There was no ‘battle’ in Richard’s room, no work. He couldn’t hold it in any longer when he stepped in, falling down the moment he crossed the door.

He had been severely injured during the battle with the nightmare creatures, only barely pushing through. All the clerics had saturated him to the limits with healing spells, but there were still many hidden injuries to his internal organs and bones. The wounds that had been split open could only be closed off, needing many days of healing and rest to recover fully. However, he hadn’t waited a day before fighting Io.

This new battle hadn’t just torn open all his external wounds; his internal injuries had worsened as well. He had put on a brave front in front of his followers, but when his adrenaline receded he couldn’t take it anymore.

Flowsand sighed. Having fought by his side for so long, she naturally understood his physical conditioning. She didn’t panic, carefully laying him down and casting Restoration mixed with a preservation spell. Even though his body couldn’t absorb the divine power, wasting most of it, the two spells at least managed to stabilise Richard’s breathing and send him into a deep slumber.

She sat down on a chair and rested her elbow on the desk, reminiscing about her past with Richard. An unstoppable fatigue suddenly crept in as she lost herself in deep thought, eyelids growing increasingly heavy as her consciousness faded into a restful sleep. The cold war with Richard over the past few days had actually taken a toll on her state of mind, leaving her tired beyond belief.

However, it didn’t take long before Flowsand got up with a scream. She accidentally knocked onto a shelf behind her in the process, knocking a vase to the floor. The porcelain smashed into pieces with a resounding crash, revealing a black glow.

Flowsand’s heart shook. She stood up immediately to see better, and surely enough it was a black diamond rolling on the floor. She slowly exhaled, bounding over to pick up the gem. Upon closer inspection, she recognised it to be an image diamond.

She reached into a pocket, fishing out the image diamond Richard had given her. Two now rested in her palm, causing her to realise that Richard hadn’t only fought a single nightmare creature that night.

“This is… Crazy…” Looking at the still-sleeping Richard, she couldn’t bring herself to say anything else.


Lunchtime approached quickly. Richard’s magic clock started playing a melodic alarm, causing him to jump up immediately.

Richard shook his head with considerable force, only then realising that he had been on the floor but covered with a blanket. He saw Flowsand and flashed her a smile, turning towards the clock and exclaiming, “Damn it! I arranged to meet the nobles for lunch! Flowsand, come help me change!”

He had changed into a fresh set of clothes in a few minutes, but couldn’t mask the bruises on his face so quickly. Even spells couldn’t cover it all up, so he had no choice but to ignore it and make a dash to the lunch venue.

He had just taken his seat in the hall when tens of noble delegates entered in quick succession. Naturally, the highest-ranking amongst them was Viscount Zim. He didn’t need any welcoming, making his way to Richard’s side and sitting down without any prompting. Although Zim didn’t express any shock, the other delegates were clearly stunned by the bruises on Richard’s face.

Richard laughed merrily as he pointed to the wounds, “Someone tried to steal my woman, so I fought with him this afternoon. These are just badges of victory!”

The nobles in attendance showed expressions of illumination, their opinion of Richard increasing considerably.

Fights for love were common amongst the nobility. For a great mage like Richard to be unafraid of fighting like a common soldier immediately turned him into a sympathetic figure. All these delegates were titled knights at minimum, revering the traditional romanticism of the aristocracy.

The actual meal took little time; after all, they weren’t here for the food. Richard welcomed everyone and exchanged some pleasantries before bringing them to a command room with a map of the Bloodstained Lands.

“The Bloodstained Highway is a simple plan,” he got straight to the point, “We will start here and head west until we reach the Ashen Plateau, finding the dwarves. The primary goal is to act as a caravan, returning with the rich ores from the dwarven kingdom. Another level of reward will be to smash through all the obstacles in our way. Horse bandits, Red Cossack, Camp Kvensen, the Cracked Canyon, Blackflame Mountain… Anyone in our way we'll thoroughly destroy! The project will establish our absolute dominance in the Bloodstained Lands, wiping out any threat we may face and carving out a safe passage towards the dwarven lands.”

As they looked at Richard’s finger tracing across the map, the nobles couldn’t help but hold their breaths. This was a plan beyond madness! However, if it really could be executed, the rewards would be immense.

If all the nobles present could band together, this impressive feat wouldn’t be impossible. However, it would exercise half of the nobles in the Sequoia Kingdom. It was almost as though the entire country was going to war.

With how important this matter was, even the nobles who had thought Richard was a lunatic had sent their representatives to meet with him. They weren’t necessarily there to join the fight, just to act as good neighbours. Who knew what direction the spear would be pointed once an alliance was formed. It wasn’t like there was a lack of similar conspiracies in the past; just thirty years ago such a deep divide had taken place. These nobles were rendered speechless by such a crazy, enticing plan.

“Who will be leading the alliance?” someone broke the short silence.

Richard rested both hands on the meeting table, staring at him, “Me, of course. Do you have someone more capable in mind?”

A peculiar look appeared on the faces of many of those present. They knew Richard would want to lead this expedition, but they hadn’t expected him to be so direct. It didn’t seem like he had any plans to woo them over; there were no grounds for negotiation. This was completely unlike the traditional style these nobles were used to.

Although it seemed to be easy to suggest a better candidate, closer thought would reveal just how astounding Richard’s widespread achievements were. He had dealt heavy to the forces of Duke Grasberg, completely annihilating Viscount Zim’s powerful army and even killing Saint Odom. Any one of these feats would be worth years of bragging. Although these results weren’t one of a kind, they couldn’t be found by any of those present.

However, it was impossible ask for these nobles to give command of their armies to Richard willingly. The easiest parallel was with Salwyn’s command of the battle against Sinclair. Every family sent out a company under the command of one of their own, following Salwyn’s larger orders but doing what they deemed right in the end. These companies reserved the right to retreat when they saw fit.

Most of the nobles present wanted the exact same thing, for Richard to only be a commander in name. He was a mere frontier knight; many wanted to put someone of more repute and status in the lead.

Richard’s question was met with a momentary silence, but then it a surprising voice rang out, “I agree to let Sir Richard act as commander. I pledge 300 Golden Eagles, 400 Golden Sparrows, 100 heavy cavalrymen, and 2,000 footsoldiers to the expedition. The logistics and equipment will be taken care of on our end.”

Zim’s words immediately caused an uproar. It hadn’t been terribly long since the Viscount had battled Richard, losing his entire army as well as a significant portion of his family’s troops. Logically speaking, even if the Highland Unicorn wasn’t a sworn enemy of Richard’s, the two definitely couldn’t be bosom buddies.

Zim’s mere presence in Bluewater had been shocking in itself. Many nobles felt that if he wasn’t trying to wreak havoc here, he wanted to spy on Richard and prevent him from forming an alliance against his family. Nobody expected him to be the first to respond to Richard’s call. Not even the most seasoned of political veterans knew what was going on.

In fact, it wasn’t just them. Richard himself was greatly surprised; his blessing of wisdom had no immediate answer for Zim’s actions.

To him, the Viscount had always been a valuable enemy. Zim would definitely want to deal with him himself, and wouldn’t care for benefits at all. This untameable fellow would effectively stop any secret alliances being formed against him; the nobles wouldn’t want to become a target of both sides. He would thus be free to concentrate on the more open enemies.

It was very important for lords who were on the rise to have a clear idea of who their enemies were.

Of course, the Direwolf Duke’s bestowal of a title had definitely put things into motion that Richard had yet to understand. The enemies he faced were stronger than expected, the silhouettes of three earls slinking in the background. Fortunately, there hadn’t been any changes needed to his plans.

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