The situation in the Forest Plane had finally settled down. However, Richard returned to Norland only to find more problems there.
The first thing he was notified about was that the Archerons Family Council had announced an enlistment of footsoldiers and rune knights at Blackrose Castle. Another announcement was made commanding him to fulfil his duties as a clan member, including providing them with funds and runes.
This move from the council was much smarter than the last. With most free Archeron warriors too busy with their adventures to pay attention to the power shifts, they could potentially deceive many who arrived for the enlistment into assuming they were the highest authority of the family now.
Of course, Richard considered it a joke. Outside of the obligation to continue the family bloodline, Archeron traditions listed no other duties a family member had to fulfil. If they wanted to be taken seriously, one would first have to calculate just how much Gaton had spent to nurture and groom the branch families into decent powers. However, he still decided to minimise the fallout. Going through both the royal family and the assembly, he issued five announcements in a row that declared the so-called family council completely illegal. He gave them a month’s time to return Blackrose Castle and hand over 100,000 gold for maintenance.
He wasn’t nearly as merciful to General Ibra, the commander of the garrison in the castle. If the man surrendered within ten days, he would simply be demoted to a titled knight and exiled from the family. If not, he would be treated as a rebel, stripped of all nobility before his entire family was exterminated for its sins.
Richard’s determination was out there for everyone to see. Just like Emperor Philip had said, the Archeron cub was starting to bare its fangs.
With the news travelling through both major channels, almost the entirety of the Sacred Alliance received it in a few days. The Archeron Family Council didn’t make a single sound in response, as though admitting to the accusations, but those privy to the family’s affairs knew that this was just because they didn’t have the money. It cost 100,000 gold to send an announcement through any one of the major channels, so for Richard to occupy them for five entire days meant a million gold spent. The council didn’t have nearly enough funds to compete.
Although such extravagance made discussions about him being an upstart more prevalent, the effects were quite good. All outsiders immediately pulled support to the council, knowing that someone who spent a million gold on announcements was certainly ready for war. With the council unable to respond in kind, it was clear who had the upper hand financially.
Richard didn’t have the time to care about all this. Right after paying for the announcements, he headed to what would be considered a second-tier restaurant in Faust’s business district. In a room on the second floor were two grand mages, but they were only flanking the person he was here to meet.
Neil, the Second Prince.
Richard glanced through the room once before taking a seat opposite Neil, asking indifferently, “I wonder why you wished to meet me so urgently, Your Highness.”
Neil was smiling as always, “We’re in no hurry to get to business right away, do eat!” He waved his hand and the attendants waiting nearby flocked into the room with plates piled high with food. Although this was a second-class restaurant, the food and drink were all made from rare materials even more exquisite than what was served when Nyris and Agamemnon had first taken him to a meal.
Richard hesitated at the sight. Every bite of this meal was worth thousands of coins, Neil definitely had something to ask. However, the Second Prince just waved his hand dismissively, “Eat! It’s just a little something.”
After considering it for a brief moment, Richard eventually decided it was best to dig in. With his current income, it wasn’t a big deal to pay for a meal like this. Even if whatever negotiation was to occur here failed, he would be able to pay the bill and leave. He had two top-tier offerings, another greater offering, and tens of millions of gold to spare with stable income for the rest of the year. His net worth already compared to some of the weaker families of Faust.
After the meal he was treated to by the Emperor, Richard knew just how important precious food could be. An opportunity to grow stronger just by eating was hard to come by; even though he had the coin, he didn’t have the channels to acquire these things.
Seeing Richard eat freely, the smile on Neil’s face grew more apparent. He waved his enormous hand and called out to the grand mages on either side, having them join the meal as well. The meals disappeared down their throats as they went through the plates like small whirlwinds. Emperor Philip had always placed importance on one’s appetite and eating speed when determining someone’s worth, and it seemed like Neil had inherited that philosophy as well.
The huge expanse of dishes on the table was polished clean in only a few minutes. Richard ate an entire third of it, which was significantly greater than the rest, but that was only because he had been given the chance to. He could now feel a faint warmth circulating through his body, a sign of his physique being strengthened once more.
He picked up the snow-white napkin placed nearby and wiped his mouth clean, speaking elegantly, “Alright, Your Highness. Now that we’re done, what instructions do you have for me?”
Faint anger flashed across the faces of the two grand mages, but Neil didn’t seem to be displeased by Richard’s bluntness. His smile remained the same as ever as he spoke, “I know you have been assisting Nyris recently. His points have zoomed up at an incredible rate, leaving me a little flustered.”
Richard’s brows furrowed ever so slightly, “That should be in line with the royal family’s traditions, should it not? Have I made a mistake in anything?”
“No, of course not. But!” Neil bent forward slightly, looking him straight in the eye. Just that minute act left Richard feeling more threatened than the two grand mages nearby. “You have destroyed the balance, and that is a threat to everyone. Nyris won’t necessarily end up benefiting from this himself.”
Richard nodded once, growing serious as he leaned forward to listen intently. He had heard about the point system from Nyris, but Neil’s words had captured his attention. He was interested in hearing the perspective of the first ranked prince.
“The point system was originally intended to allow the princes with the right of inheritance to learn from their experiences and grow. Through weighing the pros and cons of their choices, through trying to optimise their point growth, we should eventually approach the right direction. However, your help has pushed Nyris up too fast, he isn’t gaining enough experience. It is also unfair to us other competitors as well. Don’t forget that you are also the royal runemaster.”
“And as the royal runemaster, I’m sure the Emperor earns far more from me than I do from him. Besides, I believe the other two empires would offer me even better treatment.”
“You wouldn’t go anywhere,” Neil stated confidently.
“And why would you think that?”
“Because Her Excellency Sharon is the guardian of the Alliance. So long as she remains attached to us, you will as well. Besides, you are the family head of the Archerons; I don’t think you can bring yourself to leave Marquess Gaton’s inheritance behind to be destroyed.”
Richard went silent; Neil had been spot-on in his assessment. Sharon didn’t get along with the Sacred Tree Empire, so he would never go there. The Millennial Empire wasn’t a bad choice, but he was still the patriarch of the Archerons. The title was only self-proclaimed, but which Archeron leader wasn’t? So long as he crushed any dissenters, the position was his.
“Moreover, Richard, whether you admit it or not your status as the royal runemaster has given you much more. It has served as a deterrent to your enemies, forcing them to act in accordance with law. No matter how much they want to just assassinate you, they cannot do so as long as you are in Faust. And I’m confident you can handle enemies coming at you head-on.”
This statement caused Richard to sneer, “Oh? Then what was that duel with the Mensas all about?”Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Translated By: Hestia
Edited By: Theo
TLC'ed By: OMA