Chapter 83

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When crossing the Krasilov-Drovian border, one of the silent Huscals approached Einar and asked, “Brother, are you alright?”

“No matter how exhausted I’ve been lately, would I be this tired?” Einar replied with a smirk.

“Not about that…”

Huscal glanced sideways at Einar’s arm. The forearm, now with dried blood, had crimson lines drawn across it.

“If you had seen everything from the beginning to the end and only now have something to say. Oh well, I admit defeat.”

Einar chuckled and shook his head. He had fallen behind in skills, overwhelmed only by sheer strength in the battle.

There’s no shame in sparring. He used to teach every detail from holding an axe to cutting down a person, but now, he’s grown enough to challenge his skills.

“In a one-on-one duel, I now find myself trailing by about half a step. If only he possessed half the current level of magic, I’d be the one lying on the ground.”

His eyes are sharp. It’s a feeling he has sensed since old times but now honed sharper than before, likely refined by surviving the Seven Dragon. Impressive.

“No, brother. Even if Petrovich was quick, he couldn’t withstand your wrath, could he?”

“Simpleton. That’s my defeat.”

Einar turned to his dull-witted brother, tongue clicking.

“That rascal surely had a hidden move, didn’t he? Just didn’t use it until now. Overwhelmed me in the duel, claiming victory with full force. If that’s not my defeat, what is? And, brother, didn’t I tell you? That guy has a sharp eye.”

Until the final strike, Ivan’s eyes didn’t waver from the axe blade attacking him. So there won’t be a next time. He won’t fall for the same move twice.

“If we spar again, it won’t flow like today.”

“My blood is boiling.”

In close-quarters combat against a formidable army, Einar boasted superiority over Maximilian.

But does he still hold such confidence now? Can he truly claim to be the strongest among all of humanity?

Einar chuckled. Seems like I’ve aged, he thought.

Satisfactorily.

As long as there’s a record, a man’s skill doesn’t rust over time.

“So, that’s why I granted permission for the courtship.”

“Petrovich didn’t seem interested in Ecdysis, though…”

“I know. What matters isn’t his feelings. It’s the recognition of King Drovian. I wiped the slate clean first. Who dares to fish in troubled waters?”

According to the letter, Ecdysis is undoubtedly fond of Ivan. And quite actively so.

And Ivan, the man who defeated the Seven Dragon, is an achiever unlike any other in humanity, excluding the warriors.

So, there’s no lack of suitability as a prospective heir to Drovian’s throne.

Drovian values strength, Einar sensed. After his death, he was certain that his homeland would inevitably fracture.

It’s not the intricacy of the social system; it’s a kingdom formed solely by one person’s charisma. Without a robust force like Einar, there would be no way to restrain the ambitions within Drovian.

Therefore, his successor must be the strongest man in Drovian. Among his children, Ecdysis stood out, and if the man she chose happened to be so robust…

It’s reasonable to secure that in advance. It’s the conclusion drawn by a father, a king, and a warrior of Drovian.

Therefore, Ivan’s feelings are not important.

“About two more years until Ecdysis graduates? Good. It’s a good time to retire. Now I can relax, tease my grandchildren, and enjoy some drinks.”

Einar chuckled and quickened his pace.

If that’s the case, there was much to prepare.


Chapter 82: The King’s Silence

The term “dedicated bureaucrat” is used as rarely as creatures like dragons or unicorns, meaning it’s almost impossible to find. (But it did exist.)

Therefore, Pavel, a dedicated Krasilov official (formerly part of the rebel forces until about half a month ago), was still stuck in this hospital room, managing his duties diligently.

He wasn’t injured. If he were injured during a mission, he wouldn’t be confined to a hospital bed; instead, he’d be lying in Elizaveta’s office, demanding additional allowances.

In this hospital room, his superior was currently hospitalized. Thus, Pavel’s commitment wasn’t just avoiding work or idleness but could be considered faithfully assisting his superior.

“So, what did I say there? ‘Come, Einar. Today my spear will taste the blood of a hero.’ Haha… You should’ve seen Einar’s terrified expression at that time.” (Pavel)

“Um.” (Ivan)

“Want more apples?” (Pavel)

“Stop eating! I didn’t carve that for you, you know!” (Isabelle)

“Then next time, write names on the apples. In this country, anything not explicitly owned is legally reclaimed by the state.” (Pavel)

As a diligent public servant with the authority for active state reclamation, Pavel munched on the apple Isabelle had diligently carved.

“And what’s with the talk about hero’s blood! I was there too, you know?” (Isabelle)

“Me too! My father battled that creature that day. He could have been a martyr by now.” (Ecdysis)

“Don’t use too difficult words. You look stupid. It’s not a martyr, it’s just a death in the line of duty.” (Isabelle)

“It’s the same thing!” (Ecdysis)

Pavel looked at Ecdysis with pity and said, “But aren’t you two supposed to be in school today? No classes today?” (Pavel)

“Didn’t you drop out of college, uncle?” (Isabelle)

“Uh…?” (Pavel)

Suddenly, an academic debate here?

During our time, there wasn’t even an institution called college…? (There was.)

Mocking Pavel’s unjust expression, Ecdysis puffed up her chest and confidently exclaimed, “It’s okay to have a self-declared holiday in the first year!” (Ecdysis)

“Isn’t your tuition expensive?” (Pavel)

“Our people pay for that. And I’m a royalty too!” (Ecdysis)

“Wow, really? I won’t comment much since I belonged to the Krasilov rebel forces. If I were part of the Drovian rebel forces, today would mark the beginning of the revolution.” (Pavel)

“Drovian doesn’t have anything akin to rebel forces, you know? Challenging royal authority is legal from the start!” (Ecdysis)

Ivan tilted his head upon hearing that. There was someone until recently, he thought.

Certainly, challenging authority in Drovian’s cultural context is legal. Although it’s a rare occurrence now, given Einar is the current king, challenging royal authority with Einar is the surest way for Drovian warriors to meet their demise.

A blood eagle might have a chance of surviving. But under Einar’s axe, there’s no chance at all.

“Hmm.” (Ivan)

Recalling the axe blade, his chest tightened. If it had gone a bit deeper, it would have pierced through the ribs, exploding the heart in a single blow.

Indeed, should he be called a warrior of the Hero’s Party?

Ivan had to admit his own arrogance. He thought it could be imitated just by seeing it, like Einar’s other techniques.

It wasn’t. The mastery pushed to the extreme is no different from magic. It’s an area structurally impossible for others to replicate, impossible to pass down to others.

A creation molded solely from his own experience, a culmination of life.

The strike that cleaved through mountains and created cracks in the fortress of a million troops. It couldn’t be imitated just by understanding posture, flow of magic, and distribution of strength.

So it’s regrettable. He keenly felt the reason why he was just a reserve in the first place.

Those the Hero’s Party had to face were no less than god-like strong beings. Only those who could forge strikes that applied to such beings could claim the qualification to stand in the same rank as a hero.

Ivan barely touched that level, but imitation can never surpass the original. Ivan let out a bitter smile as he opened his mouth.

“Timing!” (Isabelle)

“Mmph.”

At that moment, a piece of apple was bitten in his mouth.

Looking up, he saw Isabelle, who was smiling brightly.

“Fast, isn’t it? Impressive?” (Isabelle)

“Yes, it is. When did you learn this?” (Ivan)

“I kept trying! I’ll keep doing it in the future too! How’s the growth of your disciple? Proud, right?” (Isabelle)

“Disciple?” (Ivan)

“If you taught, you’re the master! No nonsense now!” (Isabelle)

Seems like he reached the realm of superhuman. The speed just now was a talent impossible without nerve acceleration reactions.

Ivan finished chewing the apple and chuckled.

“You’ve put in the effort.” (Ivan)

“Yes!” (Isabelle)

Isabelle, having lost the bet, cheerfully exclaimed.

The fingers she secretly concealed wriggled energetically. She couldn’t hide her joy. It was because she had hidden this skill to reveal it first when she mastered it.

And one more thing.

‘He said Ivan’s soul got tainted.’

He claimed to have lost desire.

No, that was wrong. Einar might not have lied, but at least there was something he didn’t know.

‘Uncle, surely… cried back then.’

There were memories of shedding tears while eating a sinister dish.

There were times when he faintly smiled while looking at her.

In times of reminiscence and even faint moments of anger, there were emotions. That man’s emotions weren’t fading away. Even if the color had faded into a pale gray, Uncle still had the remains of emotions.

That was enough.

“Absolutely.”

She vowed never to face the same fate as her father.

With that determination, she learned the skill over the past few days. Despite attending Uncle’s classes every day, going to school during the day, and intensively training until dawn.

With the mindset of throwing even a straw into the fading embers of the faint desire that man holds.

“So, since my father approved, right?” (Ecdysis)

“This kid is quite audacious. What does a grown maiden want to achieve with this?” (Isabelle)

“Wow, really acting like an old man.” (Ecdysis)

“If you get hit by an old man, it hurts just the same.” (Isabelle)

As she promised not to let it be taken away, Isabelle tightly grasped her victorious hand.

There’s still one more thing.

“Uncle.” (Isabelle))

“Hmm.” (Ivan)

“When it’s all done. When you’re discharged. How about coming to our house to eat ‘kimchi’?”

“…!?”

Determined and upright. A culmination of life, solely forging his own experiences.

Hero’s secret techniques. Learning traditional cooking.

In the realm of acquiring knowledge, there’s no one superior to a hero.

Since the festival, Isabelle had prepared the “ultimate move” created with Yuri.

“I made a stew with that. It should be tastier than what you had last time.” (Isabelle)

Ignoring Ecdysis, who was pretending to gag, Isabelle smiled slyly.

Ivan nodded slowly with a stern expression.

“My judgment is strict.” (Ivan)

“As much as you want.” (Isabelle)

More reasons to leave the hospital.

Perhaps there are still good parts in this world.

Ivan closed his eyes and took a deep breath.

Maximilian, you achieved many things, but…

Among the things you left behind, perhaps your daughter is the most splendid.

Well-raised, he thought.

Ivan left a brief reflection.

It was late summer.

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