Adonis Volume 1 Chapter 2
"All right, Ianna. Summarize what we went over in our last class for me."
Ianna nodded when the kindly old man sitting in front of her spoke to her quietly and replied,
"The continent is divided down the middle by the Lotso Mountains, and the extensive mountain range acts as the border between the Kingdom of Roanne to the south and the Bahamut Empire to the north, which have a long history of bad blood between them. Many scholars have assumed that the animosity between the two nations stems from differences in religion, as the Bahamut Empire generally does not believe in the Faith of Laos, but no one knows what the exact cause is."
"Is religion the only cause the scholars debated over?"
"There is also the matter of region. The people of Bahamut tend to have very pale skin. Their skin is pale in a different sense than the white skin that the nobility or royalty have. According to those who have actually seen the people of Bahamut, their skin color isn't the result of their innate vitality or the whiteness of nobility, but is a paleness that is particular to the poor who are exposed to the cold. It is likely because the Bahamut empire is located in the north, where they are not as blessed by the sun. You told me that it's possible that the Bahamut Empire continued to invade Roanne because they coveted the abundant sunlight found in the south, Teacher."
"Do other countries not get involved in their wars?"
"Roanne is one of the strongest nations in the area, and I'm sure that I don't need to speak of how strong Bahamut is. There is so much of a difference in the people of Roanne's abilities on the battlefield and their ability to manufacture weaponry in comparison to that of other neighboring kingdoms that it's like comparing the skills of an adult to that of a child's. This is ultimately why our neighboring countries don't intercede in any wars between Roanne and Bahamut. They exclude the two nations and fight their own psychological wars amongst each other. They know that they'll only suffer defeat if they try to get in between Roanne and Bahamut."
"And, how is the situation between Roanne and Bahamut now?"
"Strangely enough, Bahamut has only initiated small skirmishes with Roanne these past sixteen years instead of waging an all-out war. Roanne was sensitive to anything that Bahamut did at first because we were in a position where we could be invaded by the Bahamut Empire at any moment, but we eventually welcomed our newfound peace now that war has disappeared. Pacifists will assert that Bahamut has finally given up on waging bloody wars and began to focus on protecting her people. However, those who are wary assert that all the people of Bahamut, and not only the imperial family, are hostile and say that Bahamut is simply gathering her power for a large-scale war. And so, there are a lot of intellectuals who criticize those who have gotten too used to the warmth of peace and advocate for the people to remember what Bahamut did to us in the past."
Ianna looked up to the elderly man as she took a moment to catch her breath and he nodded at her in praise in turn.
"Good, you remembered well."
Ianna, now eleven, smiled wordlessly because she was happy for his commendation.
Her training was now in full swing. Ianna had finished training her body during the past several seasons so that she could properly wield a sword and had now moved on to basic sword training. One hundred vertical swings, one hundred horizontal swings, one hundred diagonal swings each in both directions. Five hundred thrusts…….
In addition to her basic sword training, she also included a few original exercises that she had invented in the past in order to temper her body and add mana training into the mix. Her training was difficult to handle with the body of a young, eleven-year-old girl and even Ianna, with her mental fortitude, was exhausted by the time she completed it. Which was why she half-assed her lessons.
However, she never expressed her fatigue and always sat up straight during this elderly gentleman's lessons. The old man, Viscount Gerard Hephlood, was someone she had truly respected and liked even in her past life.
"Haha, how nice it would be if only you were this attentive during your other teachers' lessons. I get told not to be too nice to you whenever I try to compliment you in front of them. I've become an overly kind old geezer because of you."
With her hands on her hips, Ianna replied,
"They think of me as less than a pebble off the side of the road and all they do is recite knowledge into my ears at the Count's request. All I need to do is listen to them drone —do I really need to respect them too? They're basically as good as inorganic books as far as I'm concerned. The only thing that makes them any different from normal books it that they come with a voice."
"Hmph, you cheeky little thing."
Ianna stared as Gerard, who was much younger than he looked in her memories, and smiled wryly.
Viscount Gerard Hephlood. He was a commoner who had risen to his status for being an outstanding scholar, and he would rise to the title of a count in a few years when he became an advisor to the king. And, along with Isphee and Karnitz, he was the last of the few people whom Ianna remembered fondly in her childhood memories.
Gerard was a very special person to Ianna. He did not despise her like her other cruel teachers, but he did not pity her either.
He regarded Ianna separately from her Roberstein name and treated her warmly as his student. He was a kind teacher who imparted his knowledge the way a benign grandfather would spin tales to put his beloved granddaughter to sleep.
Gerard might not have thought anything of it because it was in his nature to be kind to begin with, but his attitude had affected Ianna's young heart so much that she had cried her eyes out many times during his lessons in the past. She had always cried while holding her breath to keep her tears away because she didn't want to interrupt Gerard's lessons, and because she didn't want Gerard to hate her too, as her tears had only ever drawn more hatred towards her and never any consolation.
Gerard had always patted her head tenderly whenever the tears had fallen from her eyes while she clutched tightly at the hem of her dress. Ianna had never forgotten the words he had whispered to ear whenever she cried in front of him.
"Don't get hurt and cry because of the cruel people around you. Don't lose to them. If you submit to a fate that runs contrary to your own wishes and consent to it, it will become as a bog that will hold you down and never let you escape. Ianna, your life belongs to you and it is yours to pioneer. Build your future with the choices that you yourself will make, and don't let fate decide things for you."
Gerard was both her teacher and her emotional support. However, he had been made to leave the Roberstein territory only a year after he had begun teaching her. This was because he had incurred the Count's wrath by encouraging the people of House Roberstein to treat Ianna better.
The next time she had seen him was after she had completely shut people out of her heart. Gerard had pitied her then.
He had slapped Ianna across the cheek and had grown furious at her for the first time after she had caused House Roberstein to be convicted of treason with the help of the second prince, Schneider Lezè Roanne, and slaughtered the entire household when she was twenty-four.
Ianna had not stopped him and simply received his anger in silence. That was because, unlike anyone else, he alone had the right to rebuke Ianna for committing such a heavy sin. However, Gerard had only let out a sigh with pity in his eyes as he looked at Ianna's bloody figure.
"So this is the fate you've chosen. You pitiful thing."
Not only had it been the first time that Ianna had been hit by Gerard, but it was also her first time being treated as someone pitiful. She had obediently accepted his rebuke until then, but erupted in rage the very moment he had shown pity for her.
"I am not pitiful. Why are you looking at me with that look in your eyes? Why are you looking at me like I'm the most pitiful person in the world? I've finally put an end to the twenty-four years of life that I've suffered thus far and have begun my life anew. I am the most satisfied person in the world right now!"
She had never seen Gerard again after screaming at him and chasing him away that day. And then, Gerard had passed away a year later.
One of the reasons why Ianna had helped the second prince usurp the throne when she was twenty-seven was because she served him, but the other was because of Gerard's death. Gerard had been purged by Luria, the current king's, Fernando's, mother, who was also the previous king's first lover.
The reason that he had been purged was simple. It was because Luria had disliked Gerard for giving Fernando, a puppet ruler, good counsel and teaching him good kingship. Luria's was the first head that Ianna had gruesomely taken during the rebellion, and she had offered it before Gerard's grave.
"Is there something you're curious about?"
Ianna, who had been staring at the kindly smile on Gerard's face, lowered her eyes. Her eyelashes fluttered. Ianna had crossed over many long years and was reborn after having grown cold-hearted and she was no longer the young and frail child that she had been in the past, but she could not help that her heart grew heavy when she saw the kind smile on Gerard's face.
"No. I am simply anticipating our lesson, teacher."
"Haha, what happy words. Then, let's begin. We'll go over the Roanne royal family and the Bahamut imperial family today."
Gerard was both a historian and a political scholar. He taught Ianna history and the circumstances behind how that history had come to pass. Their lessons were lessons that Ianna, who did not recall every little detail from her past, would have to take no matter what even if Gerard hadn't been her teacher.
Their lessons focused mainly on their homeland, Roanne, and their enemy nation, Bahamut. The people of Roanne learned about other nations too, but it was their duty to learn as about their longtime enemy as they learned about their own kingdom.
"I told you in passing last time. That Roanne has four princes and two princesses, while Bahamut has one crown prince and one crown princess. Since you're a member of the nobility, I'm sure you at least know the names of your own kingdom's royal family, yes?"
"But of course. The Roanne royal family's names consist of three parts —the given name, the mother's name, and the surname, which takes after the kingdom itself. The king, however, is allowed to choose his own name in the lieu of his mother's name, and his wives do not carry a second name. In order, the reigning king's name is Harios Maxium Roanne, his queen is Muziniel Roanne, and he has two concubines, Luria Roanne and Lezè Roanne."
"The king's children are the first and crown prince Fernando Luria Roanne, second prince Schneider Lezè Roanne, third prince Saiwè Luria Roanne, forth prince Linus Muziniel Roanne, first princess Lyxillia Muziniel Roanne, and second princess Angelina Muziniel Roanne."
"Good, you know them well. We'll slowly go over the kingdom's state of affairs later and focus on the Bahamut imperial family for today."
Ianna subconsciously began thinking about Arhad.
Arhad Ro Ralzo Bahamut, the emperor of her enemy empire who had pierced her through the heart during their final battle. She could not forget the mad desire to possess that had shone brightly and freely from the depths of his eyes that day.
"Bahamut is currently controlled by Philliad Sarvon Bahamut, whose policies are much more moderate than his more radical predecessors before him, and standing beside him is the empress, Shailince Bahamut. And there are so many women in the emperor's harem that it's impossible to name them all. Their only purpose is to keep the emperor entertained at night. However, the only children in the imperial family are the crown prince Taylon Bahamut and crown princess Isabel Bahamut."
Ianna stopped in the middle of jotting down her dense lesson notes. That was right. Arhad Ro Ralzo Bahamut was not a part of the imperial family yet.
Gerard continued speaking about the imperial lineage of the Bahamut empire.
"Philliad Sarvon Bahamut had relations with countless women, but he only acknowledged the children born to his empress. That being said, it's not that he has any children born to the women in his harem that he simply refused to acknowledge, either. This holds true not only for Philliad, but also for the previous emperors before him. Do you know what that means?"
"It probably means that he either killed all of his other children before they were born or he killed all of the women as soon as they became pregnant. Or, he forced the women to abort."
"Yes. Everyone cites one reason as for why the Bahamut bloodline is so rare. That it is because the imperial family is obsessed with the purity of their bloodline and practice intermarriage."
Ianna narrowed her eyes and stared down at the black ink on the page that symbolized the Bahamut Empire. She had already known about it, but it still brought down her mood to hear its history again after being reborn.
Arhad, who had been just as obsessed about the sword as she was; Arhad, who had desired her over any other.
He was the hidden prince of this horrendous empire.
"The empress, Shailince Bahamut is also the emperor's younger sister. Only the imperial family knows why they obsess so much over their bloodline. It could just be their culture."
The Bahamut imperial family had always practiced intermarriage throughout history. It wasn't as though no other country practiced intermarriage, but the Bahamut imperial family took particular care not to let their blood escape the confines of their direct lineage.
"And as for the Bahamut imperial family's appearance……."
"They are black."
Their hair was so dark that it felt like the color would stain you if you touched it, and their black eyes seemed to swallow the light whole. The Bahamut royal family was infamous for being monotonous in color.
"And what of their skill in battle?"
"They are known as the strongest."
Those who had fought against the powerful emperor of Bahamut and the members of the imperial family in the war over a decade ago always portrayed them as demons. Most notably, the now-retired general of the royal guard, who was a survivor the war, had written about the crown prince of Bahamut in his essay, "The Demon of War".
I had thought him as but a young prince. I was the general of the royal guard tasked with protecting the royal family, and I was confident in my skills. But what I faced on the battlefield was not some young prince. It was the spawn of a demon. I froze where I stood the very moment I locked eyes with the prince, who was dyed in Bahamut's mad lust for war, and I was sure that I was going to die. His black pupils were not simply pupils.
He was a demon. No, even if he wasn't a demon, it was obvious that he had inherited the strength of one. If not, then how could he have made me, one of the strongest knights in the kingdom, feel like I was falling into a bottomless abyss and make me want to turn tail and flee?
The demon curled the edges of his lips into a smile and split my sword evenly in two.
"The Demon of War" was criticized for overexaggerating, but the tales of the Bahamut imperial family's long history made their strength seem to transcend the imagination even without the accounts written in the essay. Roanne suffered a great number of losses to the Bahamut military whenever they tried to cross the Lotso Mountains, but the kingdom merited praised for having been able to fight off the empire for hundreds of years.
'Arhad was also awfully strong…….'
Ianna thought that there might be something special about the Bahamut imperial family's bloodline. It was not possible for the entire family to be such monsters otherwise. It would also shine light on why they were so obsessed in maintaining its purity.
But Arhad was a bastard child who also had other blood running in his veins. Arhad, whose mother had escaped from the harem, did not have the characteristic black eyes of the imperial family —his eyes were a brilliant gold. He was not of pure blood.
And yet, he had massacred the imperial family who had been hellbent on eliminating him and had ascended the throne. In other words, he was much stronger than the imperial family. This would mean that intermarriage had not prevented the imperial family's abilities from leaking outside of their direct lineage.
Ianna sat back down in her chair after the lesson was over and she had politely seen Gerard off. She tapped her pen against the word 'Bahamut' that was written on the paper in front of her before taking out a fresh sheet and placing it beside the first. Then, she scrawled 'Arhad Roygen' on top of the page with her quill pen. She slowly toyed with her pen as she began writing down everything that she knew about the man.
He is unparalleled in his skill with the sword and in his control over mana.
He became the emperor at twenty-nine.
The people of the Bahamut Empire praised him as a supreme ruler.
He conquered the entire continent by controlling not only people, but also monsters.
Then, her quill pen flinched once and stopped moving entirely.
The things she had written down just now were things that other people had known about him as well. However, Ianna did not know anything else about him. Arhad had been a rival who was always a few steps ahead of her in the path of the sword, and he had also been a threat to the kingdom.
Ianna voiced her distress before she knew what she was doing after having thought that much through. She had realized how ignorant she was about the real Arhad other than the fact that he was both a swordsman and an emperor.
Her eyes had been too clouded by hostility to truly look at him, she had made no attempt to listen to anything he had to say, and she had rejected any opportunity to get closer to him.
She knew him better than any other as an absolute being who walked toward the same peak of swordsmanship as she did, but she was also more ignorant of him than any other when it came to personal relationships. Her heart had been so strongly set afire by the desire to emerge victorious against him that she had only ever fought him without knowing anything about him.
Ianna took a deep breath. She tapped against Arhad's name with her pen.
'I wonder where Arhad is right now and what he's doing?'
She could not connect Arhad to the Bahamut empire at the moment. He had appeared on the world's stage as a blood-related prince of the empire out of nowhere. The first time Ianna had seen him was at the Youth's Swordsmanship Tournament that had been hosted by the Roanne royal family.
'And before that?'
She could not say. All she knew about him right now was the fact that his name was Arhad Roygen.
For some reason, what caught Ianna's attention was the surname that Arhad had personally introduced himself to her with —Roygen— instead of Arhad Ro Ralzo Bahamut, the name he had taken as the emperor, or his given name, Arhad, which he had entered the Youth's Swordmanship Tournament under. 'Roygen' could be the key with which she could find him.
Ianna shook her head as she rose from her seat. She erased the name 'Roygen' from her mind. What was the point of looking for him when there wasn't anything she could do as of yet? She knew that she would meet him for sure during the national tournament right before she turned nineteen.
Ianna wanted to beat him. She did not have the time to waste over pointless delusions and speculations.