Chapter 182: Race Against Time

“Pheeww~~….”

Just like a balloon, Bururiba sighed out a long breath of relief, together with it, deflating his mighty and confident aura and appearance, now looking like a tired old man. Sweat washed over him while he was trembling from all over.

“Damnit~! I almost died 2 times now. That woman is so dangerous, I can’t even look at her without feeling nervous.”
“You know? The way you change your face like that, I think that might be one of the main reasons why Sofia loves to tease you.”
“Tease me? How’s that teasing?! I feel like a shark is at my neck, ready to eat me the moment I do another mistake like the first one! Thank God Miss Mirabelle interrupted her in time, or else I would’ve been a goner.”

Lissa chuckled at Bururiba’s desperate reactions, but Gregor hastily intervened and rushed him to a decision.

“Bururiba, I’ll ask you to make a decision with what you’ll do with this book. As you already said, this book is too dangerous to be in the hands of a layman.”

Hearing such, Bururiba took the book and threw it in Gregor’s hands, an indifferent expression on his face.

“We all know who would be the best person for researching and working with such a book. However, I’ll ask for a good payment for that.”
“Is that so? Then we are not the ones who should take such decisions.”

With a smirk, Gregor took out a memory-crystal and threw it on the ground. The stone then started to shine and levitate on its own as a holographic screen appeared in front of them.

“W-what is that?!”
“One of our dear Sylvia’s creations~.”

Lissa smiled amused and Gregor explained.

“Indeed. It is something comparable to a video-call from our world. You know what that is all too well, right?”
“Video-call…? In this world?!”
“We can film with the memory crystals, why not use them for a video-call now?”

Bururiba was left speechless by Gregor’s words then the screen finally connected and another person appeared on it. The person seemed to be somewhere high as the clouds seemed quite close, while drops of blood stained his face and the wind ruffled his hair between the large and black horns.

[Yo, Gregor. Why the sudden call?]

“How are you? King Ryu.”
“Eh?”

Bururiba looked baffled at the imposing dragoon inside the screen. Although he visited Antara before, he never met the king, Ryu being just too busy with the Urius’ army problem, then with accommodating the slaves brought on the second turn. But now seeing him, even if through a screen, Bururiba started to feel a familiar feeling.

This pressure… It is as if I look at Shen in his god-like mode.

Thin threads of sweat formed on his forehead then Gregor asked confused after feeling the same pressure as Bururiba.

“Hm? Ryu, are you fighting right now? And what’s with the blood on your face?”

[Hm? Oh, I still have some on me? A wave of demonic beasts just struck the Eastern Fortress and I thought to take a breather from all that office work. As I thought, all-out battles are the best. Hahaha~!]

Ryu laughed amused while sitting atop the tallest tower from the kingdom, observing how his warriors, that had no time to do anything because of their king, are now disassembling and carrying materials and meat from more than 5000 demonic beasts with ranks between F and C. Because of his outburst, most of the monsters’ bodies were turned into meat paste or blown into pieces, now having close to no materials to gather.

“As always, you’re quite the monster on the battlefield.”

Lissa sighed amazed and Ryu laughed out wryly. He then saw Bururiba and asked confused.

[Hm? I see you two are not alone. Is there a problem?]

“Ah, yes. We found the grimoire Shen was looking for, but Captain Bururiba here is wishing to ask for a price.”

[Hoh~?]

Ryu’s eyes immediately turned like those of a professional merchant and cleaned his throat then asked with a business smile.

Ahem. Captain Bururiba, was it? Please forgive me for being unable to meet you in person and have to make this transaction through a memory-crystal.”
“Huh?”

Bururiba was momentarily stunned by the sudden transformation in both behavior and speech, but then he hastily straightened his back and also took a more professional appearance.

Cough. Excuse my reaction just now. And yes, there is no problem, sire. I take no offense from only this much.”

Gregor and Lissa observed how both of them took the professional image and, Gregor especially, couldn’t help but feel his temples throbbing, him being normally the type that would do things in a direct and old-fashioned manner.
Ryu then smiled and slightly nodded.

“I thank you for your benevolence. Now, I heard that something in your possession might be useful for my dear friend. If possible, may I see it?”

So before purchasing, one must first be sure the product is in a good state, I see.

Bururiba thought with a business smile and immediately agreed.

“But of course. Mister Gregor, if you might.”
“Whatever.”

Already annoyed by their behavior, Gregor threw the book back to Bururiba, the same way he threw it to him, and Bururiba hastily caught it after throwing a sharp glare back to the indifferent Gregor. He then carefully presented the grimoire while going through the pages of different leather.

“As your highness can see, the product is in its best condition, not even dust has settled on it.”

[Hm~ yes yes, it is indeed in a good state, but I’m sure that in a layman’s eyes is but another book that might in truth only bring harm, no? Isn’t it quite the dangerous item?]

“I’m sure that neither of us is a specialist, but we both know the true value of this book. So if I may-“
“For the love of all, can’t the two of you just get to the subject? We don’t have all the time.”

As the two of them tried to bribe with one another, Gregor suddenly interfered with a plain look, making them smile warily then get straight to the point.

[A-alright then. Captain Bururiba, please name your price for the grimoire Ars Goetia.]

“yes. King Ryu, what I wish is for my years of slavery under Lord Shen to be revoked.”

[Hm?!]

Ryu, Gregor, and even Lissa remained stunned for a moment. Silence befell them all then Bururiba started to feel somewhat pressured, thinking that he might have asked for too much. With some sweat falling down his forehead he then continued.

“A-alright. Then I need at least 40 years off my penalty!”

[Uhm…]

Ryu looked troubled, but not for the reason Bururiba was thinking of.

“Still too much? T-then 30 years off!”

[…]

A shocked frown appeared on Ryu’s face but before he could ask what in the world he was talking about, Bururiba gave out another and his last price.

“Alright, alright! I get it! I was wrong as well! But 55 years?! Isn’t that too much?! At least halve it to 27 years and 6 months for the love of God!”

Bururiba was already desperate and seeing him in such a pitiful manner, Ryu couldn’t help but sigh and nod his head, still unaware of what he was talking about. Back then when Shen revived and made Bururiba bow down as a slave for the next 55 years, the only ones present were Ashura, Jian, Sofia, Sylvia, Shen, and Bururiba himself. But with the exception of the fight between Bururiba and Ashura, nothing else has left that room. For this reason, no one but Bururiba knows that he’s Shen’s slave for 55 years, but it seems he’s not aware of that.

[Alright but-]

“Wait! You accepted, right?! I get off with only half the punishment, right?!”

[Yes but-]

“That’s it! I don’t need to hear anything more! Here, your book. I’m outta here!”

Without wishing to hear anymore, Bururiba threw the book back into Gregor’s arms, leaving everyone inside the room bewildered, closing the door behind with a loud slamming sound while shouting.

“I bid ya’ll farewell! Boahahah!”

[…]

“”…””

They all stared at one another completely baffled, unaware of what just happened.

[Can someone please explain…?]

“I’m sorry, my king. But I’m not sure what in the world he was talking about.”
“Me neither. Sigh~… what a lively brat.”

Gregor sighed and shook his head while the other two slowly recovered from their dazed state. In the end, Ryu simply scratched his head and asked,

[Well… Whatever. I suppose the two of you have finished everything you had to do, am I right?]

Gregor then answered with a calm tone, already forgetting how they got one of the most dangerous but powerful books on Sario for nothing.

“Yes. We had Bururiba recruit as many spies as possible and sent them all inside the supporting kingdoms. At this moment we are slowly planting seeds of Antara inside every neighboring kingdom.”

[Indeed. But I can’t help but doubt the spies of a pirate for some reason… Besides, since when are the pirates good with knowledge gathering?]

“Ryu, at this point you need not worry. The ones sent are exactly the spies who kidnaped Shen back then.”

[What?!]

Ryu looked shocked but Gregor smiled amused. He remembered when they were prepared to embark for their mission, every slave that once played the role as spies were now enrolled once again with paid salaries, giving them the chance to also clean their hands off their wrongdoings offered to Shen and his crew by now working for Antara and gathering pieces of information about all and everything. The main targets being the capitals which soon will be swarmed with Antara’s allies.

[Elite spies? So the pirate peninsula actually had such individuals?]

“yes, Ryu. To be honest, you’d be surprised by just how military-advanced the pirates are here at High Seas. Being backed by so many kingdoms from behind, this little pirate’s universe has almost everything. From well-instructed warriors to the latest spell-books. Ars Goetia is also said to be gifted to the Pirate King around one thousand years ago by the king of Jianhua Kingdom.”

[Jianhua? That’s the kingdom right beside Jian and…]

“Yes, the ones who betrayed King Tian. I think this is another reason why we should have an expedition to Jianhua as well. Although I’m not sure under what conditions they offered such a dangerous book such as Ars Goetia to a group of pirates, that kingdom might be hiding even more artifacts from our world that could be dangerous for Sario.”

At this point, almost everyone from Shen’s circle understood that after Yggdrasill has deserted Earth, the mana-field around it has diminished to not even a tenth from what it was, giving a hard time to the shamans and wizards that followed in generations to make use of their magic. Such, they invested most of their powers, time, and resources into researching forms to amplify the residual mana which still barely remained. By creating complex and large magic circles, by combining multiple plants and metals through alchemy and for different kinds of spells, for using the abundant energy of the Ka when the host just died at the sacrificing rituals, by constantly purifying the body, mind, and spirit through different forms of harsh regimes and practices. Through the deeper researching of nature, finding different forms of systematic mathematical formulas and diagrams, trying to find the very circuit of the world, impregnating it in such magic circles, runes, incantations, and so on other forms that can give them the possibility to feel, control, and activate the scarce mana around Earth.
All of this had been made known by Shen to his friends, trying to let them know that if such artifacts, spells, or knowledge alone were to appear into this world so abundant in mana and in the hands of anyone but the right person, great things focused on disasters and destruction might appear everywhere and anywhere on Sario at any given minute. This was the main reason why everyone decided that the library will be the most important place and the mission to protect it given to the one who’ll prove themselves as the most loyal, kind-hearted, yet dangerous for anyone who would dare to search through the forbidden without given accord.
Hearing Gregor’s words, Ryu couldn’t help but laugh in despair, feeling a huge burden on his shoulders once again. A burden that he felt like he almost forgot of.

[Going by that logic, Antara’s very existence is the greatest danger of Sario, is it not? The other danger-factors should already be in the hands of the empires as they’re the strongest, with an underground connection throughout the two great continents. But us? We are an independent, non-stop growing Armageddon ready to blow and send Sario into ruins…]

Gregor and Lissa both smiled wryly, understanding all too well what Ryu meant by that. Gregor then shook his head helplessly and added.

“That might be true, but it’s a needed danger. From all the pieces of information gathered from Shen, Sylvia, and everyone else that participated in this subject about The End, we must understand that if the two empires don’t stop waging wars, the players don’t stop their foolish conquer and start uniting, and the demonic realm won’t focus on purifying the continent; Then we, as the ones with the greatest knowledge of it all, must take the first step and grow as strong as possible until day Z is approaching. Even at the cost of having to partake in the destruction of numerous kingdoms, we must hold strong and continue growing.”
“Gregor is right, my king. Day Z is the only conclusion we reached after our assembly.”

[I know… God, we sound like some Demon Lords…]

When Shen left the separate space together with Sylvia, Shen made sure to explain everything, even the news from the goddess and how the darkness inside Sario is growing by the day. But before that, with a week before Shen returned from the separate space, Ryu made sure to listen to Shen’s before told desperate remarks how something is escaping from Eihwaz’s continent and they must go and investigate the miasma released from random points around the Dangerzone. In the end, he sent the one most knowledgeable about the Eihwaz and its wanders: Old Minghzi. As he was a self-called shaman of the mice tribe from the Eastern corners of Eihwaz, Minghzi proved to be the best person with researching such oddities. Leaving with another group of 5 people, Minghzi arrived at the infested zones closest to the borders named by Shen and found out something that nobody was aware of:

Sario’s mana-veins are polluted with miasma, and the amount released in the air is just a small part of what’s truly flowing through the underground veins. Let alone the possibilities of a future where the world will upturn and all three continents will breakdown and reform, but the miasma itself will become as normal to the outside as the air we breathe. Who knows how many years it will take Sario to regenerate if this miasma is left alone to grow.

After Ryu became aware of that, he finally understood what Shen tried to say about that great danger hiding under their very feet. His worries were strengthened even more when Shen returned with news of how the world is breaking down from inside out, Sario being completely engulfed from the inside by Darkness filled with dangerous demons. The residents of Eihwaz knew since young about the miasma, being there even before they were born. The only reason why they were made aware of such dangers only now was caused by Shen’s new knowledge of magic and energy circulations. Being the wisest, Minghzi was able to think of such a possibility even before meeting Shen, but after turning into a slave, he never had the possibility to research and confirm his doubts.
Already knowing all this, Gregor shrugged his shoulders and Lissa said what he was thinking but didn’t say,

“Even if we have to play the role of a villain, this world must be saved if we also wish to survive.”

[I am well aware… Alright, I’ll talk to Shen about the news… I suppose the two of you will remain there for further investigations, am I right?]

“Yes. Although it sounds crude, we still need this place. As Shen said, there’s no good or evil, there’s just useful and useless. And at the moment, the Pirate’s Peninsula is the most useful place we can find as is a place filled with treasures that grows by the day. Until Antara’s economical facilities grow and stabilize themselves, we will need to be founded by the pirate peninsula.”

[Wait. But who would wish to fund the place where resides someone who, in a way, stole all their slaves?]

Ryu finally remembered that Shen actually released a few hundreds of slaves and defeated the entire powerhouses of the pirates. Such a person would for sure be hated by everyone inside the peninsula.

“Err… Abut that…”

Gregor didn’t know how to explain and simply showed him a poster.

[WANTED!
Dead or Alive
Reasons for being wanted: The destruction of half Pleasure City, defeating the Guardian spirit, killing 7 out of 10 top dogs together with the pirate-king, almost completely erasing the Crescent Island used for Battleships.
Name: Shen
Race: Human (Also known as a player)
Characteristics: Green eyes, blonde, spiky long hair, a sharp gaze, thin built.
WARNING!: Normally, he’s weak like a dog, but once his eyes shine like the Sun, he’s able to fight divine beasts on his own.
BOUNTY: 1.000.000 GOLD COINS]

[Weak like a dog…]

Ryu smiled wryly while thinking that it would be the best not to let Shen know of this poster then asked,

[So Shen is the only wanted person? What about Jian, Bururiba, Ashura, and so on others that also played quite the role in all those said to be done only by Shen?]

“Yeah… It seems that everything has been blamed on Shen. And Miss Sofia with Bururiba also tried to push the blame completely on him too.”

[What?]

Ryu’s gaze turned sharp while a deep frown formed on his forehead. Pushing all the blame on his best friend? Just who they think they are?
Feeling his fury, Gregor shook his head and started explaining with a serious face.

“Ryu, please listen. If we wish for Antara to continue doing transactions with the Eastern High Seas’ pirates then we’ll need that incident to be kept a secret. But because it was just too great of an event to be hidden just like that, we had to cover it with something greater, and that was the moment when Shen appeared and fought against that sea demoness. Through some rumors and fake info spread here and there, the fact that members of another kingdom did all of this to the High Seas will remain secret, but the only one to be banned from this world will be Shen, which I’m sure that he won’t find as bothering at all.”

[You knew about all of this and still accepted?!]

Ryu shouted angered and Gregor also ignited, a revolted feeling stirring his heart.

“What else was I supposed to do?! Ryu! When I first found out what Miss Sofia did I also snapped, but her together with Bururiba made me understand that if I wished to keep a good connection between the Pirate’s Peninsula and Antara then I had to close an eye to this injustice and simply go with it! I was also revolted by this and thought of what was the best decision. In the end all I could think of was how Shen would’ve thought of resolving this, and I’m more than 90% sure that he would’ve agreed without even flinching of such injustice, the rest of 10% might have been him spreading even worse rumors just to be sure that Antara and its people were outside the doubting-zone entirely.”

[…]

Both Ryu and Lissa looked surprised, even shocked at Gregor’s sudden outburst, knowing him to be a rather cool-headed person. Ryu couldn’t say a thing about this as he also knew that Shen might have simply agreed of this without the slightest reluctance. And seeing just how affected was Gregor by all of that, he couldn’t help but trust him, knowing that Gregor was not the kind to lose himself just like that.

[Alright, Gregor. I’m sorry. Shouldn’t have doubted you.]

“No, it’s fine. Sorry for the outburst. It seems I’m still lacking discipline.”

Afterward, Gregor has informed Ryu that he’ll bring the book back through a transporting ship filled with riches toward Antara, while he and Lissa will continue to remain inside the Pleasure City for more info gathering and to administrate the pirate-spies from closer proximity.

Now if I think about it, we should also build a port city…

Ryu thought to himself after he closed the memory crystal and placed it inside his inventory.

Now. I guess I gotta talk with Shen and tell him the book has been secured.

From atop his tower beside the protective branch, Ryu was now gazing down at his kingdom and at the Southern Fortress.

“Sigh~ guess I’ll really have to tell him everything then.”

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But before he could start a mental connection, a sudden silhouette appears before him, slowly flying with a black and white wing respectively.

“So here you are! I searched around everywhere! Ryu, you promised me you’ll teach me how to fly properly!”

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A beautiful dragoon with purple eyes and blonde hair was now slowly levitating in front of him, trying to be mad at him but the excited smile giving her away. Ryu also smiled and asked amused.

“For what reason you need to know how to fly with those wings? You can already fly pretty well with your magic alone. I think those wings are just for show at this point.”
“Oh, really~?”

Bonny smiled mischievously and flapped her wings once.

“Kya?!”
“…Huh?”

She suddenly lost her balance and she inclined forward.

“Guh!”

Another flapping of her wings and she instantly shot herself right into Ryu, both falling down with Bonny atop Ryu.

“Ugh… what was that for?”
“Still think I don’t need to control my wings?”

With naughty eyes, Bonny looked at Ryu and asked provocatively. It seems that although she’s still unable to fly using her wings alone, she can control where and how to crash. Something that, from Ryu’s perspective, seemed to be more amazing than actually knowing how to fly.

“I’ll keep on getting such lucky accidents from you if I won’t teach you flying. Am I right?”
“Yep.”
“And you can’t have anyone else to teach you?”
“Nope.”

Ryu asked troubled but Bonny answered in a playful manner while still atop of him. Ryu then sighed amused and got up with her in his lap. With a devil’s smile, she answered to her naughty behavior.

“Alright, I’ll teach you. But don’t expect me to be indulgent just because you’re my queen, you hear?”
“Sure, let’s go.”
“Eh? Woah!”

Failing to impress her, Ryu suddenly found himself mid-air as Bonny held his hand, flying together outside the kingdom where he can teach her without any disturbances.

G-guess I’ll tell him later after all…

Ryu thought helpless as Bonny dragged him by the hand, both flying away atop a neighboring mountain.

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