"Ease your grip, you're putting too much tension in your shoulders. Don't fall for the myth that strength will lessen as your sword skills improve. You need a strong foundation from the start to reach new heights."

My swordsmanship knowledge came from the deputy leader of the Vreio Knights.

Though I had only mastered the theory of advanced swordsmanship, I knew the basics inside out.


I demonstrated a basic Vreio sword technique.

My goal was to fine-tune Lord Brown's sword skills by showing him parts of it, not all at once.

"Can you, can you do that again?"

Back in the Vreio Duchy, I used to be scolded for not performing a single basic technique correctly despite my extensive learning.

Yet here, I was confidently showing off Vreio swordsmanship.

While it wasn't extraordinary enough to amaze, it was sufficient to educate a knight who had spent his life in a viscount's estate.

"Now, follow my lead as I release my aura. Be slightly quicker than before, and when you release your aura, feel as though you're directing energy from your danjeon to your head."

Lord Brown tried to mirror my movements multiple times.

Then, we went back to hunting.

Whoosh, whoosh, whoosh! Screech! Thwack!

As we hunted, the sun reached its peak.

It was the time when wildlife rested to avoid the heat.

But I woke them from their slumber.

Gray wolves, tigers, hyenas, and spotted donkeys were common on the eastern edge of the forest.

They dared not venture into the forest's center.

The 'goblins', a problem the Hebron viscounty couldn't handle, were the reason.

"If only the Duchy could dispatch a few knights, we could wipe out the goblins."

But this wasn't Vreio.

The Hebron Viscount's only knight, Brown, couldn't even dream of contacting the Duchy.

In the past, they used to hire mercenaries regularly to thin out the goblin population.

But that too became too much, and the goblins were left to multiply.

The goblin brutes were the kings of the eastern forest.

After two rounds of hunting, I walked over to the idle soldiers.

"Isn't it boring just standing around?"

The soldier who met my gaze, Pulson, spoke for the group.

"No, we're not!"

"Really? It looks like you're itching for action. Isn't that true?"

"No, sir! We're good!"

I frowned at their answer.

"Is it easy to say you're good? Soldiers who get paid from the territory doing nothing, and that's okay? Where's the military spirit!"

"Even your young master, who you should admire, is hunting beasts and sweating hard!"

Soldier Pulson took my words to heart.

Pulson scratched his head, trying to find the right words. Then he shut his eyes tight and yelled, "We'll do better! We want to move!"

"Really? Does everyone feel the same way as Pulson?"

"Yes, we do!"

"Great. I'll make sure you're busy. Everyone, grab a spear."

I took a spear and got into position.

The soldiers followed suit without a word.

They had seen me teaching Lord Brown how to use a sword.

"Hold it at this angle. Line up the spear tip with your forehead. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, then step forward a bit with your left foot. Hold the spear with both hands. Don't let your hands touch, imagine there's another hand's width between them."

I corrected each soldier's stance.

It took a while, but when everyone was in the same position, I thrusted my spear with force.

"From this stance, step forward with your right foot and thrust the spear. Like this, stretch it out!"


The spear shot forward.

Like closing the gap with an enemy in a flash, the spear shot farther than its length.

This was because of the extra step.

The soldiers who had thrusted their spears were amazed and stared at me.

I was a bit surprised too.

They executed the spear technique, which I only knew in theory, better than I expected.

'Individually, they may not be skilled, but as a group, they're formidable.'

The spears thrusted by 30 soldiers at the same time created a single rush of air.

It was like they were one, which was the essence of Monolith Spearmanship.

"While I'm hunting, practice this stance. Pulson."

"Yes, sir! Pulson here!"

"You'll give the commands. The rhythm is: thrust! ...Reset, thrust! ...Reset. If your commands are too soft or the rhythm too slow, go back to the barracks and start over."

"Yes, sir!"

The soldiers were eager to move.

They were excited to learn the spear technique I had just taught them.

It seemed they saw it as a high-level martial art I had taught them.

"Thrust! ...Reset. Thrust!"

The soldiers moved in time with Pulson's commands.

As they energetically practiced their thrusts, the animals watching us from the forest retreated.

Lord Brown walked over to me and asked, "Did you master spear technique too?"

The only martial arts Brown had taught Lewis de Hebron were swordsmanship and Bojutsu.

"I learned from books. There are plenty of treasures in the library of the baron's house."

Brown looked unsure, not knowing whether to believe me or not.

After all, he was the one who had seen my martial skills firsthand.

By sunset, we had hunted over 40 gray wolves and killed even more boars.

From the game we brought back from the hunt, the people of our lands could feast for days.

Nobody grumbled about the spoils.

What the soldiers hunted belonged to the lord.

"Use these hides to make leather armor for the soldiers."

"Ash wolf hides should be sold as high-end goods."

Sir Brown was a loyal servant.

He prioritized his struggling lord over the impoverished soldiers.

"Sir Brown."

"Yes, my lord."

"Is now the time for us to fuss over such matters? Today, we had no casualties because we hunted as a group, but how many do you think would survive if they ventured into the forest to battle the goblins?"

"Do you truly plan to reclaim the eastern forest?"


At first, it seemed Sir Brown brushed off my words as youthful bravado.

But now, his demeanor shifted.

A worldly wise knight of thirty-eight took the words of his nineteen-year-old lord seriously.

"I'll obey your command."

I understood Brown's reaction.

He had likely led a hopeless life.

Most had resigned themselves to a life trapped within Hebron's borders.

Nightfall came.

The time was now in the beasts' favor, not ours.

I could feel the forest's gaze upon us.

As I drew on my aura and watched the forest, I met the eyes of the watcher.

A goblin scout.

'They're intelligent enough to send scouts rather than recklessly attacking. They're also strong. If we rush in without a plan, we could be ambushed...'

As things stood, if we launched a forest assault, we were sure to lose.

If they assaulted Hebron, we would certainly sustain heavy casualties. They seemed to understand this too.

'They'll attack once they've gathered more strength. We must strike first.'

For a month, we hunted the beasts of the eastern forest.

At first, only Brown and I led the way, but once the soldiers mastered the nine basic stances of the Monolith Spear technique, we fought as one.

A month is not a long period.

But for those who have been gnashing their teeth, waiting for a spark of talent all their lives, it felt like an eternity.

'I've done it!'

I'd gotten the hang of Antaria's aura training technique.

Massive amounts of aura, absorbed into my body, swirled powerfully around my danjeon.

The aura piled up layer upon layer like dust, eventually forming a dense crystal.

It was vastly larger than the previous one.

At this rate, I could wield the full power of the Inferno for over ten minutes.

It was as if I had the skillset of a reasonably accomplished intermediate spirit magician.

Yet, I couldn't settle for just that.

'It's merely a marginally higher level. Any notable individual my age has achieved this. I'm still miles away from my siblings.'

The direct descendants of the Duke of Vreio left their mark before turning twenty.

The eldest was celebrated as the greatest knight of the Xenon royal family, the second was a prodigy in magic, and the youngest contracted with a superior water spirit at the tender age of thirteen. These rumors were largely propagated by the Vreio Duchy itself.

By comparison, I was merely average.

Moreover, I now bore an additional responsibility.

'I am the future lord of Hebron.'

This was something I hadn't previously considered.

Back then, my only goal was to excel, and the administration of the territory was of no concern to me.

After all, even if I didn't step up, the realm's most talented individuals would govern the duchy.

-'The territory isn't managed by the lord. You simply find a capable individual, sit him down, and puppeteer him.'

Such was the strategy I learned at Vreio.

It was the modus operandi of the elite nobility.

'There are several rejects from the duchy's recruitment list. I once deemed them capable and brought them on board, but they turned out to be mediocre when it came to crunch time. Even that caliber of talent surpasses Hebron's standards. Let's fill the gap with them for the time being. No, let's educate them in the ways of Hebron, exceeding Vreio.'

Many cried out, pleading for an opportunity.

Those who were wrung dry and discarded bore resentment towards Vreio, but dared not confront it.

Some deteriorated into a life of poverty.

No matter where they were invited, it was never Vreio.

"It's unfortunate, but I can't bring on those who were employed in the Duchy. They may be linked to my demise."

Revealing the identity of my assassin and exacting vengeance might be challenging now, but it was a task I felt I needed to accomplish to find peace.

"First, I must establish a means of communication. Once the eastern forest is cleared, I'll start gathering allies. Those who will rise above Vreio with me."

I donned armor made of thin iron plates, with a gray wolf skin draped over it.

In recent days, I'd needed to loosen the laces as the areas around my shoulders and abdomen had grown tighter.

My muscles had bulged in the interim.

Not a moment of the past month had been squandered.

I spent each day working out to enhance my stamina, and honed my swordsmanship and aura techniques, which I had previously only understood theoretically.

I also adapted Antaria's swordsmanship to suit my physique.

I didn't hesitate to integrate elements from other sword styles when necessary.

"Preparations are complete, Young Master."

Knight Brown had undergone such a transformation that he was unrecognizable from a month ago.

Aside from his more nimble movements, there was a newfound vibrancy in his countenance.

His life, once on a downward spiral as a knight, had taken a turn for the better.

His growth outpaced even that of his prime.

He, too, was acutely aware of this transformation.

As I ventured onto the training grounds, the soldiers were arrayed in perfect formation.

In contrast to their previous lax alignment, they now stood in unison, with not an inch of discrepancy.

At last, they resembled a true army.

"Who granted you leave to rest?"

Moments before my stern command fell, the soldiers reacted intuitively.

"Ta-hat! Hyup! Ta-hat!"

In synchrony with the battle cry, the soldiers brandished their spears.

They moved like a formidable wall, on which were affixed lethal polearms.

Executing the Monolith Spear technique from start to finish, the soldiers retracted their spears and stood erect.

Their gaze was blank, yet their ears were attuned to my voice.

My parents saw both me and the soldiers off.

"Son, must you really go?"

"Yes, Mother. I must."

My mother's concern for me was palpable in her words and actions, while my father's apprehension was evident in his eyes.

"My dear, it's a rite of passage for a man. We mustn't obstruct him."

My father was busily fashioning clothes for my sister, due in six months. Although she was yet to be born, he was already deeply immersed in his paternal duties.