Augen’s face immediately turned the colour of ash. “SIR RICHARD!” he barked, “You’re trying to provoke an earl!”
“A court earl,” Richard poked coldly. This was Augen’s soft spot; a court earl didn’t even have as much territory as a titled knight. The fact that he had managed to gather two hundred soldiers and dress them up in flashy armour was an accomplishment. Of course, any hope that such an army would actually be effective in battle was just wishful thinking.
The man almost turned green at that point, having to use all his restraint to keep from whipping Richard’s face. It was extremely foolish to fight a great mage; Augen had some of the shortcomings common of court nobles, but he definitely wasn’t foolish.
“Do you want to start a war against Earl Yatu and Duke Grasberg?!” Augen roared.
“Earl Augen, do not forget your position! Do you even have the right to stir up a war? Remember what you’re here for; if you want a battle, I will honour your wishes. However, let me give you a word of advice: I have no intention to earn any gold from you. A court earl is not worth much,” Richard icily reminded him.
Internal battles between nobles were normally solved by war. Although many powerful nobles tried to suppress such things, strife could never be controlled. However, unless the warring families had a blood feud the loser could surrender without being killed. Besides, the amount of ransom depended on the value of the prisoner as well. Even if Richard didn’t want to kill Augen, he could still easily maim him.
Augen’s complexion flashed between green and white, no words coming to his mind. He wanted to order all his troops to charge, killing Richard and his army with one quick move, but his rational side reminded him that the only ones who would obey such an order were his personal troops.
The 300-strong light cavalry belonged to the royal army. They were here on Zim’s mother’s behest, to protect her son. They had only been loaned to Augen to avoid Richard making unreasonable demands. If his orders threatened Zim’s safety, the battalion would kill him first.
The Earl took several deep breaths to quell his intense anger. He then said coldly, “Now then, Sir Richard Archeron, are you here to discuss the ransom with me?”
“Of course not!” Richard laughed. Ransom was a word that always brought him joy, “Follow me, I’ll bring you to Viscount Zim. Once we’re done with that, we’ll proceed to a meeting room to discuss the ransom.
“Just so you know, I don’t have any premium tea or refreshments. Nor do I have china or oil paintings. Everyone outside of your personal guard should be a kilometre away from the barracks. Of course, you can send the supply trucks over first!”
Not long after, Augen had met the Viscount and confirmed his health. Zim’s booming voice alone was proof enough that he was well.
However, the process of the negotiation held some surprises. Augen’s anger did not seem to have dissipated. He was unwilling to budge on any aspect of the discussion, determined to duke it out with Richard. He even threatened to go back and have someone else take his place.
This unyielding attitude surprised Richard. Normally, the royal family should have gotten someone unemotional for the negotiations, especially for such a special prisoner like Zim. Bevry’s words about the royal family considering the Viscount a burden were starting to make sense.
Augen’s unexpected stubbornness caused Richard to reexamine the ransom amount. It seemed like he was near their bottom line, and had he had no wish to carry Zim around as a prisoner for much longer. If the Earl backed out and a new person had to take his place, more than half a month would pass before negotiations would resume. Time was currently of the essence.
Augen’s final offer was 50,000 gold, 20,000 worth of magic materials, and twenty carriages of precious goods that were worth a total of 30,000. This amounted to 100,000 gold in total.
However, Richard had already seen the ‘precious goods.’ They were things like marbles, black sand, and golden silk. Such things would definitely meet an Earl’s standards for a palace, implying Duke Grasberg had put some thought into it. Gathering all these things was not easy at all, and the conversion to gold had actually understated their value a little. Any honourable noble would be overjoyed at such a gift for the construction of a new castle.
There was one problem, though. Richard had no plans for luxury or comfort, only concerned with the castle’s defensive capabilities as a fortress. There was no meaning to these materials outside of their sturdiness. His interest lay in the 50,000 gold and the magical materials, both of which could boost the strength of his army.
Richard examined the offer closely. Even with just 50,000 coins, he could have returns of more than 20,000 in a month. There was no need for further negotiation; his most pressing need was to participate in the disputes in the Bloodstained Lands.
In the end, the two finally made the deal. After paying the ransom, both sides signed a permanent truce. Needless to say, everyone knew that this truce would only hold until one of them was strong enough to start a war. The only meaning to this paper was that the Viscount’s next ransom would start at twice the current amount.
The very next day, Augen took Zim out of Richard’s territory. As for the captured soldiers, they would be released in batches. It seemed like a happy ending for everyone involved, be it Augen, Zim, or Richard. Of course, the reasons for everyone’s happiness were different.
For Richard, it was the gold and materials he urgently needed. Zim was elated to not be a prisoner any longer, returning to his lavish lifestyle. He could even gather a whole new army, trying to exact his revenge on Richard.
As for Earl Augen, he was happy to only spend 50,000 of his 80,000 gold budget through his defensive negotiations. The rest of the gold went directly to his pocket. He had taken a huge risk for these earnings; when he first heard Richard’s threats, he had thoughts of giving up. Only the shimmering allure of gold had given him the courage to fight on.Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Translated By: Styles
Edited By: Theo
TLC'ed By: OMA