Book 9, Chapter 64

A Small Test

“You could die next time, Boss.”

“That’s right, sleep another five minutes.”

Richard’s impassioned words were met with fragmented jibes. Only a few of those present even had the energy to speak, but those who were still with him were the kind to follow him through thick and thin. At this point, their relationship wasn’t simply one of master and servants, but comrades that stuck together come hell or high water.

However, five minutes of sleep was already a luxury to Richard. He was the one who started most battles, and the one who ended them as well. There was no way to keep track of the number of times he put his own body on the line to block fatal attacks on his subordinates; while he was tough and hard to put down, the damage was racking up and starting to deplete him.

He returned his holy sword to its scabbard, “Let’s return to Bluewater and resupply. Then we’ll send these reapers to hell!”

The astral chrysalis and messengers were mobilised soon after, ferrying everyone back to the Crimson Empire. Richard mounted his own high-speed messenger that flew to Bluewater at more than a thousand kilometres an hour. This supply run would be perhaps their most important one before they ended the reapers; Blackgold had a new model of thunder cannons that he had just shipped out.

The new thunder cannon model was no longer six-barrelled, sporting two parallel barrels instead. Its firing rate had dropped significantly, but the range and accuracy had grown more than enough to compensate. The complicated spinning system had been changed to reduce manufacturing difficulty, tripling the rate of production. The most important innovation came in the form of new special bullets, utilising the energy cores of the reapers that could blow up a small warship in a single explosion.

These thunder cannons would be monumental during the upcoming battles. Richard had already arranged for a hundred rune knights and a few hundred night elves to add them to their arsenals, and the broodmother had redesigned her new bug-like warriors to accommodate the weapons as well.

Richard’s first order of business when he returned to Bluewater was to inspect the practical effects of the new model. The weapon was almost two metres long, and despite a bit of roughness around the edges it was eye-catching and durable. A saint-level dummy was distorted with a single shot, fragmenting into bits with a second. This meant that even some of the larger warships would be damaged by these bullets, even if it took the strength of a level 15 warrior to withstand the recoil.

Even rune knights had to rest after firing a few shots with this new gun, but that was a small issue in the grand scheme of things. These guns were a complement to the javelins, not a replacement. They were a little weaker than the javelin barrage, but didn’t use up energy and thus could be alternated with the javelins to almost double longevity in battle.

Richard smiled with satisfaction, “Change equipment immediately, tell everyone that they have half a day to familiarise themselves. They can feel free to experiment, we don’t have any shortage of bullets.”

However, the weaponmaster in charge of the guns bowed his head in shame, “Forgive me, Your Majesty, but we do not have enough cannons.”

“Huh? Blackgold was supposed to send 600.”

"But we only received a hundred, and only a third of the bullets as well. I heard the remaining were met with an accident along the way."

“A fuckin… Accident, huh?” Richard’s lips lifted in a cold smile, “So who’s the bitch that dares to cause an accident at a time like this? Tell me everything.”

……

In an ancient yet well-furnished castle, a young noble was toying with a two-barrelled gun in his hands. He aimed at a humanoid figure a hundred metres away and tested the trigger, a loud explosion ringing out as the shot deviated from its target to hit the ground. However, the fierce shockwaves sent the target flying away, the thunderous noise leaving the noble flinching in fear.

The youth quickly calmed down and inspected the weapon in his hands, aiming at the next target and managing a direct hit that turned it to ash. He pursed his lips in surprise, “To think the Archerons actually got their hands on a weapon that can kill rune knights instantly. War really is the fastest way forward.”

“Are we not courting danger, my Lord?” an old mage at the side asked with worry.

“Of course there’s a bit of risk, so what? Heh, this is just a small test, to see how the Archerons are doing. If they react too intensely or too weakly, then the rumours are true and their powers are greatly impaired. If they lose the war with the reapers, even Richard himself won’t be able to trace everything to me.”

The youth then smiled, “Even if they find us, we just have to return what we took. Uncle is now in charge of the military offensive in the Land of Dusk, and has already conquered a new fortress. Even Richard won’t dare try anything.”

The noble was brimming with confidence, but this did not rub off on the old mage, “But this batch of weapons would have been very important for the Archeron war effort. I—”

“Even more reason not to pass things to him. Do you want the Archerons to win?”

The old mage sighed, knowing that any attempts at persuasion would be futile.

“Right, how is the research? This seems easy to make, can we duplicate it?” the youth asked.

The old mage shook his head, “The activation arrays are encrypted, and it will take time to crack or replace them. However, the power comes mainly from a special bullet that the Archerons seem to be taking from the reapers. Without those, these weapons only have a third of their power.”

The youth’s face flushed with disappointment, “What use is there with a third of the power, won’t they be lumps of scrap? Wait, the Archerons should have sent a shipment of the metal to the Deepblue, go investigate when the caravans left. We should be able to intercept.”

"Yes, my Lord," the old mage walked away helplessly.

……

In less than an hour of his return to Faust, Richard had all the information he wanted. While the situation was complicated, a number of information traders already had their eyes and ears where it mattered. Archeron gold then brought this news directly to his ears.

In the meanwhile, he had entertained a half-hour secret visit from Julian, who gave him a brief overview about the Land of Dusk. Once the other information flowed in, Richard quickly had a rough understanding of the situation.

Everything had started near Azan, where a young viscount forcefully intercepted the passing Archeron convoy and ‘inspected’ the contents. This convoy had been carrying the first batch of thunder cannons, and with over a hundred on each side dead the caravan had to submit and allow a large portion of the guns to ‘go missing’. This wasn’t uncommon in the Sacred Alliance, but few nobles dared to do such a thing to the Archerons.

Richard’s reports showed that a certain Yaya Turing was connected to all this, a young earl of the Turing Family with wild ambitions for the entire dukedom. Other people involved included a nephew of Hasting and some important people from the Sacred Tree Empire.

“They’re trying to figure out whether we’re confident of victory against the reapers. Too harsh or too soft, and their next steps will be much more dangerous,” Richard said as he put down the report, looking at Asiris who was currently in charge of administration in Norland.

The Dark Priest nodded, “I agree, and have already come up with a few plans for an appropriate response.”

“What? Appropriate? Ha, those thunder cannons were important in the war against the reapers. That was obvious, and some people still crossed the line. They get to bear my wrath as well. Remember, we’re the people that fight fire with an inferno.”

As a startled Asiris tried to figure out what he meant, Richard recalled Julian’s request to visit the Land of Dusk at least once. With Hasting’s nephew being involved in the entire conspiracy, he decided to take up that offer, “I’ll head to the Land of Dusk for a bit, see just what Hasting has done that should make me fear him. It better be effective, or I’ll give the old bastard a lesson he’ll remember. For now, just keep things in check.”

It took only moments for Richard to exit the island and fly down into the royal island, vanishing in a few blinks. The saints guarding the portal to the Land of Dusk were stunned at someone zipping past them and were about to chase after in warning, but a passing message verifying his identity calmed them down.

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OMA's Thoughts

Translated By: Choco

Edited By: Theo

TLC'ed By: OMA