Book 2, Chapter 135

Crisis(2)

Baron Fontaine also informed Richard that the Duke had dispatched a team of elite knights led by a saint, and they were currently en route to the castle. Their main task was to escort the rune in his hands back, but he could also follow them on their return journey and they would be able to ensure his safety. Even though they weren’t at war, the conflict between churches and ancestor worshippers ensured that armed battles could break out at any time.

The guest room prepared by the Baron was grand and spacious, offering scenic views of the lake right outside the ceiling-to-floor windows. It wasn’t far away from his subordinates as well, showing the thought and consideration that went into his accommodations.

However, as Richard lay on the bed, he kept tossing and turning while unable to fall asleep. An uneasy feeling in his heart kept him wide awake.

‘What is it? Does Fontaine have any plans to kill me?’ he furrowed his brows, deep in thought. Nestled somewhere within that deep feeling of unease was a fear for his very life, as if a sharp blade was about to fall from the sky at any time. However, the passion and sincerity of the Baron had been heartfelt, that was something Richard was sure of. No additional defences had been placed in the castle, and when he toured it he hadn’t once felt the presence of any additional weapons.

This likely wasn’t just the natural paranoia from being in unfamiliar territory. Although Baron Fontaine had some degree of strength, it wasn’t enough to alarm him. Both Zendrall and himself could summon a steady stream of magic creatures, while Waterflower’s fighting abilities far surpassed her level. He also had Flowsand, who had the Book of Time. With the upgrade to the bonuses from her title, she could use far more scrolls at one go than before. As long as she didn’t run out, she would be an untiring machine.

Where was this danger coming from?

Richard sat up, wearing his clothes and removing the nameless longsword from its scabbard and placing it within arm’s reach. He mentally gave commands to those contracted to him to remain alert and on guard, at the same time making contact with the broodmother and having her proceed towards the baron’s lands and wait at the fringe of the mountain areas for further orders.

However, at a speed of a mere ten kilometres an hour, it would be impossible for the broodmother to reach the battlefield in time to offer assistance. It had to be informed in advance, so that it could wait in ambush at a specified place or clear an escape route. If the situation was so bad that the broodmother had to break out of a siege, it could knock any chasing soldiers out.

The premonition of danger was growing stronger and stronger. It was mere intuition, but for mages like Richard intuition normally hinted at such a thing. There was a reason he felt this sense of danger, only that he couldn’t figure out why exactly that was.

Gangdor, Waterflower, and the others got up one by one as per his command, outfitting themselves for battle. Waterflower quietly made her way to Flowsand’s room and informed the cleric to prepare, remaining there to protect her.

At the campgrounds outside of the castle, the two trolls got up and woke the remaining soldiers rather violently, trying as much as possible not to alert the defenders of the castle. The soldiers were ordered to get ready for battle.

This was the first night where Richard had come into contact with the Direwolf Duke’s strength. With Baron Fontaine’s attitude and intentions not clear at the time, all of his soldiers had slept in full armour, ready to emerge from their tents and fight the moment they picked up their weapons.

……

Earlier that evening. The sun seemed reluctant to set, painting half the sky crimson. A young hunter walked briskly towards Bran, a plentiful harvest of prey on his back.

The mountains and forests here weren’t completely peaceful and safe. There were recent sightings of gigantic wolves that had never been seen before. Experienced hunters loathed coming across bears and wolves, and this youth was no exception. He was hoping to make it back to the village before the sky turned dark; it would be too dangerous in the forest before nightfall.

As the village slowly came into view, the hunter couldn’t help but pick up his steps. However, just as he was doing so an unfathomably beautiful lady that he could never even have dreamt of appeared in front of him. Gazing at her almost nude body, the youth almost went cross-eyed.

“Is the leader of this village named Richard?” the beautiful lady tenderly asked.

“Richard? No.. Oh wait, yes! Our new leader… He’s named Richard Arc—” the youth’s train of thought slowed down, his gaze refusing to leave the lady’s chest. Thankfully he wasn’t smitten to the point that he couldn’t answer questions.

“It better be him! Come here, my baby, help me find out where that little Richard went,” the beauty said as she turned to the side.

A huge lion head popped out all of a sudden at her words, almost the size of the hunter’s full upper body. The manticore opened its mouth wide open, biting off the youth’s head, shoulders, and chest with one bite. Shortly after, two rays of light shot out of its eyes and projected an image in the air. A young man on a horse was patrolling Bran, and although it was rather blurry one could make out his features.

Sinclair naturally recognised him at a glance. Before she left home, she’d memorised this face. However, the Richard in the young hunter’s memory was clearly much more and composed than the one in Norland, seeming more deep and profound.

“Oh! The beautiful young boy grew even more handsome! We have to use him well!” Sinclair said, almost moaning.

The light coming from the manticore’s eyes slowly dimmed, as the image retrieved from the hunter’s soul started to disappear. A mere two minutes of projection was enough to drain its energy, leaving it dispirited and listless. However, Sinclair was now brimming with excitement. She grabbed the creature’s mane and pulled hard, murmuring in its ear, “You’ll definitely sniff Richard out, won’t you?”

The manticore let out a deep howl, showing its acknowledgement. It then gazed towards Bran that wasn’t far off, roaring twice in succession.

Sinclair patted the creature with force, “You can have as many of the people in the village as you want!”

Half an hour later, she left Bran atop the manticore’s back, the surviving bearguard knights and two great mages following behind her. They headed north, rushing along Richard’s trail as they charged towards Twilight Castle.

The small village was left in complete silence, all lights extinguished. Black mist lingered in every corner, as viscous liquid continually streamed out of the half-closed doors. This liquid wasn’t the dark red of blood, instead a pitch black.

Although souls weren’t exclusively in the domain of the gods, even touching the field of soul-reading was an extremely trying task with a huge price to pay. Despite its size and power, the manticore had exhausted all its strength to extract the hunter’s memories from his soul, making it extremely hungry. However, the entirety of Bran added up could only fill it up halfway. The manticore thrived not on flesh and blood, but on life force and soul essence. There weren’t any strong individuals in Bran, so they didn’t suit its taste.

In the dark of the night, the demons who spread fear and death scurried along. Based on their speed, they would reach Baron Fontaine’s castle before the crack of dawn.

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OMA's Thoughts

Translated By: Hestia

Edited By: Theo

TLC'ed By: OMA