Book 7, Chapter 57

Undercurrents

Raymond had started his governance of Bluewater with a treaty with the council and churches, coming up with a fifty-year plan for the city. This plan encompassed everything from expansion and landscaping to major military positions and everything in between. A map was hung in a small meeting room in the city hall that depicted the end of his plan, a physical representation of this agreement.

The city had immediately been embroiled in large-scale construction that began with the core district being rebuilt, also demarcating huge swathes of land for future developments. He had even built an auction house to serve as a hub of economy, reorganising the city greatly. Turning the once-messy oasis city into an exquisite garden was child’s play for someone of his calibre, especially with the basically unlimited money Richard made available to him.

A well-built internal garden city by the oasis was an alluring symbol of status, especially now that there was a strong separation between church and state. It looked like the city was still governed by a council, but all of those leaders were Richard’s friends or family that had been appointed with loyalty as a criterion; many of them had risked life and limb in the Bloodstained Highway project. With the army also stationed nearby, Richard’s own name was a guarantee of the core district’s safety.

When the first batch of wealthy retirees headed into Bluewater, Raymond collected an absurd amount of tax from them and reinvested most of the money back into the core district, improving sanitation, buildings, gardens, and even putting some dwarves on an enormous sewer project. The most supported of his measures was to have Richard’s own soldiers patrolling the interior of the city, ensuring the safety of the district. The residents could even pay higher taxes voluntarily to increase the number and pomp of the patrol. What better way to showcase one’s status within the Crimson Dukedom than to have the Crimson Duke’s personal cavalry patrolling at one’s front door?

Many nobles were even thinking of ways to marry into Richard’s family, despite few sightings of any blood relatives outside of the soldiers he employed. This was the biggest arena in the city right now, with the three churches and even other religions participating as well.

Raymond himself still lived in his little courtyard, but he also had an office in the newly constructed city hall. Formally he was General Andrieka’s chief aide, responsible for managing various miscellaneous affairs that didn’t require a report in the monthly council meetings. Of course, this also entailed affairs that were intentionally suppressed so word wouldn’t get out.

At this moment, he was talking to two elegantly dressed old men with imposing auras, both quite famous lords of their own countries. They had hidden their status as they personally snuck into Bluewater for opportunities, showcasing just how alluring the city now was.

Once he was done listening to their requests, Raymond smiled and nodded, “I’ll make sure to fulfil all of those requests. However, I do not have the authority to mobilise His Grace’s soldiers to act as guards specifically for your residences; I’ll make sure General Andrieka knows and the decision will be conveyed to you shortly.”

“We’ll leave you to it,” the two old men smiled and left.

A young lady who had been taking notes at a small desk raised her head and sneered, “They want Richard’s knights to guard them? They’re dreaming!”

This woman was absolutely beautiful, her presence enhanced further by a lofty aura that came partly from bearing and partly from her saint-level power. This was the First Princess of the Sacred Alliance, Reyna.

Once she had been ridiculed by Richard, Reyna had returned and evaluated her own worth. Considering her own strengths and weaknesses, she had eventually gifted him a batch of ten skilled mastersmiths that were capable at alchemy. Richard had put them into the Deepblue and Noelene’s factories to improve the processes, with a few even sent to Faelor to help out here. All of them knew their place and had proved extremely useful, capable of running workshops on their own; he had been quite satisfied with the gift.

Having reached a point where external purchases just couldn’t sustain his army anymore, Reyna’s token gift had been a huge boon. Combined with the supplies from Nyris, Agamemnon, Noelene, and the Deepblue, his expenditures had dropped considerably. After some consideration, he had decided to extend an olive branch; she had been snuck into Faelor to meet Raymond the moment Philip’s death was announced, serving both as a favour to her and a reward for Raymond’s service.

Reyna currently functioned as Raymond’s clerk and personal secretary, and in the span of the many months she had been here she had grown to love handling the trivialities of his life. Although this was incomparable to the life of luxury she used to live as a princess, just the occasional holiday left her in ecstasy. Very few people knew that she was a saint, and even fewer knew of her status, but she believed it was enough to be Raymond’s gentle and timid wife who enjoyed cooking desserts.

“This is Bluewater,” Raymond smiled, “Most of the people coming here are looking for wealth, not status. There’s no trust to speak of, and the only thing they value is business. Getting others to believe in one’s might is difficult, and those two just want to skip the line. A few cavalrymen guarding them is basically a stamp of Richard’s approval.”

“Oh… So you’re going to approve it?”

“Approve what? We need to think of our own worth as well, how could we give them what they want so easily? What I can do is get five squads and hold an auction, assigning them to the highest bidders. We can even go a few steps further, allowing them to pay to add their own family crests to our equipment alongside the apocalypse tree. Of course, everything gets put back up for auction every few years… let’s say three.”

Reyna’s eyes lit up, “So we have an easy way to identify the five most powerful families… Why not do a few more?”

“Supply and demand. We don’t need to rely on this to make money; in fact, I’ll channel the money back to them,” Raymond laughed and pointed out some parts of the map right next to the core district, “That’s where we’re earning.”

“So you’re giving them all this luxury to get others to buy in…”

“Exactly.”

As it approached dusk, Reyna packed up her documents and changed into ordinary clothing as she headed towards the market to choose a few strips of fresh yellow antelope meat. Raymond loved the soup she made from it, and she knew a fresh batch was coming in soon.

Raymond himself returned to his quiet courtyard, the once-bleak building now much more comfortable under her care. Two small gardens were tended to everyday, a docile golden dog lazing around in the last rays of sunset while newborn kittens were playing with each other nearby.

He sat down at a small stone table and spread out a sheet of paper before him, writing and drawing on it. Immersed in his work, he didn’t even react as a low buzz rang in the air and a hummingbird the size of one’s palm landed on his shoulder. The bird stabbed its sharp, needle-like beak into his upper arm with a single flesh, pumping some fluid into him before pulling out and flying before him.

Raymond felt a warm current spreading through his entire body to eliminate all of his fatigue, at the same time giving him an indescribable feeling of joy that made him think he was the king of the word. Moaning in satisfaction, he looked the hummingbird in the eye, “I’d get a dose every day if it wasn’t so bad for me… This thing is deadly, can you increase its addictiveness?”

“I can make it twice as addictive, until even saints cannot resist its lure. Why, can you not bear it anymore?” the hummingbird said in a sweet voice.

“It’s close to my limits. Since we are aware of the effects, you can take out the addictive bits when you give it to me in the future. I feel like the grassland plan can begin, how much can you make of this?”

“As much as you need.”

“A few dozen kilograms, then. Just make sure to add something that can push one’s life a bit further.”

“Extra nutrition will… triple the cost. Is there really a need?”

Raymond smiled again, “It would be worth it if the cost grew thirtyfold. I’m going to sell this sanguine for mountains of gold, but we need to make sure the people who can afford it live long enough to give us all their money.”

“Alright, you will have the sanguine tomorrow.”

“I’ll need some time to confirm the results.”

“I look forward to it.”

“Hehe… When have I ever let you down?”

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OMA's Thoughts

Translated By: Styles

Edited By: Theo

TLC'ed By: OMA