Theo came down from the stage in a much better state than Rebecca, but that didn't mean he was without damage. The power of the blade which was literally like a storm had leapt beyond the defensive power of 'Battle Song.'
The healer clicked his tongue when he saw Theo's tattered forearm. "…How terrible. It isn't easy to heal injuries caused by aura, but this is more than that. Simple treatment using potions or herbs would be more effective than magic."
Basically, the mana which passed through a person's body was altered according to the person's inherent nature. In order to resonate with that nature, magicians minimized the degree of deterioration by forming an artificial circulation organ called circles, but knights were different. For them, their inherent nature was merely a good thing. Since aura strengthened physical abilities, the closer it was to the user's own nature, the greater the efficiency and power would be. However, this left behind traces which interfered with magical healing.
"Yes. Knight Rebecca… the density of her aura is already reaching the level of a pro-knight. If you suffered a serious injury, you might've been lying in bed for months."
"Then how long will it take for this wound to heal?"
"Please wait a moment." The healer carefully examined the stab wound on Theo's forearm. There was occasional pain, but it wasn't enough to make a fuss about it. Theo's behaviour was like that of a veteran soldier.
The healer used his magic power to heal the wound before lifting his head again. "Fortunately, the blade didn't enter too deeply. I will use a healing spell, apply a medicine and then a bandage. The wound should be healed in three days."
"Oh, please avoid any heavy exercise or movements for a week. The wound might reopen."
Theodore had no reason to refuse, so he nodded gently.
The healer proceeded to start the full-scale treatment. First, he removed the aura remaining in the wound with healing magic, then he connected the muscles in the blood vessels which hadn't healed yet. Subsequently, the blood completely stopped flowing out. After the bleeding stopped, the healer performed a simple treatment with potions and herbs.
The healer's workmanship was truly worthy of a healer working in the royal palace. A white bandage was wrapped around one of Theo's arms, and the pain from the wound was away. Theo moved the arm wrapped in the white bandage and said, "It is much better. Thank you very much."
"…It is nothing. Rather, I should be thanking you." The healer checked the bandage's knot meticulously and laughed at the gratitude.
He had been employed as a royal healer for several decades. Once the war broke out, the number of patients he treated had been in the thousands, and hundreds of them hadn't been able to be saved. Their lives had been taken by the Andras' blades.
"It was always a victory if we returned from the battlefield, and a defeat if we returned with the bodies of our colleagues. So, there were times when I regretted being a healer. I couldn't fight, and sometimes I blamed myself for choosing who to leave behind."
"But today, I knew what it felt like to win for the first time."
It was too early to call him an old man, but wrinkles could clearly be seen on the hand which gripped Theo's. Perhaps he had also been sitting in the audience and had seen with his own eyes the imperious and rude demands of the empire.
The healer bowed his head and thanked Theo once again, "Meltor's Hero, it is an honour to treat you with these hands."
"…It was my pleasure." Theo was forced to accept the fierce praise.
He felt burdened by the healer's emotions and left the infirmary after a brief goodbye. Most of the crowd was at the dinner party, so the corridor was a few times darker and emptier than usual. As soon as the door closed behind his back, a cold silence fell.
"Hoo, it is too burdensome."
Whether it was positive or negative, it didn't fit Theo's nature to attract the attention of others. He was able to put on a firm face after absorbing the experiences but encountering such sincere praise made him feel itchy.
'What should I do now?' He walked down the corridor while locked in thought.
The soft sounds of his footsteps rang out amidst the silence of the corridor.
Veronica had encouraged Theo to go to the dinner party when he was available, but he didn't want to go to such a burdensome place. He also didn't think he could rest comfortably in a place where the two sword masters were.
It was much more attractive to use his injury as an excuse to return to the tower, as a political place would obviously be uncomfortable in many ways. Furthermore, there was a destination he hadn't thought of.
Theo advanced a few steps before stopping and breathing lightly. He looked over at a shadow in a corner of the corridor and said, "Why don't you come out now?"
The shadow was faint like fog. Despite his senses being refined to the limit, he only grasped the hiding place after a few minutes. As Theo's voice rang through the corridor where nobody was present, 'he' naturally appeared. It was like he had been there from the beginning.
Lloyd Pollan, one of the empire's Seven Swords, shrugged and said, "Oh, I followed you unintentionally."
"…I thought you were attending the dinner party?"
"I'm sorry, but Meltor's food and alcohol don't suit my tastes. I was going around on a walk."
It was nonsense, and Theo regretted that he couldn't dismiss it. Theo stared at Lloyd with cold eyes. Although it was a separate building, a sword master wouldn't be allowed to wander around the royal palace by himself. Besides, a walk? It was a pathetic excuse for following the winner of the duel.
"What did you come to me for, Sir Pollan?" Theo struggled to suppress his indignation. It was pointless to be rude here. Theo lacked the power or position to be rude. Lloyd also knew this fact. If Veronica or Blundell were near, then he would've disappeared quietly.
'A sly human.' Theodore had an accurate insight into Lloyd's nature.
"The purpose… I suppose it is an apology."
"As you already know, I made a mistake during your duel with Rebecca. I didn't know that your senses were so sensitive. You responded to my killing intent that I accidentally let out, and I admire that," Lloyd praised with a smile, but his eyes weren't warm.
On the other hand, Theodore paled as he noticed the meaning of the words. Lloyd was saying that he didn't mean to disturb the duel, but his killing intent had leaked out accidentally leaked.
It meant that… this sword master wanted to kill Theodore Miller.
"Well, you don't need to be tense here." Lloyd smiled and continued saying, "I was scolded by Number 4 because he read my killing intent. At the very least, it is impossible to cut off your head here. It is regretful, regretful."
Theo spoke the words he had been repressing, "Why do you want to kill me?"
This wasn't an order from the Andras Empire or from Pan Helliones. He wondered why Lloyd Pollan was so eager to kill him. Murderers killed people for no reason, but it was unlikely for a sword master. Theo was more curious than afraid of the master.
Lloyd sincerely sighed at the bold question.
"Hoo, it really is a pity. Why wasn't someone like you born in the empire?" He grumbled in a low voice before continuing, "10 years, that is the deadline of this truce."
The emotionless face started to spout terrible facts, "In the next 10 years, you will become an enemy of the empire. My senses have never been wrong even once."
"Your senses… You want to kill me for such an uncertain reason?"
"You… Did you use more than 30% of your power in that duel?" There was conviction was in Lloyd's voice, so Theodore remained silent. "You have the potential to match the Seven Swords in the future, so I think I should kill you here, even if that causes a war."
There was an eerie killing intent. The killing intent pressing down on Theo was different from Superbia's. It felt like a sharp blade was being held against his neck. Still, the sword never came flying. Lloyd just passed by, like he meant his words about not killing Theo here.
His voice gradually moved further away, "10 years later, I won't let you live like today."
Theo couldn't move from his spot even after Lloyd had completely disappeared. The killing intent of a sword master was indeed terrifying. He would've fallen down if he hadn't built up tolerance in the fight with Superbia.
In retrospect, it was fortunate that he hadn't exposed Umbra and Magic Bullet. Lloyd would have rated Theo higher and might've ignored the command given to him in order to kill Theo. Theo wouldn't go obediently, but there was no chance of winning.
"Yes, 10 years," Theodore murmured in a low voice.
10 years… it was both a long and short period of time. After that, he would be sentenced to death by a sword master. Hearing that, anybody would feel fear. However, Theo just laughed at the words. "I won't be relaxing."
He had jumped from the loser of the academy to Meltor's hero in one year. Things which would take magicians a month only took a few days for him. Then weren't 10 years for Theo like a hundred years for ordinary magicians? Common sense didn't apply to the owners of grimoires.
A sword master was definitely a great existence. 'But I don't think that it is an insurmountable wall.'
Theo took a step forward. He regained his original stride and left the place where he'd met Lloyd. It was yet to be decided as to who would be the one to fall 10 years later.
* * *
Kkiiik. The doorknob turned with a small noise.
Theo arrived at somebody's room and looked inside it carefully. As soon as he entered, the smell of herbs and potions hit his nose. He removed the smell with simple wind magic and looked in the direction of the occupant.
With golden hair, green eyes, and vivid features, Rebecca, the duelist for the empire, looked at Theo from where she lay on the bed. Her ribs, which had been broken by the shock wave, were bandaged and traces of herbs were visible on bruised skin. Her condition was completely different from that of Theodore, who was wandering around.
He was confused by the situation as he sat down in the chair beside Rebecca's bed. Theo had no other choice.
'…No, what is going on?'
Theodore had entered Rebecca's room because he wanted to ask about Randolph. However, the guard standing in front of the room had let him in easily after his identity was proven.
'Why did they just let me in?'
Theodore was famous, but the Andras Empire and the Meltor Kingdom were still enemies. Why would they obediently let in a visitor from an enemy country? He just wanted to tell the guard to mention Randolph's name to Rebecca and see if she responded to it. However, the empire's delegation didn't hesitate to let him in to see Rebecca.
The atmosphere was awkward. Rebecca's eyes stared at Theo without blinking, increasing the burdensome feeling. He didn't know how to start. In the end, Theodore opened his mouth to say a simple greeting, but Rebecca spoke first.
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Her voice was like a clear bell which resonated clearly, "Have you come to exercise the rights of the winner?"