Chapter 88

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The moment of judgment has come, at least for Elizaveta.

Her anxiety now rivals the intensity she felt a decade ago when she had to stamp her seal on the order to defend against the Seven Dragon Lords.

Not even when she overthrew her father, the King, and eradicated her brother’s entire faction, including the royal family, was she as on edge as she is today.

“Your Highness.” (Ivan)

Elizaveta snapped to attention at the deep, resonant voice, concealing her trembling fingers behind her back.

“How’s your condition?” (Elizaveta)

“As usual.” (Ivan)

“Preparations?” (Elizaveta)

“As usual.” (Ivan)

“As usual” implies peak readiness, akin to a well-forged sword or a meticulously maintained firearm loaded with gunpowder, ready to unleash at any moment, like a weapon on the brink of war.

In this routine demeanor, Elizaveta found both relief and a unique tremor. With this resolute man, trust was unwavering – even in the cold world or on a remote island where kin couldn’t be relied upon.

She didn’t want him to falter. She couldn’t afford to lose him.

With that sentiment, she approached Ivan, who knelt with one knee and bowed.

“Your orders are the same as before, Vanka. Do you remember?” (Elizaveta)

“Yes, Your Highness.” (Ivan)

“Win overwhelmingly and bring it to me.”

“Your wish is my command, Your Highness.”

“Win. Against anything. Absolutely.” (Elizaveta)

“Yes, Your Highness.” (Ivan)

Click.

Ivan lowered the visor of his helmet and stood up.

The armor felt awkward. But a tournament was ultimately an evolution of knightly combat. This prestigious armor symbolized the nobility’s authority in itself.

The unfamiliar coat of arms hung on his shoulders. It was the coat of arms of a noble family he had never touched before.

Ivan, with an axe and a sword at both hips, took his steps.

Clank, clank. The heavy armor forcefully pressed down on the ground.

Regardless of his appearance, he is a royal agent, carrying the legacy of the Royal Guard, a survivor of the Cleansup Unit, and the leader of the Counterintelligence Command.

Therefore, dressed as a knight, he can never become one. He doesn’t desire an honorable defeat after giving his best or a glorious commendation among the uninformed.

Today, he is still a royal agent. The most important thing to him is the seal of the orders.

The last order he received was always the same.

Ensure victory.

And his response to that order is always the same.

So it shall be.

***

Sergei Antonovich Turgayev is the eldest son of Count Turgayev.

He confidently ascended the tournament stage wearing a splendid enchanted plate armor.

-Waaaah!!

As soon as he appeared, praises echoed from all directions. It felt like an earthquake had occurred. Whether it was his trembling body or the cheers of the audience shaking the stage, it was uncertain.

He opened the visor, waved towards the audience, and greeted them. The cheers grew even louder.

[Here comes Sergei Antonovich Turgayev, the pride of Count Turgayev!!]

The emcee, seated to boost the excitement, shouted loudly.

Receiving flowers and cheers from the audience, he inwardly wore a triumphant smile.

Yes, my life begins now.

Marrying the princess, seizing the remaining remnants of the royal family.

After our family sweeps away the so-called ‘constitutional monarchy’ system like a pest, I will reign on the throne of this country.

The handsome noble youth confidently stood on the tournament stage and exclaimed.

“Oh, Lord, protect my sword! Today, the honor of this place is entirely dedicated to the Almighty and the foundation of this nation! Come, fight honorably and surrender nobly!”

His gaze turned to the opposite side, revealing a dark passage leading to the stage.

Even under the bright sunlight, it was a gloomy entrance, as if mirroring his opponent.

‘Viscount Yermov, one of the Northern Territories?’ he said.

The Northern Territories are predominantly inhabited by individuals deemed inconsequential, sustaining themselves with meager troops and relying on the toil of peasants. They are perceived as insignificant figures who engage in hunting in forests, activities frowned upon by the nobility.

To make matters worse, he’s just a third son. These humble mercenaries, lacking the privilege of inheritance, opt to sell their skills for financial gain – essentially wanderers.

Is it more fitting to feel pity or disdain for these seemingly inconsequential mercenaries who aspire to climb the social ladder and venture into the capital?

Sergei chuckled and raised his sword high.

Soon, the emcee announced.

[Viscount Yermov, Ivan Petrovich Yermov, the esteemed pride of the Yermov lineage, has arrived!]

-What…?

-Ah…?

Unlike Sergei, a prominent aristocrat who had a significant presence in the social circles, the local nobility from the Northern Territories had no reputation in this city.

Moreover, look at Ivan, what a common name. The name Ivan, since the time of the founding king, was nothing more than a name given casually to any “worthy young man.”

Beneath the subtle cheers of the audience, a silhouette slowly appeared in the shadow of the passage.

-Clank. Clank.

The heavy footsteps moved as if unfamiliar.

Ridiculous. The steps, firmly bearing the weight of the armor, seemed to signify the incompetence of the individual.

Clank, clank, clank.

Armor adorned with no embellishments, blackened, and an unfamiliar coat of arms on the shoulders. The unfamiliarity, even as a family crest, indicated an unremarkable lineage.

-Clank.

The man who finally stepped onto the platform silently gazed down, without saying a word.

Only azure eyes briefly visible under the helmet visor.

“I go by Sergei Antonovich Turgayev, the eldest son of Count Turgayev, known as the Lion’s Knight among my acquaintances. May I know your name?”

“…”

Silent and with an unwavering gaze, the border knight in front of him chose to remain mute, providing no reply.

“It appears you’re quite uneasy. I comprehend. Debuting, especially facing me as your adversary, is undoubtedly unfortunate.”

“….”

Silence persisted.

Both slowly raised their swords. With a light flick of the raised sword and a slow lowering of the waist, they gestured to each other.

Tournaments don’t have a starting buzzer or a signal. It begins the moment the two combatants face each other. So, conversation is practically meaningless. However, Sergei felt a bit disappointed that his first opponent lacked refinement.

But that’s fine.

No matter how mediocre the opponent is, showcasing complete dominance will leave an impression on the princess.

Now, let’s show the future consort your image…

-Swish!

“What…? Ugh…?!”

***

The audience forgot even to cheer.

The moment the two knights exchanged formalities, fixed their swords straight after a salute…

-Crash!

The sound clearly arrived later than the event itself. By the time the audience heard the thunderous noise, the knight in blackened armor had already reached the front of his opponent.

-Swish!

Rapid counterattack, a clean strike exactly as described in the textbook. The longsword glided smoothly, biting into the opponent’s blade through the crossguard.

The fluid connection, resembling flowing water, yet the result was not gentle. The blade rebounded.

Simultaneously, the charging knight’s shoulder slammed into the opponent’s chest. Solid, forceful. The clearly magically reinforced armor crumpled entirely.

“Ugh…! Ugh…!!”

Groans were heard as the knight struggled desperately with bare hands, trying to resist.

Approaching the fallen opponent, the victorious knight placed the sword down. Crash. The blade buried itself deep into the ground.

So, with bare hands, staggering forward…

***

“The loyalty of a noble, where does it lie?”

“Ugh… Ugh… W-what… What is… What…”

-Crash!

A fist collided with the helmet. With a cracking sound, the magically reinforced high-quality plate helmet tore apart like a piece of paper.

The head rang with the impact. Amidst that, a low voice was heard once again.

“The loyalty of a noble, where does it lie?”

“Pr-profit…! I, nooo…!”

-Crash!

Once again, a punch hammered down like a sledgehammer.

As both had dropped their swords, the duel was not over until the complete incapacitation of the opponent – either a declaration of surrender or unconsciousness.

So, exerting just enough strength to avoid unconsciousness. Firmly. But carefully enough not to allow the opponent to declare surrender with their own hand.

-Crash, crash.

Precision in channeling strength, avoiding a level that would cause shattering.

To this foolish aristocrat, instilling loyalty to the country.

The received orders were clear.

Overwhelmingly win.

The objective of the operation was also clear.

‘Warn’ the nobles harboring resentment towards the royal family.

Dare not forget who the true ruler of this country is, even if it appears vulnerable.

Show it to the high-ranking nobles, the so-called major nobles.

If that’s the desire, so be it. Ivan struck down with his fist.

Until the aristocratic youth with a broken nose and missing front teeth fainted.

“That was a tough fight. Is my victory justified?”

Ivan looked down at the unconscious noble youth, blood dripping from the gauntlet.

The frozen emcee stuttered, glancing at the seats where the nobles were seated. Among the aristocrats with gaping mouths, not a word was uttered.

Ivan turned his head to look at the elevated platform where the princess was seated. He slowly kneeled and bowed his head.

The princess sighed, clutching her forehead.

“The, the winner! Ivan Petrovich Yermov of the Viscount Yermov!”

There was no cheering.

And it was not needed.

Ivan nodded silently and exited the arena.

***

“Wow… Uh… Oh…”

Isabelle, Ecdysis, and Pavel, sitting in the audience, stared blankly at the arena, not even noticing the popcorn dripping from their mouths.

“Like that…. He really meant it…?”

Did he really want to get married that badly?

Despite being about to get angry, suddenly.

During training, during sparring, he never showed such a side.

Realizing that she alone knew this warm side unknown to others, she felt a secret pride, then.

Again.

“No, did he really want to get married that badly!?”

And she exploded in frustration.

***

“Ah, humans. They can be quite inferior.”

An elf covered his nose with a handkerchief and grumbled as he left.

In the meantime, Elpheira was staring blankly at the arena.

A man beautifully entwined with both savagery and nobility. (Her standards.)

“Hand…some….” (Elpheira)

Any man should possess such boldness, vigor, and wild spirit. She glanced at the fellow male members of her kin, sitting casually and sipping sophisticated black tea.

Even those are considered men.

[Ahahaha!!] (Edelflat)

Next to her, a full suit of armor burst into hearty laughter. Elpheira finally snapped out of it and looked at the armor.

The armor resounded with a lively voice.

[That essence isn’t dead yet!! Ahahaha!!] (Eldelflat)

Laughing cheerfully, the armor tapped the table and stood up.

[Well, now it’s my turn to show. Ahahaha!!] (Eldelflat)

The armor left the audience, still joyful. As if not wanting to wait for her turn, she left for the waiting room.

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