The Agnus territory is vaster than any other estate in the country. But the boisterous splendor of the Imperial Palace dwarfed the Duke’s manor. It would be easy to immediately get lost on your first visit, but Joshua walked forwards without an ounce of hesitation.
It’s still the same. The buildings haven’t changed at all, just the people in them.
Joshua was moving at a quick pace despite the white plate armor he was wearing. It was very heavy for a child—especially because it was full-body armor—but the lightening magic made it actually very lightweight.
It’s not so bad without the helmet. Joshua smiled to himself. He wouldn’t express it openly, but he was thrilled to receive the ring from Duke Agnus.
He’d been stopped by the guards many times along the way, but, thanks to the Duke’s insignia, he hadn’t encountered much trouble.
The 11th and 12th battalions are just mercenaries but with titles. They’re battlefield warriors, but their superiors treat them like commodities; nothing more, nothing less. Joshua sighed. In some ways, the 11th and 12th Battalions were the driving force for the Empire’s ferocity. The two of them represented the very essence of the Emperor’s policy.
I just need to reach the 1st Battalion and become commander. Maybe as a bonus, I’ll receive a title.
Joshua had made preliminary plans before he’d arrived at the Imperial Palace. Five years was all he needed, with the help of Bronto.
“Assuming there’s no problems, of course.” He clenched his fist.
This was an opportunity in a way. With new powers he’d never even imagined before, this place was an ideal location to stabilize his powers over the next five years.
“Oh, this place is…” The towering inner walls of the Imperial Palace loomed before him, protected by iron-clad guards.
“This looks like a prison, even now.” Though ostensibly, it was to protect the Imperial Family’s palaces.
Though he couldn’t see inside, the scent of flowers drifting over the walls was enough for Joshua to remember what lay within.
An expansive flower garden, surrounding a pure white palace.
“Hwahwa Palace…” Joshua’s chest throbbed; when he’d still lived in the Imperial Palace, the owner of Hwahwa Palace was very special to him. Despite her peerless bloodline, she had a particular attitude about herself and was despised and alienated by many nobles.
So much had happened in such a short period of time. Joshua’s cold, distant personality had faded away; all that was left was thankfulness. Gratitude. Not the clumsy feelings that came from love or sympathy, but a deep, heartfelt gratitude.
She saw Joshua as a human, not just a mercenary.
Joshua bit his lip and shook his head. “I need to go…”
I wanted to visit while I was here, but I can’t right now. He had too much to do. But a quick peek probably wouldn’t hurt anyone.
People, however, are not in control of their destiny.
“Is somebody there?” A woman’s voice drifted over the walls. Joshua knew this voice, though she was much younger than he remembered.
Joshua struggled with himself for a moment before abruptly turning around and walking away.
“Please wait for a second!”
Joshua couldn’t resist that anguished voice and halted.
“I have no idea who you are, but please tell me… Wait, can you just listen to me for a second?” When she didn’t hear any movement on the other side of the wall, the woman continued speaking with a bright tone. “My name is Sersiarin von Britten—if it’s not too rude, can I ask for yours?”
“My—” Joshua bit his lip. “Joshua… Joshua Sander.”
The bonds of their past life were rekindled, though the wall between them may be too thick to cross.
At the same time, another group approached the magnificent Imperial Palace.
A knight clad in silver full plate-mail eyed the towering palace appearing in the distance.
“From this point onwards, we are within the Imperial Family’s safe zone. In a few hours, we shall arrive at the Imperial Palace—as you can see over there. Is that acceptable, Young Master Babel?”
“Thank you for your work, Sir Chiffon.”
“No, it’s a privilege to assist the Young Master in this way.” Chiffon gave the emaciated boy a worried look.
“I haven’t been here… since the Academy.”
“Please, do not be concerned. His Majesty the Emperor is just like your father: they both love talent. This is why he called you here—he wanted to see how much you’ve grown, and to marvel at the genius of the Empire.”
“Genius…” Babel shook his head, grimacing.
Chiffon bit his lip—he knew what the young Duke-to-be was thinking.
It’s that bastard who appeared out of nowhere. I can’t even look at him without remembering he’s a pesky maid’s child. Chiffon’s eyes crackled with a terrible chilliness.
“Young Master Babel…”
“Yes?” Babel tilted his head at him.
“Always remember: I, and all the vassals, are with you. I believe I can say that with confidence.”
“Thank you, Sir Chiffon.” Babel smiled. However, a shadow flickered over his face.
Chiffon clenched his fists. “If…”
Babel eyed him curiously when he didn’t continue.
“You know… what if…”
“Take a deep breath and speak, Sir Chiffon.” Babel smiled encouragingly.
“If your father was not your real father, what would you do?”
“What do you mean, Sir Chiffon?” Babel’s face hardened, and Chiffon hiccuped when the knight realized what he’d said.
This atmosphere… How did this happen?
“I’m not sure what Sir Chiffon is getting at,” Babel said with a smile. “I usually—”
“Ah! It’s nothing, haha.” Chiffon hastily fished for an excuse. “It’s my colleague—how would you feel if you were in his shoes?”
Damn it, what a blunder… Fortunately for him, Babel’s expression relaxed.
“Was there such a person in the Red Knights? I’d be quite worried. Is there anything I can do to be of assistance—”
“The Young Master need not bother… haha…” Chiffon sighed in relief.
“I would be shocked, but… would it matter?”
“Even if my father turned out to be someone else, I don’t see why it would be a big enough issue to disrupt my life.”
“You really think so?”
“Of course.” Babel nodded without hesitation. “I don’t know why it should matter; regardless, wouldn’t both fathers be pleased if I lived my life to the fullest?”
Ah, I see… The Young Master has matured. Chiffon’s face glowed with emotion.
“We’ll be late if we don’t hurry,” Babel warned him. “The message must have reached the Imperial Palace by now.”
“Yes, Young Master.” Chiffon turned to address the rest of the group. “Prepare to depart!”
“Yes Sir!” More than a hundred knights of Agnus responded to Chiffon at once.
Chiffon glanced one more time at Babel as they departed.
In the fading sunlight, his figure seemed large and manly.
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