Episode 239. Gradus Number One (1)

The referee for the duel was a high-ranking knight of the Royal Guard. 

“Marquis Heinrich Paulgram Reinhardt is unable to accept the public’s evaluation and has decided to verify it all with his sword. Do you accept?”

Perhaps the knight was already excepting this because his tone was very calm. 

“I accept.”

“Reinperle’s Seon-Hyeok Reinperle Kim Darheen, the Indomitable Duke, has agreed to accept the challenge of Marquis Heinrich Paulgram Reinhardt. Do you agree?”

Kim Seon-Hyeok nodded silently at the royal guard. 

“Both sides have agreed to get justice through their swords, but there can only be one winner. Thus, everyone gathered here believes that God will decide who is right and no matter what the result is, there can be zero objections. Do you both agree?”

Instead of answering, Marquis Reinhardt and Kim Seon-Hyeok each grabbed their sword and spear as they widened the distance between them.

“Since neither side believes God will judge this unfairly, I declare that this duel has been established. This has been allowed by the royal family of Adenstein, the legitimate ruler of this land, and as long as Her Highness the Regent, Ophelia Laurel ro Adenstein, has notarized it, none may raise objections to the result.”

As the knight continued to talk, the duelers’ fighting spirit began to fluctuate.

“The duel begins. It will only end when one side cannot continue or when one side admits defeat. The winner will show tolerance towards the lower and the loser will not dispute the winner’s sword skills. 

 Although the knight could be considered the best of the Royal Guards, it seemed like he couldn’t withstand the fighting spirit emanating from the two monsters on either side. 

The calm knight’s complexion quickly grew pale.

“Raise your weapons. The two of you are both indispensable to the kingdom, so I hope this duel does not go overboard and cause the royal family concern.”

Quickly making that last request, the knight escaped from between the two of them. 

And at that moment, the marquis and Kim Seon-Hyeok’s fighting spirit exploded.

***

Everyone who heard about the duel between the Indomitable Duke and Marquis Reinhardt wanted to see this rare duel but they didn’t dare sneak in to peek at this sacred duel, when it didn’t allow for spectators. 

Instead, the spectators watched flashes and listened to the sounds as they watched from afar and realized that the duel was far beyond one between normal humans.

“I believe that Marquis Reinhardt will be victorious. While there is no doubt that the Indomitable Duke is great, the marquis has trained for nearly half a century so he won’t be easy.”

“Since the royal guards are especially good at interpersonal warfare, I doubt that even with all his experience on the field, the Indomitable Duke could make up for the difference.”

The knights of the Royal Guard didn’t seem to doubt that their leader would be victorious. But Lee Soo-Hyuk and the foreigners were convinced that Kim Seon-Hyeok would win. 

“Our captain is someone who’s already gone beyond human limits. I really can’t imagine him losing.”

“If there is someone who could beat the captain, then that person would be the real monster.”

The guards laughed at the foreigners’ words and a subtle psychological warfare unfolded between the two groups.

But since the parties involved in the duel were both pillars supporting the kingdom, the two groups watched their words and the psychological war didn’t get too far.

Of course, that didn’t mean they were as calm as they seemed on the outside. The spectators were anxiously waiting for the duel to end safely.

The duel began in the middle of the day and continued until dusk fell, and the colorful flashes of light could be seen even in Rugenburg, the territory quite far from the dueling location.

Whenever there was a blue flash, the royal guards gave a small cheer and when there was a golden flash, the foreigners cheered.

The two groups alternated between hope and fear for a long time as the flashes filled the sky. Soon, the roar of the clashing swords stopped. 

And shortly after, Kim Seon-Hyeok and Marquis Reinhardt returned.

“Hm.”

Their broken and shattered armors, as well as their horribly torn clothes, showed how brutal the duel had been. However, the spectators couldn’t tell who the winner was just by looking at them.

And yet, it wasn’t possible to ask the two people who had just finished this sacred duel whether they had won or lost, so in the end, the royal guards and the foreigners could only glance at the two fighters as they stared at the duel observer.

But, the knight who had observed the duel was pale and in no condition to answer their question. Almost as he had been the one fighting in the duel, his face showed exhaustion.

“C, captain?”

Since they were relatively close with one other, the foreigners rushed to Kim Seon-Hyeok first.

“Let’s go. I’m tired.”

With that short sentence, Seon-Hyeok headed towards the castle without waiting for an answer.

The marquis watched the foreigners chasing after their captain with an expressionless face.

But when the foreigners disappeared from his sight, a crack appeared in that inscrutable face.

Stagger.

“M, marquis!”

The royal guards gasped as they rushed towards the marquis when they saw him lose his balance and stagger.

“Stop making a fuss. I’m just a bit tired.”

The knights’ eyes widened at the old knight’s words. He had never shown weakness before. 

But, the marquis didn’t care how the knights were looking at him. His gaze remained on the Rugenburg’s castle where Kim Seon-Hyeok had disappeared. 

“What on…”

Indescribable emotions flashed through the marquis’ face. 

“Just what on earth did you go through in the central region?”

The most striking feeling amongst the numerous emotions was admiration and defeat. 

***

Kim Seon-Hyeok had been standing straight and until, but the moment he reached his accommodation, he collapsed onto the floor as soon as he opened his door and entered his room.

“I feel like I’m dying.”

His muscles felt the aftermath of constantly fighting for half a day, now that the duel was over, his fatigue was so great that his muscles continuously trembled.

That was how fierce the duel with Marquis Reinhardt had been. 

The swordsmanship that the marquis honed for half a century was something that Kim Seon-Hyeok had never even dared to imagine. Each of the marquis’ attacks was fatal and not easy to defend against.

But surprisingly, Marquis Reinhardt’s forte wasn’t attacking.

As a knight guarding the royal family from a close distance, the marquis was better at defense than anyone else and Kim Seon-Hyeok realized that fact to his very bones throughout the duel. 

Seon-Hyeok brought out his winds and even tried shaking the ground, but the marquis’ defense was solid. Even as the duel was nearing the end, he couldn’t get past the marquis’ defense.

It was as if the marquis was a massive fortress. Kim Seon-Hyeok had felt so bleak to think he had to penetrate a defense as solid as a fortress.

Oof, you old man. Why are you so strong?

The corners of Kim Seon-Hyeok’s mouth suddenly rose as he was kneading his aching limbs.

“But I still won.”

There were no gaps or weaknesses. The perfect defense was like an impenetrable shield, but he had eventually succeeded in breaking down fortress-wall like defense.

Instead of finding a gap in the defense, Kim Seon-Hyeok had destroyed the shield instead. It was a foolhardy attack, that was closer to pure force than attacking, but either way, Kim Seon-Hyeok was the winner.

“What a recklessly bold attack!” 

While the marquis expressed his resentment at the foolhardy attack, but he himself knew that was a sad excuse and didn’t oppose the result. Whether it was a reckless attack or a carefully thought-out attack, it didn’t matter as you won with it.

“This is the spirit of youth.” 

Seon-Hyeok acted arrogantly when the marquis knelt after fighting for over half a day. 

When he had first arrived in the capital, he never dared think about winning against the marquis. He knew now what the marquis’ personality was like, but back then, he had been deeply antagonistic towards the marquis who tried to control him however he wanted.

In his own way, Seon-Hyeok had gotten his revenge and ran away covered in dust. And even that was only possible after allowing himself to be attacked three times. 

But after 6 years, he had been able to overtake the superhuman he found difficult to even look up to, so it was natural that his joy was indescribable. 

“Whew, but he really is a monster.”

It had seemed cowardly to use his Spirit King spear, so it had been left in his room while he fought. But besides that, he had given it his all.

Nevertheless, victory hadn’t been easy and he keenly felt how strong the superhumans who had risen to the top in the kingdom were.

But because he had realized their superhuman strength, he kept the words Marquis Reinhardt had spoken after the duel in his mind.

“Huu. Those who received a single-digit rank on the Gradus list aren’t much different from me. In other words, depending on your condition that day, winning and losing can always be flipped. But there’s one monster that is completely different.

Someone whose status was considered to be different by even the strong players like Marquis Reinhardt.

“I’ve challenged him countless times, but I’ve never won against him. No, to be honest, I completely lost to him.”

Having experienced the marquis’ power himself, Kim Seon-Hyeok found it unbelievable that he didn’t just lose, but lost unilaterally.

“Is that the Sword Star, sir?”

“That’s right. He’s a superhuman who, until recently, was recognized as the strongest fighter in this kingdom. Marek Schnail Roachim, called the Reclusive Duke, is someone that His Majesty said his mere presence in the kingdom is enough.”

A strong swordsman that even King Theodore, someone who thoroughly exploited talented people, deemed as being beneficial to the kingdom just by his existence.

“And that Reclusive Duke, who has never left his lands, is eagerly waiting in the capital for your return.” 

The marquis was absolutely serious with his warning.

“Be careful. He is a lunatic who doesn’t care about anything other than his sword. He’s not someone who would go easy on you just because you are Her Highness’ spouse.”

Kim Seon-Hyeok had been quietly remembering his conversation with Marquis Reinhardt when he suddenly jumped up and grabbed the spear of the Spirit King that had been in the corner of the room.

Koooo.

The Spirit King’s spear was a spear that provided infinite vitality to earth and now, it quickly removed the fatigue in his muscles and renewed his energy.

“How would I compare to the Sword Star right now, sir?”

“If what you showed me in this duel is all you have, then I guarantee that if you fought him a hundred times, you would lose all of them.”

Although the marquis told him how monstrous the Sword Star was multiple times, Kim Seon-Hyeok hadn’t given it his all.

If his opponent really was one who transcended human beings, then he too was someone who transcended.

The form of a dragon.

As the duel hadn’t been a fight for his life, he hadn’t taken out the very last power of a Dragon Knight. 

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