Book 4, Chapter 107

The Meaning Of Sacrifice

“Just 30%, you’re really too kind!” Richard realised how inane he sounded, but Noelene was the only one he could ask so he forced himself to continue, “It’s like this. One of my subordinates was heavily burnt by a red dragon. I need your help to remove or at least lessen her scars.”

“Oh? I assume she’s a beauty, then?” Noelene’s voice grew even colder.

Richard sighed, “She was one of my father’s thirteen. Perhaps you might know Lina?”

Noelene’s expression eased greatly, “Ah, the Dragon Mage. Yes, I’ve heard of her; wasn’t she the one who sold off her own equipment to help maintain Gaton’s foundation? Yes, I can help.”

Richard sighed, “Yes, it seems like those of my family visit the pawn shops and auction houses more to sell than buy these days. Whatever, I’ll have her look for you. Thank you, Priestess!”

Noelene just huffed, “It isn’t so easy to deal with a red dragon’s breath. This sort of healing magic requires a lot of divine grace, so I need compensation.”

Richard’s eyes lit up, “No problem. What do you need?”

“I’m a little short on runes myself. Make a grade 3 rune for me; it just has to be usable, I’m not picky.”

He smiled and nodded, “I’ll take care of it.”

Noelene snorted again, “You really are so eager. I hear that Lina is— well, was— very beautiful and sexy.”

Richard shook his head firmly, “Doesn’t matter. If not for her, I would’ve been buried on the Forest Plane. Any price.”

“Alright, that’s good. Send her over to me, I’ll take care of the problem.”

“I will. Right, come over when you have some free time; I’ll need to have a look at your rune slots and capacity to personalise.” Although most information could be gleaned with a standard detection spell, custom runes worked better when the runemaster had comprehensive details.

Noelene nodded at Richard’s request, but he noticed the faintest of blushes creeping up her face. He suddenly thought of something and took out a small box he had prepared ahead of time, stuffing it in her hands, “When Lina comes, pass this on to her for me.”

He then rushed back to the Archeron island. There were plenty of matters for him to deal with in the family, and he was returning to Faelor the next afternoon.

……

In the depths of the Church of the Eternal Dragon lay Flowsand’s secret residence, the Temple of the Sands. The interior of this palace was incredibly vast, a world with its own land and sky. Every inch of earth one could see was covered in pale gold sands of time that seemed to have no end, the sky an endless void with no suns, moons, or stars. The only source of light was the ever-changing ribbons of broken spacetime.

Flowsand lay in the middle of this desert with her cheek propped up by one hand, the other thumbing through the Book of Time. However, there was nothing on the pages even for her to see; her mind had clearly drifted elsewhere.

She allowed time to quietly drift by, stuck in a daze. She had control over the passage of time in this place, able to make it go as fast as thirty times the outside world without even ageing accordingly. This was a privilege of being chosen by the Eternal Dragon.

But those serving the dragon grew their power by gathering divine grace, and divine grace came from sacrifices. Staying in the Temple of the Sands wouldn’t grow her power in the slightest. The only use of this place was to study, awaken, and practice various kinds of abilities like her martial arts.

This was why most titled priestesses could train both their martial and divine arts to perfection. Of course, that didn’t even matter; anyone chosen by the old dragon was a genius amongst geniuses.

Ferlyn had Flowsand spend most of her time here whenever she wasn’t out adventuring with Richard. In her words, an increased ability with the power of time just meant greater efficiency with the divine grace used for a spell. In straightforward terms, that reduced the debt they would incur with each spell.

However, Flowsand’s mind was clearly not on training. Her face was constantly warping through a myriad of expressions, sometimes suddenly sorrowful, sometimes happy, and sometimes bursting into a foolish laugh. However, one could see the red in her eyes, the tears that had run dry still marking her face.

The Book of Time suddenly shone brightly, countless ribbons of light flowing in from the void. The pages grew thicker and heavier, the decorative outlines more intricate. A large amount of divine grace was shifted into her body, worth more than most top-tier offerings.

Was it Richard? She was surprised, but immediately grew suspicious. As far as she knew, he only had two high-level offerings and nothing more. She’d already added in the option to strengthen Faelor’s passage, why would he choose anything else?

However, the influx of grace was very real. The Book of Time automatically reduced a part of the debt she owed, the rest being stored for her to use as she saw fit. Flowsand stared at the book for a while before shouting out, jumping up from her position to sprint back to the door barefoot. Although there seemed to be half a world of distance between her and the golden doors, she only needed two steps to end up right in front of them.

Before she could even touch on the door-ring that was made entirely of light, Ferlyn’s voice rang out from thin air, “Flowsand, Richard received three top-tier offerings and assigned all of the grace from one of them to you. You need not worry.”

Flowsand raised her head and shouted, “HOW WOULD HE GET THE OPTION WITHOUT YOU?! I’ve told you before, don’t meddle with my life!”

“I don’t wish to meddle,” Ferlyn said gently, “I only influenced the options after I saw him obtain three more offerings. Still, you should know that my addition of this option has a cost. The dragon responded with many options that would certainly sway most men. He still resisted the temptation. You should be happy.”

Flowsand lowered her head, her voice slowly becoming breaking, “I… I am. But we chosen are different from normal people… The endings we see cannot be changed, right? He’s really strong now and has an unshakeable foundation in Faelor. I’ve already put Io by his side, so he doesn’t really need my presence. I can be more helpful here.”

“So when you interfered with the ceremony this time, giving him the blessing he needed most, it was in preparation to seal yourself off forever?”

“Yes,” Flowsand’s voice held sadness but no regret, “The seed of Faelor’s ruin has been incubated successfully. As long as the planar passage is strengthened, Richard can bring out the broodmother’s army. One day, he will be unstoppable!”

“Ha, what can that do? Are you sure that’s the destiny he wants? Because if he doesn’t, my dear, what meaning does this sacrifice of yours have?”

“I… I…” Ferlyn’s question startled Flowsand.

The high priestess sighed softly, “I had the same idea as you. I would give up on myself, push him out of the bog of destiny. But now that I think back to it, we still had a great chance of making it out if we fought our destinies together. But the me back then, to turn 60% into a 100%, she chose to give up on herself. I dedicated my entire life, and by the time he found out it was too late.

“He soared into the heavens, ascending to the throne. But then he shut himself up in his palace all day long, eating and eating and eating until he turned into a fat slob. Maybe this was his way of comforting me, but… I only feel regret for my decisions, not pride.”

Flowsand listened in a daze; this was her first time hearing Ferlyn’s past.

“So I will continue to do what I have always done, to give you the chance to fight by his side without staying in this damned church and watching his silhouette fade away. Yes, I saw it too. Richard’s destiny seems incredibly dark. Only if you stay within the Church, if you sacrifice your life can you render him enough aid. But that would be committing the same mistake I did. We should trust these boys, trust that their hands can bring about miracles that rip fate apart. The price needn’t always be our lives.”

Flowsand fell into thought for a long time, “But… What if we do our best, what if we try as hard as we can, and we still don’t create that miracle?”

Ferlyn’s voice grew especially gentle, “In the endless time I’ve spent in the Temple of Dawn, I’ve thought over that question relentlessly. If I had pushed on by his side at that time, even if we fell into eternal darkness, we would both be much happier than we are now.”

“If you could choose again…” Flowsand said softly.

Ferlyn smiled. “Of course I would choose to take the risk!”

Flowsand went quiet for a moment before nodding her head hard, “Okay!” She didn’t notice the renewed vitality in her own voice.

And yet, once Ferlyn’s presence dissipated, her brows furrowed again in confusion and annoyance. “You old hag, it took you a hundred years to understand this and you want me to answer immediately? I’m still a little girl, still pretty, how can everything be as clear to me as for an ugly old woman like you? No, I can’t do it. I must do something, even if it isn’t much. But… Yes, I’ll do a little, only a little bit! I’ll think of myself more next time. Yes, next time!”

She swung her fist hard as though to steady her own confidence, flipping through the Book of Time with intent.

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OMA's Thoughts

Translated By: Pei

Edited By: Theo

TLC'ed By: OMA