Tender and Delicious
Time passed without anyone paying attention, and gigantic cracks began to form on the ice sheets north of Floe Bay. Spring had arrived, a season where the many magical beasts began to mate from gophers to dragons.
Everyone by Sharon’s side could sense that Her Excellency was growing extremely strange. Her emotions were starting to fluctuate without pattern, like those of a little girl with a rabbit’s heart. The grand mages in contact with her grew extremely cautious, paying attention to her every thought. Even someone like Fayr had to grow prudent. Some people guessed that these were the stirrings of love, and the grand mages who had vast experience knew that beasts were most dangerous in breeding season.
The afternoon sun was shining brightly, and the legendary mage was laid lazily on her couch as she pondered something so hard she’d even forgotten to eat her favourite fruits from beside her. She was dressed casually, the soft ivory-coloured silk gown sticking to her like a second skin.
A pair of bare little feet were rested high on another armrest, her tender skin revealing a gentle lustre akin to a pearl under the warm sunlight. This was a pair of bare feet that was extremely tempting, the tiny bit of calf they revealed enough to make the ignorant do all they could to imagine the scene deeper between those legs.
However, no ignorant people could stay by the legendary mage’s side. They all chose to disregard the spring radiance Sharon exuded, no stray thoughts in their minds.
Most of the people here had followed Sharon through battles from plane to plane, while the rest had taken part in the creation of the Deepblue. They all knew her terrifying methods very well, and in their eyes the person reclining in front of them wasn’t a little woman who was so tender one couldn’t resist the urge to take a bite of her. No, she was a true, ancient, dragon! Anyone without this awareness had long since disappeared into the planar storms.
The mages made their reports as per usual, but Sharon herself was obviously lazy and disinterested. Her eyes were even flickering shut.
At this moment, a servant walked in, saying that a great master in art had come to seek an audience with Her Excellency. Sharon’s narrowed eyes did not move for a long while, and only when the servant was almost unable to keep this half-bowed pose and began to send helpless looks to the grand mages did she lazily nod. The maestro then approached her fearfully, artwork in hand.
As someone without the qualifications to attend a meeting with so many higher-ups, he’d never had such a feeling before. When his gaze shifted to Sharon’s shining bare feet, everyone saw the master’s throat move. Tens of blade-like piercing gazes immediately caused him to become aware that he had forgot his manners, and cold sweat immediately covered his body. Thankfully Her Excellency had not opened her eyes, instead still looking dazed as if she was thinking about something. She hadn’t even noticed the rudeness and strong physical reaction of the artist.
The maestro came to the couch and bowed his head down, not daring to let his gaze land on any part of Sharon’s body. He revealed the work he was hugging tightly to his chest, and then said with respect, “Your Excellency, your student Steven has made a portrait for you. It has great artistic value, which is why I was so bold as to take some of your precious time to hand it to you.”
Sharon’s narrowed eyes finally opened completely, and she began to focus. She was like a cat sunbathing as she shifted her body lethargically to look at the portrait from a better angle. The legendary mage had many pupils, and she had also obtained all sorts of strange gifts before. However, Steven was the first to give her a portrait.
This was a half-body portrait, the background being of Floe Bay during summer. The foothills of the Everwinter Mountains had been dyed a tender green, the peaks still covered with snow year-round. The background seemed like peppermint milk, a famous dessert in Norland.
The sea was tranquil and deep, while the skies seemed lofty. Various shades of blue filled the space between them, with the legendary mage at the centre. Sharon was dressed in her favourite sky-blue robes, leaning against a parapet wall and staring into the distance.
This truly was a masterpiece!
There was no lack of portraits of the legendary mage, even once done by accomplished masters. However, all of them accentuated her identity as a legendary mage. While they would express her beauty, it was all centred around dignity and magnificence. Earlier works sketched out the scene where she battled on other planes, showing both her beauty and her cold killing intent alongside the power that caused others to bend their heads.
This half-body portrait displayed originality, and in this work she seemed more like a beautiful woman with a graceful temperament.
The background of the painting was in blue, green, and white, the purest, most tender and sweetest of the palette. They had all been handled quite well too, none obscuring the focus. If not for that robe that only Sharon wore, it would be difficult to tell that the indistinct and dispirited woman was actually a legendary mage.
The half-body portrait was ingenious. They revealed Steven’s thoughts in their entirety, yet remained ingeniously vague.
Sharon’s eyes finally twitched slightly, and the maestro noted the slight change. Having once wandered through many kingdoms, mixing with courts and aristocrats, he had been a lady-killer himself. Be it young or old, he’d seen the look in Sharon’s eyes many times before.
Indeed. All these years people only remembered that Sharon was a legendary mage, keeping in mind her powerful magic, wealth, and growing prosperity that could be compared to groups of dragons. Everyone forgot she was a woman; although the lives of legendary beings were very long, their state of mind would change with time. With time, they would age as per usual, then feel young again, then change again. At the end was indifference. The high-grade elves on the Norland Continent had once had this glamour, and had a profound understanding and recounting of this.
Sharon had long since entered the legendary realm, but she was still in the same state of mind as an eighteen or twenty-year-old. It was hard to tell, but the haziness in her eyes was something the maestro had seen in many young women dreaming of love. The painting had evidently had great effects.
Once, in the past, the art master had been taken in by Sharon’s beauty and might, willing to give up on the colourful world outside and settle in the Deepblue. However that one-sided admiration had been dulled by time. Love needed a real basis, and once he started taking money from Sharon to maintain his lifestyle his distant hopes quickly disappeared.
He felt no jealousy at Steven’s wishes. All that hard work only brought to mind the memories he thought he’d sealed away. As he pondered over them, all he could feel was sadness, a sign of age. Ten years ago, helping Steven with this would have been unthinkable even if it gave him a huge amount of gold.
Perhaps startled by the art master’s gaze, Sharon suddenly opened her eyes completely. Her eyes were completely clear, shocking the master into lowering his head.
The legendary mage greedily took a look at the half-body portrait that Steven had drawn, and then beamed brightly, “This was drawn quite well. Am I actually so beautiful, though?”
“Of course! You are the most beautiful of all legends!” The maestro seized the opportunity to say this before all the other grand mages.
Sharon chuckled reservedly, and then turned to the grey dwarf, “Blackgold! Little Steven isn’t half bad. How about this, add a little of my Delight for him this month. As for the amount…”
Having said this much, Sharon suddenly saw the art master still rooted to the spot in a daze, “You should leave!”
All sorts of thoughts in his mind, the maestro didn’t dare linger in the place. Knowing that Sharon would give Steven some of her Delight was enough, that piece of news would bring the youth enough joy to net even more benefits.
On the way towards the teleportation point, the maestro suddenly slowed his footsteps. He was shocked at how he’d changed; since when had he grown so philistine as to help a young noble he was not familiar with pursue someone he liked? Was it just for the money?
The man began to struggle in his mind, and a voice told him practically all grand mages were fighting for Sharon’s Delight. Wasn’t that all for gold? If all the great mages did that, then what did a little mage like him have to boast about?
However, rationality and experience ruthlessly reminded this maestro that the two scenarios were different. All the grand mages had their own bottom lines— they contributed to the Deepblue in their own ways to receive the rewards they did. Sharon’s Delight definitely did not come out of nowhere, it was a show of acknowledgement for their achievements and hard work. These grand mages who had aged all viewed Sharon as they would a cute little girl, willing to joke around with her. Of course, there were also people working only for gold, but the common trait between them was that they were loyal to their work. Every gold coin that they earned was earned with a clear conscience. Someone with no principles definitely could not survive by the legendary mage’s side.
With this thought, the art master immediately felt that the gold coins and magic crystals in his pocket were beginning to heat up. He could not help but wonder if it was this self-defeatist attitude that didn’t let him create a work he was truly satisfied with in years.
In the meeting hall, Sharon continued to stare at the portrait after the maestro left. There was a complicated look evident in her eyes that caused the grand mages to exchange glances of worry. Steven’s meaning was obvious, and they weren’t afraid that Sharon didn’t understand it. However, she was acting very strangely now, which left them uneasy. Could this legendary mage be so foolish as to be touched by this shrewd young person?
A while later, Blackgold couldn’t endure it anymore and coughed a few times. Getting Sharon’s attention, the grey dwarf spoke in a loud voice, “Your Excellency, you haven’t decided on Steven’s reward for this month.”
Sharon heard the grey dwarf’s unusual tone, but her eyes were still fixed on her portrait as she said nonchalantly, “Just a hundred gold coins is enough.”
“This… how much?” This was the first time that the grey dwarf found himself doubting his ears. Watching how taken the legendary mage was with the portrait, even a million wouldn’t have shocked him as much as this.
The legendary mage finally peeked out from behind the portrait, answering in annoyance, “A hundred! Have I not made myself clear? How much more do you want to give? Are you going to pay for it?”
“Oh no, of course not! You’re joking here. How could I have the money?” The grey dwarf hastily rose his hands, frightened. The grey dwarves and the dragons had similar likes. Gold was not a currency for him, but a collectible item where more was better. Getting him to give up his money was just as painful as cutting off his beard.
The legendary mage’s little nose wrinkled as she hummed, “That’s fine then. Also, give that guy who just left ten thousand. This was drawn well, and he’s improved quite a lot. He needs to be rewarded.”
Blackgold could not understand why Sharon was gazing at the portrait Steven had given her, yet said that she wanted to reward the art master. A few grand mages seemed to be deep in thought. Based on how familiar they were with each other, they exchanged gazes and then nodded slightly. Of course, nobody thought of clearing up the confusion of the grey dwarf who lacked a single artistic bone in his body.
However, Sharon had no intentions of hiding anything. She waved the portrait in her hands around, “Look, the composition and fundamental colours all have that guy’s style, and only the portrait, layering of colours and details are different. It’s obvious that he made the base sketch and Steven only coloured a little on top. Hmm? What kind of expression did you show just now? Did you really think I couldn’t tell? I’ll remember this! Be careful of your salary next month! And you, Blackgold, it’s about time you learn art. Don’t just focus on money!”
The grey dwarf nodded hard, “Rest assured, Your Excellency! I will definitely study hard. The next time I participate in the Sacred Tree Empire’s treasure meet, I’ll definitely get a few renowned works that will rise in value!”
Sharon’s gaze returned to the portrait of herself, and she took a few more looks before sighing, “Actually, seeing this only urged me to make a decision. Alright, enough of that. Is there anything else from you?”
Fayr took a step forward and reported Richard’s studies with Naya in detail. At the very mention of the young man Sharon’s eyes brightened, and she cut in before Fayr could even finish, “No wonder Richard’s made a breakthrough in runes. So this guy has been interfering. Professor Fayr, do you think he will be a negative influence on Richard?”
Fayr had long since pondered over this question and shook his head, “No, he might be beneficial to Richard’s future.”
Sharon’s eyes immediately glinted dangerously, “Someone is thinking of putting their hands on my Richard?”
Fayr hastily said, “That’s not what I mean. We know that Richard will become a runemaster in the future, and it’s rare for runemasters to avoid the battlefield. Learning a few dark arts will be useful for his survival.”
The legendary mage then nodded, “That’s true. However, Naya’s actually secretly teaching my apprentice without my permission. He’s still as gutsy as he was back then; the Blade of Calamity was extremely annoying. I wanted to give him a lesson he would remember, but that guy actually didn’t care about his reputation and holed up like a little mouse! I left him be, but who knew he was actually hiding inside the Deepblue? Hm, good, very good, hehe, hehe, hehe!”
When the legendary mage’s laughter began to sound strange, all of the grand mages went quiet. Naya was truly gutsy to dare hide in the Deepblue even after offending Sharon. It had to be said that this was both a great surprise and a good idea. However, now that his identity was made public, it would be too late even if he were to leave the Deepblue immediately. Sharon might not be the most powerful legendary, but she was the one who held the most grudges, which was why her tracking and hunting abilities were just as well-known as her magic.
Nobody really minded the Blade of Calamity’s identity as a killer. All kinds of people came to the Deepblue, the flow of residents at the borders comparable to the capital of a small country. Who knew how many of the people living here had once worked in the shadows to survive? As long as they followed the Deepblue’s own laws, nobody would care about their pasts. The Deepblue only upheld their own laws, and the rules in the outside world did not matter in here.
Sharon gritted her teeth and said, slightly vexed, “While the Blade of Calamity offended me before, those were trivial matters now that I think about it. I did also look through his personal treasures decades before… Hmm, it’s been so many years, so forget it. He’s tactful, though, because he’s teaching Richard the real things and hasn’t hidden anything. That makes it a little difficult to handle this…”
At this moment, the grey dwarf took a step forward and reminded her, “Your Excellency, taxes!”
“What?” Sharon froze. It had to be said that her reactions were rather slow these days.
“Your Excellency, Naya isn’t paying his taxes! He takes a thousand gold coins’ worth of fees from your Richard everyday but doesn’t pay taxes! That’s plain stealing gold coins from you!” The grey dwarf became more agitated as he spoke, beginning to wave his arms around to emphasise what he was saying.
The legendary mage’s beautiful eyebrows lifted!
To some extent, she and the grey dwarf had similar interests, and that was money. She quickly got up, exclaiming, “Blackgold! Go get Naya and all the taxes he owes me! Bring a few more people, he always has companions around.”
The grey dwarf immediately straightened his back and, like an ape, began to thump his chest hard while yelling, “There’s no need. I can go myself! This is the Deepblue!”
He seemed like a true warrior as he took big strides out of the room, his vigour matching that of a rune knight preparing to charge. However, the grand mages were indifferent to this all. Having worked together for almost a decade, they knew that the grey dwarf would definitely call for a dozen enforcers before he had the guts to cause trouble for the Blade of Calamity…
The discussion ended there. After the grand mages all left, Sharon stared at this work for a very long time, and then got a servant to call Richard over.
The place where Richard and the legendary mage met was a small hall that was decorated in an elegant and warm manner, rather than those thousand-metre long large halls that created a distance akin to that of mountains and rivers. The legendary mage had worn some long clothing atop her silk robe, with a collar covering her neck embedded with flowery patterns. It caused her little face to seem even younger and more beautiful.
Her long hair had now become incredibly messy, and she bunned it up with two dragon teeth. A few stray strands still fell on her rounded shoulders, however, seeming exceedingly enticing.
When Richard entered, the legendary mage was kneeling on a dark red carpet made of pure fur. Half her body was spread out over the mahogany coffee table, as she stared at a little golden magic scale in front of her eyes.
At the two ends of the scale were standard weights of different sizes. The scale was already imbalanced, the pan on the right practically touching the chassis, and Sharon was playing with an intricate little weight in her left hand, hesitating over where she should put it. This was a very small weight, tinier than any of those on the table, and looked like wherever it was placed, it would not have a decisive effect.
However, Richard soon astutely noticed the faint aura of magic emanating from the coiled dragon and demon carved on the pillar, and immediately realised that this was a magic scale. It was balanced not just based on the weight of the items, but the amount of magic within the item. It was also very sensitive to the surroundings and would react to the erratic elemental energy in the plane, which affected the balance. Hence, it could be a tool to test the quality of magic in items, and also to divine the future.
Richard stood silently and did not disturb her. He liked this sort of silence, and also liked the shocking charm that the legendary mage was unwittingly giving off. Sharon, on the other hand, only noticed him standing there after a long time. She turned to give him a glance, murmuring “tender and delicious” before she tossed the weight to the pan that was sticking high up on the scale.
*Clang!* The sound of magic gold was extremely crisp, and took a long time to disappear. The little weight seemed to be as heavy as a mountain, pressing the pan all the way down to the bottom.
Sharon looked at Richard, then at the scale, and back at Richard. She repeated this a few times, her expression strange.