“Elaborate,” Richard told the old steward.
“The Deepblue is our biggest extra expense and is growing rapidly; reducing your research grants to them will certainly help the financial situation. As for the Boulder Highlands and Goldflow Valley, both were acquired a short time before Master Gaton went missing. But even at that time, Master Gaton expected a million gold from each of them after deducting your tuition fees. Overall, they should have been earning two million gold each. But now, the Boulder Highlands have no income at all and the Goldflow Valley needs an investment of a million gold instead of earning money. That is five million gold in difference that we stand to earn. However, I have no idea of the military situations in those planes.”
Richard nodded, “I can’t really give up on anything in the Deepblue, but I’ll think about the Boulder Highlands and Goldflow Valley. You may leave.”
Once the butler retired, he stared at the map for a while before beginning to meditate. A few hours later, he called over a messenger and asked him to summon Asiris from Goldflow Valley.
Asiris was very quick to respond, appearing in Richard’s study the very next afternoon.
“Is there anything you require of me, my Lord? The messenger did not apprise me of the situation,” Asiris asked politely. In terms of etiquette, he was the best of the thirteen and never disappointed.
“Sit.” Richard pointed to the sofa in front of him, having a maid serve some black tea and close the door on her way out. He started tapping a thick book on his table, staring at the Dark Priest.
Asiris just smiled, maintaining his soft expectation for minutes on end. Priests naturally had a great deal of patience, and while Richard could be patient when it was needed he was also someone who valued his time greatly. It would take a week for Asiris to budge, so he ended up conceding and asked what was on his mind, “How does my military strength compare to my father’s time?”
Asiris opened his mouth to answer, trying to ignore the tiny sparks coming from Richard’s fingers whenever he tapped, “In terms of core elites, you are only slightly weaker. Your rune knight army is far superior to his, while the general armies are roughly equal. In addition, you have special resources that he did not have access to.”
“So my power is no worse than my father’s at his peak?”
“One could say that, yes.”
Richard nodded and began to think, Asiris quietly giving him space. It took minutes before he lifted his head again, “Let’s find a time for me to enter Goldflow Valley, hmm?”
A sharp glint flashed across the Dark Priest’s eyes, but he bowed low, “It would be an honour. The plane is yours, after all.”
Richard nodded, lifting his finger off the Book of Holding, “Thirteen knights have now dwindled to a mere four, with another one missing somewhere in the abyss; I hope you guys can continue to help me like you did my father, and I can promise you even greater rewards.”
Asiris was slightly stunned, but he maintained his smile, “I am honoured.”
Looking at his attitude, Richard’s brow furrowed before relaxing once more, “Once the trouble in the assembly is dealt with, I’m going to the Boulder Highlands as well. What do you think of that?”
Asiris’s expression finally warped for a moment, “That… is how it should be.”
Richard sighed, “The Boulder Highlands were a private plane left by my father. I have given more than enough time for Ward to make his decision, and it’s time for him to make a stand. He’s free to leave the family, but the family’s planes and soldiers are not his to command. It would be best if he was willing to stay; but he will need to talk to me about that. If he wants neither, I’ll be going there armed.”
Asiris sighed, “I will try to persuade him.”
“Please do, I want to resolve our internal troubles as quickly as possible. We’ll be at war soon, and I can’t afford generals unwilling to obey my commands.”
Sending Asiris away, Richard called the old steward back once more, “Do you remember the branch families that refused to obey after Gaton?”
“Of course, my Lord.”
“Hmm…” Richard took a few steps around the room before stopping, “Sift through them and list those who are likely to betray us again or committed crimes too serious to forgive. I expect it by tomorrow, it’s time to pull out the weeds.”
The man felt his hair stand on end, but he still bowed and nodded before getting waved away. He shivered the moment the study door closed, almost fainting on the spot. The sheer killing intent Richard had been oozing when he asked for the list almost left him incontinent in his old age.
Richard didn’t sleep that night, reading history books of Norland all the way into the early hours of the morning. Only when a frail figure placed breakfast at his table did he even look up from his books, casting a questioning gaze, “Coco?”
“Y-Yes, my Lord,” Coco tried to be as polite as she could. Even though Richard wasn’t particularly gruff, she couldn’t even raise her head to look at him; it felt like she was facing an ancient beast.
Richard quickly realised what was wrong and suppressed his aura, letting her relax. While he wasn’t particularly murderous right now, a quick look told him that she was still only level 4; her talent was abysmal. He sighed and asked, “Why are you still here, is your father alright?”
“Father is doing well, he’s stopped gambling entirely,” Coco answere softly, hesitating as she moved on to his other question, “And… I’m here because… I’m your… mate…”
“Heh,” he shook his head, “I’ve been reading too much last night, the books have left me confused. Tell you what, next time I’m back I’ll arrange for a time when you can come to my room.”
The shy girl’s eyes lit up immediately and she nodded hard.
Looking at Coco departing from the study, Richard couldn’t help but shake his head. This girl had been caught in the crossfire of his vengeance on Gaton. She didn’t have status, blood, or talent, but he had ripped her away from the man she loved just to spite his own father. It had changed her family’s destiny, but certainly not for the better. Now, he couldn’t bring himself to abandon his original decision; he would fulfil her duties before letting her choose the next steps in her life.
A few hours later, he left Faust and returned to Faelor. Ten days later, exactly one day vefore the monthly meeting of the assembly, he brought back five Mana Armaments and cleared his debts in one fell swoop. It served to oversaturate the market a bit, but he could always sell to the other empires if he was in a pinch.
The next morning, a melodious bell rang through the city of miracles to proclaim that the assembly of lords had been convened. As the patriarch of one of the fourteen families, Richard took Rae and Waterflower. Rae was calm and practical, with his Savage Barrier rune set being perfect for a guardian. As for Waterflower, she looked normal on the outside but anyone with actual power would see that she was a sky saint assassin. He himself had songs written about his achievements in the Land of Dusk; there would be no one willing to threaten him.
The assembly hall was chaotic for an entire half hour after the meeting formally began, quibbling over the most mundane of issues before Baron Canaan stepped on stage. The nobles immediately went quiet, knowing that the main highlight of today’s show was upon them.
As a member of the sixth level families, Richard sat near the head of the round table in the middle of the hall and could see Canaan from up close. However, his eyes were half-closed as though he was sleeping, not paying attention at all.
“The floating islands of Faust are a symbol of glory, of the grace of the Eternal Dragon. In the long history of Faust, only true nobles have had the qualifications to establish their families on these islands….” On stage, Canaan began an impassioned speech, digging into a thousand years of history to demonstrate his point: only a duke could match the glory of the sixth layer of floating islands.
“…. How many great names have been associated with these islands? One can easily find a pattern to it all. Is it a coincidence? I think—”
“Haaaaaaaa….” The speech was interrupted by a bored yawn.Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Translated By: OMA
Edited By: Theo