From the motion in the assembly that restricted him from becoming a duke for a year to Ward seeking his own death, Richard could feel a pitch-black net slowly constricting around him. This new enemy wasn’t transparent like the Mensas and Josephs, instead working from the shadows to harm his interests. However, the opponent’s plans definitely weren’t long-term; the restriction on becoming a duke would only last a year, so whatever big crescendo to this plan would have to come around then. Unable to predict their moves beforehand, he decided to play it by ear and counter their moves when they revealed themselves.
At the moment, he was dumbstruck by the sight of Ward’s command centre. The place was barely decorated, consisting only of weapons, armour, and the heads of local beasts. The man had lived in a small residence attached to the back, consisting only of two rooms and a bath. That place was crude and simplistic as well, completely unbecoming of a general who guarded an entire plane. Even some bandits would do better.
Ward didn’t have much personal wealth either. The most valuable things amongst his possessions were his equipment, but other than that he only had a few dozen gold coins on him. For someone who was used to dealing in the millions, this was a shocking level of poverty. Even with Gaton’s lack of funds, one of the thirteen being this poor made no sense.
He summoned the generals once more, learning that all of Ward’s income had been spent on defensive measures for the plane while a small portion had been sent back to his family. The equipment he used had been obtained from fallen enemies, so he was actually subsidizing their expansion into this plane with his own funds.
Richard took over the command centre after having a look through the castle and finding no good replacement, but he had some men seal up Ward’s former dwelling and put himself up in another bedroom in the castle. He had a mage load the current map of the plane into his own portable map table— something twice as accurate and ten times as expensive— and with the descriptions of the generals started to adjust it and mark a number of places.
The planar gate was situated on a vast plateau that was dry and relatively cold; it only rained two or three months a year, and there were few large trees that survived the place. Gaton had only seen a desolate wasteland with boulders all around when he first stepped foot in the place, which led to the name. The expedition didn’t believe that these highlands were the only part of the plane, but their scouts had already ventured thousands of kilometres out and found nothing else. If nothing, this plane was huge.
There were a number of native beasts and even intelligent beings here, all fighting over the most precious resource that was water. The gate had been constructed at the mouth of a natural spring and the city built around it, so it was constantly under attack by ferocious beasts, poisonous insects, and even the aboriginals of the plane. Most of the life forms here actually lived underground and could dig tens of kilometres in a single night, making them a huge headache for the troops who had almost no way to predict where they would jump up.
These tunnels had revealed one thing: the land was rich in high-quality iron ore. This ore could be used to smelt high-carbon steel which was the main component of most superior-grade equipment, and mining was already underway in an open-pit mine about three hundred kilometres away from the base. The vein was so large it could be mined for multiple centuries, but just like in the Goldflow Valley they would need manpower to really get the operation going. A path was under construction as well, and with the need for a good way to supply water one would need a large investment to start making profits.
Richard visited the mine and conducted some preliminary checks, determining that he would need at least three to four million gold to get the place properly operational. However, in the long run it would mean his regular soldiers and even the lesser elites would never be short on raw materials for their weapons and equipment. Considering the workshops he now co-owned with Noelene, his war machine would be unstoppable.
The Goldflow Valley to provide a constant supply of magic crystals, and the Boulder Highlands ensuring the army would always be supplied with high-quality equipment; the mysterious Resting Orchid Plane with treasures no powerhouse could resist, the peak of the Godnest holding an inestimable value. It was undeniable that all of Gaton’s planes complemented each other, capable of pushing the Archerons to great heights. However, they all had one common flaw: they would need an enormous sum of money as a seed investment, and strengthening the passages to sensible cost levels would require a number of offerings as well.
As luck would have it, Gaton’s one biggest weakness was wealth.
Richard sighed and dismissed the generals, closing the map to meditate. Quickly reaching his inner world, he saw that most everything was the same except for a new branch at the crown of the nature affinity trunk with some budding leaves. Once this was fully grown, the nature tree would experience a growth spurt and hit grade 5 as well; he didn’t know whether that would awaken a new truename like the astral tree.
Of course, this would be a long time in the future. While it seemed simple for the leaves to fully grow out, that needed the origin energy of a plane like the Forest Plane. However, such energy was extremely rare to come by and was needed by all of his affinities, not just one.
Two stars  and a huge chunk of planet were revolving around his bloodlines, the source energies that Richard could draw from. These three celestial bodies were a constant supply of energy to the well of stars, keeping his reserves high even if he didn’t actively meditate. As their number increased, he would need to spend less and less time meditating and could instead focus on other pursuits. However, the text of the Deepblue Dream stated that getting a number of these bodies was extremely difficult; one was alright and two wasn’t bad, but three and above depended a little on luck.
In fact, the so-called third body wasn’t even the actual star of the Forest Plane’s origin energy; it was only a boulder that had been ripped out by the Tree of Life that he managed to grab. Heading deep into the Deepblue Dream void, he flitted past spots of starlight and lumps of yellow earthly energy to find a muddy yellow star. The energy in this body was very common, but it was small enough for him to make an attempt on.
He immediately focused all of his attention on the star and gave it a pull, causing it to jolt and change its path as it flew towards him. Controlling it like he was pulling it by a string, he carefully led it back to his bloodlines. Allowing it to crash right into his blood vessels would likely be a disaster, but he couldn’t let it just escape as well.
The star flitted across his field of control, but despite a moment where it seemed like it would stick it bounced away and flew into the distance. He immediately reeled it back in and tried again, but the result was no different. His mental strength used up, he was left with no choice but to let it go. Resting for a moment and waiting for his soul force to recover, he went out and looked for another one and tried the same. Facing two more failures, he gave up for the time.
Analysing these attempts, he quickly realised that he would need to find a stable orbit before trying to pull in any new stars. With three bodies already orbiting his bloodlines, the force they exerted on any newcomers would destabilise them instantly, so he would need to take that into account when designing the path. Beginning on this path, he quickly realised it would take about a week to map out a full orbit for the fourth level and exponentially more for every level after.
He understood now why the text of the Deepblue Dream stated that one would need luck to grab more than three. However, that wording left him annoyed; just how much luck would one need to achieve that? He suddenly felt a strong sense of helplessness; perhaps there were more such secrets behind this meditation technique, but they would remain unknown.
The entire series had been taught to him by Sharon, and the text was completely in her style. If it wasn’t a book passed down from ancient times, then was it just that she was bad at math? Thinking about it carefully, Richard couldn’t bring himself to dismiss the possibility; Sharon had never even brought up mathematics in his presence, and all related subjects had been taught by the other grand mages.
 Stars and planets were considered the same thing in eastern Astrology, just to note.Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Translated By: Hestia
Edited By: Theo