Book 8, Chapter 66

Reunion

Back in the Deepblue, Richard had been an inexperienced youth who silently spent his life absorbed in the world of magic. He had his talents, but that was a world made up of geniuses; his true value was in his sheer diligence that allowed him to spend five years with almost no personal life at all. It truly had been impressive, but no one could have guessed he would have reached his current accomplishments either.

If only she’d known… Minnie had pondered over this countless times. Had she been able to foresee even a glimpse of today, she definitely wouldn’t have missed that opportunity. Steven was a prodigal talent in his own right, far stronger than ordinary mages at his level as well as an apprentice runemaster and skilled commander, but she couldn’t be satisfied with that alone. His shortcomings were just as obvious as his aptitude; ever since he had left the school, arrogance and vanity had started to drive every single one of his decisions. Most of his time was now spent socialising and politicking, and the sheer nepotism in his army left the rank and file on the verge of mutiny. Almost nobody without noble blood was promoted to positions of leadership, agitating his more talented soldiers.

Absolute fairness could never be achieved, but most commanders at least tried to maintain a semblance of impartiality. While fellow nobles were more likely to be promoted amongst equal candidates, a more qualified commoner would advance just as quickly. On the other hand, most capable officers had already left Steven’s army for another under Duke Solam, while skilled generals didn’t want to enter the army from the outside either. The youth himself didn’t think this was his own fault; to him, the peasants of low birth just had shallow world views.

Minnie knew that Steven had reached his ceiling; with his mindset, there would be no way for him to advance further in life. It constantly left her regretting Richard’s heartless rejection all those years ago; had she been more determined, acted more pitiful or sincere, would the outcome have been different?

But these thoughts had to be confined to the bottom of her heart, with not a single person allowed to know. Steven flew into a rage at the very mention of Richard’s name, and every sensational rune convention resulted in just as many wounds on her own body.

Walking towards the command tent, Minnie sighed as she heard fragments of the debate. She was no longer a simple mage herself, having gained experience from numerous planar wars. She had been studying accounts of battles with and against Richard, coming to a simple conclusion: man for man, the Archeron army was likely strongest in all of Norland. Even as a small number of elites, they were stronger than even the 100,000 men Steven had cobbled together. The best case was a direct massacre.

In reality, even Alice could lead the 50,000 Archerons to massacre Steven’s forces without losing more than a handful of soldiers. Steven’s generals knew this as well, but the warlock himself stubbornly refused to admit it. It was only with the recent order to withdraw 200 kilometres in a single day that they had a case to have him retreat.

However, Steven was still unwilling to fall back. They were only thirty kilometres from the Brahms territory, a distance that could be covered in two hours if the army were marching quickly.

“My Lord, we cannot defy His Grace’s orders!” the older general emphasized once more, now more firm than ever.

“But—”

Loud bugles suddenly interrupted Steven’s reluctance, shocking everyone present. They all rushed out of the tent, feeling the obvious trembling of the earth as they noticed a black tide rolling over from the distant horizon. It didn’t take long for the generals to notice the volcanic world tree.

The Archerons were here! The generals were dumbstruck, knowing that they didn’t have the capacity to take this on. Without Duke Solam, they didn’t even have anyone capable of resisting a legendary mage.

The army camp instantly fell into chaos, forcing the dazed generals to try and rebuild a semblance of order. All of the squadrons were quickly rushed to their positions, but arranging a hundred thousand men wasn’t easy.

“What are the scouts doing?!” Steven shouted, “Not a single alarm, I’ll kill all of them! I knew those peasants couldn’t be trusted!”

Solam’s troops formed a basic line of defence, but the Archeron army had already entered charging distance. The knights separated from the black tide, a full regiment of cavalry picking up speed. Right at the head of it all was a row of a hundred rune knights, their iron hooves pounding into the earth like thunder!

The rune knights threw their javelins when they were nearly a kilometre away, destroying the wooden walls of the camp in a rumble of explosions. The flood of steel quickly crashed into the defending soldiers, starting a massacre.

…

In only half an hour, Steven’s army was on the verge of collapse. Morale rapidly fell to an all-time low, and Richard’s presence as he floated in the sky ensured no one else could support them from above. Even though he wasn’t doing anything himself, not one person in this army was foolish enough to challenge him.

As his gaze calmly swept through the battlefield, Richard eventually saw two familiar faces in the distance. He immediately disappeared from his location, landing like a meteor in the centre of the battlefield with a dozen-metre-wide crater surrounding him. The warriors nearby were sent flying just by the aftermath of landing, causing him to frown as he stood up.

Pushing away the warriors lying atop him, Steven struggled to his feet. However, he suddenly froze up as he saw Richard standing in front of him, a shiver running down his spine.

Richard observed Steven intently. This was his biggest rival during his time in the Deepblue, but he looked nothing like the confident youth back then. Now, the only things he could see in Steven’s eyes were anger, envy, and deep-seated fear. Steven had aged ten years since they had last met, but this warlock whose talent had been greater than his own had only reached level 16. He himself had added a few more decades than that to his own life, but the difference between them was clear for anyone to see.

While Steven was cowering before him, Richard also singled out Minnie from the crowd. This former senior of his was looking at him with a complicated expression, but while she was at the same level as Steven, he could see that things weren’t quite the same with her. She had clearly focused her energy on growth, but looking at all the bruises, neither the years nor her husband had been kind to her.

As Richard spent his time recalling past events, the surrounding Solam warriors struggled to their feet and surrounded him. However, Steven just stared at Richard, not giving them an order to attack. Most of the saints and generals had gathered around, but they were just staring at the pit in shock. Richard had forced everything a metre down in the pit, implying sheer power that could match a giant or a dragon.

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OMA's Thoughts

Translated By: Choco

Edited By: Theo

TLC'ed By: OMA