Book 7, Chapter 53

Behind The Scenes

Richard had no choice but to put the issue with Venica aside for the moment, waiting for any potential follow-up. Years of war and recent political events had shown him that there were no coincidences, only conspiracies. The love-addled Venica was perhaps the only one who could believe this was all an accident.

The couple had quietly snuck into his core storage area and blocked the magic alarms, but Lucian himself was only level 12. A smile of annoyance crept up Richard’s face; he hadn’t altered the seals on the family castle, so Venica still had the same rights as himself. Just who had noticed this detail and made use of it?

The loss of the magic soul would leave anyone enraged, but it was impossible to recover right now. If only Nyra was around… He suddenly shook his head, forcing out an image of Flowsand from his mind; he had to stay on track. The magic soul itself could only be an accident, even he couldn’t have foreseen it. Lucian had to be trying something else. It brought back memories of Ward and the currently-departed Asiris; a malicious gaze was locked onto the Archeron Family in the haze.

He had to admit that the bard was a great actor. Outside of the flash of killing intent during their first contact, Lucian hadn’t exhibited a single hint of strange behaviour at all. His innocent expressions would cause anyone to pity him, the respect and regret he showcased all seeming genuine. Even Richard would have been fooled if he wasn’t paying attention.

For some reason, he remembered when he’d first seen Venica a few days after his mother’s death, and then the banquet where he had properly been integrated into the family. She had been just like the other Archerons, full of ambition and a thirst for power, but now she could sell off her own clan for a young bard at the same pitiful level as her. However, this was her own choice; since she was already an adult, she would bear the consequences of that decision.

The entire scenario was rather similar to the one with Raymond Joseph and Princess Reyna. The so-called Mage of Soremburg who thirsted for the truth could lie without so much as a hint, sometimes even believing those fibs himself.

Everything came back to the same problem: inexperience. Richard could absolutely have done more in regards to governing the family, but without someone to point him in the right direction he hadn’t realised Gaton’s system wouldn’t work anymore. Then again, perhaps it never had; the Archerons had just been so busy expanding that they didn’t pay attention to internal affairs.

The Empress was actually a very good example in this regard; even though she was overbearing and tyrannical, her decisions still made logical sense. Whereas she had already forced any possible threats out of the royal island, he still hadn’t separated himself from his own siblings. They were still core family members in the line of succession, and even when he had children they would still share some right to inheritance. Compared to that, not changing the blood seals was insignificant; after all, there were only four siblings with such rights and Warren was dead. With Wennington fighting wars and Demi following around on his own conquests, Venica had truly been the only chink in the armour.

Even with this betrayal, it was difficult for him to punish her adequately. As a sister with equal rights of inheritance instead of a daughter, being harsh would only give more ammunition to his enemies to incite dissent in the family. Olar was perhaps the only one who could handle these kinds of situations, but the bard had to push his limited talent as far as he could to become a saint. At the same time, Olar was one of his few subordinates who was also a great leader.

He was starting to think war was the easy part of being a noble; it was the political struggles outside the battlefield that were a real pain to deal with. Snapping himself out of his musing, he massaged his temples for a while before jotting down everything he had to do and organising a paper schedule. This was something he’d rarely done since his days in the Deepblue where he had to follow a rigid schedule.

He first arranged to send Noelene 100,000 gold in magic crystals as payment for establishing an information network. It wasn’t a good idea to rely too much on the Church, but right now he had no choice. He also started a series of visits; outside of the Mensas who he had marked for eventual death, he spent some time at the homes of every single major family in Faust. Although this seemed to yield nothing substantial— he didn’t even talk about much— it signalled that the Archerons were willing to work with the rest.

The next few days would be spent devising his plans for the future. The assembly had been locked in heated debate ever since the bloodbath at the City of the Unsetting Sun, and with all the recent humiliation they had stopped lazing around and gotten to work formalising the duties of every family in Faust in the battlefields of despair. The ruling clearly stated that every family that controlled a floating island would have to earn ten points of battle achievements every year.

A single point could be earned in many ways; any ordinary saint of Daxdus was considered worth a point, while the skaven were worth a third and the more powerful beings graded correspondingly. This seemed simple, but once one considered the fact that Norland was losing three times as many saints as Daxdus, this was effectively giving up thirty ordinary saints a year. This time-scale was even in the local time of the Land of Dusk, so it was more on the scale of every month and a half.

Naturally, nobody was insane enough to do such a thing. There were other ways to gain points, including strategy, construction, resources, and even transportation. Although such jobs were long and drawn-out, they were at least safe. The wealthy families could even purchase achievements directly, the stable rate about 100,000 gold for a point. While the formal requirements had been instated recently, the point system itself had been followed for quite some time; many powerful independent saints sold off their slain Daxdians for gold and resources. Of course, they also kept the valuable materials from the corpses.

Richard had accumulated a massive number of points over the five years he had spent in the Land of Dusk, but these points were only valid for two years and would soon reset. This was to prevent a family’s legend from going on a killing spree for a while to let them rest on their laurels for decades; everyone had to make a consistent contribution.

He thought of buying the points directly, but there were a considerable number of planes under him that required investment to start yielding returns. Basically everything outside of the Resting Orchid Plane and Forest Plane needed infrastructural improvements, while the Resting Orchid Plane needed a permanent contingent alongside Senma just to ensure Stardragon didn’t destroy the portal.

Considering everything for a while, he decided to prioritise Faelor once more. With the threat of these unknown reapers from the Doomsday Imprint, he had to take as much from it as he could in the short term. He thus put thirty rune knights and a hundred shadowspears each in the Boulder Highlands and Goldflow Valley to hold the fort. Nyris and Agamemnon could take care of the shattered Forest Plane, while Senma’s current army could keep Stardragon at bay as well. With another fifty left behind to stop any counter-attacks from the Sacred Tree Empire so Alice could spend some time improving herself, he would bring the remaining 150 rune knights and all of his free followers for another push in Faelor.

At the same time, Richard decided to start publicly recruiting knights and potential rune knights who were beyond level 14. The core base of his soldiers, all the free Archerons, were starting to get exhausted and he had no choice but to look outside the family for more.

……

While Richard was deploying for a huge war in Faelor, the royal family of the Sacred Alliance was trying to make a show of happiness and prosperity.

The very day after Emperor Philip’s funeral, Empress Apeiron finally finished her own ascension ceremony. It was an extremely simple affair that only called for the representatives of the various families to share a meal, and even the lunch was far below Philip’s standards with only two main courses and some wine that even some barons could outdo. On top of that, a dinner charge was levied upon the guests by the new minister Julian, acting as a congratulatory gift for Her Majesty.

The lunch didn’t even last that long, with Apeiron only showing herself for fifteen minutes before going away. Once she was gone, the other nobles didn’t stick around much longer. The entire thing lasted half an hour, almost the same duration as Philip’s funeral.

Observing the decisions of his peers, Richard ended up offering a moderate gift of 300,000 gold to serve as the so-called dinner charge. On his way back to his island, a rough calculation told him that the nobles present had paid up about four million gold in total; in addition to the million she saved from not having a grand ceremony, Empress Apeiron had basically saved five million gold in the royal treasury. This wasn’t a lot of money to him, but it definitely wasn’t a small amount even for the royal family.

Perhaps the Empress was less lazy and more frugal?

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OMA's Thoughts

Translated By: Styles

Edited By: Theo

TLC'ed By: OMA