Book 6, Chapter 121

Unfulfilled Duties

Richard’s rune knights started making their way out of the woods one by one, their formations neat as ever and imposing presences only boosted from the recent fight. They were all soaked in blood, many of them even injured with more than half missing their halberds, and their swords were chipped all over as well. Nearly twenty of them didn’t even return.

The battle amidst the darkness was still lingering in the minds of Richard and every single one of his rune knights. They had charged into the encirclement head-on, using no tactics or strategy as they simply killed their way out. Richard had ordered them to repeatedly break in and out of the forest elves’ formation, extending the battle for a day and night of repeated charges. The only time they even got to rest was when they had killed one set of elves and were moving on to the next.

Hunters, treants, beast tamers, druids… They had encountered all sorts of enemies but everything in their way was torn apart. Richard was in the lead of it all, a simple orb of light floating above his head to give them vision of their targets. His own kill count was the greatest of them all, and not by a small amount. Every enemy that faced him was eradicated.

It was only when a tree of life appeared in their sight that the rune knights realised there was order to all the chaos. In the midst of their attacks, the alliance had left their homes with minimal defenders and the civilians could only mount a desperate struggle to resist. However, Richard had only turned more cruel and savage as he ordered them all dead. It was here that casualties began to mount up, but those who remained only seemed to be empowered further by those deaths.

The core of the tribe’s resistance relied on an ancient treant that managed to maul three rune knights all by itself. Many charged towards it dauntlessly, but even the full-power javelins did little damage to its thick bark. It was only when a young knight had leapt into the air and tried to cut further into the pits left by the spears that they had found success. On the verge of sacrificing his own life, his energy output had doubled and he’d pushed right through and cut into the treant’s heart. Perhaps because of the heat of battle or as a result of being showered in the treant’s heart blood, the youth had survived and broken through to the saint realm. This was the first such case amongst Richard’s rune knights.

……

Now that they had returned to the Evernight Tribe, Richard looked at his remaining knights with extreme satisfaction. The battle had been partly a reaction to the insults aimed at Tzu, but he had an ulterior goal in mind as well. The destruction of the small Thornleaf Tribe was the catalyst he needed to get his knights used to this plane, and the dangerous situation also cultivated a brutality in them that he desperately needed if he was to win. Even in Norland many families wouldn’t dare train their rune knights this way, but with himself and Rosie he could support the deaths of a few to ensure the others would perform to their full potential.

The one young knight becoming a saint wasn’t Richard’s only gain from this series of battles. Having cut down a tree of life, Richard had gathered a fruit of life, tens of leaves of youth, and enough materials for a thousand longbows and fifty staffs of nature. The heart was cut up into ten parts and hauled back to the Evernight Tribe, and there was even a red tuber that served to substantially increase one’s nature affinity and even strengthened their bloodline.

The specific bloodline this tuber granted was called the Font of Nature, something inferior to his own world tree but also capable of coexisting peacefully with most others. Having learnt about this from the captured elders of the tribe, Richard had been rather astonished; this was something that could help someone who already had a powerful bloodline, which was extremely rare. Having experience with the balancing act of making sure his own bloodlines didn’t kill each other, he knew just how valuable this was. Overall, it brought his harvests up to nearly thirty million gold’s worth.

Leaping off his saddle, Richard ordered the rune knights to put away the spoils of war. The evernight elves were left in a trance as they stared at the bundles of refined bows and staffs, but once they saw the broken pieces of the tree heart their gazes immediately turned dull. The two great druids even rushed over to the greenish-white wood and gently caressed it with trembling hands, the Evernight tree of life swaying its branches in grief.

Elves considered the trees of life as the origin of living beings. While those of a higher level did not think of them as everything, they were still equivalent to minor deities. To the druids and other elves, it was like a god’s corpse had been brought before them. It was only now that they felt like they truly understood Richard’s might.

Alice blocked Richard’s path as he ambled towards his residence, glaring at him with no reservations at all. Richard felt a little awkward and smiled, “What is it?”

“Don’t leave me with defence duties next time!”

“What? But the tree of life is important, I wouldn’t trust anyone but—” Seeing her angry glare, he wisely shut his mouth halfway.

……

It took half a day to take care of treating injuries and repairing equipment; by the time everything was done, it was almost midnight. Richard headed to Tzu’s treehouse as before to rest; the elves had already rebuilt the bedroom in a gesture of obeisance.

Just as he took off his equipment and headed to bed, however, a figure quietly slipped into his room. Richard reacted instantly, a cold glow lighting up the room as Moonlight made its way to the throat of the invader. However, seeing the face of the uninvited guest, Richard suppressed a groan and put the sword away, “You could have knocked or something.”

“You’re saying I can’t come in whenever I want?” Alice retorted.

He laughed bitterly, “Of course you can, but why do you have to be so quiet?”

Alice ignored the question completely, instead staring him in the eye, “Richard, what is our relationship?”

“You’re… my partner,” Richard replied after some hesitation. 

“Then what is the duty partners share?”

This made him frown. He knew very well what it meant for the two of them to be partners, and it made him glance at her flat abdomen. They had only been intimate once in their lives, and while that day in the cemetery had truly been unique, it certainly wasn’t a guarantee of pregnancy. However, he considered their relationship to be more of an alliance; the obligations to family traditions were only a way to secure this primary relationship. Given her fear of sex, he had no intention of forcing her to do things she was uncomfortable with.

Alice took a step back when he looked at her, but she immediately stood upright once more. Her ramrod posture only served to accentuate the beauty of her strength.

“You’re sure?” he asked meaningfully.

“Of course I am!” She was just like a general on the battlefield, bold and decisive.

“Do you need some time to prepare yourself? Maybe find a way to relax?”

“Bah, it’s just a small matter, why do you need to make it so complicated? Let’s go!” She pulled off all of her clothing and laid down on his bed at once, placing her hands behind her head and opening her legs wide. It really seemed simple to her on the outside, but Richard could already see her muscles stiffening into blocks of wood.

He didn’t know whether to be amused or upset with her— how was she not nervous? This was clearly the same as before. Still, Richard sighed and nodded before walking over, his hand reaching down to get her ready.

Just as his fingers made contact with skin, she shot out of his bed like an arrow.

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OMA's Thoughts

Translated By: Hestia

Edited By: Theo