Thousands upon thousands of soldiers flooded out of what was once the Church of the Highland Wargod, leaving a garrison of 5,000 as the Crimson Dukedom’s claim to the barbarian plains. Richard stationed nearly 50,000 troops amongst the mountains near the borders of the Iron Triangle Empire, waiting for the right opportunity.
The atmosphere in the city was still rather tense, but a large number of craftsmen rushed in and started on three smaller churches around what was now the Church of the Eternal Dragon. Many priests and priestesses rushed over from the Crimson Dukedom as well, intent on converting as many of the barbarians as they could.
Richard held true to his intentions of developing the plains, sending caravan after caravan of food, clothes, and wine their way. This ensured that the former worshippers of the Highland Wargod were now even more conflicted about their choice. Even if they didn’t convert, their hearts would waver. For him, this was enough.
He didn’t believe he was a samaritan by any means, but the millions of gold he invested into helping the barbarians develop wasn’t purely a cause of faith either. They were admittedly a great source of faith and soldiers, but he would be lying if this was a decision motivated by gains.
Richard himself had left the city entirely, riding a cloned brain to a small oasis city in the Bloodstained Lands. This city only housed a few thousand people, and without many merchants coming through it was quite peaceful and serene.
It was dusk by the time he stepped foot within what passed for the city walls, and the first thing that struck him was the smell of barbequed meat wafting through the air. People were leisurely walking through the streets, and any litter that accumulated was cleaned up by the occasional slave. Even the slaves in this city looked healthy and strong, unlike the frail, sick husks in most other countries in the world.
This city was a token of Alice’s abilities at governance. While he was focused on expanding his army and amassing wealth, she was closing the gaps from behind and improving the lives of all of his and her citizens. Although she hadn’t been to Faelor herself yet, she had passed on many strategies of governance that his followers used to build and maintain beautiful cities at minimal cost.
For example, the slaves in this city were not owned by any individuals but a central council. The stronger ones were put in charge of law and order, while the weaker ones were responsible for maintaining cleanliness. Those who did their jobs well could eventually earn their freedom, and regardless they were given twice the food they would get anywhere else. They were even allowed to save some food to feed their families, ensuring long-term loyalty and devotion.
After a leisurely tour of the city, Richard eventually arrived in front of a rustic old house and knocked on the door. It took a minute, but the wood eventually creaked open to reveal a wrinkled old man on the verge of death, unfocused eyes straining hard to make out who the visitor was, “Is it… Richard?”
“Yes, Perrin. It’s been a while.”
The old man shook his head and his eyes regained some clarity, “You actually look the same after all these years! Come, I never thought I’d see you again before my life came to an end.”
As he followed Perrin in, Richard noticed rows of flower pots and wine jars within an inner courtyard. It seemed like Perrin had been tidying up. He smiled and pointed at the meticulous indoor garden, “Looks like you’re living well, here I was thinking you were still trying to work on planar geometry.”
Perrin sighed, “Whose fault is that? If not for you, I would have spent my entire life performing research that had already been completed somewhere else. Now, what’s the point? I feel myself growing older again, and I’d rather spend the rest of my life doing things I never got a chance to. Drinking tea, eating good food, tidying my garden… I’ve even learnt to take afternoon naps!”
“Looks like you’re better off than me!” Richard chuckled, nodding for the maid who served them red tea and some snacks to leave them alone.
Perrin lifted his cup but wasn’t in a hurry to drink it. Instead, he looked at Richard and asked with a hint of worry, “You didn’t come here just to drink tea with me, did you?”
“Mm. Two things, actually. The first is to fulfil my promise to Bevry, and the other is to see if you’re willing to help me out. This thing can give you three more years,” he put an hourglass on the table.
As he recognised the sand rolling around within the delicate little hourglass, Perrin froze in place. He felt his breath catching in his lungs, and no matter how hard he tried he couldn’t bring himself back. There was nothing more exciting than walking to the edge of death and learning that one could survive.
He reached out for it, but his fingertips were trembling the entire way. He couldn’t even bring himself to actually touch the thing, afraid that it was only a beautiful mirage that would break the moment it was touched.
“But you can’t use it as you are.”
Richard’s words immediately had Perrin pop up from his chair. He stared at Richard and his mouth opened and closed a few times, but no words came out. He finally remembered how to breathe, heaving a few times before he managed to calm down and ask, “What do you need me to do? I don’t think there’s anything I can help you with.”
“You remember the blessing from the Eternal Dragon that dispelled the effect the first time? This is similar. However, you need to fulfil another condition; because you’re not from Norland, this hourglass will only work if you abandon your faith and start worshipping the Eternal Dragon.”
“I need to change my faith?”
“Yes. This hourglass was my last promise to your father, so don’t think I’m doing you a favour. This will be your own choice,” Richard put a badge on the table that of the Direwolf Duke.
On one hand was the crest of his family, and on the other the hourglass of time. Perrin’s forehead started to ooze sweat, the choice now far more complicated than a mere change of faith. He quickly realised that this was a choice between Norland and Faelor. If he took the hourglass and received the extra lifespan, he would forever be pitting himself against his own plane. This was fundamentally different from what had happened before.
“I…” Perrin didn’t know what to say, eventually just burying his head in his hands.
Richard waited a few minutes for the youth to think things through before speaking up, “If I were you, I’d definitely choose the hourglass.”
“You might love this plane, but it does not love you. It’s just a world built on a base of laws, and any creature living upon it is dispensable. In fact, it considers extremely powerful creatures a tumour to be removed. Regardless, if you want to do something good for this place, you have to live first.”
“And Norland will conquer us?”
“Without a doubt. If it isn’t me, it’ll be someone else. And I’m not boasting here, but you don’t want it to be someone else.”
Perrin nodded, “The people here are living well, but… Will that last? Argh, whatever!”
Richard smiled as the shaking hands grabbed hold of the hourglass, passing over a piece of paper he had prepared long ago, “Recite this prayer before you use it. As for the lives of my citizens, perhaps you can try to influence my decisions in the future.”
Perrin silently recited the prayers before breaking the hourglass, watching on as the golden sand turned into a stream of light that entered his body. He finally took a deep breath, “What do you want me to do?”
Richard took out a book and placed it on the table, “This is a complete introduction to planar geometry, you have ten days to master it.”
Another book, “This details the basic principles of magic arrays. You have some more time for this, twenty days.”
The third, “Practical Magic Arrays, details dozens of the most basic functions you can accomplish with magic arrays. Ten days…”
All in all, Perrin was given three months to learn eight books on various aspects of magic arrays.
“And once I’ve learnt it all?”
“Then I’ll tell you the exact kind of arrays I want, and you’ll have to design them. No need to think about sourcing materials, no need to worry yourself with practicality. If the array needs to be powered by a grand mage, that’s fine. If it needs to be powered by a legend, that’s fine too. Your job will be to find a way, any way, to condense my requirements.”
“Sigh… I cannot reject you at all,” Perrin’s eyes were already glued to the books Richard had placed in front of him. This was the dream of a lifetime.Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Translated By: OMA
Edited By: Theo