Book 4, Chapter 43

Shuttling Back

The will of the forest was an invisible barrier that hindered Richard’s progress. Multiple discussions with Nyris, Agamemnon, and Lina had borne no fruit. While Richard’s unicorn could provide some protection from its effects, there was only one of it. Having it wander around the forest with no target would be useless. If they depended on a single horse to search through hundreds of square kilometres, when would they find any other trees of life? Besides, the trees could migrate the moment they were seen!

He ruled out the bats once more. Even ignoring the elven archers, they had found many birds of prey and other creatures in the forest that could hunt down an airborne target. Even the elite bats were just flying pieces of meat on this plane.

It was not as though they were losing out in the current situation. The woodcutting helped them make some amount of profit, and with the disturbance from the other elves being minimal basically all the troops could be mobilised to cut down the trees. Richard had to buy another five hundred wood-cleaving axes but even that was barely enough. Although the ordinary warriors couldn’t deal with the stonewood, they had no issues with other types of trees. Just the profits from the woodcutting alone now stood at nearly 200,000 a month.

Even the Prince was extremely satisfied with their profits. He and Agamemnon had just begun to establish their own careers, and in terms of sheer value this amount of profit was no different from what they obtained from their families. However, these gains came too easily. With no war to fight, the impatient Nyris soon grew frustrated.

Time. This was one thing Richard never had enough of. He spent three months in the Forest Plane on this visit, getting himself five more rune knights and six more sets on top of that.

However, he didn’t arrange for any more rune knights for himself. One reason was that he already had an entire squad and a half. This was a pace that was unbelievable to even his friends, and he didn’t want to startle them too much. However, the primary issue was that he didn’t have any suitable candidates. Only fifteen of the warriors he could trust had reached level 12, and there were none more powerful. Giving a rune set to someone at level 12 was far too much of a waste.

Thus, a bizarre situation had appeared in the Sacred Alliance for the first time. A lord had enough runes on hand, but not enough knights to give them to.

One of the biggest causes for his quicker runecrafting was that many of the less important parts had been handed to Rosie. The young lady showed determination and diligence not one whit inferior to his own, studying and practising all the time but still finding the opportunity to take care of his everyday life as well. She was like a bird that was finally released from its cage, immediately exploding with energy. Even Richard was astonished by her rate of improvement.

Rosie’s life was quite simple yet not so straightforward. Any moment she spent out of bed she was at the laboratory tables. Of course, the bed she did spend time in wasn’t always her own.

One afternoon, Richard was in a routine meeting with everyone, discussing the situation and their next moves. As usual, his first question was whether there were any abnormal spatial ripples in the area. Generally speaking, if the Schumpeters wanted to snatch the plane back the portal they opened wouldn’t be too far from their original base. Lina was extremely skilled at spatial magic, able to discern any abnormalities within a thousand kilometres.

However, her answer left Richard and the others disappointed once more. The space around them was extremely stable; forget a planar passage, not even a small one-way portal had been formed. Nyris started to curse the Schumpeters for their cowardice; they might not dare to send their troops, but couldn’t they even send an assassin or something? Richard was a mage, archers and assassins were his natural enemies.

Only a few of those present understood the prince’s current mood. Ever since he was knocked down in the spar with Richard, he was hoping for someone to challenge his friend. It would be best if that someone came from a class that could bully mages.

What followed was another discussion about the will of the forest. This was a difficult issue that could not be resolved: even those with powerful minds like Richard and Flowsand felt the strain of travelling through the forest, so there was no need to speak about the rest. Even Nyris and Agamemnon wouldn’t be able to hold out for any extended length of time. On top of that, magic devices that increased one’s soul strength were rare and expensive; it wasn’t possible to equip an entire army with such things.

Their current focus was on finding the other two trees. That way they would be able to attack right away; even if the trees refused to surrender, the gains from their remains would compare to dozens of years of woodcutting.

But there was still that damned forest will! They had no solution to the problem; with the other two tribes not as eager to chase them out, it was impossible to use bait like before.

“Ugh, only the undead could get used to this wretched place!” Nyris cursed, his words holding a hint of truth. Departed souls weren’t really affected by these invisible pressures and could move about freely.

“Perhaps we could find a few necro—” Agamemnon didn’t even finish the sentence, shaking his head. As Norland had moved on to the era of planar war, necromancers had been forgotten and left behind. Personal planes that had been managed for centuries with stable passages were excellent incubators for soldiers. Nobody knew how large of an army the enemy had hidden within, so a necromancer wouldn’t be able to figure out how large of a swarm to create in the attack. Undead were much weaker and shorter-lived than any living creature of the same level, their primary advantage being how many could be gathered in a short period of time. However, now a lord could open a portal from a personal plane to let loose a flood of warriors that would overpower, perhaps even outnumber the sea of departed souls.

Building one’s undead army in a low-levelled plane and then transporting them to Norland seemed like a decent idea at first, but there were huge limits on that. The departed souls of a plane were deeply branded by the laws of that plane. If one wanted to summon a group of undead from across planes, the energy requirement was great enough to kill.

Already hated by the gods for their audacity to play with souls, necromancers couldn’t just perform sacrifices to obtain strength. They had to walk their path completely unaided. The appearance of the Eternal Dragon would have solved that problem, except its mere existence had dealt a heavy blow to the art of necromancy instead.

The primary reason for research into the soul was a search for eternal life. Most grand mages would turn into liches as their lives drew to an end, hoping to continue their research into magic. However, the very nature of a lich meant there were many limitations on their existence, the biggest being an unquestionable weakening of the mind. With the Eternal Dragon and its blessings of life, nobody wished to become a lich anymore.

Necromancers were now basically extinct in Norland. The most revered academies of magic still preserved complete volumes of necromantic spells, but that was only for the passage of knowledge down to further generations. Very few budding mages were willing to practice these spells, and those that did only used it to serve another purpose such as alchemy. There were likely fewer mages focused on soul magic than great dragons in the world.

However, Agamemnon’s words immediately reminded Richard of Zendrall. Although still lingering around level 12, this other follower of his specialised in soul magic and came from a long lineage of necromancers. He could already compare to some of the best necromancers of Norland, and some suitable runes would likely grow his power to an extent.

Richard’s next decision would be a milestone for the entirety of Faelor. This would be the first time a being completely native to this plane stepped foot outside its protective sphere.

He wasn’t really worried about the situation in Faelor. With the broodmother around, Gangdor had no real need for Zendrall’s assistance. With an ever-growing army of humanoid knights, the brute would be able to deal with his enemies even if he turned into a total idiot.

However, when he left the Forest Plane Richard realised just how pressing the issue of upgrading Faelor’s passage was. The fee for a one-way trip to Faelor was currently 15,000 coins, man and beast calculated separately. In other words, if a rune knight wanted to move in and out of Faelor they would need to pay 60,000 gold. This was a huge cost that even Richard found difficult to pay.

The three months in the Forest Plane meant four had passed in Faelor. Gangdor had used this time to completely stabilise the situation in the Bloodstained Lands. Most of the bandits and other races had been completely wiped out.

However, some of the bandit groups were still kept around. Those who were allowed to remain were quite intelligent, knowing who the true master of these lands was. They would rob anyone Gangdor directed them to, obediently handing over most of what they got. In exchange, Gangdor helped them with the weapons and armour that didn’t meet his standards. To the bandits these were top-notch goods that they rarely came across.

The brute had also eliminated quite a few slaving groups. His stance on this was quite direct. Slaving groups could still exist, but they all had to register themselves to Richard and pay taxes. The taxing method was quite simple: whenever these groups started returning to their bases, they would have to let the tax officer choose one out of the ten slaves; of course, the officer would naturally choose the best, like strong barbarians or beautiful virgins of exotic species.

The tax itself wasn’t too harsh, but these slaving groups also needed to pay a second tax when they returned to their country of origin. However, there was another choice as well. They could sell all of the strong or beautiful slaves to Richard in large batches— with the steady flow of gold from interplanar commerce, he was planning to purchase an astounding 100,000 of them.

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OMA's Thoughts

Translated By: Ying

Edited By: Theo

TLC'ed By: OMA