Joshua walked out after finishing his conversation with Akshuler. It’d turned dark without him realizing.
He already knew where he was going, though. Getting lost would not be an issue, given that he’d memorized the area in his old life.
I need a better idea of what’s going on. The Mercenary King is moving much earlier than I expected.
Joshua’s face belied a hint of frustration, but he really wasn’t all that surprised. If he had been, he wouldn’t have taken in Duke Altsma.
The Pontiers have no advantages over the Crombells. Dropping Altsma into that would be like a rainstorm in the middle of a drought. His fists clenched. I know how strong Cain, Icarus, and Duke Altsma are. With them on the Pontiers’ side, they have a chance at pulling through—but that comes with a cost. I was supposed to be there by the time the Mercenary King made his move. My strategy was flawless…
Joshua frowned. The reason he’d been so confident was because Akshuler was here. The Mercenary King was going to make his move after the Master Battle; but when Akshuler won the Master Battle and challenged the Mercenary King, the mercenary guild would be in chaos.
I was too shortsighted. He should have expected the Mercenary King to act as soon as Akshuler lost to Ulabis. His assumptions had been proven entirely wrong in spite of his confidence.
In any case, Joshua becoming a Master was creating ripples of its own. For the time being, he decided to keep an eye on the situation.
This path leads to the Empire. We must find Ash; everything else is secondary. The last thing I need to do is heal Princess Sersiarin. Only she knows where.
Joshua’s eyes gleamed and he redoubled his haste.
He stopped in the middle of Reinhardt. Before him was a massive building—the headquarters of the Moon Gate, the best intelligence agency on the continent.
“I need information to make plans. I’ll confront my obstacles head-on.”
A beautiful castle over Reinhardt like a crown jewel. Therein, at the summit of the Palace, sat a middle-aged man with a lion’s mane of hair and bright eyes. He was the Lion King, Ryan Geiger, current ruler of Reinhardt and one of the Twelve Superhumans.
“Only the finals remain. How much longer do I have to wait until I’m your subordinate?”
The other person smiled in response to his half-joke. “The lord of this castle represents the whole of Reinhardt. I’d prefer that its future owner be stronger than me, if at all possible.”
“A toothless tiger, then? Good thing I’m still king.” Ryan shook his head.
“Nagasin’s will has been passed down from generation to generation. I’m delighted to continue the heritage of Reinhardt.”
“Nagasin’s hammer…” The Lion King nodded. “Might makes right here, in a way unlike anywhere else on the continent. If you have the talent, you could even become king. We both feel the allure.”
“No one else is ridiculous enough to try this.”
“Well, a free knight like myself couldn’t even conceive of the idea otherwise.” Geiger laughed.
On Igrant, society divided itself on the providence of birth; the individual was worth less than an animal. Whether it was a free knight or the most powerful noble, no one could challenge the status quo without arousing the ire of every other power in the nation.
“So,” the Lion King asked, “Who do you think will emerge victorious from this Master Battle?”
The other man only had to think for a moment.
“From the wonderful showing he’s had so far—particularly that awe-inspiring storm in the semifinals—it has to be Joshua Sanders, from Avalon. He exceeded all expectations. But…” His voice became thoughtful. “Prince Ulabis is different from his other opponents. If Akshuler had been in Group A, the final match would have been a rematch…”
“You’re saying that Joshua Sanders is a tier below Akshuler.”
He nodded without hesitation. “His opponents did not live up to their names.”
The Lion King looked thoughtful.
“What are your thoughts on the Prince?”
“He’s obviously something incredible,” the Lion King replied. “In a straight fight, I’d have to sacrifice an arm to win.”
The other man was astonished.
Is this the same person I know? He was one of the Twelve Superhumans, the undisputed strongest people on the continent.
“He only just became a Master. Is he really that…?”
“Yes. That fire worries even me. And if my eyes were not deceiving me, he still has more power in store.”
“That’s… that’s…” Is this really the same person?
He let out a deep breath. The Lion King, his liege, had never been one to lie. On top of that, he was immensely talented—even compared to the Nine Stars. If Ryan was saying that, he had no choice but to accept it.
“Whew… I suppose I’ll have to renegotiate. That aside, it’s going to cost a fortune to repair the colosseum.”
“Oh.” The Lion King chuckled. “You’re worried about that?”
“I’m responsible for the budget, first and foremost.” He hesitated for a moment. “I hope Joshua Sanders wins this Battle, not the Prince.”
“Ohhh?” The Lion King was surprised; normally, the other man was steadfastly objective. It was very unusual for him to offer his opinion. “I think this might be the first time you’ve made your wishes known.”
“I didn’t mean for it to sound like that. I’m just curious.”
“Joshua Sanders has captured many hearts in this Battle. Because of his magic? Something else?” Geiger shrugged. “Actually, I don’t think the Prince will win, contrary to what you seem to believe. I just never said anything.”
“Is that so,” the other man replied. He didn’t look surprised.
“Joshua! How long has it been?”
Joshua was hailed as soon as he walked through the door.
“If you’re always going to show up whenever I visit the Moon Gate, I think it’s safe to say that that person is in control now.”
“You don’t think it’s because I adore you so much?” Jero swooned.
Joshua peered at him. “You seem to have a reasonable amount of authority here. Looks like you’ve attained a rather prominent position.”
“What makes you think that?” Jero smiled.
“Two reasons. First is that you’re in the Moon Gate’s headquarters rather than in the Arcadia branch.”
“If that’s it, I’m a little disappointed.” Jero looked dismayed. “Internal reassignments are more common than you seem to believe. There’s nothing like a headquarters.”
“Don’t be ridiculous. But anyways, I’ve got another reason.”
“Well, you’ve come this far.” Jero grinned. “Why don’t you tell me?”
Joshua returned his grin.
“There’s no possible way an ordinary branch manager would be responsible for greeting someone like me.”
Jero gave him a lopsided smile.
“In an organization as large as the Moon Gate,” Joshua noted, “such terrible customer service would never fly.”
“It’s been a long time since we last met. Now you’re oh so smooth. You make my heart flutter!1” Jero leaned towards Joshua. “The Master is in attendance,” he whispered.
“You mean… the owner of the Moon Gate?”
“Yes… and my Master, as well.”
“He’s here?” Joshua was astonished. He’d done business with the Moon Gate in his old life as well, but the owner’s identity had never been revealed. It was a natural result of the organization’s structure.
“Come on. I’ll take you to him.”
Joshua stared at Jero’s back, his mind churning behind his eyes. He hastened after Jero, towards a place that had not admitted outsiders for several years: the fifth floor of Moon Gate’s headquarters.
TL/N: GAE… GAE moments yes! ↩️
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