Chapter 31

Meanwhile, James was losing confidence.
All he had to do was turn his eyes away.

Soon, part of the field was prepared as a dueling ground.

As everyone was focused on the upcoming clash, the judge put up his right hand.

“Prepare for the match.”

Theophilus warmed up leisurely, stirring the air with his sword.
It almost looked like he had forgotten that it was a duel.

He asked his opponent with an exaggerated graceful gesture as if he was playing a game.

“So….
What’s your full name?”
“…..James.
I have no title.
I’m just a knight of Count Brumayer.”
“Ah, right.
I don’t have to tell you, do I? This place is famous, but the Brumayers’ isn’t.”

As the spectators burst into a fit of giggles at the obvious mockery, James’s face flushed red before fading to pale blue.

He anxiously kept repeating to himself, ‘I’d be forgiven if I only give a single scratch on his body.’

Still, it felt inevitable to lose his life.

“Let us begin!”

James lifted his sword as Theophilus vertically raised up his arms.

Theophilus, who had just turned into a young man, was exceptionally good among the Knights of Reinhardt.
Being the third son of a local count, he had a deep will on his swordsmanship.

In such an environment, he had got the advantage to systematically learn and perform sword techniques.

He had a solid basic skill, and thus, he had been able to absorb all the tricks shown by his teacher like a sponge based on his family’s inspection.

Even though he was the weakest among Ian’s knights, his potential itself was greater than other knights or soldiers.

With James hesitating, Theophilus took the first chance.

Narrowing the distance with a single step, he dug into his opponent’s arms.

He murmured.

“So…..”

Was it this way?

The first attack was a stab, one of the basics of swordsmanship skills.
The same movement he had practiced with Ian hundreds of times.

Theophilus’s elbow grazed against the opponent’s right ear.
Before James could swing his sword, Theophilus stepped back.

Then, he shouted to his people with a playful look.

“What do you think of my move?”

The knights shouted back one after the other.

“Five out of ten.”
“Your right foot went out too much.
Your posture would’ve collapsed if you were attacked.”
“Captain would definitely take away your knighthood.”
“Whoo!”

Those knights seemed bright.

Theophilus, although not more disciplined than his fellow mates, he still tried a little more not to feel empty after Bartolt, the Deputy Leader of Knights, betrayed them.

Pouting, he turned to his opponent.

“I’ve been away from Captain’s training for months…..I might’ve only forgotten what I learned.
It’s not my fault.”

But, it seemed like a joke to James.

How could he do that when he was lacking training? What were the potentials of the Duke’s Knights? If Theophilus had aimed at his heart, he definitely would have died.

‘He did it on purpose…..
It’s clear! Damn it!’

And yes, James’s guess was correct.

Theophilus recalled what his Captain had whispered before the match.

‘Captain wanted me to make it as painful as possible!’

What was more painful than death was making his sword fall off his hands.

But of course, there was a question: Could James be called a knight?

He was completely a disgrace to the knights.

Somehow, it made Theophilus feel sorry for him since Theophilus himself was a sensitive person.

But now, he did not feel a single grain of guilt, all because of Bartolt.

Now, everyone had learned that after Bartolt betrayed them, he had joined the imperial forces.

A knight, no…..
A boy who did not have any path to follow!

An unhonored person had appeared in front of him just in time.

All of his anger could be vented here.

“Haah.”

Stomping on the ground, he rushed back to James.

Thinking it was just a basic stance, James tried to block it with his sword.
But it was more than just a rudimentary move.

The blade of Theophilus’s sword drew a vertical line through the air.

“Kaack!”

James painfully cried out, sitting down on the ground while holding the tendon in his left shoulder.
His left hand was shaking.

He could still move his fingers, which meant that his tendon wasn’t completely broken.

Theophilus mumbled in an awkward silence.

“That was shallow.”

“Well, we have plenty of time.”

But, James found difficulty in getting on his feet.

“Kkuu……”
“Hurry up and stand, soldier.
You just need to put a cut on me, right? That’s not so hard.”

But, it was.

Actually, impossible.

Far from possible for a ‘knight of the Count’.

And the young man in front of him was the weakest.

The feeling of helplessness swallowed him.
No strength was left in his legs.

***

Shortly afterwards, James fell down with his head on the ground.

Sniffle, Sniffle……

Embarrassed, he started spilling his tears without realizing it.

He could not even move his arms.
His body was completely covered in dirty bruises, and his tendons were bleeding.
He was brought to such a state that it’d be impossible to revive with simple modern medicine.
James’ companion also met a similar fate.

There was still no expression on Ian’s face, who stood in front of the two who were lying down like slaughtered livestock.

“Put them in the wagon and send them back.”
“Yes!”

Ian intended to send them back to the Brumayers.

As a kind of warning for them.

‘Come to think of it, I forgot something.’

He swiftly entered his mansion and came back with a written letter in his hand.

It was about returning the money he had lent to the Brumayers.

Right this instant.

The Count had overlooked something.
The money he took was meant to be an indefinite loan when the Duke was thought to be dead, but now, the story was different.

It was a very effective harassment for what he had done so far by replacing the bride because he did not want to pay back.

The money lent was not a big sum for the Duke, but for the Brumayers, it was different.

It would be a huge blow since they had no proper source of income other than a small land.

‘I want to see them get devastated.’

Sneering a little at the knights in the wagon, he threw in the letter and a document proving that the duel was justifiable.

As he closed the door, the carriage started moving.

“Go.
You might have a hard time escorting those trash.”

The chauffeurs were curious about the letter, but they didn’t ask.

Clearly, Ian drew a line.
None of his employees and Knights tried to question him, recognizing the look on his face.

Clapping his hands, he declared.

“Now everybody, go back and train.”
“Right away, Captain!”

Each of his knights obediently returned to their posts while an old woman ran out of the mansion.

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It was Ava.

“Nanny?”
“Oh, my, what should I do, Duke……”
“What happened?”

Ava stammered, gasping as she leaned in.

“The Duchess…… She was supposed to be in bed, but she’s gone!”

Ian’s eyes widened as he took in the information.

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