War Is Declared
Bevry sent Richard a letter through the communication array the next afternoon, explaining the situation with Earl Burr. The Mage Association was prepared to divide his shares in the Bloodstained Highway with the royal family, and was also investigating his background. They were growing suspicious of him, but they didn’t have any definitive evidence yet. The current idea was to force out the ‘teacher’ backing him to ascertain his true power and background.
Richard snickered after reading through the letter, saying to Flowsand, “There’s no need for my ‘teacher’ or the demigod to appear. The probe will stop at us alone!”
The letter did have some use. It showed that the royal family wasn’t prepared to fight him in public, only planning to intervene from the shadows. In other words, his war would only be with the troops of the Mage Association. In other words, the royal family and the three dukes would continue to maintain their silence. Of course there were other alliances in secret, but at the very least he wouldn’t become an enemy of the entire Sequoia Kingdom.
The atmosphere in Bluewater grew increasingly tense over the next few days. Richard’s soldiers were pouring out of the city constantly, batches of them leaving the city. The nobles who started guessing at the destination came to an unsettling conclusion: he was heading towards the Sequoia Kingdom!
The soldiers had been in constant training over the past few months. Only half the initial 10,000 slaves were retained, but the total might of those troops had actually risen. The 600 barbarians, in particular, had fearful strength. Richard had only left 1,500 men to defend Bluewater, bringing the rest of his army and his followers to march towards the Sequoia Kingdom.
It was always Richard’s clergy that left everyone jealous of Richard’s army, and this time was no different. He drew on a few dozen clerics from the three churches, leaving less than ten to run the oasis city. The nobles who had eyes and ears everywhere quickly ascertained his intentions. His troops were gathering at his territory, prepared to head into the Sequoia Kingdom!
Given the latest news from the Kingdom itself, these nobles immediately linked his movements to the Mage Association.
In a small meeting room within the Mage Association headquarters in Lausanne, three mages were gathered around an old round table. The main theme of this room was mahogany, but with so much time having passed the wood now had a purple gloss over its surface. The short, narrow room had not been maintained well; the oil paintings of the gods drawn on top were terribly faded.
The three mages sitting around the table were all dressed in dark gold robes. Opposite Leon was the chairman of the Mage Association, Theodore, while at his side was a wizened old man named Hoover, the highest-level mage in the entire Association.
Theodore was extremely solemn, enunciating every word, “This is a rather significant move. The risk we are taking is a little too high.”
Leon sniggered, “If we succeed, we can terrify all the nobles of the Kingdom; the Association will ascend to an unprecedented position. How could such huge benefits be obtained without any risk? We still have everything under control. We can poison Burr to his death at any time.”
The chairman frowned, “No, that isn’t appropriate. We still need to have him go through a public trial and admit his guilt. Master Monet is very adept as soul magic; we can just take control of Burr’s mind.”
Leon revealed a mocking smile, “Do you think the others won’t be able to tell he’s being controlled? What’s the point of it, we won’t be fooling anyone!”
Theodore remained calm, “Even if we cannot fool a single person, we still need to do this. It is the last veil between us and the nobles of the Kingdom.”
“What an exquisite description!” Leon mocked, even applauding a few times.
However, there was no change in the chairman’s expression, as though Leon truly was praising him. He flipped through the information in front of him, “Is there nothing wrong with Richard? Have you figured out his origins?”
Leon frowned, “His first appearance seems to be related to a planar invasion in the Whiterock Dukedom. I went to the Church of Valour in the Kingdom and asked for the priest there to pray to Neian, but for some reason his connection has grown very weak. The priest hasn’t obtained any prophecy in the past year; even with the highest grade of ceremony, he hasn’t been able to establish contact.”
Theodore nodded, “The Churches of Time and Space have been reporting similar events. Runai hasn’t spoken in the last six months, and Cerces was only slightly better with a single prophecy. But even that wasn’t much; the prophecy only commanded them to grow the faith as quickly as possible.”
Leon frowned, “This is going to be a little troublesome, we need to put the investigation aside. While the people in the Bloodstained Lands are spreading all sorts of rumours, I still think the power behind Richard is a grand mage at most. There are only a few legendary mages in existence, how could a new one come up out of nowhere? If Richard is smart, he’ll give up on the enchanted equipment and the Bloodstained Highway. If he doesn’t let go… Hmph! There are quite a few uncontrollable people who die every year!”
Theodore lightly rapped the surface of the table, “I propose that the Association enter emergency mode, and all our soldiers and battle mages are to prepare for war. We need to be wary of the Direwolf Duke. While a mere titled knight shouldn’t be amongst his core subordinates, he is still a vassal. We should also be on guard against the other two dukes and especially the King. He’s the real fox in all of this.
“This is the mobilisation order. Take a look, if there’s no problem with it we can proceed. Of course, I still maintain my opposition to this war. Keep the scale controlled.”
He then pushed a file over to Leon and Hoover, something that froze Leon’s heart. If this document had already been prepared, then Theodore had anticipated the final conclusion of the meeting in advance. This old codger would be no pushover. Although he was only level 16, his intentions were incomprehensible. It would not be so easy to take control of the Association.
Leon took the document and scanned through it before pushing it over to Hoover, “Please take a look, Master Hoover. If you find no issue with it, I’m fine as well.”
Hoover gazed at the ceiling, completely oblivious to the discussions between the two. The interruption from Leon annoyed him, and he just signed the document without even a glance, “I just got an idea for an exquisite spell! Do whatever you want, don’t disturb me. Is there anything else?”
Theodore and Leon exchanged glances, “No, that is all.”
Hoover immediately stood up, “Good, I’ll be leaving!”
Theodore stood up, “Master Hoover, the situation right now is complicated. Could you work on your research in Lausanne? Your tower is very far; even if anything happens, you might not be able to rush back in time.”
Hoover snorted, “The crude laboratories here don’t meet my requirements at all! I have to return. If there’s a day that I don’t keep an eye on those dwarves, they’ll slack off.”
Having said this, the mage refused to pay attention to any further attempts as he pushed the door open to leave. Only Leon and Theodore were left in the meeting room, the temperature dropping.
The second month of summer was a month of unrest in the Sequoia Kingdom.
The Mage Association had suddenly captured Earl Burr, planning to put him on trial for breaking their monopoly on the trade of enchanted items. This was the most powerful noble that they had captured in history, and a huge challenge to the entire aristocracy. True nobles possessed almost complete sovereignty within the Sequoia Kingdom; even the royal army had to notify them before passing through. This was even more true for independent nobles like Burr, who could easily become vassals of a different country.
Secondly, the great success of the Bloodstained Highway had given the Kingdom a new understanding of the value of the Bloodstained Lands. They found that there was blood everywhere on the soil, but there was also gold strewn around as well. Every item brought back from Forgefires could make anyone go crazy, and all they had to send was food!
But it was the last shock that was the greatest. Richard had officially challenged the Mage Association to war, not as a mage but as a noble!
While many had guessed that the dealer who had sold to Earl Burr was Richard, but with the Association not accusing him directly it had yet to affect him. Still, he had jumped straight out and intervened in a powerful way.
Richard publicly gathered his army, commanding the Mage Association to release Earl Burr immediately. They had to repeal all laws against selling enchanted equipment in bulk for both him and Earl Burr’s territory, and on top of that had to stop inflating the price of magic materials on the market.
If not, in his own words, “I don't mind using the blood of the mages to dye Lake Niwa red!"Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Translated By: Ying
Edited By: Theo
TLC'ed By: OMA