Book 4, Chapter 111

Retaliation

Richard raised his hand before Fuschia could attempt to dissuade him, “I’ve already made my decision, just have the steward spread the news. Also, we’re recruiting 50 rune knights and as many cavalrymen as would come. The rune knight conditions remain unchanged, but the cavalrymen will have to serve me for a minimum of five years before they earn the right to leave. The recruitment drive will be held in two months at Blackrose Castle.”

“The Blackrose Castle?!” Fuschia exclaimed, “The family council has taken control of it. Are you sure about having it there?”

“When that man was around, I don’t recall any such thing as a family council. Blackrose Castle is a place he left behind, so it goes to me. Anyone who wants to die to try and stop my recruitment drive is welcome to do so. Those bastards decided to strike me while I was down, now let’s watch them burn.

“Anyway, isn’t it family tradition for everything to go to the winners? I remember these so-called elders affirming that they would follow the rules when Gaton was around. It’s time I kicked them out of my lands.”

Fuschia sighed loudly, “Rumours are that Marquess Sauron backs the family council directly, and Earl Goliath participated as well. Are you sure you want to fight them?”

“Would Alice be scared?”

“Why would my Lady be afraid of them? She’s even fought the legendary Duke Solam of the Sacred Tree Empire!”

“Yeah. So why would I be scared of a few chumps?”

……

Several days later, Richard decided to borrow the information channels of the royal family to spread the news to the entirety of the Sacred Alliance. It immediately erupted into the focus of high society, suppressing discussions about two dukes warring internally and a recent battle near the borders of the Sacred Tree Empire.

There were multiple reasons for this. First was Richard himself; the reveal of Lifesbane had solidified his position as the number one runemaster in the Sacred Alliance, completely suppressing Lunor Leyfar who hid himself away after the convention. Second was the fact that he was recruiting a total of fifty rune knights, and given previous trends each of them would be full grade 2 at minimum— the standard of a Duke’s core army. Richard had only been in Faust for about a year at this point, but he had taken over a headless family without its master and brought it to new heights of power.

The third was actually the simplest of them all. The Archeron Family Council had swayed over most of the troops guarding Blackrose Castle and annihilated those who were still loyal to Gaton, taking over the castle and the surrounding Azan Peninsula. Blackrose Castle was traditionally the abode of the Archeron Family’s patriarch, but with the family tombs having been moved to the floating island which Richard controlled there had been two claims to being the legitimate representative of the family. Richard’s declaration that the recruitment would be held in the Blackrose Castle could only mean one thing: war!

Even when the Archeron Family Council had been formed, many of the Sacred Alliance had laughed it off. Faust was the true core of any family’s power, and everyone knew that the Archerons weren’t united at all. They didn’t believe this unsteady alliance could accomplish anything, especially when Gaton had possessed the guts to beat one of them up in the middle of a so-called meeting. Now that Richard was finally flexing his own power, they were quite interested in the outcome.

The only reason the family council hadn’t already been written off was the presence of Marquess Sauron amongst its backers. Richard was a rising start, but the Marquess had hundreds of years of inherited power to fall back on and try to defend with. Nobody knew what tricks Sauron had up his sleeve either: military might was only one part of a war.

With there being no foregone conclusion, the nobles that would be unaffected by the outcome started to place bets amongst themselves. However, many started to focus on the Archeron Family, knowing these next few months would likely have lasting consequences.

……

A number of Archeron elders were gathered in an urgent meeting within Blackrose Castle. The leaders of the branch families weren’t normally around, so the decision had to be taken by those representatives present. A day and night of heated argument with no breaks didn’t help them reach a conclusion, only wearing them down. However, many of those present had no issue with this. They knew they were only puppets here that had no actual power.

Still, they finally came to a decision the next day. They had concluded that Richard’s behaviour to hold a recruitment drive without asking for permission was utterly disrespectful, and they would stop him at all costs. However, they had no idea how to pass this information to the rest of the Sacred Alliance. Richard had connections to the royal family, but they had neither the network nor even the money to match his actions. They thus spent the remainder of the second day discussing how to disseminate the news.

……

Baron Sua was pacing around in a dark hall in the northwest wing of Blackrose Castle, “Richard is too arrogant! We have to teach him a lesson! Let me go, I’ll definitely teach him a lesson!”

The hall was several hundred square metres in size, his roars reverberating through its entirety causing some of the torches on the wall to flicker. The shadows from these movements added another layer of darkness to the hall.

“Do you know how many soldiers he has?” an aged yet slimy voice responded, “How many rune knights? What runes they will be using? How many powerhouses he has amongst his followers? Which route they will take? What about their strategies, what troops they are fond of using? Is he bringing allies? Are there any enemies we can take advantage of? If the siege lasts a long time, how will you replenish stocks?”

The person speaking was seated on an iron throne that was ten metres above the rest of the hall. He was tall and skinny, the darkness shrouding most of his features. Sua stopped pacing and turned to the man, “Won’t we know all that by then?”

“By then? What then? Do you mean when we are completely destroyed?”

The baron’s handsome face turned red, “I’ve commanded ten planar wars before! I don’t believe Richard is better than me at it. He’s just a clown who knows how to craft runes!”

“No. You’re the clown, one whose mere ten victories left much to be desired. Richard is someone who has taken control of two planes by himself.”

Sua gritted his teeth, biting the inside of a cheek until blood trickled out of his mouth. He hadn’t forgotten the humiliation Richard had imposed upon him right upon returning from Faelor. However, without the support of the man on the throne, Richard with his two planes’ worth of strength would be able to crush him like an ant.

“Father, give me twenty grade 2 rune knights,” he fell to his knees. “Alice agreed to become my companion then. Even if you don’t believe in me, surely you believe in her abilities?”

The man on the throne just snorted, his grip on the throne growing so tight one could hear metal bending, “You think she would listen to you for twenty rune knights? Do you remember that she was only a knight when she started out? If you think you have the ability, go find your own rune knights to give her; you won’t get a single one from me. You fool, she will just take those knights and bear you a child. Then what? Do you think she will sit still? She’ll use that child’s claim to the throne to take away our knights and territories, becoming a Marchioness herself!”

“That… can’t be—”

“WHAT DO YOU MEAN CAN’T BE?” Sauron stopped himself for a moment to regain his calmness, “We only have forty rune knights in total. If you give her half of them, her power will exceed mine. You— SHUSH!” he stopped Sua from arguing back, “I am disappointed in you. Go, relay these words to the elders…”

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OMA's Thoughts

Translated By: OMA

Edited By: Theo