In front of Richard was a map of the Bloodstained Lands and nearby territories. It was very precise, much of it drawn up by Richard himself. Richard looked over the positions of his followers upon it as he asked, “What’s the situation?”
The broodmother immediately responded in his mind, “Everything is settled in the Land of Turmoil, I can enter the Bloodstained Lands right now.”
“Just wait there quietly!” Richard didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.
The broodmother was his trump card, and the current situation was unlike any other. His army was a mix of honest soldiers and bandits, and Bluewater held considerable might. How could he afford to expose her to the enemy? Even though the broodmother had considerable power at level 5, not fearing the saints of Faelor, she would still be in trouble if multiple enemies ganged up on her. With her snail-like speed, there would be no escape.
She was not meant for battle, just like how a mage wasn’t meant for melee even if they had some sort of ability like Eruption.
In the end, Gangdor and Kellac started explaining the situation. Falcao had left after a month, while Rolf and Lord Moonbear had continued to guard Bluewater. However, Lord Moonbear had decided to withdraw his troops just a few days ago, and Red Cossack had already gotten the news. They were reportedly gathering their troops on a large scale, prepared to wipe out Richard’s army in one fell swoop.
The two sides had erupted in a multitude of small battles over the past three months, each suffering casualties. Richard’s followers had whittled away at Red Cossack’s caravans all this while, forcing them to give up on any small businesses. The caravans were now all guarded by enormous armies, rendering most of the attacks unsuccessful.
“How is the situation in my territory?” Richard asked. After all, it was still a good fief.
“It couldn’t be worse,” Gangdor said with a shrug, “There’s probably only a few hundred people there, maybe even less.”
“What is the matter?” Richard frowned.
“Earl Layton, a relative of the Sacred Unicorn. He frequently sends men down to your territory to capture anyone they see. The Red Cossack bandits go there to pay a visit sometimes as well, although I think they’re only stealing rations. If you ask me, boss, your territory was originally a wasteland. They just want to vent their anger by attacking it.”
“Layton? Are they still in Fontaine’s barony?”
“Yes, but they took away a few hundred people recently. There’s about 2,000 left now.”
Richard laughed coldly, “Since they don’t want to leave, let’s have them stay!” It seemed like his territory was worth more than he had assumed. They likely hated his lands disrupting their resources.
This place was originally on the fringe of the Direwolf Duke’s territory. At least for the next decade, he wouldn’t be turning his focus in this direction. A suitable middleman with the right tricks would likely be able to buy it off Bevry for a reasonable price. However, now that Richard was the owner of the land there were no legal means for them to obtain it.
Richard stowed the map away, “Tell Devon, Amon, and Rolf that I’m back. If it’s convenient, I’d like to meet up for a meal.”
Just as his followers were about to leave, Richard called out to Gangdor once more, “Right, send word that the bounty on Chuck and Phinbar is now 300,000 each. This will make Red Cossack uneasy!”
“300,000?! We can hire saint assassins with that!” Gangdor cried out in disbelief, “They’ll really be worried this time. Boss, you’ve become rich!”
“Yes!” Richard laughed, kicking the large man out.
It was evening in Faust, and Nyris once again had an opportunity to dine with his father. To him, this was a mix of pain and pleasure. The good thing was that there would be many dishes that could only be savoured in the Emperor’s presence, but the dinner was no better than a battlefield. The barrage of questions was normally more than he could handle.
“I heard Richard is back in Faelor?” the Emperor asked.
The two had dined together more frequently as of late, mostly because of Richard. Nyris was glad that he had the sense to support the runemaster firmly; if not for that, he wouldn’t have so many chances. He had sixteen adult siblings, with many more that were not yet ten. The number of them who had awoken their bloodlines went into the double digits, and he wasn’t the most outstanding of them all. He needed to work hard; merely being in the presence of His Majesty was a form of victory for the princes and princesses.
“Yes. The Church also sent two of their own with him. Outside of Daybreak, there was another battle priest by the name of Io. This is a name that hasn’t been heard in the Church before.”
“Tell me what Richard took to Faelor,” Philip changed the topic.
One couldn’t just read from a piece of paper in the Emperor’s presence. Both of Nyris’ hands were filled with food, but he still spoke as fast as possible as he listed everything Richard had taken. He had memorised all the details, something that was only expected when one dined with the Emperor. They had to gather as much news as they could before every meal, regarding every kind of event in Faust as well as any major movements elsewhere on the continent. One also needed to prepare for any possible queries the Emperor might have, researching all the subjects deeply. Nyris had gathered a list of everything Richard had taken during his return to Faelor; thankfully, that decision was not in vain.
His political growth depended largely on such preparations.
Philip nodded his head in satisfaction once Nyris was done, “This kid is good, he actually knows how to earn money from other planes. He’s worthy of calling himself someone from the Deepblue. Oh yes, I heard Beye met him in private?”
“Agamemnon arranged it. I heard she needed Richard to help her craft a rune called Lifesbane.”
“How did Richard respond?”
“He took the blueprint.”
“He took it?!” Philip suddenly stopped eating, subconsciously circling his fork around on the plate for a while before he managed to continue, “Lifesbane isn’t easy to craft. Lunor has tried it for seven years with no success.”
“Isn’t it just a grade 3 rune? It can’t be all that difficult. Lunor is just too unskilled; the royal runemasters of the other empires are on a completely different level!” Nyris said angrily, “It takes so much from our budget to buy powerful runes from the black market! I really hope Richard can grow up faster!”
Ever since he had gotten Richard to craft runes for them at the 1:5 ratio, he was growing increasingly annoyed with Lunor. The only reason the old man was still a royal runemaster was that more runemasters was always better. However, Lunor’s student had no hope of becoming the family’s next runemaster. Foster would need to actually grow his ability for that to happen, not just relying on his connections as he currently did.
Philip suddenly smiled, “The old men from the Sacred Tree Empire and the Millennial Empire couldn’t do it either. Do you really think Beye didn’t try that in secret?”
Now it was Nyris’ turn to be shocked. He finally understood why his father, someone who was only ever concerned about food, actually stopped to think for a while. If the runemasters from the other two empires could not craft it, this Lifesbane rune was more difficult to produce than many grade 4 runes! For Richard to keep it was truly unusual!
Nyris had gained a better understanding of Richard’s personality after their visit to the Forest Plane. The Archeron runemaster would never promise something he wasn’t confident in delivering; accepting the blueprint without any deadline meant the problem was with his level, not his ability to replicate the design. One’s mana pool would naturally increase as long as they worked hard.
Another striking detail was that Beye had actually given the blueprint to Richard after a single meeting. This showed just how much value she now attached to him.
“Would the White Night really go to so much trouble for a mere grade 3 rune?” Nyris probed. Even though he was a prince, he still didn’t know too much about the might of powerhouses.
Philip looked at Nyris for a while and muttered to himself before saying, “You’re a lucky kid. You might have a bright future ahead, and you choose your friends well. Alright then, let me tell you a few things in advance. Lifesbane is a grade 3 rune, yes, but the more of it you craft the higher its level. This is a rare type of rune called a stacking rune; the real difficulty is in the overlaying component. This makes the rune more difficult to craft than many grade 4 runes, to the point that only saint runemasters could normally make it. This isn’t a problem in itself, but the trouble lays in the time one wastes on it. It might take one six months to a year to craft it even for a saint. Lunor has trouble making even grade 4 runes, he definitely doesn’t have the skills to even try.”
“Stacking rune?” This was the first time Nyris had heard this term.
“Stacking runes are runes that can be placed over another rune at the same slot. However, they’re different from hybrid runes; as long as the user has the carrying capacity, they can add in as many as they like. Three, four, even five runes won’t be a problem! Even though Lifesbane is only grade 3, this special ability makes it one of the best single runes for killing in existence,” Philip explained patiently.Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Translated By: Styles
Edited By: Theo
TLC'ed By: OMA