Book 8, Chapter 1

Preparing For War

While Richard busied himself in Blackrose Castle setting up those who had just moved from the Archeron island, Faust was still abnormally silent. Nobody could react to his proclamation, with many families gathering their elders and important members in emergency meetings to discuss the consequences of the Archerons withdrawing from the Sacred Alliance.

However, before most of these meetings could get underway, many people suddenly came to a realisation and surged towards the teleportation temple as though they had gone crazy, attempting to take control of the portal that led to the Archeron island. This was a floating island on the sixth level with no master! Just the bonus to the offerings one could make from that was amazing!

Dozens of small duels popped up as the impatient people vied for position, the entire temple descending into chaos amidst the bellows and screams of pain. Some people entered the portal early, guarding the other side. If anyone else tried to charge through, they would be stabbed in the back before they could step out.

Things were a huge mess and nobody noticed a ghost-like figure floating in the sky, smiling down at the chaotic crowd that was immersed in battle. However, a thunderous voice eventually roared with dignity, “STOP!”

A tremendous aura covered the entirety of the teleportation temple, exerting the pressure from a legendary being. Most eyes were immediately drawn to a tall figure at the entrance; even if they didn’t recognise the Ironblood Duke, they could still tell who he was by the platinum crest with the fleur de lis on his chest.

The chaos immediately stopped, the violent ones who had been overcome by bloodlust and greed finally learning fear. A troop of elite soldiers from the Orleans Family surged into the teleportation temple and surrounded them, leaving even saints unable to act without thought. At this moment, the Ironblood Duke himself was still the second strongest person in the Alliance.

Duke Orleans turned to a youth who was radiating bloodthirst, “Go take a look at the island and kill all trespassers.”

“Understood.” The youth’s aura flared as he led a group of soldiers through the portal.

As he walked away, the Duke gave another order as well, “Capture everyone in here. Kill those who resist.”

The soldiers immediately pounced forward, suppressing all resistance and pressing everyone to the ground. The troublemakers were then bound with special cuffs. With the situation under control, the Duke looked up towards the ceiling, “You’ve watched enough, Lord Julian.”

Everyone looked up in a daze, only now seeing Julian hovering near the top. The man chuckled, “I’m just the royal supervisor, a loyal dog to Her Majesty who’s in charge of caring for her alone. I don’t know anything about this; look, didn’t you take control of the situation the moment you got here?”

Having no intentions of dealing with the sophistry, Duke Orleans levelled a frosty glare, “You might be a slave to chaos, but you’re in the Sacred Alliance. If you keep following on those dirty instincts deep in your bones, I don’t need to tell you what will happen. If the Empress is the same as you, tell her to step down!”

Surprisingly, Julian didn’t flare up, “Your Grace, Her Majesty will be a good ruler.”

The Duke snorted, “She’d better.”

He then glanced at the people who were now under his control, “You lot want to become one of the fourteen? If you want an island, then you better march your armies to Faust like everyone else. But you should know, my army will join the defence for the coming year.”

Everyone broke into a commotion, some furious and others frightened. The sixth level families traditionally didn’t interfere in any attempt to make it into Faust. Even Richard’s intervention for the Anans was excusable only because he was just fighting the Mensas. The Ironblood Duke’s decision meant that nobody could even consider entering Faust for another year.

Over the next few days the assembly was stuck in constant argument. All the heads of the thirteen families appeared, debating at length over who would take the island and reap the benefits of the improved ceremonies. Nobody even bothered putting on a guise of warmth and emotion, trying their best to win.

With such immense profit at stake, one couldn’t just come to an outcome in a few days. Considering traditional assembly rules, there wouldn’t be a result for at least a few years. Even worse, the topic had shifted to actually setting a precedent and law for a repeat of this scenario; that would take even longer.

……

Outside Blackrose Castle, a new long-distance portal had just been completed. A dozen mages were hard at work, ensuring it was calibrated correctly to the capital of the Sacred Tree Empire. At such distances, any tiny mistake would be an error of hundreds of kilometres.

Martin and Richard were stood before the teleportation gate, watching as it was completed. However, their conversation was strange.

“You’ll have to bear two-thirds of the cost. I fainted for you!”

“Who knows if that was real?”

“Couldn’t you tell?”

“Of course not.”

“What bullshit. Your eyes are like mine, are you saying you couldn’t tell even despite that?”

“… Fine. I’ll bear a third of the costs.”

“Two-thirds. I fainted for you!”

“It was a part of of our deal. Half.”

“Fine!”

Seeing the holy youth so excited, Richard couldn’t help but shake his head. While a long-distance teleportation array was expensive, both of them could handle it easily. Yet here Martin was, acting as though he’d won the world.

Once the mages were done testing the formation, an apprentice was sent through to check. Not long after, he walked back out with a document in hand confirming that he had entered a portal in the Church of Glory.

“Alright then, dear Richard, I’ve got to go. There are quite a few lovely ladies waiting for me back home!” Martin gave Richard a light hug before heading towards the portal. Just as he was about to step through, however, he turned around and yelled, “By the way, remember to send the beautiful Miss Alice to the northern lines! They’ll need her even more now!”

The Azan Peninsula that held Blackrose Castle was right at the border between all three empires, putting it in a precarious position. The northern frontlines were the border with the Sacred Tree Empire.

As the lights of the portal flashed and swallowed him, Martin seemed to remember something and yelled, “Careful of the Millennial Empire! They’re conspiring against you—”

Before he could finish, the light swallowed him and sent him away. Richard smiled with relief; the man never seemed to shut up.

He turned his focus back to Azan and the surrounding territories. Elite soldiers were now heading here from the family planes and distant lands, while the newest batch of winter soldiers and arrowbeasts were being transported from the Land of Turmoil. A number of fortresses were beginning construction in the most defensible positions in the peninsula, with all aggression reined back for the moment. Martin and Richard may have formed an alliance, but the holy child couldn’t even speak for the Church of Glory yet, much less the Sacred Tree Alliance.

……

Not long after Martin left, the envoys from the Sacred Tree Empire and Millennial Empire arrived at Richard’s doorstep. Both of them had one single goal— to convince him to join their empires. Their terms were shockingly similar, including treating him as the royal family’s leading runemaster and making him an archduke. This was the best treatment he could get.

Richard didn’t give the envoys an immediate answer, instead putting them up in residences next to each other while he planned out the defences of Azan. The Apennine Seas flanking him were a powerful defence in their own right while the natural terrain in the one open direction was under his firm control, but this was far from enough to contend against entire countries.

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OMA's Thoughts

Translated By: Ying

Edited By: Theo

TLC'ed By: OMA