Book 3, Chapter 7

Politics

Raymond looked pale, his forehead beaded with cold sweat. The arteries on his neck were still pulsating; he spent a while coughing intensely before he could finally calm his breath.

A tall, dignified old man walked into the teleportation hall. Seeing the state Raymond was in, he immediately quickened his footsteps and went over, “Do you need a priest?”

The youth feebly shook his head, “No need. The spatial ripples were a little strong is all, I’ll be fine after some rest. A divine spell… I can’t use them too much. Don’t worry about me, Father. Time is limited, let’s go to the command centre, I’ll tell you about the developments in the campaign.”

The Joseph Family’s command centre was tall and spacious, the table in the middle a high-ranked artifact that could store up to nine complete three-dimensional maps. Outside of the map of Norland, the Josephs had five personal planes. Their dream was to someday use the table to its fullest.

The servants had already moved a tall chair over that was meant especially for Raymond. It would allow him to save his strength, looking through the maps from a seated position. Raymond hadn’t always needed it, but it had been used more and more frequently as of late.

Two of the family’s mages injected the table with mana to reveal a map before they retreated immediately. This was one of the family’s greatest secrets, and they could not pry.

Raymond placed an information crystal into a slot at the centre of the table, and the map immediately changed. Numerous cities, stronghold, and other labelled positions showed themselves, including numbers of knights, swordsmen, mages, and the like.

Using a custom-built pointer, he indicated an extensive river valley, “The seven-month expedition into Alfar ended in a decisive victory. We dealt a heavy blow to the allied armies and took over Torrent Valley. Here are the details: I started with having the sixth light cavalry unit detour around the Werewolf Ravine and cut back into the allied forces…”

Raymond’s voice was soft, his words interspersed with light coughs. However, a thrilling battle played out on the table to complement his gentle narration. Both sides had used a total of nearly 50,000 troops, and Raymond had been at a disadvantage. However, the tides had ebbed and flowed for an entire month before his unpredictable, relentless attacks had completely destroyed the enemy’s army. No more than 4,000 enemy soldiers had died in battle, but an entire 15,000 were taken captive to leave the army in chaos.

This campaign had pushed forward the Joseph Family’s lines in the plane greatly, and over 500,000 locals had come under their domain. They had obtained a strategic location in Kerra Pass, proof of Raymond’s ability in command.

Duke Joseph just scanned through the image before turning to look at Raymond, his eyes filled with a complex worry. He knew that travelling between planes was a huge burden given Raymond’s physical condition. If he could, he would rather exchange the entire plane for Raymond’s health.

After finishing the difficulty explanation, Raymond looked up and stated confidently, “Father, nobody can chase us out of the plane anymore. However, a few of the gods are still a little troublesome. We might need two lesser sacrifices to prevent them from doing anything crazy.”

“Sacrifices aren’t the issue,” the Duke said with a sigh, “Raymond. Stay here from now, don’t go to other planes. There’s no need for you to worry about these matters anymore. I just hope you’ll be able to relax and do what you like in the coming years. Leave the planes to your brothers and sisters; they may not measure up to you, but they’re still capable of stabilising the situation. If that doesn’t work out, I’m still here. Do you think I’m so old I can’t even go to our planes?”

Raymond coughed a few times before he could reply, “Father, we aren’t in a good situation. These past few years… the war with the Archerons used up too many resources. We may look strong on the outside, but we could collapse at any moment. I… I can’t see the family like this. Progress in the planar wars is extremely important now more than ever, we just have too few resources especially to sacrifice. Although I never asked you before, I know that most of our reserves are gone. Besides… our opponent is Gaton, and perhaps Richard in the future. When you fight these lunatics, taking it slow will be the death of you!”

Duke Joseph’s lips twitched, and he paced back and forth in the room. Finally, he made up his mind, “Raymond, don’t worry about the offerings. My reputation is still worth something; some old friends already agreed to give me some. In addition to our own stores, we have enough for two intermediate sacrifices. You should offer them both times; if there are any time-related blessings, use them on yourself! If you’re lucky, you might just get a few more decades!”

Raymond shook his head, “You’re being foolish, father. You know my condition; blessings of time have no effect and will only stop my body from ageing. It won’t cure me of my disease. Why waste them on me? It took us great effort to establish a foothold in this new plane, we need a way to prevent the native gods from meddling. If they stop caring about the consequences, won’t our situation be destroyed? We’ll have to build a new passageway!

“As for me, a few years don’t matter. As a son of the Joseph Family, I am willing to put my life on the line. I’m very unstable; no matter what you say, I’m not going to be the one performing the ceremony.”

Having said all this, Raymond broke out into a fierce round of coughs. His face turned red, body curling up like a fish out of water.

The Duke smashed his fist on the tabletop, speaking furiously, “Can’t your disease be healed by a high-ranked offering? Am I unable to do even that?!”

Raymond smiled, “A? You’re being impatient. You should know; even if we acquire a high-ranked offering, it isn’t guaranteed that we’ll get the blessing we need.”

Joseph froze up, only able to sigh heavily at the end.

The blessings of the Eternal Dragon were restricted to a certain range. High-ranked offerings could limit this to what the offerer most desired, but that still left over a hundred different things that were chosen from at random. While the most fortunate greatly improved their chances of getting what they wanted, that did require a great deal of luck.

One needed to have unsurmountable power, great luck, or the liking of the old dragon himself to be given exactly what they wanted. The fortunes of both him and his father were far from good. How else would they have gotten on bad terms with an enemy like Gaton? There were bound to be many stepping stones that adorned the rise of someone formidable.

“There’s no harm in trying,” the Duke said with a wry smile. He then continued, “Perhaps I should seek out Her Excellency Sharon. She definitely has enough offerings at hand, it’s just that the interest is a little high.”

Raymond was unsure of whether he should laugh or cry, “Father! You’re becoming a fool! Have you forgotten that Richard was from the Deepblue? It’s said that Her Excellency paid special attention to him, and he created a record in terms of her Delight. Besides, if not for her support, how could the Archeron Family— no, how could Gaton Archeron have so many powerful offerings? We’ve basically pushed the student she is most proud of into a desperate situation! Don’t forget, not only did we change the coordinates of the plane Richard was meant to go to, we also interfered with Gaton’s sacrifices that were meant to find him twice!”

Duke Joseph could only take a deep breath and state bitterly, “Things might have been better if we hadn’t touched Richard. We paid such a large price, but we still don’t know if he’s dead.”

“No, he has to be!” Raymond was surprisingly resolute. “He’s no normal genius, but someone who can turn the tides of a battle! If it was a regular runemaster, there would be no need to pay such a huge price. But I managed to see his runes… They give off an indescribable feeling! Unbelievably precise, filled with unconstrained imagination that challenges convention yet somehow not breaking the rules. His runes have soul! And his own soul is a volcano sealed in ice!  Cough, cough…”

Raymond got more agitated as he spoke, his face swelling red. The coughing grew so intense he had to pause and recover before he could continue, “If he’s allowed to develop, we might very well be driven out of Faust. In the entire history of Norland, who has managed to challenge a saint runemaster and ended up well?”

Duke Joseph frowned, “Richard shouldn’t be returning. While we’ve nearly used up all our offerings stored up, there’s still the Mensas…”

At this point, the Duke suddenly remembered something and stopped speaking.

“The Mensas…” Raymond muttered, continuing after a long while, “Father, we should be careful with them. Duke Mensa is one of the few people I cannot see through, but I know he is very ambitious. If we assume that his edge has dulled with age, it’s a huge mistake. The battle with the Archerons needs to be controlled, just in case he takes advantage and enters. He… He’s the wiliest of wolves.”

The Duke nodded in response.

Raymond remembered something, “Right, I almost forgot. How’s the trap we prepared for Gaton? Did his army set out? According to my calculations, it should be nearly time.”

Duke Joseph hesitated, “Mm, it was only yesterday. Gaton took eight of his thirteen, bringing along his main elites and 40,000 troops to enter Rosie.”

Raymond was both alarmed and delighted, “What about his teleportation gate?”

“Completely destroyed in the explosion, just like you planned,” the Duke stated calmly. However, there was no joy on his face.

“Great!” Raymond jumped in excitement, “Even if Gaton’s amazing and can create miracles, he’ll need at least ten years to get back! These ten years will be very important to us! Hopefully, I can hold on for that long. Of course, there’s the chance he’ll never return and just die there. Rosie is comparable to a drifting plane now, after all. Since that’s the case, I’m in no hurry to return. There are still some people amongst the Archerons that are difficult to deal with; I’ll stay behind just in case they’re driven to do something desperate.”

Duke Joseph glanced at Raymond and sighed again, “Mensa announced the news about the plane at the assembly today. He also announced something else: Rosie is going to be engaged to Dario Schumpeter.”

“What?!” Raymond was greatly shocked. He stood still for a second, suddenly turning pale before he sprayed blood from his mouth.

Duke Joseph didn’t know what to say. All he could do was lightly pat his son’s back, using his powerful energy to appease his son’s chaotic blood.

Coughing out another mouthful of blood, Raymond took out a handkerchief and wiped at the corner of his mouth. He gradually calmed down, eventually just laughing bitterly, “Is this… politics?”

……

The next morning, island 5-4. The Sacred Emperor entered his breakfast room, footsteps as precise as a clock. Standing in front of the tall window that overlooked Faust, he squished his huge body into the chair with difficulty.

The chair had been changed many times. The only reason it wasn’t bigger now was that the material was far too precious. Even the Sacred Alliance Emperor couldn’t make too large a throne out of a material that was used in grade 4 runes.

The aperitif was wine, with the main course being medium-rare dragon tail. There were some scales here and there, something tailored to the emperor’s unique tastes. Chewing on the fragrant and crisp scales was a type of pleasure.

When the emperor began eating, a servant started to report every important event from the previous day. The news of Gaton’s army being trapped on Plane Rosie was the headline.

Philip suddenly halted his movements, freezing like a statue. The servant knew that this was a sign of His Imperial Majesty pondering over the matter, and was tactful enough not to continue. He instead just watched the Emperor think.

Philip’s body gradually grew hotter and hotter. Three minutes later, his dazed expression suddenly twitched and an intense flame spouted out of his mouth. It roasted the dragon tail until it was well done.

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OMA's Thoughts

Translated By: Ying

Edited By: Theo

TLC'ed By: OMA