Richard didn’t wait for an answer to his threat, having Gangdor and Tiramisu lead a troop of humanoids to take over the key areas of the castle. A lot of attention was paid to the ballistae; although he was confident that Little Fontaine couldn’t afford enchanted bolts, it was better to be cautious.
As the group prepared to set off, Richard suddenly felt a burning gaze wash over him from the side. He turned over to find Io glaring at him, something that caused his emotions to surge once more. He almost wanted to go with Gangdor amongst the first batch to enter Twilight Castle, the words were even in his throat, but he managed to push it down. He was a mage, and more importantly the general of the army. It was a venture in foolishness to join the vanguard.
Just as he was feeling glad that he hadn’t been overtaken by jealousy, Io suddenly spoke up, “Let me go in with them.”
Battle priests had many methods to save their lives. Richard was in no position to refuse Io, but for some reason the decision caused him to feel awkward. Even the joy of taking over Twilight Castle without bloodshed faded away.
Half an hour later, the castle was in Richard’s grasp. Fontaine’s remaining forces did not seem to have any reinforcements, so there was basically no obstruction to Richard’s entry. Truth be told, the defenders had already lost all morale the moment Earl Layton withdrew.
Richard looked through every corner of the castle, not letting go of any hidden rooms or cellars. One thorough look allowed him to memorise everything; if someone wanted to use Twilight Castle to defend against an attack from him in the future, most of their locational advantage would be eliminated.
Richard saw many unexpected, “special” tools in the bedroom of Fontaine’s mother. The Baroness had obviously enjoyed a “fulfilling” time with the general who occupied this area, and it wasn’t willingly. At least, not from the beginning. Memories of the battle alongside the late baron surged into Richard’s mind, causing him to turn gloomy.
It took an entire hour for Richard to finish a trip around the castle. His subordinates had gradually grown used to such things, becoming more patient over time.
Once he was done, he met the Baroness and Little Fontaine in the Baron’s personal study. He took a seat at the desk, while the Baroness and her son sat at the seats normally meant for guests. They seemed to be quite reserved.
“Things haven’t been going well, have they?” Richard asked.
The young Baron stubbornly pursed his lips in answer, not saying a word. He seemed very biased against Richard, especially due to his status as a frontier knight. This seemed to be some form of arrogance that came from his noble status.
It was the baroness that was much more pragmatic, hanging her head low. She had seen Richard exploring the castle, and knew that he had definitely seen many things that could not be made public. Richard rapped silently at the seat he was sitting on, “Let me guess. Who was the one sitting behind this desk, Layton or Odom?”
Lady Fontaine really wanted to keep her silence, but she knew that would only anger Richard, “They’ve all taken turns, but Layton spent the most time.”
Richard smiled, “You’re smart, my Lady, but sadly not wise. If you had managed to hold on a little longer, things wouldn’t have ended like this. Being a faithful neighbour to me is much better than inviting a pack of wolves to your home. What terms did Zim offer to you?”
She sighed and accepted her fate, “That your lands would be given to us. He would also give up some of his vassals’ territories, enough to form a viscounty.”
“A viscount! Even I’m tempted! However, did they follow through?”
The lady quietly began to weep. There was no need to answer the question; even the Fontaine armoury had been wiped clean during Layton’s stay here, taken over by one of his trusted aides. Baron Fontaine had no idea what it was being used for, only obtaining a symbolic compensation in gold. It was so low that she wouldn’t have been able to buy her jewels with it.
Richard called a soldier into the room, “Bring Caesar here.”
Caesar entered the study only a short while later. He grew extremely emotional at the sight of his mother and brother, but stopped himself from jumping over to them. His family had opposed Richard against his father’s final wishes, but he could not do the same. He had followed his father’s commands, devoting himself completely to the Eternal Dragon and rooting himself by Richard’s side.
Caesar was already level 5, a decent level for a cleric. Given his youth, it was definitely an accomplishment worthy of pride. Standing there in the study, his aura towered over his mother and brother.
Richard patted his shoulder, “Look, Caesar’s already a level 5 cleric. It won’t be too long before he becomes a full-fledged priest. Ah, Fontaine… I still look up to his wisdom. You lot should talk for a while.”
Caesar seemed to grow very emotional, looking at Richard with a questioning look. Richard patted him once more, “Don’t mind the time.”
However, just before he left the study Richard seemed to remember something, “Baron Fontaine, I heard that your uncle fell off a cliff while chasing some bandits. His life and death are unknown.”
“Is that so?” Little Fontaine answered drily, “What a pity.”
Richard smiled, pushing the door open and making his way out.
The next day, Baron Fontaine announced that he would return to serving under the Direwolf Duke. He also announced an alliance with Sir Richard, punishing anyone with malicious intent against the knight’s lands. A week later, a fleet of vehicles full of construction materials left Twilight Castle for Richard’s territory. It was accompanied by a number of masons, including many of those that had originally been stolen from Richard’s lands. The Fontaine smithies were working at full capacity, preparing to produce over a hundred sets of high-quality armour and weapons every month for Richard.
Richard could finally continue to build his castle, but he left behind only a few dozen men to guard the place before returning to Bluewater. As long as all of his power was by his side, the territory would be safe. Anyone who dared covet his lands would immediately be annihilated once the army returned.
However, just before returning he sent an open letter to all the nobles neighbouring the Bloodstained Lands as well as those organisations with some power, inviting them to dispatch delegates to Bluewater Oasis to discuss a truly major event.
The Bloodstained Highway Project!
The plan was to gather the various noble families and merchant groups, cleaving a path through the Bloodstained Lands to the Ashen Plateau in the northwest, connecting the Sequoia Kingdom to the dwarven lands. The profits from the highway would be split based on the various forces’ investment in terms of labour and materials.
The plan would deal a fatal blow to the bandits and thieves along the corridor, but at the same time, it also affected the Iron Triangle Empire. Most smaller caravans took the long route through the Empire and paid exorbitant amounts of tax to avoid losing their men and goods, but this project would provide them a better alternative. Besides, Richard was planning to use this plan as an excuse to annihilate Red Cossack, a large merchant group that was under the Iron Triangle Empire’s wing.
Many people had been invited to discuss the project, even Viscount Zim. The Highland Unicorn was no longer as troublesome as before, and even originally Richard hadn’t placed too much importance on him and his backers. Any human nobles, large or small, liked to draw out altercations for a long period of time before concluding them; with the broodmother around, this was always an advantage for him.
In fact, war was quite effective at diplomacy with larger nobles. The loss of seven hundred cavalrymen and Odom had dealt a heavy blow to Duke Grasberg, enough at least that he could not recuperate without a year’s time. Earl Yatu, Zim’s father, had been basically destroyed; his two great mages and priests had died in battle. The battalion commander of the Golden Eagles had been eliminated as well, destroying most of the Azure Deer Earl’s strength.
The number of losses did not seem to be too large, but every death had been the death of an elite. Odom was an extremely useful powerhouse as well; level 16 beings were not called saints on Faelor for no reason.
Richard believed that even Duke Grasberg would have to put some serious consideration into challenging him once more. After all, the profits of such an endeavour were unknown but the potential losses were now obvious.
News spread faster than the wind on any plane with people on it. Odom’s death was known throughout Bluewater by the time Richard returned to the city, leaving all sorts of invitations filling his office desk when he got back.
Of course, he just swept all the papers into the wastebasket with his sword, holing himself up as he awaited the arrival of the various noble delegates while crafting runes. On one hand, this was an extension of his constant diligence, but on the other, he was unwilling to see Io but didn’t dare to ask Flowsand about it. Richard believed he had already asked a similar question of her that night in the tent, but she hadn’t given him an answer; he would not ask a second time.
The Bloodstained Highway project was a byproduct of his extreme depression. He had thought himself crazy at first, but some careful analysis surprised him with just how feasible the idea actually was. He had thus put everything aside, perfecting the plan in two days. A depressed lunatic was always terrifying.Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Translated By: Ying
Edited By: Theo
TLC'ed By: OMA