Book 3, Chapter 74

Your Future

Richard wasn’t aware of what he was doing; he didn’t even know how he had chased Gangdor away. The inner voice was so distracting it overpowered every thought of his.

“I just wanted to take a few rounds around the campsite…” he muttered to himself, taking a few big swigs of liquor.

It was only when the familiar burn entered his body that he noticed the bottle in his hands. He couldn’t remember where it had come from; he didn’t have a habit of keeping any alcohol on his person, and there wasn’t any in the tent either.

It was a bad idea for the general to be drinking in the camp. Mindful of such details, Richard wanted to throw the bottle away. However, giving it some thought he ended up stuffing the thing back into his clothes and moving on. His sword’s tip dragged across the floor, the scabbard bumping every few steps as it sparked against the little pebbles on the ground.

In another part of the campsite, Gangdor and Olar were discussing the attack on Twilight Castle. Gangdor suddenly felt thirsty halfway through, but found nothing when he reached into is clothes. His flask was gone…

Tainted by all the bloodshed, the battlefield was extremely cold. However, there was still a humidity in the wind that made it seem like day. Richard’s eyes scanned across the guards, the stable, and the bonfire before stopping on the tents not far away.

Unknowingly, he ended up in front of Flowsand’s tent.

The place was still lit, meaning Flowsand wasn’t asleep yet. However, two silhouettes revealed themselves on the wall. Richard was sent into a stupor, freezing on the spot. His inner voice faded away.

The tent’s flap was pulled open and Flowsand popped her head out, waving to Richard. “Alright, that’s it for today. You may head back,” she said to the one within.

“Sure.” Indeed, the voice that rang out belonged to Io!

Richard felt a sudden chill down his spine and in his heart, the grip on his sword tightening. Io walked out and smiled in his direction, returning to his own tent. The smile was bright as usual, but to Richard it carried meaning. He almost drew his sword.

Forcing himself to resist the temptation, Richard walked into Flowsand’s tent and sat down, fixing his gaze on the tent’s walls. If he made any further eye contact with Io just now, he knew he wouldn’t be able to control himself anymore.

Flowsand lowered the flap and turned around, sitting in front of him, but she couldn’t read his expression. She noticed that he was expressionless, staring at the wall as though it was a blueprint for a grade 5 rune. She laughed and waved in front of his face, finally getting his attention.

“You were looking for me?” she asked, a tinge of humour in her tone.

“No… It’s nothing, I was just making my rounds around the campsite,” Richard stuttered out. He reeked of alcohol as he spoke, causing her smile to grow more obvious.

“Making your rounds? That’s not something you should do. What were you checking on?”

Faced with such a question, Richard was at a loss for words. “I’m the general,” he tried to pretend there was nothing wrong, “Isn’t surveying the troops a part of my responsibility?”

“No, it’s for Gangdor and Olar. Actually, any of your followers could handle it,” Flowsand said without hesitation.

Richard was left speechless.

Flowsand immediately turned serious, “Oh right, there were a few mistakes in your command today. Some of your decisions weren’t very appropriate.”

Richard knitted his eyebrows; he knew he hadn’t been up to par. Just as he nodded in agreement, however, Flowsand added, “Io was the one who mentioned this.”

Richard froze. He had just agreed, so there was no turning back. He looked on unhappily, asking coldly, “Isn’t Io just a battle priest? What does he know about tactics?”

“A battle priest from the Church of the Eternal Dragon. This is part of his domain,” Flowsand answered.

He felt a ball of anger filling up within him, smirking, “Let him conduct the next battle then!”

“He said the same…” Flowsand stopped the moment she saw Richard’s expression.

Richard suddenly felt at ease, putting both hands on his sword as he filled in, “He wants command? And what else?”

The cleric stuck her tongue out and leaned closer, “Alright, alright! I just wanted to make you a little antsy. I told him already that you’re an almost-perfect tactician. We were just reflecting on the battle and found a few parts that could be improved. I know this isn’t your normal standard.”

Richard remained silent.

Still feeling something off, Flowsand leaned into his arms and touched his face, “The clergy needs to have good synergy with the commander; that is the only way for them to reach maximum potential. A minute’s difference in large buffs or dispels could affect our odds tremendously!”

Richard sighed, gently stroking her head as he finally relaxed.

“Also, Io feels like you’re currently too weak. A level 12 mage is insufficient to control these men.”

Richard tensed up again. ‘You mean insufficient to control a battle priest, right!’ he almost said, exerting all his willpower to keep himself quiet.

Flowsand didn’t seem to understand his reaction this time, pulling him up and kicking his sword into a corner. “We can take care of that! Come, I’ll teach you some melee combat skills from the Church. They’re very powerful.”

Richard didn’t need her words to know that the Church’s combat techniques were truly powerful; he had experienced them himself. Before he knew it Flowsand was suddenly upon him, exerting force to send him flying up. He flipped around a few times in the air, falling to the ground face down!

She pulled him up and repeated the action once more, this time describing the key part of each move in detail.

Neither of them knew how the time passed.

Deep in the night, Richard had fallen countless times. He was aching everywhere, leaving her tent with heavy, tense footsteps. In contrast, Flowsand was filled with energy, even waving goodbye to him before pulling down the flap. He was left with conflicted feelings, only recalling after he was back in his own tent that he hadn’t found a good opportunity to ask an important question.

What was her relationship with Io?

Flowsand was still awake in her tent. Her face rested in her palms, nobody knew what she was thinking, only that she snuck in a smile every now and then. The light formed a halo around her face.

“You… I won’t be a part of your future…” she muttered to herself.

……

The next morning, a loud alarm woke all the soldiers up from their sleep. The troops gathered quickly as Richard mounted his horse, seeing Io in the distance; the battle priest was still very eye-catching. Sparks almost flew from their eyes when their gazes met.

An afternoon’s march brought them to the Twilight Castle. The Grasberg flag was flying atop the castle, but there were few soldiers guarding the place. The gate wasn’t opened even though Richard’s army was sighted.

“So I was right,” Richard smiled as he talked to his followers, “Zim’s troops really did retreat.”

All of Duke Grasberg’s subordinates had retreated overnight, taking along the corpse he had sent. Earl Layton would definitely push all of the blame onto Sir Hogan when they returned, trying him for abandoning the battle without a fight. In fact, Old Hogan had made the right decision; if he hadn’t insisted on the retreat, all 1,000 of his soldiers would have fallen at Richard’s hands.

Facing more than 600 level 9 warriors, the thousand level 3 soldiers that weren’t even prepared would have been tired out instantly, massacred without a care. However, there was a different angle to this. Odom had died on the battlefield, but Hogan hadn’t even tried to help him out. The more the scars on Odom’s body, the faster Hogan would die.

This was the exact reason why Richard had sent the corpse back. With his bird’s eye view from the bats, he already had a decent understanding of Hogan’s style of command. This knight was the kind of opponent he hated most; he would rather fight an intense battle with someone like Odom and tangle with Hogan. Even though all his remaining soldiers were rather weak, he could still make use of Twilight Castle to inflict a significant amount of losses.

“This is Baron Fontaine’s land!” an officer shouted from atop the walls, “Personal armies without clearance will not be allowed entry! Leave now, you are violating the barony’s laws!”

Richard narrowed his eyes, turning to one of the guards nearby, “Tell him that some thieves snuck into Twilight Castle and we’re here to investigate.”

The soldier shouted Richard’s voice out loud.

The officer grew furious, taking a step forward and pointing at Richard as he shouted back, “This isn’t your backyard! How dare a mere frontier knight create a nuisance on the Baron’s land?!”

Richard didn’t even want to bother with the man. “Olar.’

The elven bard pulled on his bow, sending an enchanted arrow straight for the officer’s chest. The officer was shocked, quickly snatching a shield from the guard beside him to block the attack. The arrow pierced the shield, but it lost its angle and only managed to pierce the man’s shoulders.

Richard looked at Olar and shook his head, “You need to get more practice. How could you miss such a useless fellow?”

“Yes, my Lord!” Olar felt guilty. The officer had only been level 8, but his reactions were very quick.

Richard amplified his voice, talking to the guards on the wall, “Tell Fontaine or his mother this: don’t let us in, and I’ll attack the castle. I don’t have time to waste with you lot!”

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OMA's Thoughts

Translated By: JT

Edited By: Theo

TLC'ed By: OMA