Book 8, Chapter 3

Gone With The Wind

The entire royal palace was basically defenceless with no arrow towers in sight. There were a number of mage towers, but from the looks of it they were research laboratories or climate controllers instead of defences. At the very least, Richard couldn’t see anything that could use magic attacks. If enemies were to head through the Whispering Woods and ambush the city from the lakeside, they could take over the palace in a matter of days.

Of course, that idea was cast away the moment he thought of it as well. Within the palace itself was Empress Gelan, while the Sword Saint’s manor was somewhere deep within the Whispering Woods. The Emerald Lake’s walls were more of a decoration meant to mark the city boundaries than anything else, but that didn’t matter at all. During the founding of the Millennial Empire, Empress Lomora had stated that the empire would be no more if enemies reached the gates of its capital. All future generations had to possess the courage to stop opponents from even entering their territory.

The rulers of the Empire had expanded outwards over generations, and their only major failute had been in the north. Charles the Great and his seven generals had been incredibly arrogant, sweeping through the entire north of Norland to establish the Sacred Alliance. After that, he began the largest incursion in human history and accomplished the task of killing an archlord of the abyss, Daramore. He possessed exceptional ability, and it was said that nobody could compare to him.

Outside of the natural beauty of the Emerald Lake, one could sense remnants of ages past as they walked through the city. Even some of the ordinary statues here had long histories, which differed vastly from Faust’s melting pot of different cultures.

Richard eventually arrived in front of a medium-sized inn and was transfixed by a fountain at the centre of the main hall. It depicted a young elven girl, but that was nothing special for this city that seemed to almost revere them. Even at more than a century old, the age wasn’t particularly remarkable either. What caught his attention was the detail in the girl’s clothing.

“Do you like this statue, Sir?”

His thoughts interrupted by a clear voice, Richard turned around to find a young woman dressed in the clothes of a servant. He smiled, “Yes, it looks to have some history to it. The clothes and ornaments are rather interesting.”

The girl took a closer look at his face before her eyes lit up, a dazzling smile finding its way to her own face, “You truly are well-learned for someone so young. This statue actually came from Evernight Forest; it was left behind by the silvermoon elves.”

“It is a master—”

“The silvermoon elves were true noble beings!” the girl suddenly exclaimed, “Evernight Forest was said to be the most beautiful place in all of Norland, but those merchants and barbarians from the Sacred Alliance destroyed it. I heard they even burnt the World Tree! Goodness, can you imagine how vile they are?”

Richard immediately grew uncomfortable; he himself was someone conceived in the aftermath of Silvermoon’s destruction between its shaman and destroyer. Ever since then, his mother and father had never met again. He sighed deeply, “Yes, truly an eternal regret.”

“Mm… Oh, I’ve got to get to work. If Aunt Vesper finds out I got distracted again, she’ll scold me! Did you just reach the Emerald Lake? Do you have accommodations? If not, just stay here. I’ll prepare a vase of flowers for you, and Aunt Vesper bakes the best biscuits in town! So many people come over just for that!”

“Sure,” Richard agreed, starting to size up the building seriously. It wasn’t all that large, but it was immediately apparent that it was maintained well and had a history of a few centuries. He asked for a bright and clean room, starting to settle in immediately.

The girl had her own impression of Richard. He was a young, elegant mage with a bright future, looking for an opportunity to gain a level or perhaps hoping for a path forward in the Emerald Lake. She sent him a bottle of wine and some desserts before darting away, her voice barely audible as she left, “My name is Erin! Ask me if you need anything!”

Erin? This was a name that Richard hadn’t thought consciously about in the longest time, so much so that it took him a moment to recall where he knew it. However, he could only shake his head and bury the memory of his first crush, smiling at the bell-like laughter of this girl with the same name and taking a whiff of the flowers in the afternoon heat. For just a moment, it felt like all of his worries were gone with the wind.

He blanked out for a few minutes before returning to his senses, proceeding to pick up a map of the city that the inn provided for free and carving every detail into his mind. His attention was drawn to the plant-rearing district, a place known to be the adventurer’s paradise. The district had all sorts of stalls selling weapons, armour, maps, and a bevvy of goods like scrolls, potions and the like. Most of these stalls also bought materials from visiting adventurers, so there were quite a few odd items as well. There was still a day until the auction began, so he could take a stroll around and hopefully find some interesting stuff.

His first impression of the district was the bright and colourful signage, each door a work of art unto itself. Adventurers from all walks of life were passing through the area, looking for items or trying to exchange their spoils for gold. Passing through the stalls, he was surprised to find a number of powerful magic artefacts; in general, this place was even better than Faust’s commerce district.

Along the way, his backpack slowly filled up with materials, some even useful for the crafting of Midren’s battle version. Those materials were quite expensive— his pack’s contents soon worth more than 500,000 gold— but it was certainly worth it.

When it was time for dinner, he returned to the inn and enjoyed Vesper’s biscuits, chatting with Erin for a while before stretching and heading for his room. The girl looked a little disappointed, but he just flashed her a smile and closed the door. Once in his room, he opened the portable laboratory he now always carried around and started working on a batch of important arrays. The night passed in peace.

……

Early morning the next day, Richard hired a horse carriage and headed for the auction at Duke Arbidis’s personal theatre. Two guards in superior-grade armour stopped him at the gates, a few powerful scans from within making it evident that the weak level 10 guards weren’t representative of the true defence, but Richard just passed them his invitation and waited in silence. It didn’t take long before an old mage to dart out in a hurry and bow solemnly, “Please come with me, Your Grace!”

Richard was led to a compartment in the theatre where three others were already waiting for him. The first was Marquess Raoul who had sent him the invitation in the first place. Another was a grand mage who was on the verge of entering the legendary realm, while the third was a middle-aged noble.

Marquess Raoul looked to be in his fifties, his fading white hair combed neatly to match the rest of his attire. He stood up alongside the others when Richard walked in, smiling with a short nod, “I hadn’t expected you to come despite the sensitive times, Your Grace. We are honoured by your presence. Please allow me to introduce these gentlemen.

“This is Magister Thomas, a master at appraisal,” Raoul pointed to the mage. Richard reciprocated the man’s mage greeting, and although neither party spoke the mage’s expression turned gentle.

The Marquess then continued, “And this is Earl Lyndoch, here on behalf of the imperial family. He handles most of the important purchases from up there. Well then, there’s some time till the auction; is there anything you need?”

Richard took out a small magic-sealing case and placed it on the table, “I have two things I would like to sell during the auction, I hope to use that money to pay for what I buy.”

Raoul nodded towards Thomas, and the old mage opened the case carefully. A dense aura of bloodlust seeped out and immediately caused the expressions of the three people to change, but the appraiser composed himself and took out the first rune and opened a separating layer to reveal the second. He took out a gold magnifying glass and started examining the runes slowly, almost pressing his face into them. Combing through them centimetre by centimetre, he took nearly half an hour before looking up, “I can confirm that these are Lifesbanes.”

Raoul and Lyndoch couldn’t help a slight sense of disappointment; they were hoping for an entirely new rune that had never been seen before to cause a huge commotion. It was difficult to create grade 4 runes, but Richard had brought too many surprises to Norland already so they were almost used to it. Lifesbane was definitely expensive, but it couldn’t be the main attraction of the auction.

However, Thomas wasn’t done. Wiping away some sweat, he continued, “But these aren’t ordinary. I estimate the capacity requirements have been halved.”

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OMA's Thoughts

Translated By: Ying

Edited By: Theo

TLC'ed By: OMA