Richard’s frown grew more intense. “21 of the family’s 59 territories have shown a decline in taxes… these fellows don’t have any patience at all. Do you think Kunder is just making these bandits up, or is it a raiding party from the Schumpeters?”
“I cannot be sure,” the old steward replied. The man normally devoted his time to the family’s internal affairs, so he couldn’t make a judgement about the state of the vassals. Richard wasn’t really looking for an answer either, he was just asking off-hand.
He stood up and paced about the room, his expression growing gloomier with each step. A few dozen rounds and he suddenly raised his hand, about to fling the tax report to the ground, but he couldn’t bring himself to do so. He placed it on the desk gently, his fury replaced with a chilling calmness when he lifted his head once more, “Tell Kunder that he can halve the taxes next season as well if the bandits remain so rampant.”
The old butler was utterly surprised, but he said nothing. Having been with Gaton for many years, he clearly knew Kunder was just another chess piece. There were a dozen-odd vassals like him who would just serve as tests for Richard. If he couldn’t establish control of his lands, the Archeron fiefs would likely collapse and fall apart.
Richard started caressing the tax report softly, as though it was a lover’s face; however, the icy glare in his eyes would leave a chill in one’s heart. “Schumpeters…” he muttered softly, “You’ve been completely destroyed, but you still want to play tricks behind my back?”
Judging from the distribution of the territory and the range of influence, only the Schumpeters could have tempted Kunder. However, the real mastermind behind this all was Duke Mensa. The Mensas were sworn enemies of Archeron just like the Schumpeters and had been similarly crushed by Gaton a while ago. Even though they knew Gaton was trapped in the Rosie Plane leaving the Archeron lands empty, they didn’t have the strength to start another full-fledged war. The shrewd and experienced Duke shifted his focus to annexing the Schumpeters, who were only a piece of meat up for grabs at this point. There were also those under Gaton who could be swayed, and dividing them up would be quite effective at wounding the Archeron Family. The power of this strategy could easily be seen in the tax report Richard was looking at.
Richard passed the report back to the old butler, “Investigate the lords of all the territories that reported a significant decline in taxes or something similarly strange. Mark everyone you think is abnormal. I hope to have a report of that by the time I next return.”
“No problem,” the butler agreed.
“Has there been any news from the Deepblue?”
The butler immediately took out a piece of paper, “Her Excellency Sharon has entered hibernation. It seems like she will remain in this state for about three years or so.”
Richard was startled, “Master is in hibernation? Did she say why? Is there any special information for me?”
“I’m afraid not, Young Master.”
Richard went silent for a moment before nodding, continuing the arrangements for the private planes. He planned to take 50,000 crossbow bolts himself, sending the remainder to Asiris. The situation in most of the other planes was still stable for the moment, and he couldn’t really afford to help any of them.
Lina had sent a letter to him from the Forest Plane, explaining her predicament. After they had taken over the city, the surrounding forests started growing much more rapidly. The attacks of the aboriginals grew fiercer and more frequent, assassins constantly killing off the logging teams that were being sent out to cut down the trees. Archers who were level 16 or above were starting to appear more often, forcing the Dragon Mage to remain on guard and rely on the support of the magic tower. She was worried the natives would launch a siege soon; although she was confident in being able to weather the storm for now, the situation was evidently going downhill.
The Forest Plane was extremely valuable, or it wouldn’t have been prized by the Schumpeters. Every corner of the local forests was home to rare species of trees, including many types of wood that could be used to manufacture powerful enchanted crossbows. A rare vine had also been discovered on the outskirts of the city, the essence of its fruit allowing mages to increase their mana growth by 10%. This essence was known as mana essence, something charged by the gram in Norland. Its effects weren’t obvious on low-levelled mages, its value instead lying in the fact that even legendary beings could feel its effects.
Every gram of this essence was worth a thousand coins, and just the area around Emerald City could produce half a kilogram every year. Lina could only sustain the war effort by relying on the trade of timber and this mana essence.
The real problem with the Forest Plane lay in what was termed the Walking Woods. The aboriginals possessed abilities similar to druids, able to have trees uproot themselves and walk a certain distance before taking root in another region. As best as Lina tried to chop the trees down, Emerald City was being surrounded on all sides. What’s worse was the discovery that the locals had a power boost of about 20% in the forest.
The Dragon Mage had transported dozens of cubic metres of rare timber out recently, and the old steward had already found carpenters to begin building superior-grade longbows from it. Once they were enchanted, these bows would be worth nearly 3,000 gold each, and this batch was enough to produce hundreds.
There were only a few hundred guards on the Archeron island. After the uproar from the novice knights, Fuschia had recruited 200 and 1,000 people in the island and Blackrose Castle respectively, beginning intensive training. However, it was a strain for the poverty-stricken family to even equip a thousand soldiers; there was no way more men could be transferred out to assist Lina.
After muttering to himself for a while, Richard eventually sent a message to Lina telling her to hang in there as he thought of a way to help.
Nyris and Agamemnon arrived punctually on the island at noon, having received his message. However, Richard didn’t meet them in the study, instead taking them directly to the family warehouse.
Nyris was beautiful as ever, but he looked completely worn out. This didn’t diminish his appearance, however, adding a layer of melancholy to his looks instead. This would attract two types of extreme reactions: one was a desire to come up with a way to solve his problems, while the other was a bestial urge to ravage him.
To his horror, Richard discovered himself being more inclined towards the latter. It caused the royal runemaster to break out in sweat, secretly filling up with fear. This wasn’t just because of Nyris’ status, but because the Fourth Prince was a man.
There were plenty of homosexuals in human aristocracy, and that was a fact not just limited to Norland. Richard himself hadn’t reached that point yet, but who knew how things would turn out? After all, the Archerons were famous for being unpredictable.
Once he repressed the strange feeling in his chest, Richard was then beset by curiosity. Nyris was a royal son, and he wasn’t dumb or weak either. What could have tormented him to such a state?
However, time was precious; every minute wasted was ten minutes lost on Faelor. “Friends, I need another batch of superior-grade weapons, shields, and armour. This one will need to be larger than the last.”
“Wait, what?” Nyris was dumbstruck, his face instantly turning pale as snow. Fortunately, Agamemnon has always been cool-headed. He asked, “Price, quantity.”
“According to the list you gave me last time. And as for the quantity, I’ll need about a thousand sets.”
Even Agamemnon couldn’t help but take a deep breath, “Too much, this exceeds my limit. Nyris!”
“Huh? What?” Nyris was startled by the mention of his name. He had just heaved a sigh of relief, looking to be rejoicing to himself. Agamemnon ignored his distressed state, continuing nonchalantly, “Richard needs too much. Take over everything beyond my limit, about 8 million.”
Nyris couldn’t help but draw in a deep breath as well. His face instantly turned deathly pale as he said in a soft voice, “I… I can’t fork out that much money!”
“Get it from the royal warehouse,” Agamemnon pointed out, not forgetting to add another sentence, “The price is different.”
Nyris’ face regained some blood. It was only then that the Fourth Prince realised Agamemnon’s prices were a little higher than what he would have to pay to draw the weapons from the warehouse. Although the difference was only 3-5%, that still made for a huge sum at this scale. The income from this trade would be enough to make up for half of the deficit he had suffered last time, something that made the prince who had been dealing with an economic crisis overjoyed. The lofty Fourth Prince had never imagined that he would one day be so excited of a few hundred thousand gold.
After nailing down the deal for the weapons and equipment, Richard walked in front of a magic sealing chest. “This is part of the payment for the goods,” he said as he lifted the lid.
Seeing the maple amber within, Nyris subconsciously gasped in surprise. Agamemnon’s breathing grew more urgent as well. Richard patted the chest, “This is about seven million’s worth.”
All the maple amber Richard had brought back was of the best quality, untouched and unprocessed. Both Nyris and Agamemnon could easily find people to cut, treat, and process these ambers into finished artefacts and runes, selling them off bit by bit. Done properly this would net them a total of about eight million, but it would need time. Richard didn’t have the patience or the channels, so throwing this stuff to these two was the best way forward.Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Translated By: XH
Edited By: Theo
TLC'ed By: OMA