Chapter 173

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Joshua expected there to be some kind of hidden entrance, but the journey to the fifth floor was surprisingly uneventful. He just followed Jero around.

However, there were two oddities: one, the stairs from the fourth to the fifth floor were longer than the others; second, it was a spiral staircase.

This building is designed to protect someone or something. People who hide in these kinds of places are… This is interesting.

Joshua’s eyes shone as he pondered.

There were a plethora of people at the level of a B-Class Knight here; the strongest of them was close to A-Class. That was what you would expect of a kingdom’s royal knights, although the Moon Gate didn’t have quite enough people to form their own order. For the master of the Moon Gate to control so many people, it was safe to assume that they had settled the internal conflicts. They were not someone who could be taken lightly.

Suddenly, Joshua stopped.

“Joshua?”

“This location isn’t very hospitable.”

“What?” Jero turned and gave him a confused look.

His eyes bulged. His throat clenched like he was choking. He couldn’t even breathe, as if all the air had been sucked out of the room.

Jero was acutely aware that he stood in front of an apex predator.

“Please… s-save me—” Jero locked up under Joshua’s baleful gaze.

“I warn you, I do not forgive people who threaten me. Even the Moon Gate.”

The tremendous energy rolling off of Joshua’s body clamped down on Jero like a vice.

“D-Did you for-forget who I am?” he stammered. His only response was an oppressive silence.

“They are loyal, aren’t they,” Joshua mumbled. He grinned.

“What? What are you ta—”

“How could they do something stupid when they have orders? I think they might be mad, rabid dogs. Otherwise…” Joshua’s smile widened. “Otherwise, I’d have to believe that the Master of the Moon Gate is an imbecile with no eyes at all, let alone an eye for people.”

“You—What—” Jero’s protests became weaker and weaker. The energy in the air was so heavy it sapped his life and his body felt as heavy as lead. Is this some kind of test? You must realize that you don’t need to test me anymore. Why are you doing this?

“You must be wondering if you’re taking a test or something.”

Jero stared at Joshua, desperately trying to figure out if he could read minds.“

“It’s simple: martial arts are not indispensable.”

“You mean—”

Joshua continued, seemingly unaware that they could come to blows at any moment.

“Anyone who studies the sword knows this. Swallow and Thran, as a recent example.”

“His Excellency, Duke Altsma…”

“In this situation, I’d be interested in seeing how well you can keep your cool, what kind of judgments you make, and how you act—wouldn’t you agree? For an information dealer, being able to develop conclusions based on the information you gather is critical; nonetheless, nothing is more reliable that what you see with your own eyes. So I must be after more information on you, yes?”

There was a flurry of hushed gasps. Instantly, the crushing weight on Jero evaporated like it had never been there.

Joshua Sanders is… not an average gambler. On top of his martial talents, he has the ability to see into people’s hearts, and an unshakeable mentality. I’ve met many people, but never someone as flawless as him.

Jero shook his head resignedly. This boy was only just coming up on his sixteenth year. Five years from now…

No, Jero couldn’t even imagine what he’d be like in only the three years it would take him to become a legal adult. In fact, given the way he looked, age may no longer mean anything to him…

Wait, haven’t I seen that earring somewhere…? Jero cocked his head.

Joshua had one earring on. It emanated a regal air and glowed in the dark as if it had been carved of obsidian from the deepest depths. The black complimented Joshua’s colors.

It’s a bonafide artifact. I don’t think I’ve seen it before… Jero was well known in the Moon Gate for his memory. Whether it came to people or objects, his memory was practically photographic. The fact that he’d never seen that earring before made him anxious.

“As I said before, I do not forgive people who threaten me. And if it goes beyond threats… everyone here dies.”

No one had a chance to react before an animalistic howl tore through the air. The heady combination of energy and distilled fear was strong enough to make heaven and earth shake, like when Joshua had conquered the fifth level of the spear arts. The Moon Gate’s guards, Jero, the primary target—no one was spared.

This is madness—! Jero’s whole body trembled like a reed, and his skin was drenched in freezing cold sweat. His legs threatened to give out at any moment, thanks to Joshua.

“Uck—”

“Agh—”

The hidden guards dropped like flies. It was inevitable—even trained knights would struggle to resist Joshua’s strength.

I… I remember! Jero’s astonished eyes flashed.

He’d only seen it once, even after poring through hundreds of documents a day, and even then only by pure chance. An antique book hidden in the archives of the Moon Gate detailed a relic; it had the potential to become legendary but had instead disappeared entirely. Now, only a few people even knew its name.

“…Obsidian earring!”

Despite its name, it was not mere obsidian. Its components were rare, no matter where you looked—and even if you knew where to find it, you wouldn’t go. The earring was made from a treasure a magician would sell their soul for: a dragon’s heart. What’s more, it was fashioned from the greatest dragons of all, the red and black dragons.

It was even more valuable for assassins than it was for wizards. The earring was to assassins what the red coin was to the Moon Gate.

Whoever acquires the Obsidian Earring will ascend to the summit… Jero swallowed nervously. He didn’t have that earring when we last met. He must have been doing something else besides protecting the Imperial family!

While Jero was thinking, a silhouette appeared in front of Joshua.

“Mr. Won—!” Jero cried.

“The joke is on you, Joshua Sanders.” The man raised his dagger.

“Joke?” Joshua’s lips twisted into a cruel grin.

“No!” Jero screamed.

Jero knew Joshua, and he knew he didn’t make empty promises. If Won kept going…

“You will regret this.”

Joshua watched his assailant take a stance and laughed. “You think you can stop me?”

“It’s my job.”

Jero squeezed his eyes shut when he saw Joshua bring out his crimson spear.

It’s all gone wrong. He should have kept walking—no one can stop him now. Surely the Master’s rash decision hasn’t—

Lugia was ready to taste blood.

“Enough, Joshua Sanders!”

Jero’s eyes widened as he lifted his head. “N-No way… I can’t believe it.”

The locked door was flung wide open—and behind it lay a captivating face with silver hair and sparkling eyes. Jero knew the person, but not the face.

The Master of the Moon Gate had revealed her face.

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