What... just happened?
Joseph stood on the spot, somewhat in a daze. Faced with questions from knights in the area that had noticed him, he could only first utter some casual replies.
In truth, Joseph himself had no idea and couldn't give any answers even if he wanted to.
Joseph first let these men head back to their own business as he gradually calmed down.
Since he had been teleported back, those subordinates that had followed him to the Truth Union should have been sent back as well.
He took out his communications device to make sure, and as expected, he got responses all throughout Secret Rite Tower.
Though they were even more confused than Joseph, at least they were all safe and accounted for.
"Phew... At least it can be considered a blessing in disguise." Joseph heaved a sigh of relief.
If things had gone on, it would have likely ended up in a nasty battle with Raziel... This was a famed Supreme-rank scholar from history, and they had been on his turf. Had the battle taken place, approximately only one in ten of those subordinates would survive. Joseph himself didn't have too much confidence that he could win and reckoned the odds of victory were probably fifty-fifty.
Now, things had taken a strange turn, but avoiding injury and death could be considered a fortunate outcome.
But... Did Andrew really guess what Raziel's intent was, or did he have some other motive?
Joseph made arrangements for his subordinates and announced the change in their mission. They were to first inform the Truth Union and verify the situation.
Joseph then returned back to his own office and shut the door. With a frown, he continued to think through what had happened just now.
Everything had happened way too quickly...
Since the appearance of the legendary 'Ethereal Wisdom' Raziel, who had disappeared for ages, the whole incident had surpassed Joseph's range of comprehension and things had only gone on a downward spiral.
It had originally been a routine probing and delay, yet the outcome... Andrew seemingly understood Raziel's intentions and Raziel too recognized Andrew's 'understanding.'
Those two didn't seem like they were guessing, but rather, it was as if they were on the same wavelength.
And the outcome was to send those 'outsiders' away.
Joseph began to analyze the sequence of events which had just occurred.
"What is certain is that Andrew didn't know Raziel was the one inside Machine Loop's restricted area. He was surprised as well... He only knew that members of the Path of the Flaming Sword were in the restricted area but didn't know who it was.
"So, in that short space of time, he shouldn't have gotten Raziel's approval. In other words... He had no way of guaranteeing he would be safe and victorious against Raziel.
"Judging from their exchange, it didn't seem like a big problem... It's logical that Raziel really wanted to send away those that could pose a threat to him in order to do something to Andrew and the others.
"But the question is, why did Andrew show an urgency to answer?
"There's no way he doesn't know we were the only ones that could guarantee his safety under those circumstances. Given his answer, perhaps it hadn't been his original intent, but he went ahead with it.
"But regardless, he's still putting himself in danger.
"Unless his thoughts were already being controlled by Raziel?"
Joseph was perplexed. "No, if he's already being controlled, why bother asking and answering his own question. He could have just sent us away and that would have been the end of the matter.
"Wait, 'if that hadn't been his original intent'..."
He uttered this phrase several times, then stood up abruptly and smashed his fist on the table, his pupils twitching. "He was certain that Raziel wouldn't do anything bad to him, and his words were able to change Raziel's opinion.
"And the crux for this whole affair was... Raziel actually having been reverse-controlled by Boss Lin!
"So it's very likely that this fellow can be 'verbally controlled' by patrons of the bookstore!
"He's not a danger. On the contrary, he is the best help that Boss Lin has left us!"
Joseph suddenly understood it all. But at the same time, he knew that this enlightenment had come a little too late...
"Goddamn! These scholars are disgusting! So what if you can use your brains?!" Joseph lost his temper and cursed.
It had taken him a few minutes of straightening out his thoughts here, yet Andrew had instantly understood the moment Raziel had posed the question and immediately gotten him to forcibly remove all the ‘irrelevant people.’
These were the true colors of a scholar.
A knock on his office interrupted Joseph.
Calming down from his outburst, Joseph gritted his teeth and muttered, “Enter.”
“It’s been a long time since… I’ve seen you this mad. What’s wrong?”
Entering the office and being surprised at the scene was an old acquaintance of Joseph’s, Chief of the Combat Division, Winston.
Joseph took a deep breath, shook his head, and continued stonily, “I think they probably don’t need our help anymore.”
Winston closed the door. With a nod, he chuckled. “The Truth Union has replied saying that everything is fine and it was merely an ordinary teleportation array. Vice-Chairman Andrew is very pleased with this mission and is very grateful for your help. Moreover, he has decided to grant a 50% reduction in equipment costs to our Logistics Department.
“...” The veins on Joseph’s forehead nearly burst open.
Winston immediately wiped the smile off his face. Frowning, he asked, “You don’t seem very pleased. A problem with the Truth Union?”
“A troublesome one!” Joseph hissed, placing emphasis on every single syllable.
He glared at Winston. “I will personally report to the Council of Elders regarding this mission.”
Winston was silent for a bit, eventually voicing, “What about the discount provided by the Truth Union? Do we still accept it?”
Joseph scoffed unperturbed. “We would be fools to not take what’s been given to us on their own free will.”
He once more returned back to his seat, nonchalantly organizing the documents on his desk. Suddenly, he froze up, a frown etched on his face.
As he estimated the time, he realized that Melissa ought to have reported to the Intelligence Division already. So, why weren’t her transfer documents and application form on his desk?
Winston was about to say something when his communications device beeped. An urgent voice broke out when the call was put through. “Chief, we have a situation!”
“What is it?” asked Winston at once.
“While using the monitoring system, we discovered that an instructor falsified information and sent the recently released Knight Melissa to take part in the Seventh Squad’s raid mission on the Corpse Devouring Sect’s hideout. Currently, she’s within the Dream Creator’s boundary on 67th Avenue. We have no way of transmitting information through it, but according to surveillance, there are at least five Pandemonium-ranks battling inside!
“And one of them is a direct subordinate of Wilde’s!”
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Before the report ended, Joseph had already burst out the door, blazing away like a streak of light.
Winston ran out after him immediately only to see a hole in the wall of Secret Rite Tower and a slight commotion breaking out.
Beyond the wall was a piercing white flash in the sky as snowflakes fell lightly.
A chilly breeze blew through the hole.
Winter had arrived.