Chapter 87

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“I overheard an amusing story. Have you received the Emperor’s orders?”

“I thought I would have a quiet life here, but I guess I was wrong.” Joshua grinned. Duke Agnus snorted and chuckled.

“Yeah, it certainly doesn’t look that way. So you’re going to follow His Majesty’s orders and join the Knights Templar?”

“I guess. I’m just a powerless subject of the Empire after all.”

Duke Agnus let out a weak, meaningless laugh and leapt to his feet.

“Huh?” Count Sten was mortified. You can laugh like this too? “You’re leaving already?”

“I’ve figured out what this kid is thinking.”

“Is this some kind of conversation I’m not rich enough to understand?” Count Sten looked utterly dumbfounded. He wet his lips and flashed a smile at Joshua. “I guess it’s my turn. Do you know who I am?”

Joshua nodded. “A proud knight of the Empire; a Master; you are Count Arie bron Sten.”

“Huh. Why are you so calm then?”

“I knew I’d meet you one day. It was inevitable.”

Count Sten giggled hysterically. “I like your attitude.”

Suddenly, his expression went blank.

“You did something interesting.” Count Sten licked his lips again. “I wanted you to confirm if it’s true or not.”

“If you’re talking about the rapier…” Joshua carefully weighed his words. “...then what you heard is correct.”

“Oh, so you say my weapon is a piece of garbage that only women use?”

Joshua kept his mouth shut. He knew better than to rush into a situation where he didn’t know the other party’s intentions.

“My kid even proved it—the rest of the world ought to believe it as well.”

“I want to hear it from his mouth. Do you really believe that rapiers are useless?”

“I… I don’t consider rapiers trash. But, I don’t believe that any weapon can compare to the spear.”

A very clever answer.

Duke Agnus flinched—no doubt Joshua’s opinions included the Duke’s greatsword as well. Count Sten looked disappointed, but his boisterous sense of humor had him laughing in short order.

“Ha! Hahahahahaha!” The Count laughed until his eyes teared up. “It seems I’ve been too proud of myself. I honestly thought it was because you were looking up to your father. Indeed, arrogant and conceited.”

Count Sten’s eyes narrowed and bored down on Joshua. Their one-of-a-kind intensity crackled on every nerve of Joshua’s body.

Murderous aura! Joshua pupils dilated; he knew this feeling well. Only a Master could exude this kind of energy. Any ordinary person, and some knights, would falter under this ominous stare, but Joshua only clenched his fists and quietly began to circulate his mana.

Murderous aura was an expression of will—the will to kill your opponent, in its ultimate form. The sensation can’t be explained, only felt.

The crucial point was that skill had no bearing on your murderous aura.

The greatest assassins are those born with the finest killer instincts. They don’t regard lives as anything special, and will end them without a second thought. Murderous aura is an ideal tool for them—it can delay their target’s actions for a moment, giving them the perfect opening for their dagger to strike. Controlling your murderous aura is the hallmark of a successful assassin.

Is it something you have to be born with, then?

No.

No one is naturally murderous, at least to begin with. Once, twice, three times—after a few times, killing becomes natural. But to master the basics of murderous aura, one must spill the blood of a thousand people.

Joshua considered one person to be the true master of his murderous aura; an old friend, and a key contributor in a new philosophy of martial arts.

The Assassination King, Pacheucheut. Joshua’s eyes flickered with sparks.

Strictly speaking, the energy Count Sten and the other knights emitted was not truly a murderous aura. It was just a kind of momentum, a crystal-pure energy that has not been processed by the body’s ability.

Joshua’s fathomless blue eyes sparkled with a strange light.

This energy— Count Sten’s eyebrows twitched. He’d been observing the boy quite closely; he found the boy’s cool demeanor in front of a Master to be rather refreshing. The Count was curious to see what the boy would do.

It was the right thing to do. The boy kept his calm through it all and even went beyond standing his ground—the boy’s energy pressed against the Count’s and matched it.

Count Sten began building up more and more momentum—but then, he stiffened. Ominous alarms rang inside his head; he took an unconscious step back, and stared at Joshua.

I saw it in his eyes, clearly. That murderous aura, hanging in the air was like an invisible dagger stabbing at his heart. It wasn’t like wizard’s illusion magic; Count Sten wouldn’t fall for such parlor tricks.

“Hahaha.” Count Sten let out a low laugh. The boy had taken a step back, like he had, and the clashing energies faded away like they’d never been there at all. “HAHAHAHA!”

Did I hurt your self-esteem? Joshua thought to himself. You’re welcome!

It was the opposite, in fact.

That was a lot of fun. I’m looking forward to seeing how far this little guy can go. The boy had yet to produce the fruit of success, but it was ripe and ready to fall. How sweet would it be?

“Haah…” A shiver ran up his body and he wrapped his arms around himself. “Heok!” Count Sten’s nails dug into his skin.

I want to run my rapier across his little neck. How would it taste? What kind of face would he make? When your life flashes before your eyes, will you beg?

“Patience… I have to be patient. Later—”

“That’s enough.” Duke Agnus positioned himself between them while Count Sten was desperately trying to control his bloodlust.

Oh yeah. He was here. Just like that, Count Sten was serene again.

He licked his lips again. The finest dishes should be saved until the end—Not many delicacies could excite Count Sten’s taste buds as much as this one.

“Joshua.”

“Yes, Duke?”

“If it is your will, I will allow you to leave the Academy. And… If you decide to join the Imperial Knights, get into the 3rd Battalion at the very least.”

Joshua’s eyes widened. It was obvious to him what Duke Agnus meant.

“All right.”

Duke Agnus turned and walked away.

“...if that’s what you want.”

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