To be fair, Steven was the one who’d invested his time into this wedding agreement. Minnie blinked in a moment, finally sitting up. Although her expression was still cold, the arrogance and ridicule in her eyes had died away. A smile of mockery rose about her lips, but this time, it was meant for herself. Her two feet touched the ground and, just like that, she stood by Steven’s side, gazing out of the window as he did, “I have nothing to be so proud of, but I can’t give up on everything I have now. I choose to stand with you. You can treat me as a woman, a companion, a friend, or even a subordinate, but I won’t be a toy.”
Steven did not reply, merely narrowing his gaze on the wintry scene outside with a dangerous look.
Minnie sighed and continued, “Don’t you think this situation is strange? Richard’s never learnt how to make complete runes, while you’re mentored by Saint Klaus and have top-notch materials to use. Even then it took you half a month with 41 failures to reach 20% completion, but Richard could make a full rune directly?”
Minnie’s words calmed Steven down, and he began to consider, “You mean there’s a possibility Richard didn’t make the rune? No, there’s no reason for Professor Fayr to lie, he has no need to be biased towards either the Solams or the Archerons. Richard should have made it himself, but you’re on the right track. His class schedule says he’ll only begin learning runecrafting next year at the earliest, so there must have been some decisive factor that allowed him to break through this obstacle that so many never do in an instant, soaring so high. We need to find that key factor; even if I can’t use it, I could get some inspiration.”
Minnie frowned, “That’s going to be difficult.”
“It is. Richard has practically no friends, and rarely has dealings with people not related to him. His greatest contact is with the grand mages who are his Professors, but those guys are basically emotionless beings. This is the Deepblue, I definitely can’t stalk him to see who he makes contact with. Even buying information about his whereabouts will cause too much of a fuss.” Steven could not help but furrow his brows, Randolph’s pitiful experiences fresh in his mid. Malice towards another of her apprentices would not gain him Sharon’s favour.
“Erin! We should just ask her. Who knows, we might just get an answer,” Minnie suggested. “After all, she’s the only woman to get so close to him.”
Steven shook his head, “Erin? What use is she? I thought she was someone Richard liked, why else would the enforcers ban her from getting in bed with him? The only reason I had her first time was because I wanted to make Richard angered or dispirited, hoping he used some fierce methods in retaliation. As you can see, though, there’s no effect at all. There’s no change to Richard’s studies and lifestyle, and there doesn’t even seem to be a change in his emotional state. Is that liking someone? So much time has passed already, and Richard must have lost his interest in her. Why would he tell such an important secret to such an unreliable woman? The situation now is different as well; if Richard finds out about me and Erin it might even have the opposite effect. After all, those old guys are obviously on his side! Don’t assume they’re all confused geezers!”
Minnie was not of the same opinion. “There’s no harm in trying. Besides, you don’t know how a woman thinks. Erin likes him a little, which is why she will definitely not tell Richard what happened between you, or at least not the details. However, she definitely knows that she and Richard have no future. After being used by you, she’s even more clear about that. Since there’s no hope, why not use past feelings to earn some money? That’s all as long as this amount exceeds what she expected. All women living at the district at the edges are all the same. If she really could hold on, you wouldn’t have been able to get her so easily.”
Steven hesitated for a moment, and then nodded. However, he then sighed and said with a hint of disappointment, “Even if I were to find out the secret, the gap it’s caused is hard to be compensated for. He might only be evaluated as excellent, but that doesn’t mean everything. At the very least the talent he’s shown isn’t much different from mine. On top of that...”
Steven laughed wryly and continued, “The resources he can use for his training far exceeds mine.” Minnie went quiet.
That was reality. Richard’s monthly income was no large secret, and anyone with enough power could easily learn about it. His total income wasn’t exactly ridiculous, but his expenses were far lower. Steven used most of his money to pay for rent and fees for two, as well as other social costs. Removing all that, he didn’t even have half as much to spend on courses, materials, and potions as Richard. Those were the true expenses that could affect one’s improvements in magic. That elementary strength rune had already used up practically all his savings.
Steven took another huge swig of alcohol, allowing the liquid to burn its way from his throat to his chest. He could already feel that his efforts since entering the Deepblue had gone awry. He used to believe he’d used the perfect schemes, both openly and in the shadows, using Erin to cause trauma and seizing every possible moment to isolate his opponent. Using all his resources, he would then show his talent and strength in becoming a runemaster. However, the result had dealt him a damning blow. Using progress that exceeded his own by two large grades, Richard had won a battle that hadn’t even been declared.
Steven could not help but begin to reflect on whether he had done too many useless things. Had he used the entirety of his energy and focus on runecrafting from the start, would the result have been different? Deepblue was not like the outside world. There was no need to butter up the public, no need for status. All that was required was Sharon’s Delight and absolute power.
Minnie gazed at the crestfallen face of the ambitious man next to her, suddenly feeling a chill on her naked body. Even her heart began to squeeze, and the humiliation she’d felt but moments ago gave way to freezing cold. Even if Steven gave up now he still had his bloodline and the connections from his mother’s side. What did she have?
Minnie hesitated for a long time, and then said, “There might be a last option, though it might not work.”
“What is it?” Steven’s eyes brightened as he asked, like a drowning person who’d suddenly found some flotsam.
“Get close to Master, and obtain her favour. I’ve been feeling lately like she’s grown increasingly unstable, so this is a very good opportunity. While she’s a legendary mage, she’s also a woman...”
Steven froze for a while, and soon understood what Minnie was implying. His eyes began to brighten up. Yes, the legendary mage was a woman. Why hadn’t he thought of that? As expected, women understood women the best.
“So you’re saying that I should try making Sharon mine?” Steven wondered, his expression slowly gaining life again to reveal the flawless smile of nobility once more. Although he lost completely in runecrafting, he had an absolute advantage over Richard in this area. It wasn’t such a rare thing among aristocrats, nothing to blush over. This was another type of battle, but its stakes were no less than any other.
Determination flashed in Steven’s eyes, “That is a method, but the rate of success is minute. I can’t place my hopes on that. There are a few more people I can use in the Deepblue. If it’s absolutely necessary, I’ll make that kid disappear.”
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