Richard huffed out a breath of turbid air, quickly getting his chaotic mind back on track. “Becoming partners is a pretty decent price for a steady alliance,” he said after some thought, “But I can’t afford so many rune knights right now.”
“You can consider it a loan,” Fuschia said, “You are a royal runemaster after all.”
“A loan?” Richard looked flabbergasted.
“Yes, you’ll have to repay her on a specific schedule.”
“What about the price for an alliance only?”
“There is no such option.”
He took in a deep breath, “Alright, deal! We’ll be partners.”
He was in desperate need of a strong ally right now. His status as a royal runemaster wasn’t an all-pass card, while the Church would only protect him for a year. Even the current conditions were only effective in Faust. He didn’t dare to leave the city at the moment.
As for their being partners seeming more a transaction than anything else, Richard didn’t believe that was completely the case. He still remembered that Gaton had once suggested this to him as well. It seemed like these so-called general terms were tailor-made for him, although they still squeezed quite a bit.
“A quarter of it for down payment. The agreement will only come into effect when my Lady receives it all,” Fuschia threw Richard off once again. “You have to be quick,” she added on, “You never know if there are others preparing their own rune knights.”
Richard was at a loss for how to answer, but fortunately the three knights chose that specific moment to return from their task.
“The corpses are piled up together, but we separated the heads. Should we hang them up?” Asiris asked wretchedly.
Richard shook his head, “No need. Ship the corpses out of the island to be collected by their families. Also, inform all the branches that looted the offerings to return them within whatever deadline. If they don’t, the case will be dealt with like treason.”
“You want to reclaim the offerings?” Fuschia cut in, “I don’t think that’s possible. I heard that most of the offerings were forcefully bought off by powerful families once they were shipped off the island. Nearly nothing is left.”
Richard laughed, “I know. And Alice was one of the buyers, no?”
“Yes. We can get the offerings that were bought by the Earl, but a majority are untraceable. My Lady has less than a tenth of the total.”
“Forget it, she can have them. Treat it as a part of the down payment.”
Richard wasn’t expecting to reclaim the offerings at all, he was well aware that most had been resold. The only reason for doing this was the other families of Faust who meant ill; this way, they wouldn’t be able to openly support the traitors unless they were prepared to explain their interference in another family’s affairs to the Emperor and the assembly. Treason was not tolerated in any family. If one wished to support a rebellion in another family, they had to do it carefully in the dark.
Once Richard was done settling the affairs of treason, Asiris stepped forward, “If I’m not needed for anything else, I have to head back. Cyrden won’t be able to last long.”
“I should head back too,” Senma said sleepily.
However, Lina didn’t speak up until the two knights were gone, “I… I cannot go back yet.”
She couldn’t help but laugh at the expression that elicited from the runemaster. “I’m in charge of the Forest Plane,” she clarified, “the one Master Gaton took from the Schumpeters. A huge rebellion occurred recently, and it will be tough for me to deal with it alone. I’ll need some help.”
Lina didn’t mention what kind of help she needed, only looking at Richard with a smile. She seemed more interested in his reaction instead.
Richard thought things over for a moment before bringing her to the command centre. He then asked her to give him an idea of the topography and current situation.
The Dragon Mage had long since prepared for this. She inserted a memory crystal into a slot on the table, quickly bringing up a map of the Forest Plane. The map was quite limited, mostly made of mountain forests with a river flowing through. At the edge of the map was a city near which her troops were camped.
The Schumpeter crest was shining brightly on the city itself.
The Schumpeters had been working on the Forest Plane for a while, but they hadn’t made much progress. All they managed was a single city-state, suffering many losses in their war against the aboriginals which greatly affected their rate of expansion.
Gaton had wiped out the Schumpeter armies when he arrived, taking control of the only city in the plane and leaving Lina behind to guard it. However, with him trapped in the Rosie Plane, the Schumpeters who had originally surrendered took the chance to rebel when Lina was off fighting the aboriginals. They quickly took full control of the city and were drawing on three magic towers to keep it in their hands. Lina had tried to attack them twice, but both battles had ended in her loss.
Richard stared at the map, pondering the situation. He understood this was a test by the Dragon Mage. If he failed, it would be difficult to have her follow his orders.
Lina still had about 2000 men remaining, giving her an upper hand over the rebels in both quantity and quality. The enemies only had a single saint, and he would never be able to defeat her in one-on-one combat. The difficulty lay in the three magic towers. Suppressed by them, the Dragon Mage was fighting at half her ability. In addition, the aboriginals of the plane were constantly harassing her army, making it hard for the soldiers to rest and recuperate. This was slowly eroding their morale.
The plane was named after its vast expanses of mountain forests, with few plains and grasslands. The aboriginals were an intelligent species similar to Norland’s elves, quite swift in the woods with talent in archery and assassination. Even Lina herself had been shot once when she wasn’t paying enough attention.
After getting details on the two battles from the Dragon Mage, Richard had a clear picture of the situation. The enemy saint had served to distract Lina each time, while the rebels massacred most of her men under the protection of their towers. She was left with no choice but to retreat every time.
“So, what’s the plan?” Lina asked, “My troops can’t be out there for too long. The daily casualties are a huge blow to their morale.”
“How’s the time-flow?” Richard raised his head.
“A third of Norland, the Schumpeters invested a lot into it.”
He silently made some calculations, “I need some time to prepare. We’ll head to the Forest Plane in two days, it should take me six to quell the rebellion.”
“Six days?” Lina was too shocked for words, “In Norland time?”
“No, plane time.”Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Translated By: Gem
Edited By: Theo
TLC'ed By: OMA