While Richard was off fighting Solam, Alice had shown results as well. She had found an opening in the enemy defences that allowed her to sneak through and capture an earl, and after obtaining a handsome ransom and killing quite a few enemies she managed to get away. Her army of 30,000 had faced 70,000 men, but only lost 4,000 compared to 13,000. Her battles had managed to lock up most of Duke Jasper’s forces, ensuring that Richard wasn’t flanked from all sides.
The Church’s envoy caught up right around the time Richard reached the border of the Sacred Tree Empire and the Sacred Alliance. This envoy was a powerful archbishop only a small way off from entering the legendary realm, making it obvious that this was a sincere negotiation. He had joined the army’s march as they negotiated, and everything only came to a head by the time they were already back at Blackrose.
The negotiation had been difficult at first, but eventually Martin had made things smoother. Conscious of his own position, the cardinal had directly told the envoy not to undermine his worth as a hostage. Eventually, an agreement was reached to release him immediately and offer the Church of Glory a million gold in compensation for provoking war. Richard would be allowed to keep all the divine items he had plundered from the cathedral, including Martin’s holy book. The half-destroyed book had been a point of contention for some time— Richard had actually planned to just give it up— but after Martin told him about the number of warriors he had summoned during the battle that hadn’t been an issue either.
From the Church’s point of view, wealth was not an issue. Richard could sell everything he had plundered, outside of the holy book, for about three million gold on the marketplace, but this sort of sum meant nothing to existences like them. On the contrary, they only cared about items of historic value; even a tree branch used by one of the Radiant Lord’s seven holy spirits was worth more to them than an intermediate offering. The archbishop had actually just assumed Richard personally liked some of these items for whatever reason and had taken them because of that.
Once the negotiations were complete, Martin turned back to Richard, “I’ve used up all of the book’s summoning abilities, but it can still regenerate them on its own. Every decade allows you to make one summon, so it still has some value. Just think I’m selling it to you for a million gold.”
Richard was a little annoyed by that— a legendary scroll of equivalent worth could be bought for half the price— but he decided that there might be other uses for the book. Although the sale of what he’d plundered certainly wouldn’t make up for the number of knights he lost, the broodmother could replenish them soon enough. While both sides had suffered an objective loss, he could rest assured that the Church of Glory wouldn’t aggress for at least the next few years. They had promised to forget all about the events in Klandor, and he had pledged to show the Sacred Tree Empire and the Church their due respect.
Now, it was time to plot and strategise. He could afford to put off destroying the Church until he dealt with his impending problems in Faelor. It was all thanks to the mysterious Martin. The cardinal had caused him unfathomable losses, but he had also given him everything he wanted. He didn’t know just how to treat the man anymore, especially since Insight still refused to work on him.
Before leaving, Martin wanted to meet Richard in private. Richard allowed him and the archbishop to stay the night in Blackrose, arranging for some wine on the terrace so they could speak.
The two drank for a few minutes in silence, but Richard quickly got to the point, “You didn’t just happen to be at the cathedral, did you?”
“Of course not. I received an oracle telling me to make a trip to the Saint Louis Cathedral to wait for someone, and you’re the person I found there.”
Richard frowned slightly, “If you knew I was coming, why didn’t you station more troops? If you had 2,000 paladins there, I would have just retreated immediately.”
Martin flashed a teasing smile, “Do you really think my book was worth less than 2,000 paladins?”
This left Richard silent for a moment. Even with his flawless commands and the assistance of the Thinker, he had lost most of his knights in that battle. Anyone else would have been decimated. Sighing, he asked an important question, “How did you know that it was me?”
“Prophecies are an easy thing for gods,” Martin said directly.
“Impossible, you know the kind of people I brought with me,” Richard refuted him at once. The power of prophecies was strange and esoteric, and grew more difficult with the strength of an opponent. Even for someone like the Radiant Lord, it was difficult to pry into the power of fate which was beyond even the law of time. Even predicting an ordinary mage’s actions was difficult, and he had taken a number of powerful followers like Tiramisu, Asiris, and especially Mountainsea there. Predicting his movements was an almost impossible task, and even a successful prophecy would be extremely vague.
Even though Martin’s lies were exposed, he just threw his hands up without any awkwardness, “Indeed. The prophecy only told me that someone very important was coming to the Saint Louis Cathedral. I didn’t know who this person was or what they wanted to do.”
Looking at Richard’s brow wrinkling up, the cardinal suddenly sighed, “Richard, I advise you not to look down on any god, especially those of Norland. All of them were amongst the most powerful in the plane before they lit their godfires, and they have their own reasons to do so. The Radiant Lord is not the kind of deity you would see in a weaker plane.”
Richard nodded in understanding.
“Right. Make sure to harvest the divine crystals properly, don’t waste any of the divinity,” Martin cautioned.
Richard immediately frowned, “I don’t have any plans to become a god.”
“It isn’t a bad thing, but of course there are other uses for divine crystals as well. Those fools of the Church just don’t know the true value of what you chose.”
“And yet you let me take them.”
“It isn’t my loss, now is it? Anyway, we will meet again soon; at that time I hope you will remember my favour.”
“You want to be the pope?” Richard immediately saw through him, “The current pope isn’t all that old.”
“Not being old and not having long to live aren’t exclusive things. Besides, there are still other obstacles for me to face before I reach that level. I only hope for your help when the time comes.”
“Why?” Richard asked coldly.Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Translated By: Styles
Edited By: Theo
TLC'ed By: OMA