Book 7, Chapter 167

Expedition

Having crossed the eastward path, Gangdor’s respect for Rislant had grown considerably. Not only had the man managed to bring his soldiers across this desolate land, but he had also managed to utterly defeat the coastal alliance right after and acquire a strategic harbour for his country.

The brute also knew just how annoying of an enemy the draconians could be, but Rislant had managed to contain them for so many years as well. It was truly a glorious achievement. Rislant’s greatest trait in battle was that his troops were robust, making almost no mistakes as he waited for his opponents to err. Once he noticed a flaw, he would seize the opportunity to tear into it until all of his enemies were dead. The biggest misfortune of his life was to have met Richard, who both commanded a perfect battlefield and also wiped out his enemies quickly. 

Bored still, Gangdor took out the map once again to study the marching route. It seemed like this road could only lead to the eastern coast, but there was a hidden route southward in a hundred kilometres that led straight to the Grand Cathedral of Runai. This path didn’t appear on most maps, but with her beasts scouting throughout the Empire the broodmother had caught it long ago.

The Crimson Army would soon turn south, heading straight for the cathedral and crash into it. While Gangdor was most certainly a brutish man, he always remained cautious in the way he commanded his troops. He had looked over this path many times, ensuring that nothing would give away their true intentions until the last minute.

A shadow suddenly flitted across the sky, and when he looked up he saw Richard slowly flying to the ground as the cloned brain that had just dropped him off flew away. Surprise and elation flashed across his eyes, “Boss! How come you’re here? This is perfect, get the broodmother to make a few bats to eat up the mosquitoes! Those things are huge!”

As though to illustrate his point, a large mosquito flew straight for Richar. Richard’s eye twitched as he activated Mana Armament, orbs of lightning appearing around him and zapping the thing to ash. Another huge mosquito followed right after, but it was burnt as well.

Gangdor looked at him with a face of envy, “It’s so good to be a mage!”

Richard took a look at the troops and smiled in satisfaction; they were still marching in formation and nobody looked too down. To keep up morale in such sinister conditions was a challenge in and of itself.

“Keep the army moving east. Grab a thousand elite cavalrymen, that should be enough for our attack south.”

“You’re commanding!” the brute’s head shimmered, “I haven’t fought under you in ages! Can I storm the front? Can I?”

Richard chuckled at the comical exaggeration. Having been stationed in Faelor all this while, the hunk was in his thirties. Although he still behaved like a hot-headed youth when they were together, he had a knack for governance and leadership that made him an irreplaceable right arm.

Thankfully, he was prepared for this request and pulled out a full-body suit of legendary armour from a ring, “Wear this if you want to.”

Gangdor took a look at the armour and grumbled, “How can I kill as much as I want if I’m wearing something so heavy…”

Still, he put on the armour anyway. The thousand elites were selected by midday, and Richard also mobilised all of his drones and rune knights as well. The smaller army quickly split off from the main group, marching quickly for their target.

……

Up in the skies of Faelor, the three goddesses had just received a message from Richard. After a short conversation, they activated their divine kingdoms and headed towards Runai. Their strange activity immediately set off a tempest amongst the pantheon; what came next was obvious.

Divine war!

The relationship between Richard and the goddesses was an open secret, but the gods of Faelor strangely didn’t choose Runai’s side. Some of them tried to see if things would be negotiable, but everyone ended up in a neutral stance. Runai sent out pleas for help to all of her allies, but most of the replies were just moral support with no greater deity being willing to involve themselves in the battle. A few even chose not to reply at all.

These gods knew very well about just what was happening in the mortal world below. The three goddesses were at least allies of Richard, if not puppets already, and there was no doubt that he was a foreign invader. However, none of them were willing to bring up this issue; unlike the astral beasts, Richard wasn’t so foreign to them that they could unite the entire plane against him. Besides, he was clearly more powerful than the King of Steel and other legendary figures from the golden age, and their churches would be able to do nothing even if they grouped up. Four legends that had forced them into a compromise long ago had fallen at his hands.

But that wasn’t all; even despite all that, most gods still looked down on mere mortals. However, Sharon’s appearance had destroyed that perception entirely. Just how many years had passed since that fateful battle at the crystal walls? Most of those who had taken part were still injured, but she had returned not too long ago at full power. They could only sigh in relief that they weren’t her target; she had just entered a portal previously unknown to them and left.

Before they could recover from that shock, another powerful figure appeared. Intentionally or otherwise, the person they now knew as the Celestial Sage leaked an aura that had them nervous. He wasn’t stronger than Sharon, but he was clearly an experienced powerhouse in his own right.

The pantheon of Faelor was significantly powerful, but that was only in their divine kingdoms. Outside in the void, their power was passable at best. The laws of the plane restricted them from interfering personally in the mortal realm, forcing them to rely on avatars and children to do battle. Nothing could be done about someone on the level of Sharon or the Celestial Sage.

Both of those frightening beings clearly had close relationships with Richard, so they could do nothing but ignore him. He had already sent a message to the God of Valour that he was only after Runai, a war not against the gods themselves but for divinity and to attain a formal title for the deity backing him. As long as the other gods didn’t involve themselves, there would be no conflict.

Since Neian was made known of this fact, the others were aware of it as well. If it was for position, they could convince themselves that standing by was alright. Only close allies generally joined in on such a war, but none of them felt that close to Runai anyway. They didn’t want Richard to be able to use that as an excuse to target them next.

As the three enemies drew close, Runai resigned herself to fighting alone and mobilised every petitioner in her divine kingdom. The divinity she had gathered over her entire existence bubbled up to strengthen her defences as she prepared for a battle to the death.

Divine wars were usually long and drawn out events. Even at a higher level, most gods wouldn’t be willing to fight in an opponent’s divine kingdom early; an intermediate deity would still be defeated by a lesser deity if they made that mistake. The preferred means of warfare was to send in the petitioners and valiant souls, trying to use up the opponent’s divine force.

This process could take anywhere from a few years to a few centuries, the war only coming to a close when one side was completely spent. Knowing that fighting all three goddesses at once would likely be the death of her, Runai planned to delay as long as she could. The one advantage gods had over legendary beings was lifespan; if she could last a few centuries until Richard died, the other gods would naturally come to her aid afterwards.

Thankfully, the three goddesses had still come close to falling in the past. Even though they had a massive increase in number of worshippers as of late, their combined divinity was still lower than her own. Runai believed she would be able to hold on.

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OMA's Thoughts

Translated By: Styles

Edited By: Theo

TLC'ed By: OMA