The so-called sword empire, famous for its power, had existed for centuries as an enemy of Meltor.
The two nations which occupied different parts of the northern region of the continent were similar in many ways due to their long rivalry. However, the core power promoted in the Andras Empire was aura. Just like how the Meltor Kingdom was dedicated to fostering senior magicians, the Andras Empire nourished aura users.
The Andras Empire was said to be a kingdom of sword kings.
Additionally, boys and girls were required to undergo mandatory rigorous training at an agency operated directly by the Imperial Household Agency when they reached the age of seven. Two thirds of the students died, but the empire was able to form a corps of powerful aura users, more numerous than any other country.
"The biggest problem regarding the Andras Empire is that something so crazy produced results. A country that has seven sword masters in one generation can't be found anywhere else except the Empire."
The result was the existence of the Seven Swords who represented the Andras Empire.
It was why the Andras Empire didn't lose to the Meltor Kingdom, who had two 8th Circle magicians and a number of senior mages. Aura users who achieved the state of a sword master were already close to a living storm.
The most well-known sword master was said to have not stepped back in a battle with Veronica.
Theodore carefully listened to Vince's words and asked, "…Then why is the empire sending a delegation? They seem like people who will speak with swords rather than words."
The Meltor Kingdom had already been struggling against the empire for hundreds of years. The education system had been designed a long time ago to emphasize the bad aspects of enemy countries and inspire hostility towards them. However, despite that education, Vince Haidel didn't deny the stereotypes. It was because the military power of the Andras people whom he'd encountered on the battlefield wasn't actually lacking in comparison to the portrayals in the stories.
At the very least, they preferred getting into sword fights rather than arguments.
"Umm, that may be the case for those not involved with politics. Countries that rely on force can't last for long. The Andras Empire is scary because they know how to use force differently."
"Using it differently…"
"The mission this time is to talk about the armistice which was signed in the last war. Of course, you are one of the reasons."
"Huh? Me?" Theodore was surprised by the sudden change in topic.
However, Vince answered the question casually, "They are wondering about your relationship with the high elf and Elvenheim. They also doubt the authenticity of the hero who appeared half a year ago. The ambassadors will probably start the bargaining in earnest after seeing your value."
"Hah, international relations are fairly complex."
"It means that you are a key figure. The status of a high elf is larger than I'd thought."
In Elvenheim, a country where half the elves on the continent lived, there were only five high elves. The recently added Ellenoa increased it to six, but that didn't change the fact that they were extremely rare.
Therefore, they had a huge debt to Theodore Miller who had defended the sixth high elf. Due to this, they might change their position of neutrality which they had maintained for hundreds of years.
Even if Theodore wasn't of the Superior rank, they would've called him separately. This was a phenomenon which Vince could guess easily. From the perspective of the Magic Society, it was no surprise that Theo was treated exceptionally well in the Superior rank.
'It is a specification that can be a little annoying.'
There were uninvited guests when he was concentrating on magic training, so Theo couldn't help clicking his tongue.
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He wouldn't complain if it was a mission, but he didn't want to be treated as stakes in politics.
* * *
Shortly after their conversation, Theo and Vince reached the destination.
'Tch, as expected.' Theo moved forward while ignoring the gazes which had begun to gather on him.
The number of people increased as he got closer to the auditorium, and they all recognized him. After all, there was only one young Superior with dark hair. There was no one in the Magic Society who wouldn't recognize the hero, Theodore, whose name had been sworn in at the court dance half a year ago.
Some of the gossip from the magician entered his ears.
"That young man is Theodore Miller…?"
"He is younger than I thought. It seems like the rumour that he has barely turned 20 years old is true."
"Becoming a 5th Circle master at that age… I can't believe it. He is also the only survivor of the convoy. He is a prospect of the Red Tower, so maybe they exaggerated that achievement?"
"Well, let's just watch for a while. We will know if his name is exaggerated or real."
There was no need to respond, so Theo just ignored their voices and crossed the threshold of the auditorium. It was the venue which the Magic Society used for presentations during the annual magic contest, so the space was huge. The 100 magicians gathered there were unable to fill up the auditorium.
However, there was something which filled up the empty space.
'Even though this is such a big place, the density of mana is awful… Ordinary people wouldn't be able to breathe properly in here.'
It was a terrifying mana flow! A total of 132 Superior ranked magicians were gathered, raising the mana density to unusual levels.
Theodore was forced to admire the fact that the intangible mana could become so heavy. If the magicians in the room concentrated their powers intentionally, the target would immediately be overwhelmed by the tremendous pressure.
At that moment, an old man suddenly appeared on the stage of the auditorium. "Huhu, everybody has gathered quickly."
Strangely enough, the old man didn't lose his composure among the waves of mana which felt like a tsunami. Looking closely, the old man's surroundings were calm like he was the center of a typhoon, It definitely wasn't a common phenomenon.
However, Theo had a lot of experience with 'them' and realized it.
'That person, he is at the master level…!'
A 7th Circle magician who went beyond the limits of a human and could adjust the laws of nature… Only masters could dominate and control mana itself. It was possible to manipulate the pressure of mana, just like they controlled their own limbs.
Theo had never met the president of the Magic Society before, but he was another powerhouse master. Indeed, he was qualified to be the president of the Magic Society.
"First, I would like to thank you for coming despite the sudden announcement. The coming of the Andras delegation wasn't planned, so this old man heard about it too late. Thank you for your understanding." The president of the Magic Society bowed and expressed his heartfelt gratitude for their presence.
After his words, the discomfort on the faces of some people was wiped away forcefully. The important issue right now was the Andras Empire's delegation to Meltor.
Once that unspoken consensus was reached, the president of the Magic Society raised his head again.
"Then I will start talking. Everyone has heard the news that a delegation from Andras is coming to Meltor, so I won't mention it. We have gathered here to discuss how to treat the uninvited guests," the president of the Magic Society started his speech eloquently. His voice rang throughout the auditorium, which would allow Theo to hear it clearly even if he were outside.
There was an interesting mix of information in the speech which resonated with Andras' aggression and brutality.
There was one thing that especially interested Theo.
'Isn't the practice of having daily duels more like the custom of an orc village rather than an empire?'
It wasn't a modest fight where they sparred against each other. This was a real life-threatening duel where people often died in the process. In the Andras Empire, there were men who climbed to the position of duke after a duel as well as a slave who occupied the seat of one of the empire's Seven Swords.
These duels were even applied to other countries.
"Does everybody know? In Andras, duels are a battle for life, not the moderate fights that we know. 30 years ago, a group of magicians clashed with the ambassadors, resulting in several casualties. Don't follow in the footsteps of the past."
The arrival of an Andras delegation happened two or three times a century, but there was bloodshed every time. This had to be avoided as Meltor had suffered massive damage with the destruction of the convoy half a year ago.
Apart from the damages, if the Andras Empire thought that the Meltor Kingdom was weak, they might invade again.
The magicians gathered in the auditorium nodded at the words.
The president's words were plausible, and there was no logic to refute it. More than anything else, he added a few words at the end which made their blood chill. "Oh, two of the Seven Swords will be joining this delegation. There is no hope if you are greeted with the blade of a master."
The nemesis of senior magicians, the sword masters…!
They were reapers of the battlefield who could cross a gap of several hundred meters in an instant and cut through their defensive spells like they were trash.
Since childhood, magicians were raised with a fear toward sword masters, so the veteran magicians stiffened as they faced reality. A sword wielded absolute strength, so magicians below the 7th Circle were just like straw to them.
As the auditorium grew quiet, the president's eyes turned in another direction. It was toward Theo, who was sitting on the edge.
The president of the Magic Society met Theo's gaze and advised in a loud voice, "Theodore Miller, you should be especially careful. As the main target of the delegation, you shouldn't accept their duel challenges no matter what."
"Yes, I understand."
"I don't doubt your competence, but you should refrain from uncertain gambles since this is about the relations between nations. Don't fall into the foolishness of youth."
After seeing Theo accept his cautionary words, the old man turned his eyes to another place.
'Andras delegation… and the sword masters.' Unlike the other magicians, Theodore wasn't intimidated at all. No, he was actually feeling a little expectant.
Of course, he didn't think he could compete against the masters. However, Theo was knocking against the wall of the 6th Circle, so he might get new inspiration from the existence of the masters themselves.
As the atmosphere in the auditorium remained tense, Theodore formed fists under his desk silently. He had a feeling that his six months of quiet were ending.
Six days after that, a group of delegates arrived, including two sword masters.