Book 8, Chapter 127

Hidden Perils

With things set up in the Genesis, Richard teleported to Dragon Valley and called Nasia. He didn’t even bother with a greeting, just stuffing Fiora into her arms, “This is Fiora. There’s a problem with her, but I can’t tell what it is.”

Nasia lifted the sleeping baby, examining her all over. The infant looked uneasy the moment she was handed over, her little hands and feet struggling for a while even as her brows met.

“Where do you think the problem is?” Nasia asked.

“Her bloodline has awakened too early, and it’s too pure. If I hadn’t personally seen her being born, I would have suspected that she was a morphed demon. I know my bloodline, it’ll never be this powerful. Her mother is effectively a commoner.”

Nasia sighed, returning Fiora, “Her blood vessels look abnormal. It could be that your life potions just overloaded her, but there might be other reasons too. I can’t fully test her yet, my methods might harm her. You should ask the broodmother to take a look, her analytical powers have grown since she absorbed those Scholars. Only…”

“Only what?” A sense of unease crept up in Richard’s heart.

“Only you need to be prepared. Or it might just be better not to know.

Richard went silent for a while before shaking his head, “Regardless, I’ll have to deal with it sooner or later. I’ll be going to the Land of Turmoil, this place is yours until I come back.”

Nasia nodded, but before leaving she suddenly turned around, “The fates of a lot of people are resting on your shoulders. It’s alright if anyone else isn’t strong, but you’re the one person who has to be.”

“I… understand,” Richard nodded, sitting quietly for a while with the oblivious little Fiora deep asleep in his arms. Eventually, he kissed her head and sent a mental command, summoning a messenger to his window. It quickly took him to the skies, first floating towards the portal to the Dragon Plane.

A fierce battle was blazing within Dragon Valley, nearly a hundred dragons fighting twice their number in humans. There were fights everywhere, leaving only the region within a hundred metres of him actually clear of opponents. The dragons recognised him and gave him a wide berth, knowing that attacking him would only mean death.

A legion of 200 tall soldiers had just entered the battlefield, elite winter soldiers that the broodmother had specially created. At level 16 they shouldn’t have affected this battlefield, but with the dragons also steering clear of the druids they had been sent forth to march in. These drones had special versions of the thunder cannons in their hands, the guns now three metres long with muzzles the size of fists. The six barrels were flashing with blue light, the external appearance alone sending chills down one’s spine.

One dragon that discovered the weak drones roared loudly, swooping down from the sky. However, most of the army continued advancing as only thirty stopped to face it, holding up the enormous thunder cannons in their hands.

*BOOOOOM!* Bright light flashed from the cannons, drowning out the rest of the battlefield. A bloody fog suddenly erupted from the dragon’s chest, revealing a terrifying injury that was half a metre wide. Many similar explosions occurred on the other parts of its body as the guns finished their full six rounds, shooting bullets that could kill saints if unprepared. Even with some misses, nearly a hundred strikes turned the dragon into a bloody mess that crashed into the earth.

Once the dragon was eliminated, the thirty winter soldiers changed their disks and regrouped, continuing their search for a target. Now, they all spread out in groups of thirty to forty, each one taking aim at a flying dragon and letting loose. Dragon after dragon fell from the sky, unable to withstand the hundreds of bullets that pierced into their bodies.

Although a single bullet only caused superficial wounds, the cannons shot far too quickly and were amassed in great numbers. They were quite dangerous, especially up close where they were even more terrifying than rune knights.

Both humans and dragons were stunned by this new power, but the elites sent by the Five-Coloured Dragon weren’t so easy to deal with. They quickly identified the primary weaknesses of the thunder cannons: short range and long reload times. A few seconds meant nothing on ordinary battlefields, but here that was forever.

A group of winter soldiers that had just finished taking a dragon down were charged by a wind dragon, lightning pouring down on them as it used its mouth, claws and tail to tear them apart. Unfortunately, the lizard didn’t know how the broodmother’s drones worked. The ten living drones completely ignored the bodies of their companions, finishing the reload and pulling the trigger. The cannons roared to life and eviscerated two drones caught in the dragon’s claws, moving on to crash into the dragon itself. It roared in pain and struggled into the sky, but another group suddenly adjusted their fire to target it!

The humans watching gasped as the remaining ten winter soldiers were destroyed amidst the fire, the dragon being taken down as well. Some of them frowned, but this was war and they didn’t have time to make any comments. Dragons continued flying out of the portal, and they had to react.

Richard watched quietly, having no plans to participate. This was fated to be a hard battle, but those in the reward point system had grown increasingly resilient in their desires. He knew that they would win in the end. Of course, that didn’t stop the mournful cry as a burning sky saint fell to the ground, being cut in two by a metal dragon that was passing by.

Such was war. Even if they won, there was still a price to pay. Heaving a long sigh, he cuddled Fiora and left for the Land of Turmoil.

……

Richard was already in front of the broodmother when night fell, little Fiora still asleep. Floating in mid-air, she remained completely oblivious to the compound eyes staring at her.

“This is a little complicated, Master. I need some time, you can rest for a while.”

Richard nodded at the broodmother, finding an empty piece of land and whipping out Moonlight to practice the same slash he had worked on a million times. He felt far too restless to meditate, only able to calm himself down by polishing his combat skills.

Time passed in silence, the night growing deeper and darker before the first rays of dawn fell upon the forest. Little Fiora was still asleep; having eaten a greater demon’s heart, she would need at least half a month to digest it.

“This isn’t good,” the broodmother’s voice eventually rang in Richard’s mind.

“You mean…”

“I see a mark of the Scholars in her soul, similar to what they left in me. But I can’t confirm just what it is; it could be a Scholar storing his own soul in hers, or a trap to control her.”

“The fucking… Are you sure?” Richard’s eyes blazed.

“A hundred percent,” she said calmly.

Richard’s eyes were drawn towards Fiora, a million emotions coursing through him. The usually decisive man had no idea what to do; was the cute little baby actually his daughter?

“What’s going to happen now?”

“If her soul was replaced by a Scholar’s, it will awaken completely one day. You will have to watch your back permanently from then; you’ll never know when the dagger will be stabbed into your back.”

“And ger bloodline?”

“Artificially stimulated.”

“Any solution?”

“Let me eat her right now, it will take care of any problems.”

Richard laughed bitterly, picking his daughter up and watching her sleeping face. The girl seemed to sense the familiar aura, nuzzling into his hand and find a more comfortable position. The little thing occasionally looked at him with fear when she was awake, but that block seemed to fade away when she fell asleep.

He eventually shook his head, “She’ll be my daughter until the Scholar awakens.”

“But you won’t be able to tell when that is! It’s far too dangerous!”

“That’s alright. I’m used to danger.”

“Master…”

“That’s enough. Thank you,” he patted the enormous body, getting onto the messenger and heading into the distance.

The drone sped along at more than a thousand kilometres an hour, the wind on his face as sharp as knives. He didn’t use any magic to protect himself, but his arms made sure his daughter was safe and snug.

Richard knew quite well that Fiora wasn’t actually his daughter if her soul had been replaced. It was the soul that was the basic property of life. The broodmother was right; she could eat the infant to eliminate any danger, and perhaps even identify some traces that could lead to Soremburg Castle. However, he just couldn’t bring himself to do such a thing; he would raise his daughter until that fateful day, and then he would deal with the fallout from that decision.

The Scholars had crossed the line several times, leaving him furious at each instance. Now, however, all he could feel was helplessness. There were some ways for him to deal with them, but none that he could think of to root them out completely.

Once back in Dragon Valley, Richard passed Fiora over to his clerics, locking himself up in his laboratory and immersing himself in the world of runes. This time he was especially focused, able to finish another component of Midren in the blink of an eye. This was two full days quicker than his previous best, and once he looked at the finished product he couldn’t help but lose himself in thought.

It was said that Midren had once changed himself into human form, walking the mortal realm to understand their difficulties. Having created the boots of the set, Richard named them the Steps of Misery.

He had felt empty when starting on this rune, working completely off instinct. There was no expectation to even finish properly, but things had gone better than ever. However, he didn’t dwell too much on it, sighing before he stowed the rune away and left the lab.

Just as he was about to gather his followers to understand the situation in both battlefields, his expression suddenly changed. Opening up a portal, he headed straight to his demiplane.

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OMA's Thoughts

Translated By: Ying

Edited By: Theo

TLC'ed By: OMA