GOTA Book 1 Chapter 24
Ardor had waited with Brog for quite some time. Under the constant pleadings of Brog, Ardor had decided to wait until Jaspen had awaken from sleeping in the cell.

Who knew that the old blacksmith Jaspen would sleep for almost 48 hours straight without stopping. From Brog's words, it seemed that the old man was quite demented as Ardor could not give reason as to why Jaspen would sleep for two days straight.

Only after taking Aura scans did Brog's fears of the old man dying in his cell go away. In fact, it seemed that the old man was doing quite well. His Aura level, according to Brog, rose by one level to an Aura Mortal level 9 without being sustained by food and water. Ardor understood that perhaps the young noble from the Faulkner family that took a liking to the old man may have not been naive, but rather very shrewd.

"Do you think I can wait here for another day? I have an order by the Warden to complete, and he limited how much time I can take." Ardor looked at Brog, telling a white lie as his words seemed to carry his displeasure. Although the Warden had told him to feed Mona the white liquid, he did not give him a deadline. This was simply to put pressure on Brog, and from the hesitation and fear on Brog's pale face it seemed to work.

"Ok, I understand." Brog put aside the tea set he had brought with him to the dungeon. After about 12 hours of waiting in the dungeon, Brog thought about passing the time by talking with Ardor over Alberdan tea and cookies made in the guards' break hall. He didn't think that by the time the cookies were all reduced to crumbs and they had each taken 9 cups to sip Jaspen would still be asleep. Ardor is right. Something is strange.

Rising up, Brog walked towards the cage. Using his fist, he banged on the bars thrice, waiting for a reaction from the chained figure inside.

"Old man Jaspen, are you awake in there?" Brog asked into the dim cell, his small eyes watching for any movement. Nothing. Brog looked back to Ardor, seeing his displeased expression once more. Reinvigorated, he banged six times in succession before asking the old figure inside if he was awake.

At this point the figure inside moved. His chains rubbed against one another as the old man sighed, his hand covering his parched mouth. His raspy voice was no surprise to Brog.

"Dungeon guard Brog, what brings you here?" The old man rubbed his eyes to get rid of the sand before walking as close to the cell gate as possible. Then he sat down, looking at the fat and round Brog as he stood in front of the cell.

"Head guard Ardor wants to ask you a few questions." Brog resigned back to the opposite wall of the dungeon as Ardor replaced him. Ardor still carried frustration in his eyes, although it was a bit reduced. So he's not dead after all!

Ardor looked at the old man, taking notice of the tired eyes and the weathered clothing he wore. It didn't surprise him that a dungeon dwelling prisoner would end up wearing such shabby clothing.

"I want to ask you about the Lord based technique that the young noble from the Faulkner family had given you some time after your arrival." Ardor walked back and forth a short distance near the cell, his gaze trained on Jaspen.

"Head Guard Ardor, do ask anything. I will not hold back without reason." Jaspen spoke calmly, his dry throat hindering his speech. If his throat was wet, perhaps he'd be able to speak better.

"First of all, what was the name of the technique?" Ardor looked towards Jaspen, waiting for his reply. Although I don't know the name, if this old man dares to lie that the Faulkner family's young master had given him a Mortal technique to rise towards Warrior rank, I won't restrict myself to only conversation.

"The technique was named the Primal Fold technique. It was a body-strengthening technique." Jaspen replied to Ardor, his thoughts flowing. Why is he asking me about the technique? Does he want it for himself?

"Do you still have it?" Ardor spoke to the point, a tinge of greed flashed in his eyes. Such a technique can still be sold, even if incomplete. I'm sure the price would be worthwhile.

Jaspen had noticed that tinge in Ardor's eyes. He maintained the tone of his voice. "I apologize, head guard Ardor. I no longer have the technique." Jaspen's head fell, seemingly depressed about losing the technique.

"What happened to it?" Ardor probed Jaspen with his Aura, trying to determine any changes in his body. Aura had many uses, and one of them was detecting emotions. Signs of hesitation, fear, or shock would give Ardor reason to believe the old fogey was hiding something from him.

"Head guard Ardor, it was a once-use technique. I could only look at it once and instantly memorize it, then the scroll turned into ashes." Jaspen lied to Ardor. He gave off the feeling that he was telling the truth.

"Is that so?" Ardor wasn't able to detect anything untrue with what Jaspen was saying. The old man's heart was stable, his mind calm. It doesn't seem like he is lying.

"Lastly, I want to know. Did you teach the Aurum child this technique?" Ardor's voice and face became grave. If Jaspen had given this technique away, Ardor could use that to blackmail Jaspen for the technique.

After all, the old man said he memorized the entire technique. That meant that with certain craftsmen they could recreate the whole technique without much difficulty. The cost would be outweighed by the benefits.

If the young noble of the Faulkner family knew that Jaspen shared one of his gifts with a person such as Mona without his knowledge, surely Jaspen would either be punished or even let go by the noble. After all, no one wanted a servant they couldn't trust. If Jaspen turned out to be such a servant, Ardor's plans of profiting off of Jaspen would be possible.

"Head Guard Ardor, I did not share the technique with the young noble Aurum. Anyone from Leafwind knew that he has the Mortal Curse. It would be senseless for such a person to train an Aura technique. That would only hurt the young noble severely." Jaspen spoke half-truths, leading Ardor down his own line of reasoning. He's after young noble Aurum. For Anne's sake, I can't let him get in any danger.

Ardor looked at the seemingly frail old man, his face grim. He channeled his Aura fully, hoping to find the trace of a lie. But all he learned was that Jaspen was calm, his heart was beating normally, his mind was clear. Ardor couldn't tell if Jaspen was lying to him about anything.

Ardor turned around towards Borg, his visage increasingly ugly to behold. All I can do is poison that child with the vial. But first...

He looked towards Borg with a sadistic smile. It was time to renew his favorite pastime once more.

Borg looked at the sinister pressure Ardor gave off, his heartbeat churning. His legs budged at the last moment as he made a full sprint for the gate exit.

Sadly, his Aura level was much to low. With increasing Aura levels, one's body would become more stronger, more enduring, more agile. With the difference in Aura levels, Brog couldn't help but become the recipient of Ardor's dark love once more. His cries of pain filled the halls, his body enduring punches and kicks and bruises.

*****

Gryfor looked out of the window of his office, watching the two young adults leave the cell Mona while Mona was still inside. Where is Ardor? It's the perfect time. He didn't want to wait to collect Mona's Lifeblood. His patience wasn't waning out of greed, but rather out of knowledge.

He knew that the royal family of the Alberdan Empire would want Mona under their custody as soon as possible. Every minute he waited to give Mona to them was another minute he arose suspicion.

The war had largely been complete, the resistors had been dealt with. For the most part, all there was left was for the surveyors from Alberdos to scan the land, especially the Leafwind Highlands. With the front line armies preparing to return home, it became increasingly obvious to Gryfor every moment he waited wasn't going to help him.

I can't make them wait forever. He has to have an 'accident' before the next testing date. Otherwise I won't be able to avoid suspicion. His plans for Mona's Lifeblood were thoroughly concealed, but Gryfor knew deep down that those old elders back in the empire of Alberdos wouldn't leave out the possibility.

Gryfor's own backing to become a General had already died. To rise in the ranks in the vast Alberdan Army, it took some connections to rise so easily, even with skill. Many officials would work with higher ranking soldiers to guarantee their children an easy passage through their mandatory enlistment. Gryfor, along with the rest of the citizenry, had to deal with the war, the disease, the rationing, and the ill atmosphere.

I must rise, for their sake. Gryfor thought back to his past, one of living in the slums of the Alberdan Empire. Few knew of his origins, of his parents, of the deep disgust he felt for the frivolous wealthy as they decried the poor being within their eyesight. Of how his childhood had no fresh water, no ripen fruit, no laughter, no fresh air.

He could only hold his anger deep inside. First, he would rise through the ranks and become the youngest Secretary of Defense the Alberdan Army had ever known. Then, he would work with what remained of his connections to marry into the royal family or one of its close branches. Finally, he would steadily reduce his competition, the other royal princes, for the throne and change the nation as he saw fit.

That Ardor, he thinks too small. Petty gains for a petty life. It suits him. His life had harsh training and harsher experience. His family was less financially able compared to the many other men that joined the army. They came and went with handwoven cloths and trinkets to guarantee their safe passage through time and war. He came and went with funeral possessions of a sister defiled and killed after being tortured to an inch of her life.

The world was dark, but to change it, it may take greater darkness. This, Gryfor understood. Personally he respected the Leafwinder's ways of life, and hoped to follow them if he ever became emperor. But when he was commanded to lead the war front and destroy the city of Rosalin to the ground, would he be able to choose?

I have killed many, and many will be killed. I only wish to end the suffering hidden behind the walls. Only then can I be satisfied. He killed every Leafwinder in his path. To his fellow soldiers, he was a respected but feared leader, distant in actions. To the Leafwinders and many more people he was a mass murderer, a person that ended life without even putting it in his eyes.

His ears had been graced by the countless screams of agony and countless snide remarks from a distance, but he kept going on as if oblivious to it all. Only the victors are remembered, their names written in the Lifeblood of the failures of others. To improve the lives of the denizens cast away into the slums of Alberdos, he couldn't be a friend to any. Especially since his sister died without even seeing her wedding day. She wasn't even of age to be married before she left me.

His heart had grown cold over the years, any trace of emotion buried in his heart. The men were expected to be Stoic to an extent in Alberdos, and he strove to fit this mold. Perhaps it would make it easier to become the grand emperor of the Alberdos Empire.

Of course he considered other methods. Assassination, coup d'etats to various degrees, and even a silent overthrow of the royal bloodline, but sadly as a child born in the slums his background was unsavory and his only redeeming trait was his efficiency. And so, the Leafwinders died, helpless to the might of Gryfor as he wielded his weapon. The deaths of the few for the lives of the many. Although this tactic was used against the dwellers of the Alberdan slums for so long, he didn't have any other choice to do the same with the Leafwinders.

If the day ever came, he would ensure the remaining Leafwind descendants have autonomy in the Great Basin Province, allowed to live as they once was. It was the least he could do after treating their lives as the parchment to record his complicated plans.

Of course, the silence in the room soon came to the end. A small Creation shook back and forth in Gryfor's front coat pocket. His hand pulled this Creation out. It was a Transmitting Creation meant for speaking over long distances.

The sun outside had long ago sunken beneath the landscape, the moon now floating in the sky. A few clouds covered the moon, the rays of moonlight barely making it through.

His Aura entered the Creation, verifying the user was him. After a few irregular clicks, he heard the voice that came from the other end. It had a hint of savagery, a hint of class, a hint of life, and a hint of death. It came from someone Gryfor knew quite well.

Gryfor spoke into the device. "Elder Parsmir, why do I have the honor to speak with you?" He maintained respect in his tone, a trace of civility and loyalty along with it.

"Gryfor...It's been a long time." The old fellow on the other end of the line seemed joyous before he started to chuckle into the phone.

"Let's leave out the pleasantries, General Gryfor." The old man did away with the warmth he shown earlier, changing to indifference.

"I only have one question. Where is Mona Aurum?" The voice became serious, ringing in Gryfor's ears.

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