“What’s wrong with you?” Flowsand panicked once more. However, every detection spell she cast had no reaction; there was no need for healing or purification. Richard had always possessed a strong will; for him to show such pain on his face meant it was excruciating.
Richard’s senses had been dulled by the torturous pain; he couldn’t hear a word of what Flowsand was saying. This was an indescribable agony, a feeling of his very soul being torn apart. There were no physical painkillers that could help. At the peak of his suffering, he even rammed his head against the walls of the carriage. However, even that pain was negligible in comparison, not helping him resist the torment at all.
Flowsand was completely flustered at this point. She cast every spell she knew on Richard, even calling Kellac and Io in for assistance. All of Richard’s followers flocked around the carriage as well, watching as Richard writhed on the floor. Everyone was at a loss, but to keep up the army’s morale they had to pretend that there was no issue.
Zim’s army was the closest to Richard, and he was also the first to notice the situation. He sensed something when Richard’s followers blocked him, tacitly retreating. He even sent away a few of the others who also noticed the commotion.
Flowsand’s spells were completely useless, so Kellac and Io didn’t manage anything either. It was actually Zendrall that came through in that moment. A greyish-white mist arose in his eyes as he cast All-Seeing Eye upon himself, focusing this vision that was meant to inspect the dead on Richard. “He is going through some sort of transformation!” he said suddenly.
Although the necromancer did not know exactly what kind of transformation this was, his words still allowed everyone to sigh lightly in relief. All they could do now was wait.
A few minutes later, the twitching of Richard’s body slowly faded away. Within his sea of consciousness, he was gazing at the bundle of hazy light that was his own soul. Various energies surged around the sphere as one part squirmed out, a tiny speck of milky-white light bursting out from the main body. This speck was a candle to his main soul’s bonfire, but the moment it appeared Richard suddenly felt like he had another pair of eyes. It was as though a new window had opened in his mind.
A second voice appeared in his mind, a secondary awareness capable of individual thought and judgement. This new consciousness could not compare to his primary mind when it came to processing capability, but it was still twice as fast as a commoner. This was already at the level where one would be called clever.
He finally understood what had happened. With just how much he exercised his blessing of wisdom in recent times, the ability had advanced once more to grade 3. This grade did not increase the processing speed of his mind directly, instead cleaving out a new consciousness that could handle issues individually. However, the process of splitting his consciousness apart was excruciating, as though his soul was being torn apart.
Only when the new consciousness stabilised did Richard awake, struggling to get up. Seeing him recover, everyone sighed in relief. However, he still felt extremely fatigued, falling into a deep sleep after hastily reassuring them that he was alright.
It was already dusk by the time he woke up again, and he found himself lying in a tent. Both minds awoke together, the world a sudden double image. Richard found it very difficult to adapt.
Another issue was in finding something for the new mind to do. He was in no hurry to get out of bed, instead just laying there as he sorted out all the work that he needed to accomplish in the near future in order of importance. He graphed this list with respect to urgency, finally picking out the tasks that were high in both criteria for the new mind to take care of.
Going back and forth on it repeatedly, he eventually chose to have the mind continue his ongoing research into the clerical fighting techniques.
The martial arts of the Church of the Eternal Dragon were extremely profound; there were only a dozen or so basic stances, but they could be combined in thousands of ways. Taking into account the environment they could be used in, the options were endless. The same techniques would exhibit vastly disparate power in the hands of two different people. Richard was aware that even his blessing of wisdom and Flowsand’s teachings left his abilities far from those of Io. The only reason he had won that day was a combination of luck and a willingness to risk his life.
Of course, improving his martial arts wasn’t just to compete with Io. Richard needed a pure growth in personal power right now, and although these techniques weren’t as effective as a direct increase in level, they were still the best method outside of that and runes.
Besides, there was something universal about martial arts at their peak. The more he trained in the martial arts of the Church, the more he found that the increased flexibility and agility was boosting his usage of the secret swords of Silvermoon.
The secret swords were a martial inheritance that was poles apart from regular fighting techniques. Ever since he had learnt them from Gaton that day, Richard had been analysing them to the best of his ability. However, a growth in the power of the swords did not come from regular practice, nor were there strict requirements in terms of the stances. The techniques were based almost solely on the strength of one’s moonforce and the power of their body.
Richard had thus arrived at a conclusion that was not a conclusion. The secret swords were likely battle techniques that grew more powerful with the general might of their user. However, he had no opportunity to learn top-grade martial techniques to prove this conjecture. Most traditional martial arts were not suited for spellcasters.
Simulating the clerical martial arts was an extremely burdensome task. Some preliminary estimates told him that even if his second mind operated day and night without rest, it would take several centuries for him to master every aspect. He did not have centuries of life to spare, but he still followed through on his decision. Every small improvement in these skills was a corresponding improvement in his own individual strength. Be it in the Bloodstained Lands, Norland, or anywhere else, exceeding personal might would always be able to save one’s life in times of need.
Once he was done getting used to the new consciousness, Richard noticed that he was slightly hungry and headed out of the tent. He gathered all of his followers and Viscount Zim, learning of the current situation over dinner.
The army had advanced another ten kilometres after he had fallen asleep before setting up camp and waiting for him to wake up. With him missing, Zim had actually done his utmost to ensure that the situation remained stable.
The army was currently about ten kilometres from the first thorn in their path; Camp Bluesquare.
Camp Bluesquare was an enormous slave camp northwest of Bluewater Oasis. It was an important hub for slave trade in the Bloodstained Lands. With tens of thousands of slaves imprisoned within, it was comparable to a small city. At full capacity, the place could even accommodate 100,000 slaves! With the constant threat of bandits and revolts, the thousand or so guards here were all merciless elites.
Camp Bluesquare was under the ownership of Earl Lambert of the Iron Triangle Empire. This was a legendary figure, once a small titled knight of the Empire that was extremely devious. After a slave deal in the depths of the Bloodstained Lands, he had devoted himself to this profession. Several decades later, he had gathered a huge number of slaves that gave him immense wealth as well as quite a bit of land. His army was similarly large, with multiple slaving teams active in the Bloodstained Lands. This had made the Earl notorious even in the Iron Triangle Empire; most nobles were unwilling to provoke someone who had established themselves through slave trade.
With Earl Lambert’s background as well as the geographical location of Camp Bluesquare, the place was one of the most important resupply points en route to the Iron Triangle Empire. There were a large number of armed merchant groups travelling through the place throughout the year, with Red Cossack having at least a thousand men stationed here at all times.
Red Cossack had stopped gathering their main forces once they learnt of Richard’s reappearance, quietly disappearing from Bluewater when they learnt of his crushing defeat of Sir Odom’s army. However, they hadn’t stopped accumulating troops at Camp Bluesquare. There were 1,500 guards at the camp right now, about the same number as came from Earl Lambert.
The camp had a total of nearly 4,000 men at various levels of training and equipment. They would find it difficult to repel Richard’s enormous army that was over 10,000 strong, but they were still confident in holding on for a few battles. One could not forget the slaves in the camp. If all of them were mobilised, it wouldn’t be an issue to hold on for ten days to half a month.
The Bloodstained Highway Project was by no means a secret. The preparations had taken nearly two months, and news had naturally spread throughout the land by that time; the only unknown was the exact route this army would take. The merchant groups that were still in Camp Bluesquare had already received news of Richard’s army heading their way. Outside of Red Cossack and a few other small organisations that were on good terms with the Earl, everyone had fled at night to escape the fires of war.
Whenever these kinds of battles popped up, any unrelated guards or slaves in the camp would be transferred elsewhere immediately. Everything was measured in gold to these merchants, and with Earl Lambert’s personality he would not compensate them for any losses they sustained in the war. Even if there was some compensation, it would not cross a single gold coin per person; the same amount that one would use to shoo a beggar away. Why would anyone work hard for someone like that?Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Translated By: Ying
Edited By: Theo
TLC'ed By: OMA