Book 6, Chapter 146

Glory And Interests

The Archerons had always been upstarts, but Gaton’s rise was very different from Richard’s own. Gaton had started from nearly nothing and acquired a marquessate by show of force, his army growing at an unprecedented rate that hearkened back to the founding years of the three human empires. However, just as famous as Gaton’s growth was his poverty; even a common rune knight serving the other families of Faust lived more comfortably than the thirteen knights. Gaton himself wasn’t much better.

On the other hand, Richard’s era was completely different. He placed more emphasis on equipment, supplies and logistics, shoring up Gaton’s deficiencies and even overcompensating. In only years the beggarly Archerons now stood on equal footing with the other major families of Faust, with their elites being treated even better than by some of the other families of the floating islands. Richard was pouring gold into his army of fierce warriors, and they were quickly turning from a frightening enemy to a terrifying one. His father’s strength had been combined with his money to form an elite force that was second to none.

All this was founded on Richard’s unparalleled talent in runecrafting. His followers were growing into their own, while he had established a close relationship with the Church of the Eternal Dragon and received its support on numerous occasions. The other families couldn’t even complain of favouritism; every month Richard seemed to be at the altar with a sacrifice, which meant the Church was certainly earning a lot from him. Other churches would have gone even further than just friendship, taking similar routes to the three goddesses in Faelor.

Such quick rises always had their flaws. The term “lack of foundation” wasn’t empty; all power without foundation was like a castle built with sand that could collapse with the first wave. Gaton had relied on his own charisma and the miracles he generated to propel the Archerons forward, but this couldn’t last long. Disputes would be suppressed when one was on the winning side, but they would erupt all at once the moment the streak was lost. When Gaton died in the Rosie Plane, the Archeron Family had completely disintegrated. Every clown in the family jumped out to try and get a piece of the pie, causing chaos everywhere. The Archeron island itself had been the site of an insurgency.

If Alice hadn’t kept the situation under control long enough for Richard to return and take over, the Archeron island would have been taken away. Families like the Mensas or Josephs, on the other hand, had strict protocols in place for the selection of an heir. Some foul play was bound to occur, but it wouldn’t be as blatant and humiliating as a revolt. All traitors were routinely rounded up and beheaded alongside their families, seeping the family name in blood to give it strength.

Even now, Gaton’s death still had its after-effects. The remaining knights were immediately half-freed, and Ward the Boxer still refused to recognise Richard’s inheritance. The situation overall was now stable, but Richard’s own death would destroy it all in days.

Richard’s rise had its own problems as well. His strengths were more obvious than his father’s, but so were his glaring weaknesses: there weren’t many powerful beings in the family yet, and Richard himself owned very little territory in Norland. Even counting Azan, he barely had enough for a marquessate; this was far away from a dukedom.

The Archeron Family had made a number of enemies in every step of its expansion. Half of the fourteen families hated their guts, and while the most powerful royal family and Orleans Family had a good relationship with him, this relationship wasn’t very deep. Few of the other smaller families in Faust had any goodwill for them either.

Even the internals of the family weren’t so great. It was public knowledge that both Marquess Sauron and Earl Goliath were independent from the main family, and while Alice and Richard shared a close relationship she was an ally and not a vassal. Even if she wanted to pledge her lands to count towards his own, her own subordinates would object. Even a lord couldn’t transfer their territories as they wished.

When Richard returned to Faust, he immediately cooped up in his study and began reading on the history of the Sacred Alliance, trying to get a handle on the current situation. There was no doubt that the assembly discussing his dukedom was a conspiracy, but he still didn’t understand why.

The aristocratic system had been developed over thousands of years, forming a rather rigid code of rights and requirements that many groups depended on. Richard wasn’t crazy enough to challenge the system itself, an act that was equivalent to declaring war on all nobles. However, he had always forsaken any expansion in Norland for the sake of more profitable developments in Faelor where the broodmother was located; although territory in Norland was significant, it was more of symbolic value than practical.

However, the assembly had put this very symbolism to the test.

The book Richard was reading was called The Birth of Noble Glory, a rather gritty account of how the system of aristocracy in Norland was formed. Nobles didn’t hesitate to fight for family glory, even waging war to avoid humiliation. Glory was an extremely important thing when the empires were first founded, serving as a banner to which the people flocked. Many intense battles in the past often saw the nobles charging in first, knights from birth that exemplified the prestige of their family names. Those who survived attracted soldiers and grew their might, gaining influence over expanding territory.

Millennia ago, nobles weren’t allowed to desert the army even in the most desperate of situations. Their glory was what brightened the family’s banner; their flesh and blood were what gave rise to the fiefdoms of their families.

Things had changed once the empires were fully established. Glory inevitably faded when generation after generation was born with a silver spoon in the mouth, and the battlefield of choice had shifted to the political arena. Honourable war was replaced with conspiracies, assassinations, and gossip. Most noble children today lived off the foundations of their ancestors, only looking for wealth and privilege instead of their own responsibilities.

Fortunately, Norland was still a war-torn continent where power meant nearly everything. The system of nobility in the Sacred Alliance just lacked the strength to maintain its operation; when Gaton fell, the Archerons would have been cleared out of Faust if Richard hadn’t lifted the family up on his own two shoulders. In a more stable country like the Millennial Empire, a situation like his would have been much more peaceful even if damaging.

There was a simple solution to the assembly’s attempts: leveraging his identity as the royal runemaster to have himself made an honourary duke. There would still be hue and cry about it— it wasn’t the “proper” way— but regulations that weren’t specifically defined could always be bent to one’s will. However, Richard would rather just be an earl than have such a humiliating title. In fact, he didn’t care even if he couldn’t become a duke; his sacrifices ensured the island couldn’t be touched for six months, and by that time he could track down the offender and destroy them.

Laws were laws. Continuing to occupy an island without becoming a duke would be an enormous insult, and this assembly would paint him as a commoner sitting on a noble’s throne. It would harm his reputation significantly, but that was the extent of the damage. There would be no actual losses to bear.

But was that really the case? Richard closed the book and looked back at the title: The Birth of Noble Glory.

Glory was a complicated thing. Mishandling the situation wouldn’t just damage the family’s already-poor reputation; there would be a number of hidden losses that couldn’t be calculated directly. Richard himself wasn’t one to negotiate with families that lacked credibility and were known for flouting the rules just for profit. Sometimes, intangibles had more say in decisions than cold hard facts.

Now, there were many gazes focused on the Archeron Family.

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OMA's Thoughts

Translated By: OMA

Edited By: Theo