Chapter 174

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The room looked like it was only made for one person, but there was nothing else on the fifth floor.

Joshua perched on a chair in the center of the room. The shadow was seated opposite him. They wore a cat mask with long whiskers, hiding their face, but not the rest of their figure. In fact, her clothing flaunted her figure as if she had no intention of hiding it at all.

“That was very impolite,” the shadow murmured. She leaned back slightly, but even this harmless motion carried immense destructive power. Her white clothing outlined every curve of her figure.

“This is the first time an outsider has entered the office since I assumed this position.”

Joshua gave the shadow a weird look before speaking.

“This is the first I’ve heard of the Moon Gate’s big boss being a woman,” he said, feigning ignorance.

“Are you surprised?” The woman straightened up. Certain parts of her body swayed whenever she moved, as if her clothing was deliberately designed to accentuate it. “A fifteen-year-old becomes a Master, like something out of a fairy tale, but you get caught up on the Moon Gate’s boss being a woman?”

“Well, I’m not that surprised. There’s more women than men in the world.”

The woman’s eyes gleamed behind the cat mask. “I’m the one who should be surprised now. It’s difficult for people in positions of authority to abandon their biases.”

“If you put those glasses on, your view of the world is twisted. No one could have predicted that I, the bastard of a ducal house, would have progressed so far in only five years.”

“Ah-hah.” The lady nodded. The prejudice against illegitimate children was as engrained as patriarchy. “That makes you even more remarkable to me, Joshua. I understand better than anyone else how tough it must have been to fight through the looks they gave you to achieve your position.” She smiled gently.

She used his name like they were old friends, even though it was obviously their first meeting. Formally, it was polite to address nobles by their surname rather than their give name; she should be saying “Sanders” rather than “Joshua.”

He just laughed, though. Joshua was not the kind of person to cling to such formalities.

“It’s just… There were no obstacles. Besides a few moments, it was like taking candy from a baby. I know someone who’s leagues ahead of me… I was born a noble, they were born a commoner, yet their brilliance is astounding.”

The women’s eyes sparkled. “You’re referring to Icarus, the genius who fell from heaven.”

Joshua paused, reminded of his mission.

“Humor me,” he said. “What am I doing here?”

“For the Pontiers? There are reports that the Mercenary King has come to Crombell.”

“Ah, yes.” Joshua’s eyes bored into her. “I want to learn more about this situation.”

The lady offered him a genuine smile. “Just in case, how much do you know about the Pontier family after you left for Reinhardt?”

“I have heard nothing since then.” He shook his head.

“Isn’t that a surprise?” She clapped her hand over her mouth in apparent astonishment. “Regardless of how important the Master Battle is, to think that Joshua wouldn’t even care… Once gain, I have to wonder if it’s true that Duke Agnus was the mastermind behind this…”

Joshua’s gaze sharpened.

“Stop thinking about it. I have limited time.”

“Then answer. I, too, want to see what kind of person Sir Joshua is.”

Joshua relented.

“There’s no specific reason.” He locked eyes with her. “I just have faith in my people.”

The woman’s eyes widened and a smile danced on her lips. “The mysterious Black Knight who appeared in the Pontier family recently must be closely related to you, yes?”

Joshua didn’t answer, but she was carried on anyway.

“You don’t have to say it. Icarus, the Black Knight—Sir Cain—are all reliable people who suddenly appeared on the Pontiers’ side. Their reputations precede them. Without the Mercenary King, victory would be assured, no?”

It was one surprise after another from this woman’s lips.

No one could refute the fact that an Absolute could change the course of a war—but war wasn’t the only problem to deal with. Everyone had their limits; no matter how much better Cain was than a typical knight, all of Icarus’s planning couldn’t overcome a Superhuman with just the two of them.

But for the Master of the Moon Gate, a famously impartial judge, to say this…

“I’m jealous. The deserve to be praised by their master. Surely, just a little bit?” She sat up straight and smiled. “I’ll give you whatever information you want. Not just the Pontier family, but also about the Imperial family of Avalon and the situation on the continent.”

Joshua blinked, surprised.

“But before that,” she continued, suddenly all business, “You need to pay your outstanding fees and any accrued interest for services provided to date. First and foremost, your balance: you’ve not forgotten the agreement we made five years ago, have you?”

“The red coin,” he whispered.

The lady nodded. “If you don’t have the time, just tell us where it is. We will dispatch our agents to procure it.”

“I don’t think it’ll be possible for you even if I told you.”

“What—”

“But does it really matter?”

“I expected this, but I’m curious as to what you have to say.”

“The red coin… Hubalt has installed a new pope. Does the coin still matter to the Moon?”

The lady stiffened.

“The moon symbolizes divine Hermes. The Imperial family and the pope have fought for dominion over the Moon Gate for year after year. As Cardinal Marhel, a man of faith since birth, rose to the papacy, the struggle to succeed the Moon Gate has shifted to you—also a person of faith. The Hubalt Empire controls all the information on the continent, while pretending to act in the name of God. I’ve never seen someone with a dual identity like you.”

The woman’s expression hardened as Joshua regaled her with top-secret information.

“But the real question is if you really need it, Lilith Aphrodite, the silver-eyed swordmaster.”

That was the knockout punch.

The lady carefully removed her cat mask. Her enthralling silver eyes emerged to meet Joshua’s gaze.

“Things have changed. It may not influence the organization itself at this point, but there is a need for it in the church. Their icon is gone—or, more accurately, it was destroyed. I believe you know the why. You caused it.”

“The crystal ball.”

Lilith nodded. “Symbolic signifigance aside, the Holy Grail’s power is incomparable to the God’s Tears. The church’s leaders believe that it can replace the Tears. Can you tell me now? Where do I find the red coin and the Holy Grail?”

Joshua met her eyes and delved into his memories.

“The Avalon Empire. The object is stored in the Imperial court.”

“So you say…” Lilith bit her lips. “In the end, I will have to defer to your judgment.”

The Imperial court of Avalon was out of their reach, and Joshua would have never come as far as he had if he had mediocre judgment.

“A promise is a promise. When I return, we’ll discuss it again.”

Lilith thought about for a moment and then nodded.

“I like that.”

“Now your turn.”

Lilith smiled for the first time since she removed her mask. It was as heartwrenching as her name suggested, as was her sensual, finely-honed physique.

“Do you understand that the Holy Grail only accounts for past transactions? This will be a new agreement, moving forward.”

“If it’s money, I’ll pay it.”

Lilith shook her head. “Our organization has sufficient funds.”

“Then tell me your desires. If I can do it, I will.”

“Really?” Lilith’s grin widened. “Please don’t include your personal greed here. I’m gambling on your words. I have a dream, you see. To wed someone more powerful than myself and recieve their seed.”

“…What?” Joshua was speechless.

“I just can’t find anyone… The people who are stronger than me are always older… My life is so tragic. On the other hand, I’d never be able to find anyone else like Joshua Sanders if I searched the entire continent.”

Joshua stared blankly into space—or maybe he was falling into the abyss.

“My offer is… marry me.”

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