Book 2, Chapter 59

A Lucrative Project(2)

Sam raised his large axe up high, but just as he started a battle cry Waterflower had already passed by his side with a light hop off her toes. Her long white robe suddenly left her body, landing on his head like a cloud to cover it completely.

Sam was startled, and hurriedly stuck out his hand to get the robe off. However, once he raised his hand the back of his head was struck hard by the Shepherd of Eternal Rest. The young lady had struck him with the back of the blade, and with a dull thud the man’s sturdy body fell straight to the ground even as the robe wrapped more tightly around his face. For a while, all he could feel was his head spinning as he saw stars all around him.

He tried to get up in a panic, but another heavy blow struck his head which almost knocked the wind out of him. Following that, a barrage of attacks trampled his strong body, giving him the illusion that he’d fallen from a hill and was being trampled by a pack of mammoths.

Richard, on the other hand, witnessed something else entirely. Once Waterflower got next to Sam and covered his head with her robe, she’d struck him down with the back of her blade. Afterwards, Gangdor had rushed forward to punch and kick the man’s face, followed closely by Medium Rare as the group launched a joint attack on this enemy. Watching the trio attack him viciously without touching any critical organs, he couldn’t help but let out a resigned sigh and cover his eyes. He’d thought such tactics only belonged in the underworld before.

The other side of the battle was different. A massacre ensued, as the ogre mage cast out slows and various other curses. The elven bard boosted the spells with his own chants, leaving the two groups on completely different levels. Sam’s troops were shocked to discover Richard’s army was more ferocious than even them, and their coordination was on a completely different level to their own. Half of them were beaten in a flash, with some of the cavalry surrounded by wind wolves and cut to pieces from all directions.

The battle was over quite quickly, and by the end of it all there were only eight live captives including Sam. A few unlucky ones had been killed by accident, too slow to surrender. Sam remained as fierce as before, but he was beaten so badly he could barely even stand.

Thus, Richard came into possession of more than ten horses and a small camp. The knights skillfully cleaned up the battlefield, looking through the spoils of war along the way. There were several passes to Bloodstone on Sam’s body— it seemed like these troops really were only there to collect a toll before they grew greedy upon seeing Richard’s money and the women of his party.

Even as they were cleaning up, Olar wasted no time in interrogating the captives. He’d learned many interrogation and torture skills from Richard, and was exceptionally talented at their use. Perhaps a large contributor to that was the fact that he had no moral bottom line.

On the other hand, Richard walked around the camp and the blockade, observing everything. He finally stopped in front of the simple barricades, pondering over some things silently.

It took a while before he suddenly flashed Flowsand a smile, “I just had a new idea. At least I know that we can make money off this land in the future!”

“Robbery would be fastest,” Waterflower interjected as she passed him.

Richard was startled, but to everyone’s surprise he nodded, “Mm, that’s more or less what I thought of. At least in essence, that is.”

“You really want to steal?” Flowsand was stunned. However, Richard knew that her only concern was whether the profits would match the risks they would take.

“Robbery? That’s a good way to make a living!” Medium Rare said from not far away.

Some of the people had puzzled expressions, with others skeptical and still more excited. Richard continued, “The idea is essentially the same. Let’s set up roadblocks to collect tolls.”

Tolls?

Everyone was left at a loss as to how this would be a profitable enterprise. This camp they’d just uprooted had almost nothing valuable, except the horses and perhaps the people themselves. Selling them off as slaves would be a way to turn a small profit.

Richard had no plans to explain himself. This was only a preliminary idea, but he would have to wait for his power to extend throughout the Bloodstained Lands, before he used these roadblocks as a form of control. Wealth would flow freely then, and by his calculations the total income he stood to make was an extremely shocking figure.

Looking at the captives, Richard could sense that everyone but Sam was terrified. The burly man had been beaten badly with his face covered, and the thuggy fight had left him feeling utterly humiliated. What’s worse, he didn’t even see how his underlings lost and died.

Sam’s men were fugitives, relying on instinct and fierceness to battle. On the other hand, everyone in Richard’s army from Waterflower to his own knights to the surrendered ones were from the military or had been otherwise rigorously trained as killing machines. There was no room for comparison between an angry mob and an elite fighting force.

Richard walked in front of the captives, taking out a white handkerchief to wipe his already pristine hands. He spoke slowly and politely, “All of you are under my charge from now. If anyone is thinking to exploit my kindness, do think of that pile of corpses over there that used to be your companions. My name is Richard Archeron, and I will only show you grace this once. Attempt a revolt or escape, and only death awaits you.

“Moreover, I can promise you…” he paused, “... The process will be slow, and painful.”

The speech proved quite effective. Richard swept his eyes across the crowd, to see even Sam slightly cowering. He quickly glanced at the man before returning his gaze to his long, clean fingers. His hands were like a woman’s— elegant and fair. They were also the source of various runes and spells. He wiped once more as he spoke gently, “Sam, I will always be watching you.”

These words sent a strange chill down the burly man’s spine. He couldn’t help but break out into a cold sweat.

……

The troops quickly packed up and left. Richard and his core party now had horses, while the nine captives walked. Zendrall was especially quiet amongst the eight from the Bloodstained Lands. He didn’t look strong, but that strange deathly-pale complexion with a tinge of cyan made him look like a zombie. Sam and the others subconsciously tried to keep their distance from the necromancer.

Flowsand and Richard walked shoulder to shoulder, her white cloak wrapping the whole of her body to leave only her amber eyes visible. She looked at Richard and let out a faint smile, “That went well, didn’t it?”

Richard couldn’t help but nod as he asked, “How did you know that it would scare them?”

“I’m an official of god,” she replied, “The study of religion is also the study of the will of the people. Of course I know the kind of threats that would scare them…”

Looking at Richard’s unrelenting gaze, Flowsand knew that this was not an answer he would accept. Of course, she’d known that from the start. She spoke seriously, “Fugitives like these don’t fear threats, and they’re not afraid of blood. They don’t even fear death. The only kinds of people they’re afraid of are lunatics and maniacs.”

Richard snorted with an unnatural smile and continued to ask, “What else?”

“What else?” Flowsand’s voice sounded like she was trying to hold in her laughter, “There is nothing else. I’m just telling you that you’re suited to such a role, so they got scared of you!”

“Suited? Suited for what? A lunatic or a maniac?” Richard raged, but controlled his volume in fear of letting the others hear him.

Flowsand bluntly said, “Both!”

Richard was at a loss for words. After what seemed like forever, he managed to stutter out, “What about you? What are you afraid of?”

Flowsand replied immediately, “A man who does not keep his promises.”

Richard was rendered speechless once more, but her words lingered on in his head. He felt there were so many things held inside them that hadn’t been mentioned out loud.

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OMA's Thoughts

Translated By: Styles

Edited By: Theo

TLC'ed By: OMA