24. Dark Veil (1)
Things quickly came to order.
Talk about lightning speed.
It was how a nationally urgent situation this was.
“The atrocious crimes of Herbert Leon, the tower lord, have been uncovered to the world. Not only did he sacrifice the sorcerers, he even took the powerless peasants’ lives as the energy source for black magic. I am considering no mercy towards him as I shake in the weight of his cruelties.”
Filled with anger, the emperor’s voice thundered throughout the great palace.
“Henceforth, all of Herbert Leon’s duties and titles shall be stripped and he will be put to death, and the manner of death shall be a public execution.”
So, Herbert, the tower lord, was imprisoned after being sentenced to a public execution. Due to his mental instability from the ‘side effects of the black magic’, he had even failed to form any counter-argument. It was as how Ian had planned.
“Also, I shall personally head all the investigations pertaining to whether or not there exist additional culprits or other black magicians besides the tower lord. There shall not be any breaks for any rank in this investigation process.”
‘No breaks for any rank’.
It certainly contained many implicit meanings.
Those who were in close relations with the tower lord, certain aristocrats, servants and magicians, and even Ragnard, the 5th prince. It was an expression to group all of them into one.
“Those, who were captured and unknowingly participated in the tower lord’s scheme, shall be allowed to return to their normal lives after recovery. Through this event, if you have lost your work and livelihood, the empire shall provide appropriate levels of compensations, and to the families of those who have already perished, the victims’ bodies shall be returned with sufficient support to carry out respectful funeral services.”
Of course, the responsibility of treating black magic fell on Ian. That was because Ian was the only one human being, who could wield the ‘great cancellation’ magic.
“However, the rightful punishment for the high sorcerer, priestess Helene, who had sought the crowned prince’s life, shall be determined in a different way than those of other victims’ perpetrators. Although it wasn’t out of her own volition, the gravity of the nature of her crime, in the assassination plot against the crowned prince, cannot be overlooked. As such, I sentence the high sorcerer, priestess Helene, to indefinite confinement.”
The emperor handed down a logical decision. Hasn’t the tower lord’s death sentencing been already decided on? If the high ranking sorcerers were to be executed under the current environment, it will bring about great loss to the national power. The neighboring kingdoms will certainly keep their eyes on it.
“Of course, the possibilities for the recent dispositions to become, either lax or worsen, always exist. I instruct you to convey that message to the offenders.”
Sorcerer is the most useful weapon or tool. There is no doubt in that when one is a 4th class level sorcerer. Simply by keeping her alive brings security and benefits in many ways. The emperor’s decision was the right one.
“Finally, appropriate rewards for the two heroes in this incidence cannot be skipped.”
There was a touch of pleasure in the emperor’s continence as he discussed the rewards. The two ‘heroes’ were not only loyal, but were handpicked by the emperor, himself.
“Ian Page, who has utterly prevented the former tower lord, Herbert Leon’s scheme, and Oliver Raywood, who has valiantly stopped the high sorcerer, priestess Helene’s assassination attempt of the crowned prince, do come forward.”
Upon hearing the emperor’s words, Oliver Raywood, the captain of the 2nd royal knights, stepped on to the red carpet in a formal attire of an armor suit, a helmet and even donning a cape. However, Ian was nowhere to be seen.
Although the loyal colleagues of great and small statures were uneasy at Ian being missing, the emperor simply told Oliver to approach. Rather, as a matter of fact, he recited out loud as if to calm the crowd.
“Ian Page is currently investigating the matters concerning black magic. His rewards will be decided at a separate time when all the situations come to a close. For now, let us focus our attention to Capt. Oliver, who had protected the crowned prince from none other than a 4th class mage.”
Finally, everyone’s attention was given to Oliver.
Of course, there wasn’t even a slight show of nervousness in Oliver.
“This is certainly a time of blessing and celebration for this empire. Not only is the crowned prince safe, but a knight, who has overcome the humanly limitations, was born to our empire today, isn’t it? He shall be a great exemplary knight, not only in our empire, but to all the knights and all the great many swordsmen throughout this world.”
The loyal colleagues nodded in agreement. They were just curious about Ian, who was missing, but they certainly had high levels of interests in Oliver. A knight has defeated a mage, a high 4th class mage, at that.
“I shall never let Oliver Raywood’s valiance and accomplishments pass by unrecognized. I have delivered much consideration on how best to reward him. There was only one way. A knight must be a knight.”
Emperor Terry paused for a moment.
Then he continued slowly.
“From henceforth, I am pleased to declare Oliver Raywood, the captain of the 2nd royal knights, to the title of ‘Master Swordsman’, who could oversee all the knights in my kingdom and to be forever remembered as the most revered knight of all.”
The loyal colleagues were stirred at that statement. Only those high ranking officials, who were privy to this consideration, remained silent. It was certainly an honorary title that existed in the empire’s history. However, to find someone, who had been actually named to this title, would require tracing the empire’s history back for many hundreds of years.
“I also understand it. What it means to be named the master swordsman. But, is it not sufficient? What was the reason behind for no longer having a master swordsman in the first place? It’s because of sorcery that the honor of the sword has fallen to the ground.”
The emperor spoke softly as if he was already anticipating the reactions from the multitudes of the loyal colleagues and high ranking officials. As a knight, it may be uncomfortable to hear, but nonetheless, it was a reality.
“However, Oliver Raywood came out through that great shadow. He has stayed loyal to the crowned prince for a long time, and will continue to do so going forward. Besides, he had overpowered a 4th class sorcerer. Such level of capability and loyalty could certainly be considered as being near perfect, however, if any opposing views exist, do speak.”
The emperor’s words were appropriate. Oliver certainly had overwhelming credentials. This is the age of magic. It was no longer possible for knights to be planning a revolt as it had been possible very long time ago. As the title would indicate, it was only an honorary position.
“It appears that there is none.”
The emperor nodded in response to the loyal colleagues’ reactions. He didn’t show it, but the emperor was exhilarated. There will be two great pillars, Ian, who will soon target the Ivory Tower lord, and Oliver, who will be named the master swordsman, to protect the crowned prince.
“Kneel, Oliver Raywood, a royal knight.”
The emperor stepped down from the throne. Drawing his sword, he placed it on top of one of the shoulders of Oliver, who was kneeling. It was similar to when a monarch would bestow the honor of knighthood.
“As the first branch of the Emerald River, I command the name of ‘master swordsman’ and all of its honors to be bestowed on knight, Oliver Raywood. Are you prepared to carry on the duties of a master swordsman that has been in void for the past hundreds of years?”
In dignifying fashion, the emperor Terry posed the questions.
Oliver spoke in subdued baritone.
“My lord, I shall put my life on this great honor.”
It was a short, but strong commitment.
There wasn’t even any contrived humility.
Rather, he was full of self-confidence.
That was Oliver Raywood, the ‘Green River’s Master Swordsman’.
* * *
On the third day before the former Ivory Tower lord, Herbert Leon’s execution, Ian was in the dungeon that had been the tower lord’s laboratory for black magic as well as the secret storage space, which was located past the portal created by the book.
The tower lord’s items of personal wealth were still kept there. He didn’t hide them on purpose. Rather, Ian had reported to the emperor about the tower lord’s personal assets. Despite that, there was only one reason that they continued to remain there securely.
‘All these are your trophies, Ian. Whether to keep, return to the kingdom as the kingdom’s wealth, or send back to the Ivory Tower, the choice is yours.’
This was the emperor’s rewards given to him in private. It was also a test at the same time. How will such great wealth be disposed by Ian, was what the emperor wanted to see. Even if the whole thing was returned to the kingdom as part of its wealth, reverted back to the Ivory Tower, or kept, it was certain that none of these actions would earn him high marks.
‘This is becoming an annoyance.’
Initially, Ian only wanted to keep a few artifacts and the book of portal. The wealth was already overflowing. Any sorcery items with effective levels below that of the artifacts only become hindrances. So, he just wanted to keep those that he needed and pass the rest of them on, be it to the Ivory Tower or to the imperial family.
‘Well, I suppose they will someday become useful in my possession.’
What’s good is good, I suppose? The more money there is the better, and artifacts or sorcery items will eventually become useful someday in my possession. There is no longer the annoying need to hide or how to dispose them.
“Let’s leave them as they are presently.”
He had intended to keep the tower lord’s personal assets here for now. As long as there was the portal, it was as simple as going in and out of his own house, so there was no need to move them to his residence.
‘I need to verify it first.’
It wasn’t for the trophies that he entered here through the portal. Rather, he wanted to satisfy his own basic curiosity. The center of his curiosity was none other than the ‘book of portal’. That book artifact was his concern.
‘The portal doesn’t make any sense no matter how hard it was reasoned.’
During his time between this life and the previous life, Ian has not only familiarized, but has also used many mythical and very powerful artifacts. However, hearing about the book of portal was a surprise. He didn’t even believe that such artifacts existed. The reason was simple.
‘Portal is an 8th class level sorcery.’
To put it precisely, this was a magic that Ian could have finally used after reaching the 8th class status. It was possible to newly create the technique through research and reading ancient books, however, materializing it will require 8th class level mana and production capability.
‘This was the 8th class level sorcery.’
Even Ian did not know the production method or the origin of the artifact. He only knew the power of the artifact. They have comparable powers of the ‘mana brain’.
‘Inscribe into the artifact, and even trigger it?’
If an interaction occurs with the inscribed technique, simply injecting mana will initiate the technique, being processed, to activate the magic. In fact, it will even transform its effects to become more enhanced. It is similar to the fly spell that had been transformed by ‘Michel Greenriver Rove’.
‘At any rate, who has created it?’
As any other artifacts would be, he was certain about this book. It was not an item created by mankind. Of course, it wasn’t like that of the god’s move like the Fairy Queen’s. It is by from those who were on much higher plains.
‘Dragon, or something beyond that.’
Therefore, Ian grew curious.
A place that would have been bridged by some transcendental entity.
On the surface, a place that may look like this dungeon.
Where was the exact location?
Is it someplace that is connected to this continent?
‘It was not a place that the tower lord had bridged.’
This dungeon has always been affixed as the other side of the portal. There was a method with which to alter the bridged location, but with the limited knowledge of Ian, it was not possible. The tower lord was probably in the same boat. Thus, the possibility of it being the predetermined location was high.
‘It doesn’t appear to be 3rd dimensional.’
That is, a ‘3rd dimensional’ space, maybe inner pocket space for the friendly force. However, it didn’t appear to be such a space. It was too realistic to be that. Wasn’t it like a dungeon designed to be a hiding place?
‘There is no way to go out to begin with.’
It was a spacious rectangular room, without any exits. After many days of observation, just like the old Ivory Tower’s basement, there were not any hidden passages.
Ian surveyed the surroundings for a while.
He scratched his cheek lightly.
‘Nothing can be done?’
It appeared as if there wasn’t any other means.
Other than ‘brute force methods’, he thought.
‘Smash through his way out seemed to be the only way.’
Smash and push through, using magic.
Until when? Until the outside world comes into view.
It was such a simplistic method.
At least, it was to Ian.
It was a possible method only for the 6th class level sorcerers.
Ian no longer hesitated.
He moved to action as soon as his mind was set.
Kwang! Kwang! Kwaang!
The dungeon, beyond the portal, was wildly shaken up with such destructive power of sorcery. A passage has opened after cracking and smashing. However, the end of the passage was not in sight. It didn’t appear to be a manageable depth with simple one or two magic.
‘It will take longer than anticipated.’
As if determined, Ian took a dose of Douglas’ Harp elixir. He even brought artifacts from the tower lord’s personal assets to enhance the effectiveness. He was certainly fully prepared.
Kwaaang! Kwang! Kwa-Kwang!
Kwang! Kwang-Kwang! Kwaaang!
How long has it been since he began tunneling through?
Beyond the engulfing and diffused dust and stones.
Beyond that, there began to appear a point of light.
‘Is it outside?’
No matter what, Ian was a sorcerer after all.
His curiosity wasn’t easily explainable.
A sorcerer’s unique curiosity has kicked in.
What would lie beyond that point?
Finally, a full beam of light has welcomed Ian.