von Agnus disciplined.”
“What?” The teacher leapt from his seat.
“Let’s go see,” the President said.
The other two men followed him out the door.
“This is the voice of the students! Former and present! We are against Joshua von Agnus’s punishment!”
“Dissolve Raksh! They’ve tormented the students for too long! They’re evil and vile!”
“We aren’t their plaything!”
“What is this…?” The President boggled at the hundreds of students gathered in front of the entrance.
“Those scumbags—!” The voice startled the President. He turned his head to see the Etiquette teacher marching towards the children with a monstrous expression.
“Do you still call yourselves the children of nobility?!” The teacher’s voice silenced the crowd for a moment. His face was flushed with growing excitement.
“It’s nothing but expedited admission.” One of the children mustered enough courage to step forward. “If it were me, I wouldn’t be offended by such a favor—I’m a high ranking noble!”
It was Agareth. His customary bumbling demeanor was gone, replaced with sharp, bright eyes.
“On the contrary, I’d like to ask the instructor something.”
“What do you mean?” The Etiquette instructor threw him a disgusted look.
“You call yourself a teacher—but can you honestly call yourself a proud nobleman of the Avalon Empire?”
“Some of the students established a group called Raksha and proceeded to harass the lower-class students of the Academy. Actually, no. Can we even call it harassment? They paralyzed my only sibling and had him expelled from the Academy. You watched it unfold before your very eyes, and no one, not even you, took action. You just watched while a child’s life was irreparably ruined.”
“It was an accident!” The Etiquette teacher seemed to be scrabbling for what’s left of his pride.
“Do you seriously believe that?”
“Of course it was an accident! You may be nobles, but you’re still kids! Accidents happen when you play!”
Agareth almost exploded when the teacher started making excuses, but he managed to keep it down.
“If you’re so sure that Raksha has been bullying your classmates all this time, then give me some tangible proof! You kids are so shameless, to be saying that sort of thing without basis. We are not joking here, kids.”
“There is no proof, but there are witnesses.”
The Etiquette teacher whirled around. “Instructor Kane?”
Kane stared coldly down at the other teacher, looming over him with his muscle figure.
“I am the witness.”
“Apologies.” Kane bowed deeply to Agareth, to his amazement. “I know what happened to your brother. The mastermind… I knew it all. Shimizu asked me for help.”
Nothing compared to how shocked Agareth was now.
“I was terrified. As a teacher, I should have acted—but I couldn’t. My safety was more important to me. I’m ashamed. I feel like an idiot, thinking about it now. I ignored it and it just got worse.” Kane turned to face the President. “President, I will resign as swordsmanship instructor after this.”
“What?!” A teacher’s position at the Imperial Academy was not a light thing. Many low-ranking nobles with no connections ascended in the political world through the Academy. It was a place for networking for students and teachers.
“You’re such a hypocrite—”
“What did you say?” Kane rounded on the Etiquette teacher.
“Instructor Kane: you are a hypocrite. Do you think this is going to ease your conscience?” The teacher smiled. “The kid who asked for help got thrown away, and now you’re coming clean. I’m getting tired of this. I want no part of such hypocrisy. You need to face reality.”
“What do you mean?” Kane murmured.
“I think I’m going to get sick. This place stinks of garbage.”
“Wh-wh-what?” The Etiquette teacher flinched. A boy had pushed his way out of the crowd to stand in front of him. “Jo—Joshua von Agnus.”
“As you wish, I will take personal responsibility for my expedient admission. However…” Joshua offered him a cold smile. “Before you go, make sure you clean up the trash. As a descendant of the great Agnus family, I don’t want the future rulers of the Empire to be sullied by such filth.”
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