Book 4, Chapter 93

A One-Sided Agreement

About 5,000 of Richard’s survivors had suffered severe injuries. Even without the aid of clerics they wouldn’t die, but there was no way for them to continue fighting for the army. A large portion of them could still be saved if they were treated properly, but even Richard’s massive clergy did not have the numbers to help everyone.

Almost all of the drones had been annihilated. Only a few dozen winged serpents had made it through the battle alongside less than 400 humanoid knights, while the rest of the survivors belonged to the elite bats. Hundreds of worker drones still remained, but they were of no use in battle.

Richard’s own army now had less than 4,000 soldiers in total. Thankfully, most of the other powers of the Sequoia Kingdom had been weakened significantly as well. Although the Iron Triangle Empire had gotten through this invasion virtually unscathed, the combined pressure of the gods of Faelor would keep them at bay for at least a year. That would be enough time for him to return stronger than ever.

Another major loss from this war would be Bevry. The Direwolf Duke was currently laid inside a tent, staring at the roof soullessly. His skin had turned a dull grey, revealing an incisive wound at the side of his waist where the grey-robed elder had stabbed him. Glimmers of pale gold could be seen floating above the wound, but it was all to no avail. The muscle tissue had already undergone necrosis, now no more than a withered block of woody fibre that wasn’t conducive to life force at all.

When Richard entered the tent, Flowsand got up from her post and lightly shook her head. Faylen, Fermi, and Shea were present here as well, but with even Flowsand’s hands tied they would not be of any use.

Waving them all out, he crouched beside Bevry’s unmoving body and sent a few sparks of energy within. The infusion of energy seemed to give the man some life, allowing him to strain his head to gaze at Richard before slowly raising his tightly clenched fist. The seal within was small yet delicate, a lifelike image of a wolf head carved out of lazurite. A weak yet unyielding aura seemed to circulate within, similar to the Duke’s own aura. 

A helpless smile rose up on Bevry’s face, “Seems like my luck isn’t good. I might not make it this time around.”

When the Archeron rune knights had entered the battlefield, the grey-robed elder had tried to shake off Grasberg and Bevry to deal with this greater threat. Failing multiple times, he had launched a terrifying attack that killed everyone within a ten-metre range regardless of side. Grasberg, who had been supporting from afar, barely managed to escape with serious injuries. However, Bevry had been in the thick of battle and had suffered the brunt of the attack.

Richard wanted to say it was still possible to heal him with a miracle, but the words would not leave his mouth. The guardians of the Sequoia Kingdom had demonstrated courage superior to anyone else, two arch-rivals fighting side by side to lock down the enemy’s most powerful expert, but even with a stream of divine spells backing them up they were no match. Both the Dukes had wound up with serious injuries while only managing to inflict a small amount of damage to the grey-robed elder. Even though the wound had only been inflicted in a desperate attempt to escape, Richard didn’t have anyone capable of healing it.

That saint had still managed to reap the lives of more than ten of the rune knights before he passed on. And these were grade 2 set knights with the corresponding armour and weaponry, more than half of them able to approach a naked Norland saint in power! Were it not for the two dukes giving their all to stall this enemy, all of Richard’s powerhouses would have been wiped out.

Richard silently accepted the seal of the direwolf, waiting upon Bevry’s last request.

“Richard… We’re friends… Right?”

“Of course!” Richard grasped the man’s hand tightly, voice no longer calm as always.

“Help me… take care of Perrin… Four years… Take him with you… My territory… Toffler, my other son… It might be hard…” The words were disjointed as Bevry’s breaths grew warmer. His body itself was starting to go cold.

Richard took a deep breath, “Don’t worry, Toffler will certainly become the Direwolf Duke.” As he was right now, the incident with Baron Fontaine would not repeat.

Bevry’s head turned back to rest looking upwards, as though his eyes could peer past the roof of the tent into the boundless skies above. “For Perrin… betrayed Faelor… my soul… unworthy… with my ancestors…” One last weak breath escaped the Direwolf Duke’s mouth, the mist gradually dissipating alongside the man’s aura.

Richard didn’t know how long he’d remained crouched next to the body, but a freezing gale was blowing through the lands when he left. However, it did nothing to lessen the weight on his chest. He called a random soldier over, “Bring me to the slaves.”

……

All traces of his past serenity and charm had fled from Raymond’s face. His hair was dishevelled, body stained by blood. Curled up in a lone tent as he coughed up crimson, it seemed as though the poor youth was trying to vomit his lungs and crushed heart.

Richard stood coldly at the entrance, staring at this enemy as he analysed his condition. “You’re dying, so you dragged out so many people to be buried with you?”

Raymond slowly stopped his cough, propping himself up against the tentpole to get a view of Richard. “Yes,” he smiled weakly, “I’m dying. That’s why I want to finish everything I have to before I go.”

Seeing him so calm and self-assured, Richard felt the blood rush to his head. He grabbed Raymond by the neck and dragged him out of the tent like a dog, ruthlessly flinging him onto the ground. “OPEN YOUR EYES! SIXTY THOUSAND PEOPLE ARE LYING DEAD BELOW THIS HILL, ALL BECAUSE OF YOU! EVEN IF YOU DON’T CARE ABOUT THE FAELORIANS, WHAT ABOUT YOUR TEN THOUSAND MEN? THEY’LL BE DISMEMBERED AND FED TO BEASTS, ALL BECAUSE OF YOUR FUCKING DESIRES! WHAT IS IT THAT YOU HAVE TO DO?

Raymond remained unaffected by Richard’s eruption, not even looking over as he replied calmly, “I lost twenty thousand soldiers and more than ten saints before I got here. Thousands of them were just people I abandoned because their injuries were too heavy. Since I entered this plane, more than a hundred thousand natives have died at my army’s hands. Oh right, I even killed fifty thousand prisoners of war. Are you angrier now?

“Bah, this is how war works. In order to achieve what I must, any sacrifice is worth it.” Raymond stared into Richard’s flaming eyes, enunciating every word, “You want to know what I had to do? It was to kill you, no matter the cost.”

Richard clenched his teeth, bursting out in condescending laughter, “From the first moment I stepped through the doors of Faust, your families didn’t once stop your conspiracies to kill me and my family. The Schumpeters, Mensas, Josephs, those fucking Wellinburgs behind your backs. Do you think I’m an easy target? Or do you believe I don’t have the guts to retaliate?”

“Honestly, now that I look back our biggest mistake was limiting the attention we put on you. Ha, this damned law of risk and reward. I can only blame myself for not seeing what you’d become.

“But you should know, you’re only alive because of many inevitable circumstances. Geniuses pop up every year from every family, how could I possibly kill them all? Ancient wisdom says strengthening oneself is the best way to defeat the enemy, so we focused on Gaton and went through the motions with you. Because the cost of killing you off was too high, we gave up on it… I guess even time-honoured traditions should have exceptions.”

Richard was ready to crush Raymond’s face, but as he listened to the useless explanation he started to cool down. The volcanoes in his eyes faded away as he turned peaceful once more, at least on the surface. When the other mage finished, he only raised his brow and answered lightly, “Okay then, it’s my turn. I’ll show you as I kill every last member of your family.”

“I won’t live so long as to witness that,” Raymond said mockingly.

“Oh, I wouldn’t be so sure. You’re in my hands now, you couldn’t kill yourself if you wanted to. I’ll keep you right next to me, you can witness the fall of the Josephs with your very own eyes.”

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OMA's Thoughts

Translated By: Karen

Edited By: Theo

TLC'ed By: OMA