Chapter 47: Song of The Wind (6)
Tang Cuo felt that the world really had a grudge on him.
Tassel Earring seemed to have only noticed his state now. His gaze fell on Tang Cuo’s sword and the face hidden under the mask seemed to be stunned for a second: “Oh, so you are The White Knight’s child. What will happen if I kill you now? It must be very interesting.”
Tang Cuo leaned on his sword and stared at Tassel Earring without saying a word.
Tassel Earring continued: “Killing you is much more interesting than killing the Grand Duke. I think the Grand Duke would rather have himself dead than you.”
Tang Cuo understood what he meant.
Flange was only a principality under the ruling of the Kingdom of Hundred Flowers. If Theodore died here, his family would definitely hold the royal family of Flange accountable. Furthermore, this box was given as a thank you gift from the Grand Duke, and the person that was the original target of the assassination was also the Grand Duke.
That surely was an exciting plan.
Tang Cuo became even more curious about this person’s relationship with the Rose Sect. He was so powerful, so if he were the one to take down the Grand Duke, they would never have had a chance to save anyone.
Perhaps the intent behind his eyes was so obvious that Tassel Earring suddenly smiled: “I love your eyes. They’re very similar to your brother.”
But the way he expressed his affection was ― killing off Tang Cuo.
Another powerful magic attack struck but Tang Cuo couldn’t dodge this time, so he had to shield himself with the [Sword of Judgment]. With that, he spit out another mouthful of blood and his whole body felt like it had been crushed.
“Cough, cough…” He knelt on one knee, both his hands shaking as they tried to lean on the sword.
Jin Cheng wanted to make a move, but his Skills and Inventory Bar had been entirely greyed out. As soon as his hand touched the harp’s strings, Tassel Earring stared back at him.
“If I were you, I wouldn’t move.”
Jin Cheng: “Maybe we can come to an agreement?”
Tassel Earring: “Do you think you have anything you can offer to me?”
Jin Cheng: “Let’s look at what you want.”
Tassel Earring tilted his head and thought about it. For a long moment, no answer came out, yet the tip of the umbrella was raised and pointed at Tang Cuo.
His life was hanging by a really thin thread now.
The air surrounding him seemed to be compressed into a square inch. Not that it made him unable to breathe, but the air completely blocked his trachea and continued to spread, squeezing out his blood flow and making his brain unable to think clearly.
The girl at the service counter tremblingly covered her mouth and didn’t dare to make a sound. The other people who were cleared away from the magic circle by Jin Cheng also seemed to be caught in their necks, each of them freezing on the spot like a fish stunned on a cutting board.
As a drop of cold sweat slipped down Tang Cuo’s forehead, he intuitively felt that Jin Cheng’s negotiation might not work. Sure enough, Tassel Earring looked over again and said: “For now, killing a descendant of The White Knight is more interesting to me.”
Tassel Earring smiled, but Tang Cuo’s heart sank into a bottomless abyss.
However, neither Tang Cuo nor Jin Cheng was the type who gave up easily. Always dancing around death and succumbing to fate were two completely different things.
Tang Cuo still stared at Tassel Earring with Theodore’s eyes that carried the exact same persistence as his own eyes, even though Theodore’s didn’t have the same deep shade of black.
Under the consistent threat of the umbrella tip, Tang Cuo’s right hand that was holding the hilt quietly slipped down and the sharp blade cut his palm. His blood streamed down instantly.
This was a gamble.
In all fantasy tales, regardless whether they originated from the East or the West, blood was one of the important channels through which the most formidable power could be summoned.
What effect would Theodore’s blood have on the [Sword of Judgment]?
Tang Cuo didn’t know, but he was willing to gamble.
As the blood slid down the [Sword of Judgment], Tassel Earring raised his eyebrows and his mouth opened to form a single syllable, then a wave of magic energy as colourful as a kaleidoscope gathered at the tip of the umbrella.
In the next instant, a flood of magic swept towards Tang Cuo.
Jin Cheng also moved at this point.
His fingers quickly tugged at the strings and the sound wave attack that originally came from his bowstrings was forcibly called out on this harp. “Ting—” Amid the sound of the harp, the strings made of incredibly sharp Spider’s Silk cut his fingertip.
A bead of blood splashed and was shattered by the sound waves.
The powerful sound waves collided with the magic energy like a wind scattering away the last lights of a descending sun. It was a stunning sight to the eyes, but the sudden burst of energy shocked all the people at the scene and caused them to spurt out blood.
“Boom!” The ground cracked inch by inch, and the golden arrays of the magic circle flickered chaotically and took in most of the impact, but it seemed that it was impossible to hold off the whole attack.
Tang Cuo gritted his teeth.
He forcefully stabbed the [Sword of Judgment] into the ground and held himself to stand firmly on the spot. Simultaneously, he clutched the blade tightly, his blood almost dying the silver sword scarlet.
“Ting—” Another sound wave came as the harp produced another note.
Instead of rushing towards Tang Cuo, Jin Cheng himself charged at Tassel Earring. The moment he got closer, he neatly bent down and pulled out a short dagger from his boots. A cold light suddenly glimmered and the dagger flew through the air.
All of this happened in just three seconds.
“Tick.” A drop of blood dripped from Tang Cuo’s wrist to the ground and made a soft sound. The sound was infinitely amplified in his ears as the flood of magic closed in right before his eyes, and at that moment — The Holy Light of Judgment spread out, its magnificence multiplied by many folds.
The unshakeable white Holy Light smashed with the brilliant flood of magic that was entangled with the lingering sound waves from the harp. In a flash, the entire second floor was swept off.
For a split second, Tang Cuo lost both his eyesight and hearing. His internal organs seemed to mix up with broken blood veins, blocking all his sense of perception. He could only hold his sword tightly and tried his best to avoid being knocked down.
The whole thing took place in the blink on an eye, yet it felt like an eternity.
After that blink, “Crack”, the sound of a window breaking violently disrupted the scene.
“Aesop!” An icy voice descended from above, yet coming along with it was remarkably warm energy.
Tang Cuo reluctantly opened his eyes and saw a familiar light shining on him. He didn’t dare to open his mouth for fear that he would fall down after a single gasp of air, but he could see that it was a figure in a black overcoat.
A black figure and white figure started fighting at once. Roger Reeds and the man whom he called Aesop seemed to be equally powerful. Jin Cheng finally had the opportunity to get close to Tang Cuo and immediately gave him a high-level healing potion, quickly pulling back his HP that was dropping like crazy.
“Cough, cough…” Tang Cuo eventually breathed out a sigh of relief and opened the Character panel to take a look — A familiar ‘3’.
Jin Cheng actually also suffered a lot of injuries. Although Aesop’s magic attack was directed at Tang Cuo, Jin Cheng dared to deal him a blow at a close distance and jumped straight into the eye of the storm.
“Let’s go.” Jin Cheng carried Tang Cuo on his back and retreated without saying another word. He didn’t care how Roger Reeds and Aesop would end up, for it was more important to save both their lives now.
People quickly retreated to the first floor. At this point, the bounty hunters on the first floor were all attracted by the fight between the two big figures and no one paid them any attention.
But as soon as the two of them reached downstairs, the system began to shoot frantic warnings.
Jin Cheng immediately opened the system panel to find that the main mission had changed from ‘Survive’ to ‘Save the alliance’s members’. The brave and upright knight Theodore and the kind-hearted bard Lancelot would certainly not leave others behind to die.
Oh, this goddamn role-playing dungeon is very humane, huh?
To not be struck by lightning, Jin Cheng had to trot back inside with Tang Cuo on his back.
The second floor had been completely destroyed, and although no one was dead, they all suffered wounds from such strong impacts. Jin Cheng put down Tang Cuo and quickly gave everyone potions.
After all that, the main mission changed again.
Current main mission: Tell Roger Reeds the truth.
The truth? What truth?
Many question marks flew around Jin Cheng’s head. At this moment, Roger Reeds returned, coming in through the broken window and carrying a broken rag doll in his hand. His uncovered eye glanced at the seriously injured Tang Cuo, his expression icy cold.
“What happened?” He asked.
Jin Cheng only hesitated for three seconds, and “Ding”, the system shot him another warning.
This was a question of life and death.
Jin Cheng’s face didn’t even flinch as he replied: “It’s Dr. Albert. The person you called Aesop just now lurks around Flange under the alias Dr. Albert. I learnt about the tunnel from him. I didn’t say this before because I wasn’t too sure — Dr. Albert is a good man and he helped me when I was sick.”
Hearing that, Roger Reeds asked again: “Why would he tell you about the tunnel?”
Jin Cheng solemnly said: “He wants to pull me to his side.”
Roger Reeds took a deep look at him. They couldn’t tell whether Roger Reeds believed Jin Cheng’s words, but he didn’t ask any other questions and the system didn’t send Jin Cheng any more warnings. Jin Cheng knew that he had passed.
As for whether Aesop was Dr. Albert, Jin Cheng wasn’t so sure. After all, this was still a gamble.
At the end, Jin Cheng looked at the rag doll in his hand and couldn’t help asking: “Your Excellency Roger Reeds, what’s that?”
Roger Reeds: “A magic puppet. Aesop himself isn’t here. If he came in person, you would be dead by now.”
Jin Cheng didn’t rush to ask about Aesop’s identity. A powerful figure like this might be as eminent in this continent as The Watchman Roger Reeds. It would sound strange if he hadn’t heard of such a person.
Very soon, Roger Reeds left again.
Celtic hurriedly came back and was stupefied to find the second floor a mess. When he learnt that Roger Reeds had left again, he punched his chest and stomped his feet: “Why can’t I ever keep up with him?!”
According to Celtic, several magic circles were found in the White Leaf District, all carrying the distinct style of the Rose Sect. The actual purpose of these magic circles was still being investigated, but fortunately the circles were discovered early, so no matter what the intention behind them was, it was nipped in the bud.
Celtic felt that they had been lucky, but Tang Cuo didn’t think so.
He opened the system panel to find the main mission become ― Go to the White Leaf District.
Celtic was still talking: “Now it’s not just The Red Priest, but also Aesop The Rebel. Flange is just a small principality, I really don’t know what they’re all here for? I have to inform the headquarters as soon as possible, let them send more people over.”
Aesop The Rebel.
Jin Cheng rolled his eyes and asked: “Is he famous? I just came from the Kingdom Hidden In The Moonlight and I don’t think I’ve heard of this name.”
Celtic wasn’t Roger Reeds, so he didn’t think much. Instead, when he heard ‘Kingdom Hidden In The Moonlight’, his expression was intrigued: “I’ve been in Flange for many years, yet I’ve rarely seen people from the Kingdom Hidden In The Moonlight. The place is so far away, so it’s expected that you never heard about Aesop. He was originally a prince and had a high status, but somehow he joined the Rose Sect and became the incarnation of evil. Aesop The Rebel is famous and was comparable to His Excellency Roger Reeds in terms of strength. If you cross paths with him again in the future, you have to be careful.”
By this time, the potion had already taken effect and Tang Cuo got back his mobility, but his injury was still not healed. He stood up and said to Celtic: “The box was sent by the Grand Duke. We should notify the palace of this matter immediately.”
Celtic patted his head: “Look at me, how could I forget such an important thing?!”
After that, Celtic went to do the task right away. Tang Cuo and Jin Cheng exchanged glances, and as soon as no one else came to talk to them, they immediately left the office and headed to the White Leaf District according to the mission instructions.
In the middle of their trip, Tang Cuo changed his clothes again. As he was injured from time to time and the frequency of his clothes being destroyed was too high, he simply prepared two more sets.
“Aesop and The Red Priest are the same group of people, but their courses of action are different. I think they’re not working closely together.” Tang Cuo said as he walked.
“Why do you say so?” Jin Cheng said.
“Assuming that Aesop is Dr. Albert, then he’s been lurking in the inner city for so long. With his strength, it isn’t impossible to directly break into the palace. Meanwhile, the assassins spent so much energy yet still failed, and Dr. Albert wasn’t at home at that moment.”
“Aesop and The Red Priest, which one is stronger?”
Tang Cuo judged only by intuition, but he was very certain. The Red Priest seemed very powerful with his rose bombs and could escape from Roger Reeds, but Aesop felt exceedingly more terrifying. He could completely crush others using only a magic puppet, with a force so overwhelming that any layman wouldn’t know how to resist.
Jin Cheng said: “Aesop really looks like he isn’t part of the Rose Sect. Whether it’s his dressing style or his behaviour, there isn’t anything similar to the group of assassins earlier. Maybe they had some clashes? Aesop had Aesop’s plan, but while he was away, The Red Priest carried out his own plan. Aesop might not stand up for The Red Priest, but he’s definitely angry about the secret tunnel being exposed. That’s the reason why the incident just now happened.”
Tang Cuo: “The problem is then: which side is Priest Peter on?”
Judging from the current situation, Peter and The Red Priest should belong to the same group, but in this world, nothing could be absolute.
At the White Leaf District.
The guards had been patrolling around this district, but now that the Grand Duke was no longer here, most had followed him back to the palace and there were not many of them left. When they left the office, Tang Cuo saw Celtic urgently issuing a mission on behalf of the Greenvines Alliance ― All ordinary members of the Greenvines Alliance could join the search around the principality, including but not limited to the White Leaf District. Anyone who found traces of the Rose Sect’s magic circles would get a reward of one gold coin.
This gave Tang Cuo a new understanding of the Greenvines Alliance: It was not only powerful and packed with bounty hunters, but also exceptionally wealthy.
The two entered the White Leaf District but the main mission wasn’t updated, so they decided to first check out where Lancelot and Bazz lived. According to Bazz, they should stay in a place called East Street.
Jin Cheng said: “We’re always bound to streets with the word ‘East’ in their names.”
East Street was easy to find. It was the most rented area where all the houses chaotically crowded against each other like wooden building blocks, but luckily, the place seemed rather hygienic.
Considering Bazz’s enthusiasm, Jin Cheng was sure that most of the people here should know him. After talking to an unimportant-looking NPC, who was an old lady sitting by the roadside, he successfully got Bazz’s address.
No. 128 East Street.
No. 128 was a building of rented flats where more than a dozen families lived. The lighting wasn’t very good and the aisle was only one meter wide. With the key given by Bazz, Jin Cheng opened the door of the flat at the end of the corridor. It was a small but clean flat, with a string of tiny blue wind chimes hanging on the only window, and there was even a basic kitchen inside.
A stove, a pot and a cutting board were hung on the wall. Charcoal and various miscellaneous items were neatly piled in the corner, which made sure that the whole place wasn’t messy or dirty in any way.
There was only a simple single bed in here, and Jin Cheng found a mattress that could be pulled out from under the bed. The quilt was made of many pieces of rags, but they were all cotton and soft to the touch.
Apart from that, there was no other furniture. The clothes were all stacked in a large rattan box. The box was used as a table, above which lay a broken clay pot with a few wildflowers inside. The fragrance of the flowers slightly scattered away the lingering smell of medicine in the flat.
Jin Cheng fiddled with the wildflowers and said: “Bazz is indeed a very good friend.”
Tang Cuo totally agreed with him, but he thought that a side mission would be triggered here. He made one round around the flat but didn’t get any result. Jin Cheng gazed at his slightly pale face from time to time to make sure that he was okay. Thereafter, he stroked his stomach and said: “Shall we go out to eat, or shall we cook here?”
Tang Cuo turned around.
“Aren’t you hungry?”
“You seem to have just given me a full stop.”
“You can see it?”
Jin Cheng spread his hands, feeling that Tang Cuo’s expression was way too easy to read. People who couldn’t see it might just be idiots.
Tang Cuo continued to be expressionless, unable to understand how Jin Cheng could always see through his mind. If it went on like this, he couldn’t curse Jin Cheng secretly inside.
In the end, the two decided to go out to eat in order to not mess up the flat that Bazz had worked so hard to clean up. They even made a rarely seen kind gesture of pushing back the mattress on the floor.
“Let’s go.” Jin Cheng dusted his hands off and stood up.
Tang Cuo was still squatting on the ground, reaching out one hand to touch the dark lines on the floor and frowning slightly.
Jin Cheng was puzzled: “What’s the matter?”
Tang Cuo didn’t answer immediately. He quickly moved to check the floor in other spots and finally scraped off something inside a crack with his nail, then put it under his nose —
“The smell of blood.”
Translator and reviewer at Strictly Bromance blog. In essence, she lives to indulge in plot-driven stories sprinkled with camaraderie and slow-burn drama-free romance, especially more so if they belong to adventure, mystery or supernatural genre. A trope that she always thirsts after: “Comrades who go through life and death together”.