Finished with his tour through the Sequoia Kingdom, Richard returned to the Bloodstained Lands with tens of thousands of soldiers as well as half a dozen nobles who dared resist his ruling. Of these were two earls, three viscounts, and a baron.
This parade of his might shook the entire Kingdom and even several of its neighbours, but the most alarmed of all was the Church of Valour. They had been summarily defeated in the battle at the assembly in Sequoia City. Richard’s words that day had been a brazen challenge to Neian himself, and his targetting of the nobles serving them made it clear that this was a war for control.
As a loose alliance of free nobles, the Sequoia Kingdom lacked a central faith. Ancestor worship existed side-by-side with organised religion, but Neian was the first god to make a place for himself here and considered it his own territory. The church had been doing its best to split up other organisations and attack nobles who worshipped their ancestors.
When this strong, arrogant church chose to remain silent in the face of humiliation, the three goddesses gained even more momentum. Dozens of commoners were heading to the church buildings in the Sequoia Kingdom every day, asking to join their faith. This would have been unthinkable in the past; it had been less than fifty years since the Church of Valour had helped the royal family win the war over the trade route that gave them their current power.
And while the three churches grew even faster in the Bloodstained Lands, Richard wasn’t far behind. A large number of merchants and adventurers were enticed by the prospect of gold and settled down at the oases, many swearing their allegiance to him and becoming citizens of the Bloodstained Lands. He already had over a hundred thousand subjects under him, and nearly ten times the number of slaves.
What surprised the three goddesses most was that even in the Bloodstained Lands Richard’s patron deity had no interest in growing his faith. Flowsand had built a small shrine in Bluewater, but it was only for Richard himself and a select few others.
Now that he had reclaimed a large share of the profits from the Bloodstained Highway, Richard earned more than five million a year from the Bloodstained Lands. This was enough to turn the entire territory into a theocracy, forget building a single large temple. This only confirmed the goddesses’ speculations that Richard hailed from a secret sect, his god so powerful he didn’t care for faith. Given this fact, they could rest assured that the alliance would be stable.
While their interest in finding out who exactly was behind Richard piqued, the Goddess of the Hunt and the Goddess of the Forest started seriously considering moving their central churches to the Bloodstained Lands as well. As the foundations of a god’s existence, central churches were the quickest at growing the faith.
The Goddess of Spring Water moving her central church here was quite unexpected, especially since the Bloodstained Lands was far from her natural domain. However, she had gained two thousand new worshippers in the past few months alone, a startling growth compared to her previous dire straits. With more assurance that the god behind Richard wouldn’t do anything to steal worshippers, the other two naturally couldn’t sit still. This was especially true for the Goddess of the Hunt, who actually could find natural worshippers in the Bloodstained Lands.
Although they had agreed to cooperate, the biggest worry over this divine alliance was the struggle over faith. Even the Goddess of the Hunt could barely find natural worshippers here, and the sheer power shown by Flowsand and Io made it clear that their god was much stronger than the three. So long as Flowsand started preaching here, they would lose worshippers and slowly get pushed out. They had been cautious about this all the while, but now that the Goddess of Spring Water had taken the first step the other two wouldn’t let go of the opportunity either. Her power had grown much more greatly than their own after the invaders were routed, and she now stood more powerful than them by a decent margin.
While the deities were concerned about faith, mortals thirsted for gold. As the situation in the Bloodstained Lands stabilised, Richard’s tax revenue started growing at an alarming rate. He now reaped nearly four million gold a year from the caravans alone, and with the addition of taxes on the new permanent and temporary residents that went up to five million. This didn’t even count the extra three million or so he would get from the next year after claiming an additional 30% of the profits from the nobles who had opposed him.
And that was just the start of it. New applications for permanent residency were flowing in every day, and even when the procedure was made long and complicated after they reached the 100,000 mark the population was booming. The tax on Richard’s lands was still quite small, and the trade route was extremely profitable. On top of that, the taxes on permanent residents were much lower than for temporary residents. Permanent residency could directly be bought for a price, and also came with any sizeable land purchase in the five major oases. Those of poorer backgrounds could serve Richard for five years instead, or they could just join the army and do it in three.
The Bloodstained Lands had turned into a land of gold.
His dwarven allies in Forgefires were expanding rapidly as well. They had just annexed three smaller tribes, acquiring ten thousand warriors and many times more workers. However, that did not satisfy Bamor’s appetite; Richard was still dumping food and wine into his warehouse while taking ore away.
The dwarves had once thought their ore to be inexhaustible, but now that the trade route was running at full capacity they immediately discovered that their warehouses were being depleted. The demand from their new human allies was simply endless. This only served to motivate them further. Most dwarves had never eaten such good food or drank such tasty wine before, while Bamor himself was starting to burn with the desire for the power this newfound wealth gave him. For the first time, the dwarves felt like there weren’t enough miners. Of course, there was a shortcut to getting more labour, and one that their human allies were proficient in: they would wage war to gather slaves.
This endless demand came from Richard himself. All of the ore was being transported directly to Norland, where Noelene was gobbling it up without end. After all, Norland was currently fighting hundreds of planar wars combined, so there was a constant demand for materials to forge armour and weapons.
When Richard returned to Bluewater Oasis, he found Rosie basically living permanently in the laboratory and meditation room. She had a harvest of her own; she could now draw the first of the magic arrays he had taught her.
This array was actually the core of an elementary strength rune, but it had been revised by Richard to provide a higher boost and was correspondingly more difficult. She could now finish the array in two days, and although she couldn’t guarantee success like he did 80% was good enough. The most important thing was that it only took him an extra hour to finish the strength rune that was somewhere between grade 1 and grade 2, and this rune could be used in his Savage Barrier and Savage Strike sets.
Rosie hardly ever slept, simply meditating when she needed rest. She had completely ignored his warnings that such a lifestyle would do a lot of harm; it looked like more than a month had passed since her mind was truly still.
When the elite humanoid knight he’d left behind to guard the laboratory came over and whispered her schedule to him, his face was filled with amazement. She kept herself almost as busy as he used to when he was in the Deepblue.
Unlike the single room he had before, his laboratory had now expanded into a complete building unto its own. Gnomic alchemical instruments had been imported from Norland, making it quite good even for Norland’s standards. He had spent about 2 million gold on it; 3 million more and it would be amongst the best of the best.
Passing the lobby and general workshop, he headed up a floor to find Rosie busy working on an array. There were ten enchanted boxes on the shelf, two completed arrays in each. He only glanced past the completed products before focusing on the rhythm of her actions, finding her much more practised than before. It seemed like her success rate had increased as well, and she had risen to level 10.
“So when did you advance?” he asked once she was done.Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Translated By: OMA
Edited By: Theo