A Small Gift
By the time Richard left his laboratory, three months had passed since he had returned to Faelor. Quite a few of his followers had taken off the moment they were given a vacation, heading to Faust for all the city of miracles had to offer.
Tiramisu was the only one left behind, but that was fine because there wasn’t any pressing issue to take care of. Even the ogre was only here because he had nothing to buy; his hammer was only a superior-grade weapon, but it had been custom-designed by the dwarves to weight half a tonne. Now that he was in the middle of a growth spurt, even this hefty weapon could be swung around like a toy. If he activated Mana Armament, less than half of Faelor’s saints would be able to take a blow without their arms being smashed to a pulp.
Besides, he wasn’t alone in guarding the city. Thousands of humanoid knights, over 2,000 soldiers from Norland, and 25 rune knights were present to aid him in case of any issues. Mito was present as well, as were over thirty mages from Norland that were at least level 10 and the clergy of the three goddesses. Even the Iron Triangle Empire would have to think twice before attacking, especially with Richard himself still around.
As the followers exited the Church of the Eternal Dragon, each of them was carrying a large sack of gold. They looked like thieves who’d found a secret hoard; now, spatial equipment was more important to them than gold. Most nobles in Faust just bought items on credit, storing their gold with the Church or the royal family and using promissory notes or magic crystals as currency. A hundred thousand gold was too much of a weight to carry by oneself, but these followers of Richard’s didn’t care about how foolish they looked.
Priestess Noelene couldn’t help but smile at the scene in front of her. She rarely used actual gold these days, but Richard had asked her for some recently so she knew he had given his followers their first salaries. A quick estimate based on the sizes of the bags told her that most of the gold he had asked for was present here.
However, when she saw Flowsand and Io walk out with sacks of gold as well, that smile froze. She instead felt an urge to strangle the three of them lest they damage the reputation of the Church.
In stark contrast, Flowsand was elated and Io was grinning as well, following the followers to jostle through the halls and out into the city of Faust. She couldn’t even stop them in time; looking at them spreading out into all the corners of Faust, her head felt a little light.
“Priestess Noelene?” a gentle yet apprehensive voice sounded behind Noelene, and she turned around to see a masked lady dressed in mage robes shivering with nervousness.
“Yes, I’m Noelene. You are… the Dragon Mage?”
Lina nodded, “I’m Lina. Richard had me come find you, he said you could heal my scars.”
Noelene’s voice softened, “Ah! Yes, yes, Richard has already prepared everything. Come with me, this may take all afternoon.”
Lina’s first act upon regaining consciousness was to jump off the bed and sprint towards a full-length mirror nearby. It was already growing dark outside, but there was enough light within the room to clearly make out an alluring figure staring back at her from within.
Her skin was smooth to the touch once more, the scars faded to the point that some make-up would turn them completely invisible. Most of her face had been fixed as well, leaving only a few dark spots that looked just like a tattoo from afar. Noelene had mentioned that she wouldn’t be able to heal her completely, but this was much better than she had expected.
Looking at her own reflection, Lina felt elated and relaxed. From the very moment she had regained consciousness after taking on Kaloh’s breath, she had resigned herself to a life hidden behind thick robes and a full mask. To see her face almost back to normal was liberating.
She knew a grand priestess could heal her, but had neither the connections nor the money to convince one to step forth. The price of such treatment was certainly high, high enough that even Gaton would have to think it over. And yet, Richard had just casually sent her to Noelene who had her sleep for an afternoon and returned her beauty to her. It seemed almost too good to be true.
She noticed a box on the bedside table from the corner of her eye, with a memo underneath. The memo had only two words written in large, clear handwriting: From Richard.
She placed her hands gently on the lid of the box, taking a deep breath before opening it.
An intricate half-face mask was placed within, exquisite in design but filled with intricate rune lines that revealed its true face; this was a magic item that could protect its wearer. The material looked metallic from afar, but it was warm and even soft to the touch. The inside of the mask was made of a smooth fibre of materials unknown, fitting perfectly on her face to the point that it felt like someone was caressing it.
She stood in front of the mirror once more, and this time around she had an exotic kind of beauty that added an air of mystery to her. As the last rays of sunlight gave way to the moons, it seemed like she was adorned with tribal tattoos similar to the elves they had fought on the Forest Plane. The mask would draw attention, sure, but somebody scared of drawing attention wouldn’t dress as provocatively as she used to.
Lina sighed gently, caressing the mask for some time before heading out and back to the Archeron island.
It was currently dusk, almost a week after the followers had come to Faust for vacation. Lina headed out from her room in the Archeron castle, teleporting down into Faust proper before heading into the alchemy district, also called the furnace of Faust. Activity had slowed in the central areas, but out here on the outskirts, neon lights started to fill the sky, mixing with the beautiful moonlight to cover the city of miracles in a dazzling glow.
Looking at this familiar sight, the Dragon Mage felt a wave of nostalgia wash over her. All the lethargy faded away as a renewed sense of passion took its place. She was filled with excitement now, something she had only felt in the midst of battle for a long time. In the alchemy district was basically everything that money alone could buy. It was a place only for big spenders, with great customer service and prices to match.
Unlike the more residential and religious areas of Faust which closed down at night, the alchemy district was active all day and night. With so many of the nobles here busy in planar wars, one never knew when they would return and how quickly they would have to be gone. There was a saying here: the alchemy district did not welcome the thousand-coin wealthy. Most non-nobles definitely did not qualify to even enter, and even titled knights had to save for months before they could afford anything worth having.
Lina was quite familiar with this area and quickly headed to a store called Limited Arms. Under the prominent signboard, one could see a small tagline: Limited Arms, Unlimited Service. This store specialised in alchemic and enchanted equipment, with a side business as auctioneers.
The Archerons were a regular customer here, albeit as sellers instead of buyers. This was where she had sold her only two epic-grade items not so long ago. She had heard from the old steward that they had restocked recently and would be hosting an auction here today. While she didn’t have enough money to participate in an auction, she did have enough to buy a decent piece of epic-grade equipment.
In fact, even the two pieces of equipment she did have before weren’t particularly suited to her; she only had them because they had been looted during wars. When did she ever have the means to buy epic-grade equipment? However, things were different now. In her bag were two promissory notes from the Church of the Eternal Dragon for 100,000 gold each, which would be more than enough to buy a good piece. She wasn’t like the rest of Richard’s followers; having lived in Faust for some time, she knew she would become a laughing stock if she lugged around a sack of gold. And unlike Flowsand, she didn’t have the mind to play around.
She flashed a tag at the doorstep that confirmed her identity. Noticing the golden colour of the card, the servant at the door bowed respectfully before letting her in. This tag was the symbol of a big customer whose transactions with the shop were between a hundred thousand and a million gold in value.
The servants naturally wouldn’t dare be negligent in the face of such status, but Lina felt somewhat ashamed at the bow. This tag didn’t come from purchasing power, and even the goods she had sold were second-hand.
The card allowed her to freely go up to the third floor of the building which housed many superior-grade and some epic-grade items. To enter the fourth floor with the best equipment or the fifth and sixth where private stalls and auctions could be found, she would need much higher status or much more money.
As she entered and headed straight for the stairs, she came across a group of people with a young man at the helm that were making their way down. The handsome youth with a rather squarish face looked to be in his twenties, and his demeanour was that of someone who had lived as a superior all their life. His eyes lit up as he saw her, “Miss Lina!”
Lina raised her head and immediately flashed a smile, giving him a little curtsy, “Earl Cardiff, we meet again.”Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Translated By: Jessa
Edited By: Theo
TLC'ed By: OMA