Book 9, Chapter 40

Ember Essence

As the reaper armies withdrew, the soldiers fighting them remained rooted to their places in surprise. Minutes passed in silence before they could confirm that the enemy had left, after which the cheers built up into a thunderous roar that filled the battlefield. However, the veterans and true powerhouses of the army remained indifferent to the situation. They had all seen the way the reapers collected flesh to make their warriors, and a full fifth of Faelor had fallen into enemy hands. Putting everything else aside, the population of civilians alone was enough to create an endless army of flesh warriors.

Nevertheless, they could finally take a short breather. Even Richard himself felt incredibly stiff all over his body the moment he withdrew from the frontlines, looking down to realise that his robes were beyond tattered. His exposed skin was filled with bloodstains, dirt, and all kinds of fleshly filth, which was only ornamented by his bloodshot eyes from days without sleep or cleanliness. His life had revolved around battle for the past weeks, so much so that he felt his own mind starting to fatigue.

As he walked towards the supply base, he spotted a female warrior in ordinary armour, her face so dirty that the features were basically indistinguishable. However, her sword was still rather striking enough for him to recognise her instantly and call out to her, “Macy?”

“Eh?” Macy turned around, but was surprised by the sight of Richard. She nodded before looking at herself, laughing out loud when she realised she was just as sloppy before waving, “I can finally rely on my own strength now.”

“That’s good,” Richard nodded, noticing an acute change to her aura. She had grown more reserved and mellow, but that felt more like a dam holding back the flood. Such an intense change in only a matter of days implied the same sort of lunacy he himself possessed; talent alone couldn’t take one that far.

“So, when are you coming through on your end?” she asked jokingly while trying to strike a seductive pose.

“Anytime,” Richard replied with a smile.

“Then how about now?”

“Okay, anytime after this. I have to clean up and visit Norland again.”

“I knew you’d dodge it!” she waved a fist in the air, “Mark my words, I’m staying alive until this war ends. Let’s see what excuses you’ll give me then!”

“I believe you!” Richard laughed, hugging her more like a comrade than a romantic partner before looking around. His warriors were all tending to injuries, repairing fortifications, and gathering the remains of the reapers into a large pile to be processed. Energy cores were extracted from the bodies and debris before the rest was sent to a workshop in the rear, where Richard would be able to burn entire warehouses down to collect the silver metal.

A mere half hour after the reapers retreated, Richard had gathered three full bottles of the silver metal and was back at the Church of the Eternal Dragon in Norland. He only brought along two top-tier offerings in tow, which were the last of his savings given that he had no chance to produce runes in recent times. The offerings gave him strengthened passages as he wanted, but the true focus of the ceremony was with the bottles of silver metal.

“So much ember essence!” When the first bottle was placed on the altar, the timeforce all around surged rapidly as the Eternal Dragon descended once more. It was rare for the old dragon to sound this excited, the only time Richard could recall being when it saw the tooth of the Beast God Mountainsea had given him.

“What’s the use of this thing?” Richard asked, but the dragon’s reply left him speechless for a moment. It came in the form of a choice of blessing: Divine Omniscience. It was a partial explanation about how ember essence worked, but it would require a full top-tier offering’s worth of divine grace!

This was Richard’s first experience with such a direct exchange for information, but he also knew that this meant there would be more times to come. Although it wouldn’t directly grow his power, he eventually accepted the blessing to learn about what could just be the key to defeating the reapers.

A simple explanation immediately burnt itself into his mind. Ember essence was a bizarre substance that laid somewhere between life and inorganic matter. It could not form a soul, but beings possessing it would display some features of intelligence. That intelligence grew with the amount of essence used to create a being, as did its power.

The origin of ember essence was unclear even to the Eternal Dragon, and the little knowledge the dragon did have was tagged with the high price of a rank 2 offering that quickly shut down Richard’s hopes. However, even the information he was given contained a small hint as to the laws driving ember essence; while rather broken, it would still allow him to improve his control of metals significantly.

The laws driving the ember essence seemed to be strictly in the domain of order, but as he tried to analyse them Richard quickly found that they were breaking down into chaos as well. This was why the laws from the Eternal Dragon were so broken and incomplete.

Eventually, the Eternal Dragon priced a bottle of the silver metal at four top-tier offerings, and offered to pay double that price. Richard immediately threw away all hesitation and placed the remaining two bottles on the altar, which shocked the dragon greatly, “So much! I see, your war has already begun, allowing you to collect more of this essence… Then I can offer you a few more benefits; I will open up a portion of the rank 2 blessing list for what you get from these bottles, but it will cost twelve rank 3 offerings’ worth instead of ten.”

Richard was stirred by this offer. Having seen some of the things on offer as rank 2 blessings before, he knew just how useful they were. He wouldn’t mind spending twenty rank 3 offerings for a single rank 2 blessing, so twelve was more than palatable. A list of things on offer quickly appeared in his mind as well, from an ancient warbeast’s horn to three sets of legendary dragon skeleton. There was an arm of an abyssal lord, a rainbow crystal that was supposed to be the most durable substance in existence… any of these ingredients could assist the creation of a rune well beyond grade 5.

However, he didn’t get much time to browse through the list before the Eternal Dragon spoke once more, “This offer will only be valid on your next visit. Your current blessings have already been prepared.”

Before Richard could protest, the dragon’s conscient faded away. A perfectly round blob of silver metal suspended itself in mid-air above the altar, alongside a small dark gold scroll. He stretched out to grab the blob first, but even he had to brace for a moment as he felt more than a hundred kilograms of weight in only a few drops’ worth. The metal resembled the ember essence, but this was more active and lively with what seemed like a life of its own. Everything he had extracted from the reapers seemed dead in comparison.

Some information about it quickly flowed into his mind. This was activated ember essence, in a state where it could be integrated into other objects. It would inject sentience into most equipment, which meant this drop alone could bring any legendary equipment to the divine realm. On the other hand, it could also serve as the core ingredient for a true grade 6 rune.

However, creating a grade 6 rune was easier said than done. Outside of the core materials, the rest of the rune would also need to be rare beyond belief. Still, this would bring him a third of the way there, which was much farther than he had come before.

Richard then took the unknown scroll. It broke down into timeforce the moment he touched it, entering his body, but every strand also contained the power of laws which integrated directly into his mind. His laws of space were advanced greatly in mere moments even as he finally understood what the scroll was for.

He was finally close to advancing his title once more. Although he was still a Lord of Space, his authority in the Church was increased once more and his laws were enhanced. Space was one of those laws that existed in most, if not all planes, and his control over it had increased in general. At the same time, he was now on the verge of being granted some of the laws of time, which would come when he became a Lord of Time, the last title he could obtain.

Of course, the laws of time were no simple matter. One almost had to master space first to even make sense of them, which was already a near-impossible feat, but they themselves were mysterious and difficult to grasp. He didn’t believe there was a single person in all of Norland with the wealth to actually get that far using the Eternal Dragon, but he found himself supremely confident.

That confidence came from the reward point system. So long as he survived this upcoming war, he would have the resources and ability to gain a basically endless supply of offerings.

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OMA's Thoughts

Translated By: Gem

Edited By: Theo

TLC'ed By: OMA