When Richard convened the meeting, nearly a hundred of his subordinates, each a saint, grand mage, or accomplished general, had gathered in the command centre. There were huge maps hung on the four walls that could change as per the viewer’s needs, with many small offices within for these generals to fine-tune his orders for their own troops.
When the bell rang, Richard walked to the platform and looked down at the huge group in the hall. Outside of those followers that needed to guard his other planes, basically everyone was present.
As his gaze swept across the area, he was rather surprised to find a black-haired woman in the prime of her youth here. He’d almost forgotten Sisley after he got her as ‘compensation’ from the Schumpeters, only now recalling that he had thrown her into Faelor to do whatever she wanted. For her to be present meant she commanded an army of at least three thousand, which was a significant accomplishment when she had started out with nothing. His interest reignited, he decided to look over her later. He didn’t lack saints now, but he did need legends, generals, and powerful healers.
However, another look was all she would get. With his own focus being on hitting the legendary realm as quickly as possible, he had pulled far ahead of minor characters like her. He would give her some more resources to see what she could conjure up, but anything short of a miracle would lose his attention rapidly.
“You’re all gathered here in preparation for a war that will shake this entire plane!” he started off, a wave of his hand quickly zooming in the world map behind him to the Iron Triangle Empire, Ashen Plateau, and Barbarian Plains. The entire area of the Empire lit up, “The Iron Triangle Empire has rejected my conditions, declaring war on the Crimson Dukedom!”
The crowd immediately went into an uproar, chattering amongst themselves with excitement. The Iron Triangle Empire was enormous, but in the eyes of the generals, it wasn’t a worthy enemy. Even a large army of hundreds of thousands of soldiers would only be an annoyance that took time to eliminate and nothing else.
Waiting for the excitement to die down, Richard continued, “Their troops will be led by Prince Salwyn. I just informed the emissary that I will consider it my loss if they manage to get within thirty kilometres of the Dukedom.”
This caused all the experienced generals to freeze up in disbelief. Some of them quickly seemed to come to a realisation, however, and one of those said loudly, “Are we gathering their forces to eliminate them all?”
Richard shook his head, “No, it was a fair wager. Salwyn’s an old rival of mine and knows me well, he’s aware that I won’t cheat him. He’ll think of whatever he can do to get that far in and force me to admit defeat; while the loss itself means nothing, it’s implicit that I’ll give the Empire some time to build up if I lose.
“But of course, losing isn’t even an option. The Empire is our first target, and we’re going to charge all the way to their capital to force them to capitulate. Once this is done, I’ll officially lay claim to the Dukedom becoming a kingdom.”
These words left a lot of generals excited, especially those that were natives of Faelor. Becoming a kingdom wasn’t just a difference to Richard’s title; he was implying that he would allow the formation of noble houses that could inherit lands and titles. This was the greatest motivation for those locals who had followed him for a long time.
On the other hand, his followers remained calm. Status and lands meant little to them; it could all be achieved whenever they wanted. Greater power was the way to build up their foundation. However, Richard knew this and intentionall
This time, all of the followers grew serious, even Tiramisu. All legends were worthy enemies, even the worst of them. Someone like Stardragon, who hadn’t even entered the realm with his own power, was still causing a headache over in the Resting Orchid Plane. Those of Faelor quieted down as well; in this plane, legends were the same as gods.
“Alright, that’s what we’re doing for the first phase. I’ll tell you about the rest once the conditions are met, now here are your stations.”
While Richard himself would be leading the assault on the Iron Triangle Empire, the command structure still needed to be solidified; after all, even he couldn’t control enough drones to eliminate the need for officers entirely. At the same time, he also needed to leave troops behind to guard the Dukedom from any armies that snuck across the borders, and any possible retaliation in the Barbarian Plains. It took an entire hour for every general to be given a role.
At that very moment, an army of tens of thousands of elite soldiers was heading towards the border of the Iron Triangle Empire. Right in the middle was a fully-armoured Salwyn on his warhorse, looking no different from the ordinary generals beside him. The luxurious carriage that used to be his signature was nowhere to be found, as were the beautiful assistants he used to bring around with him.
A large hawk flew over the sky, circling in the air for a bit before recognising Salwyn and swooping down. Landing next to him and transforming into a middle-aged druid, he placed a letter in the Prince’s hand. Salwyn opened the letter and took a look, his brow furrowing as he ordered some men to bring him a map. Spreading the parchment across the back of his horse and analysing the borders, he passed the letter to his generals to read.
“The gall!” one of the men bellowed, “Does he think the elites of the empire can’t even make it thirty kilometres into his border?”
The letter was quickly passed around, the rest of the generals joining in on the fury. The border between the Iron Triangle Empire and the Crimson Dukedom was a thousand kilometres long, so there were bound to be possible holes everywhere. One only needed to find one and go on a quick march to make those thirty kilometres.
The generals quickly came to the conclusion that this was bait, intended to lull the imperial troops into a deep charge so Richard could eliminate them all in one go. However, Salwyn suddenly looked up from his map, “He won’t lie.”
“Your Highness… Why?” These men had faith in the Prince, but they couldn’t believe this.
“Because there’s no need to,” Salwyn said calmly.
No need to? Why wasn’t there a need to? The generals grew solemn.
Looking over the long, twisted border, Salwyn wondered repeatedly where any weaknesses might lie and where Richard could have hidden traps. Knowing Richard, he understood that this was the only chance the Empire would have; if they really could break through the line, it would give them perhaps a year of time. But what even could be done in a year? He had no idea how to save his home from this crisis, only hoping for some legends to show themselves. Richard and his Crimson Dukedom were monsters that grew rapidly, time forever on their side.
Suddenly feeling fatigued, he rubbed hard at his eyes. As he suppressed a yawn, he suddenly felt an idea flash in his mind, ‘What if there are no holes in the border?’
Impossible… That was his first reaction to the thought; defending such a long battle line would require an astronomical military force. However, he suddenly felt uncomfortable and looked into the sky, noticing a black dot hovering around in the clouds. It was a black-tailed hawk that was rarely seen in the north, but today it looked particularly striking.
“Can you shoot it down?” he pointed up at the skies.
“The hawk? No problem.” An archer beside him followed the direction he was pointing, nocking an arrow and pouring energy within. However, the hawk seemed to notice the attack and started flapping its wings, flying into the clouds.
“Huh? That’s strange, how did it find out?” the general looked surprised.
On the other hand, Salwyn paled; Richard knew his whereabouts. The prince stared hard at the map for a long while, eventually drawing a line straight to the Crimson Dukedom’s border.
He would take the shortest route.