“Oh! The pattern of the Agnus Duchy!?”
River’s eyes widened as he saw the Knight’s emblem which was encased in the pristine white armor the boy in front of him was now wearing.
He was unable to rationalize his thoughts and he couldn’t come to his senses.
‘How did the kid have the Agnus’ pattern on his chest?’
“Please forgive my rudeness, Young Master!”
The other quick-witted Knight, Bunto, immediately bowed his head right away.
When River saw what had transpired, he immediately followed his subordinate and bowed his head.
“The bearer of the mark of the Agnus duchy, welcome to the Imperial Palace!”
River scolded himself for his previous statements, which he now realized were utterly out of context..
“What the heck—”
The boy in front of them began to move as River spat out curses.
The sound of the boy’s movements along with a faint metal sound was the only thing they could hear in the dead silence that surrounded them.
‘What the hell is this—’
It was the mark of the Agnus duchy.
And as far as he knew, the artifact that Joshua had used just now was a Deon ring.
Even if the armor appeared to be slightly strange,
River was convinced that the young boy in front of him was probably going to be the next master, or even the successor of Duke Agnus.
River's expression gradually began to turn into tears.
He had been married for 10 years, and he was now 30 years old.
‘Why do I find myself desperately thinking of my rabbit-like children and my bear-like wife, whom I love so much at such a time?’
River sincerely prayed to the God that he typically didn’t believe in.
But as if it were a lie, God responded to River’s wishes.
The sound of metal crashing to the floor was constantly heard as the young boy walked away. A sound which still brought chills to River. But he still opened his eyes when the sound of the metal faded away from his ears.
His co-worker, Bunto was still standing there, immobile. Joshua had approached his co-worker and had passed by him.
He looked at the back of the young boy whose figure was now slowly getting smaller and smaller.
“Did he leave? He did not punish us or anything?”
When River came to terms with everything that had happened, his knees felt weak and after a moment slumped to the floor.
“What happened to you, River? How could you be so reckless?”
After glancing at River who sighed deeply like he had been scolded, Bunto shook his head.
River looked towards the direction where Joshua had left and Bunto said,
“If he didn’t say that he was the son of Duke Agnus, would you still let him in?”
“That’s— Anyway, I’m glad that he did not strike me down.”
After listening to his words, Bunto held out his hands towards River and helped him up.
“Is he serious? About wanting to participate in Berche’s bloody battle?”
River stood up and shook off the dirt on his buttocks, murmuring blankly.
Berche’s bloody battle.
It was a violent battle, named after Prince Berche, the Avalon Empire's first imperial knight, and was initially intended to be a competition of pure skills between different battalions.
However, as time passed, the rivalry passed down from previous generations of the battalions grew more intense, and the Imperial Knights' status and ranks also grew in tandem.
There was a reason why this battle was called the Battle of Blood.
This is because the then reigning emperor, Marcus Ben Britten, was dissatisfied with the current system and had proposed a new one.
Apart from the battalion commander, the higher the battalion, the more privileged they would be. Knights from the lower battalions were free to challenge knights from higher battalions at any time, but any accidents resulting from the encounter were entirely the responsibility of the people involved.
Apart from this, anybody who wanted to could participate in Berche’s Bloody Battle–irrespective of whether they were part of the battalions or not.
Emperor Marcus' name sparked a massive uproar inside the Avalon Empire in the early days.
This was because, according to Emperor Marcus' new law, any Avalonian could rise to the rank of imperial knight if they could successfully defeat any Knight from a battalion.
And a Knight, if challenged, couldn’t refuse no matter what.
Furthermore, many people believed that the competition would only get more intense as time went on because all the members of the 1st through 3rd battalions, i.e., the top battalions, had the honor of receiving titles—
“I never expected that the son of Duke Agnus would participate in this… Berche’s bloody battle.”
“Yeah, me too. But he wanted it, so be it.”
Bunto nodded as he looked at River.
“If the loser is a knight, then he forfeits the title of ‘Imperial Knight’. Do knights who value honor more than their lives have a greater humiliation than that?”
“That’s why none of the outsiders who have participated in the event have survived so far. Everyone knows that if you’re half hearted, you will lose and face the consequences. That’s also the reason why the battle was heralded as a legend to the general public.”
Bunto looked towards the direction where Joshua had disappeared.
“He was just as old as your son—” River tilted his head at Bunto’s comments,
“Wasn’t the treasure of the Empire, Babel von Agnus, the Duke Agnus’ kid and heir? I guess that kid looks a little young for it to be Master Babel.”
Bunto exclaimed as he remembered the rumors he had heard.
“Duke Agnus has another child… a mana user at the age of nine. At least, it was rumored that he was much younger than Young Master Babel.”
River’s eyes widened in surprise.
“Yes… that Young Master’s name is definitely something unforgettable.”
Bunto murmured the final words in hushed tones, his gaze fixated towards a particular direction of the imperial palace.
“The Empire’s new talent, Joshua von Agnus.”
Emperor Marcus was sitting in a gorgeous chair. Jaken, the head of the Black Wind, opened his mouth in a polite manner and said, “Your Majesty, Duke Geshart and Count Arie will return to the capital shortly because they’re already done with their mission.”
Emperor Marcus, who replied with a delighted expression on his face, glanced at Jaken and asked,
“What about the situation in Swallow?”
“So far, I haven't had much of a response. I believe that they already know the situation, but we still need to keep an eye on them.”
“Hmm… they’re the barbarians of the north, people who get excited when there’s war.”
As he reached the conclusion of his sentence, Emperor Marcus smirked and burst out laughing.
“Maybe this is because of Verona Belle Grace’s friend.”
“Prime Minister Marco is a wise man and he’s been helping the Empire for a long time now.”
The Emperor nodded as he swallowed a lump in his throat.
“This is a headache… If Demero Belle Grace had been the emperor, his mentality and physical abilities would have rivalled mine.”
Emperor Marcus smacked his lips, clearly very unhappy.
Jaken dropped his head even lower at that point, as if he had recalled something distasteful.
“Your Majesty, I have one more thing to report.”
“One more? What is it?”
“Vig Beck Steck was reported dead.”
“Vig Beck Steck? Who’s that?”
Emperor Marcus frowned and murmured gently.
“I believe I've heard of this name before. Where have I heard it?”
“He was the Lord of the Locke estate, a territory of the Agnus Family, and the other day he approached His Majesty for help as well.”
“Ohh! The pig!”
Emperor Marcus nodded, as if it had just occurred to him who the man in question was.
Emperor Marcus, with an uncharacteristically solemn expression, inquired further about the incident.
“Don’t tell me that Aden von Agnus noticed our plans?”
“After further investigation, I found out that the death of Vig had nothing to do with Duke Aden.”
“Oh, Duke Agnus has nothing to do with our plans then?”
Emperor Marcus' counter-question was respectfully answered by Jaken,
“Yes… It was reported that the Duke had been residing here in Arcady during the time of Vig’s death, and moreover, there was nothing suspicious going on in the household. In short, they were not aware of his death—”
Emperor Marcus interrupts Jaken's long speech and asked,
“So, the cause of death wasn’t confirmed at all?”
“Please accept my apologies.”
Seeing Jaken slam his head on the floor in apology, the Emperor slightly waved his hand at him in forgiveness.
“It’s alright. The Black Wind has limits too—”
“It was a lack of knowledge from our side.”
Emperor Marcus, who had his chin on his hand and looked like he was mulling over something, shifted his gaze onto Jaken after a little while.
“I guess I’ll have to meet him, maybe he knows something that we don’t.”
In the current atmosphere, Jaken couldn’t face the Emperor.
He couldn’t say anything because he was afraid.
All he had to do now was obey the Emperor's commands.
There was no authority that he could challenge from the viewpoint of the Emperor.
Jaken, who had just come up with a fact, promptly opened his mouth,
“Come to think of it, his daughter, who was just with him in the Locke estate, just enrolled in the academy.”
“Yes, Your Majesty.”
Emperor Marcus' eyes gleamed brightly in response to Jaken's response.
Jaken continued speaking, “She’s known as Anna Beck Steck, but her real name seems to be Anna Belle Grace.”
“It is unclear if she’s his biological daughter, but she was clearly loved by him.”
“That's right. That’s all I wanted to hear.”
Emperor Marcus, who was thinking of something, soon gave his orders to Jaken.
“I have to meet her first, bring her to me.”
“I heed your orders!”
Jaken, who politely bowed his head, quickly disappeared.
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