Book 4, Chapter 88

Eve of Battle

Duke Bevry had already wiped out all the small opposing fiefs nearby, leaving only those nobles who had a strong backing. Many nobles of the Sequoia Kingdom were already voicing vehement opposition to his act of destroying an earl of the Whiterock Dukedom, and the royal family was inclined to agree. If the Direwolf Duke took over the entire Whiterock Dukedom, then he would become the largest of threats to their existence.

Still, there was nothing they could do. It was a long time ago now that the King had aided the Mage Association’s war against Richard despite knowing of his affiliation with Bevry. When the Association had been completely decimated at Richard’s hand, their own standing had dropped considerably.

Bevry was currently winning battle after battle, but when it came to the unresolved issue of his son he felt greatly exhausted and helpless. He seemed to have luck on his side now, but what about the next battle and the one after that?

Richard didn’t directly answer the Duke’s question, “Right now, the one thing I can be certain of is that the Goddess of Time Runai was the one behind Perrin’s problem.”

The implied meaning was that there were only two ways to salvage Perrin’s situation. Either Runai had to withdraw her curse, something that had never occurred in history, or she had to be forced off her divine throne. It felt like the second was a choice of madmen, but with Richard’s arrival Bevry actually saw a glimmer of hope.

The day will come when I have to go against a deity… the Duke silently pondered, his thoughts calming down.

As for Richard, he continued to stare down at the nightly scene as he wracked his mind to determine which of his enemies this was. Thinking over it, he realised he had very many enemies wishing for his death. Almost everyone from the planes he was invading was opposed to him by default, and his greatest inheritance from Gaton was the number of enemies in Faust. The Schumpeters, Mensas, Josephs…

His mind suddenly wandered to thoughts of his father. The man had innumerable enemies, most of the recent years of his life spent embroiled in war and expansion. Why had he only brought thirteen rune knights into Faust? Why had he waged war against four great families at the same time over the disappearance of his son? Why was it that he spared no expense for victory, accumulating a debt as high as the sky from Sharon? He felt like he finally understood these things now. That man had never taken these so-called enemies seriously. To him, they were just pebbles on his path. Nobody could know the true extent of his ambitions.

His own true enemies were not on Norland at all. A huge shadow loomed over Mountainsea in the snowy peaks of the Azuresnow Shrine, and a horde of nightmare creatures was waiting for him in the void. Even someone as powerful as Sharon was just left drifting, lifeless…

Richard suddenly felt like the entire universe was just an illusion. His thoughts suddenly weaved between truth and fiction, forcing him to blink a few times to recover.

His gaze now was a little more profound. These people were not his enemies, just small stones for him to step over.

A gentle breeze blew past the quiet and peaceful night, but a powerful murderous aura started to shroud the entire hill…

Hurried footsteps suddenly rang out below the stone wall, the soldiers by the entrance announcing the arrival of Duke Grasberg and Countess Katrina. Moments later, the two new arrivals appeared at the top of the stronghold as well. Grasberg was dressed in a greyish-black armour, and Countess Katrina had switched to her own exquisite equipment instead of her standard skirt. The slight killing intent added a surprising element of beauty to the woman, but despite being more reserved than the duke beside her she outshone a powerful warrior like Anna nearby.

Only now did Richard realise that this was Katrina’s real face. How could a woman who only sought pleasures in bed be able to create an elite force?

This was his first time meeting Duke Grasberg. This fellow was known for his scheming, but despite being an enemy of Bevry’s he had mobilised two-thirds of his personal army to aid Richard’s cause. Over 10,000 men had already arrived, and an equal number were on their way. All of his finest soldiers had been sent to aid in this battle, something that left Richard rather surprised.

Duke Grasberg was a tall, skinny man, his head full of white hair combed down neatly and the wrinkles on his face seemingly carved in by a knife. However, this old man shared one trait with the younger Duke Bevry: a pair of wolf-like eyes.

When Zim had sent word that Grasberg would be sending his army over to join the alliance, Richard hadn’t expected the Duke to come personally. He walked over to the man and smiled, “Your Grace! What a pleasant surprise!”

Grasberg returned the gesture, “I hope this will make that boy more obedient and keep him home.”

Richard nodded with understanding. Continuing the bloodline was an important matter to any family; the war against the invaders was simply too dangerous, an unknown number of country guardians had perished in the previous battle.

Grasberg looked at the Direwolf Duke who still remained silent, “It’s only us two old fellows who can still fight in the kingdom. I’ve placed everything I have on you, Richard, I wanted to see this personally.”

Richard flourished his arms at the fortress, “This is what I have for now, does it put your mind at peace?”

Grasberg looked down and surveyed the area, able to make out the defensive strength of the location despite the dim light of the torches. His brows relaxed, “You have yet to disappoint.”

Richard continued to smile, not saying another word.

The Duke then looked around at everyone atop the stronghold. Every time his gaze landed on someone new, he seemed to be shocked inwardly. Bevry was an enemy he was familiar with, a sub-legendary expert just like himself that had fought him multiple times both personally and by proxy. It was no problem to ally with him in a war against outsiders. However, this time he felt something different about this old nemesis of his, a new power he could not quite pin down.

And yet, that wasn’t the surprising part. None of Richard’s followers seemed high in level, but all of them had a suppressive aura. When his gaze landed on a female mage in a gold mask standing right behind Richard, his pupils constricted as though needles were piercing his eyes. Tears trickled down his face as he was forced to blink.

Bevry suddenly spoke up, “We can’t use our normal expectations to judge these followers of his, I’m afraid.”

Grasberg inhaled deeply, nodding his head as his eyes returned to normal. Veins started bulging in his eyes, soon turning it bloodshot. His secret technique to perceive another’s strength was much more powerful than Bevry’s, more accurate, but there was a price to pay whenever he tried to scan someone more powerful than himself. Fortunately, he wasn’t being hostile and Lina hadn’t retaliated; the final result was only a minor injury.

The Duke then regained his composure, “I bring some bad news. The expedition from the royal family met the invaders this morning for a second round of battle. Despite their advantage in numbers, they were destroyed. Even the five grand mages of the Association perished.”

The royal family, just like Duke Grasberg, was a party that had constantly suppressed Bevry’s rise. However, the Direwolf Duke was not happy at this loss of theirs, an icy chill entering his heart. While the army for this expedition hadn’t been large, all of them were elites. “How many in total?” he couldn’t help but ask.

“70,000,” Grasberg said with a bitter smile.

Bevry’s eyes narrowed, voice turning a little hoarse, “All 70,000 dead? Didn’t the invaders fight a bloody battle just yesterday?”

“Yes.”

The Direwolf Duke felt an unprecedented weight pressing on his heart. First off, these invaders had destroyed the Baruch Kingdom’s army that had more than 100,000 men and killed most of its sub-legendary experts in one fell swoop. And only one night of rest later, they had killed another 70,000 elites formed by an alliance of the Sequoia Kingdom.

One had to know that massacring all the troops on a battlefield was much more difficult than just achieving victory. Once the tides of battle turned firmly in one side’s favour, the losers would lose morale quickly. Even the most disciplined of armies would crumble and flee, forget this temporary alliance that was already filled with fear. On top of that, grand mages could normally leave a battlefield whenever they pleased. However, a whole five of them had been forced to remain.

How was one to stop such a powerful army? Although many countries stood on their way to Richard’s location, two elite forces had been destroyed in as many days. It seemed like the blade of this invasion could cut through whatever point it focused on.

The next obstruction to these invaders’ path was Richard’s alliance. They couldn’t count on the little dukedoms in between to delay these attackers at all.

“How many do they have left?” Richard asked.

“The current reports say about 13,000 troops. Before the second battle, they had approximately 16,000,” Grasberg replied.

“Your Graces, my Lady… You have seen the performance of my followers. If I were to lead 16,000 elite soldiers against that 70,000-strong army, what do you think of my chances of victory?”

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OMA's Thoughts

Translated By: OMA

Edited By: Theo