At the Crossroad of Trust #1
After school, Theodore finished his dinner, like Professor Vince had said to do, and walked with a sunken expression.
He didn't have a chance to enjoy his victory over Garcia because he knew why Vince called him. In the academy, there was no other person who knew Theo better. He realized that Theo's abilities had increased abnormally.
'Plus, he knows that I don't have the money to buy magic reagents or hire a tutor.'
Vince had cared for him more than anyone else in the past three years.
Theo had talked about his miserable money situation, which was almost like a poor peasant's, and his horrible mana sensitivity.
Vince was different from the other professors who didn't pay much attention to Theo. This situation was more dangerous because it was Professor Vince, who always regretted seeing Theo's talent go to waste and tried to open up another path for him. Professor Vince would be able to grasp the authenticity of Theo's words.
Above all, there was the problem of coming up with a way of hiding Gluttony's existence.
'Damn, there is no answer no matter how I think about it. I can't make up excuses to Professor Vince. It will cause a misunderstanding, and I might not be able to salvage this.'
Gluttony had said that there were over 100 ways to increase magic power, but it had only told him one.
In this day and age, only three or four methods were known. Other methods included black magic or fraudulent techniques, but it wasn't rare for the magic power to decrease instead. In a situation like this, there was no hole to escape to.
How long did he worry about it? Theo had already arrived in front of Professor Vince's laboratory.
It was his first visit here since coming for the permit. Theo looked at the brown door before him. At that time, he had come out of this room with a gloomy face, and he now returned with entirely different worries.
The position he was in had changed a lot. The one-time 2nd Circle dunce now had the best marks in the grade. This was the result of facing his difficulties without turning back.
'It is the same this time as well.'
He wouldn't run away. Theo decided he would face it as he raised his hand.
"Professor, it is Theodore."
An answer came from behind the door, as if he had been waiting.
Theo turned the doorknob, and he could smell the usual scent of coffee. The parchments and books spread out on the desk showed Professor Vince's diligence. He put down the parchment he was reading and looked at Theo with a face that was difficult to read.
"You came right on time. The faculty meeting took longer than I expected, so I just got back."
It was as he said. The handling of Garcia Carter was a difficult problem for the academy. Viscount Carter was famous, so they didn't want to punish his son and cause a problem. The professors were so concerned that Vince was eventually forced to give up on expulsion or repeating a year.
After the meeting ran for two or three hours, it finally came to an end with Viscount Carter's showing up personally in a crystal ball.
-I'm really sorry that my foolish son was such a nuisance.
As an upright and honourable nobleman, Viscount Cater didn't try to make excuses for Garcia. Rather, he asked Vince to punish him strictly. As a result, the principal of Bergen Academy decided to leave the decision to Vince.
"It is unsatisfactory. The principal was afraid of the possible future troubles if he made the wrong decision."
Vince described the situation up to there and stopped talking for a moment. Then he took a sip from the coffee cup on his desk, dissatisfied that the professors at the academy were bureaucrats who only cared about their own well-being.
On the other hand, Theo hadn't expected much from the professors, so his expression was still calm. Vince saw his reaction and put down his cup.
"I spoke for too long. Should I go straight to the point?"
Before that, Vince pulled something out. It was an impressive pendant on a silver chain. Theo could feel a considerable amount of magic power coming from the red jewel in the middle.
Theo's eyes naturally widened when he saw the pendant.
'It's an artifact! I've never seen such a high quality one before.'
Thanks to spending two months at the black market trader, Theo quickly noticed it. The silver pendant was something which couldn't be compared with any of the goods from the black market trader. Its configuration of the magic power was completely different.
It might be possible to shorten the path to the 4th Circle by more than half if he swallowed it. The pendant was like an à la carte dish. Then Professor Vince told him the identity of the pendant.
"Roaring Flames is the name of this pendant."
"Yes. Garcia, that idiot, used this artifact during the spar with you."
Indeed, it had been due to the power of the pendant. Theo nodded unconsciously. This answered the question of how Garcia, a 3rd Circle magician, had been able to use the 4th Circle Blaze Shell. It was possible with the magic power of 'Roaring Flames'.
However, his surprise didn't end there.
"Now, take it."
Professor Vince suddenly threw Roaring Flames at Theodore.
An artifact, which would be worth at least 100 gold and treasured by magicians, was being thrown through the air. Theo raised his hands reflexively and grabbed it.
Before Theo could ask anything, Vince said, "You won't receive an apology from the academy. However, you were attacked by this artifact. I think this pendant, Roaring Flames, was sent as an apology by Viscount Carter."
"No, even so..."
Handing over an artifact like this as an apology... no one in the Meltor Kingdom would do it. At the very least, Viscount Carter wasn't known for his wealth.
Theo knew this and wasn't convinced, but Vince casually explained the story behind the incident.
"Instead, Garcia will receive a one month suspension. I chose his punishment without consulting you, so if you have any complaints, give back the pendant and he will be expelled."
"...I have no complaints, Professor!"
"Well, I thought so."
As Theo was stunned by his sudden windfall, Vince smiled and picked up his cup of coffee again.
No matter what punishment Garcia received, Theodore wouldn't receive any benefits. No, Garcia might hold a grudge if he received a severe punishment. Whereas, accepting the Roaring Flames would give Theo a benefit.
'Okay, it might be possible for me to become a 4th Circle magician before graduation.'
For a moment, there was a peaceful silence. Theo's hands were tingling because he wanted to use Appraisal straight away, while Vince closed his eyes and savoured the smell of coffee. However, the silence between the two of them was broken shortly afterwards by Vince's voice.
"From here on, it will be my personal question."
The inevitable checkmate had arrived. The relaxed tension was pulled tightly like a rubber band, and Theo's expression grew grim.
He lost the false sense of security Professor Vince had given him by handing him the artifact, and a hypothetical dialogue of how this conversation would go popped into his head. The atmosphere in the room seemed to cool within a mere 10 seconds.
"I don't doubt your capabilities. No, anyone who understands your nature wouldn't feel doubt. Haven't I told you a few times already? Theodore Miller, if you had a little more sensitivity, then you would've been the top graduate three years ago."
Theo's expression didn't soften even with the praise. Rather, it became more tense. Theodore was afraid of that splendid reputation. Nobody in the academy knew, but one person had guessed about Theodore's talent. That person was Professor Vince.
"However, that is the limit. There is no way to increase one's sensitivity, and I felt regret for you."
Vince looked at him with sharp eyes.
"Since the winter break, you have changed. No, the word 'change' is lacking. You have become completely different."
It was a bit of a relief that no animosity was obviously visible. Theo might have absorbed some of Alfred Bellontes's talents and experience, but he wasn't a match for the Vince. Vince was a person who had been a war magician for decades and was a powerful person with the 6th Circle in sight. If Theo fought Vince 100 times, then Theo would die 100 times.
Fortunately, Vince was just questioning Theo and didn't seem to have any hostile feelings.
"It is okay if you don't want to answer. You are sincere and not a personally flawed student. I know you wouldn't use a dirty method for such a development."
"But if you think of me as your teacher, I wonder if there is anything I can do to help you."
'I want to teach you' was the conclusion. At that moment, Theodor Miller had a hunch.
'Here, this is a crossroad.'
His life would change depending on which side he chose. Should he tell Vince or should he hide it?
If he concealed it, then his days would continue like they were now. He would continue eating books from the library and receive his diploma as an elite student. No, would it really be like that?
There was a limit to how many books he could take from the library. Over the past two months, Gluttony had already eaten over 100 books. He had somehow concealed it by changing the layout of the collections or moving the desk positions, but if someone looked closely, then it would soon be clear.
However, if he had Professor Vince's cooperation, he wouldn't need to take such risks.
'No, that doesn't matter.'
In the end, that was a secondary matter. He had to look at the essence of the situation.
What was the meaning of this crossroad?
Theo stared solemnly at Professor Vince. In retrospect, it was a simple question...
...Should be believe or not believe in Vince?
After a period of silence which was both long and short, Theo finally made his decision.