The ensuing battle was short but intense. A mere ten minutes later, the entirety of the slaving team had been reduced to a bunch of corpses.
The weakest knight of the team was level 10, and the strongest level 13. Their fierce defense had killed thirty of the desert folk, and there were some casualties amongst the barbarians and half-orcs as well.
However, once the battle was done thirty wounded warriors swore loyalty to him on their ancestors. In exchange, Richard let the remaining barbarians go free, permitting them to try and return to their ancestral plains.
The process was unusually smooth, partly because the snowpeak barbarians had told these new compatriots in detail about Richard’s kindness of freeing them after twenty kills. In a place like the Bloodstained Lands that was constantly embroiled in war, killing twenty people was hardly a difficult task.
As for the dead slavers, all possible value was extracted from them. Zendrall successfully managed to turn half of their number into warriors of darkness, replacing his thousands-strong army with a small group of elite, everlasting warriors. This had been at Richard’s request, matching up to standards in Norland. One couldn’t rely on a large number of weaklings in war; given certain conditions, certain elites could destroy any amount of cannon fodder.
Cleaning up the aftermath of the battle, Richard’s army continued to wander aimlessly around the Bloodstained Lands. No less than ten battles were fought over the next fifteen days, all of varying scale. He’d destroyed two more slaving teams, and battled a hundred man troop of horse thieves. He’d also captured a small caravan, although he ended up just buying their goods instead of plundering them. That being said, he bought their goods at cost price.
Richard now had more than 300 desert people and 100 barbarians under him. Six of the desert people and eleven barbarian warriors had hit the required number of kills, winning freedom and gold. The barbarians were extremely fond of their homeland, and every one that secured their freedom chose to leave.
His magnanimity had paid off. Those who hadn’t yet reached the quota stayed on and fought bravely, convincing all the other barbarians they came across to pledge loyalty to him and work hard for their chance at freedom. The number of barbarian warriors under his command was growing quickly.
This wasn’t the same with the desert people. There were already five attempts to run, with one where an entire small troop escaped. However, even if they were fierce beasts in the desert Waterflower was a child of the wild. She alone was enough to hunt these traitors down, executing them all.
Richard kept his promise towards them as well, showing a balance of cruelty and grace. Five leaders had been executed because of subordinates trying to escape.
However, what was surprising was that the desert warriors who earned their freedom chose to stay. Their lands in the northwestern desert had been razed when they were captured, so even if they chose to leave there was no place they could call home. They were a fierce people, quite interested in the gold Richard had to offer.
Every fight ended with deaths and rewards.
In the midst of all this battle, Richard finally broke through to level 10. The elven blood in him continued to evolve, giving him an affinity towards nature. This affinity passively strengthened any nature spells he cast, also raising his perception and ability to conceal himself.
The trolls grew to level 11 and mutated, both growing tougher. Their strength, endurance, vitality, and recovery rate were all boosted, putting Tiramisu on the path to becoming a battle mage.
What shocked Richard was Gangdor. He’d only just entered level 11 before they left, and he’d quickly grown to level 12 even if he wasn’t completely stable there. This ox of a man had finally overtaken Waterflower by two levels, the latter still a little ways from level 11. However, even if he were two more levels up the young lady and the Breath of Darkness would prove to be a formidable opponent.
In the midst of all this, none of the experienced knights who’d come with him advanced in level. Besides that, only one of the novice knights captured later advanced, growing to level 11. The differences in innate talent between his team and the rest was growing more and more apparent.
However, the one whose powers had grown the most was the necromancer, Zendrall. He now had nearly twenty warriors of darkness that he could summon at will, although he only had the mana pool to support ten at a time. Whatever be the case, these warriors were all level 12 or above, and even with their slow reactions they were definitely over level 11 in terms of fighting ability. They would play a decisive role in any small battle.
Richard had made a name for himself in the past month, his reputation spreading to many horse bandits, mercenary groups, caravans, and slavers. However, that was all; powers rose and fell every day in the Bloodstained Lands, power and gold being the only order of the land.
This new everyday had grown mundane. Richard felt the month pass by like it was a year, blending into a red world of red memories. He woke up to a red morning, seeing the red land and rocks everywhere as he advanced. Every battle saw flashes of scarlet blood, and dusk bathed the entire land in crimson. In this chaotic land of murder, the colour red had already grown synonymous with blood. There was no way to tell them apart.
In the midst of this blood red world, another two of the Archeron knights left Richard forever. Those who lived did not have the time to reminisce or mourn.
As night approached one day, Richard got up on a high rock. He crouched down on the side of a cliff, looking down to sweep over the orc camp in the valley.
This was an average orc tribe, made of roughly 250 members. There were tents of varying sizes all around, with an altar erected at the back of the camp. A colourfully dressed shaman could be seen dancing an esoteric dance in front of the altar, a solemn drum beat continuously playing from afar and tempting Richard’s heart to dance.
There was a bonfire lit at the centre of the camp. The women and elders were cooking food for the night, while several young ones were play-fighting off to the side.
Flowsand and Waterflower were stood at Richard’s left and right, watching the camp as well. An orc hunter and his pet desert wolf were down in a pool of blood behind them, already having become a corpse.
This peak was in an excellent position, revealing the movements of everything within a few kilometres. That was why the tribe had placed a hunter on guard here. Sadly, it was his exact position that had exposed the location of their camp. Richard’s vision was now far superior to that of an orc.Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Translated By: Styles
Edited By: Theo
TLC'ed By: OMA