“Manager!” Jenny sobbed.
“Manager?” Joshua’s brow wrinkled.
A huge man stood before Joshua—as big as Viper. Unlike Viper, he had plain brown hair and a shaggy beard you’d expect to find on your neighbor. That wasn’t what Joshua was thinking about, however.
I’d never imagined such a powerful man would be a branch manager. And this sensation is familiar…
“Greetings.” The man bowed his head. “I am Haiburi Castle’s mercenary guild manager, Aiden.”
Despite his introduction, Joshua remained tight-lipped. He noted that Aiden was actively hiding his strength, but it was difficult to hide from someone equally as strong.
A-Class, at minimum. He’s a branch manager?
A branch manager was not a particularly high position within the mercenary guild. It was called the “honey sucking” position because it was assigned by participation, not ability. The guild tended to offer branch manager positions to seasoned mercenaries looking to retire. A branch manager could not be sweeping through the battlefield, even if he tried.
There’s only two mercenaries that are this strong: the mercenary king, Barbarian, the pinnacle of mercenaries and first of the Twelve Superhumans; and the sole mercenary participating in the Master Battle, the formidable Akshuler.
But this “branch manager” was not either of them. Joshua would know—before he joined up with Kaiser, he’d spent most of his life as a mercenary.
They have the same physique, but… Joshua hesitated. No way…
“You were asking about a position?”
“Yes,” Joshua said, eyes sparkling. “I am.”
Aiden couldn’t get a read on the robed man sitting in front of him, calmly sipping his tea. He felt his heart flutter nervously but he tamped it down.
I can’t feel anything coming from him.
People like this fell into three categories.
One, an average citizen who has never learned the sword—but he’d seen this man wield aura on his blade with his own two eyes.
Second, he had mastered a technique for concealing his energy. Aiden dismissed the idea after only a moment of thought—only assassins learned these kinds of skills, and this man moved far too openly to be an assassin.
That left one option.
This young gentleman… is stronger than me. Aiden swallowed nervously.
As if on cue, Joshua quietly set his teacup down.
“I believe we understand each other better now that we’re face-to-face.”
“What do you mean—”
“Shapeshifting. I’m astonished that Laypone’s artifact is already working so well—”
“Identify yourself.” Aiden’s eyes sharpened. “I don’t believe that someone who knows a secret like that came just to get a Silver Card.” He glared at Joshua with cold anticipation. “What happens next depends on your answer.”
“I’m not a nobleman yet,” Joshua replied with a chuckle, “but I will be.”
He pulled his robe away.
“You’re—!” Even Aiden was momentarily stunned by Joshua’s appearance. More beautiful than an elf, more powerful than he was.
“I believe that Akshuler, the commander of a million mercenaries, would surely recognize me.”
“Yes… I suppose you’re right.” Aiden’s eyes remained glued to Joshua’s face. “The monster of Reinhardt; a genius among geniuses. Baron Joshua Sanders, the star…” He sighed.
Of course he knew the rumors. He always thought that, no matter how talented Joshua was, the boy was only 15 years old. He figured that Joshua was a naive boy and that if they ran into each other at the Master Battle, Aiden would just stomp him.
Aiden couldn’t smile now.
“There are two requirements for earning a Silver card immediately,” Joshua stated. “One, being able to use a bare minimum of mana; two, finishing a 4-Star quest to prove you’re not bluffing. Is that correct?”
“That is true, but… you’re an aristocrat. I can’t give you a card so easily.”
“Anyone who cares to look would say I’ve already finished the task.”
“If they believe the rumors. With you sitting in front of me now, it’s going to be even harder—that’s why I can’t give you the card.”
Joshua snorted and laughed.
“Since when did the cards have so much meaning?”
“Mercenaries offer their talents to customers. Customers pay mercenaries for their services. That’s how it’s always been, even since the days of Desu Dembaba, the first mercenary king.”
“Mercenaries are loyal to money, and nothing but. It’s very simple.” Joshua leaned in. “I’ll ask you again: all I want is to offer my talents and be paid for my services. What else do you need?”
Aiden sighed. Just as he said, mercenaries care for nothing but money. What does it matter if other people talk?
“I understand… I’ll issue a request.”
“However,” Aiden continued, “there’s something I need to verify first.” He narrowed his eyes at Joshua. “This is a personal matter—unrelated to the mercenary guild.”
“If possible, I want you to tell me everything you know.”
Joshua examined Aiden for a moment.
“If I can.”
“Laypone’s artifact. I’m absolutely certain that it remains secret. I can’t not believe it, because the name was decided only recently. So,” Aiden said, his eyes gleaming, “How on earth do you know its name and capabilities?”
“Laypone, a body-altering artifact named after the creator’s family—specifically her father,” Joshua recited from his past life’s memory. “She made it to evade capture. I’m sure you can deduce the connection with my birthplace.”
“Duke Agnus,” Aiden mumbled.
“Let me meet her. Then you’ll understand.”
Aiden’s head drooped thoughtfully for a long moment.
“I’ll let you meet her—after you’re recognized in the guild.”
“However you like.”
“Additionally, your assigned mission will be…” He paused, giving Joshua a stern look. “Five stars.”
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