Book 5, Chapter 78

Sneak Attack

After trying all of the buttons and handles, Richard left the apparatus and stood before the screen, wondering whether he should free the elf. However, he quickly dismissed idea; he didn’t know this person’s origins, nor did he know just how long the elf had been held in captivity. Years of torment could have eroded the last dregs of sanity, making for a dangerous enemy should he be healed.

*Bzzt!* A bunch of sparks suddenly flew from the apparatus, the wires starting to glow brightly for a moment before the entire prison shook. The elf behind the screen shuddered, mouth opening in a soundless scream before he crumpled to the ground.

Immediately put on alert, Richard’s party didn’t try to investigate. Richard himself went for his sword, keeping his eyes peeled as he glanced at the surroundings. The prison turned extremely sinister in the darkness, as if something was stalking them, but despite the numerous spellcasters the night was only their friend. Io immediately buffed everyone with dark vision and threw two balls of light into the air, the first one glowing a dim red. The second went up to the ceiling behind them before bursting in a dazzling flash, guaranteed to blind anyone in the vicinity.

These were four simple spells, but when used in combination they were deadly to any hidden assassins. The entire sequence was a testament to Io’s improved cunning.

However, they found no enemies in the prison. Richard had his rune knights search the entire place, but even after five minutes they found nothing nearby except a few dead prisoners. When they went to check on the fallen elf, they found that he had lost all signs of life. It seemed like the apparatus controlled his life and death; once it stopped working, the elf immediately died.

“See if you can resurrect him,” Richard said to Nyra. This elf was far too much of a mystery to leave unsolved, and could very well hold the coordinates to another plane.

However, an ancient voice rang out as Nyra walked over, “Mario died long ago. You won’t be able to resurrect him no matter what you do.”

“Who?” “Who’s there?!”

Richard’s followers drew their weapons, radiating killing intent as they zoned in on the source of the voice. Not one of them was any nervous; even a legendary being would have to flee from their group, so there was no threat on this plane that they could not face. 

“Just another fugitive, you have no need to worry,” the ancient voice rang out once more, and a scrawny old man showed himself from a cage ten metres above the ground.

Richard’s eyes narrowed, “Bring him down, see if any of the others are still alive.”

Two rune knights immediately climbed up and broke the bars of the cage, carrying the old man down. The others found another living prisoner, but that being was short and hairy, more like a monkey than a human. It also seemed to have been imprisoned for a long time, already on its last breaths. The rune knights had missed it because it had been strewn across the floor of its cell, not moving at all.

Richard tried to heal the simian, but it had the same look of lifelessness as the elf did; surely enough, there were also holes on the back of its head. Nyra inspected it and said softly, “Mm, neither this one nor the elf can be saved. They’re just bodies without souls now.”

Finally, Richard turned to the old man, “And you are?”

Dressed in white robes, the old man looked just like a skeleton. However, there was still a trace of power from times past, and he scrutinised Richard heavily before speaking, “It seems like you are the leader of these people. A planar invader, I presume?”

Richard smiled, “Not important, tell me about yourself.”

“Me? My name is Stephen, and I don’t exactly remember my age. In this damned place where both arcane and divine are blocked, time is hard to tell.” He pointed at the monkey and then the elf, “Blacksteel came before me, and Mario a little later. Both of them were trapped in those illusions from the machine behind you, used by the locals to extract their techniques.”

“And I don’t see any holes in your head,” Richard commented.

“Ha, both of them were martial artists. I was once a legendary mage, but the priority of my life was research and exploration, I’m not proficient in combat. The locals weren’t interested in my abilities at all, what they wanted was my knowledge. If I was put through that thing, the damage to my memories would be more of a problem than what they gained.”

“Hmm… What happened earlier, then? Why did this fellow suddenly die?”

“I don’t know what they did, but the locals must have overdrawn the holy water. With the power source cut off, the machine likely broke when it was used. However, Mario would have died anyway. They have been experimenting on him for a long time.”

“Holy water? I thought there were no gods here,” Richard asked.

“Not that I can tell, there aren’t. It was just a term coined by the locals for the energy well that powers this church. They can only use it indirectly, so they consider it holy.”

Richard nodded, “Alright, now tell me how to use the machine.”

“That is simple, even a mortal can use it if they know the method. Allow me to demonstrate.” Stephen hobbled over towards the device.

As he passed Richard, one of his fingernails suddenly straightened and turned into a razor-sharp blade with jagged edges. The entire thing glowed an eerie, poisonous blue as Stephen thrust it towards Richard’s heart.

The attack only made it a few inches away.

Stephen’s vicious expression quickly warped into one of shock as he saw a blade stabbed right under his throat. His throat moved, but all that came out was sputtering noises as the curved sword with jagged edges twisted further into him.

The assassin’s face was filled with unwillingness, and he tried to continue thrusting his nail towards Richard at the cost of his own life. However, the pressure on his throat suddenly eased and a shorter blade cut off his entire arm. A piercing pain erupted all over his body as his blood started spurting out, and the pores on his skin opened up automatically and started bleeding.

“H-- Kn---”

“How would I know? You see, this sword of mine became rather sensitive to you locals not long ago. One could even say it carries a bit of hatred, just enough for me to kill your entire race…”

“W---W---” The glow in Stephen’s eyes eventually dimmed. He still had more to say, but when Richard pulled the Orchid’s Carnage out of his body he immediately dropped dead to the floor.

The only prisoner left alive was the monkey called Blacksteel, but considering its situation Richard gave it the mercy of a quick death. It was only then that Io snapped back from his daze, exclaiming, “The locals had planted an assassin here?!”

Richard nodded, “Looks like they knew I would get the rest of the plane the moment they lost the bridge. This one was a great actor, but sadly he didn’t know about Carnage.”

“It’s not like it would’ve made a difference,” Io grumbled. He was well aware of Richard’s prowess in a melee.

Richard just smiled softly, ignoring the heavenly guardian’s assessment as he looked through the prison once more, “Zendrall, these bodies aren’t too bad. You can have them.”

“You will have three powerful warriors, my Lord!” Zendrall replied. The necromancer was still extremely formal and distant, unlike the other followers who had it in themselves to joke around in front of Richard.

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OMA's Thoughts

Translated By: OMA

Edited By: Theo