Chapter 1317 The Chessboard of Fate
Three days later.
The smoke had yet to stop rising from the City of Lakarr.
Debris and rubble filled the city, the streets lined with the smoldering skeletons of what used to be buildings. There was smoke everywhere, filling the air with a pungent odor.
The adept tower located at the center of the city had lost its former magnificence and grandeur. It stood there like a half-burned match, telling of unbearable tragedy and sorrow.
The adept tower had been conquered.
The sixteen Entom adepts within had all, without question, become captives of the Crimson Fleet. Among them were thirteen First Grade adepts and three Second Grade adepts.
The reason they had not fled through the teleportation array in the tower wasn’t that they were brave soldiers who would fight to the very end. Instead, it was because the Crimson Clan had disrupted all teleportation with a special magical array the moment they arrived at Lakarr.
The Entom adepts left in Lakarr–who had nowhere to run–had become stranded pawns. They had no choice but to raise their hands in surrender after the tower’s defenses were broken.
According to the World of Adepts’ laws, no party was allowed to kill adept captives that had surrendered during times of war. Otherwise, they would face judgment from all other adepts in the world!
There was no adept who didn’t treasure their own life.
These adepts might have signed contracts of servitude with the Entom Clan and had promised decades of service and loyalty in exchange for resources and authority. However, this did not mean that they were required to give their lives for the Entom Clan.
That was why their contracts of servitude were considered completed the moment the tower was conquered. What was left was to obediently surrender and find some means of bartering for their freedom, either by offering resources in return or something else.
In the end, if they had been actual core members of the Entom Clan, they would never have been abandoned and put before the Crimson Clan’s butcher knife during such precarious times.
The Crimson Fleet remained stationed in the city for two days as they waited for the other two fleets to rejoin them.
Mary and Arms had each led a fleet to clear out the two neighboring territories of the Entom Clan. Judging from their excitement, it was rather evident that their trip had been quite bountiful.
War was truly the fastest way to gain wealth!
Even though the Entom Clan had pulled most of their resources back to Kerslin Castle, what little was left behind was more than enough to fill the pockets of Greem and his forces.
The three fleets rejoined as one and dallied no longer. They turned and headed straight for Kerslin Castle.
Only the Crimson Clan could be so bold and brash in their military movements, all thanks to their numerous Motherships. An ordinary adept clan would typically consist of hordes of voodoo beasts, large subordinate armies, and servants used for menial labor. They would never have been capable of such flexible military maneuvers.
Those armies were not only unable to fly, but were also extremely slow at marching. They also relied heavily on logistics and supplies.
If these forces were brought along in a war, the army would have to fight their way through one pass after another slowly. Otherwise, if the supply chain was intercepted, the subordinate army and menial servants would fall apart rapidly.
However, these problems did not exist for the Crimson Fleet.
All their armies, forces, supplies, and resources were carried within the Motherships. However, these things would only be revealed when they engaged the enemy in battle. Most of the time, the armies were completely concealed in the ships.
Without ground forces burdening the army’s advance, they didn’t have to fight every enemy outpost and fortress along the way.
After a quick trial of their military power in razing three territories of the Entom Clan and receiving a particular piece of news that he had been waiting on for a while, Greem immediately gave the order for the Crimson Fleet to advance upon Kerslin Castle.
The battle at Stoneshard Valley had torn away the last curtain of the Central Lands and revealed the internal conflicts of Zhentarim for all to see.
Greem’s new force had gathered sufficient power to overturn the incumbent forces of the Central Lands. The battle of Stoneshard Valley had only been the opening act to what was to come!
However, that battle had been disrupted by far too many external factors, causing the Crimson Clan’s victory to appear muddy, unclear, and undecided. Thus, the incumbent forces had not been sufficiently impressed to bow down before the Crimson Clan immediately. That left Zhentarim, and even the entirety of the Central Lands, on the precipice of danger. It was the danger of complete separation and civil war.
Should Freed and the others find the opportunity and time to do so, they would certainly bring foreign forces into the conflict at the cost of selling out the Central Lands. When that happened, Zhentarim would not be able to avoid the fate of constant war and fighting!
If Greem didn’t want the foundations of what would be his empire torn to shreds in a never-ending war, the siege on Kerslin Castle was unavoidable. Moreover, it was a battle he had to win!
The reason Greem had the army advance so slowly and even stop midway to clear out three of the Entom Clan’s territory wasn’t that he wasn’t in a hurry. It wasn’t because there was a lack of urgency, either. It was because…the perfect time had yet to arrive!
Greem was waiting.
He was waiting for news from Alice, for news of the best time to attack!
Life was like chess, and Fate was the chessboard!
He was approaching slowly, forcing the enemy to make irrational decisions for the sake of self-preservation.
Should they commit to these irrational decisions, Greem’s invasion would no longer be the actions of a bully against a victim. He would no longer be a tyrant stirring trouble in the Central Lands in a play for more territory.
Instead, it would take on a different meaning, that of restoring things to order. Greem would bring about a new order to the Central Lands!
He wasn’t just doing this for the sake of public opinion. He was doing it as a message to Fate itself.
At his level, aided with the leader of the Fate Witches, Fate was no longer a mysterious and profound concept far out of his reach. Instead, it was a monumental power that he could grasp and borrow from!
Ever since he advanced to Fourth Grade, everything Greem had been doing, every plan he had put to paper, was out of consideration of the benefits to all adepts in the world. There were many times where he made himself play the character of a patient man who was concerned for the overall state of affairs of the World of Adepts, even at the cost of the Crimson Clan itself.
Even though he had the strength of an ultra-powerhouse, he acted as if he was no more than an inconsequential individual in the Central Lands. He established the Horton Magic Academy, sacrificing the Crimson Clan’s short-term benefits to push for the dismantling of clans. Even the clash between Fourth Grade organizations that broke out after had been a war started on the enemy’s part. The Crimson Clan had been the defender.
All of these actions, all of this behavior might make Greem seem passive and perhaps even cowardly. However, they also allowed him to avoid backlash from the planar consciousness. They established him as the side with justice.
It was an incredibly important distinction to establish!
Many powerful and talented adepts in the past had been rejected by the World of Adepts simply because they did not know when to rein in their greed and ambition.
The reason so many high-grade adepts had been born in the World of Adepts wasn’t for them to stir trouble in their own world fighting amongst themselves. Instead, the World of Adepts regarded these powerful individuals as its servants and defenders. If an alien civilization attempted an invasion, the World of Adepts would be able to put together a force powerful enough to expel the enemy.
The relationship between the World of Adepts and the adepts themselves was like that of a beehive and the bees. Only when the bees had grown stronger could they continue to rob more resources and populations from other worlds to further strengthen the beehive.
The beehive’s improvement would also benefit the bees greatly, allowing them to fly faster and fight harder.
The two were in a mutually beneficial relationship!
However, ultra-grade powerhouses were still too much of a burden on the world due to the corrosion of their laws. Thus, the World of Adepts had no option but to exile adepts who had advanced beyond the plane’s grade threshold. Otherwise, if these individuals were allowed to wreak havoc within the plane, they would eventually become tumors in the development of the World of Adepts.
Individuals like these would eventually suffer a backlash from the Fate powers!
That was why Greem had to play it carefully, hiding his real ambitions in all sorts of ways.
Even though any adept could easily see his real ambitions, the fact was that his performance worked well on the planar consciousness. That was because the planar consciousness was a pure utilitarian entity that only cared about the results and not the means by which they were accomplished.
More accurately, the planar consciousness had yet to evolve the nuanced, minute emotions of humans. It could only evaluate the value of your existence through the influence of your every action. This trait of the planar consciousness allowed Greem to borrow power from Fate.
The planar consciousness always regarded itself as a fair and just entity!
All adepts born in the World of Adepts were its children and its resources. Whether it was Freed and those who represented the incumbent forces, or Greem, who represented the rising force, they were all members of Zhentarim and all a part of its complicated consciousness.
If conflict broke out between these two groups, then whosever existence was more beneficial to the World of Adepts would be the one favored by the planar consciousness. Meanwhile, the planar consciousness could move events by manipulating the Fate powers.
By observing and sensing the flow of Fate powers in the Central Lands, Alice could predict the intentions of the planar consciousness.
When the Crimson Fleet had been slowly sieging Lakarr and left the Crimson Clan’s headquarters exposed, the intimidated Freed and his allies finally came to a decision. However, even though they believed their decision was unknown to the rest of the world, they could not hide from the omnipresent planar consciousness.
The once fair and just scales of Fate began to tilt!
Upon receiving Alice’s notice, Greem hesitated no longer. He immediately commanded his fleet to attack Kerslin Castle. They advanced at such speed that all his enemies were struck with disbelief.
Seven days after entering Entom territory, the Crimson Fleet finally arrived at Kerslin Castle!
It was a war fortress at high alert.
All the adept forces that had been pulled back here had been stationed around Kerslin Castle, their backs against numerous war towers and defensive arrays as if they were preparing for a bloody battle to the very end.
The surroundings of Kerslin Castle had been forged into an impenetrable fort of steel. Not even a fly could enter or exit freely from here.