Book 1, Chapter 68


Towards the east of the plaza was a tower that stood a hundred and twenty metres tall. A giant ballista was in place on a shooting platform atop it, with two knights standing guard at the side observing their surroundings vigilantly. The teleportation formation and runway were both within the tower’s firing range, making it capable of defending the huge airspace from enemy invasions.

The foundation and stairwells of the tower seemed relatively new, as if only completed recently, but the body itself had many scars of battle. Cast in metal, the ballista platform had several areas that needed mending. Evidently this tower had passed the test of battle not long ago.

The island wasn’t particularly large, a rough circle that was about five hundred metres in diameter. More than half the island was uneven terrain, with the highest point in the north being a good fifty metres taller than the plaza in which he was stood. It wasn’t until he’d actually stepped foot on the island that he realised the interior was nothing close to the model’s.

Be it from the model, or when he was gazing into the distant Eternal Plains from Faust, everything in his line of sight had been a scenic, beautiful landscape with shady foliage everywhere. All of Faust seemed to share that particular climate, just on different scales. Here, however, Richard could see that the highest peak was actually a volcano, and an active one at that! Covered in pale grey ash, the mouth of the volcano unceasingly spewed out wisps of thick smoke. In contrast, there was even a forest at the bottom, the shades of green clearly distinguishable from the bleak grey of the volcano behind.

A grand and majestic ancient castle stood at the foot of the volcano, sitting amidst the undulating terrain. The dark walls and the spire as tall as the volcano itself were very similar to Blackrose Castle, although the imposing and steady aura in Richard’s memory had been replaced by a fierce and menacing one. There was a bunch of buildings just outside the castle, built in the same way and densely packed. Most had solid walls and narrow windows, making them good bunkers if war reached the streets. Several striking arrow towers stood tall on a few high vantage points, encompassing the whole of the island in their firing range.

As he looked at the volcano, Richard’s heart started to beat faster and faster without his knowledge. The smell of sulphate lingered in the air, giving him a sense of familiarity.

Two fully armoured knights walked over just at that moment, taking over Lava and the armoured warhorse. Mordred then led Richard towards the castle.

Although the path to the castle was wide, it meandered along on the way. Richard could see sturdy towers at every turn, with many flat and long nozzles aimed at the road. The crossbows within could easily pierce through the heavy armour of knights within the ten metre range.

There was a significantly smaller crowd here than down in Faust proper, with fewer women, children, and elderly. There was an exceptionally high number of warriors.

The path from the plaza to the castle was merely a few hundred metres long, but Richard had seen at least six warriors with two runes on their bodies. Although they weren’t qualified to be called rune knights, they were already elites as foot soldiers. More importantly, these warriors were still young with plenty of room for improvement. As long as their bodies could bear one more rune, they could meet the standard of rune knights. Following the standard of five runes per knight, they still needed to make up for two more runes and would need a year of special training before they could serve that role. However, even if rare there were steeds capable of bearing two runes themselves. Still, one such steed could easily cost more than over ten foot soldiers, and the fighting strength of the mount clearly wouldn’t be on the same level as its master’s. Ideally, a rune knight had four rune slots himself with a single one on his mount.

Lava was an exception here. The stallion had a whopping four runes on its body, of the same rank as Gaton’s Darkmoon Ember and Darkmoon Blackflame.

Judging from what he’d seen so far, Richard felt like this island was a strong floating fortress, equipped to the teeth. But then again, the Archerons were a military family and Gaton had only just made headway into Faust. It would be strange for him to have remodelled it into a bunch of palaces and gardens. Thinking about it, Richard grew curious about how the bottom-ranked seventh island would look.

The gates of the castle began opening slowly on their own, even without Mordred’s instruction. Behind the gates was a small open-air plaza with ten metre tall walls surrounding it. The walls were equipped with arrow towers of their own, capable of targeting the interior. This ensured that there was no need to fear the castle gates being breached. Anyone who managed to do so would only enter the plaza to meet their own doom.

It was rather dark and gloomy inside the castle, and one needed magic or oil lamps to light the way. The passages were far from wide, instead winding and complicated. The passages were filled with dark rooms and weapons of different ranks, with many thick rectangular metal shields resting against the walls. The weapons were so polished that one could see their reflections on the shields. Sharp and flickering against the light, these fearsome weapons were clearly not for decoration. In times of need, one could stick the shields into the ground and prop them up against special ranks to make sturdy and effective bunkers. This castle was evidently built from the start to fight an enemy to the death.

The ground floor of the castle consisted of the arms depot, the granary, a weaponry storehouse as well as some secret paths. The guest rooms and living rooms were above, and it wasn’t until he walked into the command hall on the fourth floor that Richard spotted his father.

A gigantic stone platform stood in the middle of the command hall, shining with faint magic light. A pale yellow glimmer was floating ten metres above the platform, showing a three-dimensional map of some place. Geography was a compulsory course in the Deepblue, and given the sheer scale of the area depicted Richard would have identified it immediately if it was in Norland. However, the map was completely foreign to his eyes, and none of the signs made much sense. It couldn’t be mainland Norland.

There were four people aside from Gaton in the command hall, the most peculiar of them being a man that looked to be in his forties. He looked devout, dressed in overwashed cleric robes with tattered embroidery on the sleeves. A thick religious tome was hung from a copper zip on his robes, but the black cover and copper rose engraved on it didn’t ring any bells as to his religion.

To the right of the cleric was a strong man who looked to be at least 2.5 metres tall. His muscular body told of his fearsome strength, and the leather armour he was dressed in left the densely packed tattoos under the thick hair on his arms and chest completely exposed. The tattoos added to his ferocious image, but to Richard they had an even worse effect. He could tell from one look that those weren’t any normal tattoos— they were grade 3 runes! Given the strong physique of the man, he looked capable of sustaining five or more such runes at that!

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