Book 4, Chapter 39

An Invitation To War(2)

Sisley had to use all her might to anchor herself, but that left her body rigid. Richard made perfect use of the moment, his lips parting slightly as he blew at her.

A colourless wisp emerged from Richard’s mouth, heading straight for Sisley’s eyebrows. The girl instantly felt indescribable despair and horror, barely managing to draw a second dagger and cross it across the first. The moment the daggers were in position, their edges glowed with magical light. They started buzzing in response to Richard’s flames, loud cracks sounding as their enchantments completely shattered. The blades were left with fissures all over.

Thrown away with her full might, the twin blades shattered into countless fragments the moment they hit the ground. Unable to care for her appearance any longer, she fell to the ground and rolled away to evade the fiery onslaught. The transparent flames passed over her body.

By the time the horrified girl tried to rise to her feet, she found Richard already beside her. Extinction was placed at the side of her neck.

Atop the castle walls, Dario’s expression grew hideous. A middle-aged man behind gasped silently, “Did he come from a battlefield of despair?”

“How could there be so many battlefields of despair?” the Duke roared angrily, “He’s only level 14!” All the current battlefields of despair needed the power of a saint to traverse. There were always youngsters who were too adventurous for their own good, but they needed to be escorted by their family or teachers; even so, they were at least level 16. If one was too weak, they would be killed instantly.

Although he seemed dismissive of the idea, Dario was greatly disturbed. Although it was common knowledge, even he knew his words didn’t carry much weight. Richard’s defeat of Sisley had been simple and direct, but it was unimaginably strange for a mage. This was the only way to strike her down so quickly while taking little risk. This was a style of combat common to those who had survived the battlefields of despair. And for the monsters who could make their way through such a place, levels didn’t mean nearly as much.

Richard flicked his wrist, sword tapping on Sisley’s face, “Go back and train for another two years. There’s still time, no need to rush it. I can wait.” Done with her, he sheathed Extinction before raising his head to stare Dario in the eye, “I see your reputation is well earned, Dario. If it were me, I couldn’t have stood idly like a bystander. By the way, Rosie’s doing pretty well at my place.”

No matter how indifferent the Duke could normally act, that statement left him seething with rage. His fists clenched, body trembling so hard nobody from his own family dared to look at him; they were afraid of him venting on them afterwards.

Richard pointed at Dario once more, sneering, “I’ll be waiting for you in the Forest Plane. Don’t keep me waiting too long, or you’ll regret it!”

He then turned around and left, leaving the entire island locked into a deathly silent that would last a long time.

……

News of Richard’s proclamation spread through Faust like wildfire to a wealth of reactions from the ruling class. That same night, Duke Mensa abused one of his favoured concubines to death. The Josephs seemed calm, but upon hearing of the incident Raymond Joseph didn’t touch his books or admire the sunset. Instead of peacefully living through the last stages of his life, he left the family island the next morning and led his warriors into planar conquest once more.

It was Emperor Philip’s evaluation that made Richard’s reputation grow violently: “Looks like the Archeron boy is finally baring his fangs.”

Many nobles hoped greatly that the Schumpeters would fight their way into the Forest Plane, if only to see just how sharp those fangs were. Richard had already admitted to Sinclair’s murder at his hands— something he proved with Extinction— and was challenging them to war. This was one of the family’s two most valuable planes; nobody would believe that they failed to recover the lost coordinates after it was stolen from them.

However, those nobles were left disappointed. No soldiers were gathered for conquest, no warriors called back from their colonies. It seemed like they had no intention of fighting Richard; the nobles could only admire Duke Dario’s patience.

Sisley had actually entered the spotlight. The twin flowers of the Schumpeter Family were originally a glamorous decoration for the family, somewhat like a quality vase in an exhibition. However, they had faded from public memory ever since Sinclair went missing— a majority of their reputation had come from her. Now, however, even the older sister was the topic of many a noble’s conversations as the only Schumpeter with the guts to challenge Richard. However, the widespread recognition was followed by something no Schumpeter liked: “A shame that there aren’t any men left in the Schumpeter Family.”

For his part, Richard didn’t give the time of day to this gossip as he attended to more important matters at his own pace. He had received great news just as he was about to enter the Forest Plane once more: the Deepblue had made a major breakthrough in their research into Faelor’s gunpowder. Their new, improved version was now stronger and more stable. As a gesture of gratitude for Richard taking on the responsibility of the financial situation, Blackhold had sent a spatial box consisting of a thousand litres of gunpowder and a thousand guns.

Alongside this box and the materials he had spent nearly half a million gold on, he returned to the Forest Plane with Nyris.

A month had already passed in plane time. Richard’s first course of action was to distribute the rune sets, finishing up the sizeable squadron of rune knights. He then looked over the new gunpowder Blackgold had sent him, going through the information about its properties and usage.

The first target of this gunpowder would be the stonewood. This new gunpowder was almost inert, not exploding without the application of sufficient impulse, so he smeared some on a tree and instructed a heavily armoured warrior to strike it with a hammer.

*BOOM!* The warrior staggered backwards, palms bleeding profusely. A large gap was left within the stonewood, only a small part of the trunk still connected. Another warrior managed to drop the tree in only two cuts from his axe.

Just the injuries to the warrior showed that the degree of improvement was higher than expected. Richard had his subordinates think up ways to utilise the gunpowder over the next few days, many incredibly creative methods tried before they agreed upon a method. They would drill a small hole into the stonewood, filling it with gunpowder and driving in a steel bar. A hard strike to the rear would then detonate the gunpowder in the middle of the tree, strong enough to blast the stonewood apart. With this new method, a single woodcutter could fell hundreds of trees in a single day.

With his followers taking over control, Richard then locked himself in his workshop for several days, forgoing rest as he worked on a single rune with peak concentration. Only Rosie was by his side all this time, assisting and serving him. When he finally succeeded on the seventh day after an unknown number of failures, he couldn’t help but lift the young lady up in a hug. It was only then that he realised how much thinner she looked, her weary expression leaving him feeling a pang of regret.

“What rune is this?” Rosie asked him after he let her down, “The cost is so immense.”

Richard sighed. Every failure in crafting this rune was more than 300,000 gold wasted, and even small errors cost several thousand coins’ worth of material to fix. If there were too many small errors, one had to abandon the rune and start over from scratch. This rune cost twice as much as the entire Savage Barrier set even if he made no failures! He had ended up spending nearly 2 million gold in saved materials in his attempt to craft this rune.

His only wish now was for this rune to be as powerful as it was touted to be. Still, regardless of its usefulness, he had achieved a milestone; this was his first grade 3 rune! He was now a good way towards becoming a great runemaster, his status equal to Lunor. This rune in specific was delicate and complicated, the difficulty of crafting it far exceeding that of a normal grade 3 rune. If not for his frightening precision and endlessly honed skill, he wouldn’t have been able to craft it in such a short time.

Richard stared at the rune for a long time in a trance before he replied, “… Mana Armament.”

“Mana Armament?” Rosie muttered the name a few times, confirming to herself that she had never heard the name before, “Did you design it? What grade?”

Richard shook his head, “No, this is the magnum opus of a true genius. It’s grade 3 for now, but don’t think that’s its limit; this thing has the potential to become a grade 5 rune! That being said, its designer is now a mad old pervert who doesn’t seem to have many years left.”

“Do you plan to use this yourself, then? Should I help you activate it?”

Richard pondered for a bit and eventually nodded.

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OMA's Thoughts

Translated By: JH

Edited By: Theo

TLC'ed By: OMA