Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 579
Potential for Sheila to Advance
After a long day of meetings, Claude returned to Covenbrun Manor completely worn out deep in the night. Sheila, knowing that he was back, didn't go to sleep and was waiting in the main hall. The moment she saw Claude leave the carriage, she came up to him for a hug and kiss. Sheila didn't tag along when he went to war in Shiks and they hadn't met for a year and a half. Their reunion after such a long time made her rather excited.
"My dear, you seem a little too happy to see me," Claude said with wonder at her excessive welcome.
Once Claude took a warm bath and started munching down the delicious meal she prepared for him, she began her explanation. "Claude, in the tome you had someone send me from Shiks, I found some information about magus advancement."
It finally clicked in Claude's head. She wanted to share her amazing discovery, but Claude was the only person she could tell. They were in an age of waning magic. The magic civilization was nothing more than a fairy-tale-like whisper of times long past. Even though magic could still be learned, both talented and average magi wouldn't be able to cross the ceiling of the fifth ring.
Claude's first dream since he transmigrated into this world was to become a magus and live freely, yet fate saw to it that he took a completely different path to his childhood dream. Even after reuniting with Sheila and training to the fifth ring with her guidance, he had gotten used to military life. Magic was already something he could do without. It wasn't that he got many chances to use it in his daily life anyway.
Among the magi he knew, his sister had her hands full taking care of her own son and Bloweyk's twins. She used her free time to research more into herbalism. Liboyd and Sonia were both rune magi, but magic was merely a means in their research, not the ends. Liboyd focused most of his attention on developing engines whereas Sonia busied herself in weapons research.
While Bloweyk's talent for the mystical arts was inferior to Claude's, he actually made it to the fifth ring faster than him. Yet, he didn't fit into the traditional magi categories. Perhaps, he could be considered to be a modern battlemagus, seeing as he used many different spells and tricks to aid in combat. As for Claude, there weren't many avenues to apply his magic in his high status and position. He also hadn't conducted any magic experiments for a long time. Whether he knew magic or not now no longer mattered much to him.
Sheila was the only pure magus he knew who pursued nothing but advancement in her magic. She had always wanted to break the chains that bound her to the fifth ring and become an archmagus. Back then, her mother had abandoned her to go to explore some magical ruins with other magi for the very same reason, only to run into trouble. When Sheila grew up, she ventured to those ruins and found her mother's remains. There wasn't anything she needed in the ruins either.
While she reunited with Claude after much hardship, Claude knew what she truly desired. Fortunately, while he wasn't able to give her any direct help, he managed to bring her such a surprise through his conquests and struggles.
For instance, through exterminating Nasri and conquering Saint Cyprean, he managed to procure all magical records and tomes from the two royal families' collections.
Claude's conquests and spoils were a great help in expanding Sheila's knowledge of magic and broadening her horizons. Many of those precious tomes were vestiges of the magic civilization and each one of them would make any magus go mad with desire. It was too bad they had been locked up in the royal families' vaults, never to see the light of day and end up in the hands of magi that truly needed them.
Sheila had discovered some information on ring advancement in one of the Shiksan tomes. Back during the beginning of the magic civilization's fall, many magi knew how to make the breakthrough, but lacked the means of gathering the large amounts of magical resources to do so.
Back then, most of the magic materials, magic crystals in particular, was monopolised by the magi nobles. Average magi had virtually no access to them. So, any newly discovered resource would be heavily fought over. A bloodbath would result to weed out the rest for the last victor standing.
Sheila was shocked to see the depictions of slaughter when it came to magic resources, but she was more concerned with the knowledge and procedures of breaking through, as well as what magical resources were necessary for it. Much to her delight, while the passing of a millennium made it so that much of the magical resources were called a different name by most of the populace, the tome still contained detailed methods of testing those materials.
Just as Claude was about finished with his food and nodding to whatever she said, she took out a dozen lists of magic materials she would need. The lists, linked together, would be at least two metres in length.
He turned to the smiling Sheila with shock. Was there a need to be so happy? Even if they were able to determine what materials they needed, would they be able to collect them? Many of those things had vanished in time. If the magi back then couldn't get it, what made her so confident they could in the present day?
Sheila immediately countered and said that back during the magic civilization, countless magi were fighting for a really limited pool of resources. Many of them didn't even manage to get enough to break through at death's door.
For instance, if the supplies back then could help a hundred magi break through and there were ten thousand magi competing for them and stashing them in their lairs, nobody would be able to make the breakthrough and use them up. The supplies were sure to be hidden away by the magi. After all, if they couldn't break through, they weren't about to help others do so either.
However, the appearance of firearms six centuries prior caused countless amounts of magic knowledge to vanish from the mainstream consciousness. The mundane folk of Freia chased the lofty magi that treated them like ants off the continent. Ironically, the magi leaving the continent didn't give them the peaceful life they desired, instead ushering in the dark ages that lasted three centuries.
Countless warlords and nobles fought nonstop with firearms to exact vengeance, gain territory, expand influence and plunder riches at the expense of the youths in their fiefs. The bloody wars that lasted three centuries culled the Freian population by two-thirds at least before finally stabilising and settling down into the nations today.
In the past six centuries, magic came to be a taboo on Freia and no magi dared to appear in public ever again. Even the magi with ties to the royal families made sure to keep a low profile. The public saw the magi as evil anyway. For instance, only a limited number of people in Aueras could use harmless spells. Most of the populace saw the registered magi as magicians that performed nothing more than party tricks.
The end of an era made it so that Freia was no longer dominated by magic. While magical supplies were highly sought after and fought over a millennium ago, almost nobody cared for them in the modern-day. Even with the existence of rogue magi in Freia, most of them only chose to live out their lives in seclusion or apathy.
Many who inherited the magi's legacy didn't even know how to advance beyond the ceiling. Some lacked practical spells, some lacked the resources necessary for a breakthrough, but most didn't have the knowledge required thanks to the monopolistic magi nobles of days past. What used to be common knowledge during the magic civilization was the knowledge that one had to risk one's life for in the modern-day.
Sheila solemnly told Claude that breaking through to become an archmagus wasn't just a pipe dream as she realised many materials in the list were easy to procure. For instance, much of the spoils from the Shiksan invasion were magical materials that could be used for a breakthrough. Not to mention, they had been refined beforehand and spared them much trouble.
Additionally, the ones that handled the spoils didn't understand how precious the magical materials were and sent them back to the region alongside most other spoils. Sheila had inspected the spoils in the warehouses before only to be shocked to find that the evaluators labelled them as mere experiment materials and metals.
So, Sheila spent 500 thousand crowns using the account Claude gave her to buy all the magical resources she could find, citing that Angelina and Sonia needed those materials for herbalism and research to reinforce cannons with better alloys. The inventory managers of the region believed the deal to be a great win. Not only would they be able to gain Claude's favour, they would clear out a few of their warehouses instantly and net the region's accounts an extra 500 thousand crowns.
Claude only just found out that he now owed the overseas bank a debt of 500 thousand crowns. But since the purchase was made, he was willing to overlook it, especially when Sheila was the one spending it. He wasn't mad in the slightest. Even though he didn't have much extra income, his shares and all other kinds of benefits he enjoyed would earn him that amount back in two to three years.
"My dear, will buying the resources worth 500 thousand crowns be enough for you to make the breakthrough?"
She shook her head crestfallenly. "It's not. The resources should only be half of what I need. Also, you're mistaken. The resources aren't just worth 500 thousand crowns. If they're sold in the magic black market, they'll be in high demand even if we offer to sell them off for five million crowns.
"You might not know this, but these resources are highly sought after. For instance, mythril and earth crystals are mineral ores that are almost completely used up. They can only be found in mining nations like Shiks. Normally, one wouldn't even be able to buy them even if one could afford them. It's not something that can be casually found through mining either.
"Mainly, I only managed to benefit from the deal because your warehouse managers don't really know the true value of these goods and labelled them as normal research materials. Do you know what they labelled mythril as? They called them a bronze alloy with great hardness. As for earth crystals, they labelled them as yellow-coloured crystals. I bought them for the price of potatoes."
Claude felt his heart shudder. He didn't blame the managers for not recognising the worth of the goods, as they weren't magi. Sheila really did luck out by getting those materials for only 500 thousand crowns.
The problem was that was only half the necessary amount she needed for a breakthrough. In other words, if she were to get the other half through normal means, Claude would have to pay five million crowns. Those goods were also not readily available even if one could afford it. Much effort was needed to track them down.
Even if Claude had lots of assets and earned roughly 200 thousand crowns annually, he couldn't actually afford to take out five million crowns. That kind of money was about the total income of the kingdom during the reign of Stellin X. Last year, the mainland only got less than 1.2 million crowns from taxes.
Claude wasn't Fredrey I who could use the fief scheme to rake in lots of money, tens of millions from nobles alone. The thought of getting fine million crowns made him panic somewhat. He finally understood why the magi of yore had to use violence to get the materials they couldn't afford to buy.
However, the region just wrapped up the invasion of Shiks. What other target was there for them to plunder? Though he wanted to talk her out of making the breakthrough, he couldn't bear to do so at the sight of her hopeful look. After a couple moments, he finally interrupted her long tirade. "Then, my dear, how much more funds do you need to buy the materials you will need?"
"Ummm..." She was a little taken aback. Seeing his torn expression, she finally understood what he was concerned about. Beaming with smiles, she said, "Claude, were you using attention to what I was saying?"
He nodded with a pained look as he thought, <i>how could I when I'm frantically thinking about how not to be financially ruined by you?!</i>
"Didn't you hear me? I said the materials I bought are the precious ones enough for the three of us to break through. The lists here contain the other half we need, but only the amount is huge. They're not actually that expensive. Most of them are commonly available, like whiteroot powder and herbalism materials.
"The thing we'll actually have trouble with is finding a good location to meet the breakthrough. We need a suitable magic tower. I'm going to renovate the internal of the viewing tower in our manor into a magic tower and I'll need some time and effort to inscribe the runic formations. So, in the next three years, I'll be needing your household's low-rank magi to help. We'll need lots of magic materials for the renovation.
"Don't forget that we're here in Nubissia, where quite a lot of materials that would be considered rare in Freia are produced. According to my estimations, we'd only need a little more materials after we get what we can here. When the tower renovation is complete three years later, I'll bring the household magi to the northern highlands and western wilderness on Freia for a trip. The tome states that the rest of what we need can be found there."
He breathed a sigh of relief. What she meant by having collected half is the amount, not the price. His generosity finally found its way back to him. "Well then, give me a list of ingredients you can find in the north and west of Freia. I'll have someone look into it. I don't feel safe letting you go to untamed lands as those."
That night, Sheila was surprisingly assertive in sharing her affection. Claude was as pleasured as he was worn out.