SYS (Novel) Chapter 318

C318 - Joshua's Counterattack (Part 2)

In the conference room, everyone held their breath at Rosa's stunning proposal, and at that moment, Joshua never imagined that within Jin's imperturbable expression hid something special.

Indeed, Jin always maintained his poker face, so there was no reason for it to appear unusual.

However, the reason he suddenly asked Jin if he had already found Aria Owlheart was purely a judgment based on "instinct."

There was a moment of silence.

'What? I sat there too calmly when everyone else was going crazy, and even if I did, it wouldn't be enough to speak so confidently.'

Jin quickly searched his memory but couldn't figure out when or how Joshua had learned about his encounter with Valeria.

For the first time since he started facing Joshua, Jin felt nervous.

Fortunately, he didn't lose his characteristic poker face when Joshua began to talk about Valeria.

Jin smiled.

Regardless of how Joshua had found out, it was a problem that could be resolved simply by maintaining a poker face.

"Both you and our mother seem quite concerned, judging by the nonsense you're spouting," Jin said.

"Little brother," Joshua retorted.

"Don't use such a friendly term. We're not like brothers who get along, are we?" Jin said.

"This is a matter more important than you think," Joshua said.

"That's why Mother offered the Eastern Fifth Region as a reward."

Joshua speculated confidently at first, but as it was only a hunch, he found it difficult to keep the conversation going.

Does that mean you haven't found that person yet either?

Joshua didn't dare to ask directly.

"If you hand over that person to me, I will give you not only the Eastern Fifth Region but more than that. I swear by my name and the honor of the Family."

"Why do you keep stumbling upon such interesting falsehoods? Let's hear this story again."

"Your life."

Jin burst into laughter.

Then he looked at Joshua with a serious expression.

"You still lack skill in jokes. Didn't I tell you last time that your chance to kill me had already passed?"

"And the safety of your comrades."

Joshua hoped Jin would be visibly shaken by that remark, just as he was when he referred to him as "little brother" and got angry.

But Jin felt no need to get angry about it.

'I wondered when he would use my comrades as hostages, but here it is.'

The comrades, while being Jin's strongest bulwark, were at the same time his greatest and only weakness.

That's why Jin and his comrades had already prepared for the possibility that Rosa and Joshua would use them as leverage.

'I'm starting to wonder about the value of rescuing the Master. Pulling out the most powerful card to pressure me when even the Eastern Fifth Region isn't enough?'

Jin's curiosity about what Rosa would receive in exchange for handing over Histor grew rapidly.

Jin's life and the lives of his comrades.

What did Joshua mean when he said he would guarantee two things to Jin...

'It's highly likely that the issue is related to the contract of Solderet. Mother may have asked Zipple for a Demon God Orb or another means to transfer my contract to Joshua.'

It was only speculation, but it seemed like a plausible development.

Joshua's goal isn't to kill Jin but to take away the powers Jin obtained from Solderet, and Rosa's goal was likely to correspond with his.

'Mother has been acting strangely since the last time. For her, transferring only my contract to Joshua and using me as a Flagbearer for our Family would be the best outcome.'

Indeed, even without Solderet's power, Jin can still use Magic and the power of Legends.

Jin was considered the most outstanding of Runcandel's Flagbearers and was also someone who could be evaluated as having great potential.

Just with his ability as a swordsman, Jin was demonstrating enough growth to be mentioned as the next patriarch.

Even without Solderet's power and even if he couldn't use Magic or the power of Legends, Jin was still regarded as Runcandel's Flagbearer with the most talent and great potential.

Like Rosa, there was no reason for her to give up her younger son unless Jin betrayed the Family or handed Shadow Energy to Joshua.

Furthermore, the fact that Zipple could transfer the God's Contract was almost confirmed, considering that the Time Contractor in the past and present life were different. Also, Midor Elner and Beradin used space explosions.

Various thoughts swirled in Jin's mind.

The various scenarios unfolding in his mind all boiled down to one question:

Why were Joshua and his mother so obsessed with Histor?

"What do you think? Do you want to talk now?" Joshua asked, and Jin smiled.

"I'll say it again. I've never found Histor. I don't even know why you're saying this. It's like you're doubting me on a hunch."

"I'll give you ten days. Bring me Histor within that time frame."

"If you want to achieve something so big, it's better for you to go out and run to catch Histor instead of wasting time with this nonsense."

Jin turned around and added:

"Just a few words. I hope you're not one of those fools willing to bleed for delusions. It means there's nothing good in recklessly touching my comrades."

"Let me take your advice into account."

"This is not advice; it's a warning. Do you understand? In times like this, if we were in a narrow hallway where it's just you and me, I might be impulsive and draw my sword to cut the Second Son's throat without thinking about the consequences."

"How pathetic. Do you think you could beat me one on one?"

"If you're confident, we could fight right now."

Joshua shrugged as if he didn't care.

"The Twelfth Flagbearer is in a better position than I thought. Even if I defeat you, you have nothing to lose."

Jin challenged him because he thought Joshua wouldn't fight anyway. 

As Joshua had said, even if he lost in a one-on-one fight, he wouldn't lose anything, whereas Joshua would lose his reputation even if he won.

Joshua watched Jin's back until he disappeared.

Then he was certain.

His dear little brother must have met Aria Owlheart at least once before.

'If the younger one really didn't know anything about Histor, he would have offered me a reverse deal when I talked to him.'

The Jin that Joshua recognized was that kind of person.

If he saw a desire in his opponent, he would find a way to use it, even if he didn't have a weapon to shake that desire.

That was the terrifying side of his little brother that he saw.

But now, even though he revealed his desire first, he was only trying to avoid the subject when he didn't know anything about Histor.

Jin didn't seem intent on proposing a deal to him or playing with him.

That's why Joshua was sure about the relationship between Jin and Histor.

He smiled as if he had achieved something big.

'But even if I really kidnap or kill his comrades, Jin will never hand Histor over to me.'

Rather, it was just provoking the sleeping beast.

'It's good that the younger one knows Histor. If she's with him, not even our Runcandel and Zipple will be able to find Histor. Histor is safe.'

The younger one would never let go of the cards he held. That was another thing Joshua understood about him.

Although they were clearly enemies or even nemeses, Joshua respected Jin.

From before Jin showed his abilities until now, Joshua had never underestimated Jin even once.

"My lord."

'Howard,' the first-class butler who had retired, approached Joshua. He was the younger brother of butler Heinz and one of Joshua's closest aides.

"Have you gained something, sir?"

"I caught an unexpected huge fish. Howard, do not assign any of my knights to search for Histor. It's a waste of resources."

"Understood."

"Instead, spread false information about Histor to the other Flagbearers. While the Flagbearers are concerned about finding Histor, make sure to secure as many condemned to death as possible and send them to Rickalton."

Howard did not comment on Joshua's decision.

"And look for a list of all our business partners, including merchants, wealthy individuals, and nobles connected to Tikan Free City."

"Our spies have already identified that information. As the information is updated weekly, the margin of error is minimal."

Joshua nodded in satisfaction.

"Cut it all off. I want to dry up their funds a bit. It doesn't matter if the younger one and his comrades find out that their business partners have disappeared, but we can't let the outside world know that we pressured them."

"I'll make sure to keep them quiet. How should we deal with Zipple's business partners, the Hidden Palace, and the Empire? It's difficult to maintain security in those areas."

"How many places are there?"

"I'll have to check, but I heard there are about ten. Of those, nearly half are Zipple's."

"Leave the Hidden Palace alone and check if the rest of the business partners have any connection to the Zipple Clan or the Imperial Family. If not, send pirates to raid and incite an attack."

"Understood."

There's no need to provoke a fierce animal into a full confrontation.

Instead, Joshua decided to gently scratch Jin's nerves by cutting off his money supply and subtly threatening his comrades to see how Jin would react.

And he wondered if Jin's comrades would endure all sorts of disadvantages and stand by his side to the end.

'He's clever enough not to come at me with a full-blown attack. But it will be quite annoying.'

--------------

Ten days had passed.

April 10, 1799. Tikan Free City.

Kashimir's expression was grim as he sat in his office.

The city's economy had ground to a halt at an unprecedented pace.

Over 80% of business partners had already requested contract suspensions, enduring breaches and fines, and the remaining 20% seemed poised to disappear as well.

"The power of the Second Flagbearer of Runcandel is enormous. Not a single business partner has revealed why they are cutting their deals, Young Master."

Jin, disguised as Murakan alongside Gilly, had rushed to Tikan as soon as he heard the news.

"Brat, that brother of yours. Who does he take after to be so ruthless?"

"I don't know."

"Young Master, you said to prepare thoroughly for the Second Flagbearer's attack, but I didn't expect it to be like this... For now, we're solving the problems with emergency funds, but I don't know how long we can hold out."

Joshua's attack was effective. In a way, it caused more damage than a direct murder threat.

Tikan's leaders fought for recognition as a "State" and handed out vast amounts of money to each faction every month, so the damage was significant.

"It's frustrating, but we still don't have a financial power comparable to that bastard's, no. Joshua... No, that bastard! We can't beat him. Young Master, even tourists are leaving when they heard the news of pirate ships appearing in nearby waters," Gilly spoke with anger.

Jin's emergency funds were substantial, but not enough to sustain an entire city.

"I didn't expect it to turn out like this either. But we can't just sit and watch when he's so eager for a fight."

"Do you have any plan, Young Master?"

When Kashimir asked, Jin lifted the corners of his lips.

"It looks like I'll go and attack one of his villas."

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