Book 1, Chapter 98

The Road At Night

It was said that the deepest trenches of the abyss and hell were linked, with countless demons and devils in the midst of an endless battle killing each other ceaselessly. This information had been procured from other races that humans had met while travelling the countless planes. Even that was but the tip of the iceberg, gathered from traces in songs of myth and legend.

The quintessential part of a demon was its heart, while the power of a devil came from its skull. Even a fragment of a devil’s skull was extremely expensive in Norland, forget the complete one of a greater devil. Gaton spoke of it casually, but this devil’s skull must have been one of the Archerons’ greatest treasures. Only before that fresh lesser demon lord heart did the devil’s skull lose some of its lustre.

At this moment, a handsome youth appeared in the common room, invisible to Richard until he showed his presence. It was the Odd Thief, Cyrden.

Cyrden smiled enchantingly, yet his voice sounded solemn, “Master, high priestess Ferlyn has already made preparations, and the ceremony can begin at any time. As for the other nobles, they have already discovered traces of our plans, and begun to amass experts along the road leading to the Church of the Eternal Dragon. I sense at least seventeen powerful experts, should I dispatch some of them first?”

Gaton was already in full armour by now. He tidied himself up, saying, “There’s no need for that. I know we’re outnumbered right now, but we can’t wait for the rest to return. Let’s set off now, where’s my sword?”

Mordred placed an ancient sword in front of Gaton. It didn’t look particularly remarkable, its copper scabbard already rusted. Apart from a few undecipherable runes on the blade, it looked just like any other.

Gaton hung the sword at his waist before saying, “Let’s go. we’ll see if those old fogeys of the sixth level dare to strike! Richard, take the two boxes along with you. Remember to cast a floating spell on each of them or you won’t be able to move them.”

Moments later, a party of knights appeared at the teleportation temple, the road before them leading to the church. They trudged upwards on the winding path, the tall and magnificent trees littering the path gleaming with the brilliance of the Rainbow of the Moons as they cast large shadows on the ground.

The church was only a few kilometres from the teleportation temple. From leaving the sight of the temple’s guards, there were only two bends and a kilometre’s straight walk before they reached the church. However, that night this small distance seemed neverending.

The party was formed of six of the thirteen knights, with Gaton leading at the front. The horse he rode was clad in black armour, its footsteps occasionally sending out a burst of flames. This was Darkmoon Ember, a trademark of Gaton’s that was the nightmare of many nobles of the Alliance. Richard himself was guarded by the twins Kaylen and Kayde, with Senma right behind him. Mordred brought up the rear, guarding their backs. Lava was different from Gaton’s horse, its hooves stomping the floor restlessly, as if impatient at the unhurried pace of the party.

Richard was sat on an armoured horse, and the two boxes, one large and one small, were hung behind him without any concealment or disguise. His heart was beating irregularly, as he felt multiple icy spiritual forces scanning his body as well as the two boxes. Many pairs of hawk eyes were looking over at their party from deep in the forest, with quite a few bearing news to the outside world.

Up above in the distance, the Church of the Eternal Dragon was shrouded in a glow of golden light, as if a palace of the gods. It stood tall in the sky, vanquishing the rainbow light of the moons to leave behind only a faint silhouette of an hourglass, with many layers of mysterious and obscure runes encircling it. This miraculous sight was a sign of the Church of the Eternal Dragon preparing to host the highest form of sacrificial ceremony.

There were three grades of ceremonious sacrifice to the Eternal Dragon, with the highest requiring the participation of many priests and clerics. It would give the offerer tremendous amounts of blessings, and rumour had it that one could get a chance to talk directly to the Eternal Dragon itself. However, not even the imperial family had managed to do that.

Or perhaps someone had done so once, keeping it a secret afterwards.

The grade of the sacrificial ceremony was dependent on the sacrificer and the offerings. However, a higher grade of ceremony did not necessarily mean better rewards. If one tried a greater ceremony without the offerings to match, they would not receive the blessings of the god. This had already happened once before in Faust, so looking at this odd party and the phenomenon on top of the mountain even an idiot would realise they had goods which could carry them through the highest grade of ceremony.

The value of these goods could drive a third of the fourteen nobles of Faust crazy, especially those who were ranked towards the back. Even including the imperial family and the top five noble houses, there wasn’t a guarantee of such a ceremony being held every year in Faust despite the number of ceremonies performed in general. The Archerons had already demonstrated their prowess by taking over the third island of the seventh layer, but barely over a year in that position the general evaluation of them was still low. This upstart family had yet to stand firm on its two feet, but already wanted to perform the highest grade of sacrificial ceremony! Even if there weren’t any direct conflicts of interest, this had brought upon the Archerons the unrest and annoyance of the aristocrats. Furthermore, a sacrificial ceremony of the highest grade could very well affect the current balance of power in Faust.

Hence, this one kilometre stretch felt neverending, and the current situation was as tense as a pulled bowstring. It could be further tightened, or released immediately in the next moment.

Richard’s palms were soaked with cold sweat, the killing intent around him suffocating. It was only now that he could truly feel the pressure brought by power. It was a natural suppression due to a difference in strength, making him feel as powerless as the first humans to discover the endless planes. This had nothing to do with courage at all.

‘Calm down, and stay even more calm…’ Richard reiterated these words in his heart, maintaining his posture while riding the horse. He did not dare cast any magic. In such a precarious balance, any unnecessary actions could tip the scales of the current situation.

With a crashing noise, the sounding of snapping twigs suddenly sounded in the nearby trees. Immediately after, Richard felt a black-garbed figure slowly advancing towards his party. His body tensed immediately. Each time his senses alerted him of the approaching figure, the pressure that was threatening him grew. How could such a skilled expert tread across tree branches but not conceal himself in such a dark night? This was a probe, and a provocation. If not handled properly, their party would very well be facing an all-around attack.

Gaton seemed not to have discovered anything, his expression relaxed. He had even begun humming a rhyme of a distant, unknown plane. The notes were light and merry, even mixed in with some high and low pitches. Ember trotted along happily as well, its hooves matching the upbeat rhythm of Gaton’s humming. That somehow began to unravel the tension Richard was feeling.

The dark figure gradually got closer, and it seemed to be stuck close to the ground. It was like a creeping leopard, able to launch a fatal attack at any moment. He had already left the camouflage of the forestry, and now had a large shadow projected on the ground. Under the eyes of everyone present, this figure pressed on closer. Six metres, five, four… When Gaton was about to pass it by, they were just one metre apart.

At such a distance, the black figure need not advance any longer. With just an outstretched hand it could attack Gaton at any moment, and a number of fatal points on Gaton’s body were exposed. Darkmoon Ember’s flank, its limbs, Gaton’s thighs and ankle, even his waist was blatantly exposed! Richard, who was several metres behind, could clearly see that the black figure shuddered ever so slightly, and the body swelled with power, ready to launch a killing blow.

However, Gaton passed him by, and his attacks were never unleashed.

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OMA's Thoughts

Translated/TLC'ed By: OMA

Edited By: Theo