Duke Zabal’s territory had a very beautiful name: the Pearl Necklace. Located at the foot of the northern mountains, it was sustained by the glaciers melting into a series of beautiful lakes that looked like the pearl necklace of the Goddess of Ice. These lakes ringed around Neverwinter City, the Dukedom’s capital.
Richard did not head directly to Neverwinter, instead spending more than half a day flying overhead to figure out the general situation. The Dukedom had a population of three million, with dozens of cities of varying sizes within. A pass over the place showcased no obvious spatial tears, indicating that no powerhouses had entered recently. At the same time, this was a strictly heretic state that did not allow the faithful.
He snickered; this would be no problem. While the combined efforts of the local gods had left Faelor’s experts oblivious, even decent mages in Norland knew some things better than any deity here could. The situation was obvious; there had to be a legendary being controlling the Pearl Necklace in secret. Zabal had always been independent from the Iron Triangle Empire, but he wouldn’t dare to challenge the new Emperor without any backing.
Richard sneered to himself; having witnessed the power of the three kings of the Empire, he had an idea of how strong Faelor’s legends were. They were widely considered the best legends of Faelor, but be it in terms of power of knowledge, they were barely ordinary in Norland. Anyone who had been stuck in Faelor for a long time would be significantly weaker.
Even though Richard wasn’t a legendary mage yet, Disintegrator, Kingsteel, and Moonlight were powerful weapons even in quick close combat. If the opponent did try to open up range, he could just melt them down as well. He had the well of stars for a prolonged engagement, or Dizmason in an intense one. Combined with vast experience in battle, he didn’t even need War Fanatic to face ordinary legends from Faelor.
He steered the cloned brain towards Neverwinter, swooping down from high up in the sky and jumping off when he was still a hundred metres away. As he flew down to the ground, the drone swooped around in an arc and flew away. Almost every gaze in the city was attracted by the loud whistle from the brain’s swoop, watching Richard’s descent.
He slowly came to a halt a dozen metres from the keep of the mansion, voice amplified by magic to boom through half the city, “I am Duke Richard Archeron of the Crimson Dukedom. Where is Zabal, he invites me to come over and can’t even greet me personally?”
In the next moment, urgent alarm bells rang out violently as fully armoured soldiers rushed out and took their places on the mansion walls and arrow towers, pointing their weapons at Richard. However, not one of them dared to fire; the name Richard announced was one that resounded in their ears as the most accomplished ruler in the western end of Faelor.
While many had known the Crimson Dukedom would eventually win against the Iron Triangle Empire, the upper echelons of the plane even believing otherwise, Richard had decimated a millennia-old country in one go. They were outmatched in every single aspect of power, the imposing Frozen Throne melting away at first contact. Alongside the Son of Gold having met his end outside the imperial capital, the other two legends weren’t even seen.
None of those here actually knew how Richard looked, but this was far too eminent of a name to attack without confirmation.
After announcing his arrival, Richard waited patiently in the air. A small fireball was throbbing in his hand, a weaker version of the Core-Melting Explosion that was still strong enough to destroy the mansion doors. He didn’t have time for games; if Zabal didn’t show himself within five minutes, the attack would charge up to full power.
The doors popped open in the fourth minute, a tall and buff man stepping out from within. He seemed powerful, but instead of armour he was dressed in luxurious robes, as though he was rushing to a meeting. The middle-aged man was firm in his footsteps as he hurried towards Richard, both arms stretched out in a warm, welcoming stance as he laughed heartily, “Your Grace! I did not expect you to arrive so quickly, forgive me for the delay in welcoming you! Oh, yes, I forgot to introduce myself. I am Zabal; please, come into my mansion.”
Richard pursed his lips into a mocking smile, raising his hand and shooting the fireball into the sky. It flew a kilometre vertically and disappeared into the clouds before exploding, dying the sky a deep crimson.
Witnessing the might of the fireball first-hand, Zabal’s smile turned stiff for a few moments before he returned to normal, “You do not need to demonstrate your awe-inspiring power, Your Grace. Your deeds already ring across the continent, and we are well aware of your capabilities. Please, follow me, my chefs are well-trained and will only need an hour to prepare a delectable banquet. The Pearl Necklace has the best food you will get in the western mainland; you will definitely be pleased.”
Richard landed on the ground indifferently, following Zabal into the huge mansion. The man might have considered this a show of force, but he just couldn’t be bothered to dissipate all the mana. A true show of force would have so much more power added into it.
Neverwinter had a rather unique climate. It was spring-like in all four seasons, the trees never yellowing unlike the rest of the north. This mansion was in the centre of it all, absolutely enormous and almost as the scale of the imperial castle.
A soft, refreshing breeze was blowing through the interior of the mansion, making it much more comfortable than the outside. It quickly became evident that there were spell formations everywhere, controlling the climate of the mansion in individual sections. To do this in such a huge mansion would have been extravagant even in Norland, but here this was just a display of wealth and power. Zabal barely kept his arrogance in check, but Richard could only chuckle internally. Anyone else might have been surprised, but he was the upstart among upstarts back in Faust, sacrificing top-tier offerings just to insult his opponents. No amount of luxury could impress him.
The Duke walked at a slow pace, taking a quarter-hour to reach the main hall of the mansion. Instructing the butlers who rushed over quickly to prepare lunch, he led Richard towards a storied guest room.
Just like with a majority of the nobles in the Iron Triangle Empire, there were many paintings hung in the room to illustrate the glories of his ancestors, one corner showing a number of heroes battling a huge monster.
Richard’s gaze was attracted to that painting first as he entered the room, after which he calmly swept across the rest. It wasn’t particularly special, but the background looked like a semiplane instead of somewhere on Faelor. Traditional paintings in this plane did not fantasise backgrounds, so it was a little curious.
As the two sat down, Zabal waved his servants away and leaned forward, “One could never imagine the Crimson Duke who shook the entirety of Faelor is so young. Even if one has the information, it isn’t nearly as shocking as when seeing you in person.”
Although Zabal’s attitude seemed humble, he was still putting himself on equal footing. Richard knew this but didn’t expose it, waiting for the man to show his cards. Noticing the lack of reaction, the Duke laughed to himself, “You really are unlike ordinary folk, Your Grace. I invited you to my territory this time to give you a glimpse at the Pearl Necklace; if you feel the same way I do, the upcoming discussion will be much easier.”
Richard let out a faint smile, “It’s clear why the gods have neglected this place.”
Zabal smiled aloofly as well, straightening his back, “Your knowledge truly is amazing. Since you know this, I believe I don’t need to go into specifics. We can speak frankly.”
“Alright then, go on.”
“First, let me express my sincere goodwill. I will continue to acknowledge the new emperor as my liege, but it will only be in name. I have no objections against Prince Salwyn’s ascension, and I will even stand on his side against dissenters. In short, I’m willing to stand by your side and even provide many… special items.”
“And what do you want?”
It was at this point that the greed in Zabal’s eyes couldn’t be masked anymore, “The Pearl Necklace hasn’t expanded for a long time, and the lands I own currently are no longer sufficient to provide a decent living for my citizens. I wish to obtain a new fief for myself, Ruhr would be ideal.”
“Heh, that’s a big appetite!” Richard said with a sneer. Ruhr was a famed mining site in the north of the Empire that had the best frostiron vein after the capital itself. The ore there was optimal in both quality and quantity, also possessing many other rare minerals. One of the three largest rivers of the Empire flowed through this territory, making transportation easy. This region was responsible for a full third of the Empire’s economy.
Hearing Richard’s ridicule, Zabal didn’t shy away, “Haha, appetite is linked to one’s power, is it not? Please be patient, Your Grace. I’m not done yet. The Empire has always maintained an assembly of elders by tradition. I hope for a change that allows me to send a representative to it. If, and I say if, Emperor Salwyn has to make any decisions relating to the Pearl Necklace, he has to get the representative’s consent.”Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Translated By: Styles
Edited By: Theo
TLC'ed By: OMA