Chapter 120

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The entrance to the mercenary guild was made of aged wood, as was the rest of the building. It opened and closed to admit a robed figure. There were a few mercenaries in the guild who’d come to collect their quests, but they barely spared the figure a glance.

Joshua smiled to himself. Every mercenary guild was the same, no matter how far apart they were: gloomy and heavy. There was no war on—the Swallow Empire had abandoned its little war against the Principality of Thran. The guild was just always like this.

Why? Because mercenaries’ allegiance belonged to whoever paid them. A friend today could be an enemy tomorrow. Even worse were the wretches with no morals to begin with. Joshua had become intimately familiar with this situation in his past life.

Mercenaries fought purely for the sake of survival. They weren’t knights who, although they could be called up to battle at any time, spent most of their days devoted to personal training. Even when they went to war, they only fought on their house’s lands. Every day of a mercenary’s life was stained with blood. Monster taming, transporting valuable artifacts, exploring ruins, fighting in territorial conflicts—all this and their names would never be known.

“I came here to train as a mercenary.”

The receptionist looked up at him glumly.

“Over there.” He pointed irately. “They’re the ones in charge of the mercenary examination.”

“Thanks.” Joshua offered him a short bow and walked away.

“I’m here for the mercenary exa—”

“Fill out these papers and give them back to me.” The young, surprisingly attractive brunette dismissed him without a glance. Joshua grinned sourly and took the paper.

It was a one-page pamphlet. Quite straightforward, really: place of birth, given name, past work experience, and motivations. There was just one problem.

“I’m not here for the Bronze Card,” Joshua said. “I’m here for the Silver one.”

The woman’s eyebrows twitched, though she still wasn’t paying attention to Joshua.

“Please hand me your bronze card, and I need proof of successfully completing 100 or more 2-Star quests—”

“I’m not a mercenary yet, but I know there’s a way to get a Silver Card immediately.”

“Haaa?” The employee stood up angrily.

Then she blinked.

“Oh…” She peered at Joshua’s face under his robe. She saw a pointed nose and fair skin and electric-blue eyes that were deep as the abyss.

Jenny, a veteran receptionist at the mercenary guild, could honestly say she’d never met anyone as attractive as the one in front of her now.

“Um… You see…” Jenny blushed.

“Did that guy in the robe just say he wanted a Silver Card immediately?”

“Are you getting too old to hear properly?”

“Is he serious?”

Jenny tensed uncomfortably as the voices prickled her ears.

“I’m not sure if you know,” she said, refusing to meet Joshua’s eyes, “but to get a Silver Card—”

Joshua drew a simple longsword from his robe, fashioned by a local blacksmith. Mana poured into the blade, filling the air with a short hum.

“A-Aura!”

“Did you just say aura? Is this kid B-Class?”

“Nonsense!”

The mercenaries laughed it off; after all, even in Haiburi Castle, one of the biggest cities in the Empire, fewer than 0.1% of every million mercenaries could wield aura. All sorts of people wound up in the mercenary guild.

“Oh my God…” Jenny’s eyes burned with passion. Superhuman beauty, and skills to match? After a lifetime of dealing with rough mercenaries, Jenny couldn’t believe what she was seeing.

“Excuse me…” Joshua stared awkwardly at the unresponsive receptionist. “The test…”

“Since you’ve come to us, we need to deal with you separately,” a voice said from behind him.

Joshua turned and bowed his head to the speaker. His eyes widened as he realized who it was.

“You’re—”


Darkness.

I can’t see.

Nothing but pitch black.

“The Emperor is beginning to make serious moves.”

The voice was strange and inhuman, like scraping iron, and seemed to come from every direction at once.

“He seeks to spark a global war by inciting their accumulated forces. Now that he’s concentrating on Duke Agnus, we don’t need to intervene. You could be called upon to play the most important part; are you capable of doing it? Remember, I am your father, first and foremost.”

“I only have one father.” This voice sounded like a young man.

“There is no need to be concerned about Duke Agnus at this time,” a third, odd voice said. “The Emperor himself, and no one else, was responsible for this. You understand this, don’t you?”

“Yes,” the young man replied. “We’ve already set all of our preparations in motion.”

“Tell me, please.”

“The balance of power hinges on one person: Aden von Agnus. If he were gone, it would be a trivial effort for the Emperor to swallow the duchy. As you are aware, Babel von Agnus—no, Babel von Britten—is the Emperor’s child. He will succeed Duke Agnus and swallow the Agnus name.”

“And your plans?”

“For the time being, we allow the Emperor to go about his business. When the time comes, all we have to do is step in and offer our help. The Emperor will be drunk on victory and entrust Babel with the entirety of Agnus—at that point, I will personally execute Babel, the Duke of Agnus.”

“Yes… You would be most appropriate for the situation. Our presence must not be revealed to the world yet.”

“I will be careful.”

“Good.”

The strange voices vanished, and a dim glow began to illuminate the wall of the pitch-black chamber. It formed a pattern: a big six-pointed star lit in an unsettling blood-red glow.

That wasn’t the strangest change, however. The pale glow revealed the faces of two men trapped within the stiflingly still void. Somehow, two of the noblest of nobles had been brought together.

The first to speak was a young man with blonde hair and distinctive golden eyes.

“If you ever need assistance at the Imperial Palace, please, do not hesitate to contact me. I will embrace you with open arms if you—”

The other man burst into laughter.

“I will not be ensnared by your pretty words. I may have abandoned my country, but I still have pride in my accomplishments.”

“I didn’t mean it like that. Let’s be friends, shall we?”

“Friends?” The man’s smile stretched. “That’s an awfully nice thing to be talking about when your father threatens to leave this world at any moment.”

“He’s a monster with an obsession with killing. He was never a father to me.”

“You—” The man cackled, surprised. “You’re really something, Kaiser von Britten. Dense, too. Your hands haven’t been bloodied yet.” He shook his head and turned away.

“Draxia bell Grace.”

Draxia bell Grace, scion of the Swallow Imperial line, a military genius of mythic proportions… and Joshua’s most formidable adversary in his last life. He paused, just for a moment.

“My offer stands. In the meantime, I look forward to your next move.”

And so, two of Joshua’s murderers came face to face for the first time.

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