“The… baby… You killed… the baby…” the remaining overseer started muttering over and over, quickly joined by the other prisoners. They stared at Richard blankly, a distant desolation in their eyes.
Filled with disgust, Richard started emanating bloodlust for the first time since he had arrived in the Valley of Darkness. Five sparks flew out from his fingertips, lining up on the ground between him and the locals. “Let’s go!” he said gruffly before turning around to walk away.
One of the prisoners made to follow, but the tiny candle-flame he stepped on immediately turned into a blazing inferno that consumed his entire existence. The hollow man struggled with pain, but the abyssal flames took no more than ten seconds to turn him to ashes. The remaining prisoners immediately stopped, realising that the other four flames were a boundary that marked life and death.
On their way out of the village, Richard turned to Io, “It looks like the power of divinity is more effective at causing pain than darkness.”
“Of course,” Io responded calmly, “Just like devils, gods compete for the soul as well. Why would they lose in terms of such skill?”
Just then, the clouds in the valley suddenly turned red as they congealed into a blurry face, a thunderous voice echoing between the mountain walls, “Did I just feel the destruction of the abyss? It seems we have a distinguished guest, please come to the centre of the Valley. I will welcome you at the Church of Pain!”
As the clouds returned to pitch black and gradually dispersed, Richard looked deeper into the valley and snorted, “Such a scam. Ignore it, let’s go find this Bruno.”
Io immediately grew confused, “What? That sounded like the answer to this place, why are we going to some random fellow?”
Richard smiled mysteriously as he continued to head forward, “It has to do with the laws of this place.”
“The laws? What laws? Hey!” Io grunted in annoyance and followed behind. His dissatisfaction was justified; the laws of a plane afforded ultimate power and control. This was something that should only be accomplished once one reached the legendary realm and broke through the limits of the flesh. There were some instances like with the Tree of Life where it made sense to absorb some fragments, but even that didn’t lead to proper understanding.
Charles the Great had once said that the laws were like an absolute beauty. The first challenge was even knowing where to find them. Even as old souls that once had great mastery over some of the laws of existence, Io and Nyra could barely call upon their former knowledge to display abilities beyond regular priests. However, they were both bound by their limited power and could not use their understanding to any significant extent. For Richard to talk about laws so mysteriously sounded more like he was bragging than anything else.
Just as the battle priest continued to grumble, Nyra gently tugged at his robes and leaned over to whisper, “Richard has no reason to lie to us.”
“Of course he doesn’t…” Io said absentmindedly before realising what he had just admitted, “Wait, what did you say? Richard is telling the truth?!”
“I just think he doesn’t need to lie,” Nyra stressed once more.
The battle priest stared at her with suspicion, “Why does it feel like I’m a fool compared to you? This wasn’t the case before…”
“Heh…” The soul shepherd just smiled.
Bruno’s residence was next to a small village rather close to the Church of Pain. Richard’s group found him quickly by asking around for the lunatic, and some of the prisoners quickly pointed them in the right direction. Not wishing to see the depraved orgies for any longer than they had to, everyone quickly trudged along to find the home.
Richard walked over to the wooden house and knocked on the door, prompting an old voice from within, “Visitors? That’s rare. Come in, come in!”
As they entered, the group found the furnishing of the cabin to be quite simple. There was a single bed alongside a table and chair, and once inside the group couldn’t even turn around properly. The first thing they noticed was one of the bricks of pain sitting on the table, words carved in by what seemed to be hardened clay of some sort. With just one look, Richard could tell that the formulae were trying to solve the working of a specific law.
The man was clearly on the right path: he had discovered the law, established its effects, and was now trying to resolve its working before applying its uses in reality. However, from experience Richard could tell that this was a primitive method that wouldn’t bring about results in five thousand years. The law was fairly simple, but with such a method even he would take a little over a millennium with this route even if he employed his blessings.
Bruno was certainly an old man, but looking at his clear eyes Richard could tell that he wasn’t so crazy. However, Io spoke up and asked the question he wanted to, “You’re not crazy.”
Bruno smiled, “Perhaps. You should understand that I’m very different from the other prisoners here, so it’s natural for them to think I’m crazy. Now, it’s incredible for you folks to have come here. Careful, even a sub-legendary expert can’t stay here long without becoming like those outside.”
Richard laughed, “And the darkness and fire are going to make us that way? Maybe for others, but not us. Now you, you’re truly amazing. For someone to live here for a long time without falling into its insanity…”
“I had the help of a friend, freed myself from the punishment to study. So, I think you want something from me?”
“We were just here to see. I met an old man named Ptolemy near the entrance of the Valley and he told me that you’re of a similar mind. Now, I hear you wrote a book?”
“Yes, yes. Do you want to see?”
Bruno didn’t offer up the book immediately, instead pointing out of the window, “What do you think of the things here?”
“The depths of evil,” Richard said without hesitation, “This is worse than the devils, ignoring the laws of existence to play around with recycling souls. I don’t think there are many lords of hell that are worse than this.”
Shock flashed across the old man’s face, “Boy, you’re in the realm of the God of Valour! Are you not afraid of his wrath?”
Richard smiled, “Neian is welcome to try. The last time he fucked with me, he lost all of his control in the Sequoia Kingdom.”
“You sound like you have a powerful god behind you, and your ambition…” Bruno shuddered visibly, “Alright, you can have the book. But don’t underestimate Neian’s strength, especially in this land.”
Richard looked at the view of the Church of Pain, “You mean that?”
“Yes, all the sins of this valley eventually gather there.”
“So there’s something strong and evil there, got it.”
“I cannot mention his name, but you’ll understand when you see him. And since you entered the Valley of Darkness, you definitely will.”
Richard snickered for a moment, “He seems to be impatient, there are some annoyances outside the door.”
As if on cue, a bestial roar rang from near the hut. Bruno ran to the window to find some mounted orc-like warriors, distorted faces leaking a bevvy of liquids onto their steeds. Only the heavy blackstone weapons in their hands showed their real power.
“Twenty cavalrymen, such flattery.” Richard shook his head, waving Nyra and Waterflower outside, “Alright, where’s your book?”
“Those are the twisted knights, they’re terri…” Bruno stopped in the middle of his sentence as he realised that the roars had stopped.
Waterflower and Nyra returned to the cabin, as though nothing had happened outside. The old man’s eyes flicked between Richard and the two women for a few seconds.
“Alright, you have strong friends. Well, my book is here…” He opened his mouth, revealing a dark golden glow from the depths of his throat.
“Pure divinity…” Everyone present was left shocked at the revelation. This land of darkness and pain was the absolute antithesis of pure divine power, and outside of insulated powers like Flowsand’s trio it was extremely difficult for any divinity to resist the corrosive powers of the land. For someone to have stored such power within themselves was nothing short of a miracle.
Richard immediately noticed countless pictures hidden within the divine power, detailing several different worlds. Every picture showcased Neian prominently, connecting to one of the deity’s countless miracles. It followed him from when his birth to when he had lit his godfire, including the creation of his divine kingdom.
Of course, that wasn’t what caught his eye. Those pictures were only a ruse, hiding the true contents of this so-called book.
The imprints of laws.Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Translated By: OMA
Edited By: Theo