The silver luminescence of the moonlight refracted over the thick trees and scattered upon the town square, far less crowded than it usually was.
Brendel stood by the balcony of the town hall, peering upon the serene wilderness and forests on the far end of the Southern region. Valhalla four months later had fully incorporated the structure of a small town. The age-old colossal tree stood towering amidst the spaces encircled by the Northern Schafflund mountain ranges, the width of the shade extended to almost an entire kilometer, canopying over the town below.
The inhabitants of the town included the tree elves, Green villagers, and a visible population of humans, most of which were from the Valhalla Wind Archers squad, while the rest were largely new Kirrlutzian residents. The remaining few were the youngsters of the Folded Sword Squad, who now too had taken residence in the lower city areas.
Valhalla’s massive root system separated the town into four distinct districts.
The newly constructed military camps, the work of the light spirits were located in the western district.
From the plaza above, the structure of the western district was neatly arranged in a grid system, its praiseworthy city design tracing right back to Odum.
As the descendant of the Rune Dwarves, he did retain much of their qualities and was the main protagonist for the city planning of Valhalla.
The western district was further divided into two main street areas of north and south, separated by a wide, well-paved road right in the center. The road also extended across the other districts and encircled the entire town in a loop, which Brendel wittily nicknamed the intercity highway. Naturally, no one in this world actually understood what it meant. Nevertheless, after a while, the common term stuck and now it was now a name thoroughly accepted.
The intercity highway was also part of Odum’s creation, clearly modeled after Valhalla’s two existing orbits above and under, hence the highway was thus also coined “the third orbit”.
The structural design of the orbit was brilliant without question, but Brendel was also aware that the elderly dwarf was in further discussion with gentle Monica to connect Valhalla’s root to its center by installing a cross-section intersection at the core of the tree trunk, and through its interior connecting all three orbits into one extended route, officially connecting the entire town.
The benefits of the design were naturally no surprise to Brendel, who comprehensibly was the only one who had experienced urban city planning and its benefits, but for Odum, who prioritized the defense of the city first and foremost, connecting the areas together would be beneficial in the creation of a stronghold of the town.
In regards to this proposal, Monica was rather welcoming to the idea. Given how massive Valhalla was, to open a passageway through its core would not pose any significant issues owing much to the fact that it was not a living tree, but in all intents and purposes a magic-fuelled city.
In the North-South street areas of the western district, the North area majorly consisted of a military camp, and certain structures resembling human buildings. Noble military camps to be exact.
The Noble army camps of Aouine were essentially the same as all other human nations, it consisted of training grounds and barracks. According to game theory, however, it was a functional building, a type of building that would raise the speed for army training and offer a boost to stationed army spirits. They were significant buffs but not too flashy.
Brendel considered that the constructions would generally improve the discipline within the army, just that the game digitized it into stats.
The White Lion Battalion was stationed in the army camp, directly across the Wind Archers by North area. Nevertheless, this massive district housed only those two main functional buildings mentioned, hence appearing rather empty from the outside. Regardless, they were far more developed than the other three districts that were at this point still largely vacant.
Brendel wanted to move the entire Coldwood city to Valhalla, for which he believed the secret of the city under the gargantuan tree cannot remain a secret for much longer. As Odum ordered the construction of the city’s outer walls, many had already guessed the Lord commander’s intention for the future of Valhalla.
They however could not have guessed the gist of this myth that laid within. Brendel announced to the world that this was the Elven great tree that was planted by the tree elves, given his close acquaintance with the druids, nobody found his explanation the least peculiar. After all, many towering trees in the Black Forest were sighted by the druids, and cities were built upon its structures anyway.
Maybe one day the Valhalla lie would be revealed to the world, but Brendel was not worried the least. After all, he expected not much was required for him to hide by then anyway.
But for now, at least, Valhalla was still notably vulnerable and fragile, and would still require extensive measures to shelter its development.
Besides the few closest to him, everyone else essentially took his tall tale to heart.
Even Veronica who had personally taken to visiting Valhalla was convinced it was a gift by the druids to Brendel. Regardless, without the legendary fort to rely on, Valhalla was currently far from the myths she assumed, for she was aware that the fort was well buried within the Loop of Trade winds.
As for the others, including the youths of the Folded Sword Squad, were in much anticipation upon being drafted by Brendel himself to the tree.
Amongst them were some who were told by the Lady of the Flowerleaf Ranges about the magnificence of this tree city, and felt beyond honored to be chosen to visit and reside within it in person.
They were enthusiastic, to say the least.
It was not the first time the female scholar came to him in the request for permits to visit the city, Brendel recalled. Even though Monica was skeptical towards having foreigners loitering in the city, Brendel, excluding the core areas of the interior Valhalla, offered Shido free reins around the city. From the bottom orbit all the way to the Upper orbit platform, she was permitted to visit wherever she pleases. His generous actions further dispel the suspicion the residents had, among which included the crown prince.
The youths of the Folded Sword Squad by then were still temporarily residing in the North area. Multiple tents were set up across the vacant spaces, while army facilities and the respective plans intended for them were still in planning stages.
For the past four months, Monica’s clansmen had increased in population to nearly five hundred strong. Now they were omnipresent in the canopy, like fairies glittering through the leaves and branches. Under their oversight, Valhalla’s construction had grown faster by the day.
Nevertheless, the growth of the city however would be panned out, as Monica had put it, and to enter into the next stage would require at least a few more years.
On one hand, it was because the supply of magic had reached its threshold. Valhalla and its incessant need for magic power was a black hole in itself, but now that two-thirds of the Black Forest crystals had already been extracted to the city, it would only be enough to sustain existing usage.
Trentheim’s reliance on the sales of Magic crystals had greatly reduced for the past few months, which Amandina had in one way or another reminded him about.
Nonetheless, the business lady was rather optimistic about the situation, after all, she was aware from the start that the trade of magic crystals would not be sustainable long-term anyway, so any insistence on the continuation of its sales would be futile, not to mention the sensitivity of the product in the eyes of the black market.
In usual cases, one crystal mine would produce high purity crystals for the first few months, followed by a long period of drought that would require miners to venture deeper and deeper into the mines, while the production greatly decreases as the years go by.
Just like the discovery of the crystal mine within the Black Forest, which was a rare finding on its own, if Trentheim were to continue exporting high purity magic crystals, it would lead to rumors that there was a high volume crystal mine within the region, bringing in unwanted attention.
Now that Valhalla required materials to grow, it would justify the expected reduced exportation of mined crystals.
As for the diminishing revenue source, the excavation of other resources and specialties within the Black Forest would gradually balance out the checkbook.
Crucially, most resources within the territory were achieving levels of self-sustainability, and as such greatly negated the economical reliance upon foreign imports.
As for the population of the light spirits, Monica and five hundred of her clansmen successfully pushed forward the development of Valhalla from stage one to stage two in a time period slightly shy of half a year.
With limited manpower however, that was as far as the pace could go. With just the force of her community at work, to proceed into stage three would require at least five years more, and if Brendel were to shorten the time to a year, he would require a population of at least two to three thousand light spirits in total.
The Vortex of Light’s production was still at its constant of twenty a month, while the Moon tower was now in Coldwood castle in service to Ciel’s mage tower.
Weighing in the nurturing of Trentheim’s first, very own batch of mage disciples, to further boost the production of the Vortex of Light, even if the production of light spirits were to multiply, achieving the target population would require a few years, and was evidently not worth the effort.
His only plan now was to focus on the development of the base, at the very least ensuring that Valhalla was self-sufficient. As for the strategies to balance investments with revenue, it was well expected to be a long-running process and further implementations were to be taken. There were many solutions to increase the ability of magic and production, but it would have to be procedural.
Valhalla now only had buildings such as the crystal pools, mage tower, Vortex of Light, and the Moon Tower, but Brendel knew that the aforementioned high-level buildings could greatly improve the development of the territory.
Then again, more blueprints would be required, along with more Magic pools.
While contemplating the issues of concern, Brendel took a deep breath and finally turned his sights away from the city districts back indoors as he headed inwards from the balcony into the hall.
As night fell, the Hall of Tree Valhalla became merrier than it was when the sun was out.
Excluding Carglise, nearly every single captain of the White Lion Battalion was present, along with their counterparts, the leaders of the Folded Sword Squad, Medissa, Hipamila, Amandina, Ciel, and a few other mercenary squad leaders on the other side of the hall.
Brendel’s old subordinates and his trusted companions all rallied within their own circles, while the odd group remaining was notably the one consisting of the Crown prince and Shido, along with the Laurenna couple and the young prince Haruz. Nonetheless, the isolation of the Crown Prince from the youths of the Folded Sword Squad was what initially left Brendel rather perplexed.
But it did not take long before he made several in-depth deductions. The Folded Sword Squad appeared to be avoiding any chances of dismissing the crown prince in a venue that was not their own. It was a political statement.
Be it due to his status as a guest or that he saw no need for action, Lenarette was well aware that Brendel could not possibly attract these capable youths completely under his wing, for these young Kirrlutzians were loyal to their kingdom, where their families, their future and their prospects laid.
If Aouine was a massive empire the way their Kirrlutz homeland were, it might spell attraction for these young talents, but Aouine was but a petite kingdom in the grand scale of the world, and they knew there was no reason these Folded Sword Squad youths would pledge allegiance to the minnow Count of Trentheim.
With that laid bare, the Crown Prince naturally saw no reason to partake in the conversations or activities of the mid-low level civil servants of his own empire, he was royalty, and he preferred to make clear his supreme right as their succeeding monarch.
The Crown prince must have given it a good thought and well understood that if he were to command this squad, he needed to present to his subjects a sign of reverence that demanded respect, for the Folded Sword Squad by name were obliged to swear loyalty to the Crown.
Everyone knew the underlying meaning of his intentional distancing, for the Nobles had always prized the uphold of their reputation, more so for the royal class. Nobody took to reach out to the Crown Prince, and neither did he to anyone, for it was plain clear that he sought exclusivity, and even the Folded Sword Squad knew not to challenge him.
Henceforth, Brendel could only proceed exactly as planned. <i>Might just be why Veronica, Mangrove, and the lot agreed to let me keep them.</i> He thought to himself.
Brendel realized he might have begun to take them for granted as he shook his head. <i>Gotta set it straight, these men were never going to join our legion anyway. It’s a deal for them to fight Madara on our side.</i>
As the Eastern kingdom in the shadows grew more powerful by the day, Brendel knew his own intensively trained White Lion Battalion might be gallant in the context of Aouine, but compared to the Kirrlutzian exclusive operations squad, the Folded Sword Squad, there was an undeniable gap in their prowess.
The key point was that he no longer had much time left until the Second War of the Black Roses would unanimously begin. By then, if the Aouine army were not fully militarized and ready for battle, it would akin to entering a brawl of beasts whilst defanged and declawed.
A lone Freya was evidently not enough.
Would the Folded Sword Squad suffice?
Entering the hall, the starkly divided groups were still in a heated argument, it was a messy yet bustling sight. Their argument mostly revolved around whether to strike Count Radner or Madara’s Undead legion first. Brendel shifted his gaze inches higher towards the massive Aouine map on the wall, and on it was a big, red cross struck across the Cielmann region.
The White Winged Cavalries were defeated.
The events unfolded exactly like the history lore, the only difference this time around was that he had already taken to warn the Nobles of the Grinoires region, and yet once again they made the same mistake.
Initially, the royal sect and himself had an intense argument on whether to break the news to Duke Grinoires, as Sir Makarov’s original plan was to trick Bloodstaff and his legion into the designated area and thoroughly lay waste upon the invaders, but that meant secrecy was key.
If they don’t notify House Grinoires, regardless of how the battle will turn out, the princess might risk losing public trust, and most importantly causing significant damages to the population of the Cielmann and Bucce regions.
Ultimately, Her Grace the princess wrote a letter to the Duke clarifying the incident, for Brendel found it rather amusing how some among the royal sect had their petty reasons to justify their actions.
It’s been one year since the last war, and both Madara and Aouine had already been keeping each other at arm’s distance, deeply wary of one another. If one side were to brazenly strengthen their army for war, while the other did nothing of semblance, it would further raise the suspicion of the other. After all, it was no longer the Year of Summer Blossoms and Leaves, it was the closing season of the Year of the Sword.
Brendel found it further depressing that the events turned out the way they did, while simultaneously deepening his detestation of the feudal Noble hierarchy of a bygone era. <i>To think these impotent dickheads are the descendants of the Ancestral Nobles, what a disgrace to this social class!</i>
Letting out a sigh, he was certain that Bloodstaff would charge right towards Viero, just like it was stated in the history lore.
It was ubiquitously known that he was scheming with Radner by now, but they naturally had different goals to achieve. Bloodstaff’s goal was to conquer the Grinoires and Viero regions, which in turn cutting off Karsuk from the rest of what remains of Aouine.
Only with achievements like this could he justify his lone war with Aouine in the eyes of the Supreme Leader of Madara. Only by elevating the status of the Supreme leader could he dampen the distrust his monarchy had on himself. Otherwise, he was bound for eventual eradication.
But Count Radner was different, his goal was to align with Madara, and in turn obtain a strategically advantageous piece of land for himself. By now, he had broken all ties he once had with the royal sect entirely.
The outcome he sought would be to declare independence from Aouine, and build a third-party buffer state in between both the kingdoms. Even if all were to fail, he could still retreat into Madara.
With that said, the lands he was eyeing were naturally the Cielmann and Slofavien regions, but he did share a similar target with Bloodstaff, and that was Castle Kurco.
However, given the positioning of his troops, Radner had the advantage in proximity over Bloodstaff for Castle Kurco. With his usual antics at play, he would have pledged to the crown to send reinforcements to the gates of Castle Kurco way before it was known that he was scheming with Madara. After all, that would require the least effort.
Even if his plans were to be exposed, it would be a walk in the park if he were to besiege the castle now. Knowing now that Bloodstaff no longer had any obstructions on his path within Aouine, the Vanmier Legion would be sent deep south from Praguesse to prevent further invasion by the Undead Legion. By then, the back flank of the castle would be shabbily defended, it would be no match to Radner’s army.
But that was just an assumption.
For there were still unexpecting foes that were awaiting Radner to fall into his own trap. The outcome of this war for Radner and Bloodstaff was already decided, what they needed to plan now was how.
Cutting short his own thought process, Brendel made way back by Maynild’s side, her gaze unwaveringly fixated upon the terrain map on the strategy desk.
She noticed Brendel approaching and turned over to face him, with a whisper she remarked,
“Since returning from the Deadly Tundra Forest, you’ve gotten stronger.”
Brendel was baffled, it was the first time his senior had shown any semblance of an initiative to start a private conversation with him since his return from the Deadly Tundra Forest.
He nodded without any reply. The experience from the final battle with Milos was almost entirely shared between Freya and himself, and even though he wasn’t sure if anyone else received any benefit from the battle, to him at least, it was a massive reward, on par even to that of even the Loop of Trade Winds.
The Holy Knight and Mercenary classes had been raised to their peak by Brendel, thereafter any stats increase for both ascended classes was no longer required.
The Guardian of the Lost Earth obtained from Seibers was now unlocked. Brendel however was hesitant to allocate experience upon it at the meantime, given that high-ranking classes had many branches of enhancements that could be made. It was a decision he had to choose wisely.
Maynild quietly glanced over to him, before she followed up with another question, “You kept Dark Korfa and Kind Korfa behind, was it for Hati?”
Brendel was caught off guard, thinking if that was her actual inquiry.
“You felt them?” He asked.
“It differs from the game.” The female knight replied.
“The future of this world.”