Slowly but surely, Hermes and Katia would continue to widen their influence, racking up accomplishment after accomplishment.
Droves of nobles began voicing their support for Katia. For their lot, though, this was simply business as usual. A certain someone, however, was becoming harder and harder for them to ignore: Hermes. The spectacle Astor made of blowing his cover was instrumental in this, no doubt.
In no time, the nobles put two and two together, realizing that the boy genius banished from his household long ago was none other than Katia’s servant, a man capable of casting spells so all-powerful that it was mistaken for Bloodline Magic.
While Katia basked in the limelight, Hermes was gaining traction—perhaps even more than her—out of the spotlight.
“That boy truly is the prodigy he was made out to be.”
“Perhaps his own genius was simply too great, which is why it took this long to develop?”
“Though I must say, banishing a boy at the young age of 10 is much too cruel. Marquess of Flembreed had no eye for true talent, after all.”
“The Flembreeds were once dukes, renowned for their magical talent and tireless dedication to the kingdom since its inception. A fall from grace, if I’ve ever seen one…”
“—or so those half-witted nobles say, oblivious to the truth. Care to explain?”
Gathered in a room of the royal palace was Zenos, patriarch of the Flembreeds and subject of their rumors; as well as his son Chris, older brother of Hermes.
Second Prince Astor sat upon his throne, their downcast expressions reflected in his sullen gaze. “What do you two have to say for yourselves? Surely you don’t believe banishing Hermes was a mistake… do you?”
“I-I w-w-would never, Your Highness!” Zenos fiercely agreed, ready to throw himself at Astor’s knees. His face had aged considerably since throwing out Hermes. “I can assure you Hermes is incapable of using Bloodline Magic, a failure in every respect! Throwing him out immediately was the correct decision! I have utmost confidence that he, like Miss Katia, is involved in a conspiracy most dubious!”
“Right. Riddle me this, then: Just why do these idiotic rumors continue to spread?”
The brutally cold tone in his voice left no room for excuses, however, and he redirected his torrent of abuse to Chris, “And don’t get me started on the maggot curling up into a ball beside you. Chris, when I ordered you to capture Katia, you came crawling back empty handed. You were driven off by Hermes, weren’t you?”
“W-What!? Y-Your Highness, how do—”
“Ah, so it was Hermes. And you, despite having full knowledge of this, decided it best to keep it secret from me.”
“!!!” Sheer terror written all over his face, Chris hung his head, regretting ever having given a false report out of his own foolish pride.
“Your inability to admit your wrongdoings shows the extent of your competence, Chris von Flembreed.”
“Forgive me! Please, forgive me!”
“That was Hermes?! Chris, my boy, you… you goddamned IDIOT!!” Zenos struck his son’s head, enraged to learn that Chris, his newly appointed successor, had suffered defeat to Hermes, the very boy he once cast aside.
“That goes for you too, Zenos von Flembreed. I ordered you to find out what unholy witchcraft Katia and Hermes were practicing, so why is it that you’ve yet to report anything of value?”
“E-EEEEEEEEP!!” Zenos shrieked with a start, shuddering violently.
“Y-You aren’t any better, Father!” Chris exclaimed, pouncing at the opportunity to deflect the blame.
Indifferent to the unsightly quarrel before him, Astor muttered to himself, “…How aggravating. This country is just crawling with imbeciles. Why can no one carry out my orders to my satisfaction? Why does everyone insist on getting in my way? And why is there no end to the cretins who insist that they are superior?! There is no one, and I mean NO ONE,” he said with utmost confidence, “who is better than ME!!!”
Eustia, the feudalistic nation of magic, was home to the Eustian royal family, the country’s ruling class.
This was where the second prince in line, Astor Joseph von Eustia, was born.
“By the Gods, this child is a genius!” joyously exclaimed Astor’s father, the king. He lifted the newborn child in his arms, having cast a simple mana-measuring spell on him. “How vast, how vivid his mana is! I can see it, this child is destined to become the leading magician of our family, the Hero Prince! “
Astor had an exceedingly pampered childhood, even by royalty standards; and to no one’s surprise, he grew up to be a spoiled little brat from hell. Whether this was due to the king’s expectations for him, or part of someone’s schemes, was yet to be known.
Had Astor met someone more talented than him somewhere down the line, however, he should’ve, to some extent, been taken down a peg or two.
Astor wasn’t just any genius, though.
He soaked up his instructor’s teachings like a sponge, possessed photographic memory, boasted immense physical prowess, and saw steady yet substantial growth in his mana without needing to lift a finger.
And no matter how selfishly he behaved, there wasn’t anyone above him in authority or ability to discipline him.
Indeed, when Astor was only four years old, he wanted to see who had better command over their mana: him, or his tutor. Suffice to say, Astor utterly crushed his tutor, which only led him down a darker, more narcissistic path.
However, even Astor, in all his genius, would experience his first setback.
“What? There’s someone more talented in magic than me, you say?”
“I-It is mere hearsay, Your Highness! Although, the head of their household was boasting quite a bit about it…” said one of his servants.
Astor brushed it off with a laugh and asked, “And did you catch his name?”
“I, uh, believe it was… Hermes, son of Marquess of Flembreed.”
Intriguing. I’ll see what he’s really made of first-hand.
And it just so happened that Marquess of Flembreed would be visiting the royal palace with Hermes just days after his servant informed him of said rumor.
The day Hermes arrived, Astor felt on top of the world. He crept up to him from behind, thinking he’d teach him the lesson of a lifetime—that in life, there was always someone better than you.
Then, he took one good look at him.
A single thought raced through his mind:
I can’t beat him.
What the hell is that?
How can someone have mana so pure, so beautiful, so vast? He’s even the same age as me.
Then and there, Astor retreated to his bedroom and wrapped himself in a blanket. “This is impossible… completely inconceivable…!” he muttered, quivering.
Astor, who never doubted that he was the greatest magician of them all, was so shocked that he felt like the world was crumbling apart around him.
I can’t accept this—if I do, I’ll break, he thought. Yet, he hadn’t the courage to see Hermes once more.
Desperate, he threw himself into intense training the next day. He improved rapidly, earning the acclaim of those around him—but he still couldn’t see himself eclipsing that monster in the slightest.
No matter how hard he tried or struggled, he only felt his goal drift further and further away. It wouldn’t be long before he folded, unable to cope with the anguish from his wasted efforts, something he’d never once felt before.
He finally realized that he had to face it: That boy, Hermes, holds greater potential in magic than me.
But alas, his ego wouldn’t allow it.
Which is why he came to another conclusion instead:
“This is all just some big mistake. It has to be! There is no way that someone other than ME is the GREATEST MAGICIAN!!!”
And, by a twist of fate, his wish was granted.
When Hermes was seven years old, he was deemed unable to use Bloodline Magic—an “inept good-for-nothing,” as they say in Eustia.
I knew it! I just knew it!
In exchange for immense amounts of mana, he was born without Bloodline Magic. What good is all that mana for, then?
He’s no magician—he hasn’t the right to be! I am the best, ME!
He was now sure of three things:
That he reigned supreme over all other living beings, a man chosen by God.
That he should be followed and worshiped by all as the one bestowed with the mission to lead this country—this world—to prosperity.
And that he was the main character of mankind.
His beliefs, once broken, were now reaffirmed and ever unwavering, never to be changed by anyone ever again.
One day, one of his tutors taught him something during a lesson on ethics.
What does it mean to be a hero? To be noble? To be a man of justice?
I understand now. These are the characteristics that define who I am.
I needn’t do anything to change myself, as I was made to be perfect by Him. I know what is righteous, and I correct what is unrighteous.
I exterminate evil and carry out justice, like a true hero.
Like a true hero would, I took Katia as my bride, as she was worthy enough to stand by my side.
NOT because I wanted to steal her away from Hermes, sullying their good relationship as an act of revenge against the person who put me through such humiliation.
Like a true hero would, I voided my engagement with her, as I found her magic problematic.
NOT because I hated how she constantly breathed down my neck, or that I thought Sara’s looks and obedient personality were much more appealing—no, I’m above such vulgarity.
And like a true hero would, I attempted to detain Katia, as she rebelled against a perfect being such as me and conspired to throw the country into chaos.
NOT because I was infuriated by how she didn’t so much as think twice about ending a relationship with ME.
He believed this wholeheartedly and paraded this as the truth.
Everything had gone so well for him, after all. He knew he was undoubtedly in the right.
And this time wouldn’t be any different, either.
“…I just had an epiphany.”
“Huh…?” “A-And what would that be, Your Highness?” The two timidly spoke up. They’d been butting heads to distract themselves from the fear of being punished by Astor.
“The only reason they’re able to do as they like is because that sly old fox, Duke of Trakia, always gets in our way.”
“I-Indeed. Try as we may to detain them, he always uses his authority as Minister of Justice to stop us.”
“‘I cannot prosecute someone without anything to charge them with’ is his go-to excuse. It’s irritating, really…”
“So why don’t we just come up with the ‘criminal charges’ he so desperately requires?”
The two stopped dead in their tracks. They eventually realized what Astor meant, and asked, “Y-You mean… You wish to falsely accuse Lady Katia…?”
“I’m not falsely accusing her. Their lot is guilty of several crimes already,” Astor retorted. He then leaped from his seat and began a lengthy tirade, “HOWEVER! Those devious fiends kept their heinous crimes under wraps, pulling the wool over those moronic nobles’ eyes! Well, two can play that game! Sure, our nobility is riddled with imbeciles, but they’re our valuable subjects, the supporting pillars of our country. If we want to guide them to the truth of the matter, then I’ll need to mix in a few half-truths, just like I did during the party—a grand performance, if you will!”
“They think they have me beat, that they’re soo clever. I’ll show them, though. I’ll show them all what a truly well thought out scheme looks like, unlike the black magic they used to deceive everyone!” he said. The displeased expression on his face vanished, and in its place, he flashed a fearless smile, drunk on the genius of his own idea. “You will be cooperating with me on this matter, the both of you. I’d much prefer the two of you over some other noble, so long that you’re able to see the truth. And while you may have disgraced yourselves and lost my trust, I expect nothing less than glorious redemption!”
“Y-Yes, Your Highness!”
“I shall devote every fiber of my being to your cause!”
Hermes and Katia are gaining power through devilish witchcraft. What other explanation is there? Especially when there exists no magician superior to me? Anyone who thinks otherwise must be a deeply troubled and flawed individual, indeed.
Like Hermes, when he was deemed inept all that time ago.
Steadfast in his beliefs as ever, Astor and his blind followers would once again attempt to rewrite reality in his favor.
Finally done, will probably go back and edit here and there. Also decided to actually do a little research on the british peerages that these authors love so much and realized marquess is the english spelling, not marquis, so ill change it to that from here on out. Tried making it more in line with how actual nobles were named back then like i did with Marquess of Flembreed, probably still screwed it up doe. Got it from these two websites and some others: https://candicehern.com/regency-world/glossary/titles-and-forms-of-address/ and http://laura.chinet.com//html/titles02.html . More chaps coming relatively soon, thanks for reading and leave a like if you enjoyed.
Yeah, he’s a genius of being a moron and ignoring reality of his jealousy.
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Thats astor for you