To be fair, the Deepblue was relatively safe, especially around the main tower. Men like Steven were in the minority, with few being formidable enough to take such risks that could endanger one’s own life. However, he was still living well in the Deepblue, and the power of his subordinates was increasing day by day. To ensure victory in the competition, Duke Solam had sent another large army in assistance, and now the grey dwarf was starting to regret advocating for the warlock to stay. Mountainsea and Richard were stuck together every day, and it wouldn’t be all that surprising for Steven to dare assassinate Richard or harm Mountainsea. After all, someone who’d lost all rationale wouldn’t consider the consequences of their actions.
The grey dwarf firmly believed that Mountainsea was invincible. No matter the race, age or method of accumulating riches, someone as wealthy as Mountainsea was no doubt beyond fortunate and greatly blessed by the gods. Yet Steven happened to be a classic example of the exact opposite. Thus, Blackgold was not worried that Mountainsea’s life would be threatened; he was only worried that she would be harrassed.
Stuck between a rock and a hard place, the grey dwarf finally made a difficult choice. Steven started to see four mage enforcers and two knights surrounding him the moment he left his residence every day, to ‘protect’ him. They wouldn’t leave his side at all, even in lessons.
News travelled relatively fast in the Deepblue. Everyone had become aware of Mountainsea’s status and ‘background’ within two days of her following Richard to classes. Nobody dared to joke about her name in the open anymore, and she almost stopped becoming the topic of idle conversation.
Time flew by day by day, and the competition drew closer. The grey dwarf personally met Richard in the meantime and spoke to him for a long time. Describing all the hardships Sharon had to go through, he first explained how it was not easy for her to acquire the wealth she now possessed. Next, he tactfully expressed that Sharon’s delight towards Richard was by far unprecedented, following which he made clear at the dire state the Deepblue’s finances were in. In the words of the grey dwarf, the Deepblue practically had to be broken up tomorrow to be sold for cheap in order to repay the heavy debts. With a heavy heart, Richard was wondering if there was anything he could do for the legendary mage. Just then, the grey dwarf changed the topic and started singing in a high tone, telling Richard that the saviour of the Deepblue had appeared, and that was none other than Mountainsea.
Finally, the grey dwarf jumped onto the coffee table in front of Richard. Looking him in the eye, the dwarf implored Richard in his most sincere and solemn tone— the time to repay Sharon had come. The best thing he could do for her was to be a good companion to Mountainsea, keeping her in the Deepblue as long as possible. The girl had only reserved a month’s worth of lessons the first time, and the next round of reservations was coming up soon. In addition, the grey dwarf also hinted that Richard should fulfil all of Mountainsea’s requests to the best of his abilities, such as giving her more little ‘gifts’, since they would not be to his detriment anyway.
Dumbstruck at his words, Richard started to suspect whether the grey dwarf had planted magic eyes around his residence. As long as Richard was willing to lend his support, the grey dwarf promised that he would be indebted to him forever and will help him win the competition.
A downcast and solemn Richard left Blackgold’s office. Although he couldn’t exactly define his feelings right then, he felt like the pure, unadulterated relationship he shared with Mountainsea was tainted. He decided to forget all about the promise the moment he stepped out the door.
That night, Mountainsea received a long-awaited ‘gift’ after dinner relatively successfully. Of course, if Richard hadn’t resisted the process could have been called completely successful, though there wasn’t much of a difference.
Though pleased, Mountainsea was observant enough to realise Richard seemed to be down. Concerned, she asked, “Is something bothering you?”
“Willing to share?” she continued expectantly, hands on her face.
This time, Richard shook his head. The girl let out a sigh before standing by his side quietly, looking at him design a new magic rune.
And thus their time passed quietly, the day of the competition drawing closer and closer. Mountainsea stayed in the Deepblue far beyond the original month she was supposed to, but showed no signs of leaving. Every additional day she stayed made Blackgold view Richard in a more positive light, since each day translated to a hefty amount in tuition and living expenses that relieved the Deepblue of some of its heavy debts.
Life was always full of coincidences. Though it seemed like Richard could wait as quietly he had been until the arrival of the competition, one day he ran into Steven by chance at a class. This was a rare occurrence; either by purpose or not the two of them hadn’t picked the same class since the topic of the competition had been revealed. Blackgold himself had been extra careful to keep them apart in the general classes.
Seeing Richard again, the dragon warlock’s blood began to boil. His face darkened immediately, but he kept himself calm and collected as he instantly walked up to Richard while pulling Minnie up at his side.
The dragon warlock’s confidence did not come from his own subordinates. It was instead backed, literally, by the four mage enforcers and two knights behind him. Though he already knew that these were men sent by Blackgold to control and keep an eye on him, many others misunderstood the men as an elevation of the dragon warlock’s position in the Deepblue. After all, not even the grand mages warranted such high levels of protection! Thus, Steven decided to make the best out of the misunderstanding to force Richard to give way, even if such temporary suppression held no significance in the grand scheme of things.
Striding up to the centre of the road, he was just about to speak before he felt an emptiness behind him. Looking back hurriedly, he found his guards standing far from him at their original positions, with no intention to follow close. All of their gazes were focused on the girl next to Richard. Puzzled, the dragon warlock immediately turned towards the girl, only to be reminded of Mountainsea’s true identity and how she easily knocked him off his feet that fateful midsummer night.
It was at the same time that Richard looked up and saw the dragon warlock, frowning in reaction. He didn’t fear Steven, but the youth’s blood-drained face confused him.
Before Richard could even react, Steven took a large stride towards the other side of the road with Minnie by his side. Not dropping his gaze, he looked as if he had meant to cross the road in the first place.
It was only when he reached the other side of the road that Steven put on an act and turned around to glare fiercely at Richard. He was especially careful in avoiding Mountainsea; it was one thing for Duke Solam to anger Richard— Gaton hadn’t yet begun his expansion that would shock everyone— but another matter altogether to incur the wrath of the princess of the Millennial Empire! If that were to happen, Steven had no idea what he could do.
Richard on the other hand was stumped for words, confused by Steven’s puzzling actions. With no answer after a minute of deep consideration, it was only when his gaze fell on Mountainsea by his side that he finally understood the dragon warlock’s attempt. By this time, however, Steven had already disappeared beyond the corner of the street safely.
Richard was unable to hold back a laugh, not taking the incident to heart. Since the dragon warlock had never appeared in Mountainsea’s field of view, to her he was amongst the objects that could just fly away on their own.