Book 8, Chapter 9

Challenge(2)

The powerful conscients in the distance were discussing things in secret.

“Klopp has been defeated.”

“Isn’t that expected? Richard isn’t someone just focused on research.”

“Not like this. Richard didn’t even use his legendary ability or any high-level magic.”

Klopp was a legendary swordsman, Fazelok’s friend and follower of many years. He had represented Fazelok for this battle, the latter having offered a top-tier offering as the stake for which Richard agreed to the duel.

He had been beaten thoroughly.

……

When Richard got back to the room, he threw the case into a corner before looking at his fully-packed and sinking into meditation once more. This time, he could hear a vague, majestic melody in the starry sky, the symphony of energy which was the source of the Deepblue Aria’s name. The stars were converted to mana one by one, sparkles of astral light appearing within his mana pool.

At dawn, he finished his meditation and walked out of his room for breakfast like a normal adventurer. He then left the inn, visiting the various attractions of the Emerald Lake. Stories could be found everywhere in this city that was millennia old, and just a full tour of it would take a few months. However, he wasn’t in a rush either. Roaming around like a common mage, he acted as though he didn’t notice the gazes watching him closely the entire time.

He only returned to the Forest Nymph in the evening, having spent the whole day just eating and playing as he toured the city. The young girl called Erin welcomed him, waving a letter she was holding, “This came for you while you were gone.”

“Thank you! It’s an honour for someone so pretty to hand me my letters,” Richard said with a warm smile, leaving the blushing girl behind to return to his room.

The letter, envelope, sealing wax… it was all of common materials, but the contents were anything but: “Dear Richard Archeron,

“I’ve heard that Nyris is under the protection of your family, and you are willing to bear the responsibilities. You definitely wouldn’t reject Her Excellency Rosanne’s request to compare magical abilities; I have attached with this letter some information on Her Excellency, and the bet for this battle will be a top-tier offering.

“Yours Sincerely,

Prince Tumen.”

Just like Richard, Rosanne was a level 21 legendary mage, but she had more than forty years of experience in the realm and was someone who forged herself through battle. Richard crumpled up the letter and threw it into the wastebasket, following the same arrangements as the previous day and beginning to process the heart of the valley lord so it could increase his vitality. This wasn’t an easy task, requiring skill in both magic and alchemy.

He only managed to finish the task during midnight the next day, stowing the heart away with care before he picked up Moonlight and left the Forest Nymph for the same arena he had now been to twice. With only an hour left to the battle, he had to be slightly faster than before.

This time, the arena shook continuously for a while before settling down. However, just like before, Richard left with another magic-sealing case.

“Rosanne lost.”

“Unbelievable, he didn’t make any mistakes at all.”

“He still hasn’t even used his ability.”

“We should consider him more seriously…”

As ever, Richard pretended not to notice the conscients and started meditating once he returned to his room. By dawn, dozens of starlike glints were floating in his mana pool.

The next day, he continued roaming around the Emerald Lake and observed every corner in the city. When he returned in the evening, another letter was waiting for him.

This was another challenge with some information on his challenger, but after defeating two legends his opponent would now be a saint.

However, this was no ordinary saint. Richard turned grim for the first time, because the challenger was Drakons; this was a disciple of the Sword Saint. He of all people knew that levels weren’t everything to some people, including those like Beye, Martin, Zangru, and himself. Now, it seemed like Drakons would be on the same list. Still, after thinking for a while, he crushed the paper again and threw it into the basket.

Midnight the next day, he left the inn as usual and headed to the familiar ring. This time, he brought both Moonlight and the Judge. It took an entire half hour before he left and disappeared into the night, carrying the third of the magic-sealing cases. Moments later, a suppressed shout rang through the arena.

……

“Drakons was flustered.”

“Who can remain calm when they face an opponent who never makes mistakes?”

“This is a good thing, he was growing too arrogant.”

“But Richard still hasn’t used his ability. I’m starting to wonder what it is…”

…… 

Life continued to repeat itself, and Richard received a new challenge letter as well. This one was from Romir, a level 22 assassin and experienced legend who had just returned from a battlefield of despair. It was undeniable that he was extremely dangerous; the man hadn’t returned in a dozen years. Of course, it wasn’t a coincidence for him to return either; he had been invited by Fazelok, having come specifically for the duel. In the Land of Dusk, he was renowned for killing black sorcerers.

Perhaps he was scared that Richard would reject; Fazelok added an additional greater offering to the top-tier offering for the bet on this battle. Richard accepted gladly, he would have gone ahead regardless.

The time was still midnight, and the venue was the same, but this time it only took five minutes. The battle between the assassin and legendary mage could be decided in a single burst of power; neither side could sustain a prolonged battle against the other. Of course, with these two that burst was just too strong. Half of the arena that was designed to accommodate duels between legends had collapsed.

……

“He’s… never made a mistake.”

“No ability either.”

“That really is the flames from the Star of Destruction.”

“Maybe it’s time to have Kelly fight.”

“… Maybe.”

……  

That day, Richard didn’t receive any challenge letters. He didn’t continue touring around the Emerald Lake either, but instead went to the Church of the Eternal Dragon to make a few offerings. Nobody knew just what he obtained, but once the ceremony was over the young priestess hosting it couldn’t recover from her daze for a long time.

When he left the church, Richard had nothing left anymore, not even a lesser offering. In exchange, he got a box filled with magic materials. Without any letters over the next three days, he fully immersed himself in runecrafting. The young girl walked to and fro outside his room, staring at the two untouched meals at the door but also knowing that a mage could not be disturbed in his research. The only thing she could do was to change the food and drink from time to time, ensuring he got fresh meals whenever he did walk out.

By the time Richard finally received his long-awaited challenge letter, he had almost run through all of the offerings. This time, he read through the name of the challenger a full three times and spent an entire hour preparing before he left for the battle. This was the first time he had prepared so seriously since coming to Emerald Lake.

The challenge letter itself was much simpler than the previous few, with only a name on it surrounded by the stamp of the imperial family: Kelly.

There wasn’t a need for more information either. Kelly was a level 23 knight with a powerful moon-eating tide bloodline, the captain of the royal guard, one of Empress Gelan’s four children… no matter which title one looked at, she was definitely worthy of Richard’s attention. This was likely the strongest enemy he had ever faced in his life.

In only a few days, the collapsed half of the arena had been repaired to look the exact same as before, even up to the vines covering the walls. Richard walked in with leisure as usual, the door closing behind him and separating him from the outside world.

The night was quiet, time passing soundlessly. However, there was a suffocating sense of weight to the atmosphere around the duelling ring, compelling anyone nearby to leave quickly.

It was almost dawn when the door to the arena opened once again, but this time it was the mages responsible for maintaining the arena. They ran out at full speed, blinking away continuously as if there was an ancient beast chasing them. A wave of blue light followed them out, quickly disintegrating the entire ring and enveloping it in surging blue flames.

Richard slowly walked out of the fire, but at the exit he suddenly shook and almost fell to the ground. He stumbled forward a few steps before stabilising, resuming his walk towards the Forest Nymph. This time, it took him threefold the normal time of half an hour to return.

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OMA's Thoughts

Translated By: WQ

Edited By: Theo

TLC'ed By: OMA