Richard was visibly affected by the spar between his followers, watching it for a long time. Blood rushed to his head as he felt the desire to join in; Gangdor had no way to break Tiramisu's defence, but that did not hold true for himself. Although the ogre's armour was made of thick metal, it wasn't enchanted; facing a mage, it was nothing more than a good conductor for lightning. Even without his magic there were other ways to win as well; his destruction breath could easily melt most alloys.
He eventually just smiled and turned away, heading back to his own quarters. His followers growing stronger alleviated some of his burden, allowing him to focus on his own power. He basically locked himself away in his room, meditating every day for three whole months.
Flowsand was sunbathing on top of the roof, stretching languidly like a cat. She hadn't seen Richard in a long time, nor did she know when he would be done with his seclusion, but it was fine as long as he was doing anything but Rosie. The sunlight glinted off her amber eyebrows, accentuating her beauty as she flipped through her ever-present companion.
"Has Richard thought things through?" she said lazily, "What is his opinion of war now?"
These were just random murmurs, but the Book of Time suddenly lit up as words formed on its page, 'Fearless and unwavering, will fight when necessary.'
Flowsand looked at these seven words and grew extremely confused. They should have left her satisfied, but there was a hint of loneliness in there as well.
When Richard finally left his room, he was level 16. In Faelor this was already amazing, giving him the title of grand mage. However, he only rested on his laurels for half a day before diving headfirst into his lab, working day and night. Everyone outside of his followers was banned entry, this peace could not be disturbed at any cost.
Yet another month passed as his warehouse was emptied of crafting materials. Richard's followers had never seen him toss out so many failures in all their time following him. By the time he walked out of the lab again, his reserves were completely cleaned out. Four months without the sun or proper food had turned him pale and skinny, eyes sunk deep into their sockets. However, this appearance seemed to enhance his elvish traits. Despite the long, unkempt beard, he now looked elegant and mysterious like a noble vampire. The sheer power of his aura was terrifying.
Richard squinted as the sun burnt his eyes, a faint smile appearing on his face. He handed a simple enchanted box to Rosie who came over to ask whether he was done, acting like it was nothing special, "Keep this and make preparations; I'll be going to Norland for a month or so. Right, tell the others to gather tonight, I haven't seen them for a while."
"Yes, Master," Rosie took the box and turned to leave. However, her mind had started racing; Richard may have been nonchalant about it, acting like this was a simple rune, but how could this monster take a month to make anything simple? Still, without his permission she wouldn't open the box no matter how curious she was. Of course, that might not have held true if she knew what was inside.
Within this seal-less box was Lifesbane!
What Rosie didn't notice was several new runes on top of Richard's arms, hidden by the sleeves of his robes. Richard returned to his room, having a maid fetch a tub of water for him to relax in. He exhaled comfortably, his head leaning back before soft snoring rang out from his room.
Flowsand walked in once during his sleep, but she left almost immediately. Rosie paid a visit as well, replacing the hot water in the tub before leaving quietly. Her gentle actions did not awaken the exhausted runemaster.
The sun quickly fell below the horizon, but even as night enveloped the skies Richard did not come out to meet his gathered followers. Still, nobody was turning impatient as they sat and wondered aloud what sort of surprise their master would have for them this time.
Tiramisu was the most eye-catching of them all. There was no room to doubt his potential— two-headed ogres could become saints at minimum— and the sheer power of Mana Armament had improved his power greatly. Even if everyone else in this room fought him at once, he would outlast them all. Even Io’s eyes shone with jealousy every time he saw the ogre. He had never thought highly of Richard’s runes before, but nobody could argue against something like this.
However, Richard had lost himself to the serenity of the darkness. Curled up in the warm tub, it felt like he was back in the warm embrace of the Deepblue.
It was almost dawn by the time Richard entered the meeting room, but his followers were still chattering endlessly. Knowing they could not beat Tiramisu with their fists, many of them were fighting with their words instead. However, the ogre had a loud voice and two mouths; he didn’t fear verbal battles either.
Still, everyone turned silent the moment Richard walked in. Io’s expression was the first to change, but he was quickly followed by the others. Even Zendrall who was the least sensitive of the lot changed position to open up some distance. The atmosphere seemed to freeze.
Richard looked at his followers with confusion, not understanding what had just transpired. Eventually, Gangdor had to speak up, “Uhh… Boss? You’ve… changed. How should I… It’s like you’re a dragon in human form or something. Your gaze is also different, like you’re looking at our weak spots all the time.”
“What? Oh!” Richard started breathing slowly, restraining his aura until his followers could feel at ease. Gangdor nodded and relaxed, but everyone could still feel the occasional prickle from Richard’s gaze.
“Alright now, did anything happen that needs me?” Richard took his seat at the table.
Gangdor was the first to speak up again, “The Kingdom’s courts have lost power. The dukes and royal family were weakened, and it seems like someone’s trying to take advantage of it. There also seems to be someone working from the Iron Triangle Empire; we’ve been ambushed several times, like they’ve been testing our strength.”
Richard’s murderous aura erupted once more, “Didn’t the gods decree that the nobles who fought the invaders would be free from attacks for a year?”
Gangdor shrugged his shoulders, “Eh, who knows if they’ll keep their word.”
“Okay then, it seems like we need to arrange a war with the Empire. Hopefully they’ll learn their lesson this time. But let’s do that after I return from Norland.”
Gangdor nodded, “Right boss, Toffler hasn’t been made duke yet.”
The mention of Bevry’s son suddenly froze Richard for a moment as he thought back to the Direwolf Duke, “And the reason?”
“It’s the same. Somebody seems to be interfering with the Direwolf lands, rumours are flying that the royal family has a hand in it too.”
“Okay then, any of you have a suggestion as to how we act?”
Most of the followers went silent. While they were excellent on the battlefield, politics was not their forte. Io eventually spoke up, “The path to the throne is often bathed in blood.”
“Okay then, we’ll do as you say.” Richard immediately passed the onus onto the battle priest.
Done taking care of important matters, Richard left Gangdor to continue guarding Faelor while he took Waterflower and Flowsand back to Norland. This time, he had ten mounts for sale.Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Theo: Am back!
Translated By: OMA
Edited By: Theo