Holy Tree City, Empire Embassy.
In a chamber obstructed by a three-layered barrier that was impervious to any ordinary detection, the three individuals who had returned from the White Bone Castle were seated at a modest stone table. The trio remained mute as if awaiting something.
A hush descended, and the atmosphere gradually grew grave.
After a lengthy period, the envoy from earlier lightly tapped the table and queried, “What do you think of the Holy Tree Duke?”
His demeanor and tone were no longer as deferential as before. It was more fitting to say that he appeared superior to the other two.
After a while, the Astral Council senator responded in a deep voice, “Powerful…”
Then, he added, “Terrifyingly powerful… Let me clarify beforehand. If our ultimate mission is to engage her in that palace, I won’t go berserk with you.”
The envoy scowled at this answer and inquired, “I’m not well-versed in magic… but is it that exaggerated?”
The senator sighed and said, “Rather than referring to the White Bone Castle as a palace, it’s more akin to a temple. It’s arduous to fathom that someone can construct such a magical nexus without the assistance of the Astral Council… With the World Tree serving as the source of magical power, she can unleash at minimum three times her combat prowess. Coupled with the adaptable tactical choices afforded by various spells inscribed beforehand, we require at least four combatants of equal caliber to defeat her in that palace.”
“In essence, if we can entice Remides into that palace, she possesses a high probability of triumphing?” As the envoy spoke, he gently tapped the table and surveyed them both. Observing that neither of them replied, he persisted, “That’s why we’re here. Is there an issue?”
The archbishop cleared his throat and stated, “Let’s not discuss the Senate’s directives for the time being. As someone who has lived since the Judgment era, even if Remides falls into our ideal trap, I believe the ultimate chance of victory is only about 30%.”
No amount of caution was excessive when it came to slaying a Judge.
“In other words, sans reinforcements, the likelihood of the two of them sustaining severe losses… is exceedingly low. Furthermore, with my knowledge of the Holy Tree Duke, that woman is positively not as devoted to the empire as she appears. Should we rely on her, I’m afraid she’ll betray us.”
As the archbishop spoke, he displayed a disgusted expression.
The woman’s duplicitous guise of proclaiming absolute loyalty to his contract with the Eighth Holy Spirit was truly sickening—she was evidently compelled to cozy up to the empire since she lacked support in the Emerald Province. Now, she shamelessly brandished the contract between the Forest Elves and the Eighth Holy Spirit from over 800 years ago and pledged her loyalty… It was revolting.
“The worst-case scenario may be the two of them uniting to silence us. Trust me, Floral is undoubtedly the type who will assist whomever is on the winning side. If we can’t exhibit our overwhelming combat power and make her comprehend that we hold the upper hand, then…”
“There’s no additional combat strength to reinforce us.”
The envoy interrupted and continued, “We are the sole three assigned by the Senate to complete this mission.”
“Just the three of us? We need to achieve the mission of assassinating Remides and Floral simultaneously?” the senator widened his eyes and inquired.
In other words, if they failed to guarantee that the Holy Tree Duke and Remides clashed to the death, the only course of action was to strive to ensure their own survival.
“After the Seventh Legion withdraws to the Dragonspine Mountains, the military campaign against the Blackwater Province will commence. Platinum Ring and the other Astral Council powerhouses will be dispatched to Thorn City to address the anomaly in the Grief Mountains… There’s no additional combat power to be apportioned here.”
The envoy shrugged and continued, “We can assume with optimism that they will assail each other… Of course, if it misfires and culminates in them uniting to confront us, that will undoubtedly be the worst-case scenario. Nevertheless, if that occurs, I require the two of you to endeavor to restrain Floral for five minutes.”
The duo instinctively nodded and couldn’t help but feel perplexed.
The “envoy” before them lacked any transcendent powers—he was neither a magic chanter, a favored one, nor an Authority holder… Nonetheless, he was still designated by the Senate to be the commander of this special operation.
“Five minutes. After I eliminate Remides, I’ll free up my hands to assist you in dispatching Floral,” the person said.
Camilla hailed from an alternate timeline, and if the ritual of Her birth was truly the outcome of the Forest Elf ancestors’ slaughter of Ravenwood’s indigenous humans as Nehe had deduced from his earlier investigations, Her vulnerability would rest with those treeified humans who remained alive.
The Lady of Starvation’s authority embodied the unavoidable entropy of deterioration, and the prerequisite for deterioration was that something could be worn away.
Utter death lacked the capacity to be worn away.
Hence, as long as one located the treeified humans and obliterated the pivot that sustained the other party, at least in principle, it could deal a tremendously significant blow to the other party’s existence.
This was akin to how one had to fulfill prerequisite quests such as extinguishing a few lamps, sabotaging a few performances, and triumphing in a few gladiatorial battles in-game to demolish symbolic objects and weaken a Void Sovereign’s authority.
The distinction was that William was a symbol of destruction in the Moon Realm, a place where reality would alter based on will. The Lady of Starvation’s vulnerability was in Currere, a place where anything that occurred would be set in stone.
The Moon Realm’s “symbol” could be reconstructed if destroyed, but as a bearer of the “symbol” in Currere, it would be truly eradicated upon destruction.
Therefore, the initial query was how to travel to another timeline?
William gleaned some secrets about the Lady of Starvation from the Secret Keeper.
Floral lapsed into silence for a prolonged period before querying, “Presiding Judge, may I inquire as to why you are undertaking this?”
Despite the veil, William could discern the astonishment in the other party’s eyes.
“Simply put, we have discovered the rationale behind why the undead can possess cognition akin to living beings. They’re likely in the same state as you. Of course, like Nehe, they’re both liches whose souls and bodies have been separated.”
As for the soul box that harbored their souls, it was the Forest Elves who had been treeified on this side. They forged a connection between both timelines through dreams.
Is the Lord of Nightmare also involved in this affair?
If the Lord of Nightmare is also involved, what about the Whispering Empress?
Then, how probable is it that the entire matter is a trap?
William halted. On the one hand, he thought over this assumption meticulously. On the other hand, he granted the other party time to absorb his words. Then, he inquired,
“With my understanding of Nehe, if he lacked a motive, he unequivocally wouldn’t have disseminated the method of becoming a lich. So, reveal to me, how did you acquire Nehe’s legacy? And how did Nehe venture to another timeline in the past and discover the Lady of Starvation’s scheme?”
“…That’s everything. Although I regret it, given the current circumstances, I may require you to transport Judgment 7 to Holy Tree City beforehand.”
On an ancient elven longship in the Shattered Sea, William, donning the Holy Spirit holy emblem around his neck, addressed the blond elf standing at the bow.
Remides, the Ava State governor, appeared to have recollected something and emitted a protracted sigh. She swiveled her head.
“I must confer with the staff committee first. After all, my premature departure will have a tremendous effect on morale… Please conduct your operations with the presumption that I’ll be there in three days.”
William assented and gazed at Liz, who was chomping on an elven fruit.
“I get it, I get it. You’re going to make me carry out manual labor again later, aren’t you?” she grumbled discontentedly with juice smearing her face.
Remides pivoted and proceeded to the cabin. Midway through, she halted and turned to face William.
“Sir William, if I may inquire, what do you estimate is the likelihood of a trap?”