The colosseum was engulfed in a suffocating silence.
Priests and audience alike were enthralled by the pillar of holy light. The six judging Masters, and even the Paladins, led by Count Ford, stared blankly.
“My word… That’s absurd—an ordinary knight, not a holy knight, has divine power? He’s not even from Hubalt!”
“Hey, look!” A priest waved their attention to Akshuler. Unlike before, the mercenary’s wounds were healing remarkably quickly.
“Oh my God…!”
The unquenchable flames of annihilation popped and fizzed as they waned. Akshuler’s ruined flesh—and even his bones—began to heal, the awful bubbles of pus disappearing like illusions. The man himself stared blankly at it, but his expression was rapidly improving.
“I’ve never done this before, so…”
“Never done…” The priest gave Joshua an astonished look. “This is your first time using Recovery?”
“Well, it’s my first time using any holy magic.”
The gathered priests gasped in unison.
“I’ve never heard of you using holy magic… Are you saying you figured it out just by watching us?”
“It’s not very hard if you know the gist of it. Mana, wizard’s magic, and holy magic all follow the same basic flow of energy.”
Anyone listening would think Joshua had gone insane. In fact, it wouldn’t have been surprising if they stoned him then and there.
To begin with, all three energies Joshua had mentioned had distinctive, unique vessels; knights’ mana was stored in the mana hall beneath the abdomen; wizards’ mana was stored in a ring in the heart; and divine power was stored in the head, closest to heaven.
The difference in vessels entailed unique operating methods and principles; trying to use them together would result in a chaotic mix of negative energy. It was practically suicide.
Of course, none of this mattered to Joshua, because his ancient mana technique did not use a vessel at all.
Akshuler looked up from his glowing wound. “You could use divine power?” he asked.
“Just an imitation,” Joshua replied.
He received an incredulous look from Akshuler in return. “Look the priests in the eyes and tell them that.”
The priests all had their chins tucked in.
“What can’t you do? No, before that, are you really human?”
“I don’t know…” Joshua turned to Iceline, who jumped when she realized he was staring at him. “…Maybe I’m not human…”
Joshua smiled mischievously. Iceline soon realized she’d been pranked and scowled.
“He’s a human being all right,” she noted. “Tell us in advance so we’re not surprised if we don’t get the chance to prepare.”
“You should always be ready,” Joshua quipped back.
Akshuler burst out laughing while the crowd stared at them, dumbfounded.
“This is… impossible. The High Priest was telling the truth the whole time?” Count Ford pushed his way to the front of the audience, only to stare in disbelief.
“It seems we were wrong.”
Marquis Moreland’s expression was grim.
“If he uses his divine powers, even if he swears by demons and wields them freely, no one would take us seriously. Demons can’t use divine power.”
“Then why—Sir Christian—? No, how…?”
“Count Ford. Now is not the time to play with jealousy.”
“Face reality clearly. Consider your next choice wisely—unfortunately, there’s nothing we can do about it at the moment.”
The Marquis smiled bitterly while Count Ford seethed.
“It seems our Hubalt Empire is done with this year’s Master Battle.”
“Congratulations on your victory, Your Majesty.”
Ulabis nodded to the red-armored knights congratulating him.
“With Sir Christian of the Hubalt Empire withdrawing, Your Majesty is the only one left in Group B.”
Group B had only two new Masters, compared to Group A’s three. The rest of Group B returned to their homelands alone, most of them having not even attracted the judge’s attention. Some of them won their matches, but were too wounded to continue.
That said, this was one of the most prolific Master Battles in history. Normally, only one or two people became Masters.
“I went straight to the finals with one win? Not bad.”
Ulabis frowned and rubbed his wrist. It still ached from colliding with Akshuler’s gigantic hand. There was definitely something wrong with his bones.
“He certainly lived up to his reputation.” Ulabis chuckled. Akshuler was certainly no loser.
“The young member of the Seven Magicians, Theta, and Joshua Sanders of Avalon remain. Your Majesty’s final opponent will be decided by the final Group A match.”
“Seems there’s only real monsters left.” Ulabis sighed and shook his head. “Let’s go a little further.”
“As you wish.” The knights trailed after Ulabis.
“All right. If you keep bustling around, you’ll just attract people’s attention. This is fine.” Ulabis pulled on a frayed robe he’d stashed earlier.
“Where are you going, may I ask?”
“First, we’re visiting the temple. That’s all.”
The knight twitched.
“Are you hurt anywhere?”
Ulabis waved his hand dismissively. “It’s a minor injury. I just thought I should stay in peak condition given the opponent’s I’ll have to face. No need to worry.”
“If that’s the case, tell the organizers—”
The Prince shook his head. “It’s not a major injury. Don’t worry.”
“I’m still worried…” The knight trailed off, realizing that Ulabis was in less danger than the people of the Principality attending the Battle. The Prince was taking their safety into account.
“I’ll be right back, then.”
“Please be careful, Your Majesty.” The red knights bowed neatly to Ulabis as he left.
The knights appeared to treat him casually, but their respect ran deep.
Ulabis’s wound didn’t take long to treat; nevertheless, the sun had set by the time he left the temple.
The next place he went was a large, majestic building in the center of Reinhardt. Ulabis’s business was on the fourth of its five floors.
“I never would have imagined that the headquarters of the continent’s best intelligence guild would be in a place like this.” Ulabis examined the luxurious interior appreciatively.
“Isn’t that what you call confidence, Prince Ulabis?” A man smiled at the Prince. He was spectacularly unremarkable—it was Jero, former head of the Arcadia branch of Moon Gate and an acquaintance of Joshua’s. “I regret that we can’t serve you on the top floor as someone of your status deserves. Our captain is currently away. I hope you understand.” Jero bowed his head politely.
“No.” Ulabis shook his head. “Rather, I wanted you.”
“Me?” Jero tilted his head.
“The information I want is directly related to you.” Ulabis’s burning eyes bored into Jero. “I am buying information on… Joshua Sanders. Even when he was named Joshua von Agnus.”
“One million gold. I want to know everything about Joshua Sanders. Can you do it?”
“As you know, Joshua Sanders is one of our valued customers. Hs is also the only being on the continent who knows the whereabouts of certain assets that are critical to our organization.”
“Are you trying to bargain with me?”
Jero shook his head.
“The value of the information has changed dramatically. Joshua von Agnus and Joshua Sanders are completely different people.”
Ulabis scowled. “So, how much do you want?”
Jero smiled bitterly.
“100 million gold. Information on Joshua Sanders is 100 million gold.”
Ulabis went deathly silent.
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