Richard smiled, “Since you evaluate me so highly, why not respond to the ultimatum? You make it sound like you would choose to follow me in the end.”
Ward smirked, “There are many people stronger than Lord Gaton, and many armies that outnumber his. However, none of them are Gaton himself.”
“Sure. I’m not my father and I never will be. We came up in different environments where different things were needed of us; his path is not suited to the family today. Give me some time, my achievements will not lose out to his.”
“Haha… Lord Gaton always had his flaws, and we all knew about them. There were things he couldn’t accomplish too, but that never mattered. He was the one we followed, him and no one else.”
Richard took a deep breath, forcing a silhouette out of his mind. Innumerable times in his life he had fallen back on the image of Gaton, wondering what the father he barely knew would do. That caricature built from the words of others had driven so many of his decisions back in the day. Now, it was the opposite. He always tried to suppress that instinctual what-if, to wipe the man from memory before every important decision. He was the Archeron King now, and the decisions were his to take. Mirroring Gaton was a crutch he could no longer rely on, and there would certainly come a day when the silhouette disappeared completely from his mind.
He sighed and looked up at the towering warrior, “You don’t have to become my follower; you can just be like Asiris and continue to serve the Archerons. You can even become a vassal lord, and if you still want to leave I at least want to reward you for your service. Why must you be my enemy?”
“There is no why.”
“Ward. You will never take away this plane. The Sacred Alliance won’t acknowledge you, and half those soldiers will desert once they realise you’re leading them into betrayal. Even if all of them joined your revolt, would you be able to succeed? Do you want to have these men die for your ambitions?”
“My ambitions?” Ward revealed a cryptic smile, looking back at his soldiers and generals. Many of their eyes were filled with despair, the others with confusion. These men had no lack of courage, but they had seen the volcano in Richard’s flag. Even if the Apocalypse Tree was slightly changed, even the dumbest of warriors would realise by now that they were fighting Gaton’s heir.
Eventually, the Boxer shook his head, “This has nothing to do with ambition, but the reason isn’t important. Some of these soldiers will support me no matter what decision I take; when push comes to shove, we’ll still hurt you greatly. Of course, I don’t want them to just die either, so I have a suggestion.
“Fight me, one on one. If I win, this plane is mine for thirty years. If I lose, my troops will surrender and I hope you won’t make things difficult for them. They’re all innocent in this.”
“And why should I? My knights will crush your soldiers. You forget that I’m the family head first, and a commander second. My own fighting prowess is a distant third.”
“But you won’t refuse,” Ward said with a smile.
“Sigh…” Richard thought it over for some time and nodded his head, “You’re right.”
Ward laughed out loud, his iron gloves screeching as he rubbed his hands and shouted at his soldiers, “This is Lord Gaton’s son, the current head of the family, Richard Archeron! I will be duelling him; if I lose, put down your weapons and surrender! If I win, those who wish to follow me can stay and those who do not can follow Richard back. Do you understand?”
The soldiers and generals looked at each other in shock, not knowing what to do. However, Ward didn’t bother with them further and turned back to Richard, entering a stance, “Let’s begin.”
“WARD!” Asiris finally lost his calm, “WHAT ARE YOU DOING? YOU WILL BECOME OUR ENEMY!”
The ‘our’ had a rather special meaning here; it referred to Senma and Cyrden, the only remaining knights of the thirteen.
“I know what I’m doing,” the Boxer said as he performed a secret hand sign, one used amongst the thirteen in battle to ask for absolute trust. Asiris didn’t know what to say to this, his heart filled with unease. He and Cyrden had only grazed Richard’s bottom line, but this was straight out betrayal.
Traitors were the worst of scum in Norlandic tradition. Even if Ward had secret supporters of his power, his reputation would be destroyed and nobody would ever deal with him in the future. No matter how unruly he was, one of Gaton’s thirteen could not betray the man’s heir in this way.
On the battlefield, Richard frowned slightly as Ward’s aura billowed out, making him feel like he was facing an ancient beast. This certainly wasn’t the strongest opponent he had ever met, but the sheer pressure could even compare to the power of Voidbones. Now that he was experienced, Richard instantly realised that this was someone with explosive force who was extremely dangerous; he would exhaust himself quickly, but in that short period he would display terrifying might.
Ward retreated a little, only stopping when there were a good thirty metres between them. He knew that Richard was a mage, and this distance was an act of fairness. However, Richard only felt the pressure mount; it was as though every fibre of his being was screaming that a beast would be rushing him in the next instant.
Drawing Moonlight from the sword case, Richard then tossed it to the side to reduce the weight. Holding the blade with both hands, he fixed his eyes on Ward and resisted the compulsion to attack first.
“Not bad,” Ward looked impressed, “Remember to go all out, kid. You’ll regret holding back.”
Richard himself was trembling uncontrollably, his knuckles white from the pressure he exerted on the sword. He didn’t need the reminder to know that he had to fight with full force; even the slightest of reservations would leave him dead.
There was no need for an official start to the battle. Ward made his move, stomping the earth so hard that it cracked beneath his feet. His enormous frame moved at an unbelievable pace, barrelling right towards Richard.
However, Richard actually let go of Moonlight for a moment and started forming a few shapes with his hands, an immense mana flow buffeting the place as he started chanting a spell. Everyone felt strange as his figure seemed to blur.
Time Stop. Richard used the brief period of accelerated time to cast eight spells, of which only six were instant. Four were to strengthen his speed, reflexes, agility, and fire magic, while the others were targeted at Ward to slow and weaken him. Using the final moments, he even activated Blaze.
However, as a number of spells shot towards Ward’s body and slowed him down, he just roared like a beast and dispelled all of them with a crimson radiance. Bloodline surging, the Boxer’s speed soared even further and he closed in just as Richard retrieved his sword.
In that moment, Richard lost his greatest advantage: speed. Before the bloodline ability wore off, Ward’s attacks would be impossible to dodge!Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Translated By: YJ
Edited By: Theo
TLC'ed By: OMA