Chapter 171

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In a calm woods not far from Reinhardt was a man who’d experienced defeat for the first time in his life. Theta was meandering through the trees wearing a little grin as he reminisced over the last day’s events.

“They say… there’s always a sky above the sky… by that logic, there’s no end to the interesting people.”

The match had barely ended, but the Tower would already know of his loss. Reinhardt had conveyed the news in real time to the entire continent using crystal balls. Everyone on Igrant would know he was a loser, but, for some reason, Theta didn’t feel all that bad. In fact, he was thrilled because he’d found a new goal.

“That magic was like nothing I’ve ever seen… Was Master’s magic better than that lightning?” Theta pondered it for a moment before shaking his head. The white beam of light was the most amazing sight of his life—when he was a child. It was an impressive feat of sorcery, but if he saw it today Theta had no doubt he would not be as impressed.

“To defend, and to become emperor…” Theta laughed. “He’s a weird, funny person. He reminds me of myself in a lot of ways. Maybe…” He stared into the sky. “Maybe it’s going to be an excellent partnership—”

Theta’s pocket buzzed. He grinned and produced a glowing crystal ball.

“Were you worried about your disciple? I see you won’t stop calling me.”

“I thought you’d be unhappy, but I guess not.”

“Oh my god! I’m so hurt. Grandpa Tower Master, why would you think of me like that?”

“I know that my disciple just got defeated by someone younger. Half your age, in fact.”

Theta scowled. “You wouldn’t be saying that if you met him,” he pouted.

“Was he that good?”

Theta was silent for a moment. His characteristic smirk disappeared.

“Better than anyone I’ve ever seen.”

Ian fell silent. Even with all his years of experience, that was a difficult statement to accept.

“Hey, even I didn’t believe it until I saw it,” Theta muttered.

“There’s something I want to share with you.”

“Hmph. If you’re just gonna get angry and nag me again, I’m going to cut the call—”

“I’m looking for someone to be the Vice Tower Master.”

Theta’s eyes widened. “You haven’t even filled Steropes’s seat and you’re already looking for a Vice Tower Master? The position has been empty for decades now. What made you come around?”

“Haven’t there been people telling me that I’m getting old? You have no interest in the Magic Tower, so what else am I supposed to do?”

Theta suddenly had an ominous feeling.

Why am I thinking about our conversation?

He shook his head. “So, who did you have in mind?”

The old man was silent for a long moment. Theta’s anxiety grew with every passing beat.

“Evergrant von Aswald. I’m going to give him another chance.”

The dreadful omen had come to pass.



Joshua returned to the hostel for the first time in a while. Unlike his normal, however, he was greeted warmly.

“You just barged into my home?”

“Oh, um…” Iceline looked flustered. “The door was unlocked, um… I wasn’t… planning on doing anything.” She’d rushed to his home before the other two got there, but evidently Joshua wasn’t as enthusiastic about it as she was. I’d never have imagined he’d be so frosty. Is he mad? Of course he is. Who’d want people intruding into their sanctuary? Iceline laced her trembling fingers together sadly.

Akshuler glanced at her and tried to choke down a laugh, but a giggle slipped out and he couldn’t stop his shoulders from bouncing.

“What do we do? It’s such a nice night, though. I thought fame wouldn’t change you, but I supposed I misread you. Sorry, Joshua.”

“…Everyone needs some privacy.”

“Don’t be so cold!” Akshuler gestured exaggeratedly. “Be a little kinder! She brought you a present for reaching the finals. Maybe it’s the present you need.”

Joshua remained stoic, but Akshuler was undeterred.

“If the rumors are to be believed, you desperately need this information.”

“Information?” Joshua looked a tiny bit interested.

“Before that…” Akshuler’s voice dropped. “I need to verify something—it’s related to the rumors I just mentioned. I thought it’d be best to ask the man himself.”

Joshua gave him a questioning look.

“The Pontiers—the 5th Duke—were having a situation. There’s been rumors that you and your troops have been aiding the Pontiers. I’ve been hearing them too often.”

Joshua was surprised that the Pontiers’ war with the Crombells had come up, but of course he knew exactly what Akshuler was talking about. Marquis Crombell’s successor, Gehog, had bad blood with Joshua as well.

“Of course, everyone decided that this was a clever ploy by Duke Agnus to pay his respects—because even the Imperial family has no motivation to assist a doomed family… except that changed a little while ago.” Akshuler shrugged. “No matter how talented you are, you’re only fifteen years old and only a B-Class Knight. But then you became battalion commander of the Imperial Knights; you even attracted the attention of the Emperor, such that he personally assembled a company for you to captain.” The mercenary sighed thoughtfully. “And then you go on to challenge the Master Battle and become one of the most promising Masters on the continent.

“In Avalon, interest in the name ‘Joshua Sanders’ is hotter than the Prince’s flames. You’re already a hero in Avalon.”

Joshua already had the story of a great hero. Even Iceline looked excited from listening to it.

“A lot of people are already wondering what kind of magnificent present the Emperor will bestow on you. He may be a tyrant, but he knows how to use the carrot and the stick.”

“So what exactly are you trying to ask me?” Joshua asked, annoyed by Akshuler’s rambling.

“Well, there’s only one answer to that, isn’t there: are you assisting the Pontiers of your own will, or the Duke’s? Just to be clear, your answer is going to change my gift.”

“I…” Joshua was momentarily dumbfounded; his blue eyes were wide with surprise. “Your will can not be bound to a choice. The results of a demand or an order cannot be considered your will.”

“Then you…?”

“I mean that I assist the Pontiers by my own will. I assist Iceline in uncovering the truth of Count Rebrecca by my own will.”

“Joshua…” A strange light burned in Iceline’s eyes. It was a subtle, tangled mix of emotions.

“Heh…” Akshuler chuckled. “Alright. That’s what I expected.”

“Then tell me,” Joshua urged. “What’s this information?”

Akshuler locked eyes with Joshua. “The Pontiers are in peril. And the people… It looks like you don’t know?” He groaned. “I don’t know if they didn’t tell you because they didn’t want to distract you from the Master Battle, but… he’s on the move.”

“No—” Joshua stiffened.

Akshuler nodded.

The Mercenary King, the apex of a million mercenaries.

“He appeared in the Marquisate of Crombell.”

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