21st Century Archmage - Chapter 107

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Swoooooosh.

Flying high above the mountains further north, where the wind was getting colder and colder, the air outside my helmet looked so frigid that I would have frozen to death long ago if not for my airplate.

‘Shit, I only got a few potatoes.’

After suffering a defeat from me, Kantahar’s father, the Chief of the Aishwen, obediently listened to what I had to say. Or rather, the way the chief looked at me so earnestly while speaking about their truly difficult circumstances made me wonder if I’d been the one who got caught by the chief’s bait.

‘Yeah, when I think about it, I won too easily.’

He was still the chief of a tribe forged from constant battles in the perilous mountains. He might have just let me win so that he could have an excuse for later.

Flap flap flap flap.

‘Still, it’s a relief that I got the tribal flag.’

The Great Shaman, Lokoroïa, was located several hours by flight from the village of the Aishwen Tribe. On the way, we passed by several other Temir villages on the way, because some of those tribes had wyverns, the appearance of a foreign wyvern might have invited meaningless fights.

However, a large boulder drawn atop a white demon beast hide, the flag representing the Aishwen Tribe, prevented possible fights. It was a flag granted to the tribe by Lokoroïa herself. Anyone who attacked a person with that flag was deriding Lokoroïa, so the other tribespeople couldn’t carelessly attack me.

‘They’re closer than I thought.’

The tribes were spread out in the Litore Mountains region next to the border with the Bajran Empire, but the Great Shaman Lokoroïa had her base set up pretty close to Nerman, only a 5 hours flight away from Orakk Castle. I thought she would be located deep into the north, but she wasn’t.

‘A large tribe has tens of thousands of warriors, huh. In total, they’ve got maybe 200,000 men in total.’

In the chief’s tent, I was offered a fishy-tasting mountain potato to eat. It wasn’t even a regular potato, but a mountain potato harvestable from the wild. It was edible, but had a strong, fishy flavor, making it an offensive food that the people would only eat when there was nothing else. That was the kind of food the chief shamelessly presented to me, a guest. From the looks of it, if action wasn’t taken soon, they would soon starve to death or be reduced to fodder for the monsters.

‘Like holy water, without the totems made by a shaman, the demon beasts will attack.’

There was still a silver lining. Like the holy water that repelled demon beasts, the totems made by a shaman could keep demon beasts at bay. That was the reason why the Temir tribes had no choice but to submit with absolute obedience to the Great Shaman.

‘Hm?’

After passing a few tribal villages, as we flew into an enormous mountain range the size of the Himalayas, I saw a flock of wyverns far into the distance.

‘W-Wild wyverns!!!!’

My eyes grew to the size of saucers. On the continent, wyverns couldn’t be easily acquired even with money. It wasn’t just one or two wild wyverns, either—over a hundred wyverns ranging in size were flying in a group. With those numbers, if we could catch them, all my wyvern problems would be settled. I gulped.

‘!! They’re wyverns, not sparrows, so why the fuck are there so many!!’

More surprisingly, the first group I saw wasn’t the only one. Far, far into the enormous mountain range was yet another flock. Like a flock of sparrows flying over empty fields in late autumn, their numbers were jaw-dropping.

‘Kyaa, it would be frickin’ awesome if I made a base here and hunted wyverns.’

If they weren’t soaked in holy water in the shell, the moment they hatched, the wyverns were merely savage, wild monsters. Just an impossible dream, like the sexy models that appeared on alcohol posters.

“It’s over there! That is Mother’s Village!”

While I was busy drooling over the wyverns, Kantahar used mana to shout from behind my back. He had followed me all the way to this dangerous place in order to act as my guide.

‘Wow!’

While I was busy looking at the wyverns, we turned the corner of a mountain, and came face to face with a temple that seemed to appear out of nowhere.

‘Pyramid?’

It wasn’t as big as the Egyptian pyramids, but the temple was a massive pyramid that stuck out like a sore thumb among the mountains.

‘G-GOLD!!! OH MY GOD!’

More astonishing was the fact the pyramid, which glowed a dazzling yellow under the sunset, was topped by a moon statue easily 10 meters large and made of pure gold.

“T-Those are the Mother’s Guardian Warriors!”

Guooooooooooo!

Spotting enemies, Bebeto followed up Kantahar’s surprised shout with his own cry.

‘Kek…’

Wyverns were quickly going aloft at the sight of Bebeto. Over 100 Temir Greys were flapping towards us.

‘What to do?’

Even for me, 100 wyverns was too much to handle. I had to make a decision, and fast. I put the latest model of wyvern armor on Bebeto because we were going somewhere dangerous, but if dozens of spears were hurled at us in unison, we would still have to bid adieu to this world. If we were going to flee, now was the time, while the wyverns were still lifting off.

‘Whatever, here goes nothing.’

Ignorance makes one brave. I decided to brave this trifling(?) danger for the sake of my goal.

“Who are you!”

‘Is it because they’re elites?’

We had the flag of the Aishwen Tribe, but were attired like an imperial Skyknight, so the Guardian Warriors addressed us with Kallian Common. They surrounded us perfectly in no time.

“I am Kantahar, Big Finger of the Eldest Son Before the Sacred Boulder, Chief of the Aishwen Tribe. We have come to seek an audience with the Mother of the People for an important matter!!!!”

Kantahar shouted with mana to the Guardian Warrior aiming an old model of spear at Bebeto as he flew in place. If we didn’t have the Aishwen Tribe’s flag, things would have definitely gone to hell already by now.

“Who is he! Why is the Big Finger of the Eldest Son Before the Sacred Boulder, Chief of the Aishwen Tribe, dressed like an imperial soldier? Luatikapa daanonia harpatia!!”

After shouting the first part in Common, the Guardian Warrior switched to the Temir language.

“Atipao… Lukasha, Kyre!”

Kantahar yelled something in the Temir language, with my name at the end.

Flash!

As soon as Kantahar finished speaking, the Guardian Warriors put mana into their spears, ready to fire.

‘You wanna go, bitches?!’

I wasn’t about to sit around and let myself be skewered. Defensive spells and offensive spells were instantly written out in my head. If I took advantage of the moment they let down their guard, we might be able to escape using spirits and magic.

Peeeeeeeeeeeeeeep!

Just then, a sharp whistle came from the temple, causing the Guardian Warriors to flinch.

“Land! Land right now!”

Pointing to the ground with his spear, one of the Guardian Warriors vehemently ordered us to land.

‘You jerk, I can hear you just fine.’

Glaring a little at the Guardian Warrior who blasted us with his mana-charged shout, I directed Bebeto to land.

‘The building is pretty damn old.’

This temple was definitely the residence of shamans. Nestled between the mountains, the pyramid building was built atop a protruding hill in the valley and encircled by a 10-meter-tall stone wall. There were buildings that looked like wyvern hangars in a clearing in the valley. Flanked by 100 wyverns, we landed in the heart of the Temir tribes.

‘It’s normal for me, but why is this brat so frickin’ fearless?’

Bebeto was extremely smart, so there was no way he wouldn’t recognize what kind of danger he was in. One misstep and the flesh could be sliced from his bones, but he calmly flapped his wings and made a grand landing. I guessed he took after me and had a faulty amygdala.

Once he landed, Temir soldiers on the level of knights pointed spears at us, wearing unbelievably black armor and cloaks.

‘That’s custom-made armor. Whoever it was, they must have made a killing.’

It was obvious that the Temir hadn’t made the armor—the works exuded the craftsmanship of an artisan from the continent. I was sure that the people making a living by trading with the Temir had ordered it for them.

Grrrrrrrrrrrrrr!

Kaaaeeeeek!

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There were a ton of wyverns in the air, but some of them were screaming with irritation as they flew above Bebeto. I was sure they were males. Despite their provocations, Bebeto simply turned his head like a majestic king of wyverns, imparting meaningful gazes upon them. It was as if the positions of host and guest were reversed.

“Discard your weapons!” ordered one of the Guardian Warriors, dismounting from his wyvern.

‘They’ve even got old-model airplates… They can go into battle right away.’

Some of the Temir who attacked Nerman several months ago didn’t even have leather armor or proper clothes, but the warriors here were wearing formal airplates. The Aishwen Tribe was on the verge of starving to death, but thousands of Gold were poured into these Guardian Warriors. I could tell that common sense didn’t apply here, either.

Click.

Since we were already on the ground, it didn’t make much of a difference whether I had my sword or not. I unclasped my sheath and helmet, then passed them to Kantahar.

“Hold onto these for me.”

“I will protect them with my life, my lord.”

He wasn’t even a knight of my territory, but Kantahar looked just as reliable. As long as things went well, I could keep him around.

“Follow me.”

“Bebeto, be good. I’ll be back soon.”

Guoo! Guo!

As if telling me not to worry, Bebeto rubbed my hand with his long horns.

‘It’s already evening.’

The day had progressed with a totally unexpected twist… were the heavens punishing me for sleeping in?

* * *

‘Amazing, really amazing!’

The Guardian Warriors dragged me into the pyramid-shaped temple. To my surprise, though the air outside was freezing cold, the inside of the pyramid felt as balmy as a warm spring day.

‘Magic…’

I didn’t think the Temir had any of the continent’s technologies, but magic had spread all the way into the heart of the mountains.

‘But… Why does it feel so crappy?’

I would feel perfectly comfortable with the energy of normal mana, but what I felt inside the temple wasn’t quite right. I couldn’t take a close look because the magic array was hidden inside the walls, but if it gave me this sensation of wrongness, it could only be one thing.

‘Black magic, dammit…’

My warning sensors jumped straight to red. If this place was within the range of influence of the black mages who had nearly concealed all traces of themselves on the continent, my safety could be greatly endangered.

‘Lokoroïa or Kokoko or whatever, just try messing with me!’

“What are you doing! Keep moving!”

‘Jeez, this mister sure is impatient.’

Even while I was getting dragged along, I continued to memorize the inside of the maze-like interior. This place was like a tiger’s den. One moment of inattention and I could end up as food for the dogs tonight.

10 Guardian Warriors surrounded me in the front and the back. I could sense that they were upper-level Blade Knights. There was no doubt that they were the highest of the highest elites among the Temir.

‘Hundreds of years must have passed to result in this much discoloration.’

The inside of the pyramid was full of strange letters that looked like the Temir script, as well as countless golden murals. They clearly depicted wars between humans and monsters, unfamiliar gods, scenes like the creation of the world, various things like crops, and the history of mankind.

‘I thought they were uncivilized, but they’ve got their own brand of culture.’

It was clear that the Temir race had retained their ancient customs all this time. There was probably a time when they were an even mightier civilization than those on the continent. After walking for a while down a corridor with a 3-meter high ceiling, the passage suddenly opened up with a dazzling glare into a larger space.

‘Wow!’

I breathed another exclamation of awe. I hadn’t even imagined that there would be such an enormous space inside the pyramid, one just as big as the Hall of Honor in the Bajran Empire’s capital.

‘My god, you can even see the sky!’

More astonishing was the fact that you could see the golden moon in the center of the hall’s ceiling, the same one I had seen on my flight here.

‘It’s floatation magic.’

Nothing was supporting it—the golden moon was floating magnificently at the top of the pyramid. It was simply floating, as if enspelled with permanent magic.

‘Barrier magic is being used as a window… This is the work of an upper-circle mage, one almost at the 8th Circle…’

It was shocking.

It was unbelievable that there might be an 8th Circle mage other than Master Bumdalf on this continent. The thought simultaneously gave me chills. If there was an 8th Circle archmage here, it could put a real wrench in my plans to live a minimum of one hundred years.

Flash.

As my tension rose, my mana core activated.

‘There are 50 warriors in total, and magic arrays scattered around. The place is perfectly protected.’

There was an upper level around 100 meters ahead that looked like an altar. Smoke drifted from an enormous, 5 meter-wide brazier carved into a golden dragon, and the entire space was dominated by a pure fragrance.

Gulp.

I swallowed nervously. Just before coming here, I was gulping greedily at the sight of wild wyvern flocks, but now, I was gulping due to danger.

‘Lokoroïa, hurry and show yourself!’

If a wicked hag appeared like I expected, then I intended to hurl a Fire Ball at her face before making a run for it. If I wanted to get out of this place reeking with black magic in one piece, this was really my last chance.

“Ashwepotia… armisdania…”

‘Eeek!’

A low voice suddenly rang out in the hall, like some scene in a horror movie. Sounding kind of like the Temir language but not quite, the voice froze my heart solid.

“Laikeshwi… forhadia!”

Fwooooooosh!

As the voice abruptly grew in volume, a great pillar of flame appeared in the brazier. I would have clapped if it was a fire show, but the situation was super dangerous. Readying my mana core, I prepared for the danger to come.

“Kneel! Lord of Nerman! Before you is the one chosen by Hadvaish, Father of Creation, the Mother of All People, Lokoroïa-nim! Greet the Mother with honor!”

A cold warning came from my back.

‘Jeez, I don’t even kneel to my own mother, you jerks! You’re asking for it!’

Thud.

Contrary to my feelings, I simply knelt. It wasn’t like kneeling would kill me, and I couldn’t cause a fuss before even meeting the leader of the Temir, Lokoroïa. I could think of kneeling as exercise, a way to loosen the stiff muscles in my legs from flying on Bebeto for so long.

As I kneeled, I heard swishing, light footsteps approaching, and not just from one or two people, but at least ten. Considering the lightness of the steps, they were all women.

Fwoooooosh.

Who knows how they did it, but the flame in the brazier billowed again.

“Lahibahid ashwelaikaam hasiteia…”

I couldn’t understand it, but a very pleasant-sounding chorus began to fill the hall.

“Raise your head, Lord of Nerman.”

‘Ehh?’

A woman’s voice ordered me to raise my head. I expected the scratchy, grating voice of an evil, black mage hag, but what I heard was the young voice of a girl. I slowly raised my head.

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“…!!”

And then, I froze.

She was far away, but thanks to my mana-enhanced 20/20 vision, I could see the figure ahead of me very clearly.

‘A female child?’

A woman, no, a girl, was sitting on a golden chair with a moon engraving at the foot of the altar. She looked maybe 15, at most.

‘Golden hair?’

To my surprise, she had golden hair, which was uncommon even on the continent. It was bound with silver thread and cascaded smoothly over her black, lustrous priestess robe.

‘Haah, she’s totally adorable.’

It was the complete opposite of what I had imagined. Coming in here, I would have wagered that there was a 90% chance that the Mother of All People was an evil witch, but the Great Shaman Lokoroïa sitting on the golden chair was a fifteen-year old girl in the prime of her youth. She had translucent, pearly skin that obviously looked as if it was never exposed to the sun, slightly slanted eyes, violet eyes, a small nose, and lips to match.

Gulp.

I swallowed again at this unexpected development.

‘Good going, you criminal, you.’

While I was also still a young teenager, I ended up gaping at a girl three years my junior. The hormones flowing through my veins were lawless instigators that paid no heed to the time or place.

“Alright, why have you come all the way here? Here, where your life cannot be guaranteed…”

Since she was like a god to the Temir, it seemed she was very used to speaking informally.

‘This young girl is the head honcho controlling the Temir?’

I looked up at Lokoroïa, still in disbelief. She was being guarded by around ten women wearing black priestess robes embroidered with a golden moon.

I really couldn’t believe it. At her age, I was just fooling around with things like my Playstation and Nintendo consoles. I couldn’t believe that someone younger than me possessed the wisdom to threaten the Bajran Empire. It might be possible if she had learned politics and tactics within the womb, but otherwise… I also noticed that even as she spoke, the girl named Lokoroïa did not conceal her great interest in me.

‘Something’s fishy.’

My invisible “Detective Conan” senses were triggered.

“Haha. I have come for an audience with the greatly prestigious Lokoroïa-nim. You are more beautiful than rumored.”

Starting off with my characteristic, easy laugh, I used my flattery skill.

The girl could not conceal the happiness sparkling in her eyes at my very ordinary compliment.

‘Hm?’

Just then, I saw it.

There was a strange earring attached to the girl’s ear. Looking almost like a hearing aid, the earring was made with some kind of black material that wasn’t apparent to the eye.

‘A magic receiver!’

I recognized it immediately. Among the magic knowledge I inherited from my instructor, a true master of magic, there was information about magic receivers like that.

‘I’ve got you now, you fox.’

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I had the niggling sense that this girl was being controlled by someone.

“Refrain from uttering such nonsense. This is the Altar of the Moon where the Mother slumbers. Words spoken in vain will incite the rage of God.”

In stark contrast to the guileless sparkle in her eyes, she spoke like an elder who had experienced everything the world had to offer.

‘Huhu, how cute.’

I didn’t know the exact circumstances, but I could tell that the girl in front of me was being controlled.

‘She can even act. She would make huge waves as an idol.’

I had the fleeting thought of maybe creating an entertainment company using this opportunity. With her cute appearance, her silvery voice, and a little dance and magic education, she could become an idol of unprecedented proportions.

“I apologize, I meant no disrespect. To speak plainly, I have come to make a trade with the Temir people. I do not know who you are currently trading with, but I will provide everything you want for half the price. Not just provisions, but also the newest model of Blessed Spears.”

After throwing the bait, I smiled widely. There was someone watching me from the shadows and controlling the so-called Great Shaman, Lokoroïa. As long as they were smarter than an orc, they would jump to accept my fantastic offer.

And just as I expected, after a short period of silence, the girl opened her mouth as if she had received instructions from the receiver in her ear.

“This matter cannot be rashly decided. A short meeting shall be conducted, so go back for now. You will be called before long.”

“I understand. Then, I will see you soon.”

‘This is pretty fun.’

Life wasn’t boring, but the feeling of uncovering a great secret was strangely exciting. After getting dismissed, I rapidly glanced around while following the guardian warriors outside the hall.

‘Over there.’

Around 10 meters above the lass’ head was a sparkling black crystal. I could tell that was the thing being used to watch me.

‘Haah, but will they even give me dinner?’

The only things I ate today were a few tasteless mountain potatoes. I missed the covert, where a fried egg, white bread with honey, and meat soup were always waiting for me, a humble, but fulfilling meal.

‘This is why leaving the house invites toil and trouble…’

That was what my mom always said whenever I came home dog-tired after a long day at school. The words of the elders were truly not wrong.

Even with just some rice in hot water and a little kimchi, the food from home was really the best…

* * *

“Is that man truly the Lord of Nerman?”

“It seems so. According to the information from the dark merchant group, a rookie Skyknight with black hair and black eyes caused a ruckus in the Bajran Empire Royal Palace.”

“I do not have a very good feeling about him. Those black eyes make me dislike him even more…”

Lit under a small, dim red magic lamp flickering in the darkness, three people wearing black robes were conversing with serious expressions.

“But the conditions are too good. It is truly mortifying that those despicable dark merchants have been taking advantage of us. We had to hide ourselves to prevent them from catching on, but if we convert all the gold ore we lost in our trades with them to money, it has to be tens of millions in the past 10 years. They sold those shoddy crap spears for 100,000 Gold each… Argh, as soon as we can walk freely in the world, I will dessicate their testicles!”

“Do endure, we have not yet been able to open ‘his’ grave. Just endure until we can open it. If we can open that person’s grave and come to possess the power of despair, how could those paltry dark merchants possibly stand in our way? We would have the power to seize the entire continent.”

“Huhu, that’s why we’ve been laying low here, after all.”

No one was watching them, but the three figures hid their faces deep within their robes. Ominous mana was whirling around them.

“What shall we do? Will we trade with the Lord of Nerman?”

“We cannot take additional losses. We sent some of the Temir warrior trash recently and confirmed it, did we not. Nerman is no longer a place we can underestimate. That’s why this ‘lord’ got a whiff and crawled all the way here, is it not.”

“Then it is decided, we shall trade with him. If we can even get new models of spears, then our military force will multiply manifold.”

“Whew, we must quickly open that person’s grave. Only then will we be emancipated from the curse of the 5th Circle.”

“Huhu. Worry not. The supposed reincarnation of Lokoroïa, that wench, will soon come of age. When that happens, that person’s grave will open. Just endure until then.”

“Kukuku…”

“For the glory of darkness…”

In this room, which was sealed with silencing magic, the three black mages smiled ominously under their hoods.

They still had no idea just what kind of person the Lord of Nerman, who had offered them a trade, was.

* * *

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Munch munch.

‘Tasty.’

They must have received guests quite often, because when dinnertime rolled around, food appeared. The meal even included meat, soup, and bread. It wasn’t as good as the food Lucia’s mom made, but hunger was the best seasoning.

(PR/N: Man when are they gonna give Lucia’s mom a name lmao)

I was given a huge amount of food, enough for several men, but I polished it all down. Replenishing my stamina so I could figure out the identity or identities of whoever was controlling Lokoroïa from the shadows was my top priority.

‘They should be coming about now.’

Without the information I obtained from the Aishwen Chief and Kantahar, I wouldn’t have been able to adapt this quickly. If you know your enemy and you know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles, right?

[TN: A quote from Sun Tzu’s ‘The Art of War.’]

‘But who produced that dark energy?’

There were no mages—let alone dark mages—among the Temir who had invaded Nerman up until now.

‘Without a high degree of magic knowledge, building an incredible magic building like this is impossible. It must have been an archmage.’

If the existence of this pyramid within the mountains was revealed in the continent, it could easily cause a huge furor—it was that amazing.

‘I’m jealous.’

I was also a mage walking the long road of mana. The fact that I couldn’t even see the distant wall of the 7th Circle was a heavy weight on my shoulders. With magic, circle walls weren’t broken according to how much mana or knowledge one possessed.

Only one thing could break a wall: enlightenment.

Like a monk waking at the break of dawn and realizing the truth of the world from the birds chirping outside, thus achieving enlightenment, magic was also just as fickle. But besides Master, no other human was said to have reached the 8th Circle. It would be weird if I wasn’t jealous.

“Lokoroïa-nim has called you. Come outside,” shouted a warrior from outside the room.

I left the room I was allotted. Since I was full and raring to go, from here on out, it was time for a battle of wits.

‘Lokoroïa… Heh.’

The girl was as cute as her name.

“Let us go.”

I confidently bypassed the warrior, taking the lead on the road to meet a sight for the eyes.

What else would this be other than yet another of life’s delights?

* * *

“I accept your proposal.”

‘Niiice!’

Nodding her head, Lokoroïa agreed to the trade.

When I first came here, my goal was just to help the Temir, like Kantahar asked of me, but my goal changed. Now, I wanted to dissect this temple, the work of an archmage, and drag whoever was controlling Lokoroïa out into the open. From what I previously knew about the Temir, they weren’t much of a threat, but the people hiding here were very dangerous, so much so that they could possibly destroy Nerman’s hard-earned peace.

“I am thankful for Lokoroïa-nim’s wise decision.”

‘She looks even cuter from closer up.’

Lokoroïa was 20 meters away from me, with around 20 guardian warriors on either side between us, as well as 10 female shamans.

“The first contract shall be to procure enough grain for 100,000 people to survive the winter.”

“Understood.”

The first item in the shopping list was just as I had expected.

“Second, we shall purchase 300 Blessed Spears, for a price of 50,000 Gold in empire currency per spear.”

‘!! 300 spears?’

It was an extremely intense first trade. Even top-quality grain for 100,000 people over the winter could be bought for a few hundred thousand Gold, but 300 Blessed Spears was unexpected.

‘There must be a reason.’

The way Lokoroïa spoke was completely unbefitting for a young girl not even twenty. From close up, I could see that the muscles of her face and way of speech were awkward, like a parrot imitating speech.

“Bringing you that many spears will take quite a long time.”

“Why? Do you not have the ability?”

“It is not about ability, but that my territory might be endangered if I were to sell 300 Blessed Spears to you. Before I can sell you the spears, please convene the leaders of the major tribes and give me a guarantee that your people will not invade Nerman.”

“Mm…”

“If you can give me a guarantee, then I will complete the trade before the end of the year.”

Lokoroïa fell into deep thought at my words.

“Alright, I shall do as you say.”

“Then when…”

“One week from now, every chief of my people will come for my coming-of-age ceremony. That is when I will give you the assurance you desire. You must fulfill your promise at that time as well.”

‘Coming-of-age ceremony?’ No matter how you put it, Lokoroïa only looked to be around fifteen years old, but she was already having a coming-of-age ceremony. ‘I guess it’s because people living in dangerous places have their coming-of-age ceremonies sooner?’

It wasn’t something I should concern myself over when I was already so clueless about Temir customs.

“I understand. One week from now, I will bring the spears.”

“Thank you.”

“It is nothing. It is my honor to be graced by your appearance, which is nobler than moonlight itself.”

I looked her in the eye and flattered her shamelessly.

“…”

Rendered speechless by my words, Lokoroïa flushed apple red. I took that as a sign that I had piqued her interest in me.

Clap clap.

Thud.

After a short moment of silence, the girl clapped her hands, which led one of the guardian warriors waiting on the side to throw a heavy leather pouch in front of me.

“Open it, it is the money for the contract.”

“You needn’t have bothered, we’re partners…”

My actions betrayed my words. I hefted the pouch and took a look inside.

‘Woooot!!!’

Like Kantahar said, it seemed the Temir had many gold and gem mines. Inside the leather pouch was a grape-sized diamond, a ruby the size of a goose egg, and various other jewels. I didn’t know the exact value, but this pouch alone would probably be an easy several hundred thousand Gold.

‘The losers can only survive by sticking together, anyway. It’ll be better to be on trading terms with the Temir instead of being enemies.’

I had plenty of enemies all over the place. The only way to stand up to the pre-established powers ruling the continent was to make allies of the downtrodden and marginalized. In any case, be it the pirates or the Temir people, I was the only person who would extend a hand to them.

“Then, I will see you again in exactly one week. May you enjoy good health until the day we meet again.”

I was someone who met manners with manners. Bowing my head, I expressed my respect for the future Miss World.

‘Eat well and grow up fast. Cough cough.’

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I gave the girl one last look.

Her adorably dimpled face still holding traces of baby fat, Lokoroïa’s uniquely violet eyes were sparkling at me.

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