“The Mensa boy died at your hands and you still haven’t returned Rosie to them either. The fact that she’s a runemaster apprentice isn’t much of the secret anymore, why do you think the Mensas and Schumpeters gave up on her so easily? As for the person that attacked you illegally, his injuries will never heal completely and he can’t ever become a saint in this lifetime. Even if he could pay the Church for it, he will only reach level 15 at best. Is that not good enough?”
“Fair,” Richard nodded. That was a great price for not abiding by the laws. It might seem rather light now, but back then Richard hadn’t shown off Lifesbane or the Guide of Secrets.
A flash of admiration appeared in Neil’s eyes, “What I mean is, you can’t consider yourself a regular person anymore. As the top royal runemaster of the Alliance, you are someone influential. While your power is stuck in Faust for now, I believe it is only a matter of time before you unify the Archeron Family. So, here is the question— which great influence can you think of that supports only one prince entirely?”
Richard paused for a moment. Thinking about it, he understood what Neil was saying. The Ironblood Duke was a powerful force, capable of sharing the fifth level of islands with the royal family. If he threw his weight behind a prince, there would be no contest at all. In reality, Agamemnon supported Nyris in a personal capacity, and even so he wasn’t allowed to spend all of his resources for his friend’s sake.
Agamemnon was talented, but he was a youth with no title, no lands, and no personal plane. The amount of help he could give Nyris was limited. The Fourth Prince himself wasn’t much better off; three years of working together and they had only managed to scrounge up less than five rune knights. It wasn’t until Richard came along that this changed drastically.
This was the sorrow of a leader. One could only accumulate resources, influence, and talented subordinates over time. These lords would eventually surpass most individual powerhouses in consolidated power, but those like Beye could rely on their own strength to amass resources far quicker at the start. A great lord with multiple planes supporting them had influence that not even many legendary beings could approach, but it took an inordinate amount of time and a fair bit of luck to build up to such a level. Thus, both types of heroes had their own advantages.
Leaders were often distracted by many matters, slowing their growth in individual strength. Richard himself spent a lot of his time on runecrafting and war, giving meditation less than a quarter of his day at best. But that also meant he could find the resources he needed himself instead of relying on an external organisation.
There were people who didn’t fit into either group, freaks of nature that could do everything at once. Gaton himself expanded at an unprecedented rate, accumulating power that was abnormal for a leader so young. Beye was destined to follow the path of exploring other planes on her own once she approached the legendary realm, boosting her growth by pillaging other powerhouses. And of course, Sharon was both combined; she had created a powerful organisation of mages and backed it with her own legendary might.
All the families had at least a few princes they supported in some way, but all of them maintained a fair amount of distance as well. The Orleans Family was sponsoring three princes and a princess, of which Nyris was only one. Their greatest support to Nyris was in the form of Agamemnon himself; he wasn’t the most dazzling star in the family, but it was publicly acknowledged that he would be able to create a new branch in the future.
Thus, Richard’s willingness to pour millions into Nyris had caused the Fourth Prince’s strength to skyrocket. This was indeed unconventional. “Hmm… so Your Highness intends for me to reign in my support for Nyris.”
“Yes,” Neil nodded without shame.
Richard frowned, “Nyris is a friend, and we have already signed a contract to work on the Forest Plane together. I gave up a significant share of my control in the plane for it. You cannot expect me to give up my resources, can you?”
Neil muttered to himself for a while before speaking up, “Yes, that is a problem, but it is not something that cannot be settled. I have a suggestion that respects your friendship. Continue your collaboration on the Forest Plane, but outside of that I hope you can consider the competition between the princes from the perspective of the leader of a big family.”
“What should I do then?” Richard planted his elbows on the table, crossing his fingers to support his chin as he leaned in further.
“Simple. Just make your resources available to everyone, especially your runes. I believe many of us can give you better terms than Nyris can. In a situation where the terms aren’t much different, I will not fault you for siding with him. I only wish for a fair chance, even if he has a slight edge. This will be useful for him; an emperor isn’t forged out of a smooth life.”
Neil’s voice was soft and sincere, the slight oppression Richard had once felt now replaced by a sort of rapport that made one willing to listen, “Two of the categories in the test for the successor are individual prowess and a battle with equivalent forces. He will only be able to rely on himself during these tests. We will be sent to a foreign plane with our equivalent forces and given a year to develop it. The one who proceeds the furthest receives the highest marks. This is meant to eliminate those flowers who grew up in the greenhouse.”
Richard nodded, “Yes. However, there is a level of trust I have with Nyris that allows him to give me absolute control on any plane we’re working on. I don’t think that is a term most others will accept, but it is an absolute necessity if I am to throw my resources into a plane.”
“That is true, but I believe at least some of the princes and princesses are willing to use their personal plane with this. Besides, that chance is enough. So long as the terms are the same, we will not be able to complain.
“Right, I also have another request to make.”
“I’ll try to do my best,” Richard said noncommittally.
“I wish for a grade 2 rune set for a friend of mine.”
Richard smiled, “A custom-made grade 2 rune set? That is worth almost as much as all my support to Nyris so far. What do you plan to offer in exchange?”
“I heard about the auction you are going to hold soon. I am willing to pay the final price on that auction, but of course a small discount would make me value this newfound friendship highly.”
“Hmm… 10% off the price.”
“Thank you very much!” Neil smiled. Richard’s own labour and design costs for a custom rune set would definitely be worth five million, and adding on the price of materials the final cost could easily rise to eight or nine million gold. 10% off on that was approaching a million gold, a significant amount of money. On top of that, a runemaster’s willingness to give their time to designing a set was often something money couldn’t buy.
Richard smiled, “Even someone as disconnected as myself hears a lot about your skill, Your Highness. As the first-ranked prince, are your plans only for a single set?”
“Only?” Neil burst into laughter, “Richard, you think too little of yourself. This set of yours will be enough to leave me bankrupt!”
Richard reciprocated before standing up and extending a hand, “If there’s another opportunity, I wouldn’t mind draining your coffers completely.”
Neil brightened up and grasped Richard’s hand firmly, “You’re welcome to!”
Two entirely different hands met in a warm, firm handshake, like two steel bars pushing against each other. Richard raised his brows, a dark red light flashing in the depths of his eyes as he started to use Analytic. However, it felt as though an unbelievably loud roar rang right beside his ears, like an unknown monster was hidden deep within Neil’s body. There was a trace of something in the Second Prince’s power that left Richard uneasy, deeply hidden yet familiar.
The power of both sides burst forward into the hands, silently competing in an open probe of each other. Richard paled a little; this was a direct collision of mana and energy that couldn’t be won with skill, and Neil’s power was on the edge of sainthood. In fact, despite not being a saint his energy seemed to be twice as dense as expected. There were strange properties to this energy that Richard couldn’t even recognise as well, so Richard could tell that few saints could actually match up to the prince in front of him even in a battle of attrition.
Richard’s own mana pool had just crossed into level 17. Mana was a formative force, not a combative one; without activating Mana Armament, he couldn’t really hold his own in such a contest; his mana broke down in only a few moments. Thankfully, Neil had amazing control of his own energy. He withdrew the moment the contest was decided, evidently having no plans to cause any actual harm.
This probe had given Richard a general understanding of Neil’s strength. The Second Prince looked to be the same level as Nyris, but his combat ability was much higher. On top of that, he was meticulous in everything; the appearance tailored to befriending others, the control of politics, the ability to make a convincing case… this was definitely someone to be feared.
“Right,” Neil pulled a list out from a pocket, “Here, a show of good faith and a deposit on that set. Some of the things there are specialties from my plane.”
Richard took the list and saw the description for a set of armour for elite knights. Skimming through the properties, he expected a single set to be worth about 20,000 gold and there were 50 whole sets. Even rune knights could be armed to the teeth at 50,000 gold each, so this was definitely first-rate for normal knights. This deposit of a million gold was more than enough to show Neil’s sincerity, and from the looks of it the prince had done some research on what he needed right now.
“A timely gift,” Richard smiled, not hiding his plans for expansion.Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Translated By: Ying
Edited By: Theo
TLC'ed By: OMA