Book 6, Chapter 44

Cost

“Then why is he the key to stopping the Empire?” the young goshawk asked, “Is it just because he won against that warrior of the Shrine? I can do it too!”

“Nonsense! One’s ability on paper is much different from real battle experience. Even your best expectation against Krangma would be a draw.”

“Then he might be a little better. You’re always right.”

The older goshawk sighed helplessly, “I really should send you out to practise. You’re starting to think you’re far more powerful than you are. When you are defeated by someone who isn’t yet a grand mage, you will finally learn ”

……

The two goshawks hovered over Richard’s head for an entire week, while Richard had his eyes locked onto them for a majority of his own journey. He knew that he was being followed, but a kilometre into the sky he had no confidence of killing them. He thus simply let it go, continuing to the mountains.

“The arrogant fellow is going in, should we go?” the younger bird asked, his dislike for Richard obvious.

“No, wait a minute. I think we need to give him some help so he can go farther in the sacred ceremony.” The older hawk slammed his wings together as he spoke, causing a black feather to fall like an arrow from the sky. Following that, he headed northwest.

“Where are we going now?” the youth asked.

“To find someone called Greyhawk and see if he can fly as high as he did in the past.”

“Greyhawk? Isn’t that the prince of the Millennial Empire? Is he still alive?”

“He isn’t just the prince of the Millennial Empire, he is also the father of Mountainsea.”

“Right! Hasn’t he been captured by the barbarians for almost twenty years? What can he do when he’s been a prisoner for so long?”:

“Your thoughts aren’t necessarily correct. Some people can fly into the sky even if they have been crouching for decades. I do not believe the man will sit idly by as his daughter’s life is destroyed. Maybe he needs an opportunity to be useful, and our help will give him that chance.”

“So… politics?”

“Yes. These kinds of things require politics. There need to be at least some factors that can balance out the might of the Sacred Tree Empire.”

“But if we need politics, why give the feather to the kid? He’s daring to go to the sacred ceremony alone, which is as good as challenging all of Klandor! It’s stupid!”

“Sigh. Politics is like porcelain. It might look beautiful and intricate from the outside, with no flaws to be revealed, but even a child with a hammer can smash it apart. Richard is the one who has that hammer; in this game, he will be key.”

“Okay, you’re always right. He’s the one holding the hammer because he’s that stupid.”

The older goshawk chuckled, “That isn’t necessarily true. Maybe he’s so smart that he chose this stupid road.”

“Huh? I don’t understand…”

“You will when you grow up.”

“I’m an adult!”

“Only of body, your mind still needs to mature.”

The two giant goshawks continued talking to each other as they flew away. Having stopped down below, Richard plucked the feather that the older one had sent flying downwards out of the sky, studying it in detail. The spine was dark and heavy, but the vane itself was delicate like that of a real feather. However, a delicate magic array was carved from the barbs that even he couldn’t decipher right away.

Thankfully, at least the function wasn’t difficult to figure out. It could stop one single attack from any enemy below the legendary realm, while a legendary attack would have at least half of its power shaved away. Such an item was undoubtedly precious, valuable to any leader of a wealthy family. In fact, it could sell for even more than Lifesbane; Lifesbane’s difficulty was in the manufacturing process, but this feather was obviously made out of a material so rare that even he couldn’t recognise it. 

At the root of the feather was a tiny symbol that instantly caught his eye. The little crest was almost universally known amongst all mages of Norland to be the mark of the Mages of Soremburg. To Richard, this crest represented far more than the single effect of the feather that carried it; it meant that the Mages of Soremburg were likely on his side in this matter. Although not as powerful as the Sacred Tree Empire, this was a far-reaching organisation that boasted nearly as much influence on Norland. The Mages of Soremburg always flaunted their neutral stance in politics, choosing to focus on exploring the secrets of the world as the pursuit of a lifetime, but one would be mistaken in thinking they had no connection to the secular world. Many powerful figures in all three human empires came from this school.

Even in the world of runecrafting, the Mages of Soremburg had great clout. They possessed the blueprint to the Mystic’s Set, and although it wasn’t as powerful as Heaven’s Armour this set could still be crafted to this day. They churned out one set every decade or so, compared to the seven total Heaven’s Armour sets that the Sacred Tree Empire just recycled.

However, all these things were far on the horizon. Richard put the feather in his pocket, feeling the added safety it brought to him as he continued on his way.

……

Even in the Land of Dusk, Emperor Philip’s breakfasts were equal to months of food for ordinary people. His food intake had actually increased since he entered the Fort of Dawn, now costing a third more than it did back in Norland. Just his meals were an enormous expense for the Alliance.

It had already been a few years from the great war at this point, but the fortress still retained some traces of Daxdian heritage. Ordinary human artisans simply couldn’t stand the harsh environment of the Battlefield of Despair, so even the Emperor only lived in a stone house with more than a dozen rooms that he and his guards had half built.

The stone palace was dimly lit by magic torches, the only decoration being a large tapestry on the wall. There were no maids and guards here, just the eccentric middle-aged attendant who had rushed back from his territory the moment he’d heard that the Emperor was injured. He was the reason Philip’s food intake had grown so heavily; in his words, “one had to eat better when they were at a difficult point in life.”

The attendant’s strength was only middling, making it impossible for him to stay in the Land of Dusk for long, but he paid the court mages to develop a strange combination of armour and robe that could protect him from the elements here. It looked rather comical, but the magic arrays and tough armour worked perfectly fine to keep him alive.

While Philip was eating, the attendant was currently reading the two letters that Richard had sent. The Emperor listened quietly while munching down on his food, even waiting after the man had finished to complete the meal in silent thought.

“Your Majesty,” the attendant began, “Lord Richard is only one step away from becoming a saint runemaster; we cannot let such a talent die. The Alliance still lags behind the other two empires in terms of runes; although it isn’t as obvious in the lower ranks, Lunor cannot craft grade 4 runes even now. If this Mana Armament can be mass-produced, it will enhance the survivability of our grand mages on the battlefield. I suggest we send a letter to the Azuresnow Shrine warning them to not maim or kill him.”

Philip shook his head slowly, “The barbarians won’t do that. Don’t waste your effort writing a letter. I’ll have to go back to Norland personally. At least I can check out what the other two empires are doing… Tch, this kid is always so impulsive. Just Mana Armament might not necessarily save his life.”

“Are we not helping him?” the attendant asked. He was actually quite fond of Richard.

“No, we will. I just have a hunch that this will be very tricky. Richard might have to give up far more than he expected to get this done.”

“How much?”

“A price so heavy he doesn’t even want to think about it.”

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OMA's Thoughts

Translated By: OMA

Edited By: Theo