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A flash of light hit Oliver’s eyes, and along with it, his body floated as if gravity had disappeared, and soon he fell into a place where strong winds kept blowing from all directions.

As Oliver was distracted by the sensation he felt for the second time...

“Are you all right, mate? Open your eyes.”

Oliver, who recovered his vision, opened his eyes carefully as Merlin said.

A completely new scenery unfolded in front of Oliver’s eyes.

Open plains with no hills, no mountains, only a gloomy sky full of clouds, and thick snowflakes falling down.

Even the land where Oliver was standing was not real land, but huge ice.

Oliver staggered up and asked as the cold penetrated his bone through his feat.

“Elder, where are we?”

“It’s the land of ice at the end of the world. It’s said that the Great British Empire has conquered almost half the human world, but not a single human conquered this place.”

Oliver did not understand what he was trying to say, but he understood the reason why they couldn’t conquer this place.

It was spacious, but everything around was ice and snow.

It wasn’t a place suitable for people to live.

“Um...I’m sorry, but can you tell me why you brought me here?”

Merlin, who covered his whole body with mana, spoke normally as if he was not feeling any cold.

“I told you earlier. I brought you here to fight. This is the best place to avoid damaging the surroundings.”

Oliver asked back wondering if he had missed something.

“I’m sorry, Elder, but I don’t quite understand.”

“What is that you don’t understand?”

“Why should I fight with Elder?”

“Because I want to.”

“Why do you want to fight me?”

“Okay, let’s get things straight first. I’m not someone who goes around looking for someone stronger than me. I just want to know.”

“Know what?”

Merlin pointed politely at Oliver.

“Your worth.”

“... My worth?”

“Yes. I want to know how worthy the person I saved with my hard work is. It’s a feeling that everyone has.”

“Is that so?”

“That’s right. I want to save someone who’s worthy enough. In that sense, answer me. Where do you think a man’s worth comes from?”

It was a sudden question, but that didn’t mean it confused Oliver.

Oliver also unconsciously added worth to or attached worth to humans, although he did not think about it specifically in his mind.

That was the reason why he respected the lightning wizard, Joseph, and Duncan even though they were enemies, and that was also the reason why he left Joe alive without finishing him off.

Oliver also sees the worth of people, but the question was how to put it in words.

“Um... emotions.”

“Emotions?”

“Yes, courage, will, hope, desire, ambition, patience.”

“Awww~ That’s a romantic answer for a Warlock. But I don’t hate it. Although the perspective is different from mine.”

“How do you see people’s worth, Elder?”

“Of course, it’s strength.”

“Strength?”

“Yes, but here’s the catch. The strength I’m talking about is not just physical strength or magical strength. There’s that too, but it’s more than that.”

“I don’t quite understand.”

“The word Strength could mean many things. It could be the power of the body or the power of magic, but sometimes it could also be money, influence, appearance, charm, wisdom, knowledge, and Skills. But the purpose of all this is ultimately the same. The Strength that makes the impossible possible. Something that can make things go smoothly.”

It seemed like something vague, but Oliver understood the meaning of it, even if it was faint.

With the Mattel incident, Oliver realized that he was an absolute underdog.

Even though people around him said he was a dark horse, Oliver was objectively weak in this city.

If he was really a strong person, he could have negotiated with Mattel through a conversation without a fight.

Just like the old man in front of him did.

Edith Rock’s words suddenly came to Oliver’s mind– the words calling the solvers as people who live on the price of human blood and meat.

At that time, Oliver said he agreed with that statement, but when he thought about it, he didn’t understand it properly.

Edith’s words were harsh and sharp, penetrating the essence of the profession called Solvers.

He now understood a little why Duncan wanted to leave Pinkman office and set up his own office even while taking a risk.

Leaving the mine, leaving the Joseph family, and settling in Landa, Oliver boasted that he had learned a little about the world, but it was not true at all.

He understood that he still had a long way to go.

“I guess you got what I’m trying to say... but since your expression remains the same, I’m having doubts. Did I get it wrong again?”

Oliver shook his head at Merlin’s question.

“No, I understand.”

“I’m glad to hear that. Again, I use this “Strength” as a measure of human worth. Sometimes the so-called good people deny it, but when you look around the world, it’s not like that.”

“Can you give an example?”

“Well, it’s not difficult. Hmm... Consider a person walking on the streets, a person with a shitty personality, he would be seen as a nuisance by the people around him... but if that same person comes in a car wearing rich clothes, still with the same shitty personality, he would be treated with respect. Sometimes they even see that shitty personality as a charm. It’s because of his Strength, MONEY... For example, take the innkeeper kid you saved this time, he seems to be someone with a good personality, did it give him anything, Nope. Why? Because he doesn’t have any Strength.”

Oliver pondered..... It seemed more complex than he thought.

“Did you get it now..... Why I’m trying to fight you? I think I can see your worth through the fight.”

Oliver nodded.

His conversation with the old man convinced him of the reason for the fight.

But he still didn’t want to fight.

“Elder.”

“What? Let’s start soon. If I stand for a long time, my knees will hurt. Be considerate of an old man, mate.”

“I don’t want to fight Elder. I’m grateful that you helped me, but I don’t want to fight you.”

Merlin stared at Oliver and said.

“... You don’t get it, do you? I’m not asking your permission to fight. I’m just notifying you.”

With those words, Merlin raised his hand.

Small pieces of paper, the size of nails came flying in the air and gathered in Merlin’s hand, merging into a book.

“So, mate...”

“....?”

“Try staying alive.”

Finishing his words, Merlin tore a page from the book and threw it straight at Oliver.

SHOOOOOOO!!!

With a sharp sound, cutting through the air, the paper flew like a bullet toward Oliver.

Looking at the paper that came at a fierce speed toward him, Oliver thought.

‘How Should I stop it? Should I avoid it?’

For a moment, it felt like the time was moving slowly, like an illusion, and Oliver did numerous calculations in his head.

Eventually, Oliver took out emotions from a test tube and wrapped it around his whole body, and narrowly avoided it.

The concentration of mana in the paper that was narrowly avoided felt unusual.

Shhhhhhhhh!

Oliver looked back at the paper that had passed by.

The paper disappeared over the horizon and soon a loud noise followed.

BOOOM!

With the sound, the ground overturned and caused snow dust. Like being bombed.

“.....!!”

A shocking power from a mere piece of paper.

What was even more surprising was that Merlin’s movements were neither too big nor too long when he used them.

“Avoiding rather than trying to stop. That’s a smart choice, mate.”

Oliver jerked and turned his head to the front, the front where Merlin, who tore three sheets of paper, was waiting in a throwing position.

“How about this?”

Merlin threw three sheets of paper.

Fortunately, the mana concentration was lower than the paper just thrown, as if it had been controlled.

Even so, it was still a substantial amount.

Oliver extracted the emotions, concentrated them on his index finger, and shot it.

[Hate bullet]

He didn’t mean to shoot the paper down.

He knew very well that it was impossible.

The bullet of hate cut through the wind, hit the non-bladed side of the flying paper, and slightly changed its trajectory.

Thanks to this, Oliver was able to avoid all the attacks without moving too much.

Maybe if Oliver had moved to avoid it, Merlin would have tried to attack at that moment.

“That’s a pretty good choice, too.”

Merlin’s voice, which should have been heard from a distance, was heard right next to Oliver.

Along with that, Oliver felt a warm sensation on one side of his leg, and when he turned his head, he saw a neatly torn black suit and his bleeding thigh.

“Ugh...!”

Oliver stumbled and groaned.

The wound itself was neither too deep nor too painful, but the psychological impact was great.

This was the third time the black suit has been torn off like this.

The first was during the fight with Puppet in the contamination zone, and the second was during the fight with the blonde wizard he met at Mattel.

Still, they weren’t done this easily, but surprisingly, Merlin did it very easily, even though he could have cut his throat if he wanted to.

“Does it hurt a lot? I didn’t cut it that deep.”

Merlin, standing on the other side, spoke to Oliver.

“Um...”

Oliver looked at Merlin, feeling the overwhelming power gap.

He didn’t think he was mocking or making fun of him. It was just that there was a huge difference in power.

“......You’re strong.”

“Yes, mate. Are you, by any chance, scared?”

“A little bit... but I can manage.”

Saying that, Oliver extracted a significant amount of emotion from the test tube with one hand and put it in the shadow.

[Shadow Tentacle]

Along with the cast, Oliver’s shadow quickly rushed toward Merlin, gaining strength– Much faster and stronger than usual.

Seeing this, Merlin pulled mana on the tip of his finger and flicked his finger.

FLICK

Soon, a huge ice wall surged up to form a barrier.

It was a defense magic that felt similar to the one used by the bald wizard in the Mattel Lab, and it didn’t work the second time on Oliver.

“...!!!”

Oliver attacked the ice barrier by increasing the output of the shadow.

Shadow tentacles, blades, and stakes collided with the huge ice barrier and smashed the ice.

It was usually hard because it was ice with mana, but somehow Oliver was able to break it down.

DUD! DUD!

As the ice barrier broke down, Merlin was seen behind it, and Oliver launched an attack on him.

The shadow stretched forward.

Merlin was taken aback, and soon the shadow penetrated Merlin’s body.

“...Huh?”

“What’s wrong, mate?”

“Elder...! Huh? Elder?”

Merlin approached close to Oliver before he knew it, and Oliver looked at him in amazement.

“It’s an alter ego created using ice magic and golem-making techniques. It’s pretty good, right?

“Yes, it is.”

At the same time as he spoke, Oliver swung the quarterstaff while maximizing the output.

Oliver judged that Merlin was not someone who could be dealt with by attacking moderately.

BANG———!!!

Oliver’s quarterstaff was blocked by Merlin’s book.

It was a book only in form, but it was like a lump of mana.

“You’re quick to react.”

Merlin raised his hand right in front of Oliver’s face.

Along with that, a shock wave exploded with a huge sound and blew Oliver away.

Oliver, who flew far away, rolled on the ground where ice and snow were piled up.

Despite wearing the black suit, the cold was vividly felt, and it was not only the world that spun around because of rolling, but even the sensory organs turned upside down.

It wasn’t fatal, but it was painful.

‘I have to move...’

Merlin was relaxed and he attacked relentlessly without giving Oliver a break to breathe.

He opened the book and fired high-density mana bullets.

Oliver extracted mana, not emotion, and put it on the ice.

[Ice wall]

The soaring ice barrier prevented the bombardment of mana bullets that came flying.

Nevertheless, the ice barrier shook and fluctuated due to its considerable power, and it only lasted for a while.

Oliver thought he should avoid it, and when he tried to do that by moving his body, he realized that his arms and legs were sealed.

Before he knew it, the ice containing Merlin’s mana had wrapped around Oliver’s body and grabbed him.

WHOOWHOOWHOOO

As Oliver raised his head, he saw the sky fluctuating.

As the sky started rotating in one direction, mana gradually concentrated, and soon...

“...Um.”

From the middle of the whirlwind-like clouds, a blue flash shone and struck the ground.

BOOM