Book 3, Chapter 14

Unable To Refuse

Steelrock and Drakons didn’t stay around too long after handing the skeletal remains to the Archeron steward. After a quick tour of the island, they left with their entourage. When they reached the entrance of Faust, Steelrock looked up at the dragon head hung from the arched gates, praising, “This is a good thing!”

“Only those without much history will exemplify their glory so conspicuously,” Drakons said with some disdain.

Steelrock turned to glance at the maple knight, “You people have this kinda stuff in your kingdom?”

“The Millennial Empire is an inheritor of the ancient elven empires,” Drakons answered proudly, “The ruler of every generation is well-known for their strength on the mainland. The empire is filled with powerhouses, and there are eight or ten such things in our treasury!”

Steelrock nodded his head, his eyes glowing, but one couldn’t tell what exactly he was thinking about.

Done boasting, Drakons gazed at the barbarian, “You’ve seen the situation of the Archeron Family. If Gaton cannot return soon, the skeletal remains will likely only bring them more trouble. Listen to my advice, leave it with Duke Peron for now. His family occupies island 6-4, and is much stronger than the Joseph Family. He’s also my master’s uncle, so you don’t have to worry about him losing or damaging the offering. He doesn’t care much about these things.”

The barbarian shook his head, “I’m not worried about the skeleton. If it’s gone, it’s gone. We have an entire valley full of those things in our tribe! Any trouble it causes is the Archerons’ business, my only job was to send this thing over. With it delivered, I’m done.”

Drakons frowned, “Say Richard returns all of a sudden, and Gaton is still in the other plane. These remains alone will cause a great deal of trouble for him!”

Steelrock snorted, murderous intent in his eyes, “Can’t the man fancied by Her Highness deal with this tiny problem? It wouldn’t be bad if he died here, there are lots of warriors back in Klandor who want to slaughter him. If he doesn’t have the ability, it’s better if he dies now instead of embarrassing Mountainsea.”

Drakons’ expression changed at that statement. “The man fancied by Her Highness…” he muttered as he shook his head, leaving alongside Steelrock. The two walked out side by side, a vast disparity in their sizes but no difference in strength.

“Drakons!”

“Hmm?”

“Let’s have a fight before we part! I haven’t had a good fight in months!”

Darkons let out a cold snort, “When my two swords leave their sheath, they are bound to draw blood!”

“Really?” there was an air of excitement in Steelrock’s voice.

The maple knight’s aura completely dissipated, and he said helplessly, “You warriors of Klandor really have no humour.”

Steelrock was rendered speechless for a moment, but then he said through clenched teeth, “You warriors of Norland really aren’t funny.”

The two gradually parted ways.

……

For his part, Richard didn’t know of all the troubles he had accumulated in Norland. He was busy dealing with his problems back in Faelor.

Blackwing had never shown himself ever since the assassination, and that frightening unknown archer had disappeared completely as well. Richard had launched his revenge against Red Cossack the very next day, arresting everyone associated with the group in Bluewater and turning them into slaves. Any who resisted were killed on the spot, hung on wooden stakes and displayed publicly outside the oasis.

The violent reaction was tantamount to a loud slap on Red Cossack’s face; it wouldn’t be long before they struck once more. Of course, that was exactly what Richard wanted; angry people always committed unwise mistakes.

He didn’t forget the power of gold, something that had an irresistible attraction in the mortal world. Using the Golden Warflag and various other organisations and merchant groups operating in Bluewater, he posted an amazing reward for Red Cossack. He offered more than a hundred gold coins for every level 5 warrior, the reward increasing with level. The two saints were put up at 100,000 coins! It had changed every gaze on the two saints, and the perception of saints was very sharp.

Money was the thing Richard lacked the least. As long as the pen in his hand could still move, he had near unlimited gold. Although he didn’t have enough to pay for all of the bounties, the possibility of the heads of saints being bought with gold was minuscule.

One hot and stuffy night, Rolf arrived at Richard’s residence. They had agreed on the date in prior meetings, and he was excited as this was a once in a lifetime opportunity to acquire the power of someone at a higher level.

The saint swordsman stood in the courtyard, waiting for Richard’s guard to go make a report. His status meant he rarely had to wait at someone’s door in recent years, but ahead of him was the workshop of a great mage. It was also the opportunity for him to obtain a second rune, two chances to defeat enemies stronger than him. There was no sense of impatience in him at all. Although his breathing grew a little hurried moments before he reached for the door.

Even saints would be humbled in the face of power. Rolf finally contained his nervousness, mustering the courage to knock.

“Lord Rolf, please enter!” a voice came from inside.

The first thing the saint did upon entering was to size up Richard’s workshop. It looked like a mage’s lab, but without much of the larger research equipment. Richard himself was sat at a table, studying two pieces of paper. He didn’t raise his head even when Rolf came in, “Please take a seat and wait a moment, I need to finish reading these things.”

Rolf was in no hurry, sitting down calmly. He had remained at level 16 for seven years now, so a few more minutes would not matter. It took a while for Richard to finish reading, after which the mage stood up and stretched his body. He then smiled and explained, “I was looking at information on the Red Cossack saints and had some ideas. Sorry to have kept you waiting.”

"It doesn’t matter! I can wait!” Rolf answered a little too quickly, his voice reverberating through the room. He took a glance at the information in Richard’s hands and asked, “Chuck and Phinbar? I’ve dealt with them a few times, and well… I’m not afraid of you laughing, Master Richard. Phinbar has defeated me once before, and I’m afraid the gap between us has only grown since then.”

For the sake of the formidable power he was about to obtain, Rolf had even changed from calling Richard mister to master. The power of runes had made him neglect Richard’s age.

The Sword Saint had learnt from Amon that the final bits of the runecrafting and activation would be undertaken by Richard himself. Given the amount of material and time spent on it, it was apparent that Richard could complete a large portion of the fabrication himself. Facing a disciple of a grand mage who could make near divine weapons, there was no such thing as too much respect.

Richard had quickly prepared his tools while Rolf was lost in thought, taking out a magic sealing box. He carefully extracted the new rune from within, speaking indifferently, “That doesn’t matter. If you meet Phinbar after tomorrow, Lord Rolf, he will be defeated. Once he loses twice, I don’t think there’s a chance he will challenge you a third time.”

The rune started glowing a pale gold the moment it left the sealing box, overflowing with magical power. Before its magnificent radiance, Rolf could not help but hold his breath. His entire body began trembling slightly.

He had been bottlenecked for much too long, a limit brought about by his talent. Although he was unwilling to reconcile himself to that fact, Rolf still knew clearly that he had no hope of getting to level 17 even if he practised another ten years. The further up one was stopped, the more they desired greater power.

Having tasted the enormous power, wealth, and glory that came from being a saint, Rolf could not control himself. The knowledge that he could not attain higher levels only increased his desire. He would not miss any opportunity to grow!

Richard’s gaze flickered, already having captured the changes in Rolf’s expression. He realised then that he had underestimated this powerhouse’s desire for power. This was a desire that far surpassed lust or greed, a veritable drug…

Ten minutes later, a surprised and delighted voice rang out from the workshop, “This… this power! This feeling!”

“Be careful, Lord Rolf. If you truly activate the rune now, you’ll be left with only a single chance to use it.” Richard’s cold voice calmed the saint to some extent. So what if it could only be used twice? That was two chances of defeating someone of the same level, of escaping from someone more powerful. No matter how he evaluated it, this was a great deal.

Rolf stood up, pacing back and forth in the workshop. He was so agitated that he could not stop; this rune had awoken a lust for vengeance that had been lying dormant for years. How could he not be excited at the prospect of continuing to advance? One’s age and talent were not the only things limiting their advance; understanding of magic and battle experience were important aspects that were like lighthouses illuminating the correct path forward.

“Master Richard, this rune exceeds my every imagination! I’ll have my people send over fifty magic crystals from my private collection, you must appreciate the token of appreciation!” Although Rolf was very excited, years of experience in politics brought him to such a decision immediately. He had to grow his relationship with Richard at all costs.

Looking at the excited man, Richard laughed and shook his head. However, just as he was about to speak, the saint interrupted him, “Respected Master Richard… I know what you are about to say. Indeed, we already have negotiated terms. This is only a small personal gift!”

Richard thought it over and took out a delicate magic sealing box, opening it to reveal a pale gold scroll. “Alright, then I shall accept your kindness. This scroll is a gift to you in return.”

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OMA's Thoughts

Translated By: Mel

Edited By: Theo

TLC'ed By: OMA