Book 6, Chapter 153

A Different Era

At this point, Richard’s field of view was inundated with countless trajectories that represented possible counter-attacks or dodges from Cyrden. Although it seemed on the surface like the thief had no chance in the fight, he was still withholding some power that could be used in a surprise attack. For the moment, both sides were evenly matched.

He took a deep breath, his veins starting to throb as lava flowed through them and boosted his powers. He hadn’t used Blaze in some time, but the ability strengthened Mana Armament and sped him up further. The number of trails he could visualise instantly halved, not a reduction in his prowess but an increase in the accuracy of his predictions. His attacks grew even more targeted and meticulous, sword only inches away from striking Cyrden’s body every time. Now, it was changing angles even in the last moment and throwing off the thief’s defence, not losing in speed even to the nimble daggers.

At one point, Cyrden was forced to raise both daggers to block towards his shin. Richard’s body sparked as he sent a burst of strength into Moonlight right before the clash, the resulting force so great that both the sword and daggers were sent flying into the sky.

Richard stood firm, immediately using one hand to grab the Twin of Destiny and hold it behind his back, “Don’t forget, I’m a mage.”

Cyrden’s expression soured as he glared at the dark wing on the Twin of Destiny. He knew that any high-level mage could cast spells even without their staffs, while he truly had no weapons left on him. It seemed rather strange for even an unarmed thief to be afraid of a mage at close range, but he could also see that there were two other hilts stuck into the sword case strapped to Richard’s back. There was no point closing in and there was even less of a point in trying to open up distance; any action he took would be courting death.

Left with no options, the thief hissed angrily and raised his hands, “There aren’t any mages like you!”

Richard had passed the test. Cyrden’s original plan was to accept Gaton’s son even if he lost so long as it wasn’t too bad— he wanted to figure out how strong Richard was— but the result of the battle had been completely contrary to his expectations. He had failed to steal anything, and had lost the ensuing fight as well.

Asiris knew that Richard hadn’t gone even nearly all out for this battle. Lifesbane, his greatest calling card, had been left unused; if it had, the fight would have ended in a single blow.

Richard smiled and completely ignored the thief’s protest; the only two classes of people in the Land of Dusk were survivors and corpses. Gaton and his thirteen were excellent at standard battles, but they had spent too much time on planar warfare to get such training.

…

Once they entered the command centre in the castle, Asiris activated a map and started explaining the terrain of Goldflow Valley. This was a strange plane made of countless fragments, some joined and the other separate. Some of the fragments flew in regular formations, only rising to surface level when they were nearby, while others remained floating in place for a long time.

The portal had been constructed in one of the stationary fragments that was about a hundred thousand square kilometres in area, but this was also one of the biggest ones. Like Richard had seen earlier, there were many fragments that were much, much smaller than that. Off the fragments themselves was an unknown void; once something dropped in there, it would slowly float away. Asiris guessed that this place was once a complete continent, but it had been broken apart by some kind of calamity that greatly strengthened the local populace. Those giants earlier weren’t even the strongest of the enemies.

“What about the planets up above? Can we fly to them?” Richard asked.

Asiris shook his head, “The void here is extremely dangerous, there isn’t any ambient energy at all. Once we leave the influence of gravity, it’s extremely dangerous even to get back to the fragment; going up should be impossible.”

Richard nodded, but he was still intrigued by the enormous celestial bodies in the sky. He changed topics to the magic crystal vein, being told that the aura was so dense below that only those at level 14 or over would be free of danger in such conditions. The void also seemed to be broken nearby, making the teleportation fees up to 10,000 gold a person. The warriors here had been transported in after a loan from the Deepblue, and it was nearly impossible to return. As for time scales, the plane worked at about thrice the rate of Norland. This was nothing special at all.

Goldflow Valley promised huge returns, but the investment it required was just as astronomical. Richard estimated that he would need at least one or two top-tier offerings to get the cost down to 3,000 gold or so, and finding level 14 warriors willing to become miners was another problem unto itself. These miners would also have to be well-trained, and the only alternative would be weaker yet skilled miners who were given better protective equipment. He estimated the equipment alone would be 20,000 gold a person or so in that case, which would scale to millions for a decent operation.

This was the block Gaton had faced as well, especially with his infamous poverty. His plan back then had been to gather all of his thirteen and a few rune knights to wipe out everything nearby. Richard himself had already decided to strengthen the passage and send a number of rune knights here first, having them act as guardians for the miners to follow. Gaton’s method was one of limited investment and limited results— he would have to return periodically to wipe out all enemies nearby. On the other hand, Richard’s was an enormous investment that would work in the long term. The two plans were completely different— one saving money and the other saving time— but this was also because of the circumstances of the individuals. Gaton didn’t have Richard’s money back then, and Richard right now didn’t have a force comparable to the thirteen knights. His followers were getting close, but be it in number or strength they weren’t yet on the same level.

Once he understood the basic situation in the plane, Richard stayed behind for a few days before returning. He took the time to understand the situation of the base itself, also using Devout Prayer twice a day. One was to heal Cyrden himself, while the other helped the wounded soldiers. Even with his enhanced healing capabilities, however, about a dozen or so of the warriors still ended up crippled and unfit for battle. There were another fifty or sixty such soldiers in the camp, all working on more benign tasks like polishing weapons, cleaning homes, cooking and the like. Not one of them had plans to return to Norland.

This was something that crushed Richard’s heart. He understood exactly why these warriors would rather stay in this strange plane than return to Norland; the transportation costs were just too high. Fifty wounded soldiers was 500,000 gold, an astronomical sum that Gaton could not afford. These soldiers would rather stay here so that Gaton could pay the families of their deceased comrades a pension.

The fourth day of his visit, Richard decided to return to Norland. Before leaving, he gathered all of the warriors, both active and former, in the plaza of the base. Here, he announced that all wounded soldiers could return to Norland at his expense, and every one of them would be entitled to an additional 10,000 gold so they could settle their families down. Back in Gaton’s time, ordinary warriors only earned a hundred gold if they were injured in battle, not nearly enough to last the rest of their lives. Now, even compared to the entire Sacred Alliance Richard was amongst the best.

The veterans couldn’t even believe what they had heard, just looking at Richard in a daze until he repeated himself. However, opposite to his expectations, nobody rejoiced loudly; some even had tears streaming down the corners of their eyes while others were trembling.

“That’s a million gold!” Cyrden muttered to himself.

“Times have changed, Lord Richard has a lot of money,” Asiris said softly.

“We still need resources and men! If we could use that money to…”

The thief didn’t go on, while Asiris sighed and remained silent. He understood Cyrden’s reasoning; he truly wanted these veterans to lead better lives, but he had refused any information about Richard and still didn’t know of the situation in the family. 500,000 gold was three years of military spending back then; if this sum was used to bolster the plane’s defences, a lot of the deaths could be avoided.

Richard glanced at Cyrden and smiled, “Don’t worry, I have equipment and men on the way.”

The thief snorted; not worrying was out of the question. Unlike Asiris who had followed Richard into battle several times, he had no idea of the scale of Richard’s wealth. This knight from Gaton’s era had no idea how much just one of Richard’s runes could command.

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OMA's Thoughts

Translated By: Styles

Edited By: Theo