Book 1, Chapter 37C

Blood and Purity

Richard noticed a great many things in that moment. Erin looked like she just wanted to jump into his embrace the moment she rushed out to stand in front of him, but she suppressed it and instead pulled Richard into the room. Taking a look outside, she closed the door with a bang and locked it. Her chest heaved as she stared at him, back to the door. A flush crept up her body, making her emotions obvious.

Richard sized up the room. This was a very small, utilitarian place, formed of two rooms and a little bathroom. Its size was pitiful, with just the bedroom having a window to the patio while all the other rooms just had four walls. The room also had a magic lamp, but it wasn’t lit. In its place was a candle.

The small room with a single bed and cupboard was full of the smell of candle smoke and the girl’s own scent. The bathroom was barely large enough for one to shower in, while the hall wasn’t much larger than the bedroom itself. There were many things in the hall, but they were arranged neatly to make good enough use of the space to not seem cramped.

As Richard was looking around, Erin noticed that her own hand was slightly sticky. Raising it to take a look in the candlelight, she found her palm was full of blood! She suddenly noticed the blood flowing out from between Richard’s fingers.

She recalled that she’d pulled on Richard’s hands to bring him into the room, and couldn’t help but exclaim, “You’re hurt?!”

Richard waved his hand and answered nonchalantly, “It’s just a small wound, nothing much.” This really was how he felt, especially after he’d seen the entire process of Naya dealing with Blood Parrot.

However, Erin had a clear view of his palm. The skin had already been cut open by the coarse surface of the metal bar, and with Richard applying the pressure he did to it the wound looked terrifying. It was as if his entire hand had split apart!

She couldn’t help but raise her voice, shouting, “How did you get hurt? They told me they wouldn’t really hurt you…”

Erin cupped her mouth the moment these words left her, turning pale. Richard looked up at her without the slightest of astonishment, his piercing gaze sweeping past her face to record her reaction. The gaze grew calm and distant, his voice peaceful as he said, “So you did have a part in this. Tell me, who was it?”

The calmer Richard was, the colder Erin felt. She subconsciously grabbed at her collar and looked down, speaking so softly it was almost indiscernible, “Minnie. She looked for me and told… told me to lure you here, saying she had something personal to speak to you about. I… I couldn’t reject her, so I could only agree.

“But she promised she definitely wouldn’t hurt you! She also said that you’re Her Excellency’s favourite student, so how would she dare harm you?”! Erin’s voice became louder and louder, and seemed more like she was convincing herself.

On the other hand, Richard was calm and asked, “Minnie? How much did she give you, and what was the reason you couldn’t reject her?”

Erin gradually calmed down and laughed wryly, “A total of 500 gold coins, and she also agreed not to cause trouble for my father.”

“500 gold coins? So that’s how little I’m worth. However, with your father involved, I guess that’s enough.” Richard smiled self-mockingly and looked at Erin. The smile on his face gradually vanished, and he enquired, “You’ve sold your first time as well, right? Can you tell me how much you did it for?”

Erin paled in that instant, and hung her head lower. It took her a while to speak, “2000 gold goins.”

“Four normal mana potions,” Richard compared rather brutally. He then pressed on, “Who was it? Why were you willing to earn his money and not mine?”

This was a very old question and one that had been raised before. This time, Erin did not choose to evade it. She seemed to have nothing left to lose, and answered quickly, “Steven, another of Her Excellency’s apprentices. I was in urgent need of money then and he made the request right at that time. I… I’m just a normal person living in the borders and somewhat managed to make contact with the nobility. With his power and status, I couldn’t reject him.”

“Steven…” Richard contemplated over the name. It was like the most important piece of a puzzle had fallen into place, slowly revealing the outline of a scheme. However, even if he could understand it that violent blood within him was beginning to twitch.

“How much are you now?” Richard’s words caused Erin to involuntarily tremble, and as if unable to bear the cold she answered in a whisper, “Besides Steven, there hasn’t been anyone else. He sometimes looks for me and gives me 200 or 300 gold coins each time. Sometimes, when I… I’m in dire need, I’ll look for him as well…”

“How much are you now?” Richard asked once more.

Erin finally gritted out, “I owe you 1600 gold coins. If it’s you, 100 each time.”

Richard slowly reached out and grabbed at the front lapels of her clothing, the violent tendencies ravaging in his chest becoming dangerous and more difficult to hold in. He suddenly wanted to see blood, and the matter that Erin had doing her best to avoid kept replaying in his mind.

“You betrayed me just for 500 gold coins and almost lost me my life?!” Richard gritted out, eyes now bloodshot. He abruptly pulled his hands apart, ripping Erin’s sleeping attire in two. He grabbed the girl and walked to the bedroom, tossing her on the bed and pressing down!

Coarse gasps from the depths of the girl’s throat mixed with bestial groans to fill every corner of the room. Erin was like a little boat being ravaged by a storm, her body arching and falling repeatedly without her bidding. Her hands gripped tightly on Richard’s back, and when it grew hardest to endure she’d left behind ten deep marks of blood there. The great pain caused Richard to cry out, but it seemed to only fuel his fires. Erin’s cries rose in pitch as well.

The storm continued for some time, leaving the two with no energy when they finally parted. With how small the bed was they were nestled up to each other, staring at the grey ceiling together. Nobody knew who started it, but the girl talked about herself while Richard listened silently.

Like the protagonist of many stories, Erin came from a small noble family. Her father was a knight from his family, with a small piece of land amounting to two villages. It was situated at the borders of the Sacred Tree Empire, adjacent to Marquess Niall’s lands and not too far from Duke Solam’s fief. Because Erin’s father was thus a vassal of Marquess Niall, she couldn’t say no to Minnie of Steven.

Erin’s father was extremely taken with the arts, committed to socialising with the upper class. The one thing he was not proficient at was managing his own land, and over time the debts he had fallen into reached an astonishing number that couldn’t be returned. Erin had been sent to the Deepblue to study magic at age ten, and she did have good aptitude in the field. However, that was by the standards of her father’s lands. She was nothing in the Deepblue, and soon enough she’d used up all of her savings and the financial support from her family grew smaller and smaller. She could only rely on herself to continue her education and mere survival in the Deepblue, and with no money her progress had slowed.

The old knight had no money to support a growing mage in Deepblue, and he also did not want to nurture a great mage. What the knight truly wanted was the name of Deepblue, so that Erin could be sold for a good price. In the terms of the aristocracy, this meant that Erin could get married to a viscount, or be the mistress of some earl or marquess with some power. Without having been in the Deepblue, Erin could only be the wife of a baron, and depending upon circumstances even barons could ask for a dowry.

Hence, Erin used all her might to earn money, all so she could continue to stay in Deepblue. The moment she returned to her family, she would be used as a bargaining chip in a political marriage. On the other hand, there was another reason that the old knight had not forced her to return home. That was because his debts had escalated to a crisis for him, and his land could be taken at anytime. The reason the debtors had not forced the matter to the courts and had him declare bankruptcy was the future mage studying in the Deepblue. They didn’t want to offend a possible great mage just to collect debts, so as long as she stayed in the Deepblue they would not go too far. Of course, if she was willing to return, the problem with the debts would also be easily solved. There was already an old widower viscount with ample assets willing to take on the knight’s debts, but that was only if Erin agreed to marry him.

Minnie had obviously investigated Erin’s background and knew her father’s circumstances. If Erin was unwilling to cooperate, then she would use her own family’s power and take away the knight’s land. The knight had long since lost the means to return his debts, and with all his income going towards the interest he couldn’t even keep up with his honourable lifestyle. The loss of his land was the loss of his noble reputation, and be it the knight or Erin herself this would lead to a drop in status.

Minnie had even hinted to Erin that she wanted to make contact with Richard. Making it seem like this was an issue between a boy and a girl, she’d also promised never to hurt Richard. On top of that, wouldn’t Her Excellency’s might stop her?

“That’s why I had no way to reject her.” Having said this, the young girl reached out to grab Richard’s hand, caressing the new wounds on his hands and asking, “They didn’t do anything too harsh to you, right? Are you injuries serious?”

“It’s nothing. Everything’s taken care of.” Richard said casually.

He did not state how things had been ‘taken care of’, nor did he want to explain the process. For Erin, Niall and Solam were two large mountains blocking basically everything in her way. Marquess Niall’s battle failures were only news in the aristocracy for now, and there was a long way to go before it reached her ears.

However, despite her reasons, Erin had betrayed him for a mere 500 gold coins. In hindsight her decision seemed quite foolish, because she had no idea about Richard’s background or anything about Sharon’s relationship with the boy. However, most normal people didn’t have as much information when they were making their decisions, so the foolishness or intelligence in those choices boiled down mostly to luck.

For Erin to give up the slight purity and persistence she possessed to Steven, the superficial reason was that she had debts she couldn’t repay. However, the true reason for this debt being formed in the first place was that she and her family had no ability to bear the burden of living in the Deepblue.

“Then why don’t you return? You can regain your life as a true noble and won’t have to suffer so much,” Richard asked.

“No! I’m not going back! That’s just a tiny place in the outskirts, and you can’t even imagine how dull and boring it is there. Even if I were to marry a viscount, that’s only walking from a small village to a slightly larger village! Everyday, I’ll live in a dark castle or a villa in a town, dealing with farmers, slaves, and servants. Every other year, I’ll have a child and find a few nobles in nearby territories to be my lover. That’s the entirety of my life! In my lifetime, I can probably see an earl a few times. Things are different in Deepblue. Every inch of this place here is filled with dreams, and I can see people with great status in the continent here anytime. This is a place that can change my destiny!”

The girl’s voice was filled with emotion and earnestness, but that only made Richard silent for a long time.

“Is it that important to stay in the Deepblue?”

“Very much so!”

Having been in the Deepblue for nearly three years, Richard had seen too many people struggling everyday, only so that they could continue staying here. As long as they could stay, they were willing to give up everything. Before this day, Richard had been unperturbed by all this and had no prejudices nor sympathy for these people. Now, however, when the same thing was happening to Erin, he felt a sense of pain in his heart.

Some time later, Richard said dully, “Alright, I understand.”

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