This very afternoon would be time for the cardinals to meet and discuss their stance on Richard’s movements. Busquets steeled himself and got a bowl of clear water, dipping a finger into it and writing Richard’s words down on the table. Staring at them, he racked his brains over and over until the water dried, at which point he dipped his finger in and wrote once more. This occurred more than ten times before he understood the full implication of those words, barely able to suppress his shivering.
Taking out some black bread and finishing it off alongside the rest of the water, the new cardinal finished up his lunch. With some time left till the meeting, he closed his eyes for a short nap; he would face an arduous battle very soon.
The bed was made of hardwood, and the jute sheets were rough and uncomfortable. However, this simple lifestyle was what drove away Busquets’ hesitation and fear. Deep at night, when he felt bewildered and confused, it was what gave him purpose.
The meeting began right on time at three in the afternoon, all of the cardinals having arrived on time and taken their seats before the pope’s aide rang the bell. The crushing defeat during their previous war against Richard was still etched into the minds of everyone present, the loss of nearly an entire kingdom’s worth of parishes still hurting Neian to this day. Now, years later, the Crimson Dukedom had become a tremendous weight bearing down on the throat of the Church, one that many believed could only be rid of through battle.
Surprisingly, right at the start of the meeting, the normally low-key Cardinal Busquets was the first to stand up. This was extremely rare, but whenever he had done so he had normally been right. The cardinal’s eyes flashed with determination as he spoke, “I believe we are not Richard’s target this time….”
Busquets had spent hours thinking of the argument he would use, but convincing the pope to decide opposite to the opinions of everyone else would require a long and intense debate. The meeting went from afternoon to deep in the night, lasting until the first rays of dawn the next morning. Even though each of the cardinals was quite powerful, they were all exhausted by the end.
Eventually, Busquets won out. The pope decided to stay neutral in the upcoming war, but the Church would still stay on guard just in case. When announcing his decision, he mentioned that this wasn’t based on logic but out of trust in the new cardinal.
With less than three days till Richard’s deadline, the capital of the Iron Triangle Empire was in an uproar. The Emperor and all of his ministers had been meeting together everyday for nearly a week now, but they hadn’t come to any sort of conclusion.
These discussions were all centred around the three requirements that Richard had made known: firstly, Salwyn had to be handed over, swearing by the gods to be loyal to the Crimson Dukedom; secondly, any organisations related to the Red Cossacks were to be purged from the Empire, their leaders brought to trial and handed over to Richard; thirdly, the Goddess of Time, Runai, was to be declared unwelcome within the Empire and Richard was to be given the right to send his elites to destroy her churches.
Every single one of these requirements were difficult to accept, but they did make it clear that the Empire wasn’t the target of Richard’s impending assault. At the thought of the flood of steel that would soon be upon them if they refused, however, even the staunchest of warmongers would go silent. Agreeing to these requests would erode away all dignity and authority, but disagreeing could mean their demise.
Salwyn had been summoned back urgently to consult with. He was one of the few who was firmly for fighting Richard, but despite his t
Within Bluewater, Richard had gathered his forces and finally managed to complete the Crimson Inferno. While he was still working out how to combine the rune with the rest of his own, an unexpected visitor broke his train of thought.
“Boss!” This was Zim’s first word after seeing Richard, leaving him with a chill down his spine. Few people amongst his followers called him boss, and even Medium Rare wasn’t joined by Tiramisu in doing so. For this word to come from the fair and delicate Zim made it a little hard to accept.
He calmly sidestepped the fanatic who had pounced towards him, but even as he fell to the ground Zim crawled up with an enormous smile on his face, “You’ve gotten stronger, Master!”
As he tried to drown out the flattery that followed, Richard scanned Zim over and couldn’t help but feel surprised by Zim’s strength. He couldn’t help but feel rueful over the strength of the unicorn bloodline; just by sleeping for a decade, a piece of trash had become a saint. Even within Norland, this would be one of the best.
Zim was adamant on becoming a warrior on the frontlines, but that caused Richard to laugh. The Viscount might have the power of a saint, but his experience was basically nonexistent. Even a level 12 Nasia would probably cut him up in two or three attacks. Still, having another saint was good; there was no lack of enemies to fight when under his banner.
As he was about to agree, however, the broodmother cut in, “Master, I sense something exceptionally sweet in Zim’s body. His bloodline will be very useful, could you lend him to me for a few days? Don’t worry, I just need a bit; I won’t harm him or reduce his life force, and it won’t affect his future growth.”
“Heh, you want to use him like Zangru? He can’t take it.”
“I’ll be gentle!” she said softly.
After some discussion, Richard eventually agreed that Zim would be helpful to her. A day later, the Viscount screamed in despair as he was carried into the skies by a cloned brain and flown towards the Land of Turmoil.
Once Zim left, Richard thought over things and spent a full day looking over the information the broodmother had given him. Eventually, he realised a restriction on the broodmother that he should have a long time ago; she could reproduce something and perhaps improve it, but she could not create. All of her drones came out of what she knew, and at best she could mix and match. The type of evolution Zim could experience when awakening his bloodline ability was out of her faculty.
Unfortunately, powerful beings were few in number and wouldn’t just give up their bloodlines easily. While the broodmother’s drones made for a powerful regular army, she didn’t really have the wherewithal to create many true elites. Considering this, he would have to change his own strategy slightly.
Time passed quickly, and while Richard examined his decisions the deadline for his subordinates had arrived. This was also the deadline that he had given the Iron Triangle Empire, and an emissary had already used a long-range teleportation formation to arrive in Bluewater.
Richard called the emissary to his study and tore open the envelope that had been sealed with magic, scanning through the contents with his expression changing to one of surprise, “ALl conditions rejected, and… the war is to commence immediately?”
The emissary bowed, “Yes, Your Grace. This is the decision of His Majesty! Our Empire shall fight to the end for our dignity!”
Playing around with the piece of paper, Richard sighed, “Is Salwyn alright in the head? This has to be his idea.”
“His Highness is going to command the expeditionary force!” the emissary yelled.
“Expewhat? Hahahahaha…. And how far do you think you’ll go? Get into my Dukedom? Oh, Salwyn… He’s lost so many times already, how can he still have such blind confidence?”
“Your Grace, please respect His Highness Salwyn! I’m afraid I need you to apologise.”
Richard looked at the emissary with confusion, “I know you’re not afraid of death, but piss me off and you’ll just lose your life. Empty talk doesn’t win wars, go tell Salwyn that I’ll consider this my loss if his forces get thirty kilometres in.”
The man gaped with shock, unsure of what to say. Richard’s words were arrogant, but far too many miracles had come about from his hands. He eventually just bowed and left hastily, rushing back for a long-range teleportation formation.
Looking at the messenger’s back, Richard could only shake his head. Faelor wasn’t like Norland, with long-range teleportation much more draining on the user. To go through two such ports without resting would destroy the man; he likely wouldn’t be able to live for more than a decade. Still, he had chosen to do so just to send the message himself.
Every country had resolute warriors; it was just that war was never determined by courage alone.