"Do you fancy this item?"

"Can we make a lot of these?"

"Sure, if someone can replicate this magic circle. If you engrave it on wood or stone, it'll last a long while."

"I see..."

Serpens looked surprised for a moment, like he had to pause to think. He quickly recovered and started doing some mental math.

"If you're going to mass-produce and sell them, you'll have to hide this magic circle. I can twist it a bit to throw mages off, but they'll figure it out sooner or later."

Serpens nodded. He seemed confident he could handle that.

I estimated we could make about 3,000 gold from this magic tool. The actual amount might change depending on how good we are at selling, but that was my guess when I was with the Duke of Vreio.

"You could hide the magic circle inside so only the breeze comes out. If we price it right, everyone can have a cooler summer. If we charge more, servants can use it to keep the nobles cool. Or we could engrave it on the castle gate to let a cool breeze in, like in Hebron. You just need to figure out the best way to use it."

"So, you're giving me this magic circle?"

"I'll take those as a down payment."

"Is that enough?"

"Well, it's a down payment."


Serpens looked a bit let down. No matter how much he thought about the profits, he couldn't know for sure. So, he must've been hoping for a bigger payout.

"Bring me a skilled craftsman and a top-tier mage."

"Does it have to be a top-tier mage?"

"Don't you have any?"

"We have two... but they're both Class 3 mages."

"Get a Class 4 mage for this. Ideally, someone who knows magic circles well. Isn't it worth the investment?"

My estimate of 3,000 gold was pure profit.

But it would take quite a bit of money to get there.

"I'll get on it. But what about other magic circles...?"

"There aren't any. Likely, no one will be able to use such powerful magic circles in the future. We've lost that ability long ago."

Serpens, who owned a high-ranking house, nodded but didn't look away from me. He seemed sure there was more he could get.

"Trust me. I'll deliver more than you're expecting. But you'll need to pay the price."

"Keep my name quiet for now. The one who sticks out gets hammered. If someone tries to bribe or threaten me, let me know. But we'll split the profits down the middle."

I didn't plan on hiding forever. Just long enough to avoid unnecessary trouble.

"Sure thing."

"Could you send a cart to Hebron every month?"

"That was actually what I was about to ask."

"The cart can even stay there all the time."

Baron Serpens's eyes lit up.

Before Hebron fell on hard times, it was under Nurha's control, and Nurha's ancestors used to work for Hebron.

If the east forest road and west cloud bridge were working, Hebron was a better spot for trading than Nurha.

Before the cloud bridge was built, Hebron was just a small town next to Nurha.

"But there's a catch."

"Go on."

"Please agree to an exclusive deal with Serpens."

"Can you manage it?"

"I'll do my very best."

I liked Serpens. He might not have the same skills as Dae Sang-In, but he was just as good at reading people. He saw a bright future for me.

"Bring the contract. If there's anything fishy in it...you know what will happen, right?"

"No worries, sir. My house's future is tied up in this, too."

"Good. I trust you."

Serpens got to work.

His secretary and the merchants from his house got together to write the contract.

I told the castle servants.

"Give them a bath and something to eat."

The slaves looked pretty healthy. They seemed to be doing better than the people in Hebron. They were well-fed.

"Hand out flour and jerky to everyone in the area. Give the soldiers twice that. For the farmers who lost their fields in all this, give them enough flour to last till next spring."

Serpens's cart was packed full of flour, bread, and jerky.

If the cart stayed in Hebron, life would get better.

They could say goodbye to the hard times of fending for themselves.

That night, Serpens came to see me.

"I was too swamped earlier to mention it, but there's another rumor about that tattoo."

"What's the rumor?"

"They say it wasn't just one orc with the mark."

"That makes sense. I've got proof."

The trickster's mark was on both an orc and a goblin.

We figured out the race didn't matter, but the places where the orc and goblin showed up were only about 10 kilometers apart. That's because Jaison Marquis's land was just past the west cliffs of Hebron.

"About two months ago, strong monsters started showing up all over. Some say they saw the mark on their foreheads. We're not sure if it was the same one though..."

"Were the ones with the marks on their foreheads acting crazy?"

"Yes, sir."

"Then it must be true."

The ones with marks turned into monsters. Just like the goblin that tried to kill me, the marked monsters must've turned into creatures that broke all the rules.

"Any theories?"

"None yet. If I discover anything, you'll be the first to know."

"Thank you."

'The world is getting more treacherous. Is this a blessing or a trial?'

Unfortunately, chaos had already begun and Hebron was woefully unprepared.

'The slave army is just the tip of the iceberg.'

The Duke of Vreio viewed slaves as trivial, with growth limitations and a lack of loyalty. Therefore, despite possessing numerous secrets, he didn't amass a slave army. After all, even without them, a line of promising candidates stretched beyond the gates of the Vreio Duchy.

'I must collect the overlooked ones.'

I was familiar with those chosen and then discarded by the Duchy. Some had faded into obscurity after their fall from grace, but there were many who were well-respected in other territories solely because they'd served at the Vreio Duchy.

"I need to ask you a favor."

"Of course, feel free."

"I need to gather some skilled individuals."

"Skilled... individuals?"

I was a nobleman bound to Hebron.

I should have only known people in this immediate area.

Yet, I identified people living across various regions of the Xenon Kingdom, handing over a document detailing their profiles.

"No matter the cost, gather and bring as many of these individuals as possible. And this woman."

"Amy de Ludwig. The daughter of Baron Ludwig."

"That woman must be brought in. I'll pen a letter, you deliver it."

The Xenon Kingdom offered little room for women in positions of power.

The best one could hope for was to become a high priestess, but even women of significant talents were often relegated to the role of a wife.

One who stood out among the rest was Amy de Ludwig. Had she been born a man, she would have received an invitation from the Vreio Duke's family long ago.

I had several persuasive arguments at the ready. I wrote one into the letter. It was the introduction of my piece, .

I lured the others in a similar fashion. I hinted that the knowledge they so desperately sought was with me and that only those who pledged themselves to me could access this complete wisdom.

The number of skilled individuals that could be recruited in this manner was limited. After all, true talent represents those who have achieved the utmost in their fields.

Lastly, I singled out one more person.

"If the chance arises......"

I cautiously added another name.

He was in his early fifties. He wasn't versed in magic or swordplay, but had devoted over 30 years of his life to the Vreio family. He might still be in the Vreio Duchy, but retirement was looming on the horizon.


He was the only person who treated me as a human in the stringent environment of the Vreio Duchy.

"This individual must be approached with the utmost respect."

"How are you familiar with these people?"

Serpens's curiosity was piqued.

As the annals of history recount, many heroes found success spurred by their curiosity, while more still met their end attempting to sate it.

I relayed this historical truth to Serpens.

"Would you rather live consumed by curiosity, or die attempting to satisfy it?"

"......We're in the same boat, my lord."

"Then you already know my answer."


Raei  Translations


Serpens presented me with an exclusive contract.

Despite looking over it repeatedly, I found no deceit, and it was extraordinarily favorable to the Hebron Barony. It appeared to be drafted assuming the other party was a noble house of greater status than a marquis.

"I have another secret to share. Civil war is on the horizon."

"A war? Who are the adversaries?"

Serpens's eyes sparked with intrigue.

War represented an opportunity for rapid advancement.

"Hebron and Nurha."

"......Excuse me?"

"The Baron of Nurha will strike at Hebron. If they prove to be resilient pests, impenetrable to any provocation, then I will have to squash them myself."

"I beg your pardon?"


Raei  Translations


"I am Lewis de Hebron, the lord you will serve."

The neatly assembled slave soldiers regrouped on the training ground.

Donned in regular attire, they stood in formation.

"Nick your fingertip with this dagger. Not too deeply. I merely require a few drops of blood."

It was time to test their elemental affinities.

Bound by the contract, they couldn't resist my command.

Drip, drip.

Drops of blood fell onto the elemental summoning circle. I didn't harbor any high expectations. Elemental affinity was a rare gift. Even a lowly slave with the power to control an elemental was worth more than 100 gold pieces.


"My grandmother was an elf."

The woman had pointed ears. She lacked the smooth, elegant features typically associated with elves. Her curly brown hair and freckled face gave her an ordinary appearance.

'I've struck luck.'

All the slaves that Serpens procured were of mixed race. To be precise, they were half-elves or half-orcs, and orcs. Despite being orcs, they didn't possess the remarkable strength often depicted in knightly tales. Those of that breed were separately categorized and sold to the gladiatorial arena.

Even with mixed elven blood, instances of inheriting elemental affinity were exceedingly rare.


The woman formed a contract with a low-grade wind elemental.

It was thanks to Vreio's secret technique.

Like me, the woman lacked the significant magical power needed to control elementals. Unlike me, she had awakened her elemental power, which was said to naturally increase by coexisting with elementals or could be marginally expanded through mana training techniques.

Typically, even elemental mages with high potential would systematically summon and control the lowest grade elementals to expand their elemental power.

"Your name?"

"It's El."

"El, go to the mansion's rooftop, remove your clothes, and stand."

"Yes, sir."

El dutifully followed my instructions. Had she been a fire elemental mage, she would have been dispatched to the smithy, and if she was a water elemental mage, she would have been submerged in water.

For wind elemental mages, the initial step was familiarizing themselves with the wind. After all, they were safeguarded by the wind elementals, nullifying any concerns about catching a cold.

"Mariam, provide El with some dried Fly Agaric mushroom powder. El, sustain yourself by chewing on the Fly Agaric mushroom powder. It will maintain your body warmth to prevent you from catching a cold."