Zich walked towards the servant, step by step.
There was no hesitation in his movements, and each of his footsteps carried murderous intent. Only then did everyone realize that Zich’s words and actions were not meant to be rebellious or metaphorical—he literally meant to kill the servant.
At the servant’s plea, the Countess broke out from her trance.
“S-Stop! Didn’t I tell you to stop! How dare you draw blood in front of your parents! Where did you learn to behave so rudely!”
“Dear Mother, how could I dare to draw blood in front of my parents? Mother, I was going to drag the servant to a suitable place and finish him off. Mother, even though my heart is broken, how can I let an insult towards me, the—Legitimate. Blood. Heir.—of our great Steelwall family slide?”
Zich replied slyly to the Countess’s outcry.
“How could Hans have insulted you?! This child would never do such a thing!”
‘Ah, no wonder the servant acted so cockily. He was one of the Countess’s people.’
There was a high possibility that Hans was the child or some relative of one of the servants that the Countess had initially brought with her.
“Y-yes! How could I dare to insult a noble family!”
Hans began to grovel on the floor. Sweat trickled down his back—nothing was going according to plan.
He just wanted to get back at Zich for hurting him and simultaneously harm Zich’s reputation to further support Greig’s succession as heir. If things were like normal, Zich would have been busy making excuses with his head hung low; and no matter how many excuses he gave, the Count would have used the knight and Hans’s words as evidence against Zich to scold him.
However, the situation had completely flipped because of Zich’s brazen-faced attitude.
Hans couldn’t believe that Zich dared to wield a sword in front of the Count, and as a consequence, the situation was now leaning in Zich’s favor.
Like Zich said, what Hans did really deserved a death sentence. Due to Zich’s shy nature and his weak position in the family, Hans had gotten away with his behaviors so far, but what if Zich really intended to kill him now? And what if the Countess failed to defend him because the situation was now leaning towards Zich’s favor?
‘If I speak wrongly, I really might die!’
Hans finally began to realize the gravity of the situation.
“I can confidently say that I have never said a rude word or acted impudently to the young master!”
“Then, are you saying that I’m lying?”
Hans wanted to shout, ‘Of course!’, but Zich’s cold gaze made him speechless. And it was at this moment that another voice came out from a distance and replied for Hans.
“Yes, that’s true! The young master is lying!”
The voice sounded desperate. People turned around to see the speaker, and Hans looked back as if a savior had come to save him from hell.
‘It’s that, what’s his name—Knight Byner.’
The speaker was Byner, whom Zich had also beaten up.
When Zich had entered the room, Byner glared at him with intense fury, but now that the situation was leaning towards Zich’s side, his glare was losing its fierceness.
Zich looked at Byner with delight.
‘Aren’t you two getting desperate? You probably want to teach me a lesson for using crude tricks against you, but things are not going according to plan, eh?’
As of right now, Hans’s actions were the main focus of interest, but according to Zich’s words, Byner was also culpable for insulting a noble.
Since knights were considered mid-nobility, his neck wouldn’t be cut off like a servant. However, Byner had tried to harm Zich directly. Of course, Byner didn’t intend to cause serious damage to Zich, and his actions were within the limits that the Count and Countess could easily cover up.
No, if Zich were like his usual self, he wouldn’t have been able to even protest in front of the Count. But contrary to Byner’s expectations, the situation had turned strange, and now, the servant that Zich hit was groveling and shivering on the floor. What if the servant was condemned for his crimes? And what if this led to a sentence for Byner?
‘Even I might not be able to escape punishment.’
Insecurity began to grow and flourish in Byner’s heart. It might have been because he was still an inexperienced, young knight.
“Is that true, Sir Byner?”
With an expectant face, the Countess urged Byner on. A knight’s words carried much more weight than a servant’s words.
“Yes, my lady! As Hans and I have stated, Zich one-sidedly assaulted us.”
“Funny to hear that a knight was one-sidedly assaulted. Have the standards of Steelwall’s knights gone downhill?”
With Zich’s mockery, Byner’s face puffed up as if it was going to explode. Even the Count grumbled at Zich’s words with an annoyed look.
“T-that was because you unfairly…”
“Hahahahah! Unfairly—and this is from a Steelwall knight! Are you going to bring up fairness on a battlefield? I can’t believe that a Steelwall knight is making the same excuses as the weaklings from the capital!”
Zich made an exaggerated laugh so that everyone could hear him. Byner’s face began to puff up even more. When Zich compared him to the knights from the capital, Byner was so embarrassed that his whole body started shaking.
The knights from Steelwall were prideful about their experiences compared to the knights from the capital who had no actual battle experience. Using this knowledge, Zich was directly attacking Byner’s pride as a Steelwall knight.
“No matter what you say, the truth does not change that you one-sidedly assaulted us!”
Byner was now vehemently spitting out his words.
“What do you have to say to that?”
“Father, isn’t it obvious that he is lying? He is afraid of punishment, so he is shamelessly making excuses.”
“No, this is not true! It is the young master who is lying!”
Two opposite sides were fiercely arguing against each other. Even though Byner’s words were filled with embarrassment and shame, his lies did carry some weight as a knight.
“Father, don’t you also think that Sir Byner’s words are more reliable? Since he is a knight, I’m sure he won’t dare lie in front of you.”
Greig, who had been silent so far, suddenly intervened.
‘Yeah, it would be weird for you not to join in.’
Whenever Zich was in a dilemma, Greig was the main leader who made Zich’s situation even worse. This was the image Zich remembered about his brother.
“Y-Yes, that is right!”
With Greig’s support, Byner’s expression became brighter. From across a distance, Zich and Greig’s eyes met. Greig smiled. His smile was impudent and sly, but to Zich, who had regressed, Greig’s provocation now only seemed childish and ridiculous.
Zich returned his smile with complete confidence, and Greig’s expression froze in shock. Whenever Greig made life difficult for him, Zich used to always make an embarrassed face and hang his head low.
But that was in the past. Zich no longer placed any importance on Greig.
‘Well, this is how it has been.’
No one was ever on his side in the first place. People were just momentarily shaken up by Zich’s sudden change.
Realizing that the atmosphere was slowly changing against his favor again, Zich decided to end the matter.
‘For starters, I wasn’t really planning to cut off the servant’s neck or bring down a knight.’
Of course, not for now.
Zich began to move towards Byner. The mood immediately became tense and stiff as both Zich and Byner had their swords drawn. A sword fight could break out at any moment.
“What are you planning to do!”
As expected, the Count shouted to stop Zich. However, Zich stood in front of Byner as if he couldn’t hear the Count. With sharp but puzzled eyes, Byner followed Zich with his eyes and readied his sword.
Seeing that Zich showed no signs of raising his sword, Byner replied with a relieved heart, “You’re not planning to admit your wrongs, right?”
“I swear I have not spoken a lie!”
“Yes, of course. A shitty knight who sold his honor won’t tell the truth anyway.”
Once again, Byner’s face began to redden.
‘Seeing his reaction, he must not be that trashy.’
If it were Zich, he wouldn’t have shown such an obvious reaction from a soft lie like this.
‘What an innocent punk.’
His innocence was kind of cute. However, it didn’t excuse him for his crimes.
‘It also doesn’t change the fact that he tried to screw me over.’
Zich, who had an awful personality, could never forgive those who tried to screw him over.
“Let’s stop arguing about who’s right with just words. Isn’t there a better way for us to settle this matter?”
Zich raised his sword and softly tapped on Byner’s sword.
“…Are you saying that we should settle this conflict with a duel?”
“Yes. That’s right.”
“Are you out of your mind?”
Byner was the youngest among the knights. Despite his limited experience, this also meant that he was a genius to be appointed knighthood at such a young age. Even if Zich doubted everything else, Byner was definitely a skilled fighter. Moreover, due to the Countess’s underhanded ploys, Zich never had the opportunity to properly learn sword fighting.
Despite all of this, Zich dared to challenge a knight to a duel.
“How can you say I’m out of my mind? Didn’t you recently get knocked out by a hit to the back of your neck? How can you be so confident to spout such nonsense?”
Byner’s expression turned sour. His comrades humiliated and mocked him because of that incident.
“Alright! Let’s duel!”
Zich shrugged and looked back towards the Count.
“Father, as you can see, we have reached an agreement. Please find a suitable time and place for us to duel.”
“Are you serious?”
“Man, why do you and this punk look down on me so much? I only suggested this duel because I thought I could win. I slammed the back of this wimp’s head so hard that he fainted.”
“…Alright. Then let’s proceed with the duel.”
The Count did not try to stop them.
‘Zich is underestimating Byner too much.’
Even the Count heard about how Zich was able to beat up Byner with his carelessness.
It was a lowly way to fight, but the Count nodded in approval while listening to the fight’s details. As the Steelwall Count, he was known as the metal fortress that protected the Kingdom, and as the leader of his clan and a fighter who had spent all his life fending off intruders from getting into the Kingdom, there were no such things as cowardly or dirty fights. For that reason alone, the Count readily accepted Zich’s victory over Byner.
‘But that’s all there is to it.’
Zich couldn't win against a knight in a fair fight. The Count thought Zich fell victim to his own arrogance.
‘I guess it will be a good lesson for him.’
The Count had always disliked Zich. He didn’t feel bad about the humiliation Zich would probably have to go through if he lost the duel. Moreover, with Zich’s defeat, it would be easier for Greig to gain legitimacy over Zich as the next heir.
‘Zich’s reputation will be ruined if it gets out that he tried to cover up his misdeeds by challenging a knight in a duel that he had no chance in and losing.’
The Count initially planned to severely scold Zich for hitting Byner and the servant, but he thought this was not a bad outcome as well. If Zich lost, Byner’s statements would be true, and the Count could always punish Zich later.
“I will find a suitable time and place.”
“Then I will leave it in your hands.”
Zich placed the sword back in its original location. There was not a trace of meekness or humility in his movements, and people’s gazes naturally followed him wherever he went.
“…You have changed,” the Count softly muttered. Zich, who was heading towards the exit, turned his head back.
“It’s because I realized that there was nothing for me to gain by staying the way I am. There’s no reason for me to waste my energy in pleasing others and making a fool of myself.”
Thinking back to their previous conversation, the Count asked with sharp discomfort, “There’s nothing for you to gain? Are you talking about your succession as the heir?”
Zich let out a sly smile.
“Even you, who is called the warlord of steel, is blinded by prejudice, and you are unable to make a clear judgment regarding your familial affairs.”
“Dear Father, nothing that I say will reach you right now. I hope that you will keep thinking however you want.”
And with an exaggerated bow, Zich made his exit.Previous Chapter Next Chapter