Book 3, Chapter 156

Broken Ending

Richard had basically destroyed the Mage Association, but he ended up allowing them to retain two-thirds of their profits in line with the nine remaining grand mages. They would likely have been taken apart in their dying state, so instead of leaving things be, he decided to usher in a new world order. That was why he had agreed to negotiations.

The damage to the Sequoia Kingdom’s royal family was second only to that done to the Mage Association. The political hierarchy of the Kingdom was already broken, and Richard would never let go of such a good opportunity. He only returned a third of the land he had occupied on his route to Lausanne, leaving the remaining two-thirds in his possession. This made his fief comparable to that of a full marquess.

While some relatives or allies of the vanquished offered a bit of weak resistance, argument without war always ended just like with the Association’s capture of Earl Burr; nothing would be accomplished.

When Bevry allowed Richard to skip ranks and directly granted him the title of viscount, all protests disappeared like the wind. The only reason a higher rank wasn’t afforded was that it could only be done if he swore fealty to the royal family in name. Neither Richard nor the royal family were interested in something like that.

In the end, he found himself with no competitors in the Sequoia Kingdom. If any of the three dukes or even the royal family wished to go to war with him, he could completely and utterly destroy them. Facing all of them together would pose a problem, but that was an impossibility. Bevry and Duke Grasberg were still intricately tied to him in their own ways.

After the chaos of war came the time for the victors to split the loot. This had always been one of Richard’s strong suits, but for some reason he felt it incredibly dull. Watching the royal family suddenly grow active and the Mage Association compromise, seeing the looks of reverence and fear from those around him, he suddenly felt like the entire situation was rather hilarious and unreal. The war that had just passed was historic in the context of the Kingdom, but even just considering Faelor it was only a blip on the radar.

And what about outside of Faelor? The Sequoia Kingdom and Theodore had no idea what rune knights were. They knew not of Norland’s existence, and even less of the Eternal Dragon. In the eyes of those above them, their struggles were nothing more than a joke.

However, he couldn’t bring himself to laugh like that. If someone on the level of the old dragon was watching, was he not a joke as well? It was very likely so.

He had his followers take care of the chaos, taking his desolate feelings and the initial loot and quietly returning to Norland.

As was the norm, most of the spoils came in the form of metal and precious ores. Since many nobles who had participated in the Bloodstained Highway project had stood on the side of the Mage Association, he hadn’t hesitated in wresting their portion away.

The ores and metals from the first caravan hadn’t been transported back to the Kingdom yet, which was great for him. Almost none of the other nobles protested either; right now, all they cared for was keeping their own positions intact. If an increased share of profit was enough to calm Richard’s ire, that was for the best.

……

When he walked out of the teleportation gate, Richard couldn’t help but feel like he was just in another part of Faelor. Sounds of a nonexistent battle still echoed within his ears.

Priestess Noelene had rushed over once more. Ever since she began cooperating with him, she had grown very enthusiastic. She was startled at his sight, but kept quiet until ten strong warriors walked out behind him. She signalled the clerics present to cast a mass vitality spell.

“You don’t look so good,” the priestess pointed out, looking at Richard with a hint of worry.

Richard shook his head, “I’m a young man with his worries. Don’t mind me, they’re just some random issues that will resolve themselves soon enough. Just take a look at the boxes and see what you need.”

Noelene looked into his eyes and stated earnestly, “Richard. Although we’re working together I hope you consider me a friend. Money isn’t everything to me; if I wish for it, there are many who are willing to share millions in profit with me.”

Richard knew she was speaking the truth. A powerful priestess of the Church of the Eternal Dragon had plenty of ways to earn money. However, her worry left him feeling at a loss. All he wanted was a place to be alone and calm his feelings down. He was still a youth less than nineteen years old, but he had experienced far more than his peers.

He ended up laughing wryly under her gaze, shrugging before spreading his arms open helplessly, “My beautiful sister Noelene, I’m just feeling a little suffocated. It’ll be better with time, don’t worry. Is it okay if I keep the reason a secret? Come, look at what I’ve brought for you!”

Richard hastily had the warriors open the chests as he spoke, revealing them to be packed to the brim with obsidian ingots. “Look, these are all yours!”

Noelene gave the box a cursory glance and turned to him again, “No, you’re quite different from before. What exactly happened?”

Richard glared back at her, “Miss Noelene, this is what happens with us youths. Things can be somewhat awkward at times, it’s only normal. I’ll get better when I grow up more. You are an elder, after all, you wouldn’t be able to understand the world of the youngsters!”

Noelene flushed red, filled up with a mixture of embarrassment and anger, “RICHARD! I dare you to say that again!”

Richard stuck his tongue out, obviously not so stupid as to actually repeat it. However, he had successfully distracted her. He just gave everything outside of the runes to the priestess, regardless of whether she actually needed them. Serious as ever, Noelene carefully checked the chests and decided to pay him two million. However, he was long gone by the time she looked up, leaving behind two free Archerons who were looking at her deferentially to deal with the follow-up.

It was late at night in Faust. By the time he returned to the floating island, almost everyone was asleep. The old steward put on a coat and rushed over the moment he received word, and Richard amiably told him to send a few bottles of strong wine to the study before going back to rest.

The wine arrived a short while later, but the one carrying it wasn’t any ordinary servant but the old butler himself. Seated behind his desk, Richard looked up in surprise, “It’s already late, please return to bed. The entire family relies on you to function.”

The old man placed the wine on a coffee table at the corner of the room, hesitating to speak up to his master, “Young Master, please drink a little less. Take care of your body.”

“I will,” Richard smiled.

The steward didn’t say any more, retreating from the room. He knew his place; now that he had said his piece, it was up to Richard to decide whether to listen or not.

Richard poured himself a full cup of wine, standing by the window and sipping it slowly. There was nothing in his mind at that moment— he had no idea what to think about. The only thing he felt was a strange annoyance and uneasiness.

The cup was fully drained before he only realised it; only when he was slightly drunk did he start to feel a little more lively. He had killed far too many people during this trip to Faelor. In the ten or so battles he had fought, tens of thousands had fallen before him.

In front of his followers, the battle priest, and more importantly the nobles of the Sequoia Kingdom, he would forever be that cheerful genius mage, witty and refined with a firm hand controlling everything. It was when alone that he became a mere eighteen-year-old. Youths of his age in other families were still dressing luxuriously, quick to form grudges. However, he had journeyed to the depths of the myriad planes and taken over the responsibility of his entire family.

He had first entered Faelor with no idea what to do. He hadn’t even been able to motivate his subordinates properly. Constant smiles and measured speech had been a way to hide his nerves, every decision he took a product of endless thinking. With enemies everywhere and no way back home, he had been terrified of getting a single thing wrong. Every obstacle he faced was insurmountable.

He knew that one wrong decision or some bad luck would have left him dead in Faelor; he would have turned to dust in a foreign plane. It had put an indescribably heavy burden on his shoulders.

It was only now, having dealt an entire kingdom a heavy blow, using trade and runes to expand his wealth and make powerful allies, that a tiny bit of the tension was starting to fade. Recalling his journey over the past two years, he suddenly found that his path to the stars was formed of tens of thousands of skeletons.

He was human too. Seeing countless lives withering before his eyes, he couldn’t help but feel for them. Numerous experiences on the edge of death flashed past his own mind, the memories of these events extremely vivid. He had no idea when he would become one of those skeletons, a stepping stone that served to push someone else higher up the ladder.

These were thoughts he had been plagued with ever since the end of the First Magic War. However, now there was no aftermath to deal with. Alone in what had once been Gaton’s study, many doubts began to appear in his mind.

What exactly was planar war? Why was it that outside of victor and vanquished, there was no third ending in the contact between two planes?

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OMA's Thoughts

And that ends Book 3!

Translated By: Ying

Edited By: Theo

TLC'ed By: OMA