Book 3, Chapter 103

Aftermath

Richard looked up at everyone present, “We won’t be able to give Salwyn a surprise tomorrow…”

Just as everyone was baffled, however, he finished the sentence, “because he’s already used to us chasing him out!”

“Hehe…” “Yeah…” “Ha…” These unenthusiastic responses came from Richard’s followers. They were evidently not interested in his poor jokes.

Indeed, Salwyn wasn’t surprised on the third day. As expected, he had to glumly withdraw his troops from Bluewater in the evening. A large number of his men had been lost over the course of the day.

The fourth day, he sent all his troops to attack the city; even his cavalrymen who weren’t meant to fight in closed spaces had been mobilised. It ended being the day with the worst losses yet.

As for the fifth day… There was no such thing. The Prince had his troops withdraw in the morning, disappearing into the northern horizon. Only a third of his men still remained when they left. Jubilant cries rang in the oasis city throughout the day.

The four-day war had reaped 50,000 lives. This city that wasn’t too large, but it had taken 20,000 imperial soldiers and 30,000 of Richard’s men.

The meat grinder at Bluewater had a minuscule effect on the Iron Triangle Empire, but it was a heavy blow to Prince Salwyn. The battle had spread Richard’s name throughout the Bloodstained Lands.

The reinforcements from the Sequoia Kingdom couldn’t cut Salwyn off in time, so many of the forces withdrew their troops. However, those planning to participate in the Bloodstained Highway project still rushed to Bluewater. In fact, many who originally hadn’t planned on participating changed their mind after hearing the news. They had no place in the army, but they were prepared to make things work. They were reinforcing Richard, so the troops that reached the city had to get something, no?

Three days after the war came to an end, the armies from the Sequoia Kingdom reached Bluewater one by one. The largest force came from Duke Grasberg, an army of 3,000 cavalrymen and a 5,000-strong infantry. The commander was someone Richard had never seen before, Earl Layton.

The rest were entirely unexpected— there was actually an army from Countess Katrina. It had 4,000 men in total, but 500 of them were elite heavy cavaliers. Even the squires of these knights were veterans, numbering 1,500 in total. Level 9 on average, this cavalry force was one that seemed to be no inferior to even Duke Grasberg’s. Their lavish equipment was splendid as well.

Richard was rendered speechless at the sight of Katrina’s army. The Bloodstained Lands weren’t suited for heavy cavalry at all; the Countess’s actions were more a show of wealth and power than anything else. However, so long as this army was willing to serve, Richard would not mind having another group of powerful soldiers. The most difficult parts of previous battles had been taken care of by his humanoid warriors.

Zim’s expression turned dark when he heard of this army’s arrival. Katrina’s show was meant specifically for him.

The Direwolf Duke sent over an army of 2,000. Half were footsoldiers, while the rest were a combination of scouts, light cavalry, and knights. There were no heavy cavalrymen of even heavy infantry, but every soldier was well-trained and suited to operating in the Bloodstained Lands. This was a practical army.

When the more than 10,000 new soldiers streamed into Bluewater, Richard finally heaved a sigh of relief. Examining the ruins of the oasis city, he was amazed by Salwyn’s fearsome might once more. If not for mobilising the slaves and overworking himself to control his soldiers in the midst of all the chaos for an entire four days, he truly would have been purged from the Bloodstained Lands.

He found that he had too many things to do. His influence was growing at an unprecedented rate, his army exceeding 10,000 for the first time. However, this was false glory; 90% of his army was made of former slaves who had accumulated enough merits in battle. His initial promise had been to turn any slave who could kill an imperial soldier into a free soldier, but over the two days of intense battle their numbers had dropped below 10,000. Not even he had imagined that the prospect of freedom would make them so fearless in the face of death.

Richard actually didn’t need so many men, but seeing the gathering soldiers from the other nobles he changed his mind. He retained every willing slave for now, deciding to prune them in the future. He would still take 10,000 men on the Bloodstained Highway project, but three questions plagued him: whose troops would be taken, who would be left behind, and how would they be reorganised? He knew that failure to take care of these issues within a month would be the end of him.

On top of all that, he also had to deal with the problem of rebuilding Bluewater. Thankfully, he already had the support of a dozen merchant groups and some of the Sequoia Kingdom’s nobles. The construction would go much faster than otherwise.

The representative for the Direwolf Duke brought some news as well. Bevry would secretly bring his son to the oasis in ten days, and the letter also mentioned that he was bringing a special item that could be used for a ceremony. Richard was astonished; how did the Duke find an offering in such a short period of time?

However, there was still some time before the Duke’s arrival. Taking care of work for the next few days, he took Gangdor along and made a quick trip back to Norland.

……

Richard walked out of the teleportation formation just in time to see priestess Noelene hasten over. She stared at him blankly for a while upon seeing him, before looking him up and down and asking, “What happened to you?”

“Have I changed?” Richard was startled as well, stroking his chin as per habit. When his hand felt a layer of stubble, he finally understood.

Noelene looked at him with a complicated expression. From her perspective, the beard did nothing to detract from his youth. However, this boy that had left only a few days ago had changed greatly upon his return. The delicate elegance had waned, any signs of inexperience completely replaced by the taste of blood and fire. If Richard had been a tall, straight sapling, he was now a blazing rock.

She had seen many people moving between planes, but rarely did someone change so tremendously in such a short period of time. “I sensed the formation being activated and came to take a look,” she deflected, “How long do you plan on staying here?”

Richard placed a magic chest that was nearly as tall as himself on the floor with a dull thud; the thing obviously weighed a few tons. He huffed and stretched his aching body, “No longer than a day, I just brought some stuff over.”

The portal flickered once more and Gangdor walked out. The fellow’s majestic back was bowed, all of his muscles bulging. The floor shook with every step, the three chests he was carrying so heavy he had activated his bloodline ability to force his way through. The brute threw the chests down the moment he could, sitting on the floor and panting hard. The chests that were tied together had weighed ten tons at minimum; even the burly man with Gaia’s Force was exhausted.

“Why are only two of you bringing so much?” the priestess couldn’t hold herself back from asking, “Why not bring more people?”

“I’m too poor. It takes too much to teleport!” Richard hid nothing.

Indeed, the poverty of the Archerons was on an entirely new level. Truth be told, any family that engaged aggressively in planar warfare was bound to never get wealthy. The sudden profits that war could bring was reserved for the winners, and even then most would find it to be a pyrrhic victory.

However, it was the crafters who truly profited from war. Enchanters, blacksmiths, alchemists… Of course, it was the runemasters that earned the most. Thus, facing a royal runemaster who complained that he was poor, priestess Noelene’s first desire was to throw the fellow into a spatial rift.

“What did you bring? Why is it so heavy?” Noelene was rather confused.

Richard opened one of the boxes, revealing grey ore with cloud-like patterns on it. Proficient as she was at appraisal, Noelene immediately cried out in a low voice, “Cloudiron ore! So pure!”

Most of the load this time was cloudiron ore, alongside a few hundred kilograms of lafite. The price disparity between the two planes for these was less than 50%, but since he had the ore and Gangdor could carry it Richard obviously wouldn’t waste his time. Every teleportation cost 20,000 gold!

Richard picked up a piece of ore, “Priestess Noelene, could you help me recruit around fifty mages that are at least level 10? I also need some alchemists and blacksmiths who can handle the more common precious metals; thirty of each.”

Noelene’s eyes lit up, “It seems like you’ve found a plane with a lot of ore! Your luck is pretty good, even I’m growing a little jealous of Flowsand. You want the mages to enchant different metals, right?”

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OMA's Thoughts

Translated By: Ying

Edited By: Theo

TLC'ed By: OMA