While everyone was moving into Blackrose Castle, Nyris put on male clothing like before and worked like any ordinary Archeron, doing all kinds of work and even participating in menial construction tasks without a care for how dirty she got. She had met Richard the moment he gave her a chance to ask what had happened on the royal island, but Richard just said there was an argument with Apeiron that wasn’t worth mentioning. She knew that was a clear lie, understanding him much better than he understood her, but she didn’t press further and just gave him a hug. Outside of moral support, she could only help him by going into battle like the rest of the Archerons.
Becoming an independent noble was only one step away from forming one’s own country, especially for someone with Richard’s resources. He had some buffer time now because the two other empires were fighting over him, but a definite rejection or just the passage of time would change their attitudes sharply. Before that point, he had to deal with the Sacred Alliance; no country would put up with a large noble just up and leaving, and without the aid of one of the other empires he would have to fight his way out.
Three days after Richard arrived at Blackrose, Sauron, Goliath, and Alice arrived in secret to hold a meeting. Richard explained everything that had happened with Apeiron to the three, ending with a simple statement, “There’s no retreat.”
Goliath and Alice immediately expressed their agreement with his actions, but Sauron asked to clarify a few details from all of the times he had met the Empress. Richard obliged, and after some thought over the answers the Marquess spoke up, “I feel like this was planned. Even if it wasn’t for Nyris, she would have found some excuse to force us into a corner.”
“Why would she do that?” Goliath asked curtly. He’d always had a tumultuous relationship with Sauron, even if they weren’t in direct conflict after the defence of the Unsetting Sun.
“Epic beings might be crazy, but fools don’t get to that level of power,” Sauron replied. Goliath thought over these words repeatedly, but he couldn’t find any rebuttal.
With the conversation dying down, Richard continued, “Now, it’s time to make a decision. I’ve withdrawn from the Sacred Alliance, but you three don’t need to. I welcome you to stand beside me, but do know that you might lose your territories close to the core of the Alliance. We may have to go through hell, or it might all end peacefully. I won’t hold a grudge against any decision— you’re still my kin— but you should know that either choice cannot be changed. I’m afraid there won’t be an opportunity to change your course for a long time.”
“You know my decision,” Alice said immediately.
Goliath deliberated for a moment before flashing a terrifying smile, “So you’re saying I’ll get to fight a good war if I stay by your side.”
Only Sauron was left, and the Marquess took some time to make his decision, “I… stay.”
Richard nodded, “Alright, I’ll give you my territory in the northwest, but I want all of your land near the peninsula.”
“No problem,” Sauron promised without hesitation. Although his lands near the peninsula were much better developed, the territory in the northwest was vast and held a lot of potential. On the other hand, Richard needed to consolidate all of his territory in his push for independence.
“Now, can I still get intelligence from you after today?” Richard asked.
“Yes, there won’t be a change to that. The only difference is increased price,” Sauron smiled, “One price for families not in the Alliance.”
“No problem,” Richard replied as well.
Sauron thought over things for a moment, “I have a tiny request. You’ve met my son Sua before, I want to send him to your side. I’ll spread news that he died, and have him change his name. He’s a little foolhardy, but he is still competent at leading troops.”
Richard nodded, “I’ll give him a shot.”
Sauron flashed a smile, the wrinkles on his face as deep as a gorge. He stretched out his hand to give Richard a firm handshake.
“Stay alive in the Alliance,” Richard said.
“I will, get back as fast as you can.”
Once matters were settled, Sauron, Goliath, and Alice all left for their own territories to make arrangements. They had to hand over territories, break up joint control of certain places, appease their subordinates, and gather their armies as quickly as possible.
Richard himself had a sizeable force under him right now, but Blackrose Castle was being expanded to accommodate the flow of people heading for the Dragon Plane. He had to complete that as quickly as possible to ensure he was battle-ready; the next few days would perhaps be the last peace he would enjoy for a long time to come.
Calculating the time, he decided to leave for the Millennial Empire first to participate in its auction and offer some sacrifices. He didn’t need to— even as an outsider now he could definitely get Duke Orleans or another family to let him perform the ceremony in Faust— but he didn’t want to head back into that city right now.
He didn’t bring any attendants or followers, just carrying some simple supplies and heading out alone. With a combination of griffons and portals, he arrived in front of the Emerald Skylake in two days.
The Emerald Skylake was the capital of the Millennial Empire, once considered the most beautiful city in all of Norland. The grass was like velvet and glistened a bright green, just like from a painting that hadn’t completely dried yet. It had just finished raining, and the ashen red clouds covering the skies were a sight to look at as well. A large city stood in the middle of it all, a dense metropolis of vibrant colours and light. Enormous decades-old vines covered all of the walls, hiding the mortar and stone and replacing it with a dull, pleasant green. The city gates were an arch made of red sandstone, covered with the multi-coloured sunflowers that were the national flower of the Millennial Empire.
Richard was currently dressed like a travel-worn wandering mage, covered in thick robes with a strange magic-sealing case strapped to his back. The case was obviously worn out in many places, but there were a number of eye-grabbing symbols all over that made it almost seem like the creator was afraid people wouldn’t realise what this was. This made him look like a common mage who needed to work to make a living, having no choice but to put himself on display in the hopes of getting jobs.
There were no visible checkpoints in the Emerald Skylake, making it seem like the city was open to the entry of travellers from all over the world, but as he went in Richard felt a warm current pass by his body to probe his abilities. Richard quickly noticed that the energy was weak but ingenious, able to cause a reaction from the negative auras of the hells, abyss, Outlands, and many other areas.
Once inside, it felt like he had entered a country of elves. One’s first impression was the ancient trees that looked to be thousands of years old, treehouses on all of them while some of the ancient dead trunks had homes carved in. However, closer inspection revealed a stark difference from other elven construction. In the Evernight Tribe, the treehouses had been built on top of the trees and the huts down below were made of wood as well. The elves were experts at crafting trees into ideal shapes, creating natural pillars and walls for support. Here, however, the magnificent buildings were carved from stone and overgrown with vines or melded into bark, giving off the illusion that it was the same.
Still, the city was plain gorgeous. Almost all of the structures had delicate statues on top, and even the garden fences were welded cast iron in fanciful patterns. The entire city was a dark green, but there was no lack of other colours either. Be it electric blue or rose pink, one could find everything here that showed this wasn’t a dated city.
Richard wandered around the path aimlessly, seeing people from all sorts of races and countries. Just like Faust, this was a tolerant and welcoming city, at least on the surface. Only such a city could prosper for a long time, even if the tolerance was only superficial.
Walking down the main road for a while and passing a plaza, he saw the horizon suddenly open up into a vast green lake. The surface seemed boundless, to the point that one could assume it was an ocean, but this was the Emerald Lake that gave the city its name. The city district was shaped like a crescent surrounded by the lake, and at the edges were the famous Whispering Woods.
Gazing upon the water surface that seemed to be polished from stone, Richard couldn’t help but let his attention drift away. He looked towards a snow-white bridge to his left that crossed the vast lake, connecting the city to a splendid palace. At the heart of the lake was an enormous tree that slanted to one side, its crown looking like floating green clouds. The palace itself was white and blue, built all around the tree and snaking upwards.
The enormous tree was larger than the trees of life Richard had seen in the Forest Plane, no smaller than what he expected the world tree to be. Atop the humongous tree was a cluster of palaces that made the residence of the royal family.Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Translated By: Styles
Edited By: Theo
TLC'ed By: OMA