Book 8, Chapter 117

Newborn

The fact that Richard assigned Ginley to this investigation showed that he was ready to kill. She was a grand soul mage who had joined the Archerons less than a year ago. The woman seemed uncaring about her appearance, allowing herself to age to the point that she was wrinkly all over; there were even rumours that she had accelerated the process on purpose. She was a pervert through and through, possessing a twisted personality that was aroused by torture. According to her, there was no greater pleasure than hearing the pained screams of young men and women.

However, for all these shortcomings, she was one of the rare few grand mages who was willing to accept a slave contract. Even though there was a time limit, few people of such power would just give themselves up to servitude like that. This choice had gained Richard’s trust, and he had put her in charge of interrogations at Blackrose Castle. She had never let him down before, showing the ability to break those with the strongest wills eventually.

Perhaps only one of the nine suspects was actually guilty, but all of them would be left with painful memories after she was done with them. There was a time when he would have hesitated in such a scenario, but right now his priorities were entirely different. Looking at the cards on his table, he continued his instructions, “They want to come see her? Let them. Go make preparations for a banquet in three days, I’ll host anyone who’s come to congratulate me. They’ll get a look at the newborn, and there will be a rune convention after dinner.”

Tapping the table twice, he continued, “Oh, add in a battle tournament for youths, the only restriction is age. The champion will get a hundred points, second place fifty, and third thirty. Fourth to eighth will get twenty points each.”

……

Blackrose Castle roared to life over the next few days, a constant stream of people coming in and going out as though it was a large festival. Those who could afford long-range teleportation appeared around the same time as Richard, joining their followers who had set off earlier.

The tournament attracted even more people than had originally been expected. A competition with no restriction on origin, experience, and status was undoubtedly the best way for talented youths to shine. It was also a platform for older families to show off their youngest generation, showing the strength of their bloodlines and inheritances.

Most importantly, Richard himself was a prodigy of frightening scale. There were few people in the entire history of Norland who had gotten as far as him in as little time, and all were poised to reach divinity if they wished. His rewards were immense as well. A hundred points was enough to get a legendary weapon, while the fifty points for second place could give the runner up a piece of legendary armour or a different trinket. Even the thirty points was enough for a Savage Barrier set. Even the powerful Ironblood Duke and Prince Tumen would have to think twice before offering such rewards. Lesser families simply couldn’t afford them at all.

Another important piece of news was that Richard would be holding a rune convention during dinner; it was rumoured that the star of that convention would be Midren’s battle edition! This was an event that couldn’t be missed; even many runemasters and legends rushed over, alongside a number of family heads. This would be the only chance to look at those runes from up close. Many people were considering participating in a price war for Midren’s battle edition. In their eyes, this was a treasure that could be passed down for millennia, something worth spending any amount of money on.

Temporary residences had already been constructed outside Blackrose Castle. The quarters were all in a rather monotonous style, but they were affordable and the conditions were much better than taverns or inns. Richard had already gotten a number of architects under him with expertise in this specific field for Dragon Valley, so things went quite smoothly in that regard.

Everyone Archeron found themselves busy from dusk to dawn. Setting up three huge events within as many days was near impossible, the tight timeline leaving many things half-done. The sheer workload left those in managerial positions with no time to sleep, even with many powerful saints and grand mages having joined the workforce. Fortunately, the Archeron Family wasn’t as stratified as most others, and powerhouses didn’t really care about such things as image amongst their kin.

Saints were helping ferry crates of food and wine, while mages were busy preparing fireworks. Knights took off their armour and joined the workers building the arena where the battles would take place, moving hundreds of kilograms of rocks each to complete the massive endeavour in a single day.

……

While everyone was busy with their own work, bloodcurdling screams were ringing out in the prison below. Even the veteran guards who manned the dungeons showed expressions of discomfort whenever they heard those cries for help; in their hearts, the paper-thin Ginley was more terrifying than any monster.

When the old steward walked into the prison, a few guards hurriedly opened the gates for him. Even his brows locked when he heard a groan, but he shook it off, “Bring me to Miss Ginley.”

Ginley was in her usual haunt— the torture room. There were a total of nine people here, bound in different ways. One was currently hunched over, with the old hag scribbling into a notepad next to him under a dim light.

She stopped moments before the steward walked in, picking up a tiny knife and cutting into the hunched prisoner in several places. Her touch was gentle as a healer’s, only forming razor-thin slits that wouldn’t even bleed, but those minute slashes prompted a scream at the top of his lungs.

“It looks like I’ll have to add another layer of soundproofing here, my Lady,” the steward said as he walked in, his face twitching a little.

Ginley turned around and started to cackle, her skeletal face almost shaking from the movements. Her eyes resembled two dried orbs of blood, pulsing with malice as she said, “No need for that, I want everyone to hear this music!”

“Sigh. Alright, how far is the progress with Master’s orders?”

“His Grace wanted it done after the celebration. Tell him not to worry, these people will tell me everything by then.”

The steward sighed once more, looking Ginley square in the eye before leaving without another word. From previous experience, he knew that even saints wouldn’t last a day in her hands. The excess time was merely more entertainment for her, something that Richard tacitly approved.

……

Time passed quickly when people were busy. Three days later in the afternoon, Richard was standing by in the room as the cleric cut his bloody baby off from Coco. The infant was rinsed clean before being brought to him, while Coco wolfed down her last life potion from on her bed and fell asleep. One could see the absolute relief on her face; it had been incredibly taxing to have her vitality replenished and then drained constantly for months on end.

The newborn baby didn’t cry, instead looking in Richard’s direction with bright round eyes. Her features seemed to be inherited from his elven side, with a partial resemblance to her mother as well. This was a beautiful baby that could even pass off as an elf, but in the depths of her irises he could see the crimson magma of her Archeron blood.

His gaze was drawn to her right ear and the section of her face around it, where there was a dark red birthmark that looked like jumping flames. As the top runemaster of Norland, he recognised it easily— this was a natural rune.

A natural rune was extremely rare, only showing up in babies with powerful bloodlines that also had great potential. They were effectively runes with no tax on one’s carrying capacity, possessing far greater power than normal runes and scaling with age. These flames on the baby’s face were a good indicator of her talent.

As he stared at the baby, Richard felt like she was watching him as well. Most newborns couldn’t distinguish between objects, but he had the strange feeling that this infant was just pretending to be innocent. He also noticed a strange look of fear in her eyes.

A fear of him.

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OMA's Thoughts

Translated By: Styles

Edited By: Theo

TLC'ed By: OMA