Wortenia Senki (LN) - Volume 11 - Chapter 4

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Chapter 4: The Twin Blades

“Sure is stupid of them, don’t you think?” a knight in red armor said from atop his black horse. He was speaking to an old knight following him. “They could have kept hiding under their rock, but instead they decided to come out and meet me just so I can kill them. The poor saps, really.”

The knight who’d spoken was a massive man with short blond hair and a beard. He was easily taller than two meters, and his arms were as thick as tree logs and his chest stout. He was the very image of a seasoned, virile hero. But in contrast to his burly appearance, his tone and mannerisms seemed frivolous, almost childlike. This dichotomy gave him a certain inexplicable charm.

Far ahead of him stood a group of bandits—the largest group in Rhoadseria’s northern border regions. There were roughly three hundred of them. They had originally been a mercenary group operating on the border of Rhoadseria and Myest, but when a governor had blamed them for losing a war, citing their inadequacy, they’d decided that rebelling was a fine alternative to the death sentence. They’d turned coat and become bandits instead.

The original group had only numbered a few dozen men. Normally, a governor would purge a bandit group before it could grow any larger, but Rhoadseria was currently in a state of political unrest and ever-worsening public order. Due to the heavy taxation, refugees had fled the surrounding villages and ended up joining the group. Because of this, it had eventually grown into the largest bandit group in northern Rhoadseria.

But unlike an ordinary army, which followed the lead of battalion and company commanders, this group had no clear chain of command. They were merely a mob of unorganized vagabonds. Still, they couldn’t be ignored. Three hundred men was a large enough threat, especially considering this knight’s army was a mere fifty men—albeit ones trained by his family. The enemy had six times their numbers. They were at a staggering disadvantage.

There was also a concerning rumor that the leader of the original mercenary group was a knight that had once served some country. The surrounding governors had tried to gather troops and crush this bandit group, but the bandits had beaten back their forces time and again. The fact that a disorderly mob could do this implied that, even if he wasn’t a former knight, their leader was at least very skilled.

But despite the potentially dangerous foe before him, the armored knight didn’t betray any signs of doubt or anxiety. He must have been quite confident. In fact, given that he was about to fight to the death, his attitude seemed too calm—as if he were heading out for a leisurely picnic and not a battle. And to him, there wasn’t much of a difference between the two.

His name was Robert Bertrand. He was the second son of the Bertrand barony and a warrior praised throughout northern Rhoadseria as one of House Salzberg’s Twin Blades.

The old knight shrugged at Robert’s comment. “I’m sure they think that with their numerical advantage, they’ll easily beat us back and scatter our forces. But you purposefully brought so few knights just to lure them into that misguided confidence, didn’t you, Lord Robert?”

He spoke to his master with a familiarity that would normally have been considered rude, but the two of them shared a trust that transcended decorum and formality. After all, he had served as Robert’s guardian and attendant for the thirty years Robert had walked upon the earth.

Robert was a legitimate child of House Bertrand, but he wasn’t the eldest son. As such, he wasn’t the heir to his father, the family head. He was, at best, a potential successor should anything happen to his elder brother. That wasn’t to say his father hadn’t cared for him though. He’d given Robert the proper education for a child of the Bertrand barony and kept him safe. Robert had lived a life free of danger, unlike his sworn friend, Signus Galveria.

Robert’s father had also shown him some degree of love. However, in aristocratic society, the eldest son was always favored. His father had compared him to his older brother at every turn. After hearing time and again that he ought to know his station as the second son, Robert had realized that a wall existed between him and his father. Because of that divide, Robert had developed a deep paternal bond with the knight who served as his constant guardian and attendant. He saw him as more of a father figure than his real father.

Robert took no offense to his knight’s attitude and instead smirked. “If I can see a simple way of handling things, I go for it. And besides, you’re not getting any younger, old man. You went with my plan because you figured attacking their fortress head-on was unwise, right?”

The old knight nodded. If all three hundred of them were to shut themselves up in their fortress, they would become even more of a threat. Robert would need three times the bandits’ numbers—an army of a thousand—to topple their fortress. The old knight had realized that gathering that kind of army was unrealistic.

“You are right,” the old knight said as he turned his eyes to the rocky mountains standing behind the bandits. “The scouts report that their hideout is in those mountains. They have a fence and a moat, albeit very simple, impromptu ones. If they were to hide in there, we’d have to be ready to take considerable losses.”

“That’s what I thought,” Robert replied. “The report says the mountain’s slope is pretty steep and the road is narrow. They have a strong environmental advantage.”

“Yes, and the fact that we don’t have that advantage on our side makes things difficult.” The old knight paused for a moment before adding, “Maybe we should ask Viscount Telshini to send us some troops?”

“Don’t be stupid. He’d never do something that admirable. If the viscount actually cared about this, he wouldn’t have sent me to take care of it.”

Robert spat bitterly at the ground, a stark contrast to his earlier flippant blitheness. It was because he was in the presence of the old knight, a trusted confidant, that he could lay his emotions bare.

The Bertrand barony held territory in Rhoadseria’s north, but Robert was currently in the neighboring territory of Viscount Telshini. Normally, the responsibility of handling these bandits would have fallen to the viscount and his men, but despite that, the knights of the Bertrand barony were here instead. Since they were neighbors, it wasn’t strange for the Bertrand barony to extend a helping hand with such matters. However, they were only supposed to be sending reinforcements; they weren’t supposed to function as the primary force.

“Are you dissatisfied, Lord Robert?” the old knight asked.

Robert directed a dark glance at him. “Of course I am! How could I not be?!” he shouted, anger and hatred seething in his heart. “Day in, day out, old Salzberg orders me to fight for him! And when I do, all the credit goes to my father and brother! This is inane, and I feel even dumber for having to play along with this crap. To hell with all of them!”

Robert was indeed livid at the way he was being treated, but he knew better than to express it outwardly most of the time. He never would have said this if someone other than his closest of aides was nearby. He would have kept his anger pent up. Still, he felt if he didn’t unleash it somewhere, he’d go mad.

“Old Salzberg pushed this job onto my brother, not me, yet I’m the one doing it. I swear, this is stupid. I wanna get this over with and drink myself to sleep in the tavern, shit.” Robert’s expression suddenly changed, as if he’d remembered something. “Oh, that reminds me. My brother gave me a little gift before I left, right?” he whispered. Then he extended his hand toward the old knight, like a child pestering a parent for pocket money.

The old knight shook his head with a sigh. True, there were former mercenaries mingled in with the enemy, but the majority were unorganized refugees who’d hardly had any training. Even if Robert were slightly intoxicated, he likely wouldn’t be caught off guard. In fact, the odds of that were probably close to nil. Robert was, when all was said and done, one of the two strongest warriors that Count Salzberg, the leader of the ten houses of the north, possessed.

Even so, this loyal old knight adhered to the ideals of chivalry; he couldn’t let his master fight inebriated. Besides, anything could happen on the battlefield. He couldn’t make an exception, even if it were to lift Robert’s spirits and ease the disgruntlement he felt.

“I know they’re just mere brigands, but do you really intend to drink before a battle?” the old knight asked. He’d admonished Robert like this countless times already, and he didn’t expect Robert to listen this time either. But he still had to say it.

Robert remained silent and thrust his hand forward again, as if urging the old knight to hand it over already.

The old knight sighed again. Shaking his head, he grabbed a leather sack hanging from his horse’s saddle and handed it over to his master.

“I swear, old man, your sermons last too long,” Robert said with a smile. He took a swig from the sack and drank the wine inside it. He then took two more gulps and roughly wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. He spat in irritation, his saliva mixed with the reddish liquid. “Ugh, this is shitty stuff.”

The wine did quench his thirst, but it didn’t taste good by any stretch of the imagination. The quality itself wasn’t bad, but it was a third-rate drink—the kind of cheap booze you might find in a local tavern. It wasn’t something a noble like Robert would usually drink. On top of that, perhaps owing to the haphazard way it had been preserved, it was rather bitter. It wasn’t acidic, but it was certainly unpleasant.

Damn bastard. You gave me this kind of shitty booze on purpose, didn’t you?

His brother had probably bought cheap wine, the kind that was sold at low prices for the sake of clearing storage space. Robert had asked for the drink to invigorate himself, but it only quashed his enthusiasm further.

“Nice of my brother to be this considerate, eh? Giving me this cheap booze.”

The face of his brother, with slender features much different from his own, surfaced in Robert’s mind. He knew for a fact that they’d both come from the same womb, but while Robert had gotten his father’s virile features, his brother had gotten their mother’s fair, oval face. His brother was also more artistically inclined, a black sheep among a long line of warriors.

But Robert’s brother was skilled at governance, and his reputation among the commoners was rising. Among the many nobles in Rhoadseria who governed over their lands while not even regarding their subjects as human beings, his brother was a rare exception.

Robert, however, only saw his brother’s supposedly competent management as an inevitability. Slaying monsters and subjugating bandits fell squarely on his shoulders instead of his brother’s. That meant his brother’s burden was that much lighter, so the fact he could govern was much less impressive in light of such favorable conditions. Certainly, Robert didn’t think that managing a domain’s internal affairs was easy. But Robert had more to do than his brother ever did, and he was known as one of Count Salzberg’s Twin Blades and had solved numerous problems across all of the northern territories. Despite that, his brother was the one receiving praise for his government skills.

“If everyone’s so keen to push work onto me, the least they could do is give me some good booze to help me get through it!” Robert grumbled.

But even if Robert were to complain to his brother about his stinginess, he probably wouldn’t even get an apology. For all his brother was concerned, Robert was a convenient tool for the barony. This wasn’t in spite of their blood relation, but because of it. If there had been no blood between them, Robert could have easily become independent or gone to work with another noble. His brother would have been more inclined to keep him placated in that case.

But they were family, and thus things were different. It was no different from how a family member would help with the family business even though they weren’t officially employed or paid for their services. From his brother’s perspective, this wine was more than enough payment. If Robert were to complain that his brother was skimping out on his reward, or to mention a noble’s pride and duty, his brother would simply say that he had no understanding of what it meant to be a noble.

That asshole always does this.

His brother was downright miserly. He placed great importance on taxes and took any chance he could to cut expenses. He was a typical cheapskate, as it were. Robert didn’t think frugality was a bad idea in and of itself. A noble that squandered their money blindly and carelessly was nothing more than a fool that drove themselves into bankruptcy. His brother’s understanding of the importance of money made him a hundred times better than those kinds of idiots. But Robert couldn’t deny feeling displeased and angry at his brother’s methods. This was what one might call the gap between realism and idealism.

His father, the current head of the family, and his brother led lavish lifestyles within their domain, to maintain the dignity and prestige expected of a noble. The nobles were the ruling class, and a shabby lifestyle would tarnish their honor and authority. Commoners wouldn’t follow someone dressed in the same rags they wore. In that regard, there was a certain rationale to living luxuriously. Robert realized this and wasn’t going to criticize his father and brother for leading affluent lives. It also stood to reason that their lifestyles meant that Robert, as the second son, couldn’t spend as much as they did.

But Robert felt that was too bothersome to deal with. Besides, their domain was by no means large. Their primary industries were stock farming and agriculture, and compared to other nobles who had mineral reserves in their territories, their tax revenue was comparatively small. On top of that, the family’s prestige came from its history as a warrior family, not it’s expenditures.

All in all, their pride came across as petty. But petty though it might be, they had to hold on to it. They had to maintain a certain standard, or they’d draw the scorn of the other noble families. Also, their status as a warrior family meant they had to invest in military matters. Between that and the finances needed for internal affairs, the tax revenue was by no means enough.

Considering all this, one could easily understand why Robert’s brother would want to cut down on meaningless expenses wherever possible. But when those cuts were used as an excuse for Robert to pull the short straw at every turn, Robert would eventually grow upset with it. His brother had even taken the reward money Count Salzberg had paid him for his services, saying Robert was just lending it to him.

“I understand your frustrations, Lord Robert, but please, keep your voice down,” the old knight rebuked him. He’d listened to Robert quietly out of sympathy, but it seemed he’d decided now was the time to interject. Allowing Robert to bottle up this anger would do him no good, but Robert couldn’t lash out either. If Robert’s father or brother were to somehow learn of what he’d just said, the fissure running through their relationship would only grow deeper. That wouldn’t be good for any of them. Besides, the bandits could launch a preemptive attack on them at any moment.

Robert’s expression soured and he clicked his tongue. But he nodded and said, “Right. For now, let’s just finish this job.” He lifted the long-handled battle ax in his right hand and held it aloft. “My name is Robert Bertrand! By order of Count Salzberg, lord and unifier of Rhoadseria’s north, I shall hereby execute you!”

Robert kicked against his horse’s flanks and swung his ax in the direction of the bandits. An animalistic roar and an intense gale blew across the mountainous region. He rode ahead, like a typhoon or a whirlwind—a natural catastrophe in the form of a man. His first swing took the lives of many bandits with the ease of blowing out a candle. Some of the bandits were wearing knight armor, which they’d gained from somewhere, but that mattered little against Robert’s onslaught.

One bandit, his face streaked with sweat, blood, and dirt, tried to encourage the rest. “Don’t fall back! Stand firm! There’s only one of him! Surround him and we’ll finish him off!” But the next moment, that bandit’s head went flying.

“Shit!” another bandit breathed out as he tried to block Robert with his sword. His attempt was futile, though.

Robert’s weapon was closer in shape to a bardiche. The blade’s edge was thick, and its grip was sturdy. But while an ordinary bardiche weighed around six kilograms, Robert’s battle ax was far weightier. It was several times heavier than a regular ax too, but Robert swung it around like a twig. This stood as proof that he was a warrior of superhuman strength.




“Swinging a weapon that big like it’s nothing... I’d heard the rumors, but I didn’t believe one of Count Salzberg’s Twin Blades was such a monster!” a bandit called out as he watched his comrades perish one after another.

A bardiche was built so that the majority of its weight fell on the tip of the blade. This increased its centrifugal force, which translated to more destructive power. However, this unbalanced design was much harder to spin around.

In this case, the weapon chose its wielder, so to speak. Most people wouldn’t even be able to pick up this kind of ax. Rotating it would be out of the question, to say nothing of wielding it effectively in battle. But Robert wielded it as if it weighed nothing. And even with martial thaumaturgy augmenting his physical abilities, the fact that he could swing it like this meant his muscle strength was already absurd to begin with.

Robert had been naturally endowed with supernatural strength, and he used this god-given gift to rush across battlefields. Each time he swung his ax, the weapon screeched, and screams filled the battlefield. Droplets of blood sprayed into the air like petals fluttering in the wind.

The sight of this hulking man rushing forward atop his black horse had an otherworldly, almost illusory sort of beauty to it. Be that as it may, anyone who laid eyes upon it was bound to reach the same end.

The blood splattered across Robert’s face congealed, turning black.

I love this! I can’t get enough!

The wind unique to battle filled Robert’s heart with elation. He was in a state of bloodlust. The sheer hostility rolling off of him struck paralyzing fear into the hearts of the surrounding bandits. They were small creatures transfixed in place by a predator’s lethal glare.

Robert laughed loudly, swinging his ax as he ended the lives of one bandit after another. He was a one-man army. He strode across the battlefield, a stunning display of might by a masterful user of martial thaumaturgy.

Following behind Robert was the gray-haired, mustached old knight. He vigilantly watched his master’s back, following him like a shadow.

“You mustn’t go alone, Lord Robert!”

His shout echoed in Robert’s ears, loud enough to be heard over the fighting. But Robert sped up his horse, willfully ignoring the admonition, as if to say his time on the field of battle was his sole refuge from the melancholy gripping his heart.

“Lord Robert!”

Hearing the old knight rebuke him again, Robert swung his ax toward the man who looked to be the bandits’ leader. As if to meet his challenge, the leader kicked his own horse into a gallop. He was armed with a spear. The two horses darted toward each other like intersecting arrows.

“Raaaaaah! Eat this!” Robert howled as he swung with all his strength. It was a simple blow, but that simplicity lent it an unmatched lethality.

The ax screeched as it cut through the wind and plummeted toward the man’s head. But the bandit leader was no weakling. Spurring his horse straight ahead, he held his spear aloft, aiming to skewer Robert.

Their figures intersected for one brief moment, and then the two horses sprinted past each other, evading a frontal collision.

“Oh. Not only did you dodge that hit, you even landed one on me. Not bad.”

Feeling a lukewarm fluid streak down his cheek, Robert’s lips contorted into a grin. He wasn’t a masochist, but the presence of a foe worth fighting, for the first time in what felt like a long while, filled him with exhilaration.

The bandit leader turned his horse around to face Robert again and shouted, “You’re massive and your ax is absurd. Are you one of Count Salzberg’s Twin Blades, the famed Robert Bertrand?!”

Stating one’s name on the battlefield was seen as an overly confident gesture, as if one had the leisure to do so. But the bandit leader had asked this with the tip of his spear pointed upwards, implying he was familiar with battlefield etiquette. It seemed he wanted to settle this one-on-one. In which case, Robert had an obligation to respond.

Robert didn’t necessarily need to duel to win this battle. He could ignore the bandit leader and simply swing his ax, bringing this skirmish to an end just the same. Or he could order the knight behind him to have his troops surround the bandit leader. But all of that would have only mattered if Robert were an ordinary general. Unfortunately, in the twenty years Robert had been fighting, he’d never once refused a duel.

It wasn’t because Robert was pretentious or prideful, or because of any such personal reason. The human body operated by physical rules, but it was equally influenced by mental aspects. Refusing a duel at a time like this could lower the morale of his comrades and turn the situation unfavorably against his side.

In this case, if Robert, who was known for his martial prowess, were to refuse, it could impact the opinions of those around him. Robert’s personal stance on duels wasn’t at all relevant here. Even if he were to reject the match for some tactical reason, everyone else would think he was running away, and it would lower his soldiers’ morale. In melee combat, these kinds of mental fulcrums were necessary.

“That’s me, all right! Let’s hear your name, then!” Robert shouted back.

“The name’s Deck!” the leader howled. “Deck Monister! Robert Bertrand, I challenge you to a duel!” Deck lowered his spear from its upright position and aimed it directly at Robert. This was a typical gesture by knights on the western continent to signal a duel.

Monister, huh? Apparently he really is from a line of knights, but...

Regardless of whether his opponent was a descendant of knights, Robert’s task remained the same. Even if Deck had pretended to be a mere bandit, Robert would have accepted the duel just the same.

“Very well, I accept!”

Robert circulated the prana in his body, activating the Vishuddha chakra in his throat. Since this was one-on-one duel, he wasn’t going to show any mercy or restraint, nor did he expect to receive any either. Holding his ax under his torso, he kicked his horse into a gallop.

Deck raised his voice in a battle cry and charged toward Robert with his spear held aloft. He was gambling everything on a single blow too.

Good. No tricks!

Deck’s figure gradually grew closer. He thrust his spear forward toward Robert. Meeting his challenge, Robert swung his ax up, the blade howling.

“It’s over!”

Robert had swung up diagonally from the right, snapping the handle of Deck’s spear down the middle. He then held the ax over his head, bringing it down in a sideways slash across Deck’s torso. Deck just stood there, dumbstruck at how easily his opponent had disarmed and hit him.

Silence settled over the field of battle. A few moments later, blood spurted from Deck’s chest, dripping down his saddle. He slid off his horse’s back and fell to the ground.

Robert silently thrust his battle ax into the air. A victorious howl left his lungs.

The day of Robert’s battle with the bandits had turned to night. A letter had arrived at the Bertrand estate, located near the Xaroodian border.

“A messenger from Count Salzberg?” Baron Bertrand asked, picking up the letter from his desk. After confirming the wax seal on it, he turned his gaze to his elder son, Rosen, who stood nearby.

“Yes, Father,” Rosen answered. “The messenger said it was addressed to you, so I didn’t check the letter’s contents.”

The baron nodded. “Hm, very well. Let’s see what it says.” He slowly opened the letter, and after reading it over twice, he handed it to Rosen.

“May I?” Rosen asked.

“Go ahead. I want your opinion on this.”

Rosen was apprehensive. They were father and son, but this letter was from the head of the ten houses of the north and was addressed to the baron. Whatever it said, it must have been confidential.

And he still wants my opinion on this?

Despite Rosen’s doubts, the head of House Bertrand had given his approval. As the eldest son, he had a duty to oblige—even if he still didn’t officially hold the title of baron himself.

As soon as he started reading the letter, Rosen grimaced. “I...see. So that’s what this is about,” he muttered.

Baron Bertrand sighed. “Even after all those losses, he asks us to investigate the peninsula again. Just what is Count Salzberg thinking?”

Rosen nodded, a bitter expression on his face. Honestly, House Bertrand wanted nothing more to do with the Wortenia Peninsula. The number of lives they’d lost the last time Count Salzberg had ordered them to investigate was still fresh in their memories. Or rather, all the adventurers and spies they’d sent never came back, so it wasn’t that they’d explicitly died. They’d simply gone missing. But it was all the same for the Bertrand family; the whole endeavor struck a painful blow to their coffers.

Many adventurers didn’t have families, but Baron Bertrand’s spies did. With their fathers and breadwinners missing, the families had come to their employer, the baron, with questions. In addition, Baron Bertrand had ordered that in case a spy was found dead or went missing during an investigation, the barony would provide financial aid to the family and guarantee their livelihood. Naturally, the families had come to claim their dues. And Baron Bertrand hadn’t neglected his promise to look after the families of the people lost in the midst of fulfilling his orders. After all, reliable spies were hard to come by.

Honestly speaking, a spy’s value lay less in their skill and more in their humanity and trustworthiness. Because of that, nobility picked spies from families of vassals and retainers that had served them for generations. In addition, they guaranteed the families’ safety in order to prevent double-crossing.

Refusing to take responsibility for the family as an employer would only buy the barony the hatred of those families. And the other spies in their employ would see this mistreatment. It would lead to criticism and possibly betrayal.

One needed money to buy things, including loyalty—whether it was true or fake. For that reason, Baron Bertrand always had money put aside for their families in case a spy went missing or died on a dangerous job. That said, spies didn’t actually die or go missing that often—until now. Unless there was a war going on with another country, it only happened once or twice a year. That was why Baron Bertrand only set aside, at most, three nobles’ worth of monthly income.

But things were different this time. At first, they’d lost contact with the adventures from Epirus’s guild. This wasn’t all that surprising or incriminating; the Wortenia Peninsula was known for being dangerous. Baron Bertrand had remained optimistic.

But then an entire group had gone missing. Then another, and another. By the time the fifth group had disappeared, no adventurer was willing to enter the peninsula. And so Baron Bertrand had ordered his most trusted spies to handle it. None of them had returned either.

The eighth and final spy Baron Bertrand sent had been his ace, his spymaster who had served him for many years. He also hadn’t returned. He had been set to return within two weeks, but two months had passed.

Baron Bertrand was in a state of panic. He’d lost eight trusted spies. He had less than twenty spies total in his employ, and he’d lost nearly half of them in the space of one year.

So far, he’d entertained Count Salzberg’s requests to investigate the Wortenia Peninsula, cutting into his own manpower and military might in the process. But now, things weren’t so simple, and Baron Bertrand was forced to make a grave decision. Should he decline the order to investigate the peninsula? He felt he had to. He absolutely didn’t have nine people’s worth of bereavement funds set aside. And adventurers had to be paid in advance. His income would be in dire straits. They’d already had to forcibly “borrow” the funds Robert had earned.

Ever since this whole affair had started, the subject of the Wortenia Peninsula became taboo in the halls of the Bertrand estate. For all their efforts, they’d only just managed to maintain their family’s honor.

“Are we going to have to go through this nightmare again?” Rosen asked.

Baron Bertrand shook his head wearily. It would be reckless to even try it. They’d have to ask for financial aid from House Salzberg to do it, and the baron didn’t want to resort to that. Begging for money went against his aristocratic pride. But at the same time, they couldn’t work when they didn’t have the money to do so.

“We’ll need to consult the count about this. We have no other choice,” the Baron said, heaving a sigh and looking up at the ceiling.

The Kingdom of Rhoadseria’s northern regions were home to two warriors of extraordinary skill and talent. One of them was Robert Bertrand, the second son of the Bertrand barony. The other was Signus Galveria, the sixth son of the Galveria barony, which was located near the border with Myest.

Together, the two of them were considered to be the strongest knights in Rhoadseria. Since their youth, they’d crossed countless battlefields, becoming two of the country’s most celebrated heroes. As a pair, they were called the Twin Blades of House Salzberg. Count Salzberg, the head of the ten houses of the north’s alliance, had personally given them that name, but rumors of their valor had traveled as far as the neighboring countries.

Their most famous achievement was the Battle of the Lantia Plains, which had taken place in Myest five years ago. The Kingdom of Myest had transgressed on Rhoadseria’s border, resulting in hostilities between the nobles positioned along the borderline. The conflict had turned into a stalemate, leading to that battle. In a fierce clash that was remarkable even within Rhoadseria’s rather war-torn history, Robert and Signus had led a mere thousand troops against an army of five thousand. They tore through the enemy lines, broke the deadlock, and ended the war in Rhoadseria’s favor.

They had each taken the heads of no less than a hundred enemy combatants during that battle—a striking achievement worthy of the title of war hero. Had the two of them become royal knights, they could have well become candidates for the rank of general in the future. But the goddess of fate had cursed Signus with a heavy burden.

Signus Galveria was currently in his room at his family’s estate, reclining on the sofa. His almost two-meter body barely fit. He was gazing up at the ceiling, his eyes melancholic.

“What should I do? Leave the house, after all?” Signus pondered aloud, a deep sigh escaping his lips.




It had been over a month since he’d been confined in this house. He’d spent his days doing nothing but eating and sleeping, which, to a trained warrior like Signus, was very much a sort of torture.

The cause for his confinement was quite clear—his discord with his father, the current head of the Galveria barony, Joseph Galveria. Said discord had led to antagonism between Signus and his stepmother, as well as his step-siblings. Everyone around him eyed him with hostility, believing he had conspired to inherit the title of Baron Galveria. Signus himself didn’t have the slightest desire to inherit the family headship. But at this rate, the situation would turn into the worst-case scenario—a family feud.

At present, Signus was desperately seeking a way to solve this situation diplomatically. And yet, in many ways, the outcome had already been decided. The way things currently were, the safest way to resolve things with the least possible damage was for Signus to cut ties with his family.

Yet Signus couldn’t go through with that. Physically leaving the house wasn’t the problem. Since he was locked inside the estate, powerful knights remained stationed outside. Normally, escaping such a sound defensive perimeter would be difficult. But that was assuming any normal knight was the one trying to escape. Signus was one of the two strongest knights in northern Rhoadseria. If one of House Salzberg’s Twin Blades were to bring his full strength to bear, no one could stop him. He’d once single-handedly broken through an army of one thousand men in the past. A monster among monsters like Signus could easily break out of the estate if he put his mind to it. But doing so would separate him from the person he held dearest to his heart.

I don’t want to lose you, Elmeda.

The image of one old woman crossed his mind. Signus’s father loathed him and his mother had discarded him. This old woman, though, was the only person he didn’t want to lose.

Some part of Signus felt like this childish attachment was laughable. But if Elmeda were to see his current state, she would lay down her own life to break his fetters. She would insist that she didn’t want to be a burden upon him. And giving her life up would, in a way, break the chains that bound Signus and buy him his freedom. Signus knew this, but he didn’t want things to end that way.

A normal child would have gotten the unconditional love they needed from their parents. But Signus was no normal child, and his parents had denied him the affection he desperately wanted. Instead, old Elmeda had been the only one to truly care for him.

When all was said and done, Signus’s mind and heart led him to the same conclusion. He was stuck between a rock and a hard place.

How did a hero of Signus’s caliber find himself in such a predicament? The reasons lay in the complicated circumstances of his birth and upbringing. This might invoke certain connotations, but Signus wasn’t a legitimate child of the Galveria family. His father was Joseph Galveria, the current Baron Galveria, and there was no doubting that. His mother’s name was known but greatly irrelevant. She had been a commoner’s daughter living in one of the villages in Galveria’s domain.

Why was I ever born? It only made everyone miserable.

That question had crossed his mind time and again during his thirty years of life, but he never did find an answer.

Signus was the sixth son of House Galveria, but he wasn’t a child of the count’s legal wife. He wasn’t the son of a concubine either. He had been born from the womb of a woman Joseph Galveria had spent a single night with, before he’d inherited the headship of the barony. Such were the circumstances behind Signus’s birth.

Why did Joseph have to sleep with that woman? There was no clear answer to that question. But from what little Signus had heard at the time, there hadn’t been a great deal of affection between them. As inappropriate as it might have been, Joseph had been either wasting time or following a whim. At least, this was Signus’s take on it.

But after the deed had been done, Joseph had never returned to that woman’s embrace. That much was clear. While Signus had no intention of slighting the woman who’d brought him into this world, he did admit that she wasn’t the most attractive woman out there. Her fellow villagers had said her features had a charm to them, but there had been a certain rural uncouthness to her.

Joseph could have had any number of beautiful women at his beck and call with his noble background and wealth. What spurred him to sleep with her, all of people, was a mystery that would likely remain forever unsolved. Maybe he had been drunk, or perhaps he’d grown tired of beautiful women and had the urge to try a more plain-looking girl. Only Joseph knew the truth. But the reality was that even he had no real reason to give. The only certain thing was that any union between Joseph and that commoner girl had been limited to that one night.

Things of this sort weren’t uncommon in this world, which lacked the concept of contraceptives. A child from a single night’s tryst wasn’t at all unheard of, and there were quite a few bastard children with noble blood running through their veins. But when the girl had informed Joseph that she was with child, he had ordered her to abort the baby.

Joseph had rejected Signus’s birth for a few reasons. First, House Galveria was a barony. The title of baron was the lowest possible noble rank, but it was still a noble title. There was a vast difference in class between an heir of that house and a common farmer’s daughter. Rhoadseria’s rigid class system would have impeded their union, had there been one.

But if class had been the only issue, there were ways around it. If Joseph had wanted, he could have had the baby adopted by a third party. But Joseph feared the very concept of Signus’s birth for one simple reason. Joseph himself hadn’t been born into House Galveria; he’d married into it.

Joseph was the third son of a certain knight family. His family was in very high standing, and Joseph’s own martial accomplishments had elevated him enough to allow him to marry into the noble family of Galveria. By the time Signus had been conceived, Joseph had already had five other children with his legal wife.

Nobles bore many children to ensure that there was always an heir. Second or third sons were seen as spares in case something happened to the firstborn. But a sixth son had little value in that regard. If his mother had been an influential merchant or a landowner’s daughter, things would have been different, but a mere farmer’s daughter couldn’t offer any help to House Galveria.

And more than anything, there was the matter of Joseph’s legal wife—Anne Galveria. She was a terribly jealous woman, and her jealousy had made the situation that much worse.

With all that in mind, Joseph had ordered Signus’s mother to abort the child, so as to avoid needlessly rocking the boat. And his decision had been correct, for a noble. The mother hadn’t been keen on birthing the baby either. She was a commoner, and given the class difference, she couldn’t be accepted as a concubine. Even if Joseph had wished for that, the social pressure from those around him would have made it unadvisable, to say the least. His legal wife would behold her with hatred and would dread the possibility of her children being deprived of the title of baron. At worst, Anne’s wrath could get the mother killed. Realizing this, his mother decided to comply with Joseph’s orders. Resisting would have been pointless anyway.

And so neither of Signus’s parents had wanted him. A child like him would normally never grow to maturity. But the final word of the former Baron Galveria, who was renowned for his wisdom, had overturned baby Signus’s fate. As a result, Signus had been accepted into House Galveria. In the presence of the previous baron, he had been acknowledged as the sixth child of the family.

It was unclear if the previous head had done it out of mercy or if he’d sensed something fateful in the child’s conception. Signus had no way of finding that out anymore. If nothing else, Signus knew that his life had been pardoned by his grandfather, and he refused to let it go to waste. He devoted his life to training and martial growth, as would befit a member of the Galveria family, which had served the Kingdom of Rhoadseria since its founding days. He did all this to repay his debts to the step-mother that hated him to this day and the father who remained estranged to him even now.

Through his efforts, Signus matured into one of Rhoadseria’s most prominent knights. Most people were unaware of his tragic origins.

I did everything because I wanted to belong. But that only made me a latent enemy of House Galveria.

A man in a weak position carving out a place for himself with sheer effort—one only heard of that in stories. But the real world wasn’t so merciful. Signus’s ardent efforts to earn himself a place in his family had only turned him into a thorn in House Galveria’s side. He’d become a threat they had to fear.

And of course they would fear him. They dreaded the possibility that he would one day use his newfound status and authority to take revenge on them for a lifetime of discrimination and persecution. The stronger Signus became and the more fame he gained as a knight, the more dangerous he looked to those who’d realized that the way they’d acted was by no means commendable.

Yet they couldn’t kill or expel Signus. His abilities and fame, cultivated from a youth spent on the battlefield, greatly augmented House Galveria’s military potential. Still, they couldn’t shake their fear of the man who’d grown to be called one of Count Salzberg’s Twin Blades. And so they’d looked desperately for a weakness, a chink in Signus’s armor. They looked and looked, until at long last, they found it—his greatest weakness.

“I...I just want to live freely,” Signus moaned, coughing up the words as if they were his very lifeblood.

As he was now, Signus was a caged bird. He couldn’t go anywhere or decide anything for himself. In this state, there wasn’t a tinge of daring heroism to him. He would simply remain in this room until he wasted away—a pitiful warrior, not even permitted to stand on the battlefield.

But fate would once again beckon Signus to battle.

The door to his room suddenly swung open, and a single man walked inside, not even bothering to knock.

Signus’s eyes widened in shock.

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