Book 7, Chapter 69

High Stakes

Within a lavish residence in Lower Faust, Duke Myron was watching a group of soldiers hauling another shipment of goods to the Archeron island from his balcony. Beside him was a tall woman with a lofty aura whose brows were knitted together, “Is this worth it just for Link? You can hire ten runemasters for some time with this; if Link doesn’t have the talent we think he does…”

“No!” the Duke snapped, “Richard didn’t commit even to the second offer. If I hadn’t raised the ransom, Link would have been killed. Tell me this; would you give up so much to kill off an ordinary runemaster? What threat would Link have posed to him that drove him to such a decision?

“The public execution was to show his stance. If Link had actually raped Rosie, there wouldn’t even be an announcement before he died. Now, since there wasn’t any substantial damage, why would he kill the offender instead of asking for a ransom? My second amount was enough for even a great runemaster, but he still rejected me. The leader of any family wouldn’t stab his own knee with an arrow like that; he has to think Link is worth that much.”

“And what if it really was only because Link knew something he shouldn’t?” the woman said with worry. Link’s conflicts with Lunor’s direct disciples weren’t fabricated, but he himself was the source of most of it. However, she wouldn’t dare to say such things to the Duke; the youth’s mother was extremely dear to Myron, but the talented mage had died from complications during a difficult birth.

“That…” Myron’s face contorted with pain as he watched another batch of people leave. The price he had paid was extremely high, but he knew that this was the only way to get Link back. The ransom was worth twenty years of a great runemaster’s work, but the Duke kept comforting himself with the thought that there would be eighty more to follow. The worth of a great runemaster wasn’t solely in gold either; patience was a virtue any rising family required.

However, the woman’s words struck the depths of his heart. What if Link never became a great runemaster? This thought made him lose all semblance of his calm, composed self, and despite an initially calm reaction he suddenly flew into a rage, “Shut your mouth!”

The woman immediately paled, falling completely silent. She had spent decades supporting the Duke, helping him craft his strategy, and this was the first time he had yelled at her. She knew the man was completely lost; not only had he given up a vast amount of resources, but he had also given up some strategic positioning.

The woman knew that Myron would rather have any other family as enemy; only an idiot would challenge the destroyers of the Schumpeters, Josephs, and Mensas when they themselves were planning their march. However, they now had no other choice. Even though the Archerons’ crazy assaults had left the seventh level of Faust’s islands rather weak, the weakest of those families was a staunch ally of Richard’s. The only way to ascend quickly was to seek an ally, and with the investment of Link not having paid off for quite some time, he had been forced to look somewhere else.

The strongest member of the Sacred Alliance was undoubtedly the Empress herself, and Julian was her top aide. The man had approached the Myron Family himself to offer cooperation, so there had been no way to reject. This alliance also meant that the Archerons became an enemy by default.

“HALT!” the Duke suddenly screamed at a group of soldiers heading out. The men stopped in their tracks and turned to look at him, but his mouth opened and closed repeatedly without any words coming out.

“This is the last batch,” the woman beside him stated softly.

Myron’s eyes went wide, and he suddenly woke up to reality. This was indeed the last batch, with five others having left before now. How could he take back what had already been given out? The only course of action now was to deliver this last batch and recover Link before planning his next move. He felt like his throat had been lit aflame, but he managed to lower his hand, “Carry on, guard it carefully!”

“Yes, Your Grace! Young Master Link will return!” the saint leading them responded immediately.

The last team set off, quickly disappearing into the night. The Duke heaved a long sigh, speaking in a bitter tone, “I just have to accept that it’s all gone. Whatever, I could only hire an ordinary runemaster with this batch.”

Of course, what he didn’t mention was that the ordinary runemaster could be hired for thirty years. This didn’t even mention the fact that both territorial deeds and the rare materials had been sent over with the first batch.

Myron suddenly felt extremely tired, rubbing his face hard. The woman at his side spoke up, “Don’t worry, Link is already a full runemaster before he’s reached thirty. His potential to become a great runemaster in the future is very high.”

“But Richard…” the Duke forced a smile.

“Richard did become a runemaster before twenty, but he’s someone that Her Excellency Sharon earmarked to become a saint runemaster in the future. He’s also a grand runemaster already. Do you expect Link to go that far?”

…….

Rosie arrived in Faust by the time the second of the shipments had arrived, rushing to the study only to see Richard busy studying a rune design.

“That was quick,” he raised his head.

“Huff… Yes… I didn’t delay at all… Huff… Why did you… need me so urgently?”

“No need to be so anxious,” he smiled, “I’ll go show you some stuff later.”

Rosie nodded and sat down, resting for a few hours to regain some of her energy. While her level as a mage was fairly high, one needed regular experience to get used to planar travel. Having spent years without a single teleportation of this scale, it took especially long to recover. Richard himself remained patient, calmly studying the design as he waited for the remaining shipments to arrive. Once everything had arrived, he put the blueprint down and took Rosie out to the island’s plaza to show her the stack of boxes within.

A few of the boxes had already been opened, glimmering brilliantly with the shine of various metals. The soldiers guarding the place couldn’t help but gape at the heap regularly; even if they were used to extravagance by now, this was millions of gold. Right at the top were even some magic-sealing cases, the exquisite design and materials alone showing just how valuable the contents were.

Waterflower and Tiramisu had come out to view the spectacle. Although the ogre had basically given up on magic by now, only buffing himself before his physical attacks or otherwise just using it where it made sense, he still enjoyed the aura of magic.

Nasia was present as well, holding the two title deeds and slowly reading through the contents. When she saw Richard come out, she waved the documents in her hands around, “Do these pages really determine ownership of a territory?”

“Yes,” Richard nodded; the paladin was still learning the systems of Norland. He pointed at the documents and sent a small burst of mana within, causing a number of three-dimensional crests to form above the paper that quickly disappeared.

Nasia shrugged, tossing the deeds back into a random box. However, the papers were quickly snatched away by Myron’s envoy who was watching from the side, the man so hasty he almost knocked over the box in his rush. He only let out a sigh of relief when he saw the documents were undamaged; these were two baronies, something he might not be able to earn even if he dedicated his entire life to it! Why was someone throwing them away like they were trash?

The paladin ignored the dirty glance, looking at the wooden crates, “If we count it all, it’s worth a top-tier offering.”

“Of course. Isn’t a future great runemaster worth at least that much?”

Rosie’s expression changed immediately, but she swallowed down the words that she was about to say. Richard turned around at that exact time, “Look, this is everything Duke Myron offered us as ransom in exchange for Link’s life. There’s two baronies as well, quite fertile and in good locations.”

A smile spread across Rosie’s face, “Hmm, makes sense. But just how many great runemasters are there in the Sacred Alliance? Is this bit enough?”

The envoy’s face immediately warped with anxiety, sweat dripping from his brow.

“Forget it, I already said this was enough,” Richard waved his hand, causing the man to sigh with relief. He then looked over all the crates before pointing at the man, “Follow me, let’s go get Link.”

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OMA's Thoughts

Translated By: Styles

Edited By: Theo

TLC'ed By: OMA