“I am your humble servant, Leo Procca, Your Highness.”
The Royal Guard who walked out from the group seemed to be in his forties. He had a beard on his chin, and it made him look rather hilarious. He bowed before Thales respectfully.
“I am just a humble and ordinary logistics officer in your team.
“It is an honor to serve you as your sparring partner.”
Thales did not respond immediately.
He remained doubtful as he fixed his eyes on Mallos, who was standing next to the field.
Procca did not mind as well. He picked a suitable training sword from the weapon rack seriously, tested it on his gloves, and poked the sand a little to confirm that the sword was blunt.
“As expected of a prince. He managed to have such a great lineup of guards just for the others to be certain of his Power of Eradication…”
Doyle looked at his fellow comrades among the Royal Guards, who were standing around the place. They either looked puzzled or solemn. Then, he cast a jealous gaze at the dazed prince in the middle of the field.
“When my Power of Eradication was awakened, the old knight I served had no knowledge about it whatsoever. He just kept working me to exhaustion that day, and I could only grunt while I lay on the ground, absolutely drained…
“Then, one year later, he realized that his own attendant’s martial arts had improved greatly, and that attendant was now capable of fighting him toe to toe…”
Glover, who was beside him, remained silent. He just paid attention to the field.
Doyle was used to the man’s indifference. He just sighed silently. “But fortunately, Mallos still knows that the prince is inexperienced. He only picked individuals from the Logistics Division to fight him. Procca’s skills are ordinary.”
Glover fixed his eyes on Procca, who just did some simple warmup exercises. He frowned slightly.
Thales took a deep breath. He turned to a relaxed-looking Mallos, while he tried to avoid the eyes of every Star Lake Guard present in the vicinity.
“What should we… What should I do?”
Mallos continued to smile, and said, “Go on the offense, Your Highness. Unleash your full strength, especially the Power of Eradication that you do not understand, no matter if it is triggered automatically or manually according to the circumstances.
“That way, we will have the opportunity to understand its type and the general idea around it.
“It will also show us your strength, which will make it easier for us to make arrangements for your guards in the future.”
‘Unleash my full strength?’
Thales exhaled. He was reluctant.
‘Can I refuse?’
However, all observing members of the Royal Guards had focused their attention on him.
Long ago, Black Sword told him that it would be best not to draw on the power of the Sin of Hell’s River. They could not endure the price of death every single time.
During his time back in Blade Fangs Camp, Ricky told him to increase the strength of his Sin of Hell’s River, and he looked forward to the heights that Thales could reach. He even asked him to push open the Door.
‘So, who’s right, and who’s wrong?’
What sort of secret was hidden behind the Sin of Hell’s River?
Most importantly, could the Kingdom’s Secret Intelligence Department and even that person in Renaissance Palace be interested in this secret?
How great was their interest in this compared with their interest in mystic energy and calamities?
Thales could not help but gulp the moment he remembered the scenario of Zakriel hunting him down.
‘No.’ Thales made up his mind.
The Duke of Star Lake raised his head and looked straight at his opponent in front of him.
They cannot know.
“Your Highness, do not hold back.” Procca was already standing in the middle of the training field. He had the tip of his sword directed at the ground. He was as respectful as he was before. “There is no need to worry about me. This is my job to begin with.”
Thales nodded with no expression on his face.
‘They cannot know.’
Under everyone’s eyes, the prince picked a shield from the weapon rack and tied it tightly to his left arm with a leather strap.
Thales slowly walked to the center of the field.
At the last moment, he cast a quick glance at Mallos, who remained calm and composed. He looked relaxed as he had his arms folded before his chest. His Power of Eradication, however, sparkled brilliantly.
“Please take the offensive position first.” Procca nodded slightly.
The young man’s expression turned serious.
The guards around the area also became solemn. Their eyes were all fixed on the prince alone.
This was something many people care more about than a bright and pleasant appearance, as well as great eloquence.
In the next second, Thales charged forward. He used the stance he was most familiar with and launched his first assault on Procca with his sword.
Procca neither panicked nor acted slowly. He only retreated. He redirected the tip of his sword and easily fended off Thales’ assault.
Nevertheless, the young man did not stop. He swung the shield on his left arm using the momentum he had gained.
The shield violently clashed into Procca!
“I can tell with just one glance that this is the style of a Northlander.” Doyle, who was observing the battle, snorted lightly. He felt a slight disdain.
“This is even more extreme than the attack and defense faction. He values his own life even less than they do—” Glover said against his expectations.
“No.” The sturdy vanguard observed Thales’ movement with his full attention. “This is the ancient Northland Military Sword Style.
“The current Eckstedt… no longer uses this style. It’s been that way since a long time ago.”
Doyle, who was interrupted, was instantly stunned.
He forced himself to smile awkwardly.
‘Tsk. You make yourself sound so logical.
‘Northland Military Sword Style…’
Doyle curled his lips in indignation and stared at the two people in the middle of the field.
‘Did you think that I wasn’t able to see it?’
At the center of the field, a dull thud was heard right after Thales’ shield crashed into Procca, but the young man’s face changed in an instant.
It was not a solid hit.
In the next second, Procca parried Thales’ shield with one hand. He spun and arrived on Thales’ opposite side.
Thales’ left leg trembled!
The prince swung his sword to strike back. But by the time the sound of his sword cutting at the air rose, Procca had long retreated and dodged his attack.
The members of the Royal Guards discussed among themselves in whispers.
Thales gritted his teeth and turned around. He staggered a bit due to his left leg.
Even though the training swords in Mindis Hall were not sharpened, their balance, center of gravity, material, and weight were not inferior to real swords.
While it was just a scratch, the strike Procca inflicted on his left leg still caused some burning pain.
Thales was shocked and indignant as he looked at Procca, who nodded at him politely.
The sword flashed, and with a whoosh, the prince fell to the ground.
“Victory has been decided.”
Glover and several members of the Royal Guards turned their heads around curiously.
Doyle lowered his voice. He spoke seriously and in a manner akin to someone who had forgotten where he was, “The prince, who is in the middle of the puddle of blood looks pale. He is trembling and holding his wounded leg while miserably groaning, ‘No, I cannot lose, Constellation cannot do without me…’”
More and more people turned their heads around. One of them was Vice Penal Officer Gray Paxton.
His expression was dark and unpleasant.
With them staring at him, Doyle’s expression froze.
“Um… I was just adding some literary flair to it.”
Doyle shut himself up before he put on an awkward and obsequious smile. He waved his hand unnaturally. “Hehe, I will not do it the next time…”
It was only then that everyone turned their heads away.
Thales’ breathing was quick.
He fixed his eyes on the logistics officer of the Royal Guards, his opponent, Procca.
His opponent obviously had a lot of experience. He was also very meticulous in his use of strength. The pain was merely inflicted on his skin. It went away a moment later.
Thales applied a little pressure on his left leg indignantly.
“Your Highness, it seems that you do not understand the meaning of this lesson, yes?”
Mallos found a good moment to speak. His voice was as calm as usual.
“Although we are not so obsessed with martial arts like the Northlanders, are you supposed to be the future of Constellation when you are a prince who is horrible in martial arts and cannot even pick up a weapon?”
Thales’ grip around the hilt of the sword tightened.
“This is not good, Your Highness,” Mallos spoke coldly. “Not good.”
The moment he said those words, the eyes of the Royal Guards, which were fixed on Thales, seemed to have changed.
“You either give it your all or not touch the sword since the start.” Mallos’ words rose by his ears. “Just be a prince who hides safely in the carriage.”
The prince scowled even further.
‘Damn you, Mallos.
‘This guy… just why does he have such a grudge against me?
‘And he just so happens to be the captain of my personal guards. On behalf of Sunset, what sort of worldwide joke is this?!’
Thales endured dozens of stares while he adjusted his breathing and stomped his left foot on the ground a little.
He stared at Procca, who stood before him. He knew that after Mallos’ words, he needed to display some kind of worth in front of the Star Lake Guards all over the field, or else, it would not just be Renaissance Palace, but even Mindis Hall…
Thales shook his head and removed those distracting thoughts from his mind. He directed his attention to the opponent right before him.
Procca’s movements were swift. He swung his sword with agility. He had his own way of dealing with his opponents head-on and facing strong assaults.
The Sin of Hell’s River began to boil up from within once its owner summoned it.
Thales stared at Procca. He sensed the power slowly filling up his body.
‘Should I use the Twist of Fate, make a feint to get him to lose his position, and claim victory with a single strike, or use the Fire Knight’s Power of Eradication, then enhance the surface contact on my body and the sturdiness of my assault?
‘If all of that isn’t going to work… let’s try using Zakriel’s style. I’ll use his Chaos of Armies and try to observe Procca’s movements. Then, I’ll turn it to my own advantage?’
Thales did his best to think.
Deep inside his heart, the prince quietly shook his head at himself.
‘I can’t be too obvious.
‘How do I explain my ability to use the Twist of Fate, the Chaos of Armies, and also the burning Power of Eradication from the Fire Knight?
‘Am I being infected by them?
‘Besides, sometimes, my Sin of Hell’s River…’
Thales remembered his training lessons back at Heroic Spirit Palace.
Occasionally, he would lose control of it.
Thales took a deep breath and made up his mind.
He only needed to use the simplest method—body enhancement. It did not show any characteristics of any Power of Eradication. That should be sufficient.
The Sin of Hell’s River steadily spread to his legs, his arms, and his fingers.
Thales shut his eyes. He allowed the power to slowly cover his entire body.
Procca narrowed his eyes as he stared at the prince in puzzlement.
Amid the whispers from the Royal Guards, Mallos who had been focusing his attention on Thales, changed his expression slightly.
The Sin of Hell’s River in Thales’ body was like a beast that had not come out of its cage for a long period of time. It moved forward with a growl.
He only required some strength, some speed, some accuracy, and some control…
The prince tried his best to suppress the urge and the fighting spirit that came with it. At the same time, he stabilized his spirit and body.
He only had to strengthen certain parts, which would not raise any suspicion in others.
The Sin of Hell’s River thrashed about violently in his body and in dissatisfaction, just like a beast scratching at the bars of its cage. But the owner of the cage had a firm will. The beast could only succumb to Thales’ command in the end. It went to the places it was supposed to go.
‘Make the distribution of strength more even, make my balance a little better, make my overall abilities better, just enough to let me…
Thales opened his eyes gently.
In the next instant, the sand behind Thales’ boots trembled before they exploded!
The crowd around him exclaimed. The young man instantly charged forth like an arrow that had left its bow, like a flood that rushed out once it broke through a dam. He immediately traveled several feet forward.
He appeared right in front of Procca, who was shocked!
Mallos’ eyes lit up.
‘That’s right, this is what I want, young prince.’
Thales gritted his teeth. The Sin of Hell’s River was incredibly excited in his body. It howled frantically.
His footsteps, shoulders, arms, and the tip of his sword formed a single line, and they brought forth the most powerful force.
In the end, the sword turned into a flash that traveled at lightning speed.
He went straight for the vital points on his opponent’s chest and abdomen!
Right then, it was as if time had slowed down.
“F*ck…” Doyle extended his hand to block the sand that flew over. He was so shocked that he opened his mouth. But he was only able to shout that single word during the breathtaking moment when the sword struck.
Glover only managed to frown halfway.
It looked as if the Royal Guards’ expressions were frozen. But soon after, they began to look shocked, puzzled, and grim.
However, Thales, who already had experience in such matters since a while ago, knew that this was just a misconception he had once he became faster.
Thales’ eyes and the tip of his sword lined up together. They were directed at his opponent.
Right before his eyes, he saw that Procca had opened his mouth wide in shock whilst everything transpired in slow motion. At his fastest speed, Procca raised his arm to swing his sword in an attempt to block the prince’s attack. He wanted to block the terrifying hit, whose speed, explosive force, strength, and precision were on a whole nother level.
But Thales knew that it was already too late.
Procca was not able to dodge in time. He could not even put up his defensive stance in time.
Even the Star Killer suffered a setback and was left with a scar on his face because he was not looking out for this attack.
As for Procca… he could not dodge. He could not even block it.
Willed by the desire and uproar from the Sin of Hell’s River, Thales’ sword and Procca’s sword came into contact with each other in the air. Sparks then flew from the coarse surface of the practice swords.
That clash emitted an even more powerful force.
Thales’ eyes turned cold. He looked at his own sword sliding across Procca’s block, and he went straight for Procca’s chest.
‘Sorry, logistics officer,’ Thales thought coldly. ‘You’ll need to take a few days’ break.
‘I will restrain my enemy with one strike.’
The great sound of the two weapons clashing echoed in the area. It caused a tremor across the entire yard!
It was as if even the air was affected.
Many of the Royal Guards felt a tingle in their eyelids. They retreated instinctively.
Time finally returned to normal.
A loud and dull sound was heard.
Thales flew backward.
His back smashed into the ground heavily. Then, he tumbled back a few times.
“…Me!” Doyle finally finished shouting out his second word. There was still shock on his face.
He put down his arm, blinked, and stared at the center of the field.
Right next to Doyle, Glover did not move a muscle. He just fixed his eyes on Thales’ shield.
Under the influence of the numbness and pain in his muscles, the prince inhaled a breath of air with great difficulty. He lifted the shield on his right arm while he trembled.
At some point in time, the shield had shattered.
There was a circular hole as big as the tip of a sword on the shield, and there were cracks all around with the hole as its center.
At that very moment, Thales’ mind went blank.
He looked up with a dumbfounded gaze.
He saw Procca standing across him without a single scratch. His posture was relaxed and his movements were smooth as he put his long sword back into its sheath.
The prince’s weapon, the training sword that executed the intimidating assault beforehand, spun several times in the air.
In the end, it fell helplessly on the ground.
It plunged right into the sand right beside his leg in a diagonal manner.
It no longer moved, and it returned to silence.
The Royal Guards suddenly burst into commotion, and a cacophony of sounds exploded.
“I am truly sorry, Your Highness.” Procca put away his sword. He tried his best to contain his panic. He quickly went over to help the prince up as he anxiously kept apologizing to the prince.
“I lost control. Did you get hurt in any—”
That very second…
“Logistic Officer Leo Procca.”
A plain and indifferent voice was heard. However, for some reason, there was a rather aggressive and cold chill in his voice.
Procca was prepared to go forward to help Thales to his feet, but he froze on the spot.
The voice of the Watchman of the Royal Guards, Mallos was clear among the crowd.
“As a member of the Royal Guards, regardless of how long you’ve lived in peaceful times and even if you are just serving as a sparring partner…” Mallos still had his arms folded over his chest. He sized Procca up with a sidelong glance.
Mallos did not look at Thales who was still lying on the ground pathetically while panting heavily. He just stared coldly at the regretful-looking Procca.
His words were strict, and his tone was harsh as well as cold. “…Your skills have gotten much worse.”
The Royal Guards grew quiet in unison.
Procca was slightly stunned. His expression turned even more regretful.
He looked at the prince in a troubled manner and then at his commanding officer. It seemed like he wanted to speak, but he did not. He did not know what to do.
Thales remained lying on the ground. He was breathing in a daze.
‘How could this be?
‘The Sin of Hell’s River… I’ve already, already…
‘How could this still…?’
He could sense that his left arm was slowly recovering from the numbness. He even sensed the gazes that were being thrown at him quietly from his surroundings. His heart was overwhelmed with complicated feelings.
The entire training ground went silent.
The Royal Guards looked at each other, their soft discussions audible from time to time.
Doyle tugged at Glover’s sleeve, but Glover seemed to have sunken into deep thought. He was completely unresponsive.
“As for you, my respected Prince Thales…”
Mallos spoke once again.
The Royal Guards fell silent. Procca, who wanted to go forward to help the prince get up on his feet again, came to a screeching halt.
The watchman slowly turned around. He casually looked at Thales while the prince was on the ground.
“After witnessing your performance, I believe that you have already grasped the true meaning of the Power of Eradication.”
Mallos smiled gently, but there was faint disdain in his eyes. “Despite that, when it comes to battle… you cannot just rely on the Power of Eradication.”
Immediately after, the watchman no longer looked at the noble prince. He just turned around.
“All right, everyone, the show’s over.”
Mallos walked forward and said airily, “Dismiss.”
As they stared at Mallos’ back, the Royal Guards looked at each other in bewilderment.
A few seconds later, they began to move away loudly and boisterously.
“Did you manage to tell what the prince’s Power of Eradication is?”
Doyle snuck a glance at the gloomy Thales, who was panting in a daze. For a second there, he could not help but feel a sense of pity for the prince. Then, he turned around and said, “I did not see through it. I just feel that it was a little too weak.”
“No.” Glover scowled. “It is not weak.”
“Hey, Zombie, how many times has this been? Can’t you just agree with me for once…”
At that moment, a completely different voice, which was weak and hoarse, rang in the air.
“Hold on for a moment.”
The Royal Guards had already spread out. They hushed at the same time and turned around.
They could only see the miserable young man supporting himself on the ground of sand in the middle of the training field. He staggered, but he stood up in determination.
Mallos had also stopped walking.
“He merely… struck my… shield.” The young man lowered his head. He raised his left arm as he breathed heavily to ease the stiffness in his chest.
Doyle widened his eyes. Glover’s eyes also became sharper.
Procca, the sparring partner stood in the field in amazement, and he did not know how to respond.
“He did not strike… my vital points.” Thales took a deep breath. He endured the stiffness in his muscles and the pain, which came after enduring a heavy strike. He put his hands on the fixed strap behind the shield.
The Sin of Hell’s River, which had been crushed earlier, once again rose amid the dead silence.
It brought with it the ferocious indignation of a beast licking its wounds. It rose step by step and released explosive dull thuds.
Thales extended his right arm as he trembled. He allowed his shattered arm shield to fall freely to the ground.
The young man gulped. His saliva was tainted with the taste of blood. He trembled while he held on to the training sword right beside his leg.
His Sin of Hell’s River gushed into his arms.
“I still… haven’t lost.”
The next moment, Thales calmed his breathing, gritted his teeth, and pulled out the longsword.
The young man fixed his eyes on Mallos’ back.
The Royal Guards burst into an uproar again.
Everyone gave the prince perplexed looks, and they discussed among themselves.
Many also quietly looked at their commanding officer while they waited for his response.
One second passed, two seconds…
Mallos remained silent. He did not turn around.
He just slowly turned his neck, looked around, and cast Thales a sidelong glance.
The watchman quirked the corners of his lips.
He formed a cold and mysterious smile on his face.