Book 8, The Ten Thousand Kilometer Journey – Chapter 23, The Cardinal
The fat man said questioningly, “Hey, according to what you two are saying, someone like this Wharton should’ve become famous a long time ago. Why hadn’t anyone heard of him until now?”
The bald man nodded. “I was suspicious about this question as well, so I did some investigating. This Wharton, in all his time at the O’Brien Empire, had never participated in the yearly tournaments, nor did he ever duel against any experts. That’s why he didn’t have any fame at all.”
“To have power but not reveal it.” The jade-haired man and the fat man both sighed in appreciation.
“Forget about the past.” The bald man was very confident. “After this seventh grade tournament at the O’Brien Academy, this Wharton is going to be the center of attention.”
Within that secluded little hotel, Linley continued to sip his wine. There was a hint of a smile on his face.
“Little Wharton is two meters tall? That’s a bit taller than me.”
When Wharton left Wushan township, he had only been six years old. At the time, he still had his baby teeth, and was very adorable. In the blink of an eye, eleven years had passed.
A warm feeling swelled in Linley’s heart. This was the affection and bond between siblings.
“Little Wharton’s density of Dragonblood in his veins is even higher than mine. His natural talent as a warrior is higher than me as well. He defeated warriors of the eighth rank at age seventeen? Mm….I expect Wharton should have reached the seventh rank at least two or three years ago.”
Linley’s guesses were absolutely correct.
That year, the six year old Wharton had followed Housekeeper Hiri on the long, winding road to the O’Brien Empire. Given Wharton’s natural ability, it was easy for him to enter the O’Brien Academy.
But Housekeeper Hiri understood that the Baruch clan still belonged to the Holy Union. Thus, all this time, he had made sure that Wharton would conceal his true strength and not reveal it. If Wharton shone too brightly, after graduation, the O’Brien Academy wouldn’t easily allow him to return to the Holy Union.
Thus, per Housekeeper Hiri’s guidance, this entire time Wharton had been concealing his strength. Although he had revealed a little when he was a child, at that time he was too young and thus no one paid attention. Once he grew up and matured, he naturally understood the importance of concealing himself.
Long years of hard training.
At the O’Brien Academy, the top warrior academy of the most military powerful empire in the world, Wharton’s rate of improvement had been quite rapid.
When Wharton turned fourteen, Hillman, per Linley’s instructions, had arrived at the O’Brien Academy.
Actually, by the time Hillman had arrived at the O’Brien Academy, the ‘Apocalypse Day’ had already happened long ago. The imperial clan and major noble clans of the O’Brien Empire all had their own unique communications systems and had known about it long ago. As the elite military academy of the O’Brien Empire, the O’Brien Academy naturally knew about this news as well.
When Hillman reached the empire, Wharton already knew that Apocalypse Day had occurred.
Hillman informed Wharton of the death of Hogg, as well as Linley’s decision to seek revenge. Wharton was totally stunned. He had no idea what he should do.
With Hillman and Hiri at his side, and with the warblade ‘Slaughterer’ in his hands per Linley’s bequeathing, Wharton made up his mind to assume the responsibilities of the clan. But in his heart, Wharton remained concerned for his big brother, Linley. Wharton didn’t know what the situation was with Linley.
The distance from the Holy Union to the O’Brien Empire was simply too great. A one way journey would take at least a year.
Fortunately, afterwards the Dawson Conglomerate had gotten in contact with Wharton and sent him a secret letter.
That secret letter was written by Yale. It clearly described the enmity between Linley and Clayde, as well as the Radiant Church. It also informed Wharton that Linley was fine, but that he would embark on a long period of solo training.
After hearing this news, Wharton felt a bit more at ease.
Wharton felt all the more proud of his big brother, and that made him all the more determined to work hard, so that in the future, he would stand side-by-side with his brother. In the past, Wharton was already very hard working, but the three years after that, Wharton trained even harder. When he was fifteen years old, Wharton had reached the seventh rank as a warrior.
When he turned seventeen, Wharton believed that he had reached a certain level of attainment in the use of the warblade ‘Slaughterer’. At that time, he made up his mind to participate in the yearly tournament. As a result of that participation, Wharton shocked the empire and became the most dazzling new star in the imperial capital. The Emperor himself had bestowed the title of Count upon him.
Seated in the corner of the hotel, Linley was happier than he had been in a long time.
“Boss, Wharton? That’s your little brother, right?” Bebe was curled up on a chair, staring at Linley with his beady little black eyes.
Laughing, Linley nodded.
“That little tyke can beat a warrior of the eighth rank?” Bebe sighed in surprise. “Boss, your little brother should be able to transform into a Dragonblood Warrior, right?”
Linley was very proud of his younger brother Wharton. “Bebe, I transformed into a Dragonblood Warrior through drinking the dragon’s blood of the Armored Razorback Wyrm and agitating the Dragonblood in my veins. My younger brother has a higher density of Dragonblood in his veins. He can directly become a Dragonblood Warrior. But his Dragonform isn’t the same as mine.”
Linley clearly remembered how the Dragonform transformation was described in his clan’s records.
Once the density of Dragonblood in one’s veins was high enough, after one trained according to the Secret Dragonblood Manual, one could transform into a Dragonblood Warrior. Normally, a Dragonblood Warrior’s body would be covered with azure draconic scales, have an azure draconic tail, and a single draconic horn sprouting from the forehead.
Linley’s transformation, however, was a Dragonform covered with black scales and with black spikes piercing from his forehead, back spine, elbows, and knees, as well as a black tail.
“A bottle of Green Jadeite for each person!” A voice which Linley was familiar with rang out in the hotel.
Linley seemed to have been struck by lightning. His entire body turned stiff, and then he immediately said mentally to Bebe, “Bebe, come to me. Don’t reveal yourself.” Linley placed Bebe onto a chair in the corner of his little booth.
This hotel was very dimly lit.
What’s more, every table was separated by a wooden screen. Linley’s body was almost entirely blocked by that wooden screen, and so that familiar person didn’t see Linley at all.
Linley turned his head to peek out just slightly…
That pudgy figure. Those eyes which turned into slits when beaming.
Linley immediately pulled his head back. “Cardinal Lampson. Why is he here in the O’Brien Empire? And those people by his side aren’t weak either. What’s more, one of them is one of the Ascetics who appeared at the highest level of the Radiant Temple that year.”
Indeed, that Ascetic was one of the men who had worked with Heidens in setting up that magical formation. He was a powerful combatant.
There were at least two combatants of the ninth rank here; Lampson and the Ascetic.
“I don’t recognize the others, but judging from their auras, they aren’t much weaker than Lampson. Perhaps they are also experts of the ninth rank.”
Linley’s heart began to tremble.
“In a place such as the prefectural city of Cerre, why are so many experts of the Radiant Church present? Could it be…could it be that…” Linley’s heart clenched. “Could it be that my identity has been revealed?”
Linley knew that an enormous organization such as the Holy Union definitely had intelligence networks in the various other kingdoms and empires. But could their intelligence network really have deeply penetrated even a place such as the prefectural city of Cerre?
“Boss, what’s going on?” Bebe was still confused. Having been ordered by Linley into a corner, he had no idea what was going on.
Linley looked at Bebe, a hint of a smile on his lips. “Bebe, experts from the Radiant Church have arrived. There should be several combatants of the ninth rank.”
“The Radiant Church?” A murderous look flashed in Bebe’s eyes.
“If they plan to act against me, I’ll make sure none of them leave Cerre alive.” Linley’s heart was filled with a killing intent as well. Linley’s current level of power was far greater than what it had been in the past.
When Dragonformed, his power was that of a warrior of the peak-stage ninth rank. And what’s more, with regards to the usage of his adamantine heavy sword, Linley had also reached the peak of the ‘impose’ level, and had just dimly begun to sense his way to an even higher level of attainment.
Linley listened carefully.
Those people from the Radiant Church hadn’t discovered Linley’s presence yet.
“For this fellow’s sake, we’ve spent two years. Finally, in another ten days or half month or so, we’ll be able to go back.” Lampson’s voice was very soft.
Lampson was very careful when he spoke as well, not giving any hint as to the identity of ‘this fellow’.
“Two years.” Another black-robed man whose back was facing Linley shook his head. “For the sake of dealing with that old fellow, several of my good friends have died.”
“As long as we capture him, it will all have been worth it.” Lampson said.
Linley frowned as he listened to their conversation.
“What do they mean?”
He had indeed killed six Special Executors of the Ecclesiastical Tribunal, but he definitely wasn’t an ‘old fellow’.
“Old fellow? And they are going back soon?” Linley was beginning to understand that these people were here, most likely for the purpose of dealing with that person.
Linley began to grow curious. Who, exactly, was worth the Radiant Church expending this much effort on?
“Old fellow, what are you staring at?” One of the black-robed men snapped quietly.
“Why the arrogance?” An ancient-sounding voice spoke out. “If it weren’t for the fact that you outnumbered me and used some tricks, how could I have fallen into your hands? What a joke.”
Linley’s eyelids twitched.
It seemed that the owner of this old voice was the person whom the Radiant Church desired to acquire.
“The Radiant Church didn’t send such a large number of experts to other countries to pursue and kill me. But they did for this old man…who exactly is he?”
Linley wondered to himself.
“No matter what, and no matter who this old man is, I’ll definitely rescue him.” Linley laughed coldly to himself. “Being able to disrupt the important plans of the Radiant Church will make myself feel a bit better.”
To totally destroy the Radiant Church and uproot it entirely was very hard.
Right now, he could only proceed one step at a time.
After waiting about half an hour, Lampson and his group of men finally left the hotel, taking the old man with them. From start to finish, Lampson and the people with him hadn’t cast a single glance towards Linley, who had been hidden by his screen.
Linley walked out from his booth.
“Bebe, let’s go.” Linley casually tossed down a few gold pieces, immediately leading Bebe out of the hotel, following Lampson’s group from behind.
Linley’s understanding of the ‘impose’ level had already reached the peak of mastery. Just by using his knowledge of ‘impose’, Linley was able to stand on top of water without sinking down, something which most combatants of the ninth rank could not do. This was a higher level of understanding, which couldn’t be accomplished simply through powerful physical strength or battle-qi.
Following behind Lampson’s group, Linley finally managed to see who these people were.
“The Radiant Church has six people, along with that mysterious old man they have under guard.” Linley had the sense that these six were all combatants of the ninth rank.
Six experts of the ninth rank, guarding and escorting a single old man. And with Cardinal Lampson personally leading the squad.
Hearing their conversation, it seemed that Cardinal Lampson’s squad had spent two years on this assignment, and had lost quite a few people as well.
“Just who is this old man?” From behind, Linley managed to catch a glimpse of how the old man looked as well.
He was extremely skinny, and his white eyebrows were so long that they drooped down to his chest. Most importantly, this old man was shackled by the hands. Only, there was a piece of cloth wrapped around the manacles. Most people simply wouldn’t notice it unless they had carefully inspected it. Even Linley had only noticed it after tailing them for a long time, and only because a gust of wind had temporarily blown the cloth wrapping aside for a moment.
“Hrm? Is that…” This was the first time Linley had seen this legendary tool. “Antimagic manacles?”
According to the records, anyone shackled by these antimagic manacles wouldn’t be able to use any of the mageforce in their body. Even the most powerful of magi would be like an ordinary person. But these antimagic shackles were extremely expensive. This was the first time Linley had seen such a thing.
Linley slipped in and out of the crowds on the street, sometimes dodging, sometimes hiding. His movements were very graceful. Lampson and his men had no idea he was there at all.
After a while, Lampson and his men arrived at an alleyway. They stopped in front of a two-level residence. One of the black-robed men knocked on the door.
“Milord.” The door to the residence opened, and a middle-aged man came out with a bow. “Everything is prepared. Milords, please come in and rest.”
Lampson and the others nodded.
“Xartes [Ke’sa’te’si], you and your brother, stand guard on the old man. We will come relieve you later.” Lampson instructed.
Linley secretly was startled. “Even shackled by antimagic manacles, they still intend to watch him this closely? This old man really is something special.” This made Linley desire to ruin the Radiant Church’s plans even more.