Amidst intense discussion, someone asked about the price. Norland still had several hidden depths, and there were many people whose treasuries were a complete mystery to the rest of the plane. Mana Armament and Midren both were certain to have astronomical prices, but their eventual owners were still an unknown. Even someone like Saint Lawrence, who had fallen from grace many years ago, still had eight top-tier offerings when Richard first met him. Truly powerful families, especially outside of Faust, could give away a dozen top-tier offerings with minimal impact to their situation.
While Mana Armament was still acceptable, Midren’s battle edition would turn a powerful legend into an epic being. This was a military advantage that could not be bought.
Richard already had a plan for the sale of his runes. Because of limited production, Midren would only be available via the point reward system. Mana Armament would appear there at some point as well, costing around 5,000 points, but those who didn’t participate in the system would still be able to win it in an auction that would be held soon.
This was all serious news, and many leaders instructed their helpers to get a hold of the current exchange list of the point reward system as soon as possible. They would study it properly after the banquet; for the sake of Midren, anything was worth it.
Dinner ended smoothly, and there were many people who wished for a private audience with Richard. With far too many people asking, he only managed to allocate twenty minutes per person. Even so, it was dawn by the time he sent off his last visitor.
The old steward had waited patiently through the night, delivering his report only when Richard was free. Ginley had gathered all the information he wanted.
Looking at the report, Richard sighed, “Is Coco awake?”
“Yes, she’s with the Young Mistress. She seems no different from normal, but the Young Mistress seems to have no attachment to her and even rejects her embrace.”
“Let Fiora play however she wants for the next few days, and feed her as much as she’ll eat; I’ll be taking her to Faelor in a couple days when I return. I’m going to see the criminal right now, go get Coco too.”
A few minutes later, Richard was sitting on a high-backed chair in the Blackrose dungeons, looking at the culprit with annoyance written all over his face. Ginley was stood beside him, her body stooped down in flattery. Every time she saw Richard, the old woman smiled like an old dog that had caught sight of a room.
The moment Coco stepped in, shock filled her face, “How… Why…”
The person kneeling down was her personal maid, the very one that had been recruited from her family. The woman had been replaced by two young female mages for the past few days, but Richard had explained that it was a critical time so she had put it out of her mind. She had never expected the woman to have been captured in secret.
“My… My Lord, it can’t be her, can it?”
Richard’s brows furrowed, but he remained silent as Ginley spoke up in her owl-like voice, “Miss Coco, I have never made a mistake in this regard. She might be able to deceive externally, but her soul does not lie.”
The maid shivered in fright upon hearing that, but Richard just looked at Coco and sighed, “You’re the one who hired her. She’s leaked intelligence about the family to outsiders repeatedly in the past month, already earning over 3,000 gold for it.”
“What… impossible…” 3,000 gold was no small sum for a commoner. Even as an official partner of Richard’s, Coco only received a few hundred gold coins a month as an allowance. As someone who had done this herself, she knew just how much the maid would have given away. As for the source of all that information? It was herself.
As someone groomed to be the old steward’s successor, Coco often worked with Richard’s documents. Although she wasn’t in a position to make any decisions herself, she had a general idea about most of Richard’s choices. Having known the maid for a long time, she had casually mentioned many things that she shouldn’t have divulged.
“I’m… I’m sorry…” she fell to the floor.
Ginley chuckled, “How must we deal with those who bought this information? And what about this woman?”
“Hmm… People will keep doing that, there’s no need to treat it too seriously. Still, we can’t just let it go either… How about this, look through the list of names this one sold information to, and have the less important ones vanish. She’s all yours.”
“Many thanks, Your Grace. This is a large reason for my devotion.”
“And the others?”
“Unstoppable power!” the old hag said in a trembling voice.
Richard nodded, “So you can sense the thing in my body. You’ll get what you want if you do well.”
Ginley bowed in gratitude.
Having understood her fate, the stunned maid suddenly jumped up. “Your Grace, no! Spare me, beat me however you want, but don’t give me to her! Sister Coco, I’m begging you!”
Coco looked a little disturbed, but she sighed softly, “This was my fault too. I can’t help you.”
“I ONLY TOOK A LITTLE MONEY, MONEY I DESERVE! YOU CAN’T HELP ME? DO YOU KNOW HOW MUCH I HAD TO SACRIFICE TO COME HERE? YOUR FATHER FUCKED ME, YOUR BROTHER FUCKED ME. THEY USED ME LIKE A TOY!”
The maid leapt towards Coco, but she crumpled mid-flight and rolled over in pain. Her screams resonated through the dungeons, but her voice was quickly silenced as Ginley pointed towards her. Mouth still wide open in pain, she couldn’t make any sounds at all.
Coco looked at Richard, seemingly with the intent to beg for mercy, but she didn’t dare open her mouth as she saw his expression. He picked up another document, “So I just expanded your father’s lands and there were two incidents where citizens have been beaten to death. The reason? Disrespect towards your elder brother. There are interrogations that make trouble for travelling caravans, and constant conflict with all neighbours. Your father just built a checkpoint to collect taxes from incoming caravan, on a road leading straight to Blackrose. Do they think I’ve given them such little money that they’re planning to tax me directly?”
“That’s… impossible…” she felt her entire body losing strength, legs giving way as she fell to the floor.
Looking at her sorry state, Richard sighed and brought her to a seat, “How should I handle this?”
Coco was sobbing quietly, unable to speak. Ever since her pregnancy was announced, her father, brother, and all sorts of relatives came to her asking for money, territory, and titles. Amongst them were people she had never seen before. Her brother even claimed that Richard owed him an earldom, using Richard’s name to do all sorts of heinous things. She had been worried about this throughout her pregnancy, but now her brother had even killed citizens just for disrespect.
Citizens weren’t the same as slaves; no normal leader would execute them randomly. Coco’s father wasn’t even an independent lord; her brother simply had no right to execute anyone without a trial.
Even as the traitorous maid writhed on the floor, Richard paced around the room in thought. The old steward lowered his head in shame— he ought to have reported this, but he had kept everything under the radar. Unfortunately, Coco’s family had grown more and more brazen with time, and the extortion of caravans had blown it up to the point that Richard heard of everything through other means.
Richard walked a dozen rounds, perplexed by this problem. The situation was more thorny than conquering another plane, involving emotions instead of reason. He normally would just execute such bad actors, but Coco was after all the mother of his child.
He eventually came to a resolution, “They’re your family, and I’ll take care of them. Have your brother enter the army, I’ll have him stationed to defend Goldflow Valley. Your father can keep his title and lands, but he will have no right to earn money from them. I’ll take care of his expenditure in the future, provided these things are never unreported again.
“Got it?” he stared straight at the steward, even as Coco heaved a sigh of relief at the light punishment. The old man nodded before walking over, escorting her out.
Once the two were gone, Ginley snickered, “You are too merciful, Your Grace.”Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Translated By: Choco
Edited By: Theo
TLC'ed By: OMA