Once they were in the warehouse, Martin examined every bit of every single set of Midren carefully, his movements and focus on key areas making it apparent that he knew the rune set very well. Just the ability to tell if these runes really were complete meant he was skilled with magic arrays, perhaps enough to be a runemaster himself.
It took an hour before Martin relaxed, breathing out slowly, “Everything is perfect! You truly are a genius, these three sets are no weaker than the original Saint Peter had left behind. All this before you even entered the legend—” A look of astonishment appeared on his face, “You’re already legendary?”
“You’ve got good eyes.” Richard was a little surprised as well. He had stabilised himself in the legendary realm now, and in such a relaxed state it should have been near impossible to figure out.
Martin didn’t conceal anything, his eyes flashing with white light before he smiled, “The Lord bestowed the Eyes of Insight upon me, allowing me to see deeper than the surface level. It isn’t all that useful.”
Martin’s answer left Richard a little startled. He didn’t know if there was a difference between the so-called Eyes of Insight and his blessing of truth, but he knew the obvious uses regardless. Such a gift was anything but not useful.
After examining everything, Martin placed the sets into magic-sealing chests that he had brought and called for his servants to transport them back to the Sacred Tree Empire immediately. It was only after they disappeared into a portal and sent news that they had arrived safely that he relaxed.
He then smiled and turned to Richard, “It can’t be helped, these things are far too important. You must think this is hilarious.”
“I’m just happy to know that there are things that make you nervous too,” Richard chuckled.
The two then walked into the study, where Richard called for the servants to send some wine and snacks. Martin made a toast to their successful cooperation, “Our deal is mostly done, I just owe you a favour with no limits—”
He suddenly paused, looking at Richard’s expression, “You don’t plan to call on that right now, do you?”
Richard nodded, “I’m in the middle of a problem right now.”
Martin laughed wryly, “If even you think it’s a problem, it must be a huge one. What is it?”
Richard gave a brief description of what had happened with Nyris, but even in the few minutes, Martin’s smile faded completely. When he was done speaking, drops of sweat were beading on the holy youth’s forehead, so annoying that he had to wipe them off.
“This… you call it just a problem?” he sighed, standing up and pacing around the room, “You have to be crazy! Nyris is just a prince; no matter how important your friendship can be, is it worth gambling the fate of your entire family? Forget Apeiron’s personality back then, she’s someone who’s returned from the Outlands! Do you think the Sacred Alliance or the royal family will be important to her? Those are nothing, and I can’t come up with anything she cares about at all. This is just suicide, not a problem!”
Richard listened to the grumbling patiently, only speaking up afterwards, “So I can’t use your promise on this, can I?”
“When did I say that?” Martin snorted, “I’m the future pope of the Church of Glory and the most important worshipper of the Radiant Lord; my promises don’t change. I’m only making sure you understand we won’t be able to resolve this matter peacefully, you’ll need to fight.”
Martin stared at Richard and heaved a deep sigh, “You absolute nutjob! Whatever, there’s no other way. If you really have to take on that crazy woman, count me in.”
Richard was a little startled. He’d only wanted Martin to show political support, but the fellow was actually offering to participate in the battle itself. He stood up and extended a hand.
“What are you doing?” Martin asked.
“So, about that alliance…”
*Thwack!* “An alliance with you will only lead to an early grave!”
The passed quietly, and an envoy from the royal family arrived at dusk to inform Richard that the Empress wanted to see him the next morning. Receiving this news, Richard actually sighed in relief; whatever was meant to happen would happen.
It was ten in the morning when Richard arrived at the meeting hall of the palace. The heads of all of the other islands were present as well, already seated in their places, and Apeiron and Julian appeared right after. The Empress calmly walked to the highest chair in the middle and fell into it, lifting her feet up and resting them on the table. Julian took his place behind her and stared at Saint Martin, but the youth only flashed the standard smile of a priest.
Apeiron said lazily, “If everyone’s here, let’s begin. Richard, you stole my toy; explain.”
Richard straightened his back, “Nyris is a friend of mine, not your toy. I will not tolerate your treatment of him.”
“Even if it results in war?”
“Even… so,” Richard’s voice lost all hints of emotion, turning ice-cold with determination.
Nobody had expected the two sides to get straight to the point. A few family heads started trying to defuse the situation in an attempt to calm the tense atmosphere, but Apeiron dismissed them all as she played with her nails, “Hand Nyris over right now, and give me some compensation for your rudeness. We’ll consider the matter done.”
She didn’t speak loudly, but her voice pierced through the din and clearly stated her stance. With many of the family heads here knowing about the background between the Empress and the Fourth Prince, they chose to go silent.
Richard spoke up in a deep voice, “Grudges from prior generations are in the past, and should not affect the Alliance as it is right now. Nyris is my friend, he shouldn’t have to endure this.”
Apeiron chuckled and looked straight at Richard, “Who said this has anything to do with previous generations? I like him, so I want to toy with him. Which of you can object?”
The hall of mirrors went deathly silent, even Richard turning pale. Apeiron seemed to have no interest in waiting long, however, her own expression darkening as her voice turned cold, “Do you know why nobody’s objecting? They know very well that this stupid throne means nothing to me. The laws are meaningless; I can kill off all of their families slowly if I want to. You can’t keep Nyris, and the only outcome of provoking me is the death of all the Archerons. Or maybe I’ll just kill you here, who can stop me?”
Richard looked terrible; what he had worried about the most was happening. In front of absolute power, all political schemes were pointless. Even a family without a legend needed the ability to stop one, and the same was true for an epic being. Apeiron essentially had nothing to lose, so there was no way to stop her outside of pure power.
Martin suddenly stood up and burst into laughter, “Your Beautiful Majesty, is there a need to go so far? Perhaps we can abide by ancient customs. You may propose a feasible condition and have Richard fulfil it; the wisdom of the past is still rather valuable.”
He paused and surveyed the family heads around him, “Of course, as someone from the Sacred Tree Empire, I do so wish this goes on. When my army’s powerhouses reach Faust, things will go so much faster if there’s civil war already.”
Martin’s voice was very pleasant to listen to, as though he was singing in a choir, but his words were sharp as needles pricking under the skin of every family head present. Both the Millennial Empire and Sacred Tree Empire had at least two epic powerhouses and perhaps had even more trump cards under the surface. The Sacred Alliance had a millennium of history and wasn’t as powerful as it seemed either, but the two epic beings within its borders were like fire and water. It was already a great display of temperament for Sharon to abstain from attacking Faust.
With Richard managing the Archerons, they were now amongst the five most powerful families in the entire Sacred Alliance, and his runes had allowed all of the powerhouses of the Alliance to grow stronger. If Apeiron killed him here, the Archerons would scatter and that source of strength would dissipate instantly. At that point, there would be no way to fight the armies of the Sacred Tree Empire. Apeiron herself would have to flee if two epic powerhouses personally came to Faust.
But that wasn’t all. With Philip dead, Richard and the Archerons were Sharon’s main connection to the Sacred Alliance. She wouldn’t let things go if someone else attacked, but that was only as long as he was alive. If Apeiron killed him, the Deepblue would secede instantly and the legendary mage would join the Sacred Tree Empire to hunt her down. Even if the Millennial Empire came to their aid, that would still be three against three.
Richard had always been a threat to the remaining families of Faust, growing far too quickly in power yet continuing his war against multiple other families of the Alliance. Even if those wars were justified, it was difficult to accept a new power that would not stay neutral. However, he was already a cornerstone of the Sacred Alliance, perhaps even more so than Apeiron herself. His death would tear the country apart.
However, logic would not work with the Empress. Continuing to stare at her pitch-black nails, she said calmly, “Condition? That’s easy. Hand Nyris over right now, or you’re going to die.”Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Translated By: Ying
Edited By: Theo
TLC'ed By: OMA