As Phaser withdrew and Link’s dead body fell to the floor, an old mage in a corner of the hall left in a hurry. Richard spotted the man leaving, but he only smirked and turned to the rest of the crowd.
The massive execution had ended extremely smoothly, surprising many of the onlookers. However, since Duke Myron himself hadn’t dared to revolt against this, these minor nobles wouldn’t dare to meddle in the matter themselves. The body hadn’t even cooled yet, and it was a perfect example on Richard’s stance towards provocation. In fact, this was the same stance the Archerons always had; nothing had changed. Making it a grand event was just to show that they truly did have capabilities commensurate to their position.
Duke Myron was staring blankly at the bookshelves in his study, specifically the section on history and philosophy. He barely reacted to a gentle knock on the door as an aide entered the room and said softly, “Master Carpi has returned, Your Grace.”
These words immediately jolted him from his daze. Myron got up and walked out of his study, heading to the lobby to meet the same old mage that had snuck away from Link’s execution, “So? Did you manage to save his soul?”
The mage only offered a forced smile, taking out a crystal ball and placing it on the table. The inside was completely ash-grey, lacking the radiance of a soul.
“What…” the Duke was shocked, “How?”
“The dagger used in the execution struck Master Link’s soul. I’d heard the Archerons kept Extinction and Annihilation when Richard killed Sinclair, and this seems to be the latter. Link’s soul was torn apart the moment he died, and I barely managed to collect a few shattered fragments. I’m ashamed to admit that I didn’t even notice.”
This left Myron at a loss for words. He went quiet for a long time before sighing heavily, “Forget it, I hoped to find the secrets of his workshop, but… Whatever.”
“Your Grace,” the aide suddenly walked in on them, “Lord Richard has returned the entire ransom.”
The Duke stood up and walked over to the window, looking outside to see the crates of materials he had sent being transported back into his residence. He stared blankly for a moment before letting out a long sigh, his plans of war with the Archerons withering away. He himself would have struggled to return such a hefty sum to an enemy, but the ease with which Richard had done so was stifling.
Richard’s first task upon returning to the island was to meet with Asiris who had only returned recently. Moving to the command centre, he sat down and looked at the priest with an obvious question in his eyes.
Asiris brought up a map of Norland and pointed to a few places on it, “I went to every place that held someone related to Ward, and I found an old lover. The woman gave birth to a son, his only progeny in this world, but the boy came down with a strange disease that couldn’t be understood. There were no symptoms normally, but when it acted up the boy would go into a frenzy that could not be stopped. The only solution was a medicinal powder prescribed by a local witch doctor, but that only suppressed the effects and didn’t stop them entirely.
“The woman had turned to Ward in her desperation, telling him about the child’s condition and asking him to help with a solution. But Master was already planning his invasion of the Rosie Plane then, and Ward had ended up being put in charge of the Boulder Highlands. With that much pressure on him, he could only let the status quo continue; if he’d left the plane, the situation would have collapsed.”
“So this was why he was acting strange? Someone was using his child to threaten him?”
Asiris sighed at the question, “That is what I believe, yes. Ward might be strong, but his specific training methods also rendered him sterile after he reached sainthood. That was the only child he would ever have in his life, his one weakness.”
“And what happened to the child after?”
“The witch doctor was gone by the time I got there, and the child had relapsed. He transformed into an abomination right in front of me, burning to death…” Asiris struggled a little to say these words; he had lost one of his comrades, and the child couldn’t be saved either.
“You didn’t manage to suppress the condition?” Richard asked in shock. This was the Dark Priest, the one amongst the thirteen who was most familiar with curses.
Asiris forced a smile and shook his head, paling ever so slightly as he recalled the scene before speaking in a shaky voice, “When I saw the child, the insides of his body had been warped completely; it was just a monster in a human shell! I tried my best to suppress it, but the creature broke out of the skin and exploded; that power was so profound that it was like an ocean bearing down on me. It just ignited itself with a black flame, and there was nothing I could do!”
Any power that could force the Dark Priest to such a state had to be in the legendary realm. However, that wasn’t all. Asiris composed himself and continued, “But I did make some discoveries. Using my full strength, I managed to keep the tiniest part from burning down.”
He took out an exquisite steel box and opened it carefully before passing it over to Richard. Within was a small piece of claw with only the tip discernible, the rest scorched beyond recognition. The tip was dark and solid, the quality of material entirely different from that of an ordinary creature despite being only the size of a finger. Richard picked it up and turned it around in his hands to observe, an icy feeling flooding his senses. He didn’t know why, but this claw reminded him of the sharp pincers of the broodmother.
Asiris spoke up at the same time, “My Lord, I couldn’t help but feel like the aura from the child was similar to that of your broodmother.”
“She’s never left Faelor before, and all of her drones are under my supervision,” Richard dismissed the idea immediately, “She can’t do these sorts of things… Yet. She can’t do these sorts of things yet.”
Richard’s own voice started to tremble, but Asiris ignored it and forced a smile, “That’s the terrifying bit.”
Richard stood up and started tapping the table with his knuckles as he furrowed his brows, the restlessness evident on his face. Asiris wasn’t just an ordinary powerhouse; he was someone with knowledge and perception that came close to that of legendary mages. Another broodmother that was even more powerful than his? There could be no worse news.
“Are there any other leads?” he asked eventually.
“I stayed in the area for a few days, but I didn’t manage to find anything so I rushed back. This enemy is more powerful than we imagined, but they’re still cunning and prudent. Their plans are foolproof.”
“This is bad… Shit, we’ll have to start taking some risks or we might get caught off guard.”
“My Lord, you mean…”
“I’m returning to Faelor tomorrow, you’re coming as well. We’re going to war, divine war. You’ll be a crucial factor.”
Unable to sleep, Richard hurried to the Church of the Eternal Dragon in the middle of the night. Noelene rushed over the moment she heard of his arrival; she was already the most powerful priestess since Ferlyn’s sudden disappearance, but she remained a strong ally.
“Richard! How are—” she suddenly stopped in the middle of her greeting, brows raising up as she listened to something before casting a strange glance at him, “Follow me, the High Priestess has something to give you.”
Richard nodded quietly, following Noelene to the back of the shrine. Noelene seemed to struggle with something the entire way there, but eventually she spoke up, “Richard, do you know what happened to the High Priestess?”
“I don’t. Is it something like with Flowsand?” Richard asked.
Noelene shook her head silently, “It’s nothing much. Let’s go in, I’ll tell you later.”
As the two arrived at Ferlyn’s hall, the doors opened automatically. Dense timeforce filled the church building as belts of energy stretched everywhere, revealing Ferlyn herself floating mid-air with her eyes tightly closed in deep sleep. Many of the destructive strips of timeforce brushed past her body, but they didn’t have the slightest effect.
“Richard, you’re finally here!” her voice resonated through the hall, “Here, this is something I wanted to leave you with. It was originally yours anyway, but I just removed the outer shell. Make sure to spend some time studying it.”
The belts of timeforce in the air gathered together into a round lump, forming a transparent crystal ball that was as large as one’s fist that flew towards Richard. Despite a huge change to its appearance, Richard immediately realised what it was: the Doomsday Imprint.Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Translated By: Hestia
Edited By: Theo
TLC'ed By: OMA