Chapter 10: Fighting Tournament, Personal Knight, and Secret Discussion II
The audience watching the tournament stage was in an uproar while a secret underground betting ring was in progress in the back. Naturally, the information about the participating soldiers and knights were disclosed to the bettors, but no one had expected this turn of events.
The third son of the Blazing General had barely graduated from the Academy and was rumored to have become the seventh prince’s personal knight through connections rather than skill, and yet he kept sweeping his opponents off their feet the moment the start was signalled. There was only a single clash of blades. Many of them were unable even to exchange that single blow and fell.
As the dark horse of dark horses, no one had expected such a performance. His breathing wasn’t the least bit heavy even as he reached the finals.
But even the final round ended with his absolute victory. Everyone saw that he was on a different level from all of his opponents.
Among the crowd, only three groups had been confident in his victory from the start.
The first group was Oran’s older brothers who watched from the seats set aside for those in the military. They knew that Oran would never lose to the likes of that bunch. Rather, even if he lost, a fearsome special training would be waiting for him.
The brothers knew that they lacked talent compared to Oran, but there was no envy there. That was because Oran had put even more effort into getting to this point.
However, such a hard worker like him had lost all motivation to do anything since two years ago when he lost his fiancée. Even though the only thing he did during those days was train, there was no light in his eyes anymore.
No matter how much the two older brothers tried to motivate him, their younger brother showed no change. However, seeing their younger brother finally find a place where he could use his full power made them as happy as if it was them on that stage.
“He seems alright now.”
“Yeah. Time to look to the future, Brother.”
The two laughed among the crowd’s cheers as they watched their younger brother shine on his first stage. No matter how much talent he had or how mature he became, this man was still their precious younger brother.
The second group were his parents and younger sister sitting with the general audience. However, compared to his older brothers, this side was more critical. The father and younger sister criticized how his step was lacking or how the timing of that swing was too late. Beside them, the mother smiled at her son’s shining stage, watching over him.
(He’s fine now.)
Roland smiled as his son washed over by the audience’s cheers.
There was a reason why Roland rejected Oran’s request to go on a journey. If he possessed the same personality as his eldest sister and found enjoyment in training, then Roland would not have stopped him. Instead, he knew the boy possessed the qualities of a knight—becoming stronger for someone else’s sake. Without anyone like that, he was weak. Not in terms of power, but mental strength. Whether one’s opponent was someone of equal strength or stronger, victory was determined by one’s mentality. If Oran had traveled while still in that slump, there was the possibility of him losing his life due to that mentality.
Roland’s smiling wife next to him knew that. In actuality, she was more vehement in rejecting his journey even though she was the one who coaxed the hesitant Roland when their eldest daughter wanted to travel.
“Looks like it’ll be fun from now on, honey.”
As if reading his heart, his wife called out to her husband. Roland nodded at her words.
The last group were the princes in the aristocratic seats.
Herscherik made a victory pose.
“…Hersche, could the reason you borrowed money from me was to…”
Marcus was suspicious at this never-before-seen excitement coming from his younger brother.
Before the tournament, the boy came up to him, wanting to borrow some money. Because he had promised to definitely return it, Marcus had lent him fifty silver coins.
“Yes, I had Kuro place the bet, so it’s fine. With this, I can raise enough funds. Ah, please keep it a secret from Father.”
Herscherik said. He bent over the ledge and waved at Oran below. Oran looked up at him and gave a knight’s bow.
(If he didn’t win this easily, he’d be in trouble.)
Kuro thought as he watched his happy master from the back. Of course, this wasn’t revealed on his face at all.
Kuro had given Oran two reasons to participate in the tournament.
The first one was, of course, as he explained: to make the world know of his personal existence and power. He needed to burn into the minds of the populace that he could mow down these opponents as easily as twisting a baby’s arm.
The second reason was as a discouragement to their enemies. Compared to the other princes, Herscherik had always been seen as weak, with no support backing him. As such, there may be people who approach him, seeing an easy stepping stone. That was why Oran would publically be the prince’s barrier while Kuro himself would work in the background.
(Hersche is oblivious to his own worth.)
Kuro let out a silent sigh. That was why he believed he had to work twice as hard to protect the boy. But, he was born to be a spy. Even if he wanted to protect, there was a limit to what he could do. It was at that time that the existence known as Oran showed up.
(Although I don’t personally like the delinquent knight, I have to admit he has ability.)
Kuro wouldn’t say he trusted him, nor did he try to.
“Does Octa know?”
Marcus suddenly asked, intrigued.
“No, he doesn’t know. But, I trusted that Oran would certainly win.”
Herscherik answered with a bright smile.
This was a dimly lit room one couldn’t enter unless they had the proper credentials—a room meant for secret discussions.
The candles placed in various parts of the room only half-illuminated the faces in the dark.
“…So, the royal family got in the way, you say?”
A man’s voice echoed. There was no emotion in his voice. It was as nonchalant as if he was asking in passing.
“Yes, it was the youngest prince. His subordinates were distinctly different from the others.”
The answerer’s voice also belonged to a man, but this one sounded much older.
“The youngest prince is still only five. Are you certain?”
“Yes, I observed from afar. He had a small frame and golden hair. Those with him addressed him as ‘Hersche’, so I believe…”
Noticing the man’s hesitation, the younger one asked in return.
The question caused the older man to hesitate for another moment before continuing.
“The prince noticed my presence even though I believed I had completely erased it.”
“Your presence? …That is interesting.”
The tone wasn’t critical, but rather similar to that of a child who found a toy to play with.
“Our existence may be discovered… Is that fine with you?”
“Should be no problem.”
The older man was prepared to be reprimanded, but the younger man replied immediately.
“We’ve gathered enough information about the refined drug. We can now move onto the next step. But, let’s see…”
The younger man grinned, but it was too dark for anyone to notice it.
“Let’s leak the info to the prince. How the future will play out depends on them.”
The conversation ended, and the flames of the candles around the room were extinguished.