“You’re currently my prisoner, Zim,” Richard said with a smile.
“Yes. YES! That’s right, I can pay ransom! Just tell me how much you want. My family is very rich, just let me go and you’ll be paid! You’re a real noble, aren’t you? You’ll surely abide by the laws of nobility? Don’t kill me, don’t kill me!” By the time Zim reached the end, he was wailing. In the deep, dark forest, his pale body grew even more dazzling.
“Of course I want a ransom,” Richard said slowly. The sentence immediately relaxed the Viscount’s pent up nerves, but then the suppressed fear burst forth in the form of tears.
“However…” Richard’s single word immediately stopped Zim’s crying. He pressed so close to the Viscount that their faces were less than twenty centimetres apart, enunciating every word, “I need you to remember my face and name. I told you last time, but it seems like you’re memory isn’t all that great. I should probably help you strengthen it a little.
“How many lashes did I give you last time? More than ten, right? Oh, you see, my memory isn’t all that great either. It will be double the number this time. Thirty lashes, maybe that way you won’t forget who I am.”
The whip in Gangdor’s hand rose like a poisonous serpent, lashing onto the Viscount’s back to leave a swollen mark. Zim cried out loud, his entire body twitching and squirming as he lost continence.
Richard took a few steps back and leaned against a large tree, resting his eyes as he silently counted.
Gangdor knew Zim’s limits. The lashes never overlapped, nor did he ever draw blood from the bruises. The internal clots would sting the young Viscount’s nerves further, leaving him in even more pain. The lashes seemed to cover his entire body, but there were no serious injuries anywhere. The groin, especially, wasn’t touched.
By the time the punishment was done, Zim was left a moaning mess that couldn’t take a single step. Flowsand had to cast several healing spells on him before he could barely lie on Gangdor’s back, carried out of the forest.
Everything had been settled in a single battle, so there was no need for the broodmother. She returned to the Land of Turmoil, but before doing so she reminded Richard once more that she needed large amounts of magic crystals or any other sources of energy to strengthen herself.
There wasn’t much Richard could do regarding those requests. Magic crystals were a rarity in any sort of plane. Simply put, these were extremely pure crystals that could hold large amounts of mana. The broodmother needed more and more magic crystals to upgrade itself with each level; now that it was already level 4, each grade 4 ability needed forty magic crystals to activate.
She was beginning to show her prowess as a war machine. Once the throwers reached a certain level, their power would increase geometrically. However, the more powerful they grew the more energy it took her to make them. Richard had already invested what was basically the entire wealth of a baron to bring her to level 4, and he could already see that even a Duke’s wealth would not satisfy her in the near future.
If she had no limit to her growth, or the limit was at least very high, she could perhaps require entire planes to support herself one day. Richard frowned at this thought, something fleeting flashing across his mind.
With Zim and his personal guard now prisoners of war, Richard’s party met up with the rest of the army. This war that had lasted several days had completely annihilated Viscount Zim’s army. Over a third of the army was dead, another third was injured, while the rest had surrendered.
Richard had no plans on raiding the camp of the wounded soldiers; doing so would only burden him greatly without getting him much in the way of additional ransom. There were dozens of elite knights in those four hundred wounded soldiers, but even combined their value couldn’t compare to Zim’s.
Richard’s army took some time to rest, setting off the next day with twice their number in prisoners. He and Flowsand travelled side by side on their way back to his territory, with Viscount Zim on horseback not far away, squeezed between a few knights. The Viscount was the only one among the prisoners with the luxury to ride a horse; the rest had to walk. However, with the knowledge that Richard planned to collect a ransom, they were no longer filled with anxiety.
Flowsand frowned with her gaze on Zim’s back, and she said softly, “I don’t like this guy.”
“I actually rather like him,” Richard responded.
“I can tell that he hasn’t given up completely. If you let him go this time, he’ll be causing trouble for us right away. Will you give him sixty lashes next time? Wouldn’t it be the same to kill him right now?”
“Isn’t it a good thing if he wants to cause trouble?” Richard asked with a smile.
“A good thing?”
“Of course. With Zim’s personality, he’ll definitely stop others from causing trouble for us until he gets his revenge. I’d rather have him as an enemy than most others.”
That explanation left Flowsand shocked. She stared fiercely at Richard, “Sometimes I feel like you’re becoming a sly old fox!”
“If we’re talking about scheming,” Richard said with a snort, “you’ve always been better than me.”
Flowsand straightened up, putting on a pure and innocent expression, “I spent my entire life in the church. I don’t know anything.”
Richard ground his teeth at her actions. If they weren’t on the road, he would have pushed her over for a long ‘fight’ right then and there.
For some reason, this reminded him of Sharon. Pretending to be innocent, kind, and pure… The legendary mage was quite suited to such a thing. However, once the thoughts started he couldn’t keep an inexplicably sour feeling from welling up in his heart. He hadn’t dared to think of her when he first came to Faelor. At that point, he didn’t know whether he would even be able to return to Norland.
Only now that he was through the initial crisis, with a ray of hope in returning to Norland, did Richard dare to allow these memories to surface from the deepest corners of his heart. However, Flowsand did not notice the slight change in his mood. She was deep in thought over something, and only looked up to speak after some time.
“So, about Perrin. What are you planning to do with him?”
“What I’m planning to do?” Richard was startled. He hadn’t thought of this question before.
“Perrin’s a real genius,” she said seriously, “If we receive the grace of the Eternal Dragon and lift his curse, he could finish the foundations of magic mathematics. Faelor isn’t much weaker than Norland. If their magical abilities go one step further and they start acquiring resources from other planes, it could rise to become a new primary plane. Although it’s an extremely slow process, even the possibility is frightening.
“Forget that, even the immediate consequences are dire. He doesn’t have many accomplishments in magic due to the divine punishment right now, but once that is taken away his accomplishments will be limitless. Someone who can lay the foundations for an entire field is an extraordinary genius! If we don’t deal with him, he could become our biggest enemy on Faelor in a mere ten years!”
Richard was finally forced to face the problem Perrin posed. The youth was the key to their return to Norland; only with his father’s support could they obtain the offerings needed to summon the dragon. However, just as Flowsand had said, that process would birth one of the most terrifying enemies they would ever face.
Richard mulled over it for some time, speaking slowly, “Flowsand, you know the Archerons have many enemies and there are numerous people who are willing to pay a hefty price for our lives. Take the Josephs, Mensas, and Schumpeters for example. Their interference with our expedition is a typical example of how far they will go. Do you think it was worth it for them?”
Flowsand hailed from the Church of the Eternal Dragon, so she was naturally familiar with how much of a sacrifice such a thing could cost, “So far, they’ve lost quite a bit. They had to send us to Faelor, and then move Sinclair and the bearguard knights. The resources they gave up would have been enough to acquire a lesser plane. If their luck wasn’t too bad and they put in the time and effort to develop it, the earnings from that plane would definitely exceed the investment.”
“Exactly,” Richard smiled, “Say I wipe Perrin out. Maybe one day in the future I’ll have to wipe out someone else just like him. There are a hundred million humans alone on Faelor, forget the other races. Geniuses are born all the time, should I kill them all one by one?
“The truth is, strength is the best way to take care of them. My enemies today won’t qualify for my attention tomorrow. Think of it like climbing a mountain; some people want to pull others down, while others wholeheartedly focus on getting to the top. Those who always want to pull others down to their level will never get the chance to reach the peak.”
“But…” Flowsand frowned, “What if someone like Perrin grew to be stronger than us? Wouldn’t we regret not eliminating him when we had the opportunity?”
“Even if Perrin grows, I’ll stay higher than him as long as I keep my eyes on the top. You should know this; are there any things in life that don’t require a price?” Richard returned the question with a smile before following up with:
“I’d rather aim to be the best and end up middling than aim to be mediocre and end up at the bottom.”Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Translated By: Pei
Edited By: Theo
TLC'ed By: OMA