< — To the Capital — > (3)
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The discussion that followed was informal but with more crucial people joining, and looking at the faces of the people involved, it was almost like a cabinet meeting.
After the lengthy discussion was over, Hugo stood up and patted the shoulder of the eye-catching man that was standing at the side, and acting like he didn’t know anything for a while now.
“You’ve worked hard.”
The eye-catching man, Roy, grinned as if to say it was just so so. After Hugo left, Kwiz couldn’t bear the sight of Roy who kept glancing at the door like a dog waiting for his master, so he spoke.
“Sir Krotin, do you really have no interest of becoming my knight?”
“I do not.”
At first, when the Duke of Taran said that he would place an escort knight at his side, Kwiz was a bit displeased that the Knight’s former status was that of a commoner.
Moreover, it was one with no manners and unbelievably impertinent. If it wasn’t for the fact that Roy was a close associate and former guard of the Duke of Taran, Kwiz would have driven him away.
However, as time passed, his value was brought to light. In the past year, the amount of times that Kwiz’s life was saved thanks to Sir Krotin was numerous. In front of Sir Krotin, assassins that tried to escape were caught like bugs and slaughtered.
Knowing of his tremendous skill, Kwiz tried to entice Krotin into being his knight at every turn but Krotin didn’t even look like he was considering it.
“What is the reason? If you become my knight, you can receive more power and remuneration that you receive now. You don’t want that at all?”
“I don’t really care for that.”
“Then, what do you get from the Duke? Is it because you admire him as a Knight?”
“There’s a more realistic reason. My Lord lets me duel.”
“Duel? Isn’t that something you can do anywhere?”
“Only with my Lord can I fight to the fullest without caring if my opponent gets hurt. I can’t have such fun in another place.”
Kwiz felt slightly fed up. Krotin was greatly skilled and no one among his knights could last more than a dozen rounds against him. Nevertheless, it was obvious that Krotin controlled his tempo and adjusted his strength to match his opponents.
This gave a great shock to Kwiz who always took pride in having the best knights around him. But soon, he acknowledged that it wasn’t that his knights were weak, but that Krotin was terribly strong.
‘Is Taran Gong that strong?’
Kwiz had personally seen the Duke of Taran wielding a sword on the battlefield numerous times. He knew it was great but since the battle was so lopsided, like a tiger in the midst of sheep, he couldn’t exactly tell the extent of the Duke’s skill.
‘And now that I think about it, I haven’t ever seen Taran Gong duel with someone since then.’
The only time the Duke of Taran lifted a sword was when he cut down his enemy. When one thought about it, it was quite dreadsome. Warriors liked to show off their strength but the Duke of Taran didn’t do so even though he was a knight.
Perhaps because of that, when Kwiz faced the sword-less Taran Duke, he sometimes forgot that the Duke was a knight.
“Who wins if you duel? Have you ever won by a stretch?” (Kwiz)
Roy rolled his eyes and burst into laughter. Those in attendance were now somewhat used to Roy’s unconcerned and rude attitude in front of the prince so they didn’t have any outward reaction.
“Winning? Who? Me? That’s my goal in life. Although I don’t know if it can ever be achieved.”
“Are you saying you’ve never won before?”
“Honestly, my Lord doesn’t go all out in our duels. Apparently, it’s annoying. He says why should he exert himself for something he can’t kill.”
“Sometimes, my Lord doesn’t even let me draw the sword. I have to be careful before brandishing the sword.”
“Because he might be in a bad mood. In that case, battle or what, I just get beat up.”
“…Even with that treatment, you like it there?”
“It means I am one of the few people my lord trusts.”
“Getting beat up?”
“That is the evidence of trust. My lord would rather just kill something than go through the hassle of beating it.”
Kwiz had nothing more to say. Anyways, this was an unexpected harvest. The Duke of Taran had a remarkably more foul nature than he was known for.
* * *
Hugo stopped walking and turned around. The owner of the voice calling him quickly approached his side.
“If you have some time, would you like to accompany me for a while?”
The young man with an amiable smile was Count David Ramis. When he came of age as the eldest son of Duke Ramis, he received a part of his father’s estate along with the title of Count. He was also the Crown Prince’s brother-in-law.
Once Kwiz sat on the throne, David was sure to rise to the center of power in the future.
David was the same age as Hugo. However, an enormous difference existed between them. Hugo was a Duke and head of his family while David was nothing but a successor to a Duke.
So David calling Hugo by ‘Taran Gong’ was a very rude act. To be able to call Hugo in that manner, one had to at least be a Duke. And if one were to quibble over it, even a Duke had to address Hugo with honorifics.
Even formally, the position of the Taran Duke was recipient to royal treatment. Hugo could see through David.
Outwardly the man smiled amiably but inwardly, he was full of rivalry.
Greenhorn. Hugo sneered inwardly but on the surface, his expression remained taciturn.
“I do not believe I will fit in.”
Hugo responded after briefly staring at David and his followers that were sticking to him like a tail. In any case, Hugo thought of the Duke of Ramis’ face and treated them with adequate courtesy.
“Ha-ha. What are you talking about? I’m sure if Gong is with us, the occasion will shine even more.”
“I mean I’m concerned that only I will shine.”
There was no one who couldn’t understand the meaning behind this sarcastic remark. David’s eyes widened in embarrassment and his ears flushed red.
It was the first time he was turned down so blatantly. The people around David always tried to prove their loyalty to him because he was positioned to become the next Duke.
“Hahaha, just as I have heard, you are an outspoken person. Will you oblige and share your valuable opinions with me?”
“Get that from your father. If your father has nothing to say, come and find me.”
The Duke of Taran suddenly spun around and began to walk away so David couldn’t hold him back anymore. He clenched his fists at the humiliation and his followers sensing his mood, began to furtively scratch his back. (1)
“I have heard he was a knight but how rude.”
“It would have been more harmful if he went to our meeting.”
David smiled widely.
“Even if he is knight-born, he’s an excellent individual. Hence why His Highness, the Crown Prince is so trusting of him.” (David)
“Even so, can he be compared to Elder? Is Elder not the father of the future Queen of this nation? If one looks further, Sir will become the uncle of the one that rises to the throne of this nation.”
David smiled, pleased at his follower’s flattery.
‘Indeed. No matter how arrogant one acts, one can’t surpass my father. After all, we are tightly bound with His Highness by blood.’
Hugo didn’t give a crap about David at all but David was burning with rivalry against the Duke of Taran. There were many nobles with higher status and authority than David. But they were all elders, well advanced in their years.
Therfore, there were no competitors around David’s age except for the Duke of Taran. And even though the Duke of Taran was the same age as David, he was already a Duke. He gained a reputation by sweeping through the battlefield and was very famous for how the Crown Prince went through great lengths to acquire him.
Even his father praised the Duke of Taran to the skies. His father warned him several times that the Duke of Taran wore the skin of a bear but in reality was a fox and one should be careful with one’s words and actions before him.
David replied in affirmation but scoffed inwardly. He was very unhappy that whenever the Duke of Taran appeared, everyone’s attention shifted towards him. What was so great about him swinging a sword on the battlefield a few times?
If David had seen the Duke of Taran on the battlefield even once, he would not have had this thought but throughtout last war, he was safely at the rear.
‘No matter what, he is just an ignorant knight.’
David was brimming with groundless confidence.
1) Do not take this literally.
2) By Elder, he’s referring to David’s father. By Sir, he’s referring to David.
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