Something Must Be Done!

The news that Richard had been ambushed quickly spread across Bluewater. Many influential groups sent representatives over to survey the situation, but Richard locked himself in his room and claimed he needed time alone to heal. Every new arrival saw his followers were in perfect condition, so they left in satisfaction.

Just as it approached dawn, Richard pushed his room’s door open and walked out, tilting his head up to face the sky. The morning sun was slowly rising up. He squinted his eyes; this was the first time in the past few days he had even been out in the sunlight.

Another sunny figure entered his vision, that of Io. The battle priest always made sure to appear in certain places at certain times. Anywhere Richard could see or wherever Flowsand was, best if both were combined.

Richard smiled and quickly made his way down. Olar spotted him from afar, growing both surprised and happy as he asked, “Master! You recovered from your injuries?”

“It’s only been one night, how could I heal so quickly? It still hurts a little,” Richard said with a smile.

The elven bard inspected his master closely, but he could not understand how the youth who was in a daze just the day before had grown so cheery in a single night. Had he patched things up with Flowsand? Of course, Olar wouldn’t dare to voice that thought.

Richard was unkempt; he hadn’t shaved in a while, leaving a dense clump of facial hair on his upper lip. His scraggly hair clearly showed his lack of sleep.

“The nobles you invited are already here, and they wish to see you now. Many from Bluewater also expressed their concern once they heard you were attacked. Sir Rolf, Mr. Devon—”

“Alright, alright! You don’t have to tell me about everyone!” Richard stopped Olar, “Invite the representatives to the Golden Warflag inn, I’ll share lunch with them. We can discuss the Bloodstained Highway afterwards.”

He had returned to his straightforward self, once more a leader who had an answer to everything. This was something that left Olar both alarmed and happy.

“Oh yes, Master!” the bard suddenly remembered something, “Viscount Zim has come to Bluewater personally.”

Richard’s eyes were narrowed into a death stare at the sunny battle priest in his line of sight. “Oh, Viscount Zim is here as well…” he answered inattentively, but suddenly realised something was amiss, “ZIM?! He’s here too? How many troops did he bring, and how far is he?”

With a potential battle coming up, he immediately grew serious.

“Only a hundred guards,” Olar answered with a strange expression, “He already found himself lodging in the city.”

Richard’s face warped in confusion at this news, “What is he trying? Does he want to give us more ransom? How many saints did he bring?”

“Only one…” Olar thought about it for a while before giving his own assessment, “I feel like the saint is only here as a bodyguard. After all, he did have to travel through the Bloodstained Lands to get here. If he was trying to make things difficult for us, he would undoubtedly be courting death with just one saint. Even though he isn’t all that bright, his parents wouldn’t let him do something so stupid. They already know Odom fell at our hands, how would they expect one saint to do anything?”

Richard nodded, “Makes sense. Find some time to arrange a meeting with him; since he dares step into our territory, we need to treat him with some value… Wait!”

His eyes suddenly lit up, staring at Io who was not far away. The battle priest had just greeted Flowsand, whispering something into her ears. Even though they were a hundred metres away, Richard’s blessing of truth immediately told him exactly how far apart they were.

Ten centimetres. The two were separated by exactly ten centimetres.

This still didn’t cross the minimum threshold. However, Richard had seen Io hit this limit many times; what could it signify? His calm heart was set aboil once more!

However, this time, his train of thought was different. The entirety of the previous night, he only had one line of questioning in his mind. If his mother were in this position, what would she have done? What would his master have done? What would that man have done?

Elena’s pride would make her walk away, never to return. The legendary mage would just take Flowsand and Io and feed them both to a dragon. Only that man’s method seemed suitable.

*Smack!* Richard suddenly hit the elven bard, pointing at Io who wasn’t too far away, “Did you see that creep? Damn him!”

“I saw it! Would you like for me to break his legs, Master?” the elven bard said with an overcast face.

Richard shook his head, “No, he did it on purpose! If he wants me to play it like this, I’ll grant his wish. Go call everyone here… Call that Zim too! Tell him he’ll miss a good show if he isn’t here in five minutes.”

Flowsand had noticed Richard and Olar in the distance, and she saw the bard suddenly rush off somewhere. It left her feeling like something had happened, but she was caught in discussion with Io about the issues with Richard’s army.

She hadn’t shared the broodmother’s existence with him, so she listened to him solemnly while trying to explain as best as she could. She told him about the specialties of each kind of drone, and how best to supplement their fighting style. Io was a battle priest after all, he was better in war than she was. As a priestess herself, she was mostly an expert when it came to sacrifices.

All of Richard’s followers quickly gathered together, alongside the clerics and Viscount Zim. The Viscount had even come alone, displaying a rare amount of courage.

Richard took big strides towards Io and Flowsand, leaving everyone watching with bated breath for something to happen. They felt like this morning would be a good show.

Io felt something was strange as well, stopping his conversation with Flowsand to turn and face Richard with a confident smile. In actual fact, all of his concentration had been on Richard from the start.

“Hey! Level 13 battle priest!” Richard yelled from a distance away. His voice was loud enough for everyone present to hear.

Io’s eyes flashed with a look of astonishment, but his radiant smile did not fade. “Level 12 mage!” he replied formally, “Good morning!”

Hearing such a bizarre reply, Flowsand’s expression changed. She finally realised that she had missed something: the misunderstanding hadn’t been with the followers, but with Richard himself.

Richard stroked his prickly stubble, starting to like the sensation more and more, “All of the noble delegates are here. We’ll be starting the discussion on the Bloodstained Highway soon. This will be a real war; I hope you’ll obey all my commands on the battlefield, not acting freely. I look forward to the display of a level 13 battle priest.”

Io smiled in reply, “What if I feel like my own judgement is better?”

Richard flashed a similarly radiant smile, not pretending to be courteous in the slightest, “That would be a foolish idea. Follow my orders.”

Io finally displayed his true colours, “Do you really think you’re a better commander than me?”

Richard stared into Io’s eyes, “In a battle of thousands, I don’t even need my own battle capabilities. I can destroy you any time I want.”

Io laughed, “As a level 12 mage?” He carefully enunciated the number, the double meaning only caught by a few. When Io had first appeared, he was just like Richard at level 12. However, he had quickly risen to level 13 while Richard remained at level 12 with no chance of advancing within the month,

As she heard this, Flowsand suddenly regretted giving Io a high power growth.

“A mage?” Richard laughed heartily, turning back to face his followers and Zim. “You want to know what my confidence is based on?” he asked loudly, “It’s based solely on the fact that I can bring victory after victory! I may not be a great general right now, but I am an excellent tactician!”

Richard waved his fist vigorously, “We have been through so many battles. Faced with similar numbers and opponents of similar levels, have we ever lost?!”

All of his followers started cheering loudly, as though they had been through many barrels of hard liquor. They had more energy than a riled up mob! Even Phaser started mumbling strange, incomprehensible words. It didn’t matter that nobody understood her; the words were fierce enough.

Richard turned around like a whirlwind and pointed his finger at Io’s nose, “For what other reason? For the reason that I’m a runemaster, and a royal runemaster to boot. A runemaster who launched two sets at his first convention! Level 12 mage? What’s that?!”

Io’s expression started to sour, his smile now slightly unnatural. Still, he tried hard, to keep it on his face.

However, Richard wasn’t done. His finger remained pointed at the battle priest, “I don’t know who you are or what your position is in the Church. You’re in Faelor, which means you are my subordinate. I’m giving you two choices; follow my instructions, or get the hell out! We don’t need an aloof and arrogant master amongst us!”

“Richard…” Flowsand couldn’t help but call out, but he only turned his finger towards her, “You better keep your mouth shut! This doesn’t concern you!”

Flowsand was stunned. She had never imagined that Richard could speak to her this way. She also didn’t understand why she subconsciously retreated and shut her mouth.

Io smiled, “Are those all the reasons you have?”

“No!” Richard responded, “I only have one real reason. I hate you! Don’t think I don’t understand your true intentions, and what your actions are leading to. You’re not the only intelligent person in this world!”

“And?” Io asked, taking off his priest robes.

“And I really want to break your nose with one punch!” Richard threw his staff and blades to the ground one by one.

“How uncouth!”

Richard flashed a broad grin, “We Archerons have never been hypocrites! Let’s get straight to the point; I have a problem with you, and today is the day I beat you up! What are you going to do about it?”

Io looked at Richard’s stance, unable to control his laughter, “You want to engage in unarmed combat with a battle priest from the Church of the Eternal Dragon?”

“Richard, have you lost your mind?!” Flowsand said with an anxious look on her face. She was well aware that heavenly guardians were unlike ordinary clerics. They didn’t need to train to be skilled at combat.

Richard placed his forefinger on his lips, “This isn’t your place to talk!” Flowsand lost her voice once more.

“Damn it!” Waterflower said fiercely from the side. The young lady’s cry was quite ambiguous. Gangdor looked over in astonishment, but immediately averted his gaze once he saw her glaring at him.

“Fighting isn’t just about technique.” Richard stared at Io as he stretched out his left hand, gesturing to the battle priest with his index.

Io laughed, “You want to see who has the hardest fists? Alright then, here I come!” For the first time ever, his smile had grown stiff.

The battle priest took big strides towards Richard, moving like a meteor. The mage and priest finally tangled with each other in a flash, quickly displaying great skills that stunned the audience.

These fellows were spellcasters? Many who were watching had the same thought. Even Richard’s followers who were supposed to know him well were flabbergasted.

*Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang!* The sound of fist hitting flesh rang out constantly, leaving in a sour taste in the mouths of everyone present. The mage and priest seemed to interweave, every strike spilling fresh blood. This wasn’t just a test of skill; it was a battle of willpower, determination, and endurance.

It only took a scant few minutes before both combatants saw red, scarlet blood spurting everywhere. Their surroundings were filled with blood, every drop a ghastly sight. Both of them were just bleeding far too much!

It was only then that Flowsand suddenly remembered that Richard was still wounded. Her face paled as she stepped forward, taking the Book of Time from her waist and turning to Richard’s followers, “Take action! Put Io to the ground! I give you full authority to kill him if he resists!”

However, she was ignored. It made her feel like she had gone insane. What was up with Richard’s followers? However, given the pace of the current battle even she didn’t dare to rush in. Richard wasn’t just displaying his combat skills; he was using moonforce!

The two men were starting to fight as though it was to the death.

*BAM!* A resounding thud suddenly rang out in the battlefield. Richard’s head had moved forward at full speed, his forehead smashing into Io’s. This was a move that purely tested whose skull was harder. Half the audience involuntarily shut their eyes.

Richard swayed around and took several steps back, his vision blurring. However, his rage was still immense; every breath of his was like a volcanic eruption. He spat out blood mixed with saliva, walking towards Io. His forehead had been busted open, blood flowing freely, but he tried his best to keep his swollen eyelids open and look past the curtain of blood. The opposing figure in the blood-red world still stood tall.

“You have such a thick skull, you bastard!” Richard cursed angrily, rousing his strength and saying bitterly, “Come on!”

However, he couldn’t see Io when he raised his fists once more. The battle priest’s face was filled with blood as he was strewn across the floor, completely unconscious.

After an initial bout of confusion, Richard realised that he had won.

All of his pent-up frustration from the past few days had disappeared in a flash. He took off his shirt and threw it to the ground, showing off his well-defined upper body. He curled his arms to display his bulging muscles, letting out a bestial roar.

However, more eye-grabbing than the popping muscles that were rare for a mage were the large scars on his back and abdomen. All of Richard’s wounds had been torn open, a faint yellow pus mixed with blood seeping out from the gashes. One could even see the fibres of his muscles moving around underneath the skin! The black smoke from the prior day’s fight had faded a little, but it could still be seen loitering around the injuries.

However, Richard didn’t seem to be in any pain at all. He waved his fists vigorously, roaring again and again.

Gangdor immediately ripped his own shirt off, revealing his hulking figure as he roared with laughter, “Boss, look! This is what real muscles look like!”

The most eye-grabbing display was Gangdor’s pecs, looking like chunks of carved meat that could feed even the ravenous Tiramisu. He beat his fists on his abdomen and started singing a tribal song, the chest muscles moving up and down to the rhythm. The boastful display immediately silenced everyone.

Richard’s face was filled with bruises, his eyelids swollen to leave only a slit for him to see through. He saw Gangdor’s performance through the tiny hole, viciously flipping a middle finger at the brute, “You son of a bitch, you’re stealing my thunder! Do you wanna die?!”

Gangdor laughed heartily, jiggling his pecs even more.

A sacred light softly landed on Richard’s body, slowing down the bleeding of his wounds. The smaller injuries even started patching themselves up, and Richard turned around to see Flowsand quietly flipping through the Book of Time while reciting a gentle incantation for her next spell. Her voice was very soft, almost as though she didn’t want him to hear her.

Richard took big steps towards her, scaring her to the point of trembling. She almost stopped the spell she had nearly completed, acting as though she didn’t see anything and shoving her head completely into the book. However, if one slowed down time, they would be able to see her body shaking harder with every step he took.

Richard took the final two steps to reach her side, spreading his arms and forcefully pulling her into his embrace. He leaned over, kissing her roughly. It was almost like he was eating her up! Flowsand was left with no choice but to interrupt her spell, tasting blood and sweat from Richard’s lips. The kiss was very invasive; by the time Richard pulled back, her face was full of bloodstains.

“You are mine!” Richard said.

Hearing his overbearing proclamation, Flowsand suddenly gritted her teeth and forcefully struggled out of his embrace. A strong groan showed her disdain, but her hand still tugged quietly at the Waterdrop Necklace to send a healing spell in Richard’s direction, even though it was no longer as useful. She was only appeased once the spell was cast, finally realising Io was still lying unconscious on the ground.

She sighed and opened the Book of Time. Io wasn’t severely injured, curing him would be easy. However, Richard reached out and pressed the book down. “Marvin, Kars!” he called out with a raise of his head, “Come here! Carry him away and heal him, slowly.”

The two fallen clerics answered immediately, lifting the battle priest and making their way towards the stairs. They weren’t particularly proficient at healing spells, but they still had the skill to heal Io in his current condition.

“Master, are we really going to cure that fellow?” Olar whispered to him, “We should just drag him to the forest and cut him apart! Just like what happened to Erwin!”

Flowsand had heard everything from a side. She raised her eyebrows, about to explode, but Richard grabbed the back of her neck and forced her head away from the elven bard. He waved Olar away, “It’s fine! I won today, I don’t hate that fellow as much anymore.”

The elven bard seemed like he had more to say, but Richard stopped him with another wave of the hand, “I need to get some rest, don’t follow me.”

He turned around and limped towards his room. The pain had taken over his entire body, so intense that he grimaced with every step. Flowsand saw this and moved forward to support him without a word. He let out a long laugh in return, instinctively leaning against her.

Before he left, Richard suddenly saw Viscount Zim and sent a smile his way, showing off his bloodstained teeth. Zim recoiled in horror, almost falling onto his behind.

It was only after the two had vanished upstairs that the atmosphere down below suddenly changed.

“What do you guys think, will Master be able to rest?” Olar asked.

Gangdor stroked his chin, looking like someone who had experienced such a thing before, “Rest? I believe he still needs to work!”

“Yes!” the bard nodded in agreement, “He will be very busy!”

He felt a sharp wind buffeting his bottom the moment he finished the sentence. Having experienced Waterflower’s wrath before, he cried out before jumping up instinctively. However, he could never have imagined that the Shepherd of Eternal Rest would be placed just above his head. His skull crashed into the blade’s scabbard, prompting a stuffy groan before the bard swayed and fell down.

Waterflower snorted, her eyes staring daggers at everyone in the room. “He bumped into it on his own, didn’t you all see?”

Zim was the first to nod his head profusely.

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