Duke Pendragon - Chapter 134
“Ah, yes. My apologies.”
Leon hurriedly pulled something out of his pockets. When he opened his hands, three walnuts were resting on his palm.
“At least three of them a day. In ten days, you should be able to crack six of them. A fighter with a weak grip is no different from a knight who cannot ride horses.”
“I will bear that in mind.”
Leon bowed down and eagerly rolled the walnuts in his hand. It didn’t go well at first, but he was able to break them one by one a few days ago. Now, he could break all three at the same time. As the days went by, he could clearly feel his grip strength and stamina improving.
Argos observed Leon, who was working hard at rolling the walnuts in his fist, then took out a pipe from his pocket.
“Ah, I can…”
Leon approached Argos who was clumsily wrapping the tobacco leaves with one arm.
“I take care of my own business. You just do what you’re told to do.”
Argos stopped Leon with a cold voice and expression.
Leon took on a slightly embarrassed look. Argos walked towards Leon and let out a long puff of smoke. For some time, the pupil rolled the walnuts in his hand and the teacher smoked.
“I have decided to go to the imperial castle with His Grace Pendragonl I will be teaching you the real skills once we are there. Naturally, physical training will continue.”
Leon had been waiting anxiously for this moment, so he replied with renewed vigor, feeling his heartbeat speed up. However, he took on a shocked expression at Argos’ following words.
“And when His Grace Pendragon leaves the imperial castle, I intend to go back to my hometown.”
“What are you looking so surprised for? I’m an old man. The only place for an old man to go is his hometown, where he was born and raised. I intend to go back to the temple. Spend the rest of my life, praying and whatnot.”
“B, but…” Leon couldn’t continue his words.
The Pendragon family would stay, at the longest, one month at the imperial castle, which was not enough time for Leon to fully inherit Argos’ arts. However, he could not bring himself to ask an elderly man, who had first lost his son and daughter-in-law, and now his arm, to stay longer and teach him.
As if reading Leon’s mind, Argos took something out from his inner pockets and threw it at Leon along with a puff of smoke.
Leon instinctively received the object, then his eyes opened wide. It was an old, thin, worn-out book.
“The art of fighting is learned with the body. At best, it’s just punches and kicks. I will teach you the basics in the imperial castle. That book contains the secret arts of the temple. I’ll teach you a few, so you can learn the rest by yourself. From then on, it will be a battle with time and effort.”
“B, but how could a fool like me, who is stupid and lacking possibly…”
“At least you know that very well.”
Argos answered bluntly, then pressed down on the pipe with more tobacco leaves before continuing.
“But you have one advantage over the other young people. Just like your appearance, you don’t try any petty tricks or weasel your way out of things.”
Leon’s expression turned from slightly depressed to one of relief.
“I have accepted all the people who asked to be my student thus far. But less than ten of them stayed for more than four days, and only four of them stayed for ten days. Including you, there was only one other person who lasted for more than a month and got to the basics. Come to think of it, I wonder if that brat’s still clinging to the ropes.”
Argos stared towards the north with a nostalgic expression for a moment, then turned back towards Leon.
“Anyways, you just need to keep doing whatever I tell you to do, just as you’ve done until now. You should never skip physical training until your techniques come out reflexively and you survive more than ten times in a real-life battle. Of course, if you do skip out, then you’ll probably end up dead before that. So…”
“Every moment that is not spent eating and sleeping, I should be training. I will make sure to do that. Even after fighting 100 battles, not 10, I intend to keep at it.”
Leon’s will burned with firm determination, and Argos nodded with a faint smile.
“Good. That is the most important quality and the basis for becoming a first-rate fighter.”
Another faint smile appeared around Argos’ mouth at Leon’s usage of extreme honorifics. Leon’s words reflected his respect and his faithful attitude towards his master and the art of fighting.
“Don’t sprout glib words with your tongue and cause yourself any trouble. Why don’t you talk about yourself? How did you come across His Grace?”
For the duration of the entire trip, Argos always gave unilateral orders regarding training, and never initiated a proper conversation with Leon, which caused Leon to be taken back for a moment.
But Leon calmly began to recite the story of his family, and how it came to be called the County of Clowns. Then he talked about seeing Alan Pendragon and Isla at the governor-general’s banquet in Leus, and how it prompted him to set off to the Pendragon Duchy to pursue his dream as a knight.
“…and I realized that my skills were far from becoming even a soldier at the duchy, never mind a knight. So… I was ashamed and angry at myself. I left the duchy once more…”
His face turned sullen as he recounted his experience. The test to becoming a squire in the Pendragon Duchy was intense and difficult as it simulated a real battle. Leon had taken the test, but he was dropped straight away.
“The lord took me in when I had nothing to offer. For the sake of the lord and the lady, I’m prepared to jump into even the fiercest of flames.”
He told the story of how he coincidentally ran into Irene at the pub in Hoffman village, how he got into an argument with a group of mercenaries, how he ran into Raven when he was running away together with Irene, and how he was taken in by Raven as a squire of the Pendragon Duchy. Leons’ eyes shone with determination.
After hearing Leon’s story, Argos sifted his pipe and put it back into his pocket.
‘Strange. When I hear his story, it is almost as if His Grace Pendragon knew about me for a long time. Even how he traveled to the great territory of Alice to take care of Morgan Louvre… But how…?’
As Argos pondered, more and more doubts arose. When he had first met Alan Pendragon at the residence in Edgel, he hadn’t thought too deeply. He was simply too obsessed with revenge, regardless of the cost. But with retrospection, he saw that there were just too many strange aspects. But Argos soon shook his head with a bitter smile.
‘Haha, what does it matter? His Grace Pendragon risked everything for an old man like me. Just like how he gave this brat a chance without asking anything in return…’
Argos dusted his hands, then spoke to Leon.
“His Grace saw the potential in you as a fighter because you were trained as a jester ever since you were a child. He made the right judgment. Your physical conditions and efforts are certainly enough for you to become a first-rate fighter. Also…”
Argos paused for a moment and gazed at Leon with a calm look. He patted Leon on the shoulders and continued.
“Even if you don’t become the strongest fighter, you will become a great squire of the Pendragon Duchy. What His Grace saw in you, it wasn’t your physical condition or aptitude. Rather, it is your attitude to step up and help others regardless of the circumstances.
Leon’s shoulders trembled at the words of his old master.
“Do not forget. You are a fighter who succeeds in the visions of the Tiramis Temple, as well as a squire of the Pendragon Duchy. Responsibility and pride always go hand in hand. One cannot overshadow the other. You should never forget this fact even in the imperial castle, do you understand?”
Leon’s tough, stubborn eyes became moist, and he nodded vigorously while biting down on his lips. He now realized. He wasn’t alone any longer. Leon decided that he would overcome for the sake of his master and lord, both of whom trusted in him.
“It looks like it worked out well, right, Brother?”
Irene gave a beautiful smile as she watched the two men from a far distance.
“It seems so. Let’s go, I don’t want to waste any more time.” Raven answered rather bluntly and walked away.
But Irene and Lindsay shared a smile with each other as they caught the glimpse of a faint smile around the mouth of Raven. Unlike his cold, arrogant appearance, the master of the Pendragon Duchy, their husband and their brother – he was a misjudged man who was very soft and affectionate on the inside.
The number of passersby increased over time as the carriage traveled on the wide road. After the time it took to eat a meal, the carriage finally paused on a tall hill, and the group could finally see.
“Ah! I see the Wall of Glory, my lord.”
Leon called out, and the group inside the carriage became astonished by the majestic sight. Even Raven’s eyes opened in shock unknowingly.
The procession of high gray walls behind the wide, crystalline Dante River stretched as the far as the eyes could see. Five miles? No, ten miles? The wall was extremely long that it made measuring a meaningless act. Huge clusters of houses were erected along the road, creating an amazing sight for the onlookers. Countless numbers of people could be seen traveling to and from four of the five gates of the Wall of Glory. The number of people that resided outside the Wall of Glory was probably similar to the entire population of the Pendragon Duchy.
With slightly trembling eyes, Raven looked around at the Wall of Glory. Compared to the overwhelming prestige of the capital, all the large cities he had seen on the way here, including Edgel, seemed like nothing more than just large villages.
“Starting there, that is the real capital, the Royal Batallium. We can utilize the gate that is located in the middle of all the gates. It is the first gate that can only be used by nobles and High Lords that at least hold titles of count, and their direct descendants.”
He seemed to be referring to the gate that was mostly devoid of any travellers.
“Oh! Come to think of it, I remember going to the imperial castle through a very big gate when I was young.”
Irene was the only one besides Leon who had ever been to the imperial castle. However, she had been so young at the time, so it was basically her first visit as well.
Nodding his head at the overwhelming majesty of the capital, Raven took a light breath before speaking.
“Leon, get in. It should be okay, right, Argos?”
“Yes, Your Grace.”
Leon rushed into the carriage with a blissful expression with Argos’ permission.
“Then let’s go.”
The carriage started to slowly move once more and climbed down the hill. From afar, there seemed to be a great number of travellers, but they seldomly ran into any passersby as the carriage moved along. It seemed to be because they were heading towards a gate that was reserved for great nobles. The carriage soon arrived in front of the gate after passing along the quiet road.
There were three carriages ahead of them, in front of the gate. All three carriages were several times larger than Raven’s carriage, and a collection of brilliant colors decorated the carriages in a detailed manner. It was clear at first sight that the carriages were processions of prestigious nobles.
“Ah! That’s the crest of the High Lord Roxan’s family, Brother!”
Irene exclaimed after seeing the flag that was carried by the horseman who was guarding the carriage.
“Roxan…” Raven muttered in a calm voice, but he was also quite surprised.
A shield-shaped crest that was half red, half white, and decorated with thistles. In the red section, there were three golden lions with their front paws raised. In the white section, there were two elaborate depictions of a golden crown and two, crossed swords. It was the crest of the Roxan family, the family that was undeniably the most powerful force among the thirteen great territories of the empire.
“There seems to be more than thirty escort knights. I guess the direct heir must have come.”
Raven nodded lightly. With an escort group that size, it was safe to assume that a direct descendant of the family was here. Raven would have also been accompanied by servants, maids, and dozens of knights and soldiers in a procession consisting of three or four carriages in normal circumstances.
“What do you think is going on? It’s rare for a figure from one of the High Lord’s family to visit the imperial castle, especially since the Roxan family is famous for seldomly visiting.”
“I’m not sure.”
Irene tilted her head in confusion, and Raven answered briefly before leaning back comfortably on the back of his chair. But he has a vague guess to the answer to Irene’s curiosity.