In the flickering light, Nyris slowly opened up the letter that Richard had sent. The contents weren’t meant for him, instead a proclamation that he could show anyone:
‘His Highness Nyris, The Fourth Prince of the late Emperor Philip, shall forever remain an ally to the Archerons. Any imperial, family, or personal decisions affecting his interests will need the approval of our family, or they shall become an enemy for life.
‘Duke Richard Archeron.’
It was a simple statement of protection with no date of expiry, a formalised version of the promise from before. With Richard’s current status in the Sacred Alliance and all of Norland, it was more important than ever.
Nyris stared at it in a daze, a sparkling icy teardrop suddenly splashing on the paper. He sat in his study through the sunset until the next sunrise, all signs of life fading away as he stared silently at the message from his friend. It was only when the dazzling gold light of the morning filled his room that he sighed, picking up the proclamation and tearing it apart meticulously.
The very same day, an imperial portal in Faust lit up as ten noble youths walked out. Some looked rejected while others were elated, but the one common feature across them was that all of them had suffered some degree of injury. These were the boys and girls that had returned from the hunt; today had been the last round where they proved their excellence, and every one of them would acquire some sort of financial assistance from the imperial family. For many of minor nobility, this was the kickstart they needed to at least get to the same starting line as the bigger families of Faust.
Of course, even with the support these winners wouldn’t et close to equalling the fourteen families of Faust. However, some of the bigger families had shown interest in these youths, giving them a chance to obtain even more resources in the future. Regardless of how things turned out, they would all make something of themselves so long as they didn’t get too ambitious.
Lucian looked like one of those youths with a great future, while Wennington with a number of injuries didn’t come close to standing out. However, all of the other youths had their gazes focused on him, jealousy and even hatred in their eyes.
Many people were already waiting in the teleportation hall, most of them elders of the youths’ families that were hoping for the revitalisation of their line.
Venica pounced straight into Lucian’s arms, hugging him tightly, “How did it go? Did you win?”
A look of gloom flashed across Lucian’s face, but then he smiled as though everything was alright, “Almost. You Archerons really are crazy.”
Venica froze up, “You lost?! How could you have lost?!”
“Brother won’t be happy if he sees you like this,” a low voice rang out from the side, startling her into taking a step backwards.
Venica turned around to see Weenington passing by, flinching slightly before she charged straight to him and asked loudly, “Did you beat Lucian?”
He nodded, “I did.”
She pulled at his collar, “You… How could you have won? Brother helped you, didn’t he?”
Wennington’s eyes twitched with rage as he slapped her hand away, “Don’t forget who you are, Venica!”
“So what if I have? He shouldn’t be helping you in secret! If not, how could you have won?!”
The squabble immediately drew attention, the nobles nearby starting to chat amongst themselves and giggling at the show. Some discussed the possibility of cheating; it was definitely possible with Richard’s current status, but there was just no point. Anyone with a brain knew that giving incapable people positions on the battlefield would just end up in more deaths.
Lucian pulled Venica back, “Alright, don’t make a fuss. This isn’t anyone else’s fault; I split my troops because I didn’t think things through, which is why I lost. He’s a true knight and wouldn’t do something like that. Besides, isn’t coming second place pretty good too?”
“But you need the rewards, and he doesn’t! Richard already has a squad of rune knights ready for him!”
Her words immediately caused a commotion amongst the spectators, the nobles sighing at the wealth of the Archerons. Such a young man was about to get a squad of rune knights, this was something even most viscounts could not get when starting out.
Wennington took a deep breath, “Brother will know of this, of every detail. Lucian, I suggest you stay away from my sister until she finishes her obligations to the family.”
Venica wanted to argue, but Lucian stopped her with a wave of his hand. He flashed a confident and enchanting smile, “I’ve already made a deal with His Grace, you don’t have to worry about my relationships. In fact, let me give you a suggestion instead; having your entire army attack a single point will only ever work once. You won’t stand a chance if we meet again.”
Wennington snorted, but instead of arguing he just headed for the doors. However, it was at this point that a troop of fully-armed rune knights marched through with the Archeron crest on their armour. Many recognised the woman at the front with fiery red hair as the war goddess of the Archerons.
Alice swept her gaze through the young nobles before landing on Lucian, beginning to walk towards him calmly, “Lucian?”
“Yes?” Lucian paled a little, as though he realised something.
“Come with me,” she reached out to grab him, but was stopped by a slender hand halfway. She tried to push on, but the hand clearly had power far beyond her own.
“Beautiful Earl, the royal family plans to nurture these youths. Taking him away like this doesn’t seem very appropriate; could you give me a reason?”
Alice took a step back to distance herself, only then feeling the sense of danger lessen. Suppressing a shudder at the presence of the poisonous snake, she took out a letter and passed it to him, “Lucian stole His Grace’s magic soul, and he must pay the price.”
“Magic soul!” someone exclaimed from the audience. This was a chance for a grade 5 rune.
Lucian suddenly yelled, “What magic soul? I’ve never seen it! Where’s the proof of theft? I’m a noble too, you’ll need to go through a trial by court to punish me!”
He showed no intentions of escaping, his voice only growing louder, “I might be from a small family, but I will not stand for this. Think about it, if I really did steal a magic soul, would I have been allowed to stay alive until now? Evidence! If the Archerons take me away without evidence, they can do the same to all of you!”
The expressions of many nobles changed as they thought back to the battle over the blue moon. Many of Faust’s families had taken risks to try and obtain it, forming animosity with Richard that could not be forgotten. Both parties had technically agreed to let it go, but there was no telling when he would come to collect on that slight.
“There should be a court trial!” someone echoed.
Alice’s face darkened as she put a hand on the hilt of her blade, the twenty rune knights behind her following suit. The voices immediately died down, nobody daring to challenge anymore. Now that Richard was a saint runemaster, their numbers meant nothing. Many people would be willing to kill off a dozen families if it meant a saint runemaster would continue to produce runes for them.
Julian was still pretending to read the letter, although it had been long enough for him to have read it a dozen times already. Seeing Alice maintain her stance, he suddenly grinned and stowed it away, “His Grace’s word is evidence enough. Please!”
With him stepping aside, Alice grabbed Lucian by the scruff of his neck and threw him to the rune knights behind her.
Julian bowed with a charming smile, “Please give His Grace my greetings. Her Majesty has had him on her mind lately.”
Alice froze, unable to understand the implications behind Julian’s words. She could only bow back, “I’ll repeat it to him, word for word.”
Julian’s smile grew more dazzling and he motioned towards the exit.
Just as Alice was about to leave, Venica suddenly charged out and yelled, “What are you trying to do, you bitch? Release him!”Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Translated By: Ying
Edited By: Theo
TLC'ed By: OMA