༺ The Iron-Blooded Knight ༻
After leading the two out of the back alley, they completed the afternoon patrol without any major issues.
Schultz, who was apologizing for causing trouble to the instructor due to his mistake, was given his wallet back, and before he knew it, it was time to join the other students and end the patrol.
As it was dangerous for students to patrol even the main streets at night, the imperial police, reinforced with more personnel, took over the night patrol, and the students disbanded at this point.
“Oz! Let’s go see the festival!”
“Don’t be like that! Look! Over there, a man is spitting fire from his mouth! Let’s go see!”
“I’m just going to go home- Ugh…”
There were students who stayed on the street to enjoy the festival.
“Marian. Are you going to watch the festival too?”
“No, I have to stop by my family house today. My grandmother is making a fuss because I haven’t shown my face for too long..”
“Is that so? Then please say hello to the Marchioness for me. Batar… he’s already left, hasn’t he? Saladin, what about you?”
“I’ll just wander around by myself and go back to the dormitory.”
“Got it. What about you, Gwyn?”
“Me? Um, well…”
There were also students who had no interest in the festival and were going home straight away.
In the case of Elizabeth, she was the latter.
“Instructor. I’ll be going home first.”
“To the royal palace?”
“Yes. I’ve only managed to make time to come out for a little while. The next time we meet might be during the parade.”
“You didn’t have to come out if you were that busy.”
Honestly, I thought she would do so. I knew she was really busy lately. I was really surprised when she showed up in the morning saying she would participate in the patrol.
Elizabeth nodded and responded.
“I too am a student of the Opal Black class. I’m your student. It’s unfair for me to be the only one absent. I have no intention of receiving special treatment because I’m the princess.”
“Is that so?”
“That’s how it is. Hehe… then, if you’ll excuse me.”
She lifted the ends of her skirt and bid farewell with an elegant bow. With a nod, I saw her off.
As Elizabeth, with her long white hair fluttering, moved away, a female Royal Guard who had been waiting nearby immediately followed her side.
Even though she was in plain clothes now, she was the same Royal Guard who had been protecting Elizabeth when we first met her and the beast.
At home, she was tortured with endless work, and outside, escorts followed wherever she went. It seemed that the burden brought by the title of princess was quite significant.
While seeing off Elizabeth, I felt a tug on my sleeve and turned around to see Titania, smiling brightly.
I thought she had gone to enjoy the festival with Oznia, but she was still here.
Beside her was poor Oznia, who had been grabbed by the wrist by Titania and was wearing a deathly expression. She looked like a rabbit tied to a leash.
Titania said with a bright voice.
“Would you like to go see the festival together?”
“We didn’t have a proper chance to look around the market last time, did we! I really want to have a proper look this time. With Oz and the other friends too! What do you think? It’s a good idea, isn’t it?”
Her bright voice seemed to assume that I would naturally go with them, rather than being a proposal.
However, I shook my head slowly and replied.
“No. You guys go on your own today.”
“Eh? You’re not going?”
At my words, Titania’s eyes widened, and she wore a startled expression like a puppy soaked in water.
It seemed a bit much to be that shocked. If she needed more company, she could have taken Gwyn, who had been all ears about the festival since earlier.
Not that I felt particularly disappointed or anything, but I had another appointment starting now. So, from the beginning, I had no choice but to refuse Titania’s proposal.
Titania quickly regained her composure and asked again in a still bright, though slightly quieter, voice.
“So, it’s okay if it’s not today? What about tomorrow?”
Is that how it works?
But I had plans for tomorrow as well. I had agreed to pay off my debt to Instructor Lirya.
“I can’t make it tomorrow either.”
“…Then, the day after tomorrow?”
I rubbed my chin and pondered for a moment. Titania’s face showed tension at that gesture.
Looking at her, I couldn’t help but nod in the end. After all, it pricked my conscience to refuse a student’s proposal three times.
“The day after tomorrow should be fine.”
At my response, Titania beamed and rejoiced, and Gwyn and Oznia’s eyes shone brighter than usual.
I understood Titania’s reaction, but I had no idea why the other two reacted as they did.
“Then, see you the day after tomorrow, instructor! Gwyn, don’t just stand there, let’s go sightseeing together! Oz too!”
“Eh? Oh, okay! Sure!”
“I don’t want to….”
I watched Titania’s back as she began to walk confidently, holding Gwyn and Oznia’s wrists, then soon turned my gaze away.
My destination was the arena in the dark district.
“Today, it would be better not to participate in the match.”
A completely unexpected statement came from Sylvia’s mouth, right before the match was about to start.
Her attitude was totally different from last week when she was pestering to do it just one more time, and I felt puzzled and asked.
“What’s going on?”
“I just checked the entry list.”
This week, Sylvia, disguised with another beautiful woman’s face, spoke with an uncharacteristically grave expression that did not match her beauty.
“You were too flashy last week. It seems like King rat, the beggar, the drug dealer Ulrich and Bondman, the loan shark, are pretty upset because their players got completely beaten. They joined forces and called in a new player… and frankly, the opponent isn’t good.”
I asked with doubt.
“Is he that strong?”
Sylvia lightly shook her head.
“He’s not stronger than you. But, let’s just say he’s a face both you and I would be uncomfortable seeing… It’s one of the reasons I’ve been cautious whenever I’ve tried to dominate the arena.”
“Well, you’ll understand when you see him. But there’s no need to meet him unnecessarily. It could be dangerous if he recognizes you. I thought he would be busy right now and it would be a good opportunity to make a lot of money… It seems like your previous performance upset the other three as well.”
I was lost in thought at Sylvia’s words.
Someone who could potentially recognize me, and it could be dangerous if he does… There weren’t many such people.
I hesitated for a moment and then asked.
“How about the information on Ella?”
The voice of Sylvia, who had been wearing a serious expression, fell even more somber. She dropped her shoulders weakly and said.
“I’m sorry. I’m still gathering information, but it’s not easy.”
The reason Sylvia was having trouble gathering information was that she still did not have complete control over the dark district.
At this point, if Eon, who was gaining fame in the arena under the support of the owner of the brothel called the ‘Queen’, avoided the fight, there was no doubt that it would be an opportunity for the audience to criticize Eon and the Queen as cowards.
If that happened, it would take much longer for Sylvia to fully dominate the dark district.
I made a decision.
“It’s okay, prepare for the match.”
“Are you really sure?”
“It doesn’t matter.”
I said, pressing my mask tightly onto my face. My voice echoed deep and heavy from behind the mask.
“Iron Fist Ian does not avoid fights.”
I strode down the dark underground corridor, stepping confidently into the arena.
As I revealed myself in the arena, the crowd in the stands threw frenzied cheers.
“Iron Fist! Iron Fist! Iron Fist!!”
“Ian! Ian! Ian!!”
“Iron Fist! I’ve been waiting for you for a week, finallyyy!”
The cheers from the stands were extraordinary, despite my debut match having been just a week ago.
Apparently, my performance, having defeated all opponents with a single blow, must have been quite impressive to the audience.
Whether the rumors had spread significantly over the week, or the festive heat of the ground had influenced underground, the stands were completely filled with people.
And all of these spectators were passionately shouting the name Iron Fist.
At that moment, the doors on the opposite side of the arena opened wide.
And a swordswoman with a slender figure slowly walked into the arena.
In contrast to my black mask that completely covered my face, she chose a stylishly designed red mask that only covered her eyes and nose.
Seeing her deep red short hair and her seemingly cold gaze beyond the mask, I had a feeling that I had seen her somewhere before.
However, it was the people sitting in the stands who recognized her before I did.
“That mask… that hair color… Could it be! B-Blood Rose!?”
“Blood Rose Frey! Oh my god… it’s the former arena champion!!”
Taking the passionate cheers echoing from the stands as if it were everyday background noise, the woman in the red mask walked into the arena and looked at me calmly.
Then, in a rigid, knight-like tone, she addressed me.
“Are you that Iron Fist? The one who defeated Bloody Storm Sword, Black Sword, and Thunder, and became the new champion?”
“And if I am?”
Blood Rose tilted her head slightly, shrugged her shoulders once, and drew her sword.
“Hmm… younger than I thought. It seems you’ve obtained the champion’s seat while I was away, but I’m in a different class from such scum. It’s a mistake to put me on the same level as them.”
Blood Rose drew her rapier and assumed her unique stance with it held in front of her chest.
She had deliberately distorted her movements to hide her swordsmanship, but she couldn’t fool my eyes. I recognized the origin of her swordsmanship in an instant.
The basic stance of Imperial Swordsmanship.
It was what the Royal Guards primarily used.
The moment I saw that stance, I was able to identify who she was. And I understood why Sylvia had been reluctant to confront this opponent.
‘Iron-blooded Knight’ Frida von Sternlicht.
A member of the hero party and the current Deputy Commander of the Royal Guards.
A woman who was only entangled with me through a malicious fate.
There she was, standing in front of me under the name Blood Rose Frey.
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