Book 5, Chapter 13

Manaforge

Blackgold, Richard, and Fayr gathered together for brunch. Hearing Richard’s doubts, the professor thought over it for a long time, “… I was one of Her Excellency’s first followers, from before she had even become a grand mage. I watched her bloody battle with the duergar, orcs, and half-orcs. Even then, her power was frightening, far beyond her level; it could only be because of her bloodline. After that she advanced to level 18, and awakened an ability that there were no prior records of. She called it the Manaforge.”

“Manaforge? What is that?” Richard wracked his mind, but couldn’t recall ever reading about such a thing.

Fayr’s expression turned nostalgic as he recalled past events, “She described it as an utterly useless ability and forbade us from speaking about it.”

Richard’s face turned to one of pure curiosity, and Blackgold’s filled with excitement. The grey dwarf found it hard to control himself and eventually spilled the beans, explaining just what Manaforge was. Put simply, it was an ability that doubled one’s mana pool.

Fayr waved a hand, having Richard calm down, “You have Her Excellency’s meditation techniques, so there is no need to be so eager to advance. I suggest you focus on polishing your bloodlines; the stronger they get, the better.”

“Polishing?” Richard was rather confused by that choice of word.

“Yes. The awakening of one’s saint ability is closely linked to their circumstances at the time of advancement. The reason Her Excellency chose to establish the Deepblue so close to danger was so that she could polish her skills, refining her abilities. Her students do the same thing, focusing on upgrading their skills before their level.”

Richard frowned; this made the decision even more difficult.

Ultimately, he was stuck between choosing as a powerhouse and as a lord. Advancing more quickly would allow him to craft more powerful runes that would make him more wealthy, directly boosting his power and status. He still recalled the long list of bloodlines he could obtain just through offerings. Even though something like Manaforge wasn’t amongst them, he could still gain plenty of powerful abilities.

He forced a smile before explaining his predicament. Fayr knitted his brows as well; having dealt purely with individual powerhouses in the past, he had no immediate suggestions to make.

Eventually, Richard just sighed, “I’ll slow down for now and think about it.”

Before leaving, he spoke to Blackgold in private for some time to get a clear picture of the Deepblue’s current finances. Before he left, he handed the grey dwarf a small box with thirty top-grade magic crystals within. Combined with his prior support, this would be enough to tide over the Deepblue for the rest of the year.

However, Blackgold turned solemn when he saw the crystals, “Richard, you have things to do yourself. We don’t need this much money at the moment, put this to use in your wars.”

Richard just laughed, “Professor, don’t underestimate my ability to make money. Besides, this place is just as much of a home to me as Faust. With Master asleep, I will make sure we keep running.”

“Richard, you… Sigh, fine.”

“Right, I need help with one more thing. Help me keep an eye out for young mages with potential in runecrafting. They don’t need to be particularly talented, it should be enough so long as they can get to crafting elementary runes.”

“No problem,” Blackgold nodded.

“Okay, I’m going. Take care!” Richard bent down and gave the grey dwarf a warm hug before getting back on the wyvern that had been nursed back to health. Looking at the afternoon sky, he flew off into the horizon.

……

While Richard was flying across Norland, the Sacred Alliance had erupted into chaos once more. He had announced a list of the branch families that had stolen his offerings and hadn’t paid him back yet, also implicating all of the clans that protected them. He had left right after making the announcement, but then Alice suddenly mobilised her troops and attacked five nearby branches that were on the list! Even worse, every one of these families was backed by Sauron!

Hearing the news, the Marquess had flown into a rage. However, outside of denouncing Alice and Richard in public he didn’t make any other moves. His army had been mobilised, but it didn’t cross the borders.

Within Sauron’s grand throne room, Sua was arguing with his father once more, “Father! If we do nothing, how will our vassals trust us in the future?”

“And you suggest what?”

“Mobilise the troops! Forget those who’ve been captured, at least help those who are still around!”

Sauron calmed down, “And what if Alice continues attacking anyway?”

“Then…” Sua ground his teeth, “Then we fight!” There were great risks to engaging Alice in battle. Richard was a gifted tactician, but Alice’s troops constantly disappeared like the wind and attacked unexpected locations.

“Quite brave of you! Then let me ask, how many rune knights do you think she has right now?”

“Forty at most!” Sua replied almost immediately. He had done his research.

“And how many rune knights does Richard have?”

These words were like a bucket of cold water that woke Sua up. He still remembered how Richard had led 150 rune knights to Blackrose Castle and left him without the ability to resist. He had almost gone insane back then, wanting to fight to the death, but he had been held back by his general. Now that Richard was Alice’s partner, he would certainly give her the right to command any rune knights he had in Norland. Forty was nowhere near an accurate picture of how many she could bring out.

Sua lost some of his bloodthirst, but as silence enveloped the hall for a moment he grunted in agony and spoke up once more, “Father, you can see just how fast Richard is advancing. If we… if we don’t contain him now, we won’t have a chance in the future!”

Sauron kept silent for a long time. In the end, all he managed was a barely audible sigh.

……

Alice’s actions had sent chills down the spines of the rebels, but even more frightening was the fact that Sauron wasn’t standing up for them. The Marquess had made loud proclamations, but there were no actions to back that up. This made many vassals realise that the tree they had relied on could not shelter them from the coming storm.

However, nothing could have prepared them for when Richard actually took to the field himself. He had rushed straight to Blackrose Castle once he returned from the Deepblue, gathering 3,000 footsoldiers that had just been armoured with superior-grade equipment, 200 elite shadowspear knights, 200 rune knight candidates, and 100 rune knights. The pack of wolves flooded out from the Azan Peninsula like a frightening horde, intent on wiping out all the Archeron branches that were unwilling to plead guilty.

The surrounding families that were eyeing these territories protested, but Richard didn’t care as he entirely ignored their protest and hunted down the traitors one by one. This scared off most of the smaller families, but some nobles were angered instead.

Earl Petron Tuescher was one such noble. Hailing from a branch family of the Tueschers, he had grown even more unyielding in the face of Richard’s threats and even pulled out his personal army to head the defence of one of the Archeron branches. His actions made it clear that one would have to go through him to attack them.

Richard still ignored the threats, continuing his march until he eventually came across the Petron’s 6,000-strong army.

“Richard!” the Earl screamed across the battlefield as Richard’s army approached.

Richard reined in his unicorn, staring at the man, “Do I know you?”

Petron’s face turned green with humiliation; for an earl to introduce himself was a joke. He drew out his sabre and raised it high into the sky, screaming out a warcry. His private army started moving forward, their flawless formation so synchronised that the earth shook with their footsteps. On the other side, Richard’s soldiers had been moving in a snake-like formation that had no meaning at all.

Petron had only wanted to let Richard know he didn’t fear battle, but when he turned back and saw Richard’s icy glare his heart skipped several beats. Richard’s knights had also turned their heads, looking at him with pity reserved only for a dead person.

The soldiers started moving seemingly without any command, the scattered men reforming completely in only a few moments. The rune knights at the forefront started their charge before Petron could even regain his senses, piercing into his army like a needle into cotton.

Blood and flesh filled the skies. The Earl finally snapped out of it, only to see his men dying at an alarming rate. It was only then that he realised his determination and resolve did not translate to ability. Of course, that resolve had been limited in the first place; he had only been hoping to scare Richard away with the numbers and the Tuescher crest.

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OMA's Thoughts

Translated By: Styles

Edited By: Theo

TLC'ed By: OMA