“Miss Lina, you’re more enchanting than ever. This mask is simply exquisite! If I’m not mistaken, the design is an enchantment? I can tell that it is the work of a talented runemaster.”
Earl Cardiff hailed from the Tuescher Family, a family that occupied an island in the sixth level. Lina was normally indifferent to his praises, but today they made her feel exceptionally happy. Her smile grew more sincere and she nodded to him, “Thank you!”
Cardiff’s eyes brightened and he grew even more attentive, bowing to her with grace, “I am thrilled to have seen you here. Is there anything I can do? Consider me at your service.”
“Oh, I’m just looking to see if there’s something I like. You don’t need to trouble yourself,” Lina rejected him. Although she had seen Tueschers on many different occasions, the Archerons didn’t interact much with them. Including today, she had only spoken to Cardiff thrice.
However, Cardiff was unwilling to give up. He tried to offer his assistance a few more times, to the point that she started to grow uncomfortable with his insistence. His attitude was a little too intrusive.
“Perhaps we can head up to the fourth floor and talk for a while? There is bound to be something there that you require.” His eyes grew even more intense as he reached out to grab Lina’s arm. The gesture itself was brutish, but he possessed the poise to pull it off without seeming vulgar in the slightest.
Lina’s expression froze over as she took a step back, shaking off his arm, “Earl Cardiff, I request you conduct yourself properly.”
Cardiff raised a brow, withdrawing his hand with a smile, “Lina, Gaton will never return. I don’t care that you’re a grand mage; in my eyes, you’re a woman of immense beauty and charm that has enthralled me. Consider this a formal invitation: Dragon Mage Lina, I am inviting you to join the Tuescher Family. Help me become the Duke,” staring at Lina, “When that happens, you will be my Duchess. This is a promise!”
Lina frowned and took another step back, opening up more distance. Cardiff remained in his original position, but he stared daggers at her.
She couldn’t help but feel her heart stir a little. Ever since Gaton had disappeared into the Rosie Plane, she had been immersed in pain and loss. She had decided to dedicate a decade of her life to being the guardian of the Forest Plane, regardless of whether he would return.
In truth, Gaton and his thirteen were more business partners than master and servants. He didn’t restrict their actions at all, relying mostly on his charisma to bring them to his side. Lina wasn’t tied to him by any contracts, not even verbally. Her thoughts shifted to Richard for a moment. The youth was completely different from his father; his followers were closer to him, and although there was a slave contract between them she could tell that he was a wonderful leader as well. He also ensured to meet all their necessities, from runes to equipment.
If nothing happened over the next few years, Lina would finish that decade guarding the Forest Plane and pass it along to Richard. Once that was done, Cardiff’s proposal would likely be able to move her. After all, a life as a duchess was much better than fighting on the battlefield as a grand mage, and someone who was an earl and a saint in his twenties was undoubtedly a capable man. Cardiff’s reputation was rather pristine as well.
However, she was still wearing the mask. Her hand seemed to lift of its own accord, the back of her fingers gently caressing the mask and her face as though to verify something. “My apologies,” she said softly, “I do not wish to leave the Archerons.” By the end of these words, her voice had grown incomparably firm.
Cardiff’s eyes burned even brighter as he saw Lina caressing her face softly. For a moment, the powerful and mature grand mage seemed no different from an innocent young lady. The sheer contrast caused his heart to flutter, but her reply was like a bucket of icy water poured over his head. His expression quickly soured, his voice almost turning into a roar, “Why?! How are the Tueschers inferior to the Archerons? Have I not shown you enough sincerity? I fell for you the moment I saw you! Gaton isn’t coming back, you’re the only one of the five he left behind who hasn’t accepted that yet. Why are you still giving your life for the Archerons? What can they give you?”
What could the Archerons give her? The rune on her breast, the 200,000 gold in her hand? It was neither. Lina had talent and power; it was only a matter of time before she would have grade 4 runes. 200,000 was a big amount, but money was only money in the end. However, a number of events she had chosen not to think of surged forth into her mind.
When she was only eighteen, Gaton had pulled her all through the myriad planes to fight in wars. Together they had seen many multiple battles, explored many planes. It was him who had exposed her to a vast universe.
And when Gaton left, Richard followed behind. She was still young when she first saw him, and as she grew older she saw miracles spring forth from his hand just like his father’s. Alas, Richard and Gaton were very different. The father was much more meticulous, able to empathise with others and capture their feelings. However, that had changed lately. She was still wearing the earrings and mask, two things she would never let go of.
No, it wasn’t gold nor equipment. What the Archerons could give her was experience, growth, and gifts that mattered.
Seeing Lina smile without replying, Cardiff’s expression twisted further. He had known his responsibilities from a young age and had the discipline to avoid anything unbecoming. However, he was still rather young and used to getting what he wanted. He couldn’t accept his sincere advances being turned down.
At this time, those nearby started to speak on Cardiff’s behalf, “The Archerons are known for being dirt poor! Miss Lina, you were forced to sell your possessions, why are you still mixing with beggars like them?”
“Exactly! The only reason the two items you sold fetched such a high price before was because my Lord bought it in his own name. If not, why would second-hand goods sell so easily?”
Lina was shocked, and when she looked back at Cardiff she could see a solemn expression on his face.
“Lina, please believe in me. I am inviting you to battle by my side, not locking you up in my back garden! Work together with me so we become the successors to my family’s power. The floating island, the branch families, the various planes… they will all be mine in the future. Mine, and yours.”
Cardiff’s proposal was extremely enticing and impactful. However, it had just appeared at an extremely bad time. Lina sighed and shook her head again, taking another step back before turning to leave.
This was the final straw for the people around. A middle-aged noble in fancy clothing suddenly spoke up, “Miss Lina, you are not making a wise choice. What do you have to gain by following the Archerons? You cannot even afford epic-grade equipment! You must be here to sell, no? Epic-grade equipment costs 100,000 at minimum, and from what I’ve heard the Archerons rarely have even a thousand when they go out. Hahaha!”
“Uncle!” Earl Cardiff rebuked softly, but the man seemed to show no signs of remorse.
Lina felt anger surging within her as her expression turned icy, “What, do I have to report why I’m here to you? You’re humiliating the family I serve, I’m not sure you’re ready to face the consequences of doing so!”
The middle-aged noble sneered, “I’m just stating facts. If you want to call that humiliating the Archerons, then yes, I am!”Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Translated By: Styles
Edited By: Theo
TLC'ed By: OMA