Book 7, Chapter 52

Promise

The ability to observe the process of a newborn magic soul fusing with its rune would be Richard’s gate to entering the saint realm as a runemaster; with this opportunity gone, he didn’t know just how long he would have to fumble around in the dark until he could find another.

A sibling’s betrayal was nothing new to him; in fact, Warren had almost gotten him killed years ago when he was new to Faust. However, thinking of Venica and feeling the blood dripping down his fingers, he couldn’t help but think of one person: the source of their shared bloodline. A tombstone hadn’t yet been erected in the family cemetery, and without Mordred confirming it he still held on to a thread of hope that the man could return. If such a day arose, would he be happy seeing his children destroying each other?

Richard stood in place for exactly ten minutes before wiping the bloodstains with a handkerchief, leaving the storage area and heading towards his study. He’d felt Nyris’s aura entering the island, and knew that the Fourth Prince would be waiting for him in his study.

By the time he walked all the way up, he had regained his usual composure. Choosing to put aside the incident with the magic soul for now, he looked towards Nyris who was staring at the Rainbow of the Moons in a daze.

Nyris turned and laughed helplessly once he heard the door being opened, looking morose. Dressed in a simple shirt, he radiated a rather beautiful sadness.

“What’s wrong?” Richard probed as he walked up, only getting close because of how worried the prince seemed. It took constant reminders to oneself to remember not to be captivated by Nyris’s looks.

“If… If there came a day when I needed you, would you protect me?”

“Would I ever not? What happened? Does Ag know?”

Nyris looked at the ground in a daze, only answering after some time, “No, and he can’t help me either. I was hoping you would.”

“Of course I will! Now tell me!” Richard frowned.

The Fourth Prince forced a smile, “Now now. I can still handle it myself, I’ll let you know when the time comes. Richard… please don’t forget your promise.”

Richard placed a hand on his chest, “Never.”

Nyris suddenly lifted his head, staring straight into Richard’s eyes. There was an outburst of joy within that almost scared Richard into running away as he exclaimed, “Give me a hug!”

It wasn’t too much to ask a brother who stood alongside you in facing death for an embrace, but when Nyris made the suggestion Richard hesitated to even lift his arms. However, he didn’t even complete the motion before the prince dove into his chest, hugging him as tightly as he could.

Richard’s body froze up, his arms still in the air without any idea where to go. However, he felt Nyris trembling even as he felt tears run dampening his shirt, realising that the prince was suppressing his sobs.

At that moment, he felt something strange. Nyris was a dignified saint who had the most powerful bloodline in the royal family, but he couldn’t even manage to suppress his tears. Just what kind of pain could drive him so low? The frozen hands eventually returned the embrace as Richard petted him on the back, “It’s okay, nothing in this world is unsolvable. You have me… Tell me what happened. I’ll help you leave Faust if you want, the worst that could happen is just losing a dumb island.”

Nyris trembled and lifted his head, “Really?”

“Really,” Richard said gently.

The prince broke free from the embrace, regaining control over his emotion and wiping the tears off his face with a smile, “It isn’t so serious now, I think I can handle it. Alright, I have to return. Don’t forget your promise!”

Richard pointed to his chest once more, and Nyris nodded before rushing away.

Once the prince was gone, Richard opened up a map of Norland and started reading through it silently with furrowed brows. The situation in the mainland was still unpredictable, but he had now realised the greatest shortcomings of the family— networks and espionage. From Philip’s injury to Apeiron to Nyris’s odd behaviour, he was ignorant of everything. Even though some of the other families of Faust would pass information on to him, that was not trustworthy. He needed his own spies everywhere.

The best short-term solution was to look for Noelene. The grand priestess could probably bring many good intelligence officers under his command, and the Church could help establish a network. With Apeiron’s return, he now had to pay great attention to the family’s lack of powerhouses.

However, there was still another issue to resolve before that— Venica and Lucian. The young lady and her lover were still sitting in the lobby, so anxious and frightened by him having found out that they didn’t even dare to speak to each other in private. Eye contact was their only means of communication, and even running away was something they wouldn’t dare imagine.

Venica was by far the more shocked of the two, the bard consoling her as best he could. However, even he couldn’t stop a shiver as Richard entered the hall, the air seemingly sucked out of the world with his mere presence.

Looking at the couple squeezed together on a small sofa, trying to sit as far away from him as possible, Richard noted, “Lucian Billius, son of a viscount and level 12 swordsman at age 22. Side-occupations, socialite and bard.”

Shock flashed across Lucian’s eyes, but he stood up and bowed deeply, “Lord Richard, I acquired the magic soul by accident. I didn’t understand just what it was back then, but I beg for your understanding. I swear to put my improved talent at the mercy of the Archeron Family, doing whatever you need me to. I only hope you can forgive me, and give me a chance to do right.”

Richard ignored him and turned to Venica, “You fucked him? I’m going to have someone check if you say no.”

The young lady immediately paled, but she bit her lower lip and whimpered, “Yes… But it was only a few times!”

“So you broke the family laws. You know the consequences…” he turned to Lucian, “And you might or might not understand how precious a magic soul is, but that doesn’t matter. I have more talents in this family than I can count, my challenge has been giving them the resources they need. What I need right now is punishment for a slight; your family will pay the price.”

Venica rushed up to Richard and fell to her knees again, “Brother, please! Don’t do this, killing him won’t bring the magic soul back! Why not just let him serve the family?!”

“The rules are rules; they cannot be broken no matter who it is. Upholding justice is far more important than whatever tiny profit this fellow will bring me; what happens when there are stronger people with better reasons tomorrow who go against my words? Do you think I can punish others when I show that I’m a blatant hypocrite, especially when they’re more powerful and wealthy than you? Talent is no reason to break the law, nor is wealth or influence.”

Lucian wanted to say something, but he kept it in. The Sacred Alliance had the most corrupt justice system of all the human empires; with the royal family not having full control, wealth and power could greatly affect courts. The stronger or more wealthy one was, the more likely it was to be able to threaten or bribe one’s way to a lighter sentence or acquittal. However, it was clear that Richard wouldn’t care about either, and his so-called talent wouldn’t matter as well.

All colour drained from Venica’s face as her forehead hit the ground, “Brother, please! Do it for our dead father!”

Richard’s hands trembled for a moment as he went silent, but he didn’t take long to retort, “Gaton Archeron is not dead until his body has been buried within the family cemetery; don’t you ever say such a thing again. You’ve broken my trust, Venica; stand up for him, and your next punishment will be worse. You’ll be stripped of all nobility and fiefs or completely exiled from the family; do you want your mother to pay this price?”

While this threat left her shivering in fear, something in Venica told her that not making a stand now would lead to Lucian’s immediate death. Richard had many strong followers, he didn’t need to care about a warrior older than him who was still weaker than a single shadowspear knight. As for him being a bard, this wasn’t like the elven Olar; the only use of Lucian’s poetry was to entertain whimsical girls.

Waiting for his half-sister’s decision, Richard studied Lucian. The youth looked bright and outstanding, his appearance alone able to bring many young ladies to a blush. His family was also fairly powerful and he was considered above average in terms of talent; it was also obvious that he spent much more time adjusting his clothing than actually practising anything. This was someone who relied on looks and flattery to complement his wealth in seducing women.

“I’m willing!” Venica eventually said firmly, “Please let him go!”

Richard nodded uncaringly, “Then this is your last mistake, the next will destroy your life.”

“No, I can’t let you do this!” Lucian suddenly pulled her into an embrace, but when no one could see a hand balled into a fist in celebration.

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OMA's Thoughts

Translated By: HH

Edited By: Theo

TLC'ed By: OMA