Book 3, Chapter 84

Wisdom

A total of 700 level 9 warriors! Coupled with warhorses, Richard’s men could easily form an elite force on the same level as the Golden Eagles, in fact exceeding them in pure numbers alone!

Looking at the equipment of these warriors, they could undoubtedly take out multiple times their own number. But that wasn’t all; Richard also had an elite group of mages and clergymen.

Seeing this overbearing army, all of the nobles fell silent. The representatives here were different from the ones a month ago; many had been swapped out for high-levelled officers with sufficient experience. They naturally saw how unique of a force this troop was. No general would wish to face such an enemy.

Richard was quite satisfied at this reaction. Flaunting one’s army was an effective means of intimidation, something he needed to do as a foundation for the rest of the project.

Regardless of the size, these noble families always placed great importance on autonomy in battle. They had a mix of good and bad soldiers, so strict discipline would need to be instilled into their men. Richard had to train them all in basic troop formations and command structures; if not done properly, regardless of how gifted he was he would not be able to control them.

He estimated that he had to spend at least ten days of time solely on organisation. There was already a clear idea of what he wanted in his mind; outside of splitting them all up into different branches, he would also break them down into three different levels.

The core would be made of his own troops, becoming the main force that would ensure his victory. Second only to them would be the troops provided by Viscount Zim and the Direwolf Duke; these soldiers were just like those in the Forest Plane, they had great potential once they were organised and trained. As for the others, they would fill in any gaps or work as cannon fodder. Of course, Richard was such a great leader that it was unlikely for them to be sacrificed.

Once he was done inspecting the troops, Richard gathered all the captains from the various noble families, immediately getting into the organisational plan. As expected, there was an immediate outcry. All the captains stated that he was trying to engage in a conspiracy.

However, Viscount Zim and Bevry’s vassals immediately pledged their commitment to Richard’s instructions. With their vote of confidence, a lot of the protests from the rest died down. In the end, only one captain who had contributed 200 soldiers requested to withdraw.

Richard, who had been silent all the while, started stroking his rough moustache, “We’re already at this stage, but you still want to withdraw?”

The captain immediately jumped out from his chair, drawing his longsword and roaring, “What are you going to do about it? I’m a knight of the Sequoia Kingdom—”

*Thud!* Richard hadn’t allowed him to finish, appearing in front of him in a flash and landing a punch right on his face!

The blow was quick as lightning; never in his wildest dreams had the man imagined that Richard would actually hit him. Drawing the sword was merely a show of might, he had no intentions of making a scene in front of the general; if anything, he had paid attention to Richard’s followers and personal guards. Who would expect a mage to actually hit someone with their fists?

The level 12 warrior fell down with a single blow, struggling for a while before fainting completely. Richard had evidently put a lot of force into that punch, knocking the man out cold.

The nobles went into a commotion once more. They hadn’t been present to witness the scene of Richard and Io in physical combat. Mages and priests in Faelor were known for their weak physiques. It was only Zim who remained unsurprised; if not for being conscious of his family’s reputation, he would have jumped up and trampled on the fellow to show his undying loyalty.

The Highland Unicorn’s attitude towards Richard had changed greatly in recent times. He had gone from wrath to fear to panic, finally settling down on loyalty. There was even a little dependance mixed in.

Leaning against a wall, Io suddenly arched his brows. He was the only one present who could tell that Richard had used a combat technique from the church. He had never expected the mage to improve so much in such a short span of time. If this went on, it would spell trouble.

Richard returned to his seat and sat down calmly, saying to Gangdor, “I’m giving you control of his soldiers.” Gangdor immediately answered in the affirmative, not asking what to do if he faced resistance.

Richard looked around the place, causing everyone to fall silent. He then stood up and placed both palms on the table, body leant forward as he said solemnly, “I know many of you are unhappy with the reorganisation of the army. However, it is necessary if we wish to fight through the Bloodstained Lands with such a small number of soldiers. We cannot increase the scale of the operation; any more men and we’ll run out of supplies. Ten days into the project, I will give you all a chance to withdraw. If anyone wishes to leave at that time, you can take your men back home.

“Remember, ten days. It will be your last chance.” Many felt the tone of this last sentence was peculiar.

Once the meeting came to an end, the nobles all left the room with various comments. They had realised these ten days were meant to reassure them of Richard’s abilities, to give them hope. It was only then that they were reminded of this frontier knight’s many victories, debates starting everywhere.

However, Zim’s face turned ashen after a while; the bulk of the discussion on Richard’s stellar victories was built upon the losses of himself and his family. He eventually had enough, coughing heavily to remind these fellows of their error in judgement. They immediately shifted the topic, someone wondering out loud how far Richard could get within ten days. Some said thirty kilometres, while others said fifty. Both these distances held strategic locations they needed to attack.

The scatterbrained Zim had already forgotten the slight, engaging in the discussion and insisting that Richard would hit eighty kilometres. Those here were well aware of the Viscount’s vengeful personality; although they didn’t dare to refute him directly, their expressions made it obvious that he was just overstating Richard’s competence as a cover for his own failures. After all, he had suffered heavy losses at Richard’s hands. A bulk of those present did not know the Viscount hadn’t been involved in the latter part of the dispute.

Of course, many of those present had completely forgotten that their private armies were nowhere near comparable to the Viscount’s elites.

… 

Richard had his own plans, but he did not share them with the rest. He was busy with organising his troops in the day, and had increased the time he spent at night meditating. Ever since he managed to increase his mana growth through the astral affinity, he had pushed as many astral rays as he could towards the tree in his sea of consciousness. The earlier he grew this particular ability, the better the results would be. The trunk’s evolution was growing more and more evident with time; a second branch had sprouted already, tip green in preparation for another leaf to spout. The only question was what powers this second leaf would have.

He had already shelved the matter with Io. The dispute seemed insignificant in the grand scheme of things, and he had more pressing matters to attend to. Fighting with the rank and file of the army was foolish at best, and in the worst case it was a recipe for disaster.

Outside of meditating, he also crafted runes for Zendrall and Flowsand. He gave the necromancer a grade 2 rune that could increase his mana pool by 30%, thus increasing the count of his undead army by the same value. It was the one for Flowsand that had taken a lot of his energy and time; Richard had even made two rare errors before he could finally complete it.

Flowsand’s rune had the ability to increase her casting speed. Although it was a grade 2 rune, it was more difficult than some normal grade 3 ones to craft. However, this speed-up of 10% was of utmost importance to her.

In the end, he had also crafted a rune that could permanently increase one’s strength by 20% for practice. He passed it to Zim as a reward, allowing the Viscount to report back to his clan. Zim was surprised and thrilled at the prospect, immediately having a trusted aide send it home.

Richard had completed the reorganisation by the time ten days had passed. The army’s discipline had grown as well, but that was on the back of the deaths of ten unruly soldiers. On the eleventh day, an army that was almost 10,000 strong left Bluewater Oasis to officially start the Bloodstained Highway!

When they stepped out of the city, even Richard could not foresee the major events that would unfold over the course of this great war.

Following the army were 10,000 slaves who were meant to help with logistics. There were also roughly ten caravans headed by the Golden Warflag, allowing them to obtain supplies whenever they stopped at a stronghold.

Richard didn’t head out on horseback, instead taking a carriage alongside Flowsand. The cleric had her chin rested on both her hands, gazing longingly at him as he studied a map.

“No, this won’t work!” he muttered to himself after a while, “I need to pair the clerics with mages; that will produce the best results.”

As he got to that point, he frowned and rubbed his temples, “On the other hand, the mages are alright… but these clergymen definitely won’t listen to my commands. What should I do… Do I really have to give them any leeway?”

Flowsand suddenly saw a pained expression flash across Richard’s face for the third time that day. The Deepblue’s mages were strong as oxen, why did he seem so tired and worn out? She couldn’t hold it in any longer, asking, “Richard, are you alright? Please rest if you’re tired. I can’t use my spells freely right now, so i can’t help you.”

“I don’t know what’s wrong, my head’s been hurting badly over the past few days…” A mind-numbing pain assaulted Richard even as he spoke. It was so intense that he helplessly grabbed his head!

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OMA's Thoughts

Translated By: Styles

Edited By: Theo

TLC'ed By: OMA