Richard felt like Iskara wouldn’t pose too much of a problem for those present in this room. While the demon god was certainly far stronger than most priests and priestesses, the emissaries of the Eternal Dragon were far beyond their peers. Flowsand wasn’t very high-levelled when she set off for the Darkness, but she was comparable to an entire squad of clergymen on her lonesome. Even combined, the upper echelons of the churches of the three goddesses in Faelor could not compare to her.
Facing a demon god of the Annihilation Plane was certainly dangerous, but the priestesses here looked eager to take on the challenge. Even if they would face his incarnation or apostles in the spiritual realm, those able to cross the threshold of sainthood all had strong wills.
However, Ferlyn kept her head bowed from start to finish, her thoughts unknown. All the priestesses present knew of her special relationship with Richard, and that made her attitude today seemed rather strange. Eventually, the hushed whispers quieted down as everyone awaited her words.
It took minutes before she spoke, “Richard. As servants of the Eternal Dragon, it is our job to help devotees sacrifice offerings. We cannot participate in ceremonies ourselves. These offerings are of no use to us.”
These words shocked not just Richard but all of the other priestesses as well. Although Ferlyn technically wasn’t wrong, this rule had been bent countless times in the past. She could just force in the option to share one’s divine grace with another, and even with the losses from that decision one would still gain two-thirds of the total grace of the offering.
Even otherwise, the Church could just direct someone to participate in the ceremony and have them choose useful items for the priestesses. However, Richard stopped himself from mentioning this; Ferlyn knew he knew, so there had to be a point to her statement.
She eventually raised her hand and pointed forward, the timeforce dancing around the offerings condensing into a thick, ancient book, “All our records of the demon gods of the Annihilation Plane are in this book. Do you know the name of the one who cast this curse?”
“Iskara,” Richard said confidently.
Ferlyn nodded, passing the book to Noelene who grabbed it from the air and flipped through its pages. Her expression changed as she read it, and eventually she raised her head and sighed, “Iskara is not on the list.”
Most of the priestesses were stirred up. An unknown demon god also implied an unknown level and type of threat. It was one thing to face one of the twelve known demon gods of the Annihilation Plane— the Church had records on their weaknesses— but dealing with a random variable was entirely different. They had originally wanted to try purely on the assumption that Iskara would be amongst the known demon gods; this new information changed everything.
“Is anyone still willing to try?” Ferlyn asked, and this time all of the priestesses remained silent. Richard’s heart fell at this fact; if even Ferlyn wasn’t confident of the outcome of this battle, nobody else would try. Would Tzu just have to await death?
No, that couldn’t happen! Richard gritted his teeth, “I can pay twenty top-tier offerings!”
This immediately had everyone freeze up. 20 top-tier offerings was at least 200 million gold, enough to assemble a true noble’s army and equip hundreds of rune knights. This was the total sum savings of many legendary beings.
“Do you have so many?” Ferlyn asked doubtfully.
“I can get them, you don’t need to ask how,” Richard replied.
Ferlyn nodded, “Alright, I will ask once more. Is anyone willing to try?”
The priestesses still remained silent.
However, just as Richard was about to lose all hope, Noelene suddenly stood up, “I can try.”
Slightly surprised, Ferlyn glanced at the grand priestess and shook her head, “So long as you know what the risks are.”
Noelene looked at Richard and gritted her teeth, “I am well aware.”
Ferlyn immediately sighed, “No, no you are not.”
“I am,” Noelene insisted.
“Are you, really? Tell me then, what risks are you aware of?”
“That pioneers are often sacrificed.” Noelene’s words were the cold, hard truth.
“Do you know how many? Do you know how many priestesses had to be sacrificed to obtain the information in this book? Each demon god took eleven on average!” Ferlyn turned back to Richard, “You can’t just watch as those you love die, but the same holds true for me. I will not send my priestesses on suicide missions, even if they want to go. Do you understand?”
“Then how do we deal with these demon gods?” Richard asked almost in exasperation. If even the Church of the Eternal Dragon was unwilling to deal with them, he had no chance.
“It is different for each one. The ones we are familiar with can be taken care of more easily, but such familiarity comes with an enormous price that I do not wish to pay.”
Richard sighed and nodded his head seriously, expressing his understanding. He wanted to save Tzu at all costs, but that was all costs to him. He couldn’t expect Ferlyn to sacrifice her subordinates for no good reason, especially when success wasn’t even guaranteed.
“I will go,” Noelene said once more, “Someone has to take the first step, and I might not necessarily die.”
This time, Ferlyn finally lost her calmness, “Noelene, I said no. Disobey again and I will lock your timeforce.”
This immediately silenced the grand priestess. Without timeforce, she was of little use.
Richard looked at Ferlyn and suddenly asked, “Will the priestess that goes die?”
“I don’t know,” Ferlyn responded, but her tone was a little off. He immediately realised what the real answer was.
“What should I do then?”
Ferlyn drew the outline of a symbol in the air, condensing a large volume of timeforce to form a bottle of dark red elixir. The bottle itself was made of crystal, with three monstrous dragons in black and gold circling around it to form its base. A searing heat immediately diffused through the room as a bleak roar rang out.
“This is a flame potion made from the heart of an abyssal fire demon. Drink it and your Archeron bloodline will be jolted awake, giving your soul great power for a short period of time. Even if you face a demon god of the Annihilation Plane, you can escape once.
But be warned; drinking that potion might affect your character and soul. The strength of your bloodline will certainly be warped, though for better or for worse I cannot be certain.”
Richard frowned. The power to resist an epic-level being’s soul attack for the mere chance of one’s bloodline being warped, and not necessarily even for the worse, was too good to be true. He shook his head and asked, “Worst case?”
“The remnant will of the fire demon will use your soul to heal itself, turning you into a vessel for its power. Your existence will be wiped out.”
“What are the odds of that happening?” Richard asked.
“Uncertain, between ten and fifty percent. I suggest you make a prayer to the Goddess of Luck before using it.”
“Will it give me a chance to beat Iskara?”
“Not if you had ten.”
When he left the Church of the Eternal Dragon, Richard’s mood was much worse than before he arrived. The flame potion was now in his possession at the cost of the entire chest of offerings, but he had learnt that the potion had been crafted by a god in a primary plane over hundreds of years. It had been sacrificed to the Eternal Dragon after that god was killed in planar war, and it was only in this circuitous manner that Ferlyn had access to it. The potion was certainly worth the cost.
He had learnt more about the Annihilation Plane over a conversation with Ferlyn. It was a unique place of pure, unadulterated energy, and the demon gods that ruled over it were the very embodiment of laws. These demon gods had strength comparable to demon or devil lords from the abyss and hell respectively, but their natural affinities also bound them to their plane. They could only push their will into the greater void, using vessels to conquer other planes.
Taking care of pressing matters, Richard quickly returned to the Forest Plane. A day in Norland was eight over there, and those eight days could mean the difference between seeing his newfound aunt one more time and not.
After the trip to the church, he had given up on all ideas of summoning Asiris. The Dark Priest did have great battle prowess, especially in the realm of the soul, but Iskara was not an enemy he could compare to. In fact, three of him wouldn’t even match up to Noelene; while he was considered a priest as well, he was a false believer unlike her.
Just like Ferlyn, he couldn’t throw his own subordinates to their deaths without reason.Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Translated By: Styles
Edited By: Theo
TLC'ed By: OMA