Book 4, Chapter 23

Gamble

Although Nyris claimed he hadn’t gone far enough, even he didn’t believe it. He’d ventured several dozen kilometres within the forest before, and nothing had come up. When roaming around the forests at night, he and Agamemnon had repeatedly tried finding the druids only to fail.

The saint that Nyris had brought along, Scherr, had once ventured deep into the forest alone but was almost unable to return. A hundred kilometres away from the city lay a mysterious force that greatly dulled one’s senses and suppressed the mind, severely affecting one’s sense of direction. If not for ample experience in the woods and a prompt decision to return the moment things felt off, he might have been lost in the woods forever.

The results of the search left everyone on guard. A hundred kilometres became the radius of their search, but that was still far too large a region to explore.

Thankfully, the tree variety increased vastly only ten kilometres away from the city. There were many types of wood past that point that could be sold for a good sum in Norland. Richard led a woodcutting troop out every few days with a massive security force, felling these rare trees. In the meanwhile, Agamemnon sent news back to his family lands to have them recruit bowyers.

Nyris arrived at his room one morning, suggesting that they wipe out everything in the hundred kilometre range. However, even the Prince knew that this was near impossible; the impatient fellow just wanted to stretch his limbs.

“Wait some more,” Richard told him, “We should make progress soon.”

Sending him away, Richard then headed for Lina’s residence. The Dragon Mage stayed on the top floor of one of the magic towers; although the space here was narrow and small, she could look over a lot of the forest as well. As ranged attackers, mages and archers were quite similar to some extent. Line of sight was immensely important, and Lina liked to monitor the movements of the elves. When Richard entered the room, she was curled up lazily on the sofa, not moving at all.

“We still have to wait, huh?” the Dragon Mage asked gloomily. The image of a dozen old subordinates eaten alive by trees still occasionally flashed in front of her eyes.

“We’ll have results soon, the elves are running short on patience.”

She brightened up immediately, “Really? How can you tell?”

Richard smiled, “The walking woods. There should have been seven or eight druids urging the forest on before, but as we cut more trees down that number has increased to ten. Two of the new druids are evidently much weaker than the others, but they’re still increasing the number of trees they’re sending out. You understand what this means.”

“They’re doing their best!” A splendid lustre arose on Lina’s face.

“Yes. Our speed has reached the limit of what they’re willing to tolerate; they’ll take action soon.”

“Nyris killed quite a few of them the last time, will they still have the guts to come out? Even if they do, they should have found some method.”

Richard nodded, “I agree, but sadly we don’t have nearly as much knowledge as we’d like. That’s fine, though; we’ll know as long as they attack, no?”

“You mean…”

“We give them an opening to attack our forces,” he said slowly, “As long as we don’t lose any important forces, it will be a victory.”

Lina frowned, wanting to ask about the soldiers that would die because of this, but the question would not leave her throat. As a mage she was brimming with talent, but she was a mediocre general and definitely not qualified to command. All she could do was control herself, not affecting Richard’s judgement.

“I’m going to begin transferring personnel and mixing up troops,” Richard said unhurriedly.

Lina nodded, not looking too good, but Richard didn’t say any more. He just patted her shoulder before leaving the room.

Lina remained on the sofa, looking outside the window in a daze. She didn’t know when the tears had started flowing down her cheeks; similar decisions had been made repeatedly over the years, but she still couldn’t get used to it. She felt sorrow for the soldiers that would be attacked. However, this was a planar war; in order to attain victory, one would need to sacrifice themselves as well.

She was actually very young, not even thirty years of age. She had started following Gaton around on his expeditions as a mere sixteen-year-old girl. Every time such a choice was made, be it Gaton then or Richard now, they would pat her shoulder. This was the treatment given to a sister-in-arms who had her misgivings, not the one for a soft woman.

Richard reorganised the troops the same afternoon, forming six woodcutting troops who would go out in a rotation. These groups would be led by elite humanoid knights, and all the important people including Nyris and Agamemnon were forbidden from leaving the city.

When the woodcutting groups left the city, the officers on the castle wall found things very strange. The elite knights’ crimson armour was far too eye-catching in the Forest Plane’s environment, making them a beacon for attacks. However, the elves hadn’t appeared in a long time and the humanoid knights were extremely powerful. They were normally too reclusive to socialise with others, so nobody could remind them to repaint their armour.

Having seen the woodcutting teams leave the city, Richard descended from the walls and returned to his own laboratory. Rosie was in there alone, thoroughly engrossed in a book on magic formations. She didn’t even seem to notice his return.

“Open up the map,” Richard instructed as he nonchalantly grabbed her butt.

The young lady did as instructed, adjusting the holographic map on the magic desk. The new image showed changes in the surrounding forest, the places where trees were being cut and those where the forest was being expanded by the druids abundantly clear. Richard crossed his arms and stood in front of the map, silently performing calculations.

His brows relaxed after some time and he turned to Rosie, “Help me prepare clothing for a covert operation tonight, it needs to be ready before dinner.”

He then sent a mental order to Waterflower and Phaser, “Get ready, we’re killing people tonight!” The two assassins immediately burst into cheers where they were. They had been extremely bored.

……

Norland, the Deepblue. Blackgold had a magnifying glass in hand as he closely examined a pile of stone-like fragments on a tray. This was the stonewood unique to the Forest Plane. Spurred on by his curiosity, the grey dwarf analysed it for a long while but came up with nothing. He was a grandmaster when it came to ores and minerals, but botany was not his domain.

His curiosity eventually died down and he pulled on an enchanted bell, telling the young mage that entered, “Take the rock-like wood to those wretched dwarves and tell them to find the fastest method to burn it. If they can do it in a week, they’ll get 20,000 gold. Also, tell those damned arrogant elves that they shouldn’t even think of that 50,000 gold if there’s no progress in their work. I can wait two weeks, that’s it!”

The young mage was a little baffled, but he didn’t ask any questions. Summoning a puppet to lift the heavy stonewood trunk, he left Blackwood’s office.

After the young mage left, Blackgold’s eyes landed on the form in his hands. There were countless research items listed down on it, with progress bars next to them. He could tell that many experiments were moving much more quickly. The grey dwarf sighed, muttering to himself, “Why didn’t I think of this? That kid is naturally one of us duergar!”

Richard had recently given him many research problems to put some teams on, also expressing interest in some other experiments in the Deepblue. Pressed as he was for time, the young runemaster had also set up many special bonuses for completion. Extra gold was given to everyone who managed to finish their tasks within the given timeline.

This money obviously came from Richard’s own pocket and none of it entered the Deepblue’s treasury, but Blackgold didn’t see it that way. The mages who were taken on by Richard this way had a huge increase in income, making it even more attractive than before. Everyone knew Richard was Sharon’s student and had given these tasks for the Deepblue to take care of within their own system. It was very unlikely to receive such good treatment elsewhere.

The grey dwarf suddenly activated a communication formation. The first response was an ear-splitting explosion, followed by violent coughs. It took a while for the shaky image to stabilise to show an old elf. This grand mage’s robes were tattered, his face black with ash. A small part of his beard had been burnt off as well.

“You failed again, old man? Hahaha!” The grey dwarf promptly burst into manic laughter.

The elven grand mage was instantly enraged, “Duergar! If you’re here to humiliate me, then I suggest you come to my laboratory and give it a try in person!”

Blackgold snickered, “Do you think I fear you? I actually have a new proposal now, one that can make me spend money. What do you think?”

A dark sneer appeared on the old mage’s face, “It looks like you want to give me some money. What are you betting on now? Go on!”

The grey dwarf jumped on his chair to make himself appear taller, “Alright. I bet you can’t increase the efficiency of the dwarven gunpowder twofold in a week. If I lose, I’ll give you 50,000 gold!”

A trace of slyness suddenly flashed on the elf’s face, “I agree!”

“I’m talking about the good stuff from another plane!” Blackgold immediately clarified, but all he got back was a cold “I’d think so!”

The elven grand mage had one last statement to make before cutting off the connection, “Prepare your gold!”

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OMA's Thoughts

Translated By: Ying

Edited By: Theo

TLC'ed By: OMA