Chapter 1: Prince, Job Interview, and Practical Examination II
The prince and the personal knight candidates changed locations to the training grounds.
The training ground was a large site reserved for the use of the knights and soldiers. There were also spectator’s seats surrounding it.
Why were there spectator seats? Because twice a year, in spring and autumn, there was a battle tournament where soldiers and knights showcased their martial arts skills in front of royalty and nobility. At the time of the tournaments, these tasteless stone seats would be transformed gorgeously. The battle tournament was a way for soldiers and knights to evaluate the effectiveness of the tactics and techniques they forged daily. Properly speaking, the tournament was for soldiers at the rank of unit commanders or lower, who wished to be chosen as knights, as well as for knights undergoing the test to become Imperial Knights. On the other hand, this was also a gambling grounds for the aristocrats.
It was custom that the battle tournament be attended by either the king or a royal representative, and Herscherik, the youngest prince, was free to choose if he wished to attend, and he never did. There were also arenas in other kingdoms, but it seems those ones were several times bigger than the one here. And of course, gambling was also popular and flourishing there.
Herscherik was not very interested in either the battle tournament or the gambling. In the past, members of royalty familiar with weapons would compete to test their strength. But for Herscherik, who was still young and lacked any skill with the sword, participating was a pipe dream.
Because gambling was never a clear-cut thing in his past life, he paid some attention to it. It was a life where he never won the lottery even once. Even when Ryouko bought a ticket, she would only ever hit the lowest. Those around her would tell her each time, “You can draw your dreams from the lottery,” while imagining what would happen if they won.
Herscherik straightened out his thoughts. It was not that he was uninterested in it. Rather, he was a sore loser.
“Well then, starting now, we shall be conducting a simulated one-on-one fight to test your practical skills…”
The instructor’s words were interrupted by some high-pitched female screams.
The audience seats were packed with a number of maids from the royal castle and inner palace. The women’s eyes are focused solely on Schwarz, Herscherik’s chief butler.
He was in the center of the training grounds, along with the other candidates.
(Goodness gracious, you’re really popular, aren’t you, Kuro.)
Certainly he was cool, quite handsome, stylish, and outwardly beautiful. With that slight hint darkness surrounding him, he was enough to captivate the women’s hearts. If he appeared in Herscherik’s previous life, the man would be famous in the 2D sense.
But Herscherik reflected that among the women here, there was probably only a few who longed for Kuro and saw him as a love interest. The way most of the women looked at Kuro was similar to how ardent fans looked at their idols.
By the way, Ryoko was only interested in 2D characters, so she had no zeal for the likes of idols, celebrities or even models. Even if someone told her a name, she would only remember if they were associated with certain keywords, like what role they played in which drama. She was a frightful otaku woman who could recognise a voice actor just by listening to the voice.
“You guys, it’s okay to watch, but keep quiet!”
The instructor raised his voice and scolded the maids who were letting out high-pitched squeals. The women were disgruntled, but still calmed down.
Other soldiers, knights, aristocrats, and even government officials were scattered here and there around the seating area. Herscherik wanted to retort and ask them about their job but reconsidered as it was necessary to take a breather from work. It was more efficient to concentrate on work while taking little breaks, rather than continue working for hours on end.
“Well, originally, the candidates would fight one-on-one against each other, but His Highness has a suggestion…”
“I will explain the rest.”
Interrupting the instructor, Herscherik stood up from his specially constructed seat in the audience.
There was a difference in elevation between the training ground and the audience seats, so even the short Herscherik could look down on Kuro and the candidates.
“I need a knight. But I do not need a weak knight.”
Herscherik said frankly.
“And even if you may be a knight, if you are weaker than my butler, please go home.”
Herscherik smiled very sweetly, but what he was saying was far from sweet. The only one who knew of the foul nature of this proposition was Luke.
(In this place, is there anyone stronger than “Shadow Fang”?)
Luke wrinkled his forehead. Apparently, this prince was not going to go easy on them and fully intended to cull this group.
“Saying that, Schwartz, I leave the rest to you.”
“Certainly, my lord.”
The butler gave an elegant bow to his master, with a practice sword at his waist.
Originally, Kuro’s forte was assassin weapons paired with martial arts. But he could still handle general weapons because of his amazing combat skill.
The first opponent was a knight in his mid-twenties.
“Hey, don’t lose against a butler.”
The man waved his hands at the jeering audience at the seating area. No one thought that a knight would possibly lose against a butler.
“Well then, will the two step forward?”
The knight held his sword in front of him and faced Kuro. Kuro, on the other hand, kept his sword inside the sheath.
“Chief butler-dono, draw your sword.”
The instructor gave an instruction to him, but Kuro shook his head.
“There is no need for me to draw.”
The handsome man smiled cheerfully. That was cheap provocation, but it had a huge effect on the opponent.
“Teacher, please start.”
Herscherik urged the hesitant instructor. The instructor sighed and raised his hand.
The hand swung down and as if following it, the practice sword of the knight pierced the ground and made a hard, stabbing sound. In front of the eyes of the knight still stuck with the time lag, Kuro already had his practice sword back on his hip.
Kuro had immediately shortened the distance between him and the knight the moment the fight started and flicked away the knight’s sword while he drew his own from its sheath.
Everyone except Herscherik and Luke gasped at how quickly the fight was determined, and the high-pitched shrieks from the female audience went up a few notches.
(This isn’t even a test anymore…)
Luke internally held his head as he stole a glance at Herscherik. It seems the boy was not surprised and even seem to expect this result.
Luke remembered the instructions of King Soleil, his master, to find and choose a promising prospect, furthermore, one who was not under the influence of the minister. While this was done for Herscherik’s sake, he couldn’t understand the intentions behind it. Regardless, even if he did understand it, the prince had chosen to ignore his father’s wishes and had begun to choose his people on his own.
Luke turned his gaze back to the arena. The third person had already lost. From the audience seats, the women’s high-pitched screams and voices of doubts about the strange strength of the butler were rising. But the person in question was uninterested about the conversations surrounding him. Rather, he was busy actively destroying the dreams of the candidates.
Certainly, it was an “If you want to approach Herscherik, you’ll have to go through me” kind of unparalleled state. Most of the knight candidates went down in one attack without even exchanging blows. Either their sword was flung somewhere or vital point was struck.
And finally, there was only one person left. Up to this point, Kuro had fought against twenty people, but he was not even sweaty or out of breath.
“Next is Octavian Ordis. Step forward.”
With a light-hearted reply and relaxed movements, Octavian stepped up.
After the first match with the first knight candidate that had concluded so immediately, the rest of the candidates didn’t allow themselves to be negligent and earnestly prepared their weapons, but this one didn’t bother. The instructor raised his hand, ignoring lax behaviour exhibited by both participants.
The sound of metal colliding reverberated.
Over the blades of the overlapping swords, Kuro watched his opponent admiringly. For the first time today, his sword was stopped.
On the receiving side, Octavian grinned and at the same time, aligned his sword horizontally to knock Kuro off him. Kuro opened the distance between them and with his sword drawn. Until now, Kuro hadn’t drawn his sword completely, so seeing him like this caused the auditorium to boil in excitement.
“I knew it.”
Luke reacted to Herscherik’s words and turned his head to the young prince. Noticing Luke’s gaze, Herscherik handed him a sheet of paper. It was the document detailing Octavian’s time in the Knight Academy.
“Two years before he graduated, he was the top of the class for the Knight course and aced all his subjects. But he barely graduated by the skin of his teeth, so I thought it was weird.”
Both Luke and the instructor only looked at the end result of his academics, missing the next page.
Certainly, in all of the classes of the Knight department, Octavian was at the top. Swordsmanship, spearmanship, equestrian, archery, from military studies of tactical theory to the implementation of actual tactics, all were essential skills and knowledge a knight should possess. It would usually be impossible to even imagine that such a high achieving student would allow his grades to fall to such a level in just two years.
He, who was an honor student until two years ago, had completely changed his attitude to life. Skipping classes were a daily activity and his written exams were covered in red marks, barely passing. Furthermore, he picked fights in the Academy which prohibited personal fighting, and his opponents would be thoroughly beaten to the point beyond recovery. Because of this, he came close to suspension multiple times. However, if the Academy were to investigate the nature of the fight, they would find his opponents to also be in question, so Octavian had managed to avoid dropping out.
While Herscherik and Luke were talking, the fight between the two people below was becoming heated. When one of them made a move, the other would skillfully intercept it and strike offensively and vice versa. The audience, the candidates, and the instructor all turned quiet and were raptly looking at the fight.
Only one person, the participating party Octavian, was restless.
(What is this guy… Is he really a butler!?)
The butler’s proficient sword skill made him feel like as though he was against his father, a former general.
At first, he was curious and decided not to reveal his true skill while waiting for a chance to lose. However, it was not as easy as he expected.
As soon as Octavian would show a small opening to try to lose, the butler would immediately distance himself. It was almost like the butler was laughing, saying that he wouldn’t play along with him.
From his actions, Octavian realized he was being messed with, whether he liked it or not. The butler was not showing his true skill. He would put on a provocative smile, egging Octavian on, only to toy with him. This had excited the warrior heart of Octavian who had been searching for a strong opponent.
Therefore, before he had even realized it, the side of him that had been trying to lose vanished and now he swung his sword in hopes of winning. He hunted for even the smallest opening from his opponent to stab his sword through, even daring to expose a weakness of his own to get the butler to show his.
“Those two looks as if they are dancing.”
Herscherik, who was without a speck of sword talent, did not understand how amazing those two were. He only saw the two people’s exchanges with the sword as a dance.
But suddenly, the dance stopped. Even though it was only early summer, Herscherik who was bored and gradually getting tired under the hot sun, murmured “It’s hot…”. Right at that second, Kuro paused for a moment. It was only a short second, and practically nobody here noticed it, except for Octavian.
But Octavian did not overlook that opening as he immediately sent Kuro’s sword flying. Kuro’s sword left his hand and pierced the ground, while Octavian’s sword was pointed at his throat. The result of the breath-taking back-and-forth battle was decided in the blink of an eye. Only after a full beat had passed did the instructor finally signalled to end the match.
As soon as the butler bowed, he headed off to where his master was; as this was happening, Octavian steadied his breath and watched.
The butler who cheerfully went beside his master as if called looked like a dog wagging its tail endlessly. Of course, it was an illusion.
In the hands of the butler who just returned to his master, was a tray carrying a glass of iced tea.
“How was he, Kuro?”
“As expected, it was impossible with a sword. His ability is the real thing.”
No one heard the conversation between the master and his servant, who was serving tea.
To be honest, Kuro did not intend to lose, but at that moment, he was distracted by Herscherik’s muttering. And Octavian, who did not miss that, definitely had real ability.
(…Looks like I underestimated him, thinking he was just some rich boy.)
Kuro added in his thoughts.
The sword technique that was designed for knights felt very rigid to Kuro. Still, he had no difficulty when he used it against the candidates other than Octavian.
It was only Octavian who, although using the same style of sword as the other candidates, had easily attacked and defended outside of his expectations.
Actually, in this match, the times Kuro was on the defensive was more often.
(Is he what you would call a genius?)
Kuro was forced to acknowledge him. His talent was first-class. Even if Kuro were to use his specialized weapons in battle and use a surprise attack, while he might not lose to him, it would still be difficult to win. If he used the underhanded techniques he cultivated as a spy, he may be able to win, but it could not be considered a real win.
(Tsk, it was as Herscherik expected.)
Before the matches started, Herscherik told his butler.
“He is almost certainly hiding something. Try to probe him out.”
Herscherik’s requests were absolute to him. He would do whatever he could to fulfil them.
However, it really was no fun. After this, because he knew the answer that would come from his master, he lost his interest.
Herscherik’s chief butler pasted a smile on his face even though deep down, he was very sullen.
After being notified that the results would come out at a later date, the crowd slowly dispersed. And as the candidates left, a young man was left alone in the arena. He was the one who had just fought a close battle against Kuro.
Octavian stood still. He planned on losing, but in the end, ended up winning.
“Ah, but I flunked the interview portion, so it should be alright.”
He told himself.
However, on the following day, the official announcement that he had been summoned as the personal knight arrived.
The difference in expression between his despairing face and that of his family’s “matter-of-fact” ones was quite impressive.
Octavian Ordis, who had been unemployed until now, was officially appointed as the Personal Knight of The Seventh Prince of Greisis Kingdom, Herscherik Greisis.