“Hello, excuse me.” A tiny, feminine voice drew Cain and Joshua out of their conversation.
“Young Lady Iceline?”
“I just…” Iceline fiddled with her dress as she searched for words. “I just wanted to thank you for your help.” She ducked her head, cheeks flushed.
Cain grinned and stepped back. He knew her words were meant for someone else.
“I didn’t do it for you,” Joshua grumbled. He had other motivations, despite knowing that Iceline would become a world-famous archmage.
“Still…” Iceline clenched her delicate fists, determined to power through despite Joshua’s tepid response. “You saved our family’s honor, as well. We may have been in a difficult situation, but thanks to you, Young Master, I was able to keep my calm… Thank you.”
Joshua eyed Iceline curiously. The Iceline he remembered had never shown such a gentle personality. He recalled a beautiful woman standing effortlessly in the freezing cold of the mountain cliffs, a woman with no emotion, no blood, and no tears… A woman who could freeze her enemies at a whim. They called her the “cold-blooded murderer”.
I thought her nickname was frighteningly accurate. Imagine angering the Iceline from the past… Just thinking about it made Joshua tremble slightly. He’d heard stories about mercenaries angering Iceline—they didn’t end well.
Her magic was entirely unique for her time, earning her the title “Ice Mage”. The Magic Tower only granted monikers like these to the best in their field.
“As I was saying,” Iceline continued, oblivious to Joshua’s trepidation, “if this incident puts the Young Master in jeopardy, we are to blame. So I thought that my family should be the one to take the initiative this time. Perhaps if we take a stand on your side, the Imperial family will listen.”
“I don’t believe that this situation is so serious.”
“Would they truly sit still if Count Rebrecca appears to testify against that idiot son of Marquis Villas? Do you think it will be over just like that?”
“It still concerns our family.”
“I don’t think so, Young Lady.”
Iceline’s face hardened, drawing a burst of laughter from Joshua.
“It’s a pointless concern. Have you forgotten who I am?”
Joshua lifted a finger. “If you truly care… I hope you will do me a favor, later.”
“We can do it!” Iceline reached out and grabbed Joshua’s hand. Joshua was taken aback and then burst into laughter.
“It’s good you’re agreeable.”
“I can’t believe it, honestly.” A masked man dropped from the third-floor roof, shaking his head. His surprise was palpable enough to almost make him trip as he landed. “I’d heard a monster had appeared in the Duchy, but I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen it myself.”
The man ducked into a quiet alley and tossed his mask away. It was Jero, the branch manager of the Moon Gate.
“Joshua von Agnus…” The boy had left a deep and lasting impression on Jero, despite only meeting twice.
“He was obviously aware that I was just observing him.” Jero was observing Veron’s rampage from the roof; he’d done everything he could think of to prevent anyone from feeling his presence. Yet somehow, he’d met Joshua’s eyes. The smile Joshua gave him sent chills down his spine.
Jero had sharp instincts from his years as an informant; sometimes, they told him good things, sometimes bad. His instincts were buzzing, but Jero opted not to act on them for the time being.
Frankly, Jero had doubted Joshua’s ability to find that item—he’d assumed that Joshua was just trying to cash in on some scraps of information he’d stumbled upon. Jero had accepted the boy’s request for the sake of getting a better read on him.
The location of the Orbis heirloom that Joshua asked for wasn’t particularly valuable information… It could be tracked down with only a few facts to work off of. In contrast, Joshua had smashed every expectation. Jero saw the potential for Joshua to become priceless in the not-too-distant future.
Jero clenched his fists. Now I need to adjust my plans.
The informant made his way to the slums on the outskirts of Arcadia and cautiously approached one of the old houses. By all appearances, it was just like any other house in the area: dangling planks, broken glass everywhere, a few missing bricks.
The direct line for reporting was reserved for urgent dispatches. It was only known to executive-level or higher members of the Moon Gate, and the meeting location changed frequently.
“I only follow the master’s orders… All decisions were his.”
Jero threw himself towards the pitch-black room.
An hour had passed since they’d finished cleaning up the restaurant and the Rebreccas had departed.
“He really came, Young Master…” Cain was surprised to see an overweight man struggling his way up to the second floor. “Baron Accent Provalum…”
Despite his low rank, he was infamous for overseeing Arcadia’s black market, the largest on the continent. It was not a job to boast of, but he was proud of it. Provalum, a baron, had influence rivaling that of many counts.
“Who- Where is the son of the Fredericks?” Provalum glanced around nervously.
“This one is… I mean, this Young Master here is the son of the Fredericks, Ash pen Frederick.”
Provalum was astonished. He’s… just a kid? However, he was a master of business and schooled his emotions before anyone noticed his surprise.
“The name’s Accent Provalum,” he said with a warm smile. “It’s such an honor to meet the son of the Fredericks.”
Provalum then bowed his head, much to Cain’s amazement. No matter how low, a baron had no reason to bow to someone like Joshua, and Provalum’s true power was far beyond any baron. He had no business treating a fallen noble’s son like this.
Joshua, on the other hand, remained expressionless. “I believe I told that jerk, Veron, to come to me himself… He dared send a pawn?”
Cain and Provalum reeled with shock.
“I, uhh… What did you say?”
“Don’t make me repeat myself.”
“Young Master, if you’re not aware of the family that Young Master Veron comes from—”
“Does it make a difference? He mocked my family; now, he owes me his life. Why do I need to know his family?”
“That—” Provalum choked down a retort. He knew Ash had the upper hand here. “That’s correct, Young Master. You saved his life, so it’s up to you if you want to know about him or not. You were raised so well.” The baron rubbed his hands together with an uneasy smile. “That aside… What Young Master Ash took from the boy is a priceless Villas treasure—it was their signet. Now, why don’t you return it to its rightful owner…?”
Joshua scoffed. “I’ll say it again: if he wants this back, he has to come here himself.” Joshua casually tossed the Villas signet ring in the air like a toy.
“Tell him I’ll melt it down if he doesn’t come here in person,” he said, snatching the ring out of the air.
“That’s—!” Provalum’s life flashed before his eyes. This little scumbag!
He’d love to rip the boy to shreds, but he knew what had transpired. It’s unbelievable, but, knowing who it came from, I can’t ignore it.
“Young Master Veron couldn’t come right now because he is still weak,” Provalum said, quelling his rage. “He needs to rest.”
“He’s not as strong as I imagined. Sorry,” Joshua muttered, much to Provalum’s chagrin.
Patience, Provalum told himself.
“Alright.” Joshua’s lips curled into a cheeky smile. “I thought of something.”
“Just send that knight named Muker that was always next to that bastard.”
“When that knight comes, I’ll negotiate with him. Also…” Joshua eyed Provalum’s hand. “When something goes missing, it has to be replaced, right? Since I did you a favor, I’d like you to fulfill one of my requests.”
“That ring you’re wearing looks quite expensive. Hand it over.”
Provalum saw his life crumble before his very eyes.
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