Chapter 170

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Theta was born in the Kingdom of Dryia, the coldest region of the continent. He had no idea who his parents were; he’d been raised with no concept of “home.” He staved off starvation and the freezing cold the only way an orphan could—by begging.

Theta was, though, content with his life. Better to live free, he thought, than to spend a lifetime as someone else’s servant.

His childish ideals would end in agony.

“Ughhhhh…” Theta, about six or seven years old, collapsed to the ground, his back twisted at a distinctly wrong angle.

“You don’t even know what you’re saying, and yet you dare speak rudely to me? Is that it?”

A group of people clustered around Theta’s battered body. It was easy to surmise that they were wizards from their distinctive robes; in fact, they were wizards of the royal family of Dryia.

“It’s such a bother to be roaming around like this, and then this beggar comes to talk to me—”

“Watch your words,” a middle-aged wizard snapped. “These are orders from the King himself.”

“S-Sir, I didn’t mean it like that!”

The older magician sighed. “The royal magicians of Terra do this at least twenty times a year. We barely manage half of that—so quit your whining.”

“Yes… I’m sorry.”

“Child.” The middle-aged wizard turned back to Theta. “This relic is far greater than you think.” He waved a transparent glass rod at Theta’s brutalized form and it began to emit a soft blue glow. “Do you know what this means? It means you don’t have to scrounge like the children over there. It means you’ll be above them.

“Thousands—no, tens of thousands—of people your age have been tested for mana sensitivity over the last decade, but none of them had a response as deep as yours.”

Mana sensitivity was not something that paid any heed to background or upbringing. Unlike knights, wizards were born, not made. Still, an extraordinary wizard needed extraordinary resources to flourish—the kind of resources only a country could provide. That meant that countries dispatched wizards all across their territory to find magically-talented children.

“Come along. We will need to conduct a more thorough study to confirm it, but if you’re as talented as I think, you’ll live a life that other people can only dream of.”

The wizard wielded the carrot and the stick expertly.

“I—” Theta coughed and bit his bruised lip. He knew that if he followed the wizard, he’d never be hungry again. But then, he’d never be free again, either.

“Hm?” The wizard noticed that Theta’s eyes pointed somewhere very particular, if only for a moment. “No way…” A smile danced on his lips. “You’re worried about them?”

He seemed to take Theta’s silence as an affirmative.

“Berkeley.”

“Yes, sir.” The younger wizard stepped forward.

“Has the tester responded to any of these children? Even slightly?” He pointed to the crowd of little beggar children.

“They’re trash.” The young man scowled at their ragged clothes.

“Then take out the trash.”

“Right away.” The young wizard looked at Theta and smiled viciously.

“N-No!” Theta thrashed violently.

“Humanity is useless for a wizard. Wizards would sell their souls for knowledge, if that’s what it took to become a Great Master.”

“I’ll do it! I’ll go with you! Just don’t hurt them…”

The waifs stared wide-eyed as the younger wizard approached them. He stopped and turned to look at Theta.

“It doesn’t matter what you think… but I’m gonna teach you a spell.” He flicked his hand casually and an orb of bright red flames appeared. “There’s nothing like fire magic when it comes to mass destruction. Watch and learn.”

“No, please—NO!”

“Gravity.” The older wizard pinned down Theta with a simple spell, forcing the boy to watch as the wizard closed in on the orphans. He seemed to be taking his sweet time so he could savor Theta’s screams.

“No!” Time seemed to slow to a crawl as the fireball homed in on the orphans.

If I’d just gone with them, this wouldn’t have happened.

If only I could rewind time, I’d do it a hundred thousand times.

I haven’t asked for anything until now! Please, please, just give me a miracle this once!

Someone, it seemed, was listening.

“Thunder Cannon.”

With a bang, the sky was split in two. A beam of pure light etched itself on Theta’s eyes as it stabbed into the earth.

Theta’s prayers were answered, in overwhelming fashion.


Why am I remembering this?

Theta escaped from his memories, but was still dazzled by Joshua’s lightning.

That day, Theta discovered what it was like to be surpassed. Joshua’s lightning was stronger than any magic he’d ever seen; it swept away Theta’s storm like it was nothing. Where the arena had once been filled with a raging tempest, now it only contained empty air—and a massive thunderbolt spear.

“This is…” Theta grinned sardonically. “It can’t be Bronto.” Primordial Stones may be known as divine artifacts, but even they couldn’t create this kind of power. Not on their own, at least.

But Joshua Sanders could. Maybe…

[I’ve changed my mind. Your probability of success… about five percent now, from what I see.]

Joshua met Theta’s eyes and smiled. A 5000% increase was nothing to scoff at.

[What a privilege.]

[Really, you…] Theta paused, thinking back to their first conversation. [Why do you want the highest seat? I don’t get it—You already have everything.]

[It’s a matter of principles. And, there’s no better way to protect the people I care about.]

Theta’s eyes widened. [To… protect them?]

[You may not be able to understand what I’m saying yet.]

Joshua abruptly turned around.

“Don’t understand? No,” Theta mumbled, “I understand better than anyone else.”

“Um…” The announcer nervously spoke up. “This match…”

Joshua opened his mouth. “From this point forward—”

“It’s over,” Theta interrupted. “I concede my defeat to Joshua Sanders, the representative of the Avalon Empire.”

The arena went eerily silent.

“Then…” The announcer cleared his throat. “Joshua Sanders wins the final match of Group A!”

The most anticipated match so far, the great clash of knight and wizard, had come to an end.

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