Chapter 10: Fighting Tournament, Personal Knight, and Secret Discussion I
The leaves on the trees turned red, and the autumn wind blew over the training grounds in a corner of the Greisis Kingdom royal castle.
This was usually a place busy with training soldiers and knights, but today was different as it was the day the second fighting tournament this year was being held. The spectator seats were packed with not only aristocrats but people from the castle town, all waiting in anticipation.
The fighting tournament was an official government tournament for prospective soldiers and knights to participate in. If they obtained a high score in the tournament, a bright future path was opened to them.
A soldier could become a knight, and in turn, from knight to Imperial Guard. Even becoming a general wouldn’t remain just a dream. Among the group overflowing with hope in the waiting room, there was one who stuck out. He was the young man who had been recently inaugurated as the personal knight for a prince.
His hair was a slightly wavy mesh of golden and sunset colors. The retired Blazing General Roland Ordis was his father. His drooping blue eyes housed an uneasy light as he cringed at the piercing gazes of envy from those around him.
(Why am I even here…)
Octavian Ordis attempted to escape from reality.
This all started the night the prince became sick. His coworker, the chief butler Kuro, had told him this.
“While you may be Hersche’s personal knight, the world sees you as a worthless, delinquent knight who barely graduated from the Academy, and thus you are affecting your master’s reputation. Go and let the world know the truth.”
Because of this one-sided scolding, Oran was thrown into the biannual fighting tournament.
Hating to stand out, Oran was going to vehemently decline, when the recently recovered Herscherik chimed in.
“Oran is participating in the fighting tournament? Then, I’ll go watch. Good luck!”
The depressed expression the boy had after the incident turned into a childish grin, making Oran unable to back out.
“Tch, why is there a young master here?”
After hearing these malicious comments clearly said out loud for him to hear for an hour, Oran became numb to them and let out a small sigh.
(It’s not like I’m the only young master here…)
Although he was used to it, it still sickened him. While Oran was by no means a saint, there were aristocrats present from families who fabricated their prestige using their fortunes. Oran was not like those sheltered masters of those families. Rather, from a young age, he experienced highly brutal training underneath his father, the Blazing General.
“He’s just the knight for the 7th prince, whose presence is so thin you don’t even remember his existence. He’ll disappear soon enough.”
At such a statement, Oran shot a sharp glare in their direction. Although Oran had not responded to any of their snide comments the whole time, the bad mouthing soldiers and knights flinched at his look and left the area, embarrassed.
(If you’re going to run away after a single glare, don’t bother picking a fight… In the first place, you were being disrespectful to the royal family.)
Oran spat at them in his mind despite the attitude he had during the interview he had given to become a personal knight. Then, he understood what Kuro wanted to say.
If he was judged poorly, it would directly correlate to his master’s value.
His master, Herscherik, was only five years old.
Such a young child without any support backing might as well not exist in the eyes of the ordinary.
But, Oran knew better.
How dedicated he was to achieving his ideals.
How concerned and considerate he was of others.
How he wasn’t a person those who didn’t know him should underestimate.
Oran closed his eyes and gripped his sword handle. Until the start of his match, he would not move from that spot.
Let’s change location to the aristocrat seating. Among the many seats prepared for this tournament, the finest was allocated to the royal family and their attendants. All the training equipment had been cleared and the furious clash of swords was resounding from the stage.
There were three people in this seating room. There was the first prince, Marcus who had just finished the opening greeting in place of the king and returned to the room, the seventh prince Herscherik who was participating for the first time, and his chief butler Schwartz.
Schwartz, aka Kuro, prepared some tea and a simple meal on the side table and waited behind Herscherik so as not to block their view.
“Well, do you think Octa will win?”
Herscherik answered the excited Marcus with a voice full of confidence. Oran was someone who stood on equal and possibly higher ground than Kuro, so there was no way he was simply going to lose.
“…Hersche, thanks. You know… For reconnecting me with Octa.”
After the incident, Oran no longer avoided Marcus. At the very least, he no longer gave Marcus a cold look like the one he gave that summer day.
Oran had treated him like any other person, not giving any special treatment because he was the prince. As such, it was no exaggeration to say that Marcus thought of Oran as his only true friend. That was why he wanted Oran beside him to support him when he became the king in the future. But that event two years ago created a rift between them, and Oran had spent all his time after that avoiding Marcus.
But since that accidental encounter in the hallway that summer day, their relationship turned for the better thanks to Herscherik.
“I didn’t do anything.”
Herscherik answered with a wry smile. This was between the two of them. He had only gone to his older brother for help. While he may have been the trigger, he did not do anything to warrant this thanks. Besides, Oran wasn’t stupid.
“Oran already knew that Brother Mark wasn’t bad.”
At that time, Oran needed someone to hate to live. Through Marcus, a member of the royal family, Oran despised the royal family and found a way to continue living. In a way, Marcus saved Oran.
(Well, this is my own interpretation.)
Herscherik thought and hoped that his brother and Oran would return to the time they could smile at each other.
Herscherik also predicted that this would end their needless anxiety.
Suddenly, Herscherik felt uneasy and asked his brother.
“Brother Mark, was it really alright?”
“Hn? What is, Hersche?”
Marcus tilted his head. His brother was too picturesque, but this wasn’t the time to be blinded by his beauty.
“Because of this incident, their eyes will probably be completely focused on you.”
In the end, it was publicly announced that Marcus headed the investigation on the drug case and closed it. Currently, his popularity was skyrocketing in the castle town, and this boosted the royal family’s rating with them. While that may be good, it stood out too much.
“The case is not fully closed… In the end, we couldn’t create an antidote for the drug.”
It wasn’t over. They were beginning to create an antidote from the drugs that were in Ignatz’s possession. However, the material that should have been stored by the kingdom on the human enhancement drug was missing. Therefore, an excessive amount of time would be required to reverse engineer the drug and then the antidote from that. And there was another problem.
The words Baron Armin told Herscherik before he left were something Herscherik could have never imagined.
Based on his words, it was possible that the one manipulating everything from the background was connected to the Church that made up the country’s religion.
The minister’s faction and the Church. Herscherik wracked his brain. It appeared that the minister wasn’t his only enemy.
As expected, Herscherik couldn’t have anticipated that from the nearly-zero information he had in the beginning. He could only create a strategy from the information he had now.
“It’ll be troublesome.”
Marcus nodded. The Church was an independent organization and unaffiliated with the kingdom. Conversely, it was an unwritten rule that they wouldn’t interfere with the government. However, the Church gathered the faith of the citizens, meaning that they did hold great influence and power over the government.
“But, it’s better now that we know.”
Marcus grinned. This was a huge leg up for them to know the Church’s underground dealings since it had been off their radar this whole time. They were no longer at a disadvantage.
“…Hersche, I was lost.”
While staring at the expansive field below, Marcus continued to speak.
“I have been lost since I listened to Father’s story two years ago.”
Herscherik guessed that the story probably referred to the one he heard from his father when he was three. However, unlike him, Marcus was the next in line to become king. He wasn’t promised freedom like Herscherik.
“In the end, they were an aimless two years. But, that night when you came to me for help, it felt like I had found the path I want to take.”
By acting together with Herscherik, he was sure he had changed.
“I love this country. I love Father, Mother, and our family. I want to protect the country, its people, and our family from the bottom of my heart.”
Marcus continued with an embarrassed grin.
“It took some time, but that’s my answer. I know it may seem a little pathetic to you…”
Herscherik shook his head. Elation rose when he saw that his brother had the same feeling.
“I’m fine. I’m the 1st prince after all. They can’t carelessly lay their hands on me. But you, you’re the one who should really be on alert.”
His brother was the youngest prince without any support. A flame that could be extinguished easily if the enemy so desired.
“Do your aides know?”
Marcus was referring to the royal family’s disgrace. Herscherik nodded. He had told Kuro and Oran without hiding anything.
Kuro was composed, but Oran withdrew ponderously. However, seeing how Oran remained his personal knight, he continued to hold his hopes.
The younger brother responded to his older brother’s worry.
“I have Kuro and Oran with me after all.”
Herscherik said and returned his gaze to the field. There, the figure of his personal knight appeared on the stage.