Book 4, Chapter 167

A Historic City

As Richard simulated the efficiency of innumerable variations of drones against a rune knight army, the dazzling stars of the sky slowly blended into the light of day. He suddenly regained his senses, realising just how useful it would be to battle in Norland if only to improve his own tactics and deciding to put some more focus into just that. His army set off once more, finally heading to Blackrose Castle while leaving behind a little under fifty tombs for the drones that had died in battle.

The broodmother constantly recommended to him that drones were the best meals for other drones, but he was unwilling to go through with such a thing. Although he had come to accept that these things were dispensable enough to give the most dangerous positions to, they were still his own soldiers and he would afford them some dignity in death.

……

A short while after the army left a few large trees that seemed to be nothing special suddenly twisted in the small forest, large clumps falling to the ground. These clumps were sticky and flexible, starting to squirm for a while before arms and legs popped out. The strange creatures were humanoid, but their faces protruded from the torso and they had inverted joints at the knees. They certainly were not human.

These strange creatures walked around silently within the woods, leaving behind no trace as they passed by. Their movements were slow, but what worked as their skin changed colour to match the surroundings so quickly that they were practically one with the environment. If one wasn’t observing carefully, they would be easy to miss.

The target of these beings was the new tombs. They went to the graves and carefully dug out a dead shadowspear knight, and the tallest of the creatures stretched out a tentacled arm that probed the injuries softly. As the other creatures started digging up more graves, a jarring voice softly rang out in Norland common, “As expected, These knights aren’t human, they seem to be bred. Take a few samples back, Master will have a use for them. Clean up afterwards.”

The other creatures sped up their digging, three eventually leaving with a total of six elite shadowspear knights and one mount. Three more were left behind to clean up the graves until they looked no different from before; without looking, nobody would notice that the bodies had been stolen.

……

A strange feeling of discomfort suddenly washed over Richard’s mind, as though he was being licked at by something cold and damp. Alongside that came a strong sense of danger that immediately put him on guard, but the feeling lasted for only a moment before fading away. He couldn’t trace the source in time.

With Blackrose Castle already in sight, he had no choice but to shake it off and focus on the battle that was soon to come. With the family tombs already on the floating island, taking over Azan would fully qualify his claim as the family head.

As they moved along, a head suddenly whipped up from a distant hill and a man charged away on his horse. Olar snickered at the failure of a scout, grabbing the longbow on his back and preparing to fire. A thousand metres was an easy shot with his new epic bow and premium arrows.

However, Richard waved him off, “No need, that’s just an ordinary Archeron.”

The elven bard resentfully returned the bow to his back. Richard was gaining more followers by the day and every one was immensely powerful. Many had already reached level 17, and Tiramisu in particular was equivalent to two warriors of that level. However, Olar was only level 11 as an archer and level 14 as a bard. This was the problem of following multiple professions at once, and the chances to show off his prowess were dwindling by the day.

“Alright, let’s go,” Richard prodded them along, “The scenery is nice, but you can look around as on the way.”

Although they were about to try sieging a castle that was famous within the entire Alliance for its defences, he didn’t seem worried in the slightest. This relaxed demeanour infected the rest, and his followers were quickly full of smiles. Only Asiris and Senma looked seriously worried about what they would face; even Lina was fine. The Dragon Mage was aware of just how sturdy the castle was, but she also had full confidence in Richard.

“What’s that?” Olar was the first to notice a thin cloud of dust rising in the distance. The army sped up its trot in response, finding a caravan heading straight for Blackrose Castle.

Richard had his men cut off the group. The owner and the guard captain trembled in fear as the approached, their heads almost touching the ground when they bowed. The captain seemed to be the more terrified of the two, partly because his martial arts tended towards the element of darkness and sacred flames were flickering on the tip of the unicorn’s horn.

It only took a few questions to determine their purpose here. This was a merchant group that transported food and other supplies to Blackrose Castle, paid for in antique furniture from the family council. Most of the carriages were loaded with mere dried meat, but this was already rather expensive for the council. They were just a bunch of monkeys that would be disposed of sooner or later, so neither Sauron nor Goliath had supported them monetarily at all.

In fact, Sauron even collected most of Gaton’s territorial income and had control of military affairs, so the only way the council fooled itself into thinking it was wealthy was by selling items from the castle. Sadly, despite the castle’s age the Archerons had never really cared about luxury goods. Even Gaton’s spending had mostly been to strengthen the defences, so there were few items of note.

The council was now selling furniture, but given some time they would likely start taking down the ballistae on the wall and selling them as well. It was likely that some would even feel that the large trebuchets were a pity to keep, turning them into a pile of scrap material.

Once the owner was done explaining, Richard nodded, “You can go. Leave the goods here.”

“Wh-What?” the man couldn’t believe his ears, “What are you saying?”

“I said you can go, leave the goods here. Now, if I have to say it again I’m going to kill someone.”

“But I’m doing lawful business!” the owner shouted.

Richard levelled a clear gaze on the man, immediately quieting him down, “Are you? It’s been quite some time since I announced that the Archeron Family Council was illegal, and it hasn’t been long since I reiterated that and declared war on these traitors. You have the guts to do business with rebels but you want me to let you go? Come, tell me who it is that makes you so bold.”

“The Tu—”

“We’ll leave right away!” The owner was about to grab onto his lifeline, but his mouth was quickly cupped by the guard captain. Uncaring of the merchant’s struggles, the warrior dragged him away and gathered everyone before leaving.

Richard watched the leaving figures with a meaningful smile before having some knights bunch the carriages together. A sign with his name and crest were then put up at the side before he brought his men towards the castle, not leaving even one guard behind. He would be surprised if anyone dared touch his things at this point in time.

……

Blackrose Castle was as magnificent as the first time he saw it, a majestic crown on Azan City. The fortress stood tall and proud, each corner filled with trebuchet towers that had stood the test of time. This castle hadn’t fallen yet in its time, and many believed it never would. All of its previous owners had been the biggest Archeron lunatics, using their talent for war to strengthen the defences to no end. The clever design of the battlements, the deeply buried gates with five portcullises, the tunnel-like construction of the castle itself… The place had been designed to be a headache to anyone planning to invade.

Azan itself had a city wall, but it could not be counted upon. With this being one of the oldest Archeron fiefs, there were five local vassals that had a limited amount of authority in the area. They had been feuding ever since Richard and the family council had shed all pretence of cordiality, so the city would be easy to take. Neither Sauron nor Goliath had trusted in the family council’s capacity to manage all of Azan, so they were limited to the castle itself.

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OMA's Thoughts

Translated By: Ying

Edited By: Theo

TLC'ed By: OMA