The Battle Begins
When Richard arrived at the floating island, Alice had already been there for a day. As heads of their own family branches, the two met at the Archeron tombs.
Alice seemed to be filled with nostalgia as she walked up the side of the volcano, reading every engraving on every tombstone without missing a single word. Even though he could recall every letter here perfectly with how much time he had spent reading himself, Richard didn’t rush her and just followed behind. Even now these words could leave him overwhelmed, as though the lives of these great ancestors were playing out right before his eyes.
The Archerons were a family of oddities, of contradiction. All members sought to break past the traditions they were subjected to, but were fundamentally in love with the very standards they wished to eradicate. Even those with other powerful bloodlines mixed in often chose this volcano to be their final resting ground.
Eventually, they made it to the peak of the volcano where the most powerful few tombs were. Although there were no blazing epitaphs on these stones, the engraved truenames alone carried a sense of weight and power that trumped any detailed description of their glory.
Alice gently stroked one particular tombstone, filled with melancholy as her hands ran across the engraving. However, the act left Richard greatly surprised. The part of the tombstone her fingers were touching started to light up. “So you’ve awakened your truename!” he said with surprise.
“Yeah,” she didn’t so much as turn her head, “It isn’t much. Every Archeron has the potential to do it, it just takes a real lunatic to dig out that hidden strength.”
Richard knelt beside her, “You seem particularly interested in this one…”
“This…” her voice grew softer, a myriad of emotions flashing across her face, “He was an ancestor of mine, about 300 years ago. You could say he’s the source of my bloodline. He was an intellectual amongst the group of demons, the only source of order in the chaos. However, that made him an eyesore for many other Archerons. If not for the fact that he was strong enough to unlock his truename, he never would have been buried in these tombs.
“He had enemies both within and without. During the last battle he ever fought, he charged forth as the sole commander of his army in what should have been a perfectly planned attack. However, he was caught off-guard by superior troops and died in the ambush with his entire army. The person who betrayed him? My grandmother.”
Richard was at a loss for words. He had never heard this story before.
“So, what’s your truenam—” Richard regretted the words before he could even finish them. Truenames were the greatest secret of any existence; knowledge of it gave one great control over the target’s life. Why would anyone divulge such information?
Thankfully, Alice’s reaction wasn’t as drastic as he’d feared. She just sighed, “It’s not time yet, Richard. I’ll let you know eventually.”
Having expected a direct rejection and severe berating, Richard was surprised by her words. He turned solemn himself, thinking it over for a while, “Hmm… When will that be, then?”
Alice shut her eyes, showing exhaustion unbecoming of the goddess of war, “When I’m tired. Completely tired.”
“We’ll see,” Richard answered. It was hard to come by someone like Alice, someone you could trust entirely to accomplish what they set out to. Richard had no lack of strong followers, but he did lack a strong general to stand guard over his lands. Gangdor only barely qualified for the role, but he wasn’t someone who could create miracles.
The earl lifted her head and looked Richard in the eye, “Richard, tell me a little more about yourself. Help me grow confident in you.”
“Confident in becoming my partner?” Richard joked.
“Not entirely, but yes.”
He shrugged, “Aren’t my current achievements enough?”
Alice shot a glance at him and smiled faintly, “What, a level 17 mage?”
“A level 17 mage who’s also the royal runemaster.”
“I know. Still not enough.”
“Oh?” Richard was a little surprised, “I think you misunderstand. I’m not trash like Lunor, even now I’m capable of creating custom grade 2 sets on a whim.”
Alice sighed once more, “Richard, I’ll be honest. I’m scared, scared of doing this. I’m hoping you can give me the confidence to take that last step. I’m not comparing you to Lunor, I’m comparing you to your father… I still remember the first time he brought me to this cemetery. Gaton just sat on top of one of these tombstones, extremely casual without a hint of wrongness. It was as though he was meant to be there, as though it was his rightful seat. I was still very young then, but I’ll never forget that day.”
Her words made him recall his own first visit to the Archeron tombs. Of course, he hadn’t been awed by Gaton’s presence. He’d just wanted to push the man down the crater into the volcano. Thinking of being compared to that man, he subconsciously adjusted his posture, filled with complex emotions he could not put to words.
Eventually, he managed to organise his thoughts, “I’m confident I’ll eventually become a saint runemaster. I have no idea how far I’ll go as a mage, but at the very least a few more levels should be no issue. I control two planes with a combined annual income of over 10 million gold, and defeated an army sent by the Joseph Family and captured their prodigal son. There were elements of luck involved, but the truth remains that my ability in war cannot be belittled.”
“Sounds impressive. Be careful, though. There might be assassins on the lookout for you already.”
Richard laughed at that attempt to pour cold water over him, “Ha, I’ve been to the Land of Dusk twice, once even alone. I killed numerous saint-level beings just to get to the capital of the Unsetting Sun. It won’t be that easy to get rid of me.”
Alice finally nodded her head, “That’s all I have to hear.”
He heaved a sigh of relief, “Great, and here I was thinking I had to bring up my heart of steel.”
Alice just continued to nod at the joke. Richard had still kept many secrets, like the broodmother and his innate gifts, but those were trump cards he planned to bring out once their relationship solidified further.
“So, what’s your final decision?” he asked.
“I’ll be your ally,” Alice had already returned to her usual decisive self, “And your partner.”
“Partner?” Richard frowned at the thought of the family traditions, “There’s no need.”
“I have to fulfil my obligations somehow, and anyone qualified to be with me would also be capable of affecting our alliance. It would be a great way to keep us tied together anyway, and I don’t care so long as I don’t hate you. I’m good with this.”
Although the tone was indifferent, Richard noticed that her body was somewhat rigid. He pondered over her words for a bit and found himself agreeing; it would be hard for her to sever ties with someone she had a child with, and right now he didn’t have any allies in the family he would be fine for her to be attached with, “Fine, let’s go with that. So, when do we formally sign on the alliance? And when should we… Consummate?”
Alice tilted her body forward, placing her hands on his chest, “We’ve established the alliance right here, no need for formal paperwork nobody cares about. If we’re both willing, the alliance will last to the end. As for us being partners, well…
“Here’s fine for that too.”Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Translated By: Jessa
Edited By: Theo
TLC'ed By: OMA