Book 7, Chapter 17

Danger

The requirement for a ducal title had been placed during the founding of the Sacred Alliance, used as a safeguard to protect the royal family and their most powerful supporters from lesser nobles grouping up to sway the vote. Ever since the Alliance had established its foothold in Norland and reached a relative balance, the positions of the various floating islands had gradually been filled up with those deserving of such honour. At this point, a family without a duchy had no hope in Faust.

However, the Archerons were seemingly born to create miracles. A marquess had upended Faust’s order entirely, and his titleless son had only furthered their dominance and taken out many actual dukes from the ruling class. Under normal circumstances, as the eldest son of a true marquess, Richard would only be granted an honorary title as earl.

So Canaan and the Silversword Family were backed by those supporting Neil or Ryan. There were only fourteen families of Faust; with Richard’s guaranteed vote removed, Nyris quite possibly could lose the throne. Whoever played this hand was an unscrupulous politician.

Richard seemed calm on the outside, but his mind was racing as he replayed the reactions of every single noble in the room. Some of the nobles were surprised by Emperor Philip’s decision to use a vote instead of choosing his heir himself, which immediately ruled them out. Many of the others had looked to their close allies first, but there were some including Duke Anan and the Ironblood Duke who had looked at him instead. Both of them were explainable; the Anans were closely tied to the Archerons while the Ironblood Duke seemed to have a bit of pity to his stare, but amongst the rest was Duke Mensa.

He focused on that particular glance and replayed the few moments over and over again, all but confirming that this was the man behind the scenes. Even if not directly pushed by the Mensas, Earl Fenlier had certainly been influenced by the old man.

He wanted to sneer; if Nyris did lose the throne by one vote, he would find any excuse he could to crush the Mensas outright. Even if he couldn’t come up with a reason, he would attack anyway, the Alliance be damned. If the old coot still dared to stab him in the dark, then he would have to face the consequences of that decision.

Richard was someone who was fierce against his enemies, not showing mercy or backing off, but even so people were still plotting against his family. At this point he knew one thing; the day he didn’t decimate every single threat, they would suddenly group up and sacrifice him for their own ploys. If he so much as turned his attention away for a second, they were prepared to stab him from behind.

Gaton’s way of dealing with such provocation was quite simple; he would beat the offenders up again and again and again until they had no choice but to submit. His own plan was the same; sometimes, barbaric violence was the solution to the problem.

As hushed whispers rang through the room, Philip motioned for everyone to quiet down, “There’s a third thing as well. Messengers from the Sacred Tree Empire and the Millennial Empire have arrived at Faust to discuss the garrison of the fortresses in the Land of Dusk.”

“So quickly?” someone asked softly.

“Those at my level have a certain amount of resonance with each other. When my final efforts to recover failed, they must have sensed it. That was why Hidden Sword battled Duke Orleans.”

The round table went silent once more. They had relied on the Emperor’s overbearing might to occupy the Fort of Dawn, and right now they could barely maintain the situation. It was clearly impossible to hold two fortresses all by themselves, and the two other empires had come to discuss assistance.

However, these other empires wouldn’t just aid in the defence without compensation. A tacit understanding had been reached over the years that large-scale bloodshed in Norland was pointless, and so the Land of Dusk was used as an alternative arena to determine the breakdown of interests. The greater one empire’s performance, the more the rest would be subdued in negotiations.

When Philip had taken the Fort of Dawn, both the Millennial Empire and Sacred Tree Empire had immediately withdrawn from many disputed areas along the borders. Several planes they were fighting over were given up as well. All in all, the Alliance benefitted to the tune of tens of millions of gold every year. However, with Philip gone and Rundstedt dismissed, they would have no choice but to give up a fortress. The Millennial Empire had clearly tested the waters already, so there was no telling how much they wanted to wring out.

Duke Turing softly tapped the table and frowned, “We need to keep hold of at least one of the fortresses, this is the bottom line. I suggest we try to call out to the legends of our families and see if any of them are willing to return; we need at least two who are willing to head to the Land of Dusk to stabilise the situation. If they’re not particularly good at combat, we might even need three.”

This advice only caused everyone to frown. It was difficult to get in touch with legendary beings who were off exploring the myriad planes, and even if one could very few were willing to play the boring role of guardian. Most such powerhouses were extremely independent and had little attachment to their families and country; their driving goal was to command the power of laws. They might return if Norland itself was in crisis, but the possible loss of land disputes was beneath them.

Even if all that could be solved, the Alliance still had to pay them. A legendary being’s services for years if not decades did not come cheap, and would impair even the royal family. And even if one could call them back eventually, the messengers of the other empires were already here. How would one manage to actually get everyone back in time?

Sitting on the sidelines, Richard quickly realised many of the families had other reservations as well. Quite a few did have methods to contact their ancestors and patriarchs, but they didn’t have such great devotion to the Alliance that they would sacrifice the foundation of their families. Even legendary beings could die in the Land of Dusk, and such a loss would immediately destroy any of the fourteen. It was quite established that there were many families here without honour, and they would certainly make a move on the weakened group.

Even facing an existential crisis, this loose union could not unite. Everyone cared about their own interests, unlike the Millennial Empire that was united under Gelan or the Sacred Tree Empire that was united by religion. Of course, this was what all of them wanted; this independence that was the bane of the Alliance was the reason they participated in it in the first place.

The eventual decision was nothing at all. Everyone just agreed to look at just how much the two empires would want before looking at what they would do.

……

All the way back from the royal island to his own, Richard couldn’t shake off the gloom. Having been in the Land of Dusk for half a decade, he knew exactly what an epic being was; these were the pillars of a country, even an entire plane. No number of saints could go up against them, and many legends would have to gang up and rely on strategy to kill them. Only epic beings could fight epic beings, and without a large number to deter the Daxdians Norland would quickly be facing its own demise.

With Emperor Philip leaving the stage, the roof had caved in and the sky was being overturned. Richard felt an unbearable pressure upon him, but he had no idea what to do. The entire family didn’t have a single legendary powerhouse within it; there was nobody he could send to man a fortress.

Fortunately, he had listened to Noelene’s advice and gotten Nasia. While she was only level 16 and could perhaps defeat saints at best, her War Fanatic ability was extremely helpful in battle. Both he and Tiramisu would instantly be able to match up against a legendary being under its effect, and Waterflower would also be able to hold off as well. If push came to shove, he had some way to fight back.

But the most depressing of all was Nyris. Now that he knew of the Fourth Prince’s problems, many oddities suddenly made sense. The gap between Nyris and Agamemnon upon entering sainthood could now be explained properly; the latter was using all his might, while the former wasn’t. He quickly recalled that he had never noticed Nyris using his saint ability once in combat, and from what the Emperor had disclosed today this was because he was unsure and reluctant to do so.

This was the worst case scenario, and had a much greater impact than a mere change in the type of people one liked. A powerhouse at these levels could not afford to doubt themselves and hesitate; one needed to hone their abilities at all times. Refusing to use one’s bloodline didn’t just stop growth, it also slowly withered away one’s bloodline and could even lead to mental problems with the pent up stress.

However, if even the most powerful being in the Alliance that was Nyris’s father himself could not guide him, Richard was completely powerless. All he could do was order his men to remain on high alert and transfer more rune knights to Faust, bringing their number to a hundred. He had to focus on improving himself as quickly as possible in anticipation of the worst.

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OMA's Thoughts

Translated By: OMA

Edited By: Theo

TLC'ed By: OMA