Chapter 608: Is There a New Person in Charge?
Translator: Nyoi-Bo Studio Editor: Nyoi-Bo Studio
Gildern seemed to have something important to report. However, Link was already used to dealing with matters of great import. He said calmly, "Come to the conference hall. I'll listen to your report there."
"Yes, my lord," replied Gildern, who then hurried straight towards the Mage Tower.
Link then said to Celine, "My love, I have something to attend to. Please continue without me."
Celine's eyes were still glued to the magic book in front of her, puzzling over an extremely difficult problem concerning Soul Magic. She waved a hand at him.
"Go do whatever you need to do, as long as it doesn't involve flirting with that beautiful Dragon Queen."
Laughing at this, Link touched Celine's hand. He then let his hand run through her long, silky hair before lowering his head to give her a kiss on her forehead. Finally, he walked out of the study silently and headed towards the conference hall.
On his way, he saw Gildern hurrying towards him from the other side of the corridor. The two of them then walked side by side towards their destination.
Gildern said, "My lord, the problem we're now dealing with..."
He stopped when he saw a Magician walking towards them.
Seeing how cautious Gildern was, once they were inside the conference hall, Link closed the doors and cast a Soundproof Barrier over the whole room. He then said, "Alright, now you can speak."
Gildern handed two scrolls to Link. Both were black, which meant that their contents were extremely important.
Link opened the first scroll. It came from MI3 in Norton Kingdom. In it contained information on the Army of Destruction's movements in the North. There was also a message scribbled in it by the writer.
The message was this: A veteran scout leader of Orida Fortress recently sighted a set of intriguing tracks in the Black Forest. He determined that it had been left by a 300-man shock troop of demon soldiers. Each member of this unit had a power level of at least Level-8.
A shock troop of this scale would be able to cause a lot of chaos anywhere in Firuman.
As soon as he made the discovery, the scout leader decided to take a couple of his subordinates to follow these tracks through the forest all the way to the depths of Hengduan Mountain Range. The enemy's tracks stopped there abruptly.
As the enemy's schemes had always been a great cause for concern, any information regarding them would be brought to Ferde in a black scroll to indicate its urgency.
When he was done reading the scroll, Link contemplated on it for a moment. He then asked Gildern, "Any word on the Beastmen of the Golden Plains?"
Ferde had set up scout outposts throughout all of the Firuman continent. These outposts formed a far-reaching information network, which was complemented with that belonging to Norton Kingdom's MI3. This allowed Ferde to keep tabs on almost everything on the continent.
Gildern took out another scroll and gave it to Link. "My lord, the Golden Plains had sent us information regarding the demons' appearances. They were sighted in five different spots. I've already marked them out on a map. Please have a look at it."
Link took the scroll and unfurled it. A detailed map of the Golden Plains was depicted on the scroll, with five red markers on it which pointed out the locations where demons had last been sighted. These markers began from the northeastern corner of the Golden Plains, where the plains were connected to the Hengduan Mountain Range, all the way to the Korora Mountain Range in the southwest. It was clear where the demons were heading.
Link was stunned for a moment when he realized what the demons' destination was. Are they heading towards the realm crack? But how did the Army of Destruction know where it was?
If the Army of Destruction had long known the precise location of the crack, they would have made a huge fuss over it a long time ago. They certainly would not have waited until now to do something about it. The God of Destruction would also be making a lot of noise trying to come through the crack from the other side.
Only now did they decide to move in to open the crack after it had been sealed up and the space around it had been stabilized. This could only mean one thing: They had just recently discovered the coordinates of the crack.
Regardless of how they came upon this piece of information, the demons needed to be stopped before they could break open the crack.
"When were the demons spotted?" asked Link.
"Any news from Orida Fortress would need at least three days to reach us. As all our scouts are given communication runestones, news from the Golden Plains would at most be delayed by two hours before reaching Ferde. Also, according to one of the scouts, an hour had passed since he received word on the demons' latest movement and brought it to the nearest outpost in the Golden Plains, so there is a three-hour delay in total to the news that we've received," answered Gildern.
This meant that information on the demons' latest movements that Link now had was three hours old. He looked at the map again. The last marker was no more than a thousand miles away from the crack. The demons might already have started working to break its seal if they moved fast enough.
"I fear this unit of demons means to destroy the seal that had been placed over the realm crack." Link tapped on the scroll, somewhat concerned. However, he showed no sign of panic.
The shock troop consisted of 300 Level-8 masters. There might even be a couple of Legendary demons in their midst. Together, they were a force to be reckoned with, but the dragon guards posted near the realm crack were no pushovers either. They had been guarding the crack for almost two years to prevent any Void creature from trespassing the Firuman realm. The Level-18 magical barrier erected around it had also been designed mostly by Link himself. It was an extremely intelligent piece of work and would not be easily overcome by anyone.
In other words, the barrier would be able to hold up against any enemy attacks for a long period of time.
Gildern's face remained grave. He said, "My lord, this all seemed a bit too easy. In truth, if the enemy had intended to make their way across the plains undetected, they would have chosen a less frequented path and not leave such an obvious trail behind them. I fear that this is also part of some elaborate scheme the demons have cooked up for us."
This had crossed Link's mind as well. It was obvious that the enemy wanted Link to notice them. The demons would continue with their mission, regardless of whether or not Link decided to provide backup for Dragon Valley. If he decided not to interfere, the crack would be opened, and whatever horrors lurking behind it would be released into Firuman. If Link decided to help, there was a high chance he would be ambushed by the enemy as he made his way there.
He nodded. "You may be right. Such a scheme suggests an intelligent mind behind it. I think that there may be someone new calling the shots for the Army of Destruction now."
Link then opened up the second black scroll.
The black scroll was from one of Ferde's own scouts. In it, the scout had reported an attack launched by the Army of Destruction in Dark Water Port, to the west of the Black Forest.
The ones who had been attacked were the High Elves. Their attackers were the Nagas, demons and the Dark Elves. They had wiped out almost all of the High Elves who were there that day. The High Elves' Silver Storm Sparrow warship had also been destroyed by the Army of Destruction. As an insult to injury, members of the army had cooked and feasted on all the High Elf corpses they could find. It was most likely a terrible scene to behold.
Looking at the report, Link said with a frown, "Weren't the High Elves reported to be in talks with the Army of Destruction about forming an alliance? Why have negotiations broken down between them?"
As far as he knew, the current leader of the Army of Destruction was a Naga Priest, who had always preferred to deal with things through diplomacy. Someone like her would never have attempted something so brazen.
Gildern shrugged, evidently troubled by this as well. "My lord, during their negotiations, the Army of Destruction had sealed off a 5000-feet area around the Dark Water Port. This was all the information we could find about the incident."
Link tapped a finger on the table. "Strange indeed... Tell me, do you think that there's been a change in management in the Army of Destruction?"
Gildern could not give Link an answer. As an intelligence officer, he would never make baseless assumptions without solid information, as he knew from experience that the truth was always far stranger than one could imagine. Also, as he did not possess the near-clairvoyant instincts of a Magician like Link, Gildern's predictions would probably not be as accurate as those made by the lord of Ferde.
On the other hand, Link's instincts were extraordinarily accurate. This had been proven on multiple occasions in the past.
Before Gildern gave him a reply, Link muttered to himself, "I think that there's a new commander at the helm of the Army of Destruction. He or she is extremely intelligent but does not seem to have any experience in leading an army. Their extreme actions and the fact that they were able to immediately inspire loyalty from the army meant that they possess incredible power. Also, the usurper had thrown Molina's plans for an alliance out of the window. This meant that they might not be a Naga..."
Link rambled on, making one deduction after another in an attempt to determine the new commander's identity. Finally, two potential candidates surfaced in Link's mind.
"Assuming the Army of Destruction had changed leadership, there are only two people capable of doing such a thing. The first is Eugene. Knowing him, he must have prepared a contingency plan for the destruction of his physical body and regained his full strength by now. The other potential candidate is Saroviny... No, it couldn't be her. She's still in another realm and has already reached Level-16. The Eye of the Realm would have picked up any attempts made by such a powerful presence to breach the walls between realms. She also would have left some shred of dignity for the Nagas. This means that Eugene might be the one behind everything."
Once he reached his conclusion, Link looked at the two black scrolls in his hands and began closely reading the description of the attack in Dark Water Port. Gradually, based on his memories of the Dark Magician, Link realized that the new leader of the Army of Destruction and Eugene had behaved exactly the same way.
However, Link had no way of proving his fears at the moment. What held precedence right now was the enemy's plan to open up the crack. Under no circumstances should anything be allowed to happen to the crack.
The crack was not just Ferde's problem. The dragons would also be greatly impacted by it as well. As they were now allies, this meant that it was a problem both sides had to confront together.
Link then said to Gildern, "Listen closely."
Gildern stood up immediately.
"Assign a couple of scouts to the Black Forest. I need to know as soon as possible what is going on inside the Army of Destruction. Make this your top priority."
"I understand, my lord."
Gildern turned around and exited the room to carry out his orders.
Link sat in the great hall, meditating on something for a few minutes. Then, he took the two scrolls on the table and set off to find the Red Dragon Elder Pettalong.
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