Commoners were always curious about one thing. Who ranked the nobles?
There was no definite standard, but higher-rank nobles would know when they saw it. A Viscount could see if one was Baron or a Viscount, and a Count could see who was Count and a Viscount.
Then who knew if one was a Duke?
Only a Duke could do that.
All the nobles on the continent were excited.
<The coronation of Duke is about to commence!>
It was a rare moment when a Duke appeared. There was only one way to decide. It was to fight another Duke. There was no need to do this, but it was a continued transition. The last Duke that reached the rank went to fight the new one.
Everyone was excited to see this fight. The most recent coronation of Conrad was done in secrecy, so it was even more interesting.
Karltonheim and Conrad openly announced it and invited people to come.
<Come and see if you can survive our fight.>
But no nobles were scared enough. In fact, no one wanted to be considered a chicken so everyone was on their way now. Besides, it was a great honor to see a fight between Dukes.
Viscount Cocul was one of them.
Sian, Stiel, and Viscount Cocul were now on their way, crossing the great plains at an incredible speed.
"So are those Barons not coming together?"
"Unlike Karltonheim Estate, Our land has a lot of Narijas around, so it's better that they stay behind."
"Karltonheim's place is safe?"
"Yes, they eradicated most of the hostile races about 300 years ago when some Alpha appeared. There are only weak or friendly races left there."
"That's interesting. Did people have experience with such things?"
Nobles were afraid of the birth of a Rotan level race. The Swarm, or Murakan disaster was about 3000 years ago and since even Dukes only lived for 1000 years, it was weird that people were so scared about those races when they had no firsthand experience seeing them.
Then Cocul shivered at some bad memory.
"No, it's nothing. I just remembered…"
Cocul then explained everything.
"What… so you experience that when you become a noble?"
"It's when we go to get the Ciculus Tree… Yes."
All nobles, except new Barons, wanted a Ciculus Tree to help grow their estate. This tree was now being distributed by the Lorvall family. It was developed by the Ciculus family, but Marquis Ciculus passed the duty onto Lorvall after becoming a Duke.
Nobles then went to the Lorvall family to get the tree, but they were all forced to pay a huge price.
<I… I won't ever go for a second tree.>
Nobles spoke of the same thing after coming back from the Lorvall family.
<It looks like you don't see what the point in having an estate. You need to know the gravity of the problem. You can let the Narijas pass, but you can't do that with the Rotans. We will show you why.>
Then they dragged the noble into Murakan territory. And then they taught the nobles the terror of Rotans.
After pushing them back in a few more times, they were finally given the tree.
"Wow, they are hardcore too."
Lorvall family enforced very primitive ways to enforce things upon nobles, but it worked very well. It was what helped the human race prosper on this land.
"And… they force us in there when we go up a rank."
The higher the rank, a longer the captive of Lorvall family. But they always spoke of the same thing.
<You all live for hundreds of years. This is nothing. It's all for your benefit.>
They did become much stronger as they stayed in Rotan territory, but nobody loved coming back from a life-threatening fight.
"So, it's like the Great North Wall, but a forced one."
Three of them kept moving while they talked. Cocul seemed to know which way they need to head toward so they didn't need to stop by any other estates on the way. He was a bit slow, but Sian wasn't in any hurry and it was good to talk with a person who knew a lot about this world.
After a long journey, they now saw something appearing over the horizon.
Stiel was confused. The resonance seemed to be too far to be close.
"Yes, that's the Ciculus of Karltonheim Estate."
Stiel was in awe. It was huge. There was no word to describe its sheer size. The tree back at the Locke Estate was nothing like it. It was as big as a mountain.
"Haha, well we call it <Vladek>, which means Black Snake. The trunk resembles a snake's scales."
"It even has a name?"
"Yeah, there aren't many Ciculuses that are owned by Marquises. Beside, Karltonheim's tree is unique."
"Did you remember that all nobles get their trees from the Lorvall family?"
"But some Marquis Ciculuses are different."
"Why is that?" Stiel asked.
Cocul grinned. "Please guess the age of that tree."
"I guess it's much more than tens of years."
"Right. That tree was born since the founding of Ciculus. It was planted when the noble numbers went down drastically after the Murakan and Swarm disaster."
"Doesn't it need the energy of nobles?"
"Correct. It was a time when the human race dwindled and other Rotan races came into power. All nobles and commoners had to join forces around the Marquis. There were twenty-one Ciculus Trees planted at that time while the Lorvall family held the Swarm and Murakans back."
"After that, Counts or Viscounts went on to create their own land with different trees. So that <Vladek> is one of them. It's over three thousand years old."
"Twenty-one… so only the strongest Marquis had them?"
"Yes. Not all the Ciculuses of the Marquis are the same. And there is a name for those twenty-one Ciculus Trees."
"What is it?"
"It's called the <Nest of Marquis>."
"Marquises who owned those trees usually became Dukes in the end. It also means you need that kind of a tree to provide you its Akra to become a Duke. Another Marquis takes over when the previous Marquis leaves after becoming a Duke."
"I see. So it was raised by many nobles then."
"Yes. We can safely assume that the tree raises a Marquis in that case. I heard that the Dukes who trained under those Ciculuses came to have special powers."
They talked more about it and were now by the Vladek's roots.
"Where are we going to stay?"
"Nobles can stay within the trunk. There should be a lot of nobles that have gathered already."
"Yeah, we heard Duke Conrad will be coming soon. Please, this way."
Cocul then took Sian and Stiel inside.
"Which tree did he train upon?"
Karltonheim thought as he read through information about Duke Conrad. He thought Conrad came to power without training by a tree, but he seemed to have a lot of magic to be considered as such.
"I'll see once I fight him," Karltonheim mumbled, smiling for the upcoming battle.