Seeing how frustrated Minnie was, Steven continued, “Once I become Her Excellency’s apprentice, there will be many things I need your help with. For instance, I know very little about the Deepblue.”
He paused for a while, before continuing, “Besides, I feel like we can better our relationship and connect to each other in a more intimate manner. Through marriage, for instance.”
Minnie trembled before looking up at Steven. She wanted to speak out, but eventually pushed down her desires. Her chest still heaved, however, and it took her a few deep breaths to calm down. She lifted her feet off the sofa and sat up, speaking in a serious voice, “This is only our first meeting. We obviously don’t know anything about each other at all, forget me liking you. Don’t you think you’re moving a bit too fast?”
Steven chuckled in answer, “My lovely Miss Minne, you should know as a direct descendant of an illustrious noble family that marriage does not require love. It’s alright as long as we don’t outright hate each other; we’re bound by family benefits and common interests.
“If you want to talk about understanding each other, I believe I understand you well enough. Randolph was successful in proposing to you, so I already gathered all the information I could. Of course, some people have sent me more information later, and I’m sure you’ve heard of me as well. There’s ample time for you to understand me better.
“Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, the Niall Family and Solam Family are in an alliance that needs to be cemented through marriage. There’s no better target for that marriage in your family than you, so what is it going to be? If not me, are you going to marry one of my brothers?”
“I can choose not to marry anyone!” Minnie answered coldly.
Steven smiled calmly and continued, “That isn’t very honourable. If you do that, you will have no choice but to leave the Niall Family. Without the support of your Marquess, I don’t think you’ll be able to pay even a fifth of what I do. I hear Her Excellency hates it when people owe her money.”
Seeing Minnie sink into deep thought, he rolled his shoulders, “Look, I’m not a hateful person. As for you, Miss Minnie, it’s hard to find a better person than you as a wife. I suggest you think properly over this proposal. Then again, there’s no hurry to make a decision; the greatest merit of us mages is that we’re rational and calm.”
Sharon’s voice suddenly sounded from outside the meeting room, “Indeed, that’s a merit of mages, but warlocks aren’t mages. There’s a certain madness ingrained deep into their bones.”
Sharon floated inside, dropping herself down on the master sofa and pulling down a scarlet sash on the side. A sharp ring sounded as a side door of the meeting room opened up, and six tanned slaves entered in line. They brought a special red coffee table, an incense stove, and of course the luxurious and eye-catching golden bowl, in which the snacks of the legendary mage was stored.
Making herself comfortable, she then instructed, “Call Blackgold over.”
An acolyte immediately dashed off, and the dwarf made his way over in moments. This was Blackgold, full name Blackgold Savek Stormhammer. The Stormhammer tribe was a large tribe of the grey dwarves, so large that it had its own kingdom. Blackgold in particular was a very special one; his affinity lay not with alcohol, but with appraising ore and gemstones. He also had great talent in magic, which combined with his love for gold and unique appraisal abilities netted him a position as the treasurer of the legendary mage.
Steven chose a sofa at the side and primly sat down, looking stern and even slightly pale.
Sharon read the information she had in her hands and spoke nonchalantly, “A dragon warlock, huh. Not bad, quite rare even. What kind of dragon bloodline is it?”
“Red dragon.” Steven answered respectfully, and then turned even paler.
Sharon’s eyes flitted across a line of small text that Blackgold had underlined to mark importance. Her grim face brightened at the sight, causing her to display a rare patience as she explained, “I’ve bullied and killed many giant dragons before. Over time it’s developed into an aura that scares dragons. Since you have dragon blood in you, you definitely won’t feel comfortable at my side.”
“You are truly admirable!” Steven said. This was something that came from the bottom of his heart. This aura had to have formed from the accumulated curses of several dragons at the brink of death. The curses wouldn’t be able to inflict true harm to her, but this negative aura wasn’t going to help her in battle either. Instead, it was intended to remind the dragon to keep its guard up. All dragons within a hundred kilometres of Sharon would know of her presence. However, how many dragons had to fall for this aura to be formed on her body?
Blackgold had marked the last few paragraphs as important. He’d even written some small lines down himself, listing the items and fee Duke Solam had paid for the youth’s entrance into the Deepblue. Scanning over the last few lines, Sharon’s face brightened into a sun. She wanted to laugh, but stopped herself in front of her new pupil. It was important for her to maintain her appearance as a legendary mage.
“Then… Steven, was it? Come and take a seat here. These fruits are quite good. You can have a taste!” The mage was in such a great mood that she felt like she could share her snacks. Duke Solam was paying the full amount, not the half that they’d agreed upon!
Steven went closer to Sharon upon hearing this, but knew well enough not to touch her snacks even if there were some things in there that he wanted to bite on impulse.
After looking through the list a few times, Sharon then handed the piece of paper back to Blackgold, albeit reluctantly. Only now did she finally look up and gaze at Steven seriously, asking him, “How’s Solam doing lately? Has he been advanced to the legendary realm yet? He should’ve become one long ago, no?”
Steven immediately straightened up. He’d obviously been waiting for this question, “Father successfully advanced at the end of last year. He’s now a shadow antimage.”
Shadow antimages combined powerful physical bodies with the power of shadows, gaining great resistance to all sorts of magic. They were even immune to many low-ranked spells, and although their physical attacks weren’t all that powerful the sheer speed of their attacks and movement was not second even to powerful thieves. They could use their skill to close the range in the shortest amount of time, sticking close to the opponent. This allowed them to become the bane of all spellcasters, which was what gave them the title of shadow antimages.
Even though Solam had only advanced recently, Steven believed that the advantages of his profession made him a dangerous opponent for Sharon. Before that, however, Solam had paid twice the agreed price. Great strength combined with humility, it was bound to make Sharon treat him as the most important person to nurture. However, Steven still had no idea why his father had taken the initiative to pay such a great amount when the fee had already been determined.
After hearing that Solam had become a legendary, Sharon froze as expected. She then pressed on, “He really advanced to become a shadow antimage?”
“Yes, I can confirm that.”
She remained frozen for a moment, before she burst into laughter, “He didn’t become a paladin like he was suited to! Oh, Solam, looks like that vicious beating I gave you back in the day left you with some serious trauma. Hehe, does he think becoming a shadow antimage will allow him to enact revenge? Looks like I need to teach him a more memorable lesson so he knows that even legendaries need to be humble in front of me! Ahaha! I can’t wait anymore!”
Legendary mages always made swift decisions. Sharon stood up even as she spoke, instructing people to prepare her luggage as she walked towards the patio of the meeting room. It looked like she didn’t plan to waste even a second, about to fly south and duke it out with Solam immediately.
Only after she stepped on the dark red floor tile on the patio did she remember something, turning towards Steven, “You’re my apprentice from now on. I’m busy right now, so I have no time to teach you anything. Come back in ten days; use that time to familiarise yourself with the Deepblue. Tell Minnie if there’s anything you need, I’m off!”
She turned into a meteor shooting into the sky, leaving a gaping Steven behind still half-sitting and half-standing like a comical statue. He’d wanted to call her back a few times, his mouth flapping open and closed, but he ended up unable to make any sounds.
He finally understood why Duke Solam was willing to pay twice the fee, and why the man had warned him to never reveal the news of him advancing.