Duke Pendragon - Chapter 119
It was quite obvious that the young man had a backstory, but Raven proceeded to take a few gold coins out from his clothes.
“You do not need to say anything if you don’t want to. Here is the compensation for helping my sister. Use it for your travel expenses. You can grab another room with this money, let’s part ways here.”
Raven placed three gold coins on the table, and the young man’s expression changed rapidly.
“I did not help the lady expecting compensation, so I cannot receive this money. It was the natural thing to do as a knight.”
The young man’s face hardened in a flash as if Raven’s words were a great insult.
“Ho-oh, is that so? So you are a knight?”
The young man took on a perplexed expression. Raven and the two girls became a little curious about the reason behind the rapid changes in the young man’s expressions. Soon, the young man spoke in a dejected voice.
“Not yet. But soon… No, one day…”
“I asked about who you are, so you don’t need to start telling me your whole life story. Tell me your name and your family. I will pay back your family separately. Are you trying to make me into an ungrateful person?”
“No, that was never my intent! And you do not need to do such things. I, I’m…”
The young man hesitated for a moment, then continued after sighing with a stern face.
“Johnbolt. My name is Leon Johnbolt. I am the second son of Count Johnbolt. I have seen Your Grace previously at the banquet hosted by the governor-general of Leus.”
Raven became puzzled.
Counts were usually High Lords, but none of the empire’s High Lords he knew of had the family name of Johnbolt. Furthermore, he had interacted with most of the bigshot nobility at the banquet in Leus, but he did not remember the name Johnbolt.
The young man must have noticed Raven’s thoughts, as he answered in a wistful voice.
“It is an honorary title. My family, the Johnbolts, have been serving the royal family as….. jesters.”
The young man, who stated he wanted to become a knight one day, sounded indescribably bitter.
Leon stayed silent. He looked down at the table with a red face.
Irene stepped up instead.
“We have jesters in Conrad Castle as well, brother. Of course, they would have jesters in the imperial castle as well.”
“I know, but do we ever confer titles to jesters?”
“If you work in the imperial city intergenerationally for a long time, you can be conferred an honorary title. Even if it’s an honorary title, a count…. They must be very talented and have a long history with the royal family.”
Irene answered with some hesitation, and Leon confirmed it with a sullen voice.
“It is as the lady says. The Johnbolt family has been serving as the royal jester in the imperial castle for five generations. Naturally, we have no knights and no territory.”
“Hm, so you attended the banquet in Leus as a jester?”
“What about that sword?”
“It was bestowed along with the title. It is a family heirloom…”
Raven roughly understood the situation, but he still did not understand how they held the title of a count.
Even a baron reigned over a territory and had a few knights serving under them. Nobles with titles were mostly lords, and they reigned over populations of up to tens of thousands. Counts were high-ranked nobility. They ranked above viscounts, who were superior to barons, and they usually had a number of viscounts and barons serving under them. Many of them were High Lords over great territories.
Moreover, considering that some of the High Lord families were descended from foreign royal families from the distant past, it seemed a little excessive for a family of jesters to be conferred the title of count, even if they shared a close relationship with the royal family and it was only honorary.
“Your family must be very accomplished for them to have been conferred the title of count.”
Leon’s face glowed redder at Raven’s words, but he quickly responded in a bitter voice.
“I wouldn’t call it very accomplished, but my grandfather was a brilliant jester. Yes, he was amazing. He was so amazingly entertaining and good at his job that the previous emperor made him a count.”
Leon’s voice was quite bitter and it sounded like self-ridicule. Raven suddenly came to a realization.
“Hmm, perhaps… Did the preceding emperor confer the title in the heat of the moment?”
Leon nodded weakly.
“Yes, it is as you say. His Majesty became a little drunk at a banquet and called my grandfather Count Johnbolt in a joking manner. But the royal family must never be dishonest. Their words hold significance.”
“In the end, the joke must have become reality. A jester count… The emperor was quite naughty with his joke.”
It was actually quite ridiculous. It was obvious that everyone who knew the truth behind the Johnbolt family’s title would make fun of them and mock them. That would have been enough to hurt the pride of a promising young man who dreamed of knighthood — enough to cause him to run away from home.
“Ah! Then you didn’t reveal your name and background in the pub today because…”
Leon bowed his head hopelessly at Irene’s realization. Raven had come to the conclusion without much difficulty, and he quietly stared at Leon. The blatant contempt towards his status, the limitations it possessed – Raven knew all too well.
He was born as an illegitimate child and he found his father in the end. But the reality was all too bitter. Even though they stayed in the same house, they could not eat together. If it weren’t for his brother, who was always caring and nice towards him, he would not have been able to endure it. He would have left home.
It was a cycle of anger and resignation.
And ultimately, the solution, the way to change reality, was to become a ‘real knight’.
‘This guy… he’s the same as me…’
Raven saw his past self in Leon Johnbolt, who left home with aspirations to become a knight. Raven was no longer an illegitimate child, and in fact, he was the head of the Pendragon Duchy, but Leon Johnbolt was still a jester dreaming of knighthood.
Raven took a long, silent glance at Leon. Unlike his sturdy, manly face, his body looked to be quite slender.
“If you come from a family of jesters, you must have learned some physical acrobatics since you were a kid.”
Leon responded in disbelief, and Raven repeated himself in a dull voice.
“You said you learned acrobatics, right? Show me.”
Leon’s expression became distorted. He had just finished explaining his situation, but Alan Pendragon still wanted to see some acrobatics. Did Alan Pendragon also consider him as nothing but a vulgar clown?”
“Are you… serious?”
“Stop wasting my time. Hurry it up.”
Leon’s face turned red again. But this time, it wasn’t out of shame. It was because of indescribable anger. But as always, Leon resigned himself to the anger.
This person was the same. He was no different from those people in the imperial castle who mocked him and called him the noble clown.
Resignation soon turned into a bitter, self-deprecating smile.
“Alright. Haha! I’ll show you how a lowly jester entertains.”
Leon slowly rose from his seat and walked to the middle of the room.
Raven watched Leon with cold eyes.
“Brother, no matter what, this is…”
Irene and Lindsay had never seen Raven treat those under him poorly, and they became shocked at the unfamiliar act. They tried to dissuade him.
Raven raised his hand. Something was strange, but the two girls had no choice but to obey Raven’s word and stay still.
Raven nodded, and Leon bit his lips hard, so hard that it almost started to bleed. He felt a terrible sense of humiliation. Irene Pendragon looked at him sympathetically and with embarrassment, and this made his heart even more bitter. It was as if he had been stripped naked.
Nevertheless, Leon started to move slowly. He began to perform his acrobatics, which he had been trained in ever since he learned to walk. He had been educated thoroughly, even enduring through beatings.
Lindsay and Irene opened their eyes in awe. His arms and legs were bending strangely, and his whole body was moving as flexibly as a snake. He seemed to have no joints as he moved his body with a wry smile. A leg rose behind his back and came out between his shoulders, and he pulled out his body and legs through a loop made with his hands. He jumped so high that he almost touched the ceiling, and he landed softly like a feather.
His acrobatics was beyond flexible, he was like a mollusk without any bones, and the two ladies were left astonished. They were amazed that a human body could move in such ways. But Raven showed no expression at all. He stared at Leon with cold eyes, carefully examining every one of his actions.
After a while, the magical performance was over. Leon smiled brightly and spread his arms wide open in an exaggerated manner. He bowed down deeply.
“How was it, did the audience enjoy the show?”
Irene and Lindsay came to their senses at the words. They were greatly impressed by the acrobatics. It could even be called art. But the performer’s emotions were conveyed so clearly that they felt sorry for Leon.
Raven got up from his seat. He walked towards Leon swiftly, and Leon’s eyes widened in surprise. Alan Pendragon had suddenly embraced him.
“W, what, what’s wrong with… ugh!”
Leon turned white from the shock as Raven’s hands moved all over his body.
Lindsay and Irene’s faces became flushed and they screamed in dismay.
“Y, your Grace, what…”
“I won’t hurt you. Stay still.”
Raven continued touching and stroking every nook and cranny of Leon’s body, starting from his back. And a moment later, he took his hands off Leon’s body nonchalantly.
The two people’s gazes met.
Leon was filled with shame and anger, but he recoiled after meeting Raven’s eyes. Alan Pendragon’s expression was serious and his eyes were calm and deep. It wasn’t an expression one would make when teasing somebody.
“How old are you?”
“What? Oh, I’m 22 years old.”
“Have you ever trained in swordsmanship?”
“Well, when I was a child, I secretly spied on the sword instructor of the imperial castle teaching the noble children…”
“What about the spear? Can you fight on horseback?”
“I can’t wield the spear and I am not good at horseback fighting.”
“What about tactics? Do you know about the different formations in battle?”
“… I have never learned.”
Leon’s head drooped lower at every word. He had the passion, but he had absolutely no background for becoming a knight. A whisper shattered his dreams and his hope disappeared.
“You lack the skills to become a knight, and you are already too late. You will never become a knight.”
Eventually, a groan mixed with tears burst out from his tightly sealed lips. It was like this after all. The Pendragon Duchy’s heir, whom he respected so much, was also just another one of the crowds who regarded him as a clown and thrust him into humiliation and despair. But as Leon shook and swallowed his tears, a heavy voice spoke to him like a ray of light.
“But there is another way.”
Leon perked up and lifted his head. He questioned Raven’s words, wondering if he had misheard.
Alan Pendragon spoke with a charming smile on his face.
“Leon Johnbolt, I appoint you as a squire of the Pendragon Duchy.”
Leon looked on as if he had seen a ghost.
“And as of this moment, your mission is to safely escort Irene Pendragon and Lindsay Conrad to the imperial castle. Got it?”
Was he joking? Just like how the previous emperor appointed his grandfather as a count?
But Leon was certain. The man who was speaking to him had truthful eyes. There was absolutely no falsehood in his words.
“I’m telling you now, but you can never be a knight. But, you can become a fighter.”
Those who fought with their fists, and not with swords or spears. Fighters who reached the peak were said to break large boulders with one silent strike.
“Yes, I assure you that with your physical abilities and talent, you will become a first-rate fighter within a few years.”
“But who would take someone like me and…”
“That’s not for you to worry about. You will meet them soon.”
‘Yes, Argos, if it’s you…’
Argos was one of the important purposes of the trip to the imperial castle. During his time in the demonic army, Raven had relied on Argos, who was one of his only friends. Raven’s eyes dimmed slightly at the thought.
‘A fighter. I’m going to become a fighter…?’
Leon muttered to himself with a blank expression.
The legend of the fighter, the man who would be called the ‘Black Lightning of Pendragon’ in the near future. His legend had just begun.
Moreover, Raven would not only save the rare fighter who was destined to be killed in two years, but he had found him a very capable disciple.