Chapter 12:

Duel (part 2)

Painted Tale

Mark Ardell

I'm watching the disgrace as he puts on equipment.

I didn't expect him to actually agree to the match, but that doesn't matter.

Just making a laughing-stock out of him would be more than enough, but since he decided to fight, I'll make sure to give him hell.

I'm not going to hold back. I don't care if it ruins my career — I will teach William Arklight a lesson.

William Arklight

This guy is certainly not planning to hold back. I can tell by looking at his eyes. If I screw this up — I will die. This is almost like a real fight to the death.

We stare at each other for a good ten seconds, waiting for the opponent to make the first move.


We dash forward at the same time.


Our swords clash.

We stare at each other, our blades interlocked.

Sparks fly, and I can hear the grinding of metal against metal.

After a few seconds, both of us jump back.

Not wasting a single second, we start exchanging blows, one after another.

*Clang* *Ching* *Screech*

I keep blocking his attacks and answering with my own.

At this point, I realize: we're dead even.

Quite frankly, he might even have a slight edge.

In recent years, I have stopped training. I still participated in monster hunts, but there weren't that many of them, so I've grown rusty.

However, that doesn't mean this match is a 50/50.

After all, I'm not planning on losing to someone who doesn't even know what he wants.

Mark Ardell

He's way better than I expected. If he really did stop training and is still this strong, I can see why Sir Edward praised him so much.

However, that doesn't mean I'm going to lose.

He has sharp battle instincts that somehow haven't dulled in the slightest. But — the same thing can't be said about his stamina. Compared to me, who has continuously engaged in daily training, William Arklight hasn't trained in years. That's why, if this draws out, I'll be the winner!

As that thought reaches my mind, I sense a change in his behavior. Instead of engaging me in a close fight, he backs away and starts waiting.

Just what is he planning?...

Elisabeth Renoa

"...Impossible..." I mutter, unable to believe the sight in front of me.

William is fighting on even grounds with a full-fledged knight.

"Heh, impressed?" Lord Bernard says as he hears my mumblings.

"That's why I called him the most talented knight in The Kingdom. ...Although I'm actually slightly disappointed. It seems that years of skipping training have severely hindered his growth."

"Lord Bernard, who... who is William? Why is he this strong?"

"Didn't I say that he is the most talented knight of The Kingdom?" He asks me and stops as he realizes something.

"...oh, I see, so you don't even know."

"Know what...?"

"Your Highness, what is William's full name?"

"...?" I tilted my head in confusion.

"It's—it's William Arkli—"

A sudden realization hit me. For quite some time, I couldn't remember where I've heard that surname before.

"That's right, Your Highness. William Arklight is the brother of the hero! I guess it can't be helped since you weren't in the country six years ago and just recently got back. However, Arklight is a household known all over the lands of Renoa."

"How can this be...? When I asked him about that, he told me he isn't a noble!"

"Ha-ha. Well, I guess it's technically the truth. Recently, Sir Arklight has relinquished the title. He's still a knight, but they can no longer be considered nobles."

As he says, the situation on the training ground starts changing.

"...Just what is William doing?"

"Heh, watch this, Your Highness... The most interesting stuff is about to begin."

Mark Ardell

It doesn't matter what he's planning. He's probably trying to cast some magic, but I won't let him!

I close the distance, slashing at him as he closes his eyes.

Suddenly, I see a smirk on his face.

"Earth Pit!"

As he screams the name of the spell, I instinctively jump to the right.

Many questions start running through my mind. How can this be? William Arklight should not be able to cast earth spells. Has he learned them in those six years?

As I begin to land, I see a spell flying in my face— a simple Water Arrow.

I slash at it with my sword, and it splashes into mere droplets.


I see his sword approaching me, and I try to block it—

Only to realize that he's not even holding the sword.

I defend myself, and sparks fly, blinding me.

With a corner of my eye, I see him underneath the sword, his left arm coated in dark purple—


I feel an impact on my stomach. My body seemingly becomes weightless as it's sent flying—


My body falls to the ground.

"Cough-cough. I refuse to accept this!" My scream reverberates across the surroundings.

"I admit, you're talented. Your swordsmanship is good enough for you to be a knight, and your casting speed might even match Sir Edward's... But! You don't deserve to bear his family name! All the time you've spent in the castle, you've just been lazing around, living off your brother's good name! Tarnishing it, as you remain stale, not taking a single step forward! For that, you will pay, William Arklight!" I say as I clench a scroll in my pocket. Our duel is not over yet!

Meanwhile, he remains calm.

"You're right about me being stale. I might not have taken a single step forward. But! You're the least fit person to say that!"


"Obsessed with a person you revered as a hero, living while following his shadow, you became lost upon his death! He died from the monsters, so you were unable to even avenge him! That's why you tried to find an enemy. Someone who doesn't follow Edward's will, someone who doesn't live up to Edward's expectations!"

Shocked at his words, I release the spell sealed in the scroll.

It's a powerful ice spell, more so than anything William should be able to cast.

It's over. The brat only has 3 elements at disposal: Water, Shadow, and Darkness. He might have bluffed me before, but this time it won't work. None of the elements he has can counter the spell. Even if he knows magic strong enough to negate it, he doesn't have enough time. It's also undodgeable since it covers a pretty wide area.

There is no escape.

And yet, he keeps talking like it doesn't matter to him.

As I see the Ice Wave approach William, I hear his words ringing in my ears.

"—I don't want to be accused of being stale by someone who hasn't made a step forward in years!"

He stretches his hand toward the upcoming wave, and I see—

I see red.

"Fire Punch!" His fist smashes against the ice spell, negating its chill.

Cold fights against heat, the sounds of the air craking resound throughout the training ground.

"Khh!" William groans as he struggles to not lose to the spell—

Finally, the spell subsides.

His sides are frozen cold.

His fist is bloodied as his skin cracked due to the temperature shifts.

His body is burnt as the flames recoiled upon clashing with the cold.

And yet.

And yet, he still stands.

William Arklight.

My body is in tatters. I don't know the full extent of the damage, but the wounds are certainly not light.

I turn around, clinging to my consciousness, only to see the old man abusing the hell out of this opportunity.

"Everyone! You saw it with your own eyes! William Arklight, the hero's brother, is fitting to be called one of the finest knights of The Kingdom! With this, I trust that nobody will be against him being Her Highness's attendant?"

Everyone stayed silent.

As I saw that, I started losing my consciousness—


Damn it. Hitting the ground is definitely more painful than I expected...

That's how my duel ended.



I wake up.

My mind is foggy, and my body hurts like hell, but I'm alive.

I hear her voice coming from the side.

"Finally, you're awake."

"Have I slept for three weeks?"

"...No, it's been twelve hours."

"Twelve? That's weak. Three weeks would be way more badass."

"You would die from dehydration in three days."

"That wouldn't be cool enough, so I would last until I wake up, only to say my last words to you and die."

"Wouldn't that mean that you still end up dead?"

"At least I would be a badass."

"No, you would just be dead."

When she finishes playing the straight man in our little two-man comedy, I switch to a serious topic.

"So, what happened to that idiot?"

"He was arrested for attempting to murder the princess's attendant. His fate is still not decided. I've heard they will carry out the trial tomorrow."

She pauses there as if marking the end of that topic and asks me about myself.

"So, you still have to explain about your past. You didn't have to hide it."

"I wasn't hiding it. You just never asked. Anyway, can that wait until tomorrow? I feel like my body is screaming at me to go back to sleep."

"Very well. We'll continue this tomorrow. Also, you deserve a punishment for making me worried."

"A punishment? I'm already scared."

"As you should be. From now on, you are obliged to see my goal of spreading art through to the end. I'm not letting you remain stale — I'm not leaving you behind."

Those words warm my heart. I feel so much warmth that it becomes scary.

I feel blissful for the first time in the last two decades.

And yet...

Why does it feel like this fleeting dream will soon come to an end?