Richard was looking forward to when the broodmother would level up once more. She would certainly give him some pleasant surprises.
His troops were now well-trained and well-equipped. If Salwyn were to come with as many troops as he had before, he was confident in utterly obliterating the prince. However, the Bloodstained Lands were blanketed in silence. The Iron Triangle Empire seemed to be content fighting a war of words with the Sequoia Kingdom, while the nobles on the Empire’s southern borders had no intention of venturing back into Richard’s lands.
There were many reasons not to attack Richard, but only two that really mattered. First was the same difficulty Salwyn had faced: victory posed no benefits to speak of and the consequences of loss were dire. Unlike the Prince, however, they didn’t have the nation’s interests at heart. Not every noble could appreciate how frightening Richard truly was: a prodigal genius with a great work ethic who was also adept at politics. The second was the simple fact that Salwyn and Lambert had failed. Naturally, those who were inferior wouldn’t dare to risk their lives for no reason. Even the Mage Association had grown humble, not sending any provocation Richard’s way.
All of a sudden, Richard found he had an army without a purpose. With no enemy to fight, he couldn’t help but lament the waste of power. But then, he couldn’t help but laugh. This situation was a result of the endless battles he had faced throughout the past year! Was this not beneficial to him? What he lacked most now was time. In another three months, he would reach level 14 and have crafted eight or nine more rune sets.
This was the worst part of being his enemy. Just a few months of peace and one would find they were facing a completely different behemoth.
“Ah!” he heaved a long sigh, “I should get some exercise with those who don’t recognise me.”
He then walked out of his workshop, receiving a regular update about the city’s situation and the training of his troops. The first caravan to Forgefires was on its way back, the profits from the trip about three million gold. The number of caravans in the future would increase and this profit would lessen, but even once it stabilised the profits would still be about 1.5 million a trip.
The scouts mentioned that King Bamor had decided to take measures to grow the dwarven population. The restriction on commoners from having children were taken away, and a reward was handed out for every newborn.
Still, the average dwarven lifespan was between 150 and 300 years. They only hit puberty at fifteen years of age, and could only give birth to one child a year. Birth rate was inversely proportional to lifespan; taking into account the mortality rate from environmental factors, the dwarven population would grow slowly. Forgefires’ might was determined by its population, which was something Richard had taken into account for his plans. As long as they had a continuous supply of food, they would quickly expand and absorb the smaller neighbouring tribes. After all, happy is the city which in times of peace thinks of war.
As he walked around, all Richard could hear was good news. There weren’t any remaining nobles who dared to provoke him; in fact, they were fighting each other in order to curry his favour. Seeing how enthusiastic these nobles were, Richard realised that any who dared to annoy him wouldn’t even be worth the time.
He wound up just musing about his ambitions, returning to the laboratory to challenge himself in the world of runecrafting and magic. The day thus passed in peace.
When Flowsand returned to her residence at night, she found Io waiting for her with a stern expression on his face. She was confused by his furrowed brows, “Io, what’s gotten into you?”
“I must speak with you, my Lady,” Io replied. Despite how he acted publicly, when alone he spoke to Flowsand in a respectful and formal tone. This was the same attitude all heavenly guardians had towards their masters.
“Very well,” Flowsand opened the door to her study, having him follow her in.
Io closed the door and sat across her, staring right into her eyes as he said seriously, “My Lady, Richard has reached level 13.”
A satisfied smile spread across Flowsand’s face, “Oh, yes! Isn’t it astonishing? He should have gotten there earlier, but he was busy strengthening his bloodline all this while.”
“Three months ago, he was level 11!” the battle priest stressed.
Flowsand was a little confused, “Indeed. What is it, is he too slow?”
“No, he’s too fast! In fact, he’ll reach level 14 in another three months and level 15 within the year! I’m still at level 14!”
“Your point being?” The smile on her face remained unchanged as she nodded, waiting for his following words. However, her initial joy had faded away.
“I feel you should consider raising my level limit during the next ceremony. Otherwise, I will only reach level 16 at most, and that’s assuming I can take part in numerous battles. In less than two years, Richard will surpass me.”
Flowsand suddenly laughed, “So that’s what you were worried about.”
“Yes,” Io admitted.
“Very well, what of the offerings? Till date, every offering we use has come from Richard. You think it’s appropriate to use the grace he works hard to earn for me to raise your level limit, just so you can continue to boast in front of him?”
“Verily so!” Io had no sense of shame. Of course, battle priests were prime candidates to boost in normal circumstances.
Flowsand subconsciously sighed, rubbing her forehead, “Why is it that I got an idiot like you? Tell you what, you know what I’d do if I had enough divine grace?”
Io shook his head.
“I’d select another heavenly guardian, and it would be another battle priest too!” Flowsand said fiercely. This was an unexpected blow that blanked Io’s mind, leaving him at a complete loss for words. “If you can’t give me a satisfactory explanation, that’s exactly what I’ll do.”
Flowsand seemed indifferent at this point, but anyone who understood her knew that she wasn’t one to change her decisions easily. While the battle priest hadn’t been in her service for long, their relationship ensured he understood her deeply.
“It’s not that I want to steal Richard’s offerings,” Io suddenly came back to his senses, “We are currently strong enough to search independently for offerings on this plane, but three full months have passed and he shows no signs of acting. I only fought twice alongside his followers, and that was to clear out some local bandits. There was no challenge, and no chance to obtain offerings either.”
Flowsand closed her eyes, as though pondering something, “Io, I feel like you’re different from the normal heavenly guardian. I want to ask you, do you know your purpose?”
“It’s so Richard will still have a powerful priest under him when you return to the Church.”
“Good, you understand. However, your behaviour is making me think you’re choosing to ignore the order you were given when I selected you. I don’t understand where your animosity towards Richard comes from, but if you’re unwilling to cooperate with him for whatever reason I can only select someone else. The next guardian I choose will be a woman. Although I don’t want to leave another attractive girl by his side, it’s certainly better than giving him an enemy.”
Io’s expression contorted, and he finally sighed, “Understood. I am somewhat different from normal heavenly guardians. While they have souls as well, they are nothing more than clever puppets. You have no need to worry; as much as I despise that fellow, I oppose him openly and not behind his back. I certainly will not hinder him unreasonably. I might just be a construct from the Eternal Dragon in your eyes, but I have my own pride. I believe you understand how special I am as well.”
Flowsand raised her brows and eyed Io indifferently, “Very well, I’ll believe you for now. However, leave any hopes of an increased limit until you actually reach level 16.”
Io exhaled, saying nothing. Battle priests were different from clerics; the more spells they used, the faster they would grow. This was why constant battle was when Io felt the happiest. Thus, while three months of peace was ideal for Richard, it was precious time squandered as far as he was concerned.
Bluewater remained merry even after night fell, many parts of the city well-lit. The number of taverns in the place had grown exponentially over the past few months, but even so many were frequently overcrowded. The traders who had made a fortune from the first caravan would soon return and fill their coffers with coins, so the entire city was celebrating. Groups of drunkards wandering the streets were a common sight.
Waterflower was roaming the streets like a restless spirit, a fire in her heart leaving her unable to calm down.Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Translated By: JH
Edited By: Theo
TLC'ed By: OMA