Book 7, Chapter 74

Devotion

Countess Katrina frowned for a moment, but she quickly understood, “Oh, the Crimson Duke is gathering all his powerhouses. Many kingdoms and even churches are scared of him turning towards them. There’s far too many powerhouses under him, and then there’s also Andrieka. Since he’s planning on leading the fight himself, it can’t be any dukedom or even most kingdoms; he’s aiming at something big.”

Having fainted during the invasion of Bluewater, Zim had gone into a deep sleep and been locked up by Duke Grasberg ever since. Terms like the Crimson Duke and Andrieka were incredibly foreign to him, but he still understood the gist of what she was saying, “Sir Richard is gathering powerhouses! I want to go!”

“But there isn’t enough time left. The deadline will pass in ten days.”

“I can get there in five!”

“Five? But when are you going to leave? Just preparing the clothes, servants, and supplies will take three days.”

Zim leapt up and grabbed a maid, “Get me my hunting gear and sword, and find three good horses. Put a bag of dried meat and bread there, that’s enough. I’m leaving in an hour, it better be there by then. I don’t need people who are weaker than me!”

The Viscount quickly washed up and changed his clothes, getting some food before rushing out from Mirrorlake Castle. As his horses thundered into the distance, Katrina watched from the balcony with her mouth hanging open. It took a long while for her to be able to speak, “Oh, my darling! You’re so handsome!”

Zim seemed to be an entirely different person after awakening, acting decisively without a care about luxury. The old Viscount would never have dared to travel through the Sequoia Kingdom to the Bloodstained Lands with just a bag of rations and some horses. He seemed extremely formidable now, so great that Katrina’s eyes shone even as she blushed red.

“Someone come!” the Countess suddenly shouted, causing the two servants to appear before her. Their faces were still bruised from their fall, but she didn’t even notice, “Tidy up my carriage and gather the elites, find any saints you can. We’re going to the Crimson Dukedom to participate in Duke Richard’s war!”

The two maids darted away, and it wasn’t long before all the lands within a hundred kilometres of Mirrorlake Castle were in an uproar. Countess Katrina’s troops were being gathered at the Mirror Lake before rushing towards the Crimson Dukedom, with the Countess herself having left for the place in advance to convene with Richard. She still had a moronic smile on her face, but the thirst for power in her eyes was unmistakable.

……

While the entire west of Faelor was in an uproar, the culprit of it all was surprisingly quiet. Outside of a few generals that were far away, most of Richard’s subordinates had already gathered at Bluewater and were awaiting deployment. While the limit was still a bit away, many people couldn’t wait any longer.

“Let’s leave right now, Master! It doesn’t matter if we miss a few little guys!” Tiramisu’s voice sounded in Richard’s mind for what felt like the billionth time. The ogre lord’s body was continuing to grow in size, now over six metres tall with no signs of stopping. With Bluewater being a mostly human city, the streets and building were far too small for his liking. He couldn’t even squeeze into most of the roads, while there was a chance of him accidentally crushing a building or two if he turned the wrong way. Cattle and pets fled or outright collapsed in his presence, and even some magic beasts were paralysed with fear. He couldn’t wait to leave this wretched place and go into battle; these days he was forced to pump energy into his limbs just to keep the feeling of him rusting away.

“We can discuss things when the emissary from the Iron Triangle Empire gets here,” Richard answered with a smile before turning back to the rune he was crafting. The Crimson Inferno was only a few days from completion, and posing no problem at all. Things might have been different if the rune had managed to absorb that magic soul, but as it was right now he could afford to chat with his followers while he worked on it.

A short while later, with another component completed, he took out a piece of magic parchment and started drawing a spell array on it. Minutes later, he wrote a few words on it and imbued some mana. The words vanished into thin air, the parchment catching fire and turning to ash.

……

Far away, in the Church of Valour, the cardinals had just finished an important prayer ceremony and were chatting as they walked out. The centre of attraction, as he had been for a long time now, was a recently-promoted cardinal called Busquets. He was known for having the courage to face the heretic Richard and his accurate prediction of the Crimson Dukedom focusing on the barbarian plains. He was one of the rare instances where a cardinal had been chosen because he held the favour of Neian himself, not the sponsorship of the pope or an existing cardinal.

Busquets suddenly felt the holy book he carried under his arms growing a little warm, and quicky found a way to disconnect from a conversation with two older cardinals about Richard’s movements. Rushing back to his residence, he carefully closed the door before opening the book and flipping to a specific page.

Try to avoid this war.

They were simple words, but they caused his heart to pound. He wouldn’t ever forget Richard’s handwriting, but he still read it multiple times to make sure that there was nothing strange about the communication. As the words disappeared, he cautiously surveyed the room and only relaxed once he found everything was normal.

This room was the standard one allocated to cardinals, considerably tall and wide, but the furnishing was at a bare minimum. Busquets had added nothing in all his time here, to the point that even a village priest could live a better life. Nobody present would be able to match this with his own previous life, where he had been known for a life of luxury that got him reported to the pope multiple times.

Before becoming a cardinal, Busquets had announced that he would live in hardship until he redeemed himself for his sins. People had thought he was just putting on a show at first, but those voices had quieted down after three years. Now, about a decade later, all doubts had faded into praise.

Sitting behind his table, Busquets thought back to that fateful encounter many years ago that had brought him to where he was. When Richard had passed him that sheet with a divine spell on it, he hadn’t thought his life and faith would change so much. His gaze landed on the sacred book that had conveyed Richard’s message and he trembled; that spell had been able to fool Neian himself. He had fulfilled his own part of the deal, passing on the most confidential secrets of the church over repeated correspondence, but he had gained so much that he was afraid.

Busquets was now level 18, so powerful that he reached the minimum requirements to become pope. Of course, a pope so weak was rare, but then only one in history had ever reached level 21 as well. The other cardinals and current pope thought highly of his discipline and hard work, believing he would have no problems getting to level 19 at minimum.

He was a fearful man, afraid that coming so close to the God of Valour would expose him eventually. He had made it clear that he had no ambition for the grand position of pope, and he had even refused higher positions amongst the cardinals twice, but that had only increased Neian’s favour.

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OMA's Thoughts

Translated By: Ying

Edited By: Theo

TLC'ed By: OMA