Book 4, Chapter 162

An Upstart’s Tactics

Three days later, Senma and Asiris rushed back from their planes to what was basically a construction site and couldn’t help but be startled, wondering if they had gone to the correct place. Seeing the rune knights and elite shadowspear knights crammed into the small camp, they started to question their own sight.

Who would have thought majestic grade 2 rune knights would be squeezed in with four in every tent? Looking at that, the eight shadowspear knights a tent suddenly didn’t seem all that bad.

The island was only so big. With renovations at work on the castle and the addition of 400-odd mounts, there was little space left. Thankfully, the horses were unrivalled in their discipline. They lined up neatly and remained silent most of the time, making few movements outside of eating. Their digestive abilities were surprisingly great as well, so they didn’t produce much excrement either. Seeing so many powerful mounts in perfect order, the two knights of Gaton’s were rendered speechless.

Eventually, the two met Richard in the laboratory where he now lived every facet of his life. “You’re back? Great, we can set off tomorrow, let me just check the map… Hmm, great! We’ll get there a day earlier than I thought. Asiris, I heard you’re an expert at siege, let’s see what you have to offer this time around. Your skills likely won’t be required, but they’re good to have just in case.”

Both Senma and Asiris were people Gaton had relied on to hold off planes against enemies. They had sound fundamentals in war theory, and seeing the route that Richard had drawn out they couldn’t help but stare at each other in dismay. Richard basically planned to follow a straight road from Faust to Azan, only curving along the highway. There was no consideration for the defensive capabilities of Blackrose Castle, and no heed was paid to the obstructions from Sauron and Goliath. He also didn’t consider that the nobles on the way could block access.

“Lord Richard, we might have to wage several wars if we choose this route.” Asiris wasn’t the type to keep mum about such matters.

However, Richard only nodded, “Yeah, that’s what I hope. I want to find out just what standards the nobles of Norland are at.”

Thinking of the immense number of rune knights Richard possessed, the two decided not to comment further. They were starting to see traces of Gaton in Richard’s actions.

That same day, Richard sent out three announcements in succession. The first was an order to all of Gaton’s vassals to report to Faust and re-pledge their allegiance to him. Failure to do so within fifteen days would be taken as an act of rebellion, while those that proved their loyalty would be forgiven for past transgressions. The second was the sentencing of those who had looted his items from the Archeron island. The thieves would be stripped of all rights in the family and had one month to return the offerings or compensate him in money. Failure to do so would be taken as an act of rebellion and more severe punishments would follow. Anyone who housed these rebels would be considered to have declared war on the Archerons.

The third was a complete denouncement of the family council. Any so-called family councils were declared absolutely illegal in the Archeron Family, and anyone claiming to represent one who didn’t leave by the time Richard reached Blackrose Castle would be sentenced to death.

These three public announcements were extraordinarily despotic, inviting countless curses from those on the ground. Even more hateful was the way Richard had chosen to make them: they were all released thrice each from the channels of both the assembly and the royal family. Just the fees alone amounted to 1.8 million gold! Many people hated Richard showing off so much, but they either lacked the money to fight him in this field or refused to spend such an enormous amount. Their voices never made it out of their castles.

The third announcement even had a map attached, outlining the route he would take from Faust to Azan.

……

“SO ARROGANT!” On his metal throne, Marquess Sauron was screaming in rage for the first time in forever. He quickly mobilised all of his troops, preparing to face Richard in war.

……

Within the premises of a dark brown castle, Earl Goliath who had just finished a bout of wrestling with his beloved earth dragon immediately locked himself in his study for the entire day. The stocky man who seemed to be all brawn analysed all of his intelligence reports before deciding to send out all of his own troops as well.

Many of the Earl’s aides were elders of the Archeron Family. They didn’t want a civil war within the family and tried to dissuade him, especially since both he and Sauron combined didn’t have enough rune knights to match Richard, but a single statement sealed all of their mouths, “If that brat wins this war, he’ll become the next Gaton.”

Those who had followed Goliath for many years understood what he was insinuating. Although they were brothers, Gaton had only become a titled knight while he had inherited the entire earldom. Even that territory had been sold back to him for less than market price, and Gaton used the money for a ride, some armour, and a rune before turning into a free Archeron warrior that roamed Norland. That was the beginning of his myth.

Ever since Gaton had taken over the Evernight Forest, he had become a dazzling sun. Alice and Goliath’s glows seemed dim in comparison, almost inconspicuous. Alice was still a young girl, so she got a considerable amount of the leftover attention. However, Goliath had eventually settled into the background, dwarfed by Gaton’s shine.

All conversations about the brothers went like this: “20 years ago, Gaton’s brother was already an earl. Now, he’s still an earl while Lord Gaton has already…”

Indeed, Goliath was still an earl, but that did not imply he was incompetent. Few warriors in the Sacred Alliance ever reached level 20 in their lifetime, and fewer still managed to do it while still governing their lands well. Goliath’s military accomplishments were focused on his private plane, where he had already built an entire kingdom and beaten down the neighbouring countries to establish himself.

The burly man was extremely patient. As a child, he had been trained to be a traditional feudal lord. He made sure to move forward one step at a time, admirably keeping his own strength on par with that of his territory. If he didn’t have Gaton for a brother, he would have become a memorable figure of the Archeron Family.

However, Gaton was a dark horse that stormed through any place he liked as though he was a tornado. He was always fighting wars, always expanding, always creating miracles out of thin air. The man was never tired, never dispirited, refusing to lose faith even in the most difficult situations. He had lost his fair share of battles, had been sent fleeing too many times to count. Goliath had heard him consoling his knights about it once, “It’s fine to lose, at least we don’t have to repay the debt we owe them. Haha!”

It seemed like a rather inane statement, but it got his followers surging with power every time. There was a level of fear that Gaton and his knights possessed about those debts they owed to Sharon; that was why they were always at the forefront of the battlefield. In fact, all of Gaton’s knights could borrow money from the legendary mage as they wished, and in some ways the consequences wouldn’t be considered that dire either.

To erase all outstanding debts, the knights just had to run around the Deepblue once on the day of destiny. Naked.

These agreements were sworn on their own titles, so there was no option but to repay. The knights would rather perish in battle than default on the repayment of their debts.

The more glorious Gaton was, the more tragic the fate of those he left in his wake. All of Goliath’s accomplishments only seemed to emphasise how much worse he was than his brother.

Eventually, Gaton had lost his footing on the cliffside he dared to walk, taking more than half of his followers with him. However, the son grew up to replace the father. A mere teen exhibited talents that shocked the entire Alliance, eventually starting to regain control of Gaton’s assets. 

And now, that teen had burst out completely to become an adult.

Just as the Archerons’ enemies were exasperated by this change that wasn’t a change, those who were used to being in the backdrop didn’t wish to suffer the same tragedy once more. That was why Goliath was so determined to fight.

……

In the second month of summer, Richard led his own troops to leave Faust on an expedition towards Blackrose Castle. The so-called army only had 500 people, including 150 rune knights and 300 elite shadowspear knights. The remaining 50 spots were filled by a mix of Richard’s followers, clergy, and mages.

The 500 knights headed south in formation, charging straight for Blackrose Castle along the route that Richard had announced to the world. A mere two days after their departure, they came across a newly constructed barracks with 5,000 soldiers lying in wait, obviously not with good intentions.

Richard felt almost insulted. He had brought out 150 rune knights and there was someone so stupid blocking him?

By the time his unicorn came to a halt, the troops that had been lying in wait had already entered formation. They were clearly well-trained and powerful, and could be considered elite soldiers outside of Faust.

“This is Earl Berino’s territory, nobody is to pass through,” an amplified voice rang through the air, “You are not allowed…”

“Berino?” Richard suddenly laughed, “Is that a branch of the Mensas? To think they have the guts to deploy only 5,000 troops here, I really should teach them how rune knights work. Alright, who wants to go break their formation?”

“Me, me!” Gangdor was always the first to jump out, “My axe is thirsty for blood!” A year of training had pushed him, the ogre, and Waterflower all to level 17, only one step away from becoming saints. However, their sheer experience at this point alongside their runes made them more powerful than most level 18s as well.

“Out of the way, weakling!” Tiramisu pushed Gangdor aside, stomping forward towards the front of the formation.

Senma flashed over as well, lance in tow, “I can do it too.”

Richard scanned the three from head to toe, eventually pointing at Senma, “Show them the abyss.”

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OMA's Thoughts

Translated By: Jessa

Edited By: Theo

TLC'ed By: OMA