AOH – Chapter 80

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CHAPTER 80: AGREEMENT

AZRAEL MOURNSTAR

HOLY CITY OF ARALAM

The Holy Land at night is a peaceful oasis. Waves after waves, the wind blows the sand to the tent.

The night sky is black, dotted with white stars lining the sky. The moon is partially covered by the clouds.

The breeze smell of sand and dust. I remembered this morning when I take a stroll around the Holy City.

In the morning, I visited the Church of St Salivari. One of the beautiful churches erected in the Holy City. It was built to represent the Church of Light here in the Blessed Land.

It is a simple building, a rectangular shaped building, with a flat timber-beamed ceiling supported by colonnaded naves.

I almost chuckle at myself.

I have deep extensive knowledge in architecture, because I have always liked it. Well, I like how the angles complimented each other’s and marvel at the creation.

The Church has a transept placed between the apse and the nave to allow the circulation of the faithful who came to the Church.

Outside a central fountain is provided for the faithful to clean themselves before entering the church.

I also visited the Church of St John which is built during the Divisive War between the Church of Light Papnoticon which splits them into Liberate and Orthodox.

It is built of brick made in Seren, with 1 gold altar and 6 normal altar, hundreds of chandeliers and 70 gold candlestick to illuminate its mosaic.

Many of these beautiful churches were built during the lifetime of the Pious Emperor and George the Wise.

There are also the Temples which are to represent the Gods and goddesses of the Continents. I see the Temple of the Water Princess built at the time of Rayniss.

It was of Renasian design. Their design is slightly different and unique unto itself.

It stood on a podium made of Ariundus block about 13 feet high and measured 203 ft long by 174 ft, making it probably the biggest temple of the Water Princess I have ever seen.

It had 7 inner chambers with the water Princess in the Central holding a golden Jug, and the other chamber feature her maiden.

Its overhanging roof is decorated with bright painted ornaments and statues some full size, mostly of monster that the Water Princess fights during her early years.

Then there are the Temples for Three Teachings, Fire Temple and every single belief in the Continent is represented in the Holy Land.

Then from the stillness of life the curtain cloth that guard the entrance of my tent ruffle. I was a little startled but his arrival is expected.

It took my mind of my strolling during the day as I focus to the entrance of my tent.

‘I will come in Your Grace’ he said, his words sound like a whisper.

From it appeared a man with black garb. There is also his knapsack, fill with documents. He has a little sweat on his forehead.

‘Any news?’ I said.

He cover back the entrance and the quickly sit down. He opens his knapsack and brings out a flask of water and began uncorking it and started drinking from it.

‘My informant has got valuable information your grace’ Silas said his mouth is trickling with water.

‘As you know my lord I have employed many people, and bought many slave woman, an act if ever reveal to my lord Arial will amount a very harsh punishment from him, but without these means I would not have found out all these. Terrible , terrible news’

‘Tell me’ I said.

‘I put my slave woman to work in the pleasure House, the young boy I purchase, I set them up as thieves and spy, reading letter, stealing important information, while the slave girl worm “their” secret out by sleeping with them.”

“Their” refers to the nobles of the demon lords as we have uncovered. It seems Crow is in the heart of this alliance.

“And finally this few weeks after Your Grace halted the army movement, impatient and thirsting for glory, exhausted and frustrated, many of the nobles spend their time in the pleasure house, drinking till morning, and my pleasure girl found it so easy to worm information out of them in their drunken state. And finally we have got credible information.”

I nodded and gesture him to continue.

”After comparing the information I got from the pleasure girl and the spy I came into a conclusion. There is an alliance your grace headed by Aleister Crow, like we suspected and joined by many nobles “

‘Alliance? Of what? For what?’

‘That I don’t know but there is a sinister force in your court your grace that is determined to bring a great war between humans and demon race. Their objectives still remain obscured from my knowledge. Many of the letter detail that they are pleased that their plan is working exactly as they wanted to. Their letter also mentions Ba’yang which seems to be their mastermind and someone unexpected. Even they themselves don’t know who this person is Your Grace.’

‘Shadow’ I said.

‘What Your Grace?’

‘Ba’yang means Shadow. It is one of the dialects of the Demon race.’ I explained. He nodded in understanding.

‘I believe this Ba’yang person is the one who orchestrates all this conspiracy. Whoever he is he is shrouded in mystery and very careful.’ Silas said holding his chin as his expression turns serious. He is thinking of something.

Then I too took a gulp of water. The tense atmosphere in the tent and the dry environment is not good for me.

Silas look at me and asked.

‘Did you tell anyone about our arrangement?’ he said his eyes suspicious

‘No.’ I said.

‘Good. Good’ he said but somehow I don’t think he is convinced with my answer.

Then I heard footsteps.

‘Someone is coming, Silas. Hide yourself.’

Silas also heard it and quickly he went out from the back wearing back his veil and disappeared in the dark of night.

‘Your Grace’ the voice shouted from outside. I know that voice. Old friends. One of his trusted friend.

‘Elkar, come on in.’

Then he enters.

He wears a white garb a little sand is ticking to his clothes. A few sweats on his forehead and he quickly swipe it with his sleeve

‘Sit down’ I said as I pour water to the goblet and handed it to him.

“You must be thirsty”

“Thank you Your Grace.”

Elkar then seated himself upon the cushion. He looks around the tent. Then he hesitated to say something but I noticed it.

‘Anything you would like to say Elkar?’ I said.

‘I don’t know how to bring this up to you, Your Grace, but  I don’t think the military is content to just lazing around here in the Blessed Land. I believe even the generals and the noble Houses is all raring to go to attack the wall. There are already been fight that broke out between the Elves and the Orcs, Dwarves and Faeries. They are…..unfortunately too enthusiastic.’

‘What about trying to contain them here like you suggest last time?’

‘I was short-sighted Your Grace. It seems even the chanting and prayers in the holy land could not calm their hearts your grace.’

I look at Elkar exhausted face.

I know this war means something for him but the fact he is always by my side supporting every single one of my decision is an act of loyalty.

‘I know it is hard for you to persuade the other lord not to war against the human when you also once suffer under the hand of humans.’ I said.

‘Your Grace!’ He said clearly surprised.

‘I know what happen to your family Elkar.’

I heard the story where there are stranded around the Principality of Freya and killed by the mob of angry humans.

‘I know how you feel and I know you yourself want to release that anger but your decision to stand by my side is an act of loyalty that I appreciate and a gesture that I surely will not forget’ I said.

The fact that he can remain calm and supportive of my decision only strengthened my belief I have found a loyal subject I can talk to.

‘Such words are wasted on me, Your Grace’ he said.

‘Dispense with the formalities Elkar. In this tent there is only you and me.’

After that we drink wine while I try to staunch my worries about this alliance I heard from Silas.

I will make it my priority tomorrow to find this alliance and crushed it and then after this is done, I would try to trust the young human lord promise on saving Arianna.

Here’s to promises.

*****************************************************************************

1016 SEEDMONTH

ARIAL VERMONT

GRAND HALL

I am in my grand hall hearing the general report of the state when a messenger came into the Grand Hall and informed the Hall that the representative of the Blood Brotherhood has come after our invitation being received.

Many of my vassals is here, knowing of my plan to supply the rebel of Vern. Of course this will remain a secret to other foreign powers, even to Adrian.

This is to help Adrian from not being implicated if my plot is discovered.

‘Liao Bao!’ I called Liao Bao.

He has just returned from Zettel yesterday after meeting the royal family of Zettel. I manage to talk to him in the morning, and he said he have quite the crazy adventure in Zettel.

‘My lord.’

Liao Bao came in front of me and kneels.

‘You know your task.’ I already spoke to him, informing him that he will be elected as the Supervisor to the North if today meeting is favourable.

‘Yes my lord’ he nodded in understanding

He stands beside me as I sit waiting for them to announce their arrival. The herald came and shouted

‘ANNOUNCING THE ARRIVAL OF THE REPRESENTATIVES OF BLOOD BROTHERHOOD, FROM HOUSE OF CHU PRINCESS ZHENGPING AND HER GUARD ZHAO LU.’

I nodded.

‘Bring them in.’

I look at Liao Bao and his face is shown that he is shocked.

‘Liao Bao?’

‘Yes my lord’ he said looking at me dazed.

‘Are you fine’ He shakes his head.

‘Yes, my lord. I am fine. Fine.’ He said like he is convincing himself.

Then the representatives enter and they bowed their head. They consist of a man and a woman. Both seem to be from noble descent.

‘We are the representative of House of Chu and the Blood Brotherhood’ the girl said.

‘I am her guard my lord’ he said cupping his fist ‘Zhao Lu’ he said. I nodded.

The girl look young but she is clearly older than me by 2 years. She has beautiful blue eyes, a long hair and an appearance of a noble upbringing.

She is wearing a regal dress that has an intrinsic simplicity. It features an attractive dress and a matching headpiece.

The brown dress is vertically gathered and has an almost ruched appearance. The neckline and center of the brown section have an elegant golden trim.

Lacing fastens the dress over her bust and torso which I realized Liao Bao is staring at intently. It is covered by a ruffled chemise-styled collar.

Her sleeves are slit and tied at her shoulder and end in a wide cuff just under her shoulder. Her headpiece matches her dress gold patterned trim. It is a high quality works and without a doubt I know she is a daughter of great noble house.

The man beside her look refined but I can sense his internal energy. He is wearing a leather armour, and is built for flexibility.

His internal energy I also noted it in my memory. While it is not the strongest I’ve ever encountered for his age that is formidable enough.

They looked up to look at me but suddenly the girl yelped, looking at Liao Bao with…longing?

The man on the other hand looks shocked.

‘Liao Bao!’ the girl shouted a scream of excitement.

‘Princess!’ the guard admonishes her.

‘How have you been doing my lady?’ Liao Bao asks his face is blank of expression.

‘You know this people Liao Bao?’ I asked.

‘They are the acquaintance that I’ve met during my journey my lord.’

‘Is that so?’ I said.

It seems there is something more between them. I see that the Princess keep stealing glances at Liao Bao.

Anyway to the matter at hand.

‘Do you know why I invite you?’ I asked the Princess.

She nodded.

‘My lord wanted to supplies us with training and gold’ and speaking about this suddenly her eyes changed, more resolute, the naïve appearance disappear.

‘Yes, I am, my lady. But…I too want something in return.’ And the expression of the guard change.

‘What could our family give that would satisfy the rich family of Vermont?’ he said being defensive.

‘Before I give you any assistance I would like to ask a few questions. Can I do that?’

‘Please ask away my lord.’ The Princess said.

‘Why is the House of Chu tangling with the rebel? Answer this and depending on your answer I will decide what to do with my offer.’

The Princess nod.

‘As you know my lord, my father is one of the general of the Empire. However he lives far away from the south and at the most northern border of the Empire.’

I nodded. I know this.

‘I know this’ I said.

‘Yes, I suspect you do.’ Then she continues her story

‘The Emperor receives intelligence that the House of Austen is having a thought to rebel. Since the Emperor doesn’t believe the Qin family or Han family by Imperial decree my father is asked to march to the South, to Shanhai Pass to bring the Austen family to Chongyang the capital. However anyone with even a little bit of acumen or knowledge in warfare knows that if my father ever reaches Austen he would be decimated. Combined with the tiring march, it does not help that the Austen family is all great general, defending the Pass for thousands of years. So, my mother send us to join the Blood Brotherhood and seeing as our position and wealth supplied the rebel, my father has been halted from marching to handle the rebel attack in Qin.

But now my father has been supplied with 30 thousand troops from the imperial Capital my father has no reason to defy the Imperial decree anymore. If he marches he will die. If he does not march he will be branded a traitor and he will be executed. And in Vern the mistake of the Head of the family extend to his family too.’

I nodded

‘Does your father know about your involvement?’

‘No, but I think he knows. He just pretends not to.’

‘Hmmm.’

‘So….what is your objective here. I know of the charge of the Blood Brotherhood. To enthroned an Eastian ruler on the throne. Is that your father?’

The Princess looks at Liao Bao and nodded weakly. My vassals all whispered among each other

‘HAHAHAHA’

I laughed and the Hall quieted. They are all waiting for my word.

‘Is that your plan? Fine. Good plan. Great plan. I approve’ I said.

‘You will give us assistance, my lord?’

‘Yes’ they looked overjoyed

‘But……if your father succeeds in his rebellion then Vern will be a protectorate of Aetherland. Can you accept that? If you can accept that then I will give you all the assistance you need.’

The Princess glances around looking at her guard.

‘I will discuss this with-‘

‘No! Decide now. We are accomplice now my lady. If people know I actively seek the destruction of Vern Imperial family they may wage war against Aetherland, and I have no intention in engaging in another war.’

‘What will you do if we refuse?’ The guard said.

‘Then I will make the Emperor my hammer. I will send him a letter detailing your involvement with the Blood Brotherhood’ I said.

The Princess hesitated.

‘Decide!’

‘My lord’ Liao Bao said suddenly, his face is full of concern to the girl, almost like a lover, but he holds his tongue.

After a few moment of silence she nodded.

‘We will accept the conditions my lord.’

‘Then our deal is made. Please topple the Montblanc Dynasty.’ I said smiling my most pleasant smiles to the Princess.

She nodded weakly.

‘And to make sure that the training of the rebel army is done in a diligent manner and to make sure there is no embezzling of the gold and goods we will supplied to the rebel army I appoint Liao Bao as the Supervisor of the North’ I said and suddenly Lord Daniel quickly come into the front of my chair and kneel.

‘My lord, please reconsider!’

‘Lord Daniel! Why are you doing this?’ He looked at Liao Bao.

‘We know exactly to nothing about this man and your trust to him is something I do not understand my lord. Choose other people to go supervise the rebel army and I shall have no objection ‘

I sighed.

‘I trust him Lord Daniel.’

‘How can you trust him my lord?’

‘How can I not? He has risked his life, walking thousands of miles, experience many dangerous adventure to fulfil his promise to a maiden in danger, risking everything even execution. What if he were caught by the Imperial army?”

 I asked to the vassals who are all beginning to lean towards Lord Daniel proposal.

I know that if Liao Bao succeed in his work certainly I would grant him a title which he certainly deserves and other minor lords also want that opportunity.

To gain glory and riches. I continued my words.

‘He would have been tortured before dying. His deeds in informing us what happen have made us ready to face any opposition from Beyond the Sea. His deeds must not be forgotten, his suffering must be repaid.” I said as I look at my vassals.

Some avoid my eyes, some nodded. Kyle and West just remain silent

“If it’s not for him then maybe we would not have strengthen our defence on the Bleeding Wall. Maybe we will lax our guard on the Wall, and remain in the dark about the impending danger. So my decision is final.”

Lord Daniel looks at me and can only sigh.

‘As you wish, my lord.’ He said and he returned to his seat. I know he said it because he is worried about me, but I trust my judgement.

“Is there anyone else?”

The Hall is quiet.

‘Then it is settled’ I said.

Liao Bao then rushed to the in front and kneels in front of me.

‘You have honoured me, my lord. I will not disappoint your trust.’ I nodded.

‘You will be accompanied with 10 captains. They will be your guard and the one responsible making the rebel army a trained military. It will be your job to supervise them.’

‘Yes, my lord’ he said enthusiastically.

I then said to the representative to go to the banquet hall since I have prepared a small feast for them. Hearing this they excuse themselves to prepare to the banquet.

Liao Bao quickly insinuate himself with the representatives. The fact that they are acquaintance is also an added benefit.

Liao Bao will be my eyes and ear at Vern, reporting the progress of the rebel army. I have cast my lot and I hope I have made the right choice.

I will also tell the representative tomorrow before I depart to Vangua to save the Princess when they stormed the capital.

Finally the matter of Vern is solved.

The vassal all excuse themselves seeing the meeting has ended. When all the other have exited the Grand hall, I sit myself down on my chair as I clutched my chest.

The pain is getting stronger by day.

I need to be quick to meet him. Thankfully he is always there, waiting. But I need to make my journey there in secret. Else my enemy know about it.

He is in Vangua.

That man may have the answer to my affliction. He may be my last hope, probably the only one that can translate the full text other than Michael.

Tomorrow ,I will depart to Vangua and hopefully my hope will not be dashed. With that, I stand up and open the door of the Grand Hall as the light of the candle cast my shadow.

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