“I have a question, Marshal. How can you prove that this requisition will be for the greater good?” Richard stood up and asked. Of course, the question hidden within was why this law could be trusted.
Hasting’s mouth twitched a few times while Rundstedt’s expression froze. He answered seriously, “Every requisition in the decades I have been stationed at this city has been for the greater good. The events afterwards all prove that they have a positive impact.”
“And what if the person controlling the fort changes? If Master Hasting takes charge, or even me, who can guarantee things will still be for the greater good? I’d be very inclined to go through everyone’s homes to see what I can ‘requisition.’”
“Richard…” Lawrence tried to speak up, but Richard just stopped him with a wave of the hand.
“I’ve already said what needs to be said. It all boils down to this: I risked my life to purge an enemy camp but when I return home I find that someone else has taken what is mine. I’ve been here for over a year without advancing to becoming a grand mage, you all should know why that is. I tamed a live demon so I could work on runes that specifically counter the Daxdians’ power, would that not be for the greater good as well?”
Richard’s words were resounding and just as persuasive. However, seeing the lack of change in everyone’s expressions, his voice suddenly turned cold as he looked to Hasting, “Master Hasting, do you perhaps want anything in exchange? Runes, top-tier offerings, I can even give you a Lifesbane or two.”
Hasting laughed, “I wouldn’t care if you could give me all of Faust. So, are you going to call a vote?”
Richard looked around the room once more, “Everyone, supporting me in this situation will garner my goodwill. My goodwill could even be worth a custom-designed grade 3 rune.”
This immediately caused everyone to sit up. Runes were the pillar of support for Norland’s war efforts, and even sub-legendary experts couldn’t easily find grade 3 runes that fit them. If Richard could craft custom grade 3 runes that were designed to be effective against Daxdians, that would be an earth-shattering development.
Marshal Rundstedt completely froze up. As someone who had always been rigid and by the book, he definitely hadn’t expected Richard to bribe everyone in public. “Why are you doing this, Richard?”
“Nothing. I believe I can make more of a contribution without cutting into Blacklight than he can with,” Richard stated resolutely.
This time, it was Hasting’s turn to survey the area. The legendary mage suddenly laughed, his voice growing louder and more manic until he started coughing violently, keeling over from the effort. It took quite a while for him to catch his breath, “That won’t be enough to stop me, Richard. I’ll definitely cut into that little demon, slowly, carefully, and endlessly. It’s not just him, I’ll do it to everyone…”
Hasting’s words left Richard looking glum, “I have no objections to your hobbies, Master Hasting, but it looks like this requisition will be overruled.”
Having said this, Richard raised his hand to call for a vote.
“No no no, you’ve gotten it all wrong,” Hasting gesticulated crazily, “You won’t even want to overrule this, Richard. Did you forget your little Waterflower is still with me?”
Richard’s hand froze in mid-air.
Marshal Rundstedt was startled, his expression darkening once more. If Richard was bribing in public, then Hasting was in the midst of blackmail! Either act was hard to stomach.
Hasting laughed so hard that the sagging skin on his face shook, “The girl still needs two more rounds of treatment, and it needs to be within the hour. Even the person who added the protection to her soul can’t compare with me, do you think they can save her? If you don’t want to believe me, you’re welcome to try. Go on, start the vote.”
Sweat began beading down Richard’s forehead, the hand starting to tremble indiscernibly. No matter how many strange habits Hasting had, he was smart enough to know not to lie. It took a few moments, but the hand eventually slammed back down on the table.
Hasting smiled sinisterly, spreading his hands out, “I enjoy watching your struggle Richard, but we don’t have much time for that delicious expression. Make a choice, what do you want? Waterflower or that beast?”
Richard closed his eyes for a moment before opening them up once more, having the slightest bit of hope, “I want both, name your price.”
Hasting wiggled a finger, “No, no, no. Choose one out of the two. There are no other options!”
Richard paled even as his glare grew increasingly sharp. However, Hasting matched him with no hesitation. Regardless of talent and future prospects, the current difference between them could not be made up for. Even if Richard had the strength to fight him, the situation couldn’t be resolved with force.
Eventually, a low grunt rang out as Richard fell back into his chair, “I… give up on the vote.”
Hasting burst into laughter and clapped, “A wise choice! You can take her away in an hour, don’t forget to bring the two offerings!”
Richard got up and left without a word, there was no need to say anything about this farce.
The atmosphere in the hall was excessively stifling. Be it the Marshal or Hasting, neither spoke up. The experts also left one after the other, sighing in relief. It had been difficult to choose between a legendary mage and a future saint runemaster when they were arguing over a mere demon, but thankfully the situation had been resolved without them having to take a stand. However, everyone felt a chill in their hearts at the realisation that the best soul healer and only runemaster in the city were now completely at odds.
Lawrence got up to leave as well, but Rundstedt cut him off until everyone but Hasting had left, “Your Excellency, why is Richard going so far for a demon?”
Lawrence sighed and met Rundstedt’s gaze; the Marshal was much taller than the old man, but neither was less imposing than the other, “Then why wasn’t Hasting willing to give up? If things were so easy as you put it, why was he so impatient as to requisition the demon instead of talking to Richard? He made it clear that he caught this demon for his own research needs, and the creature would still be alive afterwards for use.”
Rundstedt glanced at Hasting, “Your Excellency, we have known each other for many years now. You should know the meaning of this demon to Hasting and the effort in the Land of Dusk. His Excellency is the authority on the study of enemy creatures, and time is the one things we do not have.”
“How do you know Richard can’t get more out than him?” Lawrence countered.
The Marshal frowned, “Richard might be talented, but he isn’t even a grand mage yet. One cannot be sure whether he will become a legendary mage or a saint runemaster in the future; how can the demon have more value in his hands than with Master Hasting?”
Lawrence sneered, “So you think he isn’t high enough in level? How many sky saints are doing better than him in number of kills? Which one of them would you steal from without so much as a warning? Aren’t you all practical? Shouldn’t you be judging strength by kill count?”
The Marshal’s thick, near-white brows locked together, “I cannot trust a possibility over a known quantity. I believe this decision is more beneficial to the City of the Unsetting Sun.”
Lawrence sighed deeply, “Rundstedt, you’ve always been so naive. Always stubborn and inflexible, unable to understand that not everybody is like you. Richard doesn’t judge himself on the Land of Dusk, he’s far beyond that. Nor is everyone willing to sacrifice their own good for the bigger picture, and you have no right to force them to. But there’s no point in telling you this, you’ve never understood that some things can’t be measured in money and offerings. Dignity is far more important to some people, and Richard is amongst them.”
Looking at the Marshal continuing to frown, Lawrence knew he still couldn’t understand. He turned to Hasting instead, “Did you have to take that demon?”
Hasting smiled like a pervert, “Of course! You know my past, the little demon might be related to Forbidden Eye. There’s no way I’d let it go, and I’m willing to pay any price. I will make the thing suffer endless misery!”
Lawrence vaguely understood why Richard was so invested in this vote, but hearing Hasting’s words he gave up on any attempt to convince the man to be gentle. Instead, he just sneered, “Fine, I know my words don’t matter in this city anymore. Marshal Rundstedt, just know that the bigger picture you’re looking at isn’t nearly as big as you think. You’ve just bullied the most talented runemaster in the history of the Sacred Alliance, and that will have repercussions. Hasting, you’ve just pissed off Sharon’s favourite student. If she decides to hunt you down, you’ll experience pain far beyond what you inflict on that puny demon. Do whatever you want, but I wouldn’t mess with the girl if I were you.”
The old man turned around and left without looking back, leaving Hasting trying his best to suppress his trembling and maintain a stiff smile.Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Translated By: Ying
Edited By: Theo
TLC'ed By: OMA