Book 3, Chapter 91

The Bloodstained Path(2)

Almost every one of the nobles proposed absolutely ridiculous reinforcement plans. The numbers were extremely high, no different from them turning out in full strength. Although those present did not have high ranks, every family here had connections with the greater nobles of the Sequoia Kingdom. Names of powerful houses who had long-term residences in the Kingdom’s capital started flowing from each of their mouths.

Zim was the most enthusiastic of them all. Not only did he clamour about wanting to empty out all of his old man’s family property, but he also considered involving Duke Grasberg himself. He even spoke of asking his mother for royal knights. The Viscount even swore to sleep with Countess Katrina for a month after the project if she would agree to back him up with 300 elite cavalrymen.

In the end, Richard couldn’t help but smack Zim’s head with his staff, finally putting a stop to the Viscount’s wild fantasies.

Right now, everyone present only cared for the mountain of wealth should the Bloodstained Highway succeed, even if their own share of the pie was small. The best way in their eyes was to grow the scale of the army, making it easier to conquer the entire Bloodstained Lands.

If things really did go according to their plans, the number of troops dispatched would almost be on par with a war fought by the entire kingdom; how absurd would that be? Something so insane seemed to grow more and more probable to these nobles by the day. Richard had been named the god of war of the Sequoia Kingdom’s current generation!

However, Richard himself was aware that these ideas were not feasible at all. Even ignoring the threshold beyond which his control of the battlefield would suffer, 10,000 was an extremely strenuous number of men to support. If the army continued to expand, Richard would lose more and more control.

Besides, these were the Bloodstained Lands. An army of 100,000 men would face enormous amounts of pressure for supplies; even before they got to the Ashen Plateau, they were likely to starve to death.

These red-eyed nobles hadn’t even considered the political factors. The intervention of the truly powerful houses would completely shuffle up this tenuous alliance, and that didn’t even encompass the reactions from the various other countries bordering the Bloodstained Lands. One had to think of the fact that Richard was still a mere knight. An alliance between a few nobles was completely different from one on the level of a country.

Richard curbed these overly enthusiastic men, starting to discuss reinforcements seriously. Although he kept increasing the requirements, eventually asking for veterans who were level 4 at minimum with robust equipment and their own supplies, these nobles still managed to pool together an army of 20,000. He was left with no choice but to forcefully distribute the number of slots offered to each noble, only willing to accept the ten thousand warriors of the best quality.

From Bluewater Oasis to the Cracked Canyon; Richard had won four great wars in a mere ten days. However, these nobles ended up quarrelling over the allocation for an entire week.

While the nobles were fighting non-stop over the allocation of the army, Richard began to select new warriors from the rearguard and his stronger slaves. He had lost many men over the course of the past few battles, and he needed to replenish his army. The desert warriors and barbarians were all good fighters; although their loyalty was a little questionable, they weren’t much worse than the nobles’ personal armies.

Grabbing onto the rare break, Richard started reflecting on his capabilities. Two days after the war had ended, he locked himself up in his tent and began a deep analysis.

Everything seemed to be on the right track. He had a growing number of options moving forward, no longer stuck in the desperate situation he had initially been trapped in when they first entered Faelor. However, new problems had begun to show themselves; he needed to plan for the future to optimise the boost to his ability.

His followers had gradually found their own paths, gradually starting to show their power. Ever since he had realised the intrinsic difference between Norland and Faelor lay in the existence of runes, he had already given then an unprecedented priority. Both Waterflower and Gangdor now had their own rune sets, protecting them as they charged into the frontlines and massacred their opponents. This was why they had been chosen first. With Breath of Darkness and Savage Strike, the two could possibly win against a weaker saint of Faelor if they joined forces.

The original core of the team had lain in Flowsand and himself, but Richard was still extremely unsure of what path he should take. Bloodlines, runes, magic, martial arts… he had too many choices, and every direction had its own advantages. This made it difficult for him to finalise his decision. On the other hand, Flowsand’s circumstances were the exact opposite. She was worthy of her title in every way, possessing extraordinary wisdom, talent, and resourcefulness that exceeded his own. Her rune capacity was all the more exceptional, something that put him in a dilemma.

He was currently limited by his own level, unable to craft true grade 3 runes until he hit level 16. However, anything he could incorporate into a grade 2 rune was ultimately unable to exhibit the true power of the Mystic Glory set he had designed especially for her.

The only things he had done so far were to redo her grade 1 rune to grade 2 and add another that boosted her casting speed.

Deepblue Fragment, a rune he had been inspired to design after unleashing the astral affinity of his elven bloodline. It was a rune designed to simulate his bloodline’s properties, something far more difficult to do in a grade 2 rune than in grade 3. The rune was similar to Lifesbane, the difficulty laying in the complexity and precision instead of one’s level in magic.

However, the true origin of the Deepblue Fragment rune was the Deepblue Aria on Sharon’s body. Only after he had become a true runemaster did Richard gain the ability to perceive a small portion of the Deepblue Aria’s capabilities. However, if he could currently see a tree’s worth the full version of the Deepblue Aria was as vast as the Forest Plane.

Richard maintained his main principle of not interfering with the direction his followers took. However, he would occasionally measure their strengths and design some runes to boost their abilities and maximise their combat power.

Thinking about it, Richard found that most of his followers were inclined towards magic now; only Gangdor could charge through enemy lines in the midst of a magnificent army. Medium Rare was originally more suited to the task than Gangdor, but he had been killed by Blackwing. Although Richard had avenged the ogre somewhat, Red Cossack itself was still around alongside their backer, Marquess Yang. He would not let the matter rest yet.

There were still major uncertainties as to Tiramisu’s path, but one could only wait for the ogre mage’s second head to grow out and unlock his affinities. As a result, even if he wished to Richard couldn’t give the ogre many runes. Although old runes could still be upgraded, it was extremely troublesome and painful to remove them if the properties clashed. Faelor’s culture wasn’t at the point where their alchemists could synthesise the required potions.

Besides that, it was hard to say whether runes designed for humans would cause any harmful changes to ogres. The higher the grade of a rune, the more the demand on the bearer’s body. Norland’s runemasters had thoroughly figured out the human anatomy over the past few millennia, runecrafting now a matured profession. However, there was nearly no precedent with regards to runes for ogres. Humanoids seldom used runes in the first place, but even bred warriors with non-human bloodlines normally used human runes directly. No runemaster had considered adapting runes to any other species.

Then there was Demi who had just joined, as well as Wennington and Venica who might participate in the future.

Richard realised that he truly had an excess of spellcasters around him. On the other hand, he didn’t have too many powerful warriors. However, if he shared these troubles publicly he would likely be severely reprimanded.

A warrior was far inferior to a mage or cleric, especially in Faelor. Even someone with great status like Odom would be respectful and deferential when addressing a spellcaster. However, it was this same status that made mages a rare sight in armies unless it was a war between kingdoms. Faelor’s churches were actually ahead in this regard: the power of battle priests and paladins collaborating definitely made them more powerful than a regular troop of knights.

Richard originally had a decent impression of Faelor’s battle priests, but every one he had seen seemed to be an idiot when compared to Io. If not for that hateful fellow as well as the remainder of his ten-odd mages and clerics, his 10,000 men would not have defeated thrice their number so easily at the Cracked Canyon. However, the strength those orcs had displayed was making him reassess the importance of high-level warriors.

This was actually how a trained army was built. Richard already had a decent number of troops under him, slowly raising their quality bit by bit. With the humanoid drones getting replenished in large quantities, he was growing more and more reliant on elite troops. At a certain scale, they grew unimaginably powerful. Take the battle at Camp Bluesquare, for example; the formation of humanoids had pushed the defenders all the way from the south gate to the north without so much as slowing down.

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OMA's Thoughts

Translated By: Hestia

Edited By: Theo

TLC'ed By: OMA