Book 3, Chapter 66

A Long Time

The problem with Io was twofold: he was far too handsome, and practically inseparable from Flowsand as if he were her shadow.

Although he was a youth, he had the stature and charm of a mature man; his figure overwhelmed Richard’s, at least for now. Alongside his elegant, sacred aura and the outfit from the Church designed for battle priests, he was as dazzling as the sun. Stood next to him, Richard looked like a young and inexperienced teen. Of course, Richard was confident in cutting him apart whether they were in melee combat or far apart.

Even more frustrating was the fact that Flowsand had absolute trust in the youth, not stopping him from getting close. It offset Richard’s mood greatly; he wanted to ask her about it, but didn’t know where to start. Io behaved like he was Flowsand’s personal guard; he did everything for her, but still maintained a strict distance.

‘But the boundary is only ten centimetres? That’s too close!’

Richard also questioned whether he truly was Flowsand’s guard. Since when were members of the clergy guarded by those of their ilk?

The Eternal Dragon had thousands upon thousands of blessings he could grant. Richard had only seen hundred-odd types, and had no idea what a heavenly guardian was. But he would likely still feel disturbed even if he did know about it. Heavenly guardians weren’t the same as the broodmother’s normal drones; outside of extreme intelligence, they also had their own souls. Outside of their absolute devotion to their masters, they retained full autonomy in any other matter. This made them very similar to someone like Phaser.

While Richard was sorting out the mess in his heart, the strange movements from the Lighthouse of Time had alarmed all of his followers that had been defending it. Once he exited the teleportation hall, he was greeted by a thundering voice.

“BOSS! You’re finally back! It’s been three months, I wouldn’t know how to continue if you didn’t come back!” The bold, boorish voice belonged to none other than Gangdor. He quickly strode towards Richard, his body covered in dust after a long journey but his steps more steady and powerful than they had been three months ago. The gigantic brute still carried an axe on his shoulders, although this scarlet one was even bigger than before.

Gangdor often switched up his axes, but the one constant was his hunger for blood. There were two fresh scars on his neck, wounds that still hadn’t healed completely. The past few months clearly hadn’t been dull.

The brute’s eyes lit up at the sight of Richard. He laughed heartily as he walked over, opening his arms in preparation for a hug. However, he immediately remembered the difference in their identities and pulled his hands back, scratching his head with an awkward chuckle.

Of course, Richard didn’t have any such qualms. He walked right up and bumped Gangdor’s chest forcefully, giving the man a fierce hug. The collision almost sent him flying backwards!

Waterflower was standing next to Gangdor, her expression conflicted and her hands trembling. Richard didn’t give it much thought, giving the girl a powerful hug as well. Her entire body stiffened up like iron upon contact, hands instinctively reaching for the hilt of her sword; however, a gentle shiver passed down her spine and she grew as soft as water, allowing Richard to wrap his arms around her in an embrace.

Richard quickly let go of her, only to find an enormous figure next in line. There was no way for him to hug this fellow; Tiramisu was almost three metres tall and astonishingly stout. The best case would only end up with hugging the ogre mage’s thigh; he had grown much larger since they last met.

“Master! I’m level 13 now!” Tiramisu announced when Richard walked towards him.

Richard raised his head to look at the naive ogre and suddenly felt that something was off. “Why is your head crooked?”

Tiramisu instantly went down on one knee and tried to bend down, pointing to his left shoulder, “Master, look!”

There was a sore on the ogre’s shoulder, as big as a teacup. It wasn’t an injury, instead a mass that was growing out from within. A pale yellow horn could be seen forming within, the flesh swollen as though something was about to burst and break through from within.

Richard instantly recalled the ability of ogres to mutate, asking with pleasant surprise, “You’re growing your second head?”

Tiramisu nodded forcefully, “It’s Medium Rare, I’m darn sure that’s him!”

“I think so too!” Richard smashed his fist against Tiramisu’s chest. He put all his energy into it, but the hand just bounced off the ogre’s natural coarse skin due to his thick body fat that served as a natural armour.

Ogres grew absurdly powerful once they underwent a mutation. The mages of Norland had performed thorough research on this species long ago, finding that any ogres that could grow a complete second head were natural elites of the species. However, the second head only splintered off from their original soul, forming a personality and intellect that was independent of the first. It would still be Tiramisu, not Medium Rare.

But of course, Richard wouldn’t tell the ogre that. This secret would be kept buried in his heart forever.

Richard then looked past the ogre, seeing Zendrall. The necromancer also enjoyed a big hug, although it wasn’t very pleasant for either of them. The necromancer’s vicinity was rife with an aura of death, making anyone nearby uncomfortable. On the other hand, Richard was still surrounded by the blessing of the Eternal Dragon. Although timeforce wasn’t exactly holy, its destructive effects on the power of death were not one whit inferior to divinity.

The two mages were grimacing in pain on the inside, but they smiled and laughed with joy.

“My Lord, you should make me one of those… What do you call them… runes.” The necromancer was reclusive by nature, and his heart had been sealed off for the past three decades or so. Asking for anything outside of corpses was a tactful way of expressing his feelings.

“Rest assured,” Richard laughed in reply, “I’ve already prepared a bargain for you!”

Zendrall broke into a smile, although it didn’t look good on him at all.

It was then that Richard realised one of his soldiers was missing. “Where’s Olar?” he asked.

“Today’s his turn with the army. I think you’ll only get to see him at night, boss!” Gangdor explained.

Asking a few more questions, Richard discovered that his followers had kept themselves occupied ever since he’d left. They had taken turns with the troops, catching out the bandit groups and caravans of Red Cossack regularly. The constant attacks forced Red Cossack to dispatch large armies to defend every caravan, only then maintaining the current deadlock. If they allowed Red Cossack to have the upper hand, perhaps those troops would currently be waiting right outside Bluewater Oasis.

As he was briefed about the situation on the battlefield, Richard interrupted with a quizzical expression on his face, “Waterflower can lead troops too?”

The young lady snorted and looked towards the sky, refusing to comment.

Gangdor pulled Richard aside, quietly giving him the details. The young lady had first gone out to war alongside him, but the two had completely different perspectives on battle strategy. The dispute was eventually resolved through combat. Gangdor was only one level higher than her ever since she had risen to level 12, so he was certainly no match for her when she activated Breath of Darkness. After many such fights, the two had parted ways and decided to lead the troops separately.

Gangdor might appear crude, but it took a lot of cunning to retain one’s life in the Archeron death camps. He had crammed himself with knowledge on commandership, putting much effort in learning how to be a general. He proved to be a natural leader in war.

However, nobody would have imagined that Waterflower was skilled at leading troops as well. Her powerful intuition allowed her to identify the enemy’s weaknesses clearly, and she had the patience and endurance to wait until the prey was most relaxed. Her armies would then suddenly erupt, delivering a fatal blow to the enemy’s weak points.

Richard had already experienced that dreadful strategy of targeting crucial points personally.

Olar loved to identify small, weak armies, strengthening his troops with his warsong before burying the enemies with numbers. Kellac himself had once been a commander, so there were no problems on that end, which only left Zendrall remaining. Every necromancer was proficient at leading armies of their own minions, and the addition of other soldiers only made him more frightening,

Phaser was the only exception. Nearly every battle she fought in was fruitful. Regardless of who led the troops, she only paid attention to massacring all the enemies present.

“Where’s Phaser?” Richard only recalled the special unit when she was mentioned.

Phaser appeared in his mind’s eye the moment he thought of her. She was still a product of the broodmother, after all, and was connected to him through a spiritual link.

However, Richard immediately realised that Phaser had entered stealth, circling around the knights and free Archeron soldiers as she locked onto a target.

“STOP!”

The cry was very timely. Phaser had just exposed herself, appearing behind one of the infantry knights. The dagger that was her left hand had already slid in through his armour, about to pierce through his heart from behind.

She stopped instantly, transmitting a message to Richard’s mind, “Master, he wanted to kill you.”

“I know. It’s alright, let him go.”

The knight, his legs going weak. He looked at Phaser who suddenly appeared so close to him with shock and fear. This was Erwin. Richard hadn’t been joking when he mentioned the punishment, actually bringing him to Faelor.

In the short span of time they had spent apart, Phaser had already risen to level 8. With one of Sinclair’s daggers as well as her abilities, she could now easily kill off anyone at or below level 10 while fighting evenly with many that had crossed that mark.

Done with greeting his followers one by one, Richard allowed his team from Norland to rest as he instructed a group of soldiers to deliver the supplies to the warehouse. He then returned to his command centre in the camp, starting a meeting with all his followers and any other prominent figures. Although planar travel was quite exhausting, he had no plans to rest.

After all, it had been three months since he had last set foot in Faelor. He had to take control of the situation immediately.

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OMA's Thoughts

Translated By: XH

Edited By: Theo

TLC'ed By: OMA