Translator:EndlessFantasy TranslationEditor:EndlessFantasy Translation
The conflict between the Northern Empire and the orc tribes living around Tartaros Highlands in the northwest began more than four hundred years ago. The enormous kingdom was never rid of the shadow of war ever since.
Although the orcs’ civilizations were not developed and advanced, they were good in battles and wars. They were fearless against death and pain. With the encouragement of their shamans and the ancient spirits of their ancestors, any orc, even a minor female orc, could become a warrior. Their physiques were far more superior to the physique of any human being. Though those primitive creatures held bone sticks and rock-made spears, the human soldiers who wore excellent armor were actually disadvantaged.
No one could have predicted that the operation to annihilate the tribes of the orcs that was optimistically estimated to end in about three months actually lasted for nearly five hundred years. During the long-lasting war and truce, the primitive orcs were able to pick up traces of human civilization and used it to their own advantage by imitating and implementing it into their own civilization. They even attempted to cultivate fields, grow pastures to raise flocks and herds, build workshops and simple shrines, learn the craftsmanship of mankind to build armors, weapons and fortresses. Some of the orcs that were wiser even thought of picking up the art of magic and so they tried to understand and master the mysteries behind magic.
The war had completely changed the orcs. The war had also done a number on the Northern Empire.
The nobles in the Northwest region of the Empire had suffered quite a number of blows because of the invasion of the orcs that lasted for two long years. Several families that existed since the beginning when the country was founded had completely gone extinct. Vast lands owned by no one had been left unattended. The economy of the Empire was poured into the military after being on the brink of collapse several times. There were countless large and small workshops and mines set up everywhere across the kingdom to supply the militaries with resources.
The owners and leaders of those workshops and mines, and also the warriors who performed valiantly during the war with the orcs had become the new owners or barons to those empty lands. Soon after that, those newly risen families of nobles had become the new forces in resisting the forces of the orcs. The noble families had also gradually turned their family industries into a part of the Empire’s economy.
The Dark Tide that occurred annually back in the south and the endless wars in the northwest had made it impossible for the powerful Empire to develop in peace. Because of that, most of the newly risen noble families had faded into the shadows of history over a few decades ago until they were all replaced by the other new families that emerged later.
But even so, for over four hundred years, some of those families had survived. They had grown into families of great influence among the other families in the continent as they owned most of the industries in mining, construction, metallurgy, goods and services in transportations, textiles, and enchantments. On the economic front, the older families that were doing main agricultures were left far behind by those powerful families. However, this world was a world filled with combat aura and magic. In terms of individual strength, the older families, which possessed experience, had an advantage over the others.
The reckless pioneers were determined only to make progress and expansions with their business and industries. On the other hand, calm and cautious rulers were able to rule. That was the difference between these two types of people.
The Radcliffe Family which Joshua was a descendant of was also part of the newly risen nobles back in the day. The expedition across the Great Ajax Mountains was done in order to locate new veins and resources so that they could win the war that was intensifying during that time.
But now that the orcs had been wiped out, the war that had been going on for over four hundred years had finally come to an end. It was obvious that the demand for minerals and metallurgy had fallen sharply. There were even rumors that the current Emperor Israel was deciding on reducing the number of the nobles’ private armies and shut down most of the temporary mines and workshops that posed threats to the society.
Power and money were the livelihoods of a family. Without power, there was no way to protect money. Without money, there was no way to cultivate strength.
Israel’s move had undoubtedly shaken the core of most of the emerging noblesthe arrival of peace would mean the disappearance of the war policy. The importance of the nobles had rapidly declined and the largest dealers and large-scale production facilities were shut down. That had undoubtedly brought a substantial amount of losses beyond anyone’s imagination to the economy of the Empire.
It could have been the beginning of a civil war if the Empire was a kingdom in the ordinary world. However, in the Mycroft Continent, no one on the continent was daring enough to step up and challenge a Legendary-tier champion. If the Emperor said so, no one would dare to oppose his words. Not to mention that Israel was capable of leveling down the Orc Palace. He would definitely not hesitate to eliminate one or two stubborn families daring enough to oppose the Royal to set an example to the public.
Hence, the nobles could only put up with the Emperor.
In the early hours of the day, a knight rode slowly on his horse as he moved on the outskirts of a fortress not far from the Imperial capital. He moved through a field full of moist steam as he made his way into a quiet small town. There was a sparkling stream at the entrance to the town. The knight rode across the flat slated bridge and soon rode across several streets and found himself before the front door of a manor.
The knight hopped off the back of his horse and reported himself to the servant of the manor. The servant with fully-white hair glanced at the knight before he noticed the coat of arm that was unobvious on the knight’s simple armor.
The Empire’s Iron Fist, the insignia of the Feltham Family.
So, he politely nodded and went back to the house to report to the governor of the manor. Soon after, a butler walked across the front yard of the manor and received a letter from the knight.
Soon loud knockings were heard on the door of a room deep in the manor. Kleinman Seward woke from his slumber.
Although he was wakened up suddenly, Kleinman was not furious. The middle-aged man who had long dark brown hair spent two seconds pondering on this sweet dreams before he began thinking rationally and calmly.
If there was nothing urgent, his assistant would never have disturbed him while he was resting. Since she was there, then there must be something extremely important. The middle-aged man swiftly wore his clothes neatly while trying to figure out what it was before he walked out of his room. The moment he walked out of his room, he was immediately greeted with the presence of his assistant. As the largest supplier of the ores in the entire northwest region of the Empire, the Seward Family was the representative of the Imperial capital. As the second son of the family, Kleinman had strong trust for the assistant who had been assisting him over the years. He was very comfortable in front of the assistant. He yawned and complained. “So, what is this all about? I have not been sleeping well for the past few months.”
“A letter from the Feltham Family.” The assistant in his fifties immediately responded to Kleinman and said, “The Grand Knight Nack personally sent the letter. It should be related to ‘that incident’.”
“They have yet to conclude their ‘test’?” Kleinman took out a small purple crystal vial from his pocket. Then he took a sniff and let the refreshing scent to flood his nose, allowing himself to be completely focused on his work. “It’s been half a month since. Haven’t there been any results yet?”
“Speaking of which.” Kleinman frowned, seemingly a little annoyed. “Haven’t they made their move?”
“No, they did. However, the situation appears to be a little strange. Nack thinks that something is off. He said that even his master was not sure about the current situation.”
“Of all the new generation of the Feltham Family, other than the eldest son of their family, everyone else in that family is just garbage. Same goes to any other new nobles. They really have no idea how to educate their next generation. What a bunch of losers.” Kleinman spoke with disdain. Although he was only the second son in the family and could not inherit the rightful place as the Count of the Seward Family, he was basically the spokesperson of his family, the representative that controlled most of the secrets of his family business. Even his eldest brother relied on him to manage the family.
Kleinman still took the letter from his assistant’s hands and tore it opened. Then he glanced through the content of the letter written in ink before his expression began to change.
“What have they done?!” The second-most important man in the Seward family roared. His rage carried fear. “Killed all of them? All killed?! Those bloody horrible dwarfs, and the halfling son of the dwarf idiots! Are their heads made of stone?!”
The ancestors of the Feltham Family were mixed with the dwarves earlier in history. Hence, most of them were not tall. And because they had the bloodline of the dwarves and the wisdom of the human, they became one of the largest weapon suppliers in the Empire.
When Kleinman’s assistant saw the reaction of the man after reading the letter, he snatched the letter back and glanced through the content of the letter. Then, he took a deep breath. “Oh my godthis is outrageous! This is an act of an outlaw!”
“That’s for sure,” Kleinman took another bottle of violet crystal from his pocket. The bottle actually contained a high concentration of refreshing potions. It was the favorite pick of the mages who liked to stay up all night to carry out their researches. After taking another sniff, Kleinman calmed himself down. “Indeed, the Radcliffe Family have not been playing by the rules. They even attempted to grab the profits in the market of weapons during difficult times. It makes sense that those dwarves wanted to threaten the Radcliffe Family. They could have used blackmail and other means. They had overdone it this time.”
Now was the time where peace had finally befallen the Empire. Soon after the war with the orcs ended, the weaponry and mining markets in the Empire had shrunk significantly. Many workshops couldn’t even get an order these days. They were on the brink to bankruptcy. The situation was still manageable for the Seward Family. They ran their business in the mining industry. Even though the quantity demanded was not much lesser during the peaceful times and even though they were having some difficulties in handling their businesses, they had yet to meet with greater difficulties that would cripple them. However, for the other families like the Feltham Family who made weapons for a living, the situation was completely different. The current time was an unprecedented crisis they never imagined possible when they ran their businesses.
The Radcliffe Family had picked the worst time to add insult to their injuries. That noble family from the North was one of the special ore suppliers for the legion of the Five Armies. Even the end of the war would not be able to affect much of their businesses. However, that new Count seemed to be dissatisfied with his current situation, He started to manufacture weapons and armors. Then he chose the time when every newly risen noble family faced difficulties to sell the weapons and armors he manufactured. By doing so, he had taken away the businesses of the other families who were already suffering.
Cutting people off their money could make them your worst enemies. That was something that everyone in the entire world knew. So, of course the Feltham Family who were affected the most was insanely furious with the Radcliffe Family. It was pretty obvious looking at the behaviors of their spokespersonrecently, he had been attempting to harass the shops and industry of the Radcliffe Family.
“One, two, three Six of them.”
Kleinman rubbed his forehead and vented his frustration. He was very troubled. “For the Seven Gods’ sake, he actually killed half of the spokespersons of the Radcliffe Family That is no longer a ‘test’ or threat. That is purely testing the Radcliffe Family’s limits!”
Kleinman was also not fond of the unruly Radcliffe family since the beginning. However, he had always been cautious in doing everything and would rather pick a good time and a spot to discuss the problem with the Radcliffe Family at the table than trying something funny behind their backsof course, he did not think that the Feltham Family did anything wrong besides killing too many. That had violated the code among the families.
Even though the Seward Family was in the northwest, they were in fact genuine law-abiding nobles.. They were always about being courteous and polite. They would never do something out of ordinary unless they were sure that they could not negotiate with their competitors.
The assassination, threats, and buy-outs that was aimed at the spokespersons of their competitors had always been a part of the battle among the nobles since the beginning of time. If the so-called battle among the nobles had happened at the regions such as the fortresses at the southern border of the Empire, it could have been a great battle where real blood would be spilled. However, that would never happen in the surrounding regions of the Imperial capital. Assassination was the most extreme type threat. Killing six of them at the same time was basically equal to a war at the border of a region.
“Has the Radcliffe Family done something to express themselves?” Kleinman turned around and asked his own assistant. He was in disbelief, “How could it be possible that those bad-mannered northerners are able to endure all these humiliations?”
He knew that the young Count of a territory in the North was known to be the youngest human being who reached the Supreme-tier. Even the Emperor himself admitted that he was definitely capable of attaining the Legendary-tier. Judging from his attitude and behavior, it was really hard to imagine that the man would lay down without a fight.
“That’s the strange part about the incident,” the assistant quickly responded. He was done reading the content of the letter. “Their shops continue to operate just like normal times. Although their people had been dying one after another, they did not seem to be fighting back at all. In fact, many of us are ready to face the fact that we might be assassinated anytime now. We have temporarily hidden in the suburb regions nowthis is also the reason why the Feltham Family sent this letter to get some news or information from us. They want to know what is really going on now.”
The attack, without a doubt, had also received the silent agreement from Kleinman. To be precise, if a few noble families who ran businesses in the industry of mining ores and metallurgical had join forces against the Radcliffe Family, the Feltham Family would never have the guts to actually provoke a Supreme-tier champion. However, Joshua’s response had really confused them all.
“Do they really think that Count is really afraid of them?”
He took the letter from his assistant. Kleinman read the letter from top to bottom once again. Then he gritted his teeth and laughed out loud from anger, “Those arrogant dwarves… They have really provoked a Supreme-tier champion! He had just returned from the battlefield in the Sacred Mountain with the berserk dragons. He had killed more dragons than the number of weapons you imbeciles had ever forged in your entire lives!”
Previously, the nobles had received some news from the palace. They knew that Joshua had left the Imperial capital. Only then did the Feltham Family had the guts to make their move on Alphonso Carlos. However, about a week ago, the news that came from the distant south had shaken everyone pretty goodthe warrior left the Imperial capital for a different reason from what everyone had assumed. He left because he received an invitation from the Church of the Seven Gods to the Sacred Mountain. Since then, he had been battling the berserk dragons and obtained many achievements in the battle.
He did not believe that Joshua would actually stay quiet about the deaths of his spokespersons, but the middle-aged man had no idea what was really going on at all. He leaned against the wall and was a little troubled wondering about the reason behind all that.
Could it really be true that he was afraid? That was the most logical explanation Kleinman could come up with, perhaps not because he was afraid of the Feltham Family but some people that were higher up.
The move made on the Radcliffe Family this time around was not completely a retaliation on the unruly behavior of the Radcliffe Family in the business. Kleinman himself had only broke the code of his own family and become an accomplice to the Feltham Family in carrying out their devious plan on the Radcliffe Family after he had received an order from his old man, Count Seward. He could also make a vague assumption from the scattered information from his father. It seemed that it was an order made by someone higher in power within the Royal Palace. However, Kleinman could not understand why there was someone in the palace who held a grudge against Joshua.
The Radcliffe Family had always been well-known to be the supporter of the Royal party. That was obvious from the orders for the Five Armies. Joshua even had a personal relationship with Brandon, the successor of another Royal party, the Kaos Family. Master Nostradamus, once the teacher to the Emperor himself, had also founded a mage academy in the North. Not to mention that Emperor Israel himself was very fond of Joshua as he really appreciated the warrior.
The internal struggle of the palace did not seem to be related to him in any other way, unless
Kleinman took a deep breath and he suddenly felt reluctant to think in that way. However, at that very moment, he could feel a chill down his spine.
Unless that incident involved the heir of the Empire.
Be it Kleinman, his assistant, or those bunch of imbeciles from the Feltham Family, perhaps none of them thought that murdering one merchant would be a huge deal. What they do fear was that they might kill too many to the point that the Radcliffe Family would be shamed for losing so many of their own. From that perspective, it was an invitation to the Radcliffe Family for a war.
Benefits were more important than anything. They were actually keener to discuss and get the problem solved peacefully. Assassination was a much more intense approach to inform. That was the method of nobles dealing with each otherKleinman had already gotten himself used that. Over the years, he had dealt with such situations. He had never expected the matter to be prolonged. However, one should always keep an open mind as accidents could happen anytime.
For instance, now.
Right outside the manor, a sound of an explosion was suddenly heard. Initially, Kleinman did not bother himself with that noise. However, he suddenly felt an intense shiver pass through his body. All of his pores had shrunk and his body was overwhelmed with fear.
The entire manor trembleda dense dark-red ripple flashed across the corridor of the manor, leaving a long trail of crack behind. The sounds of the walls and grounds cracking and breaking into pieces echoed through the manor as the middle-aged man and his assistant leaned on the walls of the corridor to gain their balances. They stared around them and were overwhelmed with confusion.
The entire manor split in half.
On the other side of the collapsed building, Kleinman saw the first light of the morning as he breathed in the dewy air.
A shadow of a man floated in the air holding a silver greatsword. His eyes blazed red as he stared at everyone.
High temperature burned around his body. The middle-aged man stared in cold fearthe shattered corridor, the broken walls, the damaged furniture, and the crushed potted plants. The hot air rushed upwards with glowing red sparks.
The shadow of despair started to spread.