Chapter 1217 Dark Undercurrents

 

Alice had returned to her usual state from before she was poisoned, and almost no one knew of what had happened to her.

At the very least, there weren’t very many people who knew about the whole affair apart from a few malicious enemies watching from the sidelines.

After two weeks of being sealed off, the Tower of Fate once again opened to the public.

No one knew when, but Legendary Fire Adept Greem, Bloody Queen Mary, and Fate Witch Leader Alice had formed a small social circle of their own. A three-person circle of frightening power.

Fourth Grades. Three Fourth Grades.

It was nothing compared to the three major adept organizations. However, for a relatively unknown adept clan, it was shocking news.

A discordant response emerged within Zhentarim when they heard the news of Mary’s advancement. Adept clans of smaller sizes became unusually excited. They saw this as a sign of the growing power of the central adepts and an omen of the birth of a powerful adept.

The appearance of such a powerful adept would be the core needed to unite the center of the continent, once and for all!

However, in contrast to the excitement of these low-grade adepts was the reaction of the high-grade adepts.

Zhentarim, which stood at the center of the continent, had always been a loose alliance of adept clans, with each managing and ruling over their own territories. With this system of governance, they had managed to fend off the infiltration of influence from the three major adept organizations and created a legacy of several thousands of years.

Now, the Crimson Clan had abruptly appeared within the Zhentarim Association, a clan with two Fourth Grades. Even more concerningly, these two Fourth Grades were a couple.

That…was beyond what the Zhentarim Association could accept!

It wasn’t that the Zhentarim Association couldn’t have a core of its own. Instead, it was that this crucial figure had best not appear while they were still alive.

After all, such an individual’s appearance would mean a tilting of resources, territory, and power.

The politics of Zhentarim would most certainly be greatly shaken during this process.

If these resources all gathered around that ‘core,’ then it was possible for a major organization similar to the three organizations to appear in Zhentarim.

And that was something that none of the high-grade adepts were willing to witness!

Firstly, the three current major organizations–the Silver Union, the Northern Witches, and the Adept’s Association–would never allow such a thing to happen.

It wasn’t as if the three organizations did not have the power to take over Zhentarim. Instead, they were concerned about desperate retaliation from the local clans, which would weaken their organization in the process. If they broke their fangs devouring Zhentarim, they would expose their weakness to the other two competitors.

It was out of such concern that the three major organizations had come to an agreement in the shadows. None of them were allowed to lay a finger on the center of the continent. Zhentarim would exist as a buffer zone for their organizations.

However, even if they didn’t invade Zhentarim, they would certainly not allow another powerful organization that could rival them to appear there. If a central figure that could unite Zhentarim appeared, it was almost certain that that individual would face persecution by the organizations, both in the shadows and in daylight!

Secondly, it wasn’t just the external organizations. Even the Zhentarim Association itself would not want to see a ‘core’ appear.

Without a core, the Fourth Grade adepts would remain as kings and rulers of their own lands. They would be unquestioned and could take all the resources in their territories for themselves. However, should a ‘core’ appear, the resources, territory, and authority they possessed would certainly be worn away.

Rather than becoming members of a sizeable adept organization and becoming subject to a powerful adept, it was better to remain king of their own mountains. It held more freedom and was more liberating.

As such, the Fourth Grade adepts of Zhentarim were probably the most opposed to the existence of a core individual!

Furthermore, many Fourth Grade adepts dreamed of being this key figure of unification.

As a veteran Fourth Grade, Chairman Freed had worked diligently for a thousand years to forge the current prosperity of the Zhentarim Association. Did he not want to turn the Zhentarim Association into a powerful force that could rival the three major organizations?

Of course he did! However, it wasn’t that he didn’t want to do it. It was because it was a colossal task to accomplish.

There were a total of thirteen Fourth Grade adepts in the central lands. All of them were veterans who had lived, trained, and survived for hundreds of years. Their powers might vary, but it was challenging for any of them to completely suppress another in battle.

No two Fourth Grade adepts would be able to achieve a swift victory in the event of a battle. The most likely scenario was a draw, with both sides injured or even dead. It would cause two adept clans to fall into ruin!

It was this balance of power that kept the central lands in a delicate state of peace.

Freed had invested a great deal of effort in the creation of the Zhentarim Association. He had even managed to persuade Vice-Chairman Mirva to join his cause. However, in the end, Mirva was more of a friend than anything else.

Should Freed ever attempt to start a war between the high-grades in an attempt to unite Zhentarim, it would be a wholly different matter. When that happened, whether Mirva would support him and how committed this support would be were utterly unpredictable!

Because of how sensitive an issue it was, and how much of a difficult feat it would be, Freed could only keep Zhentarim Association as an alliance on the surface. In the shadows, the various Fourth Grade adepts were still working on their own, with no intent of actual cooperation. It was impossible to achieve the streamlining and reassignment of high-grade resources and military power.

However, Greem had appeared out of nowhere during such times. The unstoppable rise of the Crimson Clan had put this ancient, terrifying topic of unification in front of everyone’s eyes once more.

Whether Greem had the capability to become a unifying figure, and whether he had the ambition to do so were all questions that required answers!

Thus, even as the Crimson Clan continued to prosper, schemes began to form in the shadows, schemes directed at Greem.

…………

The Central Lands, the Qatarselon Region.

Bloodcastle.

This ancient castle was deep in a relatively small mountain range. Only a winding forest path connected it to Maple Town, which stood outside the mountains.

This town had a population of a thousand, with reasonably decent facilities.

The ruler of this land had been the Vik Family for a very long time, an ancient clan of vampires.

Bloodcastle was their home, and Maple Town was the farm where they bred their livestock. That said, to maintain their facade of ‘ruling’ and not scare away all the civilians with rumors of bloodsucking monsters, the Viks had always restrained themselves when it came to feeding!

Unfortunately, the Vik Family had been completely defeated by an adept clan.

Not only did their blood master die by the enemy’s hands, but even the foundations of the Vik Family itself had also been uprooted. All the land belonging to the Vik Family had also fallen in the hands of their enemies.

The only ones which could have so quickly taken over the Viks’ territory were naturally other vampire clans.

Bloodcastle had changed hands a total of three times and finally ended in the hands of the Heinesen Vampires. However, with Mary’s meteoric rise, all the other vampire clans only had two choices: migrating away from the central lands or obediently becoming Mary’s subordinate.

Bloodcastle, once the pride of the Viks, was handed over to Mary by the Heinesen Clan as an offering. It was now the most important outpost for the Crimson Clan vampires in the central lands.

The sinister Bloodcastle was composed of five separate castles and fortresses. It functioned as both the living space of the vampires and as a military fortress. Four of the smaller fortresses that were spread around the main castle were not designed with comfort in mind. They were meant for defense and warfare.

These fortresses were very sturdy in construction. Even their entrances and windows were unusually narrow and small. Most passages only allowed a single, fully-armed guard to walk through. Meanwhile, the critical regions of defense were filled with secret passages, tunnels, and hidden openings to attack from.

The outer layer of Bloodcastle had sacrificed comfort and entertainment for incredible defensive capabilities. In all honesty, Bloodcastle only required two to three hundred elite warriors to stave off an invasion of a few thousand enemies.

Meanwhile, the main castle, which was protected by the four fortresses, was an elegant, majestic construction.

The ill habit of vampires pursuing perfection, elegance, and nobility couldn’t be more evident than in the construction of this building. If this place wasn’t so far away from any other living humans, and if it weren’t for its unusually sinister atmosphere, it would have been easy to mistake the place for a castle meant for the exclusive entertainment of nobles and royalty.

Many guests were now gathered in the main hall on the second floor of the castle.

Naturally, the only ones that could be present here were vampires, all dressed in pretty, noble clothes.

Most of the male vampires wore tuxedos, with neat red bow ties and fancy hats. They held walking sticks in their hands and had neat mustaches under their noses. On the other hand, female vampires wore pretty dresses, sunhats of various colors, and soft silk gloves on their hands. They also wore beautiful, delicate high-heeled shoes.

Everyone was appropriately dressed, perfect examples of the elegance and refined arrogance of the human nobles.

Unfortunately, these individuals were all insignificant small fry. The true masters who could decide the future of the vampires were gathered on the third floor in a secret room, furiously discussing a particular matter.

“With the might of us vampires, we are entirely capable of establishing a new adept clan of our own. Lady Mary, what do you think? Should we not just leave the Crimson Clan and with Bloodcastle as our headquarters?”

A Second Grade vampire was excitedly giving a speech. However, before he could finish, a flash of crimson cut through the room as his entire person exploded in a puddle of blood.