The envoy immediately grew excited at the prospect of finding Link, hurrying behind Richard. Rosie, Nasia, and Waterflower followed along, even Tiramisu shrinking himself to enter the castle. Richard headed down into the dungeons, heading through the narrow and humid corridors to one of the best cells in the place that even had a window at the top.
Link was sleeping against one of the corners, hands and legs tied in bronze shackles with silver chains. These antimagic shackles were meant to imprison mages, capable of draining any mana they tried to use. Despite being fatigued, however, he turned around at the sound of footsteps arriving. Disdain flashed across his face as he saw Richard, but he shut his eyes, “What do you want?”
Seeing him, the envoy quickly scrambled forward, “Master Link, His Grace has paid a ransom to free you! I’m here to take you back.”
“Huh?” the youth grunted, “What… Richard will never let me go.”
Standing outside, Richard simply threw the ransom list into the room, “This is how much you’re worth, you can have a look.”
Link glanced at a magic scroll that had appeared in Richard’s hands before starting to read the contract. Words of sarcasm got stuck in his throat as his expression darkened, and after a minute he looked back at that scroll with fear in his eyes.
“Read everything first,” Richard commented, “And think before you speak. I just might change my mind.”
Link looked down once more, the surprise vanishing from his face. He knew just why the Camarilla’s Silence scroll would be part of the exchange, but he groaned and suppressed his pride. Sometimes, survival meant bowing one’s head down low.
Richard himself remained calm and collected, watching Link recover his wits at an astonishing pace. He recalled Rosie mentioning that the youth was a soul mage, a field where strong wills were essential. It was rather admirable.
Link eventually put the list aside and looked Richard in the eye, “That thing’s for me, isn’t it? What are you waiting for, I consent.”
The envoy heaved a sigh of relief, joy flooding his face. The Camarilla’s Silence spell was perhaps even more intrusive than any magical slave contracts, and the dynamics of its working were an insult to anyone. Richard would be able to see through every one of Link’s memories in the process, something that the youth might have disdained.
However, as he took the item list back from Link, Richard smiled and tore it apart, “Well, I don’t.”
Almost everyone froze up in shock, Nasia being the only one who saw it coming as she shrugged in boredom. The envoy flinched, starting to shake as he pointed at Richard, “You… Didn’t you agree to the trade?!”
“When did that happen?” Richard asked.
“You clearly said we had a deal if all the ransom was paid before dawn!”
“Hmm…. Did I, now? I’ve changed my mind.”
“How could you do this?!” the envoy raged, but as his aura started to flare he noticed the cold glint in Richard’s eyes and recoiled like someone who had ice water poured over him.
For his part, Richard turned to look at Rosie, “Like I said, anyone trying to rape you is going to die. I didn’t go back on those words.”
Rosie’s eyelashes fluttered as she looked down, speaking in a soft yet determined voice, “Master, this ransom exceeds a top-tier offering! My grievances are worth nothing in comparison.”
Richard smiled, understanding the form of address as a tactful way to remind him of their relationship. However, he wasn’t one to let such sins against someone so important go basically unpunished; those with evil intentions had to fear the Archerons’ wrath.
“You mean the pride of a future saint runemaster is worth less than a top-tier offering? No; in fact, no amount of wealth is worth that.” He turned to the envoy, “Go tell myron that the ransom will be with me as insurance in case he tries something stupid; when the execution ends tomorrow, I’ll give it all back.”
“D-Deposit…” the man still hadn’t recovered from his shock, “With you…”
Richard just chuckled, “Heh, you underestimated how much the Archerons’ trust is worth.”
The envoy didn’t dare say anything further, leaving quickly. By this point, the rage had faded from Link’s eyes as well. He just sighed in disappointment, closing his eyes and curling up once more.
Richard didn’t say anything as he left the dungeon, with Rosie following him all the way to his study. She only stopped for a moment along the way, looking at the expensive crates of materials lined up in the plaza. When they entered his study, he buried his head into a rune once more, “Have a look. This design is really amazing, especially thi—”
Before he could even finish, Rosie hugged him from behind. She seemed to turn into a snake as she reached around in the embrace, sealing his lips with a kiss. The two runemasters then lost all ability to concentrate, even on the Crimson Inferno design that had once produced a magic soul.
The sky brightened quickly, the surroundings of Faust heating up as people rushed to the execution grounds and filled up the available space. This chaos was quite rare, but many were looking forward to the fight between Duke Myron and Richard Archeron. Some minor nobles were even hoping both sides could kill each other off.
It was almost nine when an army of rune knights set off from the teleportation temple, marching in a snaking formation with their line so long that one couldn’t even see the end. Tiramisu was not in this troop, but those with keen eyes noticed many other powerful beings accompanying them regardless.
“Those people look different,” some whispered softly.
“Aren’t they his followers?”
“Seems like he’s aiming to win this time; they have to beat the rune knights and then his followers to get to him.”
“And then he’s the hardest fight of them all.”
“Really? Isn’t he a runemaster?”
“Go look at his achievements in the Land of Dusk……”
Outside of those whispering amongst themselves, many just stared at the awe-inspiring sight before them. Many noticed a subtle difference between these rune knights and the ones Richard had first marched through Faust with. The armour and mounts were the exact same, but those with trained eyes quickly noticed an obvious difference.
Were all of these knights new? This was such a wild idea that anyone who came up with it rejected the thought immediately. Just like Richard had said, rune knights grew terrifying even to legends when they reached certain numbers. Many looked on in fear as they realised that this was another display of prowess.
Different people saw different things in these 200 rune knights. The route from the teleportation temple to the execution hall was long, so Richard trusted that the message would be conveyed.
The execution hall itself wasn’t very big, and its dark stone construction was vastly different from the natural gold of the remaining buildings in the City of Miracles. This place had been earmarked for this purpose by the very first settlers of Faust, the only similar one being the Alliance’s dungeons.
The packed hall couldn’t fit all of the rune knights, so Richard just waved for most of them to stay behind. He strutted onto the platform without asking anyone, claiming the only high chair that overlooked the hall and supporting his chin on his hands. He looked extremely arrogant, but it seemed to be natural. Waterflower, Nasia, Phaser, Asiris, and Rosie flanked around him, the special unit offering Moonlight up to him.
Everyone in the hall felt like a cold breeze had swept past them when Richard grasped his sword, shivering from unknown fear.
Link was escorted to the central stage and knocked down to the floor. He struggled in an attempt to stand up, but one of the rune knights just forced him down once more. This provoked some outrage from the onlookers, a few nobles screaming for him to be given a dignified death that allowed him to stand, but those voices quickly fell silent as Richard’s gaze swept past them.
“I don’t think rapists deserve dignity,” he announced without sympathy, prompting two rune knights to shove Link down hard. The youth’s knees broke from the impact and he mewled before cursing under his breath, but he had already lost the strength to scream.
As the crisp sound of the bell resonated through the hall, Phaser jumped off the judge’s platform and appeared right behind Link. Her hand stabbed into his back before the bell stopped tolling, blade appearing through his chest.
A collective gasp rang through the hall as a talented young runemaster was snuffed out, even his ducal heritage unable to save him, but the crowd couldn’t tear their eyes away from the blood pooling in the middle of the hall. The fear in their eyes intensified as they looked towards Richard once more.
Sitting up on that pedestal was a man whose prestige could not be questioned. This was a lofty ruler of men who was indifferent to their opinions about him. The youth who had picked up his broken family and struggled to keep it together had outgrown his father’s shadow.Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Translated By: HH
Edited By: Theo
TLC'ed By: OMA