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    Early chapters of this series is currently being re-translated and proofread. So there may be discrepancies regarding character names, titles used, location names.

    Current re-translation status: Chp.1-25.

    Re-translated & Proofread: May 15th ’24

    ‘Among nobles, House Bratz is considered vulgar.’

    Such was the reputation of House Bratz in high society. Perhaps it was because they bordered the barbaric tribes at the frontier, along with numerous other marcher lords.

    In the distant past, the trumpets of war had been incessant, but after a superficial truce was established recently, various exchanges had become frequent.

    “Sir Ian. Your table manners are exceptional.”

    Ian, who had been hastily chewing his meat, snapped to attention at the old man’s praise. Was it sarcasm? Had he been so ravenous that he ate greedily without realizing it? Feeling strangely chastened, Ian cleared his throat, but the old man’s compliment was sincere.

    “Your son has acquired remarkable refinement. Surely it is thanks to the excellent guidance of Marquis Derga.”

    “You flatter me, Sir Mollin.”

    Derga Bratz, the head of House Bratz, was baffled by his son’s transformation in mere seconds, yet he maintained a ceremonial expression. Glancing at Ian, Derga replied.

    “Well, the blood of Bratz flows through his veins, so it’s only natural. Please put in a good word for us to His Majesty.”

    “Of course, Marquis.”

    At their cryptic exchange, Ian ceased his chewing.

    His Majesty? Do they mean me?

    No, wait a moment. Did they just say Bratz?

    ‘Come to think of it…’

    His hands holding the fork and knife were too small and skinny. His seated viewpoint was also low.

    Perplexed by the inexplicable situation, Ian swallowed his food and reached for his wine glass.

    “Ah.”

    The glass contained not wine but a beverage. Moreover, the unfamiliar face reflected in the round glass was not his own. Ian nearly spat out his drink, forgetting all decorum.

    “Ahem!”

    As he grabbed a napkin to cover his coughing fit, the boy across from him sneered.

    “Tsk, tsk. Would you look at that? And here I thought he was doing well.”

    “Chel. If your brother makes a mistake, you should support him.”

    The boy called Chel pursed his lips in displeasure. Under the table, Marchioness Mary tightly grasped her son’s hand to rein him in.

    This was no ordinary meal.

    Sir Mollin was an official from the central palace, evaluating whether Ian possessed the qualifications to be adopted into House Bratz.

    Giving Chel a benevolent smile, Mollin focused on Ian once more.

    “Sir Ian. I hear you have been studying philosophy lately.”

    At Mollin’s abrupt question, Marquis Derga and his wife looked startled.

    After all, Ian couldn’t even write his own name. As the marquis’s illegitimate child born from his violation of a commoner outside the estate, he had not received a proper education. Wasn’t he the same boy who had been gulping down the water in the finger bowl at the start of the meal?

    “It’s not yet at a level where he can discuss it.”

    The marquis swiftly intervened, pretending to defend Ian. Yet his gaze toward Ian was sharp and knowing.

    ‘Stupid fool. I told you to memorize it.’

    They had crammed some lessons in preparation for Mollin’s questions, but it seemed the lowborn had already forgotten everything. The old man pressed on with a smile, undeterred.

    “Scholarship is always like that. It becomes solid through the clash of opinions. Sir Ian, what have you been learning recently? You’re sixteen, but I heard you haven’t attended school…”

    The nearly eighty-year-old man was kind yet robust. He had survived a lifetime in the central administration, where talents were cut down every other day. How could he not be formidable?

    With things having come to this, even the marquis could no longer defend him. Everyone’s attention turned to Ian.

    “Hmm.”

    Ian cleared his throat and wiped his mouth with a napkin. As the Bratz family expected, Ian was flustered.

    However, it wasn’t due to Mollin’s question, but because he had realized this was the backyard of a marcher lord’s estate.

    In the Bratz estate?

    In the body of an unfamiliar boy?

    He surmised that Naum’s space-time magic was involved, but he couldn’t be certain. Space-time magic inherently had location constraints, as it opened a passage connecting one point in time to another.

    In other words, one had to go there.

    But wasn’t Ian’s last memory in the underground prison? Moreover, he had never heard of traveling by borrowing someone else’s body.

    “Sir Ian?”

    “Ah. My apologies.”

    At Mollin’s prompting, Ian reflexively gave a refined response. It was a habit ingrained from the palace. Listening attentively, a smile conveying his intent. The marcher lord and his family had never seen Ian smile like that before.

    “Philosophy, you say? Philosophy…”

    Ian muttered a few times as if pondering.

    “May I answer in his stead, Sir Mollin?”

    Unable to endure it any longer, Chel, Ian’s half-brother, interjected.

    It was already maddening that Ian, an outsider, was the guest of honor at this prestigious meal. But for him to be adopted into the marquis family with his lowly blood? It was only natural for anger to surge within him.

    It was a foolish, even pathetic impulse to want to divert the adults’ attention from Ian to himself. Yet Mary’s sharp glare dampened his enthusiasm.

    “Chel. Sir Mollin asked Ian.”

    She was silently pleading.

    ‘My son. Please, just keep your mouth shut. This is all for your sake. We must adopt that lowborn child into the marquis family for you to live.’

    “I admire Master Fuhlen.”

    “Fuhlen?”

    Amid the commotion, Ian spoke softly. As if his appetite had vanished, he neatly set his utensils aside.

    Marquis Derga’s face turned deathly pale. It was a name he had never heard before. If you don’t know, just say you don’t know! Where did this nonsensical drivel come from?!

    “Yes. Although the Papal Court doesn’t approve, isn’t the humanism Master Fuhlen pursues a crucial question? Centering on humans, contemplating the truths created by humans, one can envision the true form of a monarch.”

    It was purely a matter of personal taste.

    For Ian, the daily lives of the starving commoners were far more important than philosophy or the humanities. His philosophical studies were mostly for show, so he had recited the name of a well-known intellectual he remembered.

    Marquis Derga rolled his eyes, gauging Mollin’s reaction. The old man seemed quite surprised and hesitated for a moment before leaning closer to Ian.

    “How do you know of Lord Fuhlen?”

    “Pardon?”

    But it was Marquis Derga who answered, not Ian. Mollin chuckled and shook his head repeatedly.

    “My, my. Being in the frontier, I arrogantly assumed that news from the central region would be delayed. I apologize to you, Marquis Derga and Sir Ian.”

    “No, not at all.”

    Mollin had noticed that the marquis was unaware of Fuhlen. Had he known, he would have furrowed his brows in displeasure rather than wearing that dumbfounded expression.

    “Lord Fuhlen is the youngest son of House Hawkman, who recently celebrated his coming-of-age ceremony. Despite his young age, he is the most exceptional among the exceptional, having entered Bariel University at the top of his class. Not long ago, he brought up humanism at a scholarly debate held in the palace, turning the world upside down.”

    It’s true that news is delayed in the frontier.

    It took a fortnight by carriage to reach Derga’s frontier territory from the capital. It was a fact unknown to the marquis or anyone else.

    While everyone turned to Ian in astonishment, Ian was also inwardly startled.

    ‘Master Fuhlen just celebrated his coming-of-age ceremony? I thought he was over a hundred years old.’

    Not only was he in an unfamiliar body, but it seemed he had also traveled back in time by nearly a century. It was an extremely, incredibly astonishing situation, but he showed no outward signs of it. It was thanks to his composure honed as an emperor.

    “I see. So you admire Lord Fuhlen’s philosophy. But you mentioned earlier that the Papal Court doesn’t approve. What does that mean?”

    “…Humanism emphasizes that nothing is more important than humans. The Papal Court, which reveres the divine, likely won’t take kindly to such a view.”

    “Hoho.”

    It was a perfect answer.

    Mollin felt the fatigue accumulated over the past fortnight dissipate.

    “Coming all the way here was worthwhile. I had no idea the new son of House Bratz was so brilliant. His Majesty will surely be pleased.”

    In fact, it wasn’t a big deal for a noble to adopt a bastard child. As noble and distinguished aristocrats, it was hardly gossip-worthy if they brought in an illegitimate child due to their inability to control their loins. Whether male or female, it was a tiresome happening that surfaced in high society whenever it was forgotten.

    However, Mollin’s next words were somewhat peculiar.

    “And the Cheonrye tribe will also welcome it.”

    ‘Cheonrye tribe?’

    Ian wracked his memory, recalling the familiar name. The Cheonrye tribe referred to the barbarians to the east of the border. His brilliance would be welcomed by the Cheonrye tribe?

    …In that case.

    ‘It seems I’m a hostage.’

    A bastard to be sent to the Cheonrye tribe at the border as the price of maintaining the truce.

    ‘I roughly understand the situation now.’

    The marquis grinned wickedly, placing his hand over Ian’s. Now that he grasped the situation, the marquis seemed like a demon wearing the mask of a benevolent father.

    “Ian. I have no doubt that you will become a symbol of peace.”

    A truce is an official agreement.

    Originally, it was customary to send the biological children of each leader, but the barbarians beyond the frontier were capricious and unpredictable.

    In fact, Marquis Derga’s second older brother had also died while crossing the border for a truce when he was young. They claimed it was an accident, but the truth couldn’t be ascertained.

    Given this, how could he possibly send his only legitimate son, Chel? He had hastily brought Ian, whom he had never paid attention to, to adopt him.

    ‘Naturally, the palace must have noticed.’

    However, even so, they couldn’t just send anyone. Through Mollin, they were testing Ian’s intelligence.

    The more brilliant the child to be sent, the greater the diplomatic leverage, which would benefit both sides.

    Of course, the autonomy of House Bratz in the frontier took precedence, so it was a half-hearted formality. But it could also be seen as the palace’s way of keeping the local aristocracy in check.

    “Ah.”

    Ian immediately grasped the situation.

    Even before his death, House Bratz had exchanged hostages like this numerous times to maintain the truce.

    In the end, they were brutally annihilated by the Cheonrye tribe in the future.

    It was a blunder that it took a fortnight for the dispatches to reach the central region. By the time the other lords and the emperor of that era arrived with their armies, it was already too late.

    ‘Was it my great-great-grandfather?’

    That incident had occurred during Ian’s great-great-grandfather’s time.

    The emperor had driven out the Cheonrye tribe and divided the territory among the nobles and knights who had fought alongside him, concluding the matter.

    “Ian?”

    Marchioness Mary called out to Ian.

    As if urging him to respond to the marquis’s words.

    It was a prompt for him to reaffirm his own duty.

    Ian smiled brightly and moistened his lips with water once more. Though he didn’t fully understand, he acknowledged one thing. Ian was not dead. He had been revived in the form of some unknown child.

    “Yes, Father.”

    At Ian’s sharp response, Marquis Derga grinned with satisfaction. With the exception of Chel, everyone laughed heartily, blessing the peace that Ian’s existence would bring.

    “Now, let’s eat.”

    Only then did Derga continue the meal with a relieved heart.

    Ian briefly surveyed his surroundings to grasp a sense of reality. More than anything else, the pounding of his heart reminded him that he was alive.

    ‘I have no idea how this happened.’

    If this was Naum’s magic, there was one way to confirm it. By visiting the palace’s separate residence and investigating for traces of Naum’s magic.

    However, the distance from the frontier of Bratz to the central region was over a fortnight, an eternally unreachable world for a child about to be sold to the Great Desert.

    Yes, such a world ‘had been.’

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