“But you have your promises, and I have my own. Both of us need to pay the price to get what we want, and I’m willing to pay mine. If only we could put together all the gold in the world to bring our wishes to reality.
“It is time for me to leave you. I will head back to the Darkness to grow the old dragon’s faith, and Nyra and Io will go with me. In the years to come, you probably won’t have the help of a priestess of the Eternal Dragon; still, remember to get their help if you do anything big. In Faelor, make use of the three goddesses. So long as you find a way to tie them to you firmly, they will become your servants in the future. I was supposed to do this for you, but I can’t help you anymore.
“What I can do is to raise your title to Planewalker. It gives you a bit more diversity in your blessings and grants them with less grace; put simply, it’s a 20% discount for a recurring customer. There’s also a suggestion in there about worshipping the old dragon, but ignore that. Never think that sacrifices are a harvest; on the contrary, you’re the one losing out. The broodmother is much more reliable.
“Alright, I should be leaving now. I’ll already be on my way when you see this letter, don’t come looking for me. For all those smarts of yours, you do the stupidest things in the world. Not this time; you will die. If you really want to come find me, wait until you can bring down the pope of the Sacred Tree Empire. You should be strong enough then.
“Goodbye, my love.”
The letter was just as straightforward as one would expect from Flowsand, and Richard could almost hear her trembling voice as he read on. Even on the floor he was starting to hope he could bury himself further in somewhere, but there was nowhere to go.
“It must be a joke, it must be!” he laughed to himself, reading the letter once more with his now-blurry sight. The tears rolling down his cheeks were scalding hot, but he just continued to cackle as he read it over and again.
It took an eternity for him to finally come to grips with reality, shaking his head hard and realising just what had happened. He sat silent for a long time before being able to move a single finger, finally getting up and leaving his study.
“Something’s wrong?” Sitting outside in the corridor, Mountainsea jumped up and followed behind as he left. The girl was now dressed in Norland garb, but her unique aura still remained.
Richard tried to smile, but it looked absolutely hideous, “Someone I love suddenly left… I need to confirm it immediately.”
“Okay, I’ll come with,” she said before gazing at his eyes, “I’ll wait outside.”
Richard nodded, grabbing her by the hand and taking to the skies immediately. A dozen buffs sped him up along the way as he shot towards the Church of the Eternal Dragon like a bullet.
Those at the Church of the Eternal Dragon recognised him immediately; not just anyone could make several top-tier sacrifices in one year. Noelene came out personally to meet him, “Come, the High Priestess is waiting to see you.”
On their way to Ferlyn’s hall in the back, the grand priestess leaned over to Richard and whispered, “Come meet me again after you talk to her, I have something to talk about.”
“Come sit. You saw the letter Flowsand gave you?” Ferlyn asked softly as he entered the hall.
“What’s the Darkness?” Richard countered before he’d even walked over to sit down.
“Sigh. You want to go find her so quickly? You’re such an anxious boy, seems you really are in love with her. But… it’s already too late. She’s entered the Darkness, and nobody can bring her back. Even if she hadn’t left now, she would have to eventually. This… is her destiny.”
“What’s the Darkness?” Sometimes, Richard was very stubborn.
Ferlyn didn’t answer immediately, waving her hand to form a web of pale gold that turned into a galaxy of beautiful diamond-like stars. Some were bright, some faint, some red, some blue… It was a mix of everything, with old stars constantly dying and new ones being born.
“Every star you see here is a cluster of planes big and small.” She waved once more, pushing the stars to the centre and adding new, dim lights along the periphery, “Those you can see are the worlds the Eternal Dragon controls. The dim ones on the edge are not completely under his control yet, but his power has taken hold there and is starting to grow.
“The Darkness is what lies outside these, it is the collection of uncountable planes that we cannot yet see, that the Eternal Dragon does not yet have any control over.”
Richard breathed a sigh of relief at the information, but even he didn’t know why. He shook his head and asked again, “Why is she going there?”
“She is Chosen, it is her fate just like mine. Of course, it is possible to reject this destiny, the old dragon doesn’t force us to do anything we don’t like. However, Flowsand came upon a need for a vast amount of divine grace. The only way to earn it is to go to the Darkness.”
Ferlyn’s voice echoed in the empty hall, sounding ancient as though she was a millennium old. She had told him multiple times before that Flowsand needed divine grace, and he really was collecting offerings with his heart and soul, but now it happened anyway.
A place outside the control of the Eternal Dragon would have no lighthouses of time, no readily available coordinates or spatial channels. Without even knowing where Flowsand had gone, he had no way to find her at all. The only thing he could think of was exploring the Darkness once he reached the legendary realm, hoping to meet Flowsand one day. However, his brain was already calculating the chance of that happening with the radius of the worlds he had seen. The number was not pretty.
“Why did she need so much grace?” he asked.
Ferlyn smiled faintly, “Every Chosen ends up needing a lot of grace. They will always encounter some sort of situation that forces them to make a choice, and they often take that deal. The price is just something they cannot afford.”
“What was her choice?”
The High Priestess shook her head, “I can’t say. Even if I could, you wouldn’t want to hear. You should know that some words cannot be mentioned in the realm of divinity.”
Richard looked at Ferlyn’s expression and changed his approach immediately, “What do you need?”
This time, Ferlyn’s answer was simple, “I can tell you when you have the ability to suppress the laws of time here.”
Suppress the laws of time in a temple to the Eternal Dragon? Richard immediately rejected that idea, but then he remembered the sacred ceremony back in Klandor. He hadn’t expected to go very far, but in the end he had won the entire thing and freed Mountainsea. The road was long, but so long as he travelled it he would eventually reach the end.
“I understand, I will have to ask for more guidance in the future,” he said sincerely.
Ferlyn understood the meaning behind his words, “I don’t need your grace, I have no ability to help you. Go talk to Noelene or Jacqueline, they are not Chosen and can do things I cannot.”
He understood her meaning as well.
When Richard left Ferlyn’s hall, he saw Noelene waiting for him right outside. She took him to a courtyard at the back of the temple, leading him to a luxurious home that did not match its no-nonsense exterior.
“Our cooperation has been very enjoyable in the past,” she started as she poured black tea into a golden cup and handed it to him, “Almost 20 million gold of transactions in the past year or so, and that leaves me very rich as well.”
Richard shook away his distraction and forced a smile, “Your prices have been fair, even above the market value.”
“I agree, but it is hard to come across such quantity of supply, especially for the kinds of rare minerals you give me. You know one can never have enough advanced armour in planar wars; no matter how much I buy, I can always sell for profit. Even with a lower margin, the volumes more than make up for it.”
Richard understood this well, waiting for her follow-on. The Crimson Dukedom was now stable and mining an enormous amount of minerals every year, with the output so high that even the Emperor had wanted a piece of the pie. The offer had been even sweeter than Noelene’s. The only reason he hadn’t taken it up yet was a lack of time to work out details.
Noelene was clearly thinking about what she would say, looking at Richard and saying slowly, “Her Excellency Flowsand has gone to the Darkness, and outside of the High Priestess you are perhaps closest to me. I understand you might need to grow in power urgently, and I need your assistance as well. I think we can deepen our cooperation.”
A slight frown flashed across Richard’s face, but he forced himself to calm down, “I’m listening.”Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Theo: Want thoughts on how this chapter turned out, it was rather hard to do.
Translated By: OMA
Edited By: Theo