The servant who led the way stood and looked up at the small door at the bottom of the two-storey round building without a word. After a few moments, a few servants in linen arrived, each with a silver tub and snow-white silk towels draped on them.
Shaar was stunned for a moment but obeyed the servant’s sharp look to go wash his hands and face using the water and towels provided. After wiping his face, the next servant stepped forward with another tub and towel so Shaar did not waste his time talking and got to work washing his face once more.
He had washed his face three times when the fourth servant stepped forward with a sub. Shaar was so sick of it he pointed at his own face, “Do I still have dust on my face?! Even if I had poop on my face, I’m pretty sure I would have washed all of it off by now.”
The servant did not speak but picked up a towel and started to scrub his armour at lightning speed. Soon, his armour shone brightly and even his boots were shined thoroughly. Then, another person came forward to brush his armour at every crevice with a soft brush until Shaar became a new man.
“Please enter,” said the servant coldly, “Don’t stray, don’t touch anything.”
（Shaar cursed him privately but still puffed up his chest and walked through the small door.) Upon stepping inside, the hillbilly was astonished by what he saw. He initially thought that the building had two storeys but now he knew that he was wrong. It was a one-floor building, except the ceilings were exceptionally tall, at least seven or eight metres above. The ceiling was in a rounded arch shape, filled with various protruding carvings to look like floating clouds. More than ten strange gemstones decorated these carvings and they seemed to glow beautifully.
Beneath Shaar’s feet was silver-white stone as smooth as a mirror and flawless as ever. Shaar realised that strange ripples formed whenever he made a step, as if it was water!
He suddenly heard Dora’s voice in his head, “This is a magical array… Hmmph, that guy’s filthy rich, can’t believe he has a permanent illumination array in his house.” Although Shaar was a hillbilly, he now had a scholarlyDora with him and thus greatly improved his general knowledge during recent times. He knew that arrays were rare and to make a permanent array, one needed all sorts of astronomically expensive magical jades and crystals. The source of the array’s magic came from huge quantities of rare crystals and some complex spells, which was something an intermediate-tier magician could not afford.
He had a permanent array in his house, and he was using it for ILLUMINATION?!
What shocked Shaar more was that there were no opulent displays in this gigantic house, but the space was filled with… books! The circular room had rows and rows of bookshelves about five or six metres tall, and there were even ladders with wheels attached. He scanned the room and realised that there must be at least tens of thousands of books there?! Dora seemed to sigh in amazement too.
Shaar stood at the centre of the room for a while but did not see anyone. Getting impatient, he coughed loudly. “Is anyone there? I’m Shaar and I’m here. Someone wanted to see me?” he asked loudly. No reply came, as if he was alone in the giant library.
Shaar paced around the bookshelves for a while. This hillbilly could not help but gain a sense of reverence- although he had not read many books in his life, he now respected this mysterious Calve HIll more. No matter what, this man must be very impressive if he had read this many books. Every bookshelf was spotless without a speck of dust so this place must be cleaned very often.
He circled the room several times but no one appeared so he finally walked to the centre and sat on his butt on the ground. I’m already here anyway, might as well just wait.
To his dismay, he waited for half an hour but still nothing happened. Feeling an urge to yell and complain, he leapt up but at that moment, his heart clenched. His senses heightened suddenly, and had the same feeling as being watched by a beast when he used to hunt in the forest.
A thought flashed and he searched around to no avail.
But the feeling of being spied on only intensified! He could faintly sense eyes on him from an unknown place, slowly regarding himself from head to toe. What made Shaar uncomfortable was that he could actually feel a peculiar energy ripple scanning his body up and down!
This hillbilly was already much more skilled in mental tactics, especially after learning one or two simple dragon spells from Dora. He had already grasped the most basic mental techniques and was much more sensitive to being watched! Very uncomfortable, he immediately released his mental energy across the room to search for the person- but he was still not a magician and could not find the other person. “HEY! I know you’re watching me! Come out then! Didn’t you want to see me?! Well I’m here! So why aren’t you coming out? Do you need me to call you out?!”
The feeling of being watched instantly disappeared, as if the person watching him had left. By now, Shaar was already very impatient so he glanced at a shelf next to him. He had just extended his hand when a voice came from the door. “Don’t touch it.” It was a young, dainty voice. Shaar turned to see that a girl had suddenly appeared in the room.
This girl with long hair wore long white robes. She had a plain face with faint freckles on her cheeks, and must have been of similar age to Shaar. Her expressionless face angered Shaar greatly- why is everyone here so dead?!
“Please do not touch anything here.” The girl with freckles walked over, a wooden box in her hand. She furrowed her brows, “You’d leave fingerprints on the books and those are very troublesome to clean.”
“Fingerprints? Troublesome?” Shaar looked at his hands. To be honest, this was probably the cleanest his hands had been throughout the eighteen years of his life.
“Yes, most of these books are precious ancient scripts, as well as important records of lost arts. They are very fragile and even the slightest touch could damage them.” The girl gave him the wooden box. “Take this.”
“Uh.” The wooden box was heavy in his hands. “What’s this?”
“My teacher told me to give it to you. Mm, my teacher is Lord Calve Hill,” said the girl mildly. The hillbilly rubbed his nose and held the wooden box casually in one hand to find that it was indeed quite heavy. If it was heavy to Shaar, then it must be quite heavy. “I don’t know what it is, we don’t ask if he doesn’t tell.” The girl gave him a cold look. “My teacher says you may leave.”
Shaar finally raged.
He felt like he had been played. “Leave? Is this a joke? Didn’t Calve Hill say he wanted to see me? I literally came all the way to see him and he tells me to leave just like that? Is this a game?” The hillbilly was extremely annoyed and would have thrown a punch if it wasn’t a young girl.
Anger flashed in her eyes as she warned sternly, “Please be mindful of your words! I don’t know who you are but when you mention my teacher’s name, please use the title ‘Lord’.”
Shaar was speechless. He glared at the girl, then asked impatiently, “I won’t waste my time arguing with you. Didn’t he say he wanted to see me? Where is he? What is the meaning of this?”
The girl pointed at the entrance. “My teacher did say he wanted to see you, and he did see you just now.”
“He has seen me.” Shaar was confused.
“Yes, he wanted to see you but did not say he wanted you to see him.”
Shaar finally understood what she meant. He wanted to see me, but not vice versa.
So this means I came all the way just for him to spy on me for a while?! Shaar was about to rage but finally remembered Ruhr’s description of Calve Hill. He suppressed his anger and strode towards the door, ignoring the girl. After he exited, the young servant who led him inside was standing there. “Please follow me.” Shaar did not reply, merely following the servant along the same path. The hillbilly was furious.
In the gigantic library, Calve Hill was standing at a window in a quiet secret room above. It was a strange window that only looked like a translucent circular wall made of green stone. He wore simple plain robes, his hand placed gently on the window as he watched the furious Shaar walk out of his yard. Calve Hill smirked. “So this is the guy? Hmph, this is the person you chose? My old friend, you confuse me.”
Shaar walked out of Calve Hill’s quarters, got on his horse, then rode fast out of the compound with a loud ‘hiyah’. When he arrived outside the turning, Ruhr asked anxiously, “You’re here? How was it? What did Calve HIll want?”
“Ptui! How the heck would I know what that madman wants?!” cursed Shaar as he leapt off his horse, spitting angrily on the ground.
The fat man paled and rushed forward to cover the hillbilly’s mouth, frantically looking around. “Shut your mouth! Have you gone mad? You can curse anyone in the city but nobody ever speaks ill of him even if they hate his bones! You’re just a small fry here, if he hears this, you’re dead.”
Although Shaar was a hillbilly, he still had a brain and so suppressed his anger. “Fine. I’ll tell you this- I did not even see him. I was led into a study, stood for a while, then was chased out. The man said he wanted to see me, but not for me to see him.”
Ruhr was stunned for a moment but then smiled, “This actually matches Calve Hill’s typical style. He likes to do strange things. There’s no need to be mad, at least you did not get into trouble.”
Shaar huffed twice, then suddenly remembered the wooden box. He opened it but was speechless when he saw its contents. “What… what… what is this?!”
There was a mould made of soft iron in the box, then a grey stone in the middle. It resembled a broken cogwheel with irregular teeth on the edges, about as large as two chicken eggs. Shaar picked it up and felt that it was heavy, which intuitively did not match its size. It looked just like a regular broken rock! Though regular rocks were not this heavy.
Shaar flipped it around in his hand, his chest tightening. This object is very similar to the pendant he wore! He looked at it repeatedly and realised this irregular cogwheel was very familiar.
The hillbilly mulled over it, then had a sudden thought. He took a deep breath and suppressed his curiosity, turning to Ruhr, “Let’s go! We’ll look for a place to stay first.” Although Ruhr was curious, he feared Calve more so he did not dare ask more questions. He got on his horse immediately and looked away, “I have already arranged for accommodations. I’ll lend you a house I own on the southside of the city, it’s not huge but it’s enough for you. Stay there for the night and I’ll send you someone in the morning to report yourself to the military. Remember to dress neatly. His Majesty might summon you to the palace tomorrow.”
Seeing Shaar’s nonchalance, Ruhr hesitated but finally said, “There’s another thing. It might be a little trouble and I need you to be mentally prepared.”
“Trouble? What trouble?”
The fat man scratched his head with a bitter smile. “News of you injuring Hastings has spread. Someone even shared details about you, including your face. The military has all sorts of information about you and you know how notoriety can get people into trouble sometimes.”
Shaar’s eyes widened.
“I mean, you’ve become famous because you injured Hastings and unfortunately, you have become a target to many people. There are many martial masters in the capital who are upset that you could even injure Hastings as a mere newcomer. To the spectators, you’re just a guy who got lucky. Since there’s a tournament now, warriors from all over the empire have gathered and there are many ambitious ones too. They all want to take this chance to take you down, wouldn’t that be a good shot at fame for themselves?”
Shaar grinned. “What’s there to be afraid of? They can come if they dare! I’ll beat them all!”
The fat man sighed. “The ignorance of youth! It would be fine if they challenged you in broad daylight but people could be evil! While you don’t need to worry about open challenges, you should be afraid of poisons, traps and other lowly schemes.” He looked at Shaar with pity. “Kid, you’d better pray!”
Shaar was stunned but still was not afraid. “Haha, I’m not afraid of tricks either.”
Ruhr shook his head. “I’ve already reminded you. Just be careful.”
The fat man was generous enough to give Shaar a good place to stay. Although it was in a peasant neighbourhood on the southside, Shaar had a huge courtyard and even stables. The kitchen and bedroom were dusted clean for him already. After settling down. Shaar sent Soythe to prepare dinner and then prepared to take a nap when Tatara ran in anxiously.
“It’s bad! Master, there are many people outside, all wearing armour and carrying weapons! They don’t look friendly.”
“Uh.” Shaar was stunned for a moment when they heard a loud crash. The door to the courtyard was kicked down and a booming voice came, “Is the guy who defeated Hastings in there?! I am here to challenge you!”
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