Muker left, leaving Jero alone in the secret room.
Young Master Joshua… He smiled sweetly. Sometimes, he seems like a walking goldmine.
Muker babbled endlessly and eventually got turned away for lack of funds. A million gold pieces… A single communication crystal costs a thousand pieces of gold; a rural castle was similarly priced. A million gold pieces were far more than the annual revenue of a major city.
Even if the Marquis of Villas himself had come instead of his vassal, he would’ve left empty-handed.
Of course, there was a rational reason for that price.
He claimed that his goal was to graduate without drawing any attention. But, given his conflict with Villas’s heir and an unexpected meeting with the Fourth Prince, he’s drawn huge amounts of attention.
The Moon Gate’s eyes missed nothing.
The Veron shen Villas I know would come for vengeance no matter how hard he’s beaten… People like him will look for the information they want from other sources if they can’t get it from us.
The Moon Gate was the most powerful among its peers, but it had many competitors. If not, the Moon Gate would already control the entire Igrant Continent. As the saying goes, whoever controls the information controls the world.
Jeor grinned. Veron shen Villas would be better off keeping his head down. Despite Joshua’s youth, his exceptional abilities and his relationship with the Fourth Prince proved that he was a formidable opponent. Even Veron was beginning to realize that.
When doubt becomes certainty, I’m confident that Veron shen Villas will abandon his petty revenge and make a run for it. He’s the sort of person that acts weak to the strong, and strong to the weak.
Jero stared idly at the entrance as if he didn’t have a mountain of work piling up.
“...Will he find the red coin and finally put an end to this war?”
“That was a risky move.”
Those were the first words Agareth said to Joshua when he returned to their room after class. Agareth’s feckless smile was gone for the first time, replaced by a serious expression.
“What do you mean?”
“Do you really not know? It’s insane for you to dismiss the rapier in front of the second son of the Sten family!”
“I know what I did.”
Agareth clutched the back of his neck and groaned while Icarus whispered comforting words to him.
“I thought your free-spirited soul would never shoulder these kinds of problems.” Joshua snickered. “Turns out, you pay attention sometimes, too.”
“This guy…” Agareth mumbled some kind of calming mantra under his breath. “Amaru always holds a grudge. You hurt his pride. Expect revenge… He’s going to try to hurt you badly.
“Can you tell me about your abilities? We’re all in the same age group, but he can already feel his mana. It’s a skill that only a few students can do. It might be basic, but it’s a milestone; he really is a Sten—”
“You seem to know a lot about Amaru bron Sten.”
Agareth took a deep breath and nodded. “I knew him pretty well since we were friends for a long time.”
The past-tense phrasing made Joshua pause.
“The nobility knows that the heads of Sten and Douglas are intimate friends,” Icarus offered.
In the far north of the Empire, the Sten and Douglas families had no choice but to rely on each other. The two families bordered Lemegeton, the “Deathland”. Agareth’s father assisted the Sten head, the commander of the north. The two had been exterminating the demons flooding in from the north for a long time.
“What, is that it?”
Agareth nodded. “There’s something Amaru and I have in common. Both of us are the younger brothers of a skilled older sibling.”
Joshua nodded silently. I didn’t need to hear the backstory to understand his situation. They were in similar circumstances. Agareth was a bastard like Joshua if not treated quite as poorly. Like any other family, the eldest son must have pushed him into a corner—and unlike the Agnus duchy, the northern regions are a constant battleground. They wouldn’t have the time to deal with their family affairs even if they wanted to.
“The second son has no say in family affairs or matters of inheritance,” Agareth continued. “Anyways, there isn’t much to say about my childhood. Amaru and I got close because of our circumstances.”
“Well…” Icarus heaved a relieved sigh.
“In any case,” Agareth said, donning his foolish grin again, “this is why I told you that I know Amaru better than anyone else… So don’t be stubborn and apologize. I don’t want my new friend to break.”
Joshua looked Agareth in the eyes and burst out laughing.
“What are you laughing for?”
“I don’t care about your friendship or whatever your game is… Let me make one thing clear: you think that the weak should apologize to the strong just because they’re strong?”
“You must enjoy smiling like an idiot and turning the other cheek.”
“Ash! You know Young Master Agareth doesn’t mean it like that. He was just concerned.”
“Who’s concerned about who? I’m not like that. I don’t like degrading my pride; since I have the skill, let me show them.” Joshua pushed himself to his feet.
“If you don’t want to live in someone else’s shadow, fight to change your fate, and don’t waver in your beliefs.”
Agareth blankly gaped at Joshua as he walked out the door.
A glimmer of something awakening danced behind Agareth’s eyes.
In some ways, the Academy was a way to reinforce the Imperial family’s power by holding the house’s successors hostage; thus, the Imperial family managed it very carefully. That meant that the students had no issue going wherever they wanted after class unless someone had gone missing.
Joshua went to his private training ground, the tiny mansion on the outskirts of Duke Agnus’s sphere of influence. After Lucia had departed for Duke Agnus’s residence, the place was empty. It was perfect for some quiet meditation.
Ah, this is great. Joshua nodded to himself as he settled into meditation.
Within his body, two tremendous energies were locked in conflict. It felt rather uncomfortable before, but Joshua quickly got used to it. The two powers had become astonishingly stable once a new power was introduced to the mix.
Bronto. The powerful Primordial Stone could stand toe-to-toe with the other two energies—and maybe even more than that.
Joshua could feel something new… an entirely new realm he’d never seen in his last life. He had no idea how strong it could be.
Magic Spear Arts… Third Stage. An all-new triumvirate of divine power, magic power, and Bronto combined with his own mana.
Joshua’s eyes snapped open. I can do this.
He moved his mana gently and delicately at first as if he were handling a baby and gradually led the two conflicting energies out of the corners they’d been pushed into. A subtle, undetected electrical current spread across his body.
A vein popped on Joshua’s forehead. Just a little more…!
Joshua’s body was suddenly pouring with sweat. It dripped off his body into a puddle of viscous liquid like tepid water. The foul stench of it irritated his nose.
Divine power and magic are like water and oil. They can’t mix, so let’s not try. Don’t force it… just let it flow.
Joshua delicately guided the two energies using his mana and Bronto, which almost seemed willing to help him. His body swelled and tightened as if it would pop.
How much time had passed?
It began with Lugia rattling on the floor.
Joshua’s body transformed. The electrical currents dancing around him sucked into Joshua’s body, and his eyes opened.
A thunderous boom shattered the silence, bathing the area in black and white lightning.
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