Chapter 21: Recruiting
EndlessFantasy Translation EndlessFantasy Translation
An hour later.
Joshua came to the dining hall in the castle and sat at one of the long tables there, which had all kinds of food arranged on it.
It was difficult to imagine that a castle of undead creatures would have so many fresh ingredients in it.
Joshua poked the grilled meat before him a few times because he kept having the feeling that a couple of maggots were wriggling within the meat. After all, the zombie servant next to him had rotten flesh hanging off of him.
Ciri, who was seated beside Joshua was not too fussed. She had just lost a lot of body heat, and she needed quick replenishment. So, she started to wolf down the food on the table without any care for decorum.
"Your Highness, a toast to you."
The Duke of Bones lifted the tall glass in his hand, and the crystal-clear liquid within swirled like blood. It was clearly red wine, and the moment the Duke of Bones drank it, Joshua saw the wine leak out of the latter's jawbone and drip onto the dining table.
Could a wine-drinking skeleton actually taste anything at all?
"Your Grace, you may speak your mind."
Joshua could see through the Duke of Bones' purpose. It was definitely not his identity that caused the latter to throw him such a feast.
"Then, I shall be straightforward, Your Highness... I would like to obtain the score for the music you have just played."
The Duke of Bones put down the glass as the soulfire within his eyes flickered. His tone no longer sounded as calm and composed as before. His desire was almost palpable.
"Sure, but... there's a condition."
Joshua had gone there with the intention of performing this exchange. Based on the prince's memory, the duke himself had an extreme obsession with music. Legends said that in order to obtain an ancient music sheet from a human, he had helped said human to wipe out a small country.
Whether or not a being like the Lich had the ability to read someone's memories by peering into their souls through some nefarious methods, the legends themselves were testament to how obsessive the Duke was toward music.
He had no creative juices for music creation... Well, not like a skeleton had any, to begin with.
From their current meeting, Joshua now knew why the Duke of Bones was so obsessed with music. It was all because of that strange piano!
"If I'm not wrong, Your Grace, you don't really taste anything when you drink, right?"
Joshua looked at the red wine that was dripping from the tabletop. Drinking like that clearly meant the drinker would not taste anything. A skeleton did not have any taste buds or sense of touch or sense of hearing.
The soulfire within the Duke of Bones' eyes was his gateway to perceiving the outside world. It was his eyes and also his ears.
"Ah, it seems that you have noticed, Your Highness. You are correct. After becoming a Lich for centuries, I have indeed obtained powers unparalleled, but I have almost forgotten how my favorite red wine tastes like."
The Duke of Bones filled his empty glass with wine again as he looked at the swirling liquid in it. If he still had any skin on his face, he would be wearing a self-mocking smile.
"Only that piano... my dear old friend, can allow me to recall what it was like being human. Even if it's nothing but the ice-cold frost, it is still better than this skeletal body that's devoid of all senses!"
As he said that, the Duke of Bones placed the wine glass on the table, and his soulfire was focused on Joshua again.
"That piece you played just now! It allowed me to feel the sun once again! Heavens... I almost forgot what it was like to be basking under the sun. It's such a wonderful feeling..."
The Duke of Bones lay back in his chair, seemingly exhausted after he said that.
Power was indeed a fascinating thing. He had sacrificed his own life in exchange for supreme power... In the beginning, he was indeed intoxicated by the unparalleled power, intoxicated by the thrill of controlling life and death.
However, after the novelty of power faded away, what did the Duke of Bones feel?
His powerful body would never feel fatigued, so he was no longer able to enjoy the comfort of sleep; his body could no longer be harmed by fire, so he was no longer able to feel the warmth of the sun.
He, who had lost his tongue, was close to forgetting how delicious roasted meat was.
If the piano had not allowed him to continue to find some human senses through the soulfire, he would have long gone insane because of his current body!
It could be said that when the Duke of Bones obtained everything, he also lost everything at the same time.
"Your Highness, name your price... My soul-manipulation tricks are useless against you Chaos Demons, so I will accept your deal. What do I need to pay to get the score for that piece?"
The Duke of Bones was desperately hoping to be able to play "Canon in D", which Joshua had just played.
He desired to feel the warmth of the sun once again.
"You don't have to pay me anything."
Joshua shook his head. The Duke of Bones had many things that he could give Joshua: treasures, gold, and powerful necromantic servants. However, all of them were too ephemeral! Joshua was much, much more avaricious than expected...
"I'm hoping that you will submit to me!"
Every single word that Joshua uttered was serious and sincere.
The Duke of Bones went silent for a moment when he heard what Joshua said. Shortly after, he cackled.
"I heard that the third prince had given up the fight for the throne, and I thought that you were not interested in power and authority. It never occurred to me that you were simply hiding the truth."
The Duke of Bones quickly misinterpreted Joshua's thoughts. For the latter to come all the way to enlist him, surely it had something to do with the fight over the throne that would happen in two years' time. With one of the dukes in his camp, even if the third prince was any more useless than he already was, he would still have standing.
"No, I'm really not interested in the throne. Governing a country is just too much trouble. I'm not recruiting you because you are ‘one of the Four Great Dukes' or the ‘Supreme Lich' but as a ‘performer' and a ‘musician'," Joshua said.
"A performer?" The Duke of Bones was really into music since it allowed him to really feel like he was still alive.
"Yes, Your Grace. Are you content to just play alone in this forsaken place? Your performance is exquisite and should not be buried here like this! More people should be hearing your performance. There should be hundreds, no, thousands in the theater," Joshua continued.
"That is the treatment that all musical scores I know should get. Trust me, I have in my hands, the works of countless musical maestros from various countries. All of these works should not be rotting away. They should be heard by many! And I believe that by allowing them to appear in this world through your performance is the best possible choice."
There were many classical music pieces back on Earth, and in order to spread them across this world, Joshua required an exceptional musician who was proficient in various instruments. The Duke of Bones before him was the perfect candidate, no?
"You mean to say... that there is more than one score of that level?" It was the Duke of Bones' turn to be surprised this time.
"There's more, and they are works of musical maestros from a country far, far away."
Joshua could only describe Earth as a vague and distant place.
The soulfire within the Duke of Bones' eyes flickered quickly again as a black box and an old, torn contract floated out into the air.
The black box had a powerful corrupting power in it, and Joshua did not need to ask to know what it was—the lifeblood of Liches.
"A contract. I will give you a quarter of my soul, and you will give me all of the scores. I will not disappoint the maestros you have spoken of," the Duke of Bones said.
Souls were not separable things. Having a fourth of the duke's soul was as good as having half of his life.
Bloody hell... This Lich was a real lunatic. He was willing to forsake his life to regain his human senses again.
Yet, for someone who had lived a thousand years in a small black room without light, food, or water, such a life was no better than death, right?
That was probably how the Duke of Bones had lived.
"Of course, I accept. "
There was no problem with the contract. As it was written in the name of Chaos, Joshua was much more sensitive to its magic than the former was!
A drop of blood from Joshua's fingertip floated before the contract while a surge of dark, transparent mist overflowed from the black box and fused into the drop of blood.
The blood then turned into a dark pearl-like item before melting away on Joshua's palm and forming a bizarre mark.
Using the mark, Joshua could feel a faint connection with all of the undead creatures around him.
"For the future master of music, Lord Selonica... Wait a minute."
Joshua now knew the Duke of Bones' real name, and he was stunned for a moment. Selonica... That name did not really sound masculine, did it?
She let out a screeching laugh and lifted her wine-filled glass.
"Cheers," the female Lich named Selonica said.