"Ahaha, what a shame, I heard the second highness' female knight was quite the beauty. Rumour has it she was even his lover. It's a shame we weren't able to spot either of them when we conquered Frederika. What a shame. I would've liked to meet her, and perhaps make her my concubine, hehe," Blademaster Rimad commented, much to Count Chujway's relief, given that he was no longer the center of attention.
"Is that so?" asked Lorist as he flashed the blademaster a chilling glance.
The glance made even Howard, who was standing behind him, freeze when he felt the seething killing intent radiating from Lorist.
Lorist looked at Count Chujway.
"Can you tell me about the second highness' subordinates? He must have many fierce knights at his disposal. Can you tell me about the other five male gold-ranked knights you mentioned?"
"But of course, it would be my pleasure," said Count Chujway as he stood up and wiped away another drop of sweat on his forehead.
Count Dalek, who was seated to the left of Count Chujway, looked at him with a weird gaze. He could feel that something was going on.
It's as if he's afraid of the little count. He's acting even more respectfully to him than the duke.
"Actually, the second highness had around 20 to 30 gold-ranked knights, around 300 silver-ranked knights and two rank 1 blademasters by his side. The two blademasters, however, were hired by the Andinaq royal family to protect the third prince, and had only been assigned to the second highness's side following the former's death.
"Among the second highness' many gold-ranked knights, the ones he trusted most were the flower and five tigers. The flower is the elegant gold-ranked knight, Glacia, and she was the leader of the second highness's personal guard. She could give orders on behalf of the second highness. The five tigers were the other five gold-ranked knights. While they might not have been the best at combat among the second highness's men, they were the ones best at leading soldiers.
"The one that is the commander of the first local defense legion is Bowen Ketty, a three-star gold rank, who's said to have been by the second highness for the longest time. The commander of the second local defense legion is Sysraid. The other three are division commanders. One of them, Gold-ranked Knight Ribalo, was made the commander of the indentured legion. When he lost 70 thousand soldiers in the flood, he could not bear the humiliation any longer and fought to his death.
"The other two-star-gold-ranked knight, Bensji, and one-star-gold-ranked knight Yaritom, are both long-time subordinates of the second highness as well. Yaritom, however, didn't accompany the second highness to Redlis. It seems he was injured during an assault on the manor of a noble from Anderwoff and was sent back to Andinaq to recover. The ones trapped at Frederika were the female gold-ranked knight and the two legion commanders.
"We searched Frederika for a long time after we took it but didn't find the female gold-ranked knight or the legion commanders. We suspect the second highness left with his most-trusted subordinates and escaped the city during ir just before the beginning of the assault. The most frustrating part is that this group disappeared all of a sudden like the first prince. We didn't find anything even after conducting extensive searches."
"Count Chujway, may I ask about two friends of mine that serve the second highness? One is called Karitok and the other, Sander. They were three-star silver ranks around five years ago. I wonder if you've heard of them and know where they are?" asked Lorist.
Count Chujway furrowed his brow for a good while before he shook his head
"I apologize, Count Norton. I don't recall hearing those names before. I've personally checked the list of captured or killed gold-ranked knights but I don't remember seeing the names. There were only three three-star-silver-ranked knights that surrendered to us, but they were not them either. I can't confirm whether they perished in battle or not but I'll check it for you when I return. I'll send someone to inform you if I find something."
"I am most grateful for your assistance," thanked Lorist, saluting.
"Don't worry about it, Count Norton. It's my pleasure to be able to help," replied Count Chujway, returning the salute.
"Hahaha," laughed the gold-ranked knight sitting beside Little Prince Doke as he pointed to Lorist.
"No way, Count Chujway, are you actually afraid of a little noble from The Northlands? Haha, this is too ridiculous... Are you intentionally playing the fool?" asked he.
"Shut it!" exclaimed Count Chujway, his expression morphing into one of rage.
"Count Chujway, please take note of your stature. You are a count of the four central duchies! You don't have to lower your head to stray dogs and cats! Remember who you represent!" hissed Rimad.
Josk thumped on the table and stood up.
He pointed at the blademaster as he barked, "Old fool! Who did you call strays?!"
Enraged, Rimad retorted, "You dare to point at me like this?!"
The rank 1 blademaster seated beside Josk stood up and made a beckoning gesture to Rimad, causing the latter's face to flush.
He actually dared to challenge me? Ridiculous!
Just as he was about to stand up, he suddenly felt the blademaster emit a thick aura of blood. Petrified, he remained seated as if his arse was glued to the stool.
Rimad was no idiot and had heard his fair share of stories of rank 2 blademasters being killed by rank 1 blademasters. In the world of blademasters, only those almost at the swordsaint level would not be provoked. A talented rank 1 blademaster had a real chance of defeating a rank 3 blademaster under the right circumstances.
That rank 1 blademaster must be someone who broke through thanks to countless bloody battles. Even though he's rank 1, it's best for a rank 2 blademaster like me to lay low. No blademaster who broke through using battles is easy to deal with, thought Rimad with regret for the words he had uttered.
"Your Grace, look," said Rimad as he turned to the duke with a troubled expression, as if he had been provoked by Josk and Shuss through no fault of his own.
Duke Fisablen was looking forward to the show, he didn't think Rimad would shift everyone's attention to him. If the two sides had clashed, he would be able to find out more about Lorist's strength and mediate after a side had obtained victory. But since he had been asked to intervene as host, he had no choice but to act.
"Count Norton, Rimad only mouthed off casually without being specific about who he was talking about, so please don't be so tense. Sit back and relax, here's a toast to you."
Given that the duke himself had spoken, Lorist waved his hand lightly to gesture Josk and Shuss back to their seats.
However, the storm was far from over. Just when the two were about to sit back down, Doke chuckled.
"Wow, these little nobles have quite the temper! What's wrong with calling you strays? Your Grace, I don't understand why we had to wait outside for so long to receive these barbaric uncultured folk. On what basis do they deserve our welcome, the ones who defeated the mighty 300-thousand-strong army of the second highness? I want a satisfactory explanation, Your Grace."
It was apparent that the little prince was dissatisfied at being asked to wait and welcome Lorist's group. As Duke Fisablen didn't personally receive him, on what basis did the Northlanders deserve the duke's welcome? He took it as an affront to the four central duchies.
A loud thump resounded from the table once more, this time Baron Felim and Baron Shazin joined Josk and Shuss.
"What did you say?!"
Doke rolled his eyes without a care.
"Well? Was I wrong? Northlander barbarians will be Northlander barbarians. They don't care about noble etiquette at all."
Lorist laughed lightly, rose from his seat, and waved the others to calm down. They grudgingly obliged and sat back down, glaring at the little prince.
Lorist looked around before he waved to a guard by the entrance.
"You, come here."
Surprised, the guard pointed at himself, and looked at the duke, only to see him nodding. He hurried to Lorist's side.
"Milord, what are your instructions?"
"Apologies, let me borrow this for a bit."
With a swift movement, Lorist took the guard's left gauntlet. The armor the guard wore was of the rider gear number 103 make, the design House Fisablen had purchased from the Nortons. The gauntlet was made from iron plate with an inner lining of leather. It weighed quite a bit.
"Thank you, I'll return it shortly," said Lorist as he turned around.
A moment passed and the gauntlet flew through the air in a straight line. It's flight terminated in the little prince's face. As if he was clobbered by a giant's palm, the prince groaned, grabbed onto the iron gauntlet, and clutched his nose. Blood and tears flowed all over his face.
"The fuck did you do?!" Rimad cried out as he stood up, accompanied by the gold-ranked knight.
Both glared at Lorist. The knight had already drawn his sword and stood in front of Doke as if he was faced with his worst adversary.
"Calm down. Didn't Little Prince Doke claim that we didn't know noble etiquette? That is a dire insult to our house's honor. I thought it best to repay it with blood. In a most noble fashion, I have challenged him to a knight's duel. He has taken up the gauntlet and accepted my challenge. I am delighted to see he still has some guts. Well, Little Prince, are you ready? Take your time to prepare for the duel."
Lorist stepped to the center of the pavilion.
"You two, stand aside. This is a matter between your prince and I. Are you prepared to violate the sacred tradition of the duel? What weapon will he carry? An axe, a spear, or perhaps a longsword? Maybe he wants to compete mounted? I'll leave him the luxury of choosing the manner in which we duel."
"A duel," muttered Rimad and the knight as they turned to see Doke holding the iron gauntlet.
Hell, aren't you supposed to throw a white glove? Those Northlander barbarians really don't know their etiquette. How can one throw an actual gauntlet? Wait, there's no saying that one can't... No, don't get distracted. The issue is that the little prince picked the gauntlet up and accepted the duel! Oh, Lord Singwa, what can we do?
Doke finally recovered and waved the gauntlet in his hand, teary-eyed.
"Kill... Kill him! He... He flung this straight at me!"
"Yo-your Highness... He tossed over a glove to request a duel. You picking it up means that you accepted it! You have to fight him!"
Count Kenmays, Baron Felim and the rest fanned the flames even further.
"Yes, it's a duel! I guess I misread the little prince after all! He's got guts! To duel Locke to the death... Haha, he must want his corpse cut into eight pieces!"
"Stand forward! Let us all witness the bravery of the four central duchies' nobles!" roared Josk.
"What? A duel to the death... No, I won't do it!" Doke cried.
He glanced at the gauntlet in his hand and threw it to the ground.
"Your Highness!" exclaimed Rimad and the knight, panicked.
Holding the gauntlet but refusing the duel would spell the end of the Forund nobility's honour. Doke would have to bear the name of a coward for the rest of his life.
"I-I didn't think this was a glove... If I knew, I wouldn't have caught it... I... I won't duel that lowly savage! Given his status, he's far from qualified to duel me!" argued the youth stubbornly.
"Your Highness, that won't do. If you don't accept the duel, the duchy's reputation will be tainted forever! Trust me, if His Grace knows about this, you'll lose your right to the throne for sure! It's alright if you go to duel him. This Count is only an iron rank. A silver rank like you will definitely win," advised the gold-ranked knight.
"N-no way... That guy's so strong and huge, there's no way I'll be his match..."
"I say, are you done deciding yet? Your Highness, if you don't dare to duel me, I will allow you to nominate a champion to fight in your stead," said Lorist impatiently.
"Is... Is that true?" asked Doke, delighted.
He quickly pointed at his gold-ranked knight.
"Henriman, you shall duel in my stead."
Henriman drew his sword and walked in front of Lorist. Relieved, the prince recovered his former arrogance.
"Henriman, teach him a good lesson! Cut off his hands and tear off his mouth!"
"Are you not going to draw your sword?" groaned Henriman angrily, his expression turning cold.
"Using a sword against someone like you would stain my honor," Lorist replied.
Henriman was so angry that his hair stood on end. His vein popped on his arms and forehead from his iron clasp on his sword's hilt.
"M-man you're frustrating! D-die!"
A golden blade glow manifested on his sword he leaped forward.
All the observers saw was Gold-ranked Knight Henriman's silhouette flashing past Lorist's figure before they heard a soft thump. Henriman, standing behind Lorist, had stopped moving. He tried to reach for his neck, but when his hands reached his chest, he collapsed. His face dug into the ground. His last movement was two twitches.
One move! Lorist had killed a three-star-gold-ranked knight in one move. And with his bare hands!