Chapter 78

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There was a volcano to the west of the Principality of Thran, famed for its majesty. People across the continent of Igrant were awed by its mere mention.

The locals called it the Wolf.

Its peak constantly spewed forth lava, drawn from fissures deep in the crust. An enormous vortex of fiery liquid constantly swirled beneath its mouth, the crimson tides threatening to erupt forth at any moment.

The Wolf was one of the hottest places on the continent, far too hot for any normal person to enter. The volcano proudly boasted temperatures of roughly one thousand degrees—easily enough to burn a man to death.

But somehow, a man walked slowly around the mouth of the volcano; only a few drops of sweat fell from his brow. There was only one explanation: he was a mana wielder—a knight or a wizard. That would allow him to protect his entire body with mana.

His name was Ulabis, the blade of Thran, a man who can walk on lava unscathed.

“There’s no time now,” he mumbled, face tense.

Only a few people close to the Prince were present when he died. It was only a matter of time before the world found out, though. Rumors spread quickly. The cunning nobles of Swallow would be quick to notice if the Prince fails to appear in public, “deteriorating health” or not.

“Thran is like a candle in the wind, without the Prince.” Many claimed to be the center of Thran. Sometimes, Ulabis himself was said to be the center of Thran. Everyone was wrong. The late Prince, Anthony de Val Agretta III was the only man who could claim to be the heart of Thran. Without him, the Principality would have absorbed into the Swallow Empire, and “Thran” would vanish from the map.

“Your Majesty…” Ulabis stared ahead with determination.

There was a wall inside the Wolf, at its base. The thing Ulabis was hunting lied at the far end, which opened up like a cave. He’d found it when he’d come here to train—a treasure hidden beneath the raging mountain.

Just as people go to the sea to challenge the water pressure, practicing in a place like this where it’s difficult to even breath can massively improve physical ability. However, I can’t be here when the volcano is too active.

It was a true life-or-death training regime. In the face of mounting Imperial pressure, Ulabis was desperate to become stronger.

There are five Masters of Swallow, just as there are five Masters of Avalon. No, if you count the ones they’ve kept secret… Ulabis’s expression darkened. He was well aware that the Swallow Empire’s Masters were not the “real” powers. Swallow’s Knights are the strongest by far. Although they are known as the “Northern Barbarians.”

Ulabis’s swift footsteps came to a halt. A tunnel loomed, like the jaws of some dark beast. Deep in its darkness shone something bright red.

Ulabis had read the ancient texts, and he knew exactly what it was.

“Primordial Stone… Magma.” Ulabis slowly approached like a man possessed.

His mana, imbued with blazing crimson magma, assaulted the Stone.

In the depths of the wilderness, brilliant red flames pierced the darkness, lighting up the night.


No one should have been here.

Who is he, exactly? Joshua tensed his muscles, allowing him to move at any time—a sort of battle stance.

It made no difference that the other person knew who he was; the problem was that this man was stronger than Joshua. It was the only thing Joshua could think about right now.

“Ah, those eyes recognize power…” The man’s mouth formed into a lovely curve. “As expected, you never disappoint me.”

“Who are you?”

“Hah! My introduction was indeed late.” The man doffed the hood of his robe, revealing his vivid blue hair and eyes—and the lighting bolts underneath them.

“Is that the Steropes mark?”

“Oh, you recognize it? You deserve a reward?” He clapped his hands in approval.

“The Seven Magicians of the Magic Tower. Everyone knows the Steropes mark, passed from generation to generation of the Thunderbolt seat.”

“Great.” The man bowed gracefully. “I apologize for the late introduction. Let me introduce myself: Jack Steropes, one of the Seven, and the owner of the Thunderbolt seat.”

Joshua was astonished that his hunch turned out to be right.

“I don’t care for your like—a Tower running for money, business-like wizards.”

“Well… This is suddenly disappointing.” Jack shrugged. “You understand why I’m here, don’t you?” The Thunderbolt’s voice became frigid. “Where is Bronto? So long as you tell me where Bronto is, I will not harm you. Well, you know, that thing will rip you to shreds if you play with it. A kid can’t touch that.”

Evidently, Jack hadn’t even considered that Joshua had already absorbed Bronto.

“I’ll ask you again: what do you know about Bronto?”

“Wizard… I don’t think this is the place where we should talk about this.”

“Hmm?”

“Please move.”

Joshua’s sudden politeness made Jack grin.

“Good. I may talk like an old man, but if you even try acting ignorant, my magic will roast you.”

That was a lot of self-confidence. Regardless, Joshua figured he’d be able to respond to anything Jack did.

It’s lucky I’m a child right now.

“This way.” Joshua gestured to the door with a wicked smile.


The two departed through the eastern gate and kept walking, following a sparsely populated forest trail for the better part of an hour.

“Where are you going?” Jack asked. “Isn’t this place fine? It’s quiet and there’s only the two of us here.” He peered around at the beautiful grass.

Joshua abruptly stopped walking.

“Well… I figured this is the best place.”

“For what?” Jack was puzzled by Joshua’s rapid shift of attitude.

“Here, we don’t need to worry about third parties getting hurt.”

“Wait—” Jack clutched his head. “Wa—kid, you drew me in, for this?”

“In a one-on-one match, I’m confident I won’t lose to a wizard.”

Jack’s pride as a swordsman was prickled.

He’s too arrogant; all he’s done is use mana at a young age. Well, he’s just like a frog in a well.

Just a kid. Jack laughed.

“So a weak wizard like me isn’t even worth a punch from the great knights of the Avalon Empire, right?”

“Exactly.”

“But you don’t have any weapons. How do you intend to defeat me?”

“You ask too many unnecessary questions.” Joshua raised his pretty fists, much to Jack’s amusement.

“You’re insane.”

“Are you doubting me?”

Jack sighed dramatically.

“No way.” The man flexed his fingers. “Come. I’ll show you how insignificant a knight is.”

No more waiting—Joshua kicked off the ground and sprinted towards Jack.

He’s fast.

Jack caught Joshua’s fist, but he didn’t notice the other one already coming for his stomach. He managed to stop both, however.

“Are you surprised that a ‘weak’ wizard is doing this?” Jack smiled slyly at Joshua’s astonished expression. “My moves might not be as good as a pure physical battle wizard, but I have faith in my abilities. You know what? Haste and Might is too much for your kind.”

Haste and Might, spells which improved agility and strength, respectively, were a favorite of lower-class combat mages. When used by a higher ranked mage, their effects were beyond comprehension.

“Since I’m done talking, should I start with half-killing you? You’re so confident about your fists.” Jack’s grin widened and he cocked his fist back.

Now!

Space peeled open behind Jack; something sharp slowly emerged, like a beast hunting its prey.

“Lugia!”

Jack turned his head, startled.

A horrific shattering sound broke the air.

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