The Imperial Chief Wizard’s private chambers were modest, despite the mana communication orb illuminating the room with its soft light.
“My liege, it’s been a long time.” The wizard, dressed in a pure white cloak, bowed to the person on the other end. Few people could receive such respect from Evergrant, but Ian teon Murray, lord of the Magic Tower and the only Seventh-Class magician on the continent, was one of them. Even for the highest wizard in the Avalon Empire, it was only natural to bend to Ian.
“Did something happen?”
“Nothing much.” Ian smiled weakly at Evergrant, sadness evident in his eyes. “I’m just short on workers after you left abruptly.”
“There’s nothing I can do but apologize.” Evergrant bent his head remorsefully.
“No—That’s not the reason I called. The older I get, the grumpier I am about my subordinates.” Ian looked over Evergrant carefully. “Is the Emperor treating you well?”
“Yes. He’s given me everything I need.”
There was a moment of silence before Ian opened his mouth with a stiff expression.
“I know why you accepted the Emperor’s offer—I am aware of your ambitions. While he may be ruling like a dictator, you had few good options. But, you see, I also know that you are supporting the Fourth Prince.”
“Your choice seems completely random; I don’t believe the Fourth Prince has any chance of inheriting the throne. Rather, it would be best to curry favor with the First or Second Prince.”
“I can’t argue.” Evergrant quickly gave up on finding a counterargument. The Tower Master wasn’t wrong: based on all available information, the First and Second Princes were the ones with the best chances of taking the throne. However, what Evergrant had felt the first time he saw the Fourth Prince was not so easy to deny.
“Jack is dead.”
“What?” Evergrant boggled at Ian. “He—”
“That means that someone killed Jack Steropes, a member of the Sevens and the seat of the Thunderbolt.”
“Wha—That doesn’t make sense!”
“So I reached out to you. I need a favor.” Ian’s voice became deep and somber. “Evergrant von Aswald, I would like to offer the empty seat to you. I want you to be a member of the Seven Magicians.”
“I believe this position will be of great help to you in realizing your goals—more than the uncertain path you’re taking now.”
“Why do you have to put it that way…” Evergrant shook his head, biting his lips anxiously. “I can’t accept.”
“I expected that.” Ian laughed heartily. “Maybe you saw some potential in the Fourth Prince, I don’t know. But I do know that you don’t make hasty decisions. I trust you and your aims for the Imperial Family of Avalon. Plus, the monument made of Jade stones in the Imperial Knights—”
“You knew about that?” Evergrant blurted.
Ian nodded. “A wizard always seeks the truth, and I always pursue my curiosity.”
The Tower Master took another look at Evergrant.
“My offer stands. I’ll do my best to fix up your place if you decide to come back.”
“Master…” Evergrant was touched.
“It’s shameless of me to ask you for a favor like this; I hope you understand.”
“You don’t have to apologize, Master!”
“I know the last place Jack stayed. It was easier to find than I expected—he used a warp gate.”
Evergrant nodded and quietly recalled what he knew of the warp gates.
“The capital of Avalon, Arcadia. Where you are.”
Evergrant leapt out of his seat.
In this quiet place, out of Joshua’s knowledge, history was being rewritten.
“I’m his man?” Icarus was mumbling to himself after Joshua left.
Joshua, his role model, had departed, leaving Icarus to prove his worth.
The boy’s face went beet red. Whenever he thought of Joshua and that day, his face burned.
“I’ll prove my worth. One day he’ll be asking me for favors—”
“Are you alone?”
“Young Master Agareth?” Icarus turned towards the voice. “Wh-wh-why do you look like that?!”
“Ah, I just finished something and was about to take a shower, so I took my clothes off—” The underwear-clad boy paused. “What’s wrong with your face? Are you sick?”
“No… I’m not sick, I just feel a little hot…”
“Alright.” Agareth nodded. “Great, should we shower together?”
“No thank you!” Icarus’s face flushed impossibly red. Icarus slammed the door shut, carefully avoiding meeting Agareth’s eyes.
“...What’s wrong with him?”
“It’s been a long time since I’ve seen you in person.” Joshua gazed up at the towering walls of the Imperial Palace with regretful eyes.
This place gave him the most vivid memories of his life. It was where he lived; a house, but never a home. He knew this place better than his own home, the Duchy, because he spent so much time by Kaiser’s side.
“No…” Joshua smiled bitterly. “The battlefield was home for me.”
He’d spent most of his life on the battlefield. Rotting bodies and the smell of blood was more familiar to Joshua than anything else.
“Halt! This is the Imperial Palace of Avalon. Unauthorized visitors are not permitted.” A guard blocked the outer gate as Joshua approached. “Please, if you could show me a card or pass to prove your identity.”
Despite Joshua’s appearance, the guard remained cautious and courteous. Even though the Imperial Palace was obviously not a place for children to be visiting alone, there were very few people who came at all; the guard was very professional.
“I’m here to apply for Berche’s bloody battle.”
“Wait, what?” The guard laughed. “Do you have any idea what that means, kid?” He’d been looking down on the boy to begin with, but this was too much.
“River!” The other guard grimaced. “That’s a visitor to the Imperial Palace—what kind of attitude is that?”
“Bunto… That kind of attitude annoys me the most. Was there ever a time when a kid this small entered Berche’s?”
“See?” River laughed. “You’ve never done something like this before.” He turned and hissed at Joshua. “Little guy, they’re busier than you think. I’ll forgive you this time, so scoot. Come back when you’ve got some more height and weight to that body.” River flicked his finger dismissively at Joshua.
Of course, who would believe that a child would have a real reason to visit the Palace on his own? Joshua was struggling to even begin to find a way to explain himself.
“This kid even has the balls to bring up Berche—”
“Stop scolding the kid.”
“Ah!” Joshua smiled and stepped forward.
“You’re still here?”
“I, Joshua von Agnus, have come here per His Majesty’s instructions.”
“What nonsense is this—”
Joshua pumped mana into his ring. The soldiers were astonished by the boom of energy filling the air.
“T-The Agnus crest!”
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