Book 2, Chapter 31

Reputation

Unlike Joven which had been plundered twice, Osfa had turned out to be much more fortunate. This tiny town that was closest to the mountains and the invaders’ base hadn’t been visited at all.

Joven’s luck had been terrible both times, and in varying ways. However, Richard had gotten most of his gains from Kojo’s estate and the training camp, with the tax he collected from the town itself being minimal. On the other hand, all of the money the baron’s army collected had come from the town. At this point, it was difficult to tell who the town hated more.

It was Richard’s intention to bypass Osfa. He pondered over things deeply, simulating the situation on the map countless times over before he decided to let off the closest, most probable supply point. He’d instead decided to lay his hands on the heart of Kojo’s territory at Joven, and as expected they’d won in a single battle and achieved many of their fundamental goals.

From another point of view, not touching Osfa gave his enemies the misconception that they’d long since left their base, choosing another one instead. If they hadn’t there would be no reason to avoid removing the thorn in front of their eyes.

Richard’s army took advantage of the night, heading towards the mountains. They would reach the foot of the range by dawn, and with only a single village along their route it would be easy to hide their tracks. Of course, the ones leading the way were the defected troops who were familiar with the terrain.

By the time dawn broke, the group was already thirty kilometres from Joven, having travelled through a small forest to arrive at a lake at the foot of a mountain. They would reorganise themselves here, setting up camp. Richard’s next plans were vague and incomplete for now, and would have to wait until he got news from Marvin.

The lake wasn’t very large, but the water was clear. Its serene surface made it reflective, like one side of a polished sapphire. A few streams flowed into the lake from a short distance away, and at the banks it was like a patch of grassland. The warhorses had been loosened up, with the experienced soldiers bringing them to drink water and eat the grass.

Two carriages were parked by the lake. This was the furthest they could travel, for further ahead was the precarious mountain path that even horses would have trouble moving through. When the women and children who had suffered through the night alighted from the carriages, they all looked pale and unsteady, unable to remain on their feet. A few of the young, pretty ladies looked ready to faint any time, but when they realised that the ones who’d come to support them were two terrifying trolls they immediately shrieked, growing more alert and alive than anyone else.

Trolls were a powerful, intelligent race that also existed on this plane. They were famous for eating humans, be they male, female, young, or old. The captives had erupted into chaotic screaming, and were gathered up and forced to sit as they waited for the defected troops to build the camp.

Medium Rare was off helping these new soldiers cut trees, while Tiramisu set up a huge wok in preparation to cook his best meat stew. Richard found a shady spot and spread out his map on the grass, continuing to analyse their current situation and environment.

However, a message suddenly radiated in his mind, the broodmother’s voice ringing out, “Master, I’ve discovered a camp of goblins. There are about two hundred of them, and I am preparing to clear it out.”

“Alright,” Richard answered, “Be safe.”

Goblins were weak individually, about equal to a level 1 or 2 human on average. Even their most powerful were level 5 at best, but their strength lay in their fast breeding and adaptability to many environments. They were present on a lot of planes, but their existence here only meant this plane was even more similar to Norland. A camp of two hundred was considered small for the race, and these creatures were by nature the kind to disperse when they met a powerful opponent, unable to form an effective counterattack. Thus, Richard wasn’t really worried about the broodmother’s safety. It was a new day, and it already had three more enhanced raptors at its side ensuring its chances of victory were even higher.

However, the goblins and Richard’s own observation of the surroundings over the past few days told him that this plane was far more abundant in food than even Norland itself, making the races more diverse as well. He picked up a pictorial bestiary from amongst the books he’d received from Joven, beginning to flip through it. These books to him were more important than thousands of gold. They would give him a better understanding of this plane, thus increasing his survivability.

But despite his confidence in the broodmother, Richard still kept watch over the general situation. His blessing of precision automatically labelled the creature with an image in his mind, a half-full bar next to it that had changed from blue to red. This bar represented the amount of energy the broodmother had in reserve, something that decided the number of drones it could produce.

The broodmother was over thirty kilometres away from Richard himself, and it only needed to take care of a little goblin camp. Thus, he didn’t have his own raptors go over and help, instead having them disperse into the forest to capture their own food.

In the distance, Olar was busy writing a letter to Baron Forza under Flowsand’s direction. While the elven bard still didn’t have a good grasp of the new language, his understanding of art allowed him to write these completely foreign symbols out beautifully. The content of the letter was simple: it was basically a demand for ransom, in exchange for the wives and children of Sir Kojo. If Baron Forza was willing to pay more for them than a slave trader would, then he could retain his dignity and reputation amongst his subordinates.

Richard knew that this letter was fated to come to naught. Even if the Baron was willing to pay the ransom, his own status as an invader from another plane made them fated enemies. There was nothing that could be done about that— the God of Valour had sent an oracle down, so trades of any kind with the invaders would be seen as disrespecting the gods.

Of course, Neian wasn’t all-knowing, unable to be up to date on everything happening in the world at the same time. In truth, even the master of all gods was only close to being omniscient and omnipotent. Neian had eyes and ears in this territory through his clerics and priests. And while those eyes and ears could be muted for a while for a certain cost, that price would be far higher than what he lost if he refused to pay the ransom.

What Richard needed now was to hurt Forza’s reputation. And that wasn’t a hard task, given that it wasn’t very high in the first place.

Within the forest, Waterflower had the Shepherd of Eternal Rest in her hand as she performed the same slashing motion again and again as if she did not know the meaning of fatigue. Gangdor was leaning by a large tree not far away, the axe by his side finally satiated with fresh blood. He watched on lazily as a few of the defected soldiers transported the wood he had just chopped to the side of the lake, for use as support for the camp.

“These guys work pretty hard,” Gangdor stated leisurely.

“I don’t like them,” Waterflower answered without enthusiasm. All of a sudden, she performed a horizontal slash, speaking with a hint of bloodlust, “They actually hate us. If they get the chance, they will murder us immediately.”

Gangdor shrugged and answered, “Most of them are cowards, and timid trash. Boss definitely knows that. He doesn’t need their respect, only enough fear to keep them obedient. The brave ones were already fed to my axe.”

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OMA's Thoughts

Translated By: Ying

Edited By: Theo

TLC'ed By: OMA