Razer was sitting cross-legged on the ground in a basement prison cell beneath Ferde's Mage Tower.
The cell was specially designed by Link himself. Its Level-19 magical defenses were directly powered by the Mage Tower's central Mana pool. Link had personally installed most of them, including the magical circuits for spatial lockdown, temporal imprisonment, and Mana scrambling.
Simply put, even at his peak condition, Razer would not be able to break out of this place.
One side of the cell was transparent. There, Link was sitting on a jade chair which he had molded for himself using earthen magic. He was now drinking a cup of tea in front of Razer. Nana was there with him as well. She stood silently behind Link, blending herself completely into the darkness. The only evidence of her presence in the room was the cold glint of her Last Nightmare sword.
At that moment, Razer had been stripped of all his magical equipment. Clad in prison garb, his wrists and ankles were fettered with custom-made shackles. The wounds on his body completed the man's wretched look.
If anyone from the Fire Sect's higher echelons were here right now, he or she would not have thought that this stubbly old man was the same fearsome Hellfire Knight of the Fire Sect.
Ting! Link snapped the lid shut on his cup before putting it aside. Then, he asked, "How is Saint Milda doing?"
"Hmph!" Razer turned away from Link. A few seconds later, he spat out, "She is none of your concern."
Link smiled. "I'm usually quite averse to torturing my prisoners, especially when they happen to be big-shots like you. However, I could be persuaded to resort to such an unsavory tactic if push comes to shove."
The Shadow Divine Fragment was still in his possession. Even though the Snow Mountain Archmage had neutralized its ability to influence people's minds, it would still be able to draw the attention of countless other masters. Keeping it here with him was not a good idea. He needed to deliver the fragment to the Snow Mountain Archmage as soon as possible.
The problem now was that the Snow Mountain Archmage was in the Aragu realm, which was sealed off by the Inferno Archmage and barricaded by the Fire Sect. Blundering into the Aragu realm without having the lay of the land beforehand would be equivalent to suicide.
Link then continued, "I would like to ask you a few questions. If you could answer each of them honestly, you have my word that I will let you go unscathed with all your weapons and equipment. I'll even open up a portal for you to let you go back to Aragu. What do you think?"
For a moment, Razer was stunned into silence. "How gullible do you think I am?"
"If my word isn't good enough for you, then perhaps a soul contract would be enough to convince you of my sincerity," said Link with a smile.
Razer remained silent for a moment, his brows furrowed deeply. Then he said, "I know you're planning to give the Snow Mountain Archmage the divine fragment. I should warn you, it will not be easy. If you let me go, rest assured it will be the last mistake you'll ever make."
"We'll see. So... do you accept my terms?"
Razer narrowed his eyes at Link. "You can only ask at most three questions. Anything about our saint or our lord is off limits.
"Heh, aren't you awfully picky? Very well, I accept your conditions," said Link, nodding.
"Ask away, then." Razer's mood had improved considerably, knowing that it would only be a matter of time until the lord of Ferde released him from his prison as promised.
"Firstly, I need a detailed map of the Aragu Realm. Try not to leave out anything important in it."
Razer shook his head. "I'm not that familiar with the realm's entire geography..."
Before he could even finish, Link interrupted him, "Actually, you are. I know for a fact that a detailed map of Aragu is distributed to every high-ranking member in the Fire Sect, and that you are all required to commit everything on it to memory. Don't fret about how I came to know about this. I have my methods. Just focus on drawing me that map."
A normal map of Aragu was not difficult to obtain. However, what Link really wanted was a military-grade map. With it, he would have a more accurate picture of Aragu's geography.
Despite knowing that such a map would be of great value to Link, he had no choice but to comply with his demand. This was the price he had to pay for his freedom, after all.
Sighing, Razer finally nodded. "You'll get your map. However, as the information it holds is just too valuable, I can only allow you to ask one more question. If you don't agree to this, then we're done here."
"Very well." Link did not object to this. Any attempts to coerce a man like Razer would only prove fruitless and might even end up backfiring on him.
He then continued, "I would also like to learn more about Aragu's history for the last 100 years, especially about events that have been influential to the course of history, as well as a few other confidential matters that you've been entrusted to keep secret. Of course, you could choose to leave out any sensitive information pertaining to your saint or your Lord."
"What do you hope to do with such information?" asked Razer, puzzled.
"I have my reasons. So, what do you say?"
"Alright." Razer nodded firmly. He was only required to give Link a lesson on Aragu's history. He also had no problem divulging any classified information he had come across over the years. He did not think it would have a huge impact on the grand scheme of things.
When all was said and done, after signing a soul contract with Razer, Link gave him a pile of goat-skin scrolls and a set of cartographic tools for him to sketch out a map of Aragu.
In the meantime, he decided to visit the Red Dragon Queen Gretel.
Officially, Gretel was the lord of Ferde's wife. However, Link had been living on his own even after their marriage. Given how hectic his life had been these days, he just could not find the time to be with his lawfully-wedded spouse.
However, there was now a lull in his schedule. He could use the time to drop by her place. He had more or less gotten over his breakup with Celine, anyway.
He had a mansion in the Scorched Ridge. It had a garden, a fountain, and a small lake. The scenery there was beautiful. However, as Link spent most of his time cooped up in the Mage Tower, he almost never had the chance to go back to it.
Rather than magically teleport himself there, Link decided to travel on horseback through the Scorched Ridge towards the mansion.
Link's features were deeply embedded in the hearts of the people in the Scorched Ridge. However, everyone was visibly surprised to see him out in the open, as he was rarely seen outside the Mage Tower. All of them hurriedly bowed before him as his horse trotted on down the road.
Link gave them a slight nod in return. As there were just too many of them out on the street, he could only make eye contact with some of them. Those whose bows were returned swooned. To them, there was no greater honor than receiving any form of recognition from the lord of Ferde. It was probably the kind of thing they would brag to their friends and family over the dinner table for days to come.
Link did not bother fathoming what these people were thinking. He continued down the road, admiring the city that he had built from the ground up with his own hands.
As Link leisurely made his way towards his mansion, news of his imminent arrival had already reached the place.
The guards assigned to the mansion were all Dragon Warriors. Even the attendants there had dragon blood flowing in their veins. Ever since their queen officially became the lord of Ferde's wife, the fact that the lord himself had never once returned to his mansion had left all of them in an awkward spot.
Though the queen had lost most of her power, her beauty still remained untouched. Even so, it was still not enough to pull the lord away from his magical research. As a result, the dragon queen was left to spend most of her days on her own. The royal dragon bloodline might come to an end sooner than they had feared.
With such a powerful lord at its helm and its Mage Tower growing even more influential by the day, Ferde no longer stood on equal footing with the dragon race. Naturally, this meant that every time Ferde's survival came under threat, matters concerning the dragon race were all swept aside.
Elder Pettalong, who had been tasked with the oversight of the Scorched Ridge, sprang up excitedly when he heard that Link was currently on his way to the mansion. He then asked, "Are you sure about this?"
"Yes, I'm sure. There was no way I would have mistaken the Lord of Ferde for anyone else," replied the attendant who had given Pettalong the good news.
It sounded like he was telling the truth. Despite his mundane features, Link was an easily recognizable person. Even his inscrutable air was not something most people would be able to mimic. Even a blind man would be able to recognize him from his footsteps.
Pettalong paced around the room, pounding his right fist into his left palm. He then said, "Go and tell the queen immediately about this. I'll wait for him."
"Alright." The attendant quickly slipped out of the room to carry out his order. Pettalong then marched off towards the mansion's gates to welcome Link's arrival.
Soon, news of Link's return to the mansion had reached the Red Dragon Queen Gretel.
Gretel was watering her flowers when she heard it. She had planted some in the garden in order to pass the time.
After her marriage with Link, Gretel had endeavored to fulfill her obligations as the wife of the Lord of Ferde as best she could. At times, she was even required to receive important guests from other kingdoms in the mansion.
However, whenever she was alone, she would always find herself either daydreaming about days long past or else praying for Link's safe return. In some nights, she would quietly cry herself to sleep in the darkness of her room.
Ever since losing her power, she had become even more emotionally sensitive.
When the attendant brought the news to her, she let out a soft "ah" and dropped the watering can in her hand. Stunned, she then turned to a maid who was standing in a corner and said, "Let's go back to my room. I'll need to change my clothes. My hair is a mess as well."
The maid quickly followed Gretel back to her bedroom and even stumbled over in her haste. However, she immediately picked herself up, dusted herself off and tried to keep up with the queen.
However, the Red Dragon Queen suddenly stopped before her. The maid then saw a black-haired man leaning against the side of the garden's circular entrance. The man was looking at them with a smile.
The maid immediately blushed. Her thoughts were now in turmoil. Her feet swayed beneath her as she wondered why the Lord of Ferde was smiling at her. Then she realized that the lord's smile must be intended for the queen herself.
The maid immediately realized that this was her cue to leave the scene. She then quietly left the garden with a slight air of dejection.
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