The very last day of the preliminaries, the Sacred Tree Empire had finally arrived at the Azuresnow Shrine. Word had already spread of Richard’s identity just the day before, making it widely known that the mage Mountainsea had chosen was back in Klandor to claim her and a more venerable warrior than any of them could ever have imagined.
The rear of the Azuresnow Shrine housed dozens upon dozens of beautiful stone houses that could accommodate nearly ten thousand people if needed, but many noteworthy names of Klandor that should have been present here were not. Balibali, Umur, Heisa, and Ramazoya had all abstained from coming to the sacred ceremony at all. The sixteen recommendations from the Council of Elders had already been revealed, but the Shrine’s eight had not.
The guests from the Sacred Tree Empire were put up quite close to the houses of the elders, but in order to avoid being too striking they had all changed to the traditional dress of the barbarians. The Sixth Prince and Ninth Princess were chatting in a room when the Archbishop walked in, his rotting odour immediately leaving both of them feeling disgusted. The prince could manage to hold his own, but the princess frowned and opened up some distance.
The Archbishop took his time to sit down and relax, saying slowly, “Uriel, you have another opponent in the sacred ceremony.”
The Sixth Prince frowned, “I am no longer Uriel…”
“The Heaven’s Armour has not been taken away from you, you are still Uriel! If you wish to regain your original name, then wait until your mission has been completed. Need I remind you that forgoing your angelic name is a sin? I am an old man with a weak memory, but there are hundreds of paladins outside alongside clerics and priests directly subordinate to the pope. I cannot guarantee that they will not report these things back to the Empire. Remember your name, Uriel!”
“… Thank you for the advice,” the Sixth Prince bowed with humility.
The Ninth Princess frowned, but she didn’t dare to say anything. Although she despised the Archbishop instinctively, he was the highest authority on this trip.
“Your enemy is Richard Archeron, said to possess great power. He is a grand mage and runemaster, but his combat strength is still beyond the average grand mage. He hasn’t used magic at all during the entirety of the preliminaries, relying purely on his runes and melee.”
The Sixth Prince smiled with arrogance, “So long as he is not a legend, I will have no problem. Uriel has always been an expert at dealing with magic.”
The Archbishop cupped his face and pulled in thought, the drooping eyelids and distorted face making him look extraordinarily terrifying. He only spoke up after a long time, “Accidents are not uncommon on the battlefield, and we do not have enough information about this Richard. I will deal with this matter.”
“What are you going to do?” the Sixth Prince couldn’t help but ask.
“A dead opponent is the easiest of opponents,” the Archbishop replied. Just his words spread a rancid odour through the room, so strong that the princess almost vomited immediately. However, she knew there would be consequences for such an action and forced the feeling down. The eyes of the old man had been leaving her more and more afraid recently, and in the past two days she was even being awakened by nightmares at night.
“I still feel like there is no need to be afraid of him,” the Sixth Prince commented.
“No, assuredness is the most important thing. Courage and glory are fleeting, victory is everything.” Having said this, the Archbishop stood up and walked outside the room. It was only at the door that he suddenly turned back and said softly, “Don’t forget this. Victory is everything.”
Raphael felt her heart turn cold as the door closed, and she found her older brother that had always been smart and brave shaking slightly, his face pale.
As he left the royal children to themselves and headed back to his own home, a deacon quickly rushed over to the Archbishop and whispered in his ear. The man’s dark eyebrows rose in curiosity, “Have him come to my house.”
A few minutes later, a skinny barbarian walked into the Archbishop’s room and scanned through it multiple times. The Archbishop gestured to the hundreds of holy emblems hanging on the walls, “No need to worry. Even here, this room is the territory of my master. Our words will not be heard by the Beast God unless you want it to listen.”
“Good. I have some information about Richard. He has come to Klandor once before and met with Her Highness, and years ago when she was in the Deepblue she handed him the Tooth of the Beast God.”
“What?” the Archbishop stood up, “So Mountainsea isn’t pure?”
The skinny old man, one of the elders of the Council, was caught off guard by the question, “That… We cannot confirm it, but she should be…”
“Should?! That is not the answer my Lord wants to hear!” the Archbishop raged, leaving the skinny elder speechless. He paced back and forth around the room for a few minutes, “This means it might not just be the girl’s heart that he has taken. If this cooperation fails, it will greatly impact our plans. Your losses will be much greater than ours! Even if Richard is defeated, Mountainsea is not likely to cooperate. You cannot afford that.”
The Archbishop suddenly stood still and looked at the elder, “Eliminate all uncertain factors.”
“Archbishop Hendrick, just what are you suggesting?! This is the most sacred shrine in Klandor!”
“Can’t you explain it away afterwards? After all, it is only a Norlander. Which of you barbarians cares about his life?”
Cold sweat began pouring out of the elder’s forehead, “This is the Azuresnow Shrine, the domain of the Beast God… If I do something, the Beast God… The Beast God will know sooner or later! He hates conspiracies in the dark!”
Hendrick laughed, looking almost like a devil in human skin, “You don’t need to do anything. Just… leave him alone for a while. I will take care of the rest. I have my own experts here.”
“I… I…” the elder couldn’t say anything. He was quite powerful despite his skinny frame, but the Archbishop’s presence alone left him cowering in fright. The sheer pressure he felt indicated just how disparate their strengths were.
“Oh, I almost forgot!” Hendrick chuckled once more, pulling out a white case with golden trim, “This should help you make your decision.”
As he took the case and opened it, the elder’s eyes went wide in shock. Arranged neatly upon blue velvet were fifty magic crystals, and even he could recognise that they were of the highest quality.
“We… Klandor does not lack wealth,” the elder forced out, but his throat was dry.
“Perhaps Klandor does not, but don’t you?” the Archbishop teased, “I hear all of your wealth is concentrated in a handful of people, and someone with your status most certainly does not have such wealth.”
Seeing the elder’s continued struggle, Hendrick smiled and whispered, “If your son wishes to go to Norland, these things will be far more important than your god.”
The skinny elder finally trembled and closed the case, turning around. The Archbishop’s eyes turned into narrow slits, and enamoured as he was by the crystals the barbarian did not notice the sheer malice in their depths.
Hendrick was not wrong. All of Klandor’s wealth had been concentrated in Mountainsea’s hands, which was a tradition of the barbarians that nobody would even think of refuting before. Now, doubt had been sown amongst the ranks.
Far away in his new housing, Richard was quietly staring at the ceiling as he played around with a tiny dagger in his hand, “It should be about… now.”Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Translated By: OMA
Edited By: Theo