Chapter 90 — Deck of Arcane Magic
Note: Please read my statement on the current issue that has made me stop translating AD indefinitely here.
Soran lightly leapt off the balcony and landed in the garden. He quickly hid and cast Invisibility on himself, then moved to leave the noble district. The loot he’d obtained was pretty decent; there were almost a hundred Gold Derahls, and if he sold the jewelry and rings, it would net him roughly an additional 300 Gold Derahls. Of course, that did not include the Ring of Energy or the things within the safe. As for the two unfortunate nobles, Soran couldn't care less about them since he was leaving the city tomorrow.
It was about time for the skinning incidents to reach Whiterun. As it was a large-scale incident which affected the entire Southern region, most, if not all, cities had experienced such a terrifying event. The aim of this ritual was to spread fear, which would strengthen a certain Abyss deity, but Soran at that time hadn’t been strong enough to unlock the mission and learn the details.
Soran, currently invisible, walked right past the guards and exited the noble district as if he’d just taken a stroll in the park. However, when he entered a dark alley, he noticed a hazy silhouette sneaking around the corner.
Is it the Shadow Council or Faceless Envoys?
Soran stopped and hid behind a crate to observe the person. The shadow was extremely hazy and almost blended completely into the dark night. If Soran did not have night vision, he probably could not have noticed the person.
Soran looked at his surroundings, then opened a manhole on the ground and entered the underground sewers. Instead of trailing the person and seeing what they were up to, he decided to hide and wait it out. It was dangerous to stick his head into every matter he came across. As they said: curiosity killed the cat. It was not wise to investigate something unnecessarily. After a while, Soran left the sewers and returned to the place he was staying.
Before the Time of Troubles began, various organizations fought among themselves, the most active ones being the Faceless Envoys, the Druid Order, and a certain mysterious group known as Godslayer. There were plenty of Legendary existences within these organizations, and if Soran was careless and trailed the shadow, such people might easily kill him.
Back in his room, Soran took out the safe and his whole set of tools. After tampering with the safe with much effort, he still could not open it, giving him no choice but to use the last method—smashing it forcefully. Fortunately, it was not an enchanted safe, or else brute force would not have worked. After opening the safe, Soran could not help but frown at its contents. Inside was a stack of real estate contracts; they could not be exchanged for money and could easily be re-issued to the owners by the city's authorities if lost. In other words, they were garbage to Soran.
As he was flicking through the papers though, Soran could not help but hold his breath after noticing something among the contracts: a card from the Deck of Arcane Magic.
However, Soran's emotions quickly took another turn as he realized the card had already been activated. There was already a picture on the front of the card, which would have been empty if it had not been used yet. The image showed a mechanical arm which looked liked a golem's arm, and there were hexagrams in the four corners. On the back of the card was a black whirlpool. The card seemed to have been kept for a long time, for it had light scratches here and there, and they did not seem to be recent.
"A golem's arm?" Soran murmured as he observed the activated card. "Is it part of a set? That woman had no combat abilities whatsoever, so why would she own such a thing?"
No one knew much about the Deck of Arcane Magic. Soran was no exception; though he was more knowledgeable when it came to the Deck of Many Things, his knowledge of the Deck of Arcane Magic was extremely limited. He knew that cards from the deck could be used in combination to summon powerful creatures or empower the user temporarily. For example, one could summon a Legendary-grade Elder Wind Elemental using three different wind elemental cards. It was the only known combination which someone had succeeded in collecting among the entire set. Soran was so jealous that he almost wanted to kill the guy at one point.
Suddenly, a row of data popped up.
"Received Mana Armor (Arm) of the Deck of Arcane Magic! Do you wish to repair it?"
Soran was startled for a moment, but he then replied, "Initiate repairs."
"Repairing Mana Armor (Arm) requires 80,000 Soul Energy! Insufficient Slaughter EXP! Unable to repair!"
80,000 EXP? What joke is this? That's enough for me to reach Grade 3!
Soran was speechless after reading the notification. He continued to look at the card, and he noticed something; the scratches on the card seemed to have been dealt by a sword. The card was made of considerably tough materials, and to be able to leave even a scratch must have required great power. However, he wasn’t sure what, if any, significance this might hold.
From what Soran had heard, mana armor were top-tier golems and also one of the standard defensive items in aerial fortresses back in the age of the Arcane Empire. One could even see golem patrol squads in cities controlled by powerful wizards.
Golems could be made with a wide variety of materials, ranging from clay, stone, and iron to steel and adamantite. Although they were by no means weak, an adamantite golem, basically the strongest type of golem in the current age, was only around Grade 4 in terms of strength. The only type of golem possessing the combat strength of a Legendary professional was created back in the age of the Arcane Empire, and that was the mana armor. Technically speaking, its full name was the mana-powered exoskeleton golem armor. Soran once came across one in a ruin, and his squad of Legendary adventurers almost got wiped out.
"What am I going to do with just an arm?"
The whole set of cards for the mana armor probably included four limbs, a head, and a power generator. The card was currently of no use to him; there was no way for him to get the other cards or so much Slaughter EXP right now, not to mention that he did not have the luxury to spend so much EXP to repair them. Soran placed the card into his multi-dimensional bag in disappointment, then continued to look for other things in the safe. There was some jewelry, and that at least helped soothe him slightly.
The sun was already peeking over the horizon. Soran, who was not tired at all, fiddled with the Ring of Energy and tried to appraise it. It was one of the more common Rare-grade items, and it belonged to a set of two rings, the other being the Ring of Protection. The former could fire a ray of energy to deal damage, while the latter could deploy a 100-HP shield. They were considered great items for beginners.
"Item Type: Ring of Energy +1
Item Grade: 【Rare (Grade 1)】
Description: An enchanted ring made with alchemy. When activated, the ring will fire a beam with a spellcasting score of 36. It can be recharged through alchemy.
Effects: Energy Beam (1 / 1 use remaining)"
Despite the somewhat fancy description, the principles behind the ring’s operation were relatively simple. An alchemical formation which converted matter to energy was engraved onto the ring, and firing the ring would expend the gem on the ring. To recharge the ring, one simply had to fit another gem or jewel into the empty slot.
In the game, Soran still wore the set of rings after entering the Realm of Legends, and he considered them to be almost as useful as Legendary-grade items. The rings, especially the Ring of Protection, had saved his life many times.
In the morning, Soran left his room for Gloria's place. He had not left behind any traces last night, and the two nobles should not have seen his face, thus he was not worried about getting caught or discovered by the guards. However, there seemed to be more guards on the streets, and they were all more alert than usual. Soran was unsure if the nobles had notified the guards, because getting robbed during a tryst wasn't the most glorious thing to brag about.
Soran was surprised to see that the security at Gloria's mansion was also a lot tighter than before. As he entered, Gloria spoke with a strict voice, "Someone was skinned last night!"
Soran's expression changed as he quickly answered, "Where's Vivian? I'm leaving with her right now!"
Gloria looked deep into Soran's eyes and said, "You do know something, right? If not, you would not have left Amber City with us in a hurry! You knew beforehand what would befall Amber City, right?"
Soran calmed down and remained silent for a second, then answered slowly, "I don't know much either. All I know is that the skinning incidents are part of an ancient ritual of an evil deity. It will affect a lot of places, and the fallen ones will bring slaughter and death. They will spread fear across the region."
"As expected." Gloria nodded as though she had finally understood something, then continued, "Is that why you're leaving with Vivian to enter the elves' territory? That place belongs to the Forest Queen, and the fallen ones won't be able to enter easily. Is that right?"
Soran was unsure how to answer, so he simply nodded. There was simply no way for him to tell Gloria everything he knew about the Time of Troubles, though letting her know about the skinning incidents would be a good start. It was just the beginning of a chain of events after all.
Gloria hesitated for a moment, then took out a scroll and handed it over to Soran. She asked him in a serious tone, "How much do you know? This was delivered to me by the Witch Council. In the city of Psalms, a group suicide incident has occurred. A thousand people watched a bard's performance, and hundreds killed themselves that night. There were high-ranked priests and paladins among the dead. Does this have anything to do with the skinning incidents?"
Soran read the scroll with a complicated expression.
"There shouldn't be any relationship between the two. That bard might be someone from myths and legends. Have you ever heard of the Hellpoemer?"
Gloria shuddered upon hearing the name and murmured, "Hellpoemer!? He should have fallen centuries ago…"
Soran looked at her and hesitated, but ultimately decided to tell her what he knew.
"Only his body died. At the moment of his death, he had already struck a deal with the devils in Hell."
The Hellpoemer—one of the three Legendary bards to have existed in the world.
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