Starfall Year 833, 19th of June. Dawn at Moldavia’s territory, Mount Nissia, Winter Fort Academy.
The sun had not risen yet and all was quiet. Most of the students were still in dreamland while the teachers were resting in their quarters. Autonomous puppets were patrolling all important zones including the lodgings, the library, and the spell laboratory.
These artificial creations made from steel and magic could detect the faintest movement in the darkness, and were undoubtedly the best guardian.
Still, there were certain places that needed no guarding.
On the highest level of the building was an office with a seal depicting a hand holding a sword.
The lights were not lit behind the door. Instead, a streak of silver-white moonlight illuminated the room from the dormerthe only luminescence in the room. A man was sitting quietly on a broad armchair and holding something in his hand.
It was Joshua, who was staring at one of the dragon eggs. Its glowing white shell the size of a man’s head was making the room appear a little blurry.
[Hatching Dragon Egg]
[Extraordinary Gold Tier Ingredient: Can be used as an ingredient for the premium magical dish, ‘dragon potion’, dragon soul sacrificial tool or hatched into a white dragon youngling.”
[Dragon Egg Status: Extremely healthy, hatching rate of 93%. With a high-tier wizard’s special adjustments, the hatchling would activate its blood inheritance earlier than usual.]
[Item information: Plundered by Joshua van Radcliffe, Count of the North after his dragon-slaying campaign. An extremely healthy egg plucked from a white dragon’s nest in the northern glaciers that could hatch anytime. Disclaimer, dragons don’t imprint on people. If you want it to like you, impress it with a display of power by cooking it a scrumptious breakfast.]
“Great, this one’s quite healthy.” Praising it softly, Joshua quickly returned the egg to the silver steel box beside it and nodded. “One pick and it’s an egg that fits the requirements. What a kind gift from the God of Fortune and Despair.”
Since he solved the Black Fog incident in the Imperial City, Joshua had noticed that he always seemed to get lucky on trivialities. For example, books he picked at random would turn out to be a novel that suits his taste, a corresponding report would come whenever anything crosses his mind, and anything he buys on the streets would never turn out to be low-grade items.
At first, he thought that Ogner’s gift was to merely return the divinity he had loaned outeven if it was just some portion of it.
Only now did he realize the God of Fortune’s divinity had such a unique effect.
“Too bad there’s no lottery on the Mycroft Continent.” Joshua jested. With his luck now, he just might really get a small prize.
At the moment, Ying had to stay at their residence and babysit Brandon’s two daughters while Ling was teaming up with the clergies to search for cultists from time to time. That was why he was now alone at Winter Fort Academy, waiting for the grand general assessment to end and reward the best student with a dragon egg that was about to hatch.
In truth, the eggs that Joshua had looted from the white dragon nest was not many. There were twenty-two eggsthat is, counting in the ones Theodore had identified as corrupted.
Of them, only fifteen were healthy enough to be incubated, meaning seven whole eggs had lost its liveliness for all sorts of reasons, and could only be used as magical ingredients.
Still, it would not be easy to find a master for each of the remaining fifteen.
Joshua himself had Black and did not need a second mount. The eggs would definitely be given to his knight reserve regimentsand only the most excellent of them who fulfilled the requirements.
Even from those forty men, only ten fit the requirements.
The knights were young, able-bodied lads handpicked from the troops who fought the Dark Tide last year as well as from the Dark Forest Fortress city guard.
Their talent could reach Gold-tiers, and the warrior had exclusively taught them some breathing techniques which made them improve their capabilities greatly. Many of them quickly climbed above their original levels.
That being said, they did not have Joshua’s system panel to develop their abilities that quickly. That was why until now none of them could glimpse the threshold of GoldJoshua estimated that it would take them five or six years, or unless the Demonic Wave strikes first.
But to have forty Silver-tier knights was terrifying enough. They were already a considerable force in the Empire even if they were just Joshua’s own private troops, which was the reason the warrior planned to look for the right time and remove their ‘reserve’ label and award them with an official designation.
Nonetheless, most of them did not fit the necessary criteria as dragon knights. Firstly, they must not fear heightsand that alone took seven to eight men out of the equation. There were also several others who did not possess the compulsory reflexes and motion awareness, and with those combined, half of them were out.
It was also vital to note that dragon riders need to engage in aerial encounters. Because those creatures were highly mobile, the reflexes required of the knights were taxing. The reserve knights were capable, and many of them could definitely be trained to such levels. Still, what Joshua needed was assurance right now and not a possibility in the future. That was why even if it was regretful, only ten of them were to be given eggs.
That would also mean that instead of being scarce, there were five eggs in surplus. Theodore, the architect of the hatching, would be given one, and another would be given to the valedictorian of the academy.
After that, there would be three left.
“Maybe I should leave one for the academy itself.” Joshua promptly decided after a brief consideration. Theodore would not mind caring for another hatchling after allif the academy also lasts for several decades, it would have their very own guardian dragon.
This was not an ordinary service for any academy, eithereven the Skypiercing White Tower did not have an academy or course that owned guardian dragon.
“Two more, then.”
Glancing at the steel box with a slight migraine, Joshua frowned.
“Maybe one for Nostradamus or Artanis? For their help all this while” He mumbled, before quickly shaking his head. “They don’t need this stuff. The old mage doesn’t need a mount or have the time to care for it, while the Church probably couldn’t afford to raise it.”
When a dragon grows, its food bill and all its special needs could make smaller families go broke. It was only because Joshua was the Liege of Moldavia, a real count with huge savings and vast family property that he could afford ten dragon knights.
As for those two awarded to the students and the academy, Nostradamus and Joshua would provide any assistance necessary and would hence not be a problem. Theodore himself had been prepared to rear a dragon for decades, so there would be no issues either.
The Church, on the other hand, lived rather plainly on tithes from followers and the count’s office. Hence, there was no doubt that they would go bankrupt if they suddenly had a dragon to feed.
“ Well, it’s just two left anyway.”
Joshua shook his head again as he failed to come up with anything. It would not be a problem raising two morehe could afford them after all.
Outside the dormer, the moonlight was gradually replaced by red-gold sunlight as dawn breaks. The warrior stood and stretched his arms.
Today was the last day of the academy’s comprehensive assessment and live duels. When everything is over and the results were out, it was the moment he would present one of the eggs.
Meanwhile, at the Royal Study in the Imperial Palace.
The luxurious room that had been scorched after a practice match with Joshua was not just returned to its former glory, but a notch more elegant than before.
In the middle of the room was Israel DiamondHis Majesty the Emperor, who turned away from the book in his hand and glanced rather impatiently at the leader of his own private guard. “Nash, I’ve told you. Don’t bother me during breakfast if there’s nothing important.”
“My apologies, your majesty, but this concerns the Sacred Mountain of the Distant Sea.” The man named Nash replied without feeling panic despite his master’s annoyance. Instead, he repeated a message he received with a distinct voice. “The Church says that the Proxy of the God of Life is now ready and that the ‘Divine Recovery Ritual’ can be held anytime. They’ll come for it whenever you are ready, your majesty.”
“ That’s good news.” Israel clapped his hands after putting down the thick tome; his somber expression softened a little. “If not for my loaning out of the Nuclear Star, those cagey clergies would not have humored me. Just tell them I’m free anytime.”
The moment he said that, the Legendary warrior could not help feeling a few stabs of prickling pain on his back and sighed. “If not for a slight mistake then, would I have been such an irritable person” He muttered to himself.
Nash, who was still down on one knee, kept quiet. As the leader of the Shadow Corps and one of Nash’s most trusted men, he obviously knew about the hidden wounds on his Emperor. That was why he came at once to notify him once the Church made the unusual move of inviting the Proxy who had lived in seclusion within the Great Altar for years.
To heal the hidden wounds, Israel had look for and tested many methods. That included secret treasures of the elves, hidden arts of the West Mountain warlocks as well as the mystical treatment of the Eastern Plains mages. All of those had been incredibly useful in that they could suppress the pain, albeit stopping short of uprooting the source entirely.
It goes without saying that he tried the divine spells from the Church too. However, the bishop that treated him had been quite frank that he did not receive care for his wounds in time in the first place.
That, combined with the frequent and intense skirmishes he had been engaged in, the injuries had spread into the very core of his being, and could not be healed with any method.
Unless Israel went the extra mile and upgraded his status and acquired a shred of divinity, any other ceremony would be futile. Still, it was another thing entirely with the Proxy of the God of Lifethey would definitely revitalize the Emperor’s life essence and heal him.
Still, the God of Life was the quietest and most withdrawn amongst the gods. His clergies were the samehis agent had been living as a recluse within the Great Altar all along and never step foot outside once. Even the name of Israel, the Emperor, could not draw him out for treatment.
“It’s fortunate the dragons are invading.” Israel sighed in relief albeit with slightly mixed feelings. If that plague did not happen and the Church did not need the Empire’s help, he would not have such a golden opportunity.
“What, there’s other news?” Finally noticing that Nash did not leave yet, the Emperor asked, baffled. “What else is there?”
“Your Majesty” The middle-aged cavalier hesitated, before adding, “The Church of Seven also said that they will need further assistance from the Empire.”
“What, that Nuclear Star wasn’t enough?” Israel himself asked, taken aback. “They said that they need something with incredible positive energy, and I had given them the biggest Nuclear Star in the word. Of course, it might not compare to the one on their Great Altar, but it would definitely be enough in any case That is, unless they’re mounting an expedition into the Deep Abyss itself?”
The Emperor himself never expected that he had stumbled upon the exact truth.
Although there was a little crack within Anos Abyss that leads into the Deep Abyss itself, it was also for that reason the Abyssal breath there was unusually powerful and enough to unsettle the seas. Even if the Emperor’s own Nuclear Star was strong enough, it could not shield a huge ark from sailing too long in those waters.
“No, they’re quite satisfied with your assistance”
Nash frowned and made a rather complicated expression, while seemingly lost for words. He finally spoke after a few heartbeats. “This time, the Church wasn’t asking for any items. However, they’re hoping for the aid from an Imperial noble.”
“An Imperial noble?” Israel narrowed his eyes as his expression became serious. He considered it, before asking calmly, “Who do they want?”
Then, seemingly afraid that the first name alone would not suffice, the middle-aged cavalier repeated himself, this time with the warrior’s full name.
“Joshua van Radcliffe.”