< — Ever After — > (2)
Boris Elliot was eighteen years old and the youngest among the knights under the Duke of Taran. He was son of Captain Caliss Elliot. Today, he arrived at the capital with a very important mission. It was his first time in the capital. He tried to stay alert, but kept loosening up and looking around with his mouth agape.
Boris discovered a familiar face coming to greet him and gave a broad smile.
“To come all the way here on your own, you’ve worked hard.” (?)
“No. I should be able to do this much.” (Boris)
‘I came all the way here on my own! I did good!’ were written all over Boris’ face. Dean swallowed his laughter. When he first saw Boris, he was a 10-year-old little boy. Before he knew it, the boy had grown up this much and it was fascinating.
Boris kept fidgeting with excitement in the carriage heading to the Duke’s residence. He frequently fiddled with his chest as if afraid someone would steal the message in his bosom. It was obvious to anyone that his attitude was of someone who had something valuable. If he were walking through the capital’s streets, he would definitely be a target of pickpockets.
Dean could roughly guess the contents of the message that Boris was coddling so much. It was news about the subjugation of the barbarians. It was around time for the annual event to return.
“Is everything alright in the North?”
“Roam is fine, but it seems something happened near the barbarian border. Father has been at the border for quite a while.”
“Is that so? Did the Captain send any word in particular?”
“He didn’t say anything special, only asked if I would be able to participate when there is a military expedition. And then he told me to bring a message to the lord.”
Dean was startled.
‘What is the Captain thinking? This guy in the northern subjugation? Already?’
The Captain was a strict father. But still, this was too soon. In any case, Boris would follow after the Captain and join the elite knight squad. A few years later wouldn’t be late. To Dean, they didn’t need the boy on the already terrible battlefield.
For generations, the Duke of Taran House had a group of knights called ‘elite’. It was not an official position. They were treated like any other knight. However, only the elite knights could follow the Duke once a year on a punitive expedition to discipline and rule the northern barbarians. The history of the elite knights began from a very long time ago. For generations, the head of the Taran family would personally chose the knights that would accompany him for the direct subjugation of the barbarians. Hugo chose only ten people as elites.
Dean recalled how overwhelmed he felt the moment when he was first chosen as an elite. He was not a knight for generations, and he was selected as an elite along with Roy, even though he was a commoner. It was an honor to become an elite. All the other knights of the ducal house were envious of that position. It was evidence that one had received the trust of the Duke even without any merit of status or wealth. And the knights who became elites grew more and more skilled. When they left for subjugation, the Duke personally taught them swordsmanship while it was taking place.
‘…Can this guy bear it?’
Unlike how he appeared, the boy was inwardly quite sturdy. Dean could imagine how well the Captain had taught his son. Probably because he was watched the boy since he was a child, Dean was worried about him.
There was a unwritten rule among the elite knights. Anything that occurred during the subjugation must be taken with silence until death. If the glorious outward appearance of the elite knights was the light, then the hidden part was the darkness.
The Duke was extremely cruel when he was subjugating barbarians. In the war between nations and territories, he simply beheaded them in one stroke and flung the head away but when he was accompanied by just the elite knights, he didn’t do it so cleanly. He cut off their limbs, crushed their heads with his foot, disemboweled them after cutting them open, ripped out their hearts with his bare hand. And even with that, his red eyes were so dreadfully cold that it made one think it would be less frightening if he were to go on a rampage with craze for blood.
It was no wonder the elite knights grew strong. Anyone would become like that after going through such bloodbath. Furthermore, as time passed, you begin to have nerves of steel and remain unsurprised when it was at a tolerable level.
One day, when they were returning after a subjugation expedition and had made camp, Roy asked the Duke a question. It was a question that only Roy could ask.
[My Lord. Why do you leave your sword at the side and tear them apart by hand? Is that your hobby?]
Everyone froze. This crazy son of a—. Can’t he distinguish between things you should say and things you shouldn’t. They inwardly let out streams of abuse and studied the face of their lord.
Unexpectedly, the Duke didn’t show much of a reaction. After a short interval, he gave a brief reply.
[Killing gives me feeling. Otherwise, I feel like a monster because I don’t feel anything.]
Even the tactless Roy did not keep asking questions.
Dean thought the expressionless face of the Duke as he was saying those words looked painful. And after that, he strangely didn’t frown at the extremely cruel murderous actions of the Duke. He had numbly come to see it as the natural law of the jungle, just like looking at the moment of a wolf hunting down sheep.