His assistant Cedric was a very sociable man. Sometimes Kalion loathed him because of his lewd talk, but the knights liked Cedric for that. Thankfully, he only talked like that in front of his colleagues and never acted rudely towards others, so no one in the Grand Castle disliked him. It was never strange or awkward to get advice from him and everyone got along with him quite well.
“It’s nothing too important… But I want to ask you something.” Kalion said in a somewhat nervous voice.
“What is it, sir?”
“What’s a good way to deal with an unpleasant rival?”
“An unpleasant rival? I suppose slitting their throat is a good option, sir.”
Naturally, an image of a beast popped into Cedric’s mind when Kalion said ‘unpleasant rival’. As Kalion had dealt with wild beasts before, wouldn’t they be the topic of the conversation? Beasts on the prowl were the biggest threat to human life in many parts of the continent and Hessenguard was the only place where they appeared in waves, but it hadn’t always been that way. After the death of the previous Grand Duke, people had questioned if it was a curse from him because the beasts’ frequent appearance had increased seven-fold. Thankfully, when Kalion and Erna had ascended to the grand duchy after getting married, the number of sightings had decreased, but they still appeared more often here than in other kingdoms. Kalion and his knights often left the Grand Castle to hunt them down and the townspeople enthusiastically welcomed them because they risked their lives to fight against the encroaching beasts.
Cedric remembered the first time he met Kalion. Kalion, who hadn’t been able to break out of his boyhood, had sliced a beast in half that had been creeping up behind Cedric in the wooded forest.
“I owe you my life! I don’t know how I could ever repay you.” Cedric spoke lightly, flashing a grin at the young boy’s skill. “I’m forever indebted to you. Which division of knights are you part of?”
Then came the arrogant way of speaking, where no honorifics could be found. Cedric sighed. From what he was wearing and from the horse he was riding, it was clear that Kalion was a high-ranking aristocrat rarely found in Hessenguard. Still, Cedric talked excitedly, while Kalion wondered if they were of the same ranking. “Such a young man is rude to his elders. Skills aren’t everything. First of all, you look more like a mercenary soldier than a knight.”
“I see. I am Kalion, Grand Duke of Hessenguard. And what is your name?”
“Your Grace! I am Cedric.”
Cedric thought of him as a suitable high-ranking aristocrat, but he didn’t expect someone at the top of the social food chain to come out and fight. After straightening his posture, he bowed his head most courteously. Kalion, who burst out laughing at the way his attitude changed so quickly, said to him, “I’m glad you think I am a mercenary. Since I don’t need to take you out, from tomorrow, you will enter the Grand Castle. Any objections?”
“None, My Lord Grand Duke!”
And that was how Cedric became Kalion’s assistant. At first, he had thought of himself as unlucky for getting caught by the Grand Duke, because he was a grand duke from abroad. The people here hadn’t considered him as someone Cedric had to take care of. But, after he’d become his assistant, every time beasts appeared, he never hesitated to run out there with Kalion and put all his energy into the battle.
At first, he had thought it was just an act to win over the townspeople. One day, however, when Cedric had asked him, “While we’re out here camping, why don’t you just relax when people aren’t watching?” Kalion, with a serious look, had replied, “This is my duty as Grand Duke. Who treats their duties as a relaxation?”
From that day, Cedric became loyal to Kalion. None of his duties as an assistant were done in vain, and he memorized Kalion’s words as they spilled from him. Kalion, who was much younger than him, sometimes became a good advisor to Cedric if he was struggling with small problems too. But today’s question was a bit random. How was he supposed to let him know a way to deal with an unpleasant rival? Wasn’t this Kalion’s forte? He looked down at the sword tied to Kalion’s waist, with one swipe, he could end all of his problems, so what was he so worried about?
“I cannot kill this rival.”
“How can you not, sir? Exactly how strong is this rival?” Cedric was confused, assuming this whole time that Kalion’s rival would be a beast. If he couldn’t kill it, then what on earth was it?
Kalion, who had no idea Cedric was thinking like that, said to him again, “It’s… I think they’re strong, but…” She was indeed strong because as a wizard, Erna would have the power of a knight. “Anyway, I cannot kill this rival.” He repeated, sounding tormented.
“You can’t kill this rival and you have to see this rival often, and this rival is unpleasant… Are you trying to tame a wyvern? Last time, sir, you were thinking about killing them all, but you wanted to tame them instead.”
Kalion nodded at those words. There was no way he could tell Cedric that he was talking about Erna, so he thought it’d be best to skip over her identity.
“If that’s the case, you’d better be with it as much as you can.”
“Be with it?” If only Cedric knew who he was talking about, he’d see the humor in his suggestion.
“Yes. I’ve only seen one person who tamed a wyvern before, and he said he was with it all day every day. They played together, ate together, and slept in the same bed together. At first, it kept its distance from humans, but after being with its owner for so long it eventually let its guard down and even let him ride on its back. Your Grace, how about you do the same?” Cedric suggested.
When Kalion thought about what Cedric had said, his head suddenly started throbbing. Erna had said the same thing about being in the same space and his mind drifted back to their conversation.
“That way, we’d get used to each other and we can let our guard down…” Erna glossed over her words and studied his face. As soon as he said he was offended, she was going to say she didn’t feel like doing it. However, Kalion nodded, as if in agreement.
Unlike what Erna was thinking, Kalion was agreeing with her, as they had yet to find a suitable way to endure each other, so she thought she would just say something that would be unlikely to happen and buy a little more time.
“Good, I was about to say the same thing. Then we don’t need to talk much longer.” Kalion said as if he was notifying her, “From now on let’s try to spend more time together.”
“What?” Erna shot up at his words, almost jumping in the air. He looked at her as if he didn’t understand her.
“Why are you so shocked? Didn’t you say that first?”
“Well, yeah, but…” Erna hadn’t expected him to accept the offer so easily. She noted that Kalion was faster than she had expected him to be, to accept and implement the proposal. She needed to be more careful when proposing something to him. The knowledge she’d gained about Kalion up until now was what she’d heard from other people’s mouths. It was the first time since the wedding that she had experienced and gotten to know him in person. I thought he was the type to think deeply? she thought.
While Erna was pondering that, Kalion continued, “I’ve said this before, I don’t have time. I have to make another knight. And, I’m not the only one pressed for time.”
“What are you babbling about?” she asked.
“You revealed the existence of wizards last year, so Haband and Aether must be watching closely. They still think that there are no more than twenty members in your group. I believe there are twenty at the least.”
Erna’s body flinched at what he said. How did he know? She’d let him know that she was raising wizards, but the actual number was a lie. Others would think she had about twenty at the most. Of course, that wasn’t a small number, but compared to other countries, it was small. On top of that, since her trainees didn’t learn magic systematically, people would think they were weak. Truthfully, there were more than fifty wizards.
There were advantages and disadvantages to the fact that the wizards raised by Erna were not part of the Wizards’ Tower. First of all, the downside was that Erna, who wasn’t an educational institution like the Wizards’ Tower, taught everything from the beginning, so there was a lack of deep understanding of magic because when she hit her limit while training, her skills often stagnated there.
On the other hand, her advantage was that since she wasn’t registered at the Wizards’ Tower, there were no records to tell how many members she had and who they were. And, instead of using a formal magic formula, Erna learned magic that maximized the efficiency of her research, so she used magic that was much more powerful than the kind used in the Wizards’ Tower.
“You’ve figured it out well,” she said in a slightly surprised tone.
“There isn’t anything special going on in the Grand Castle, but the number of maids has increased, so I figured it out after noticing that.”
At Kalion’s words, Erna thought in her mind that she should pay more attention to the next formation of wizards.
“Anyway, this year is the last time you and I can build up our strength without interference from other countries. You know the reason even if I don’t say it, right?”
She clicked her tongue when he threw out the quiz question. “Yes, I know. The war between Haband and Aether is probably going to end this year, so when the two countries become stable, they’ll try to intervene with Hessenguard once again.”