Chapter 175 - Return to the Magic Tower (2)
It was nice to imagine getting a welcome. However, Theo's departure had been strictly confidential, so he hadn't been naive enough to expect a reunion while others were watching. No, it was questionable if Sylvia even knew of Theodore's actions.
While Theodore was filled with such doubts, Orta delivered a message to him using magic, [She knows. She is Blundell's granddaughter, so she can easily find out if she wants to.]
'Indeed,' Theodore agreed inwardly.
Blundell was a tower master, not someone else. So, needless to say, Sylvia could figure out the information related to Theodore. Of course, he was sure that Sylvia wouldn't leak the information, but there might be situations she couldn't predict. As such, Theodore wasn't sure how to start the story.
However, Sylvia was the one who moved first. "Theo."
"Y-Yes?" Perhaps it was because her tone of voice was different from a year ago, but Theodore's response to Sylvia's call was delayed by half a beat. Unlike before, Sylvia now had a clear and resonate voice.
As Theodore stiffened for no reason, Sylvia picked up the books she had dropped.
"It looks like your business is over." Her voice was calmer than he'd expected. She bowed briefly to the White Tower Master and held her books as she asked Theodore, "Are you busy now?"
"...Yes, I think I will be busy until the evening."
"I see." Her tone was understanding. Sylvia smiled and headed toward both of them. Then as she passed by Theodore, she whispered, "I'm still not fully prepared, so I will see you later."
Theodore turned to her at the strange words, but Sylvia was already climbing the staircase toward the Blue Tower. It was the opposite direction of the Red Tower, so it would be embarrassing to chase someone who had already said goodbye in order to ask what they meant.
With unanswered questions, Theodore and Orta climbed the stairs leading to the Red Tower.
The meeting with his teacher, Vince Haidel, was really quick.
During the year that Theodore had been gone, Vince's private room had gotten a nameplate which was engraved with the symbol of a 'Prime.' Theo was surprised for a moment, but it wasn't hard to understand why.
Thanks to restoring the language of the ancient Balcia Empire and its magic system, it wasn't strange that his teacher would become a Prime.
"Master!" Theodore opened the door with a delighted voice.
"The- cough!" Vince spat out the freshly brewed cup of coffee that he had just started to drink. It was a meeting between a teacher and a disciple after one year, and this touching meeting began with coffee covering Theodore's face.
"T-This... Theodore, are you okay?"
"Yes, I'm fine."
Fortunately, Theodore couldn't get burned by the hot coffee as he was resistant to heat. He didn't have the physical abilities of an aura user, but the body of a magician was different from normal humans in many ways.
Of course, Vince was very apologetic for getting coffee on his disciple whom he hadn't seen for a year.
"Then let's start the story." After the fuss died down and new coffee was brewed, Vince opened his mouth first, "First and foremost, welcome back. I don't see any injuries, but what about the problem we talked about before you left?"
"It is well above expectations."
"That is a good thing." Vince smiled brightly after being reassured. The news that Theodore had gone on a journey was known to a few people, but only Vince knew that Theodore had a deadline.
Orta cocked his head, but he didn't interfere in the story between the two people.
Then the tale of Theodore's adventures began.
The raid during the crossing of the border to Sipoto, the plaque from the trading company, Sipoto's secret auction, the suspicion that the Orcus Company was using black magic... There was enough material to talk all day.
At first, the White Tower Master was listening indifferently, but he then leaned forward to listen more closely to Theo's words, making comments as the tale progressed.
"A death knight and ghost ship... I need to raise the warning level up by two stages."
"The Pirate Archipelago. I thought it was just a group of pirates. I never expected them to have a sea dragon behind them."
"The Soldun Kingdom is making a big move. Maybe there will be a civil war in the east of this continent..."
...It was the same pattern. There were a few minor things, but every single event was too big not to pay attention to. As the story reached the peak where Hyde was defeated, the two older magicians forgot their dignity and clapped.
"Excellent! It is just my judgment, but these achievements are enough to give you the position of marquis," Vince remarked.
"You're overpraising me," Theodore responded.
"No, it is hard to disagree with Prime Vince's words. Reaching the 7th Circle at this age and defeating one of the empire's Seven Swords? Even if you look through all of Meltor's history, it will be hard to find another person like you," Orta praised Theodore as well.
Theodore had no idea what to do hearing the praise from the two magicians.
Vince Haidel and Orta... Both of them were people who contributed to Meltor and had practiced magic far longer than Theodore. He didn't want them to be displeased at the quick accomplishments of a junior, but he couldn't see any signs of that on their faces.
Theodore embraced the feelings of intense joy and admiration, and he felt his heart beat faster.
'I've met some really good people.'
Perhaps this sense of belonging was Meltor's real power. They didn't monopolize knowledge alone, taught their fellow magicians, and didn't have the envious mindset. It was like paradise compared to the Andras Empire, where there was a strict order between teacher and disciple.
"Ah, that reminds me, Master." At that moment, a question about Sylvia popped into the mind of Theodore, who felt better. "I'm curious about what happened in the capital during the year I was away. For example, Sylvia was aware that I left..."
"Hrmm." Perhaps this a heavier topic than Theo had thought, as Vince groaned before opening his mouth to say, "Okay, let me explain what I know."
The story that emerged was more than Theodore had expected. Sylvia had found out about Theodore's departure a while after he'd left. Then she had stayed in her room for a week. A week later, her change had begun quietly.
Sylvia would read books all day or practice in the training rooms. She had become quieter but more violent than ever. As she immersed herself in magic, she didn't even care about her body being hurt.
It wouldn't have been a big deal for someone else, but Theodore's departure had caused changes in Sylvia. She had more talent and aptitude than others, but she had grown up without knowing desperation.
Even with Theodore, she just had the childish desire to compete with him. However, now, Sylvia had changed her perception of magic away from 'playing.'
"You've already noticed it, haven't you?"
"Yes, definitely." Theodore nodded as he recalled the shock of that moment. "She has already finished the 6th Circle."
Sylvia had a shocking and frightening talent. Theodore had struggled, even while using the cheat, Gluttony. The 'wall,' which was hard to overcome with even superior talent, had been penetrated by Sylvia after she had a change of mindset.
However, that wasn't what Vince was trying to say. He looked at Theodore and declared, "That child wants to follow you."
"Yes. Just like a chick who thinks of the first person it sees after hatching from its egg as its mother, you have become a presence like that to her."
For the very first time in her life, she'd met a boy who could match her and who she'd gone on adventures with. It was natural for Theodore to become a big existence to Sylvia, who was like a blank piece of paper.
However, that boy had left and walked alone. The girl, unfamiliar with asking other people for help, then found her own answer: because she was weak, she had become his burden. Therefore, Sylvia had decided to become stronger. She would become stronger than the boy who defeated her, or at the very least, enough to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with him.
Theodore hadn't realized it until he heard these words. It was then that he finally understood what Sylvia meant by being 'prepared.'
As he drank his coffee while in shock, Vince nodded and advised him, "I won't ask you to meet her straight away, but you shouldn't forget this."
"...Yes, I will keep that in mind."
Theodore had already excluded 'qualifications' and 'age' as excuses. He emptied his cup as he once again realized his own immaturity that Seimei's test had shown him. It might be the atmosphere, but the aftertaste of the sweet coffee was slightly bitter.
* * *
After finishing his story, Theodore was summoned to the royal palace at around 9 p.m. It might be because the afternoon meeting took too long, or perhaps it was to avoid the eyes of others.
Without daring to guess the reason, Theodore passed through the palace's central garden while the stars shone above his head. He walked over a hundred steps beyond the garden and arrived at his destination.
It was a place he had visited a few times in the past. The guard standing before the door recognized Theodore and spoke politely, "It is an honor. Go ahead and enter."
Theodore lightly returned the greeting before taking a deep breath and entering. In general, the guards opened the door while calling the name of the person entering, but the nature of this meeting was a little different.
The guard didn't need to explain how it was different. Theodore could tell as soon as the doors opened.
The Blue Tower Master, Blundell Adruncus...
The White Tower Master, Orta...
The minister for the military, Robert Alpenheimer...
And the minister of domestic affairs, Jerome Violeta...
Aside from Veronica who was absent for some reason, the main powers of the Meltor Kingdom were sitting around a circular table and staring at him. Of course, at the center was a man with purple eyes sitting on a gorgeous throne, Kurt III.
As the door closed behind him, Theodore bowed down to the king. "A Prime of the Red Tower, Viscount Theodore Miller greets the Great Sun of Meltor."
"You can stop bowing now."
"Yes, Your Majesty." Theodore got up and met the eyes of a brightly smiling Kurt.
Then Kurt III spoke in a mischievous tone, "It has been a while, hero who left home. Where did you go and what did you go?"
"Thanks to Your Majesty's concern, I have returned safely."
"Is that so? But I don't think you enjoyed a trip without any incidents. If you don't mind, please tell your story to the people gathered here."
"Yes Your Majesty... Ah." Theodore's expression changed as something popped into his head. "Before I start talking, I have to apologize to Your Majesty."
"Hoh? For what?" Kurt III asked with a confused expression.
Theodore showed his blank wrist and apologized, "During a battle, I lost the bracelet that Your Majesty lent to me. Please forgive me for being inadequate."
"Hah? That hard bracelet? How did you manage that?"
"It couldn't be helped. I was fighting one of the empire's Seven Swords."
Despite his lighthearted tone, the atmosphere of the room changed immediately. Some of the people in the room knew this in advance, but the people who didn't know were shocked. For Meltor, a battle with their greatest enemy, the empire's Seven Swords, couldn't end without any bloodshed. If so, Theodore standing in this place meant...
As everyone was filled with expectation and excitement, Kurt III raised his hand. "Okay, start the story from there. Regardless of when the incident occurred, I would like you to report in the order of most important."
"I will follow Your Majesty's words." Theodore responded to their expectations by opening his mouth and telling his story, "It was just after I saw the devastation in the Information Guild..."
It was a story he had already told to the White Tower Master and Vince, so he was able to make the context more interesting. Sometimes furious, sometimes calm, the voice of the young man resonated in the room.
All of the Meltor Kingdom's most important people were silent as the hero's story was told...
And no one was able to open their mouths until the story was over.
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