Book 8, Chapter 62

The Search

The entire battlefield was rocked by a shockwave centred around Richard and Calor, destabilising both army formations instantly. The Brahms army immediately fell into chaos, but even with some people falling the Archerons recovered in moments. The powerhouses could only look on helplessly as Richard crushed Calor into the ground with incredible ease, slowly getting off his knees and patting the dust away. Cracks had spread out in all directions from the impact, with the sky saint having fainted in the centre.

Before he lost consciousness, the only thing Calor could think about was the feeling of being crushed by an ancient titan. How could a human have such strength?

As he stood up, Richard raised his right arm and drew two circles in the air before pointing at the army opposite. The Archerons immediately charged towards the Brahms army, drowning the larger force out.

…….

By dusk, Calor had been brought back to Dragonwing Castle by his closest guards. He hadn’t been able to move a single muscle the entire time, only staring into the sky and muttering to himself, “Strong… strong… strong…”

Marquess Brahms felt all of his arrogance fizzle away in the face of an incredible defeat, and even more heartbroken at the state of his close friend. His fists were clenched as he heard Calor whisper crazily, knowing fully well that this man wasn’t as weak-willed as it would seem. He had fought legendary opponents on multiple occasions without faltering even in defeat, but Richard had crushed him in both body and soul.

Before this evening, Brahms had believed that the worst case scenario against Richard was the loss of his soldiers and perhaps even Calor. However, the general’s current condition was clearly much worse than death. A cleric who had inspected him only a short time ago had confirmed that all of his bones had been broken, and it would take half a year to heal. The cleric herself had been shocked by her assessment; just how much strength did it take to crush every single bone in a near-legendary warrior? According to witnesses, Richard had just pushed Calor into the ground with one attack. However, the extent of the injuries made it seem like he had been stepped on by an abyssal dragon.

“How many dead?” The Marquess stood up, fixing his gaze on the four guards. Calor had taken 70,000 troops when he left, but now only five in total had returned. Richard had evidently allowed them to flee just so they could make this report. The rest of the army had been conquered completely.

“About 5,000 dead, my Lord, the rest surrendered,” one of the guards answered.

“And on Richard’s side?”

“A… few hundred…”

*Bang! Thud!* After breaking through two solid stone walls, a corpse slumped onto the floor. Brahms still couldn’t control his rage, bellowing hysterically, “ONLY FIVE THOUSAND DEAD AND MY ARMY SURRENDERS! WHAT POINT WAS THERE IN FEEDING YOU ALL?”

The generals in the room stared straight down, not even daring to breathe audibly. They knew that 5,000 dead would also involve about five times as many injured, and the immediate loss of their commander made surrender sensible. If anyone was to be blamed, it was Calor for overestimating his abilities.

“So tell me, what do we do now?!” Brahms growled after a few minutes of swearing, but the generals only looked at each other in dismay with no one making a sound. They already knew what the best options were— either leave Richard to his devices and hope he went away, or hand over the divine gold. No one was silly enough to mention either.

The Marquess clearly didn’t intend for that question to be answered either, shooing the generals away while leaving only a few priests from the Church of Glory behind.

“When will he be here?”

“Three days,” a priest answered.

“Three days?! That’s enough for Richard to destroy my lands!”

The priest remained calm, “This incident was far too sudden. His Excellency is currently amidst a crucial military campaign, three days is the fastest he can arrive.”

“So you’re blaming me for taking things into my own hands?” Brahms asked in a dark voice.

“I wouldn’t dare,” the official made a small bow of concession. The mere formality of the gesture was clear to everyone, but the Marquess also knew that he didn’t have any power over the church even as a nephew of an archbishop.

……

Richard’s next move confused everyone.

After his first victory, his army marched the prisoners of war up to Sunset City. The castle fell in only six hours, and 10,000 more injured troops signalled their surrender. This was all reasonable, but then he split his army into five parts that marched on the most important towns in the territory. Ten smaller patrol groups spread out to cover the land while these armies marched, making it clear that he was digging around for the Crimson Hawks.

Each of Richard’s armies contained anywhere between five and six thousand soldiers, easily taking over their targets. While Brahms claimed to have 200,000 troops, most of his elites had been lost in the two major battles. Now he only had 10,000 men that were actually worth something in battle, and they couldn’t be moved out from Dragonwing Castle.

And yet, Richard didn’t plunder any of the towns he conquered. In fact, he basically did nothing at all, just occupying the places to ensure his army could roam about freely to look for the Crimson Hawks.

Nobody could decipher what his motives were; from the surface, it really did seem like he just wanted to perform his so-called investigation and nothing else. He could have marched straight towards Dragonwing Castle after his first victory, but he hadn’t done so. Several other nobles nearby were left with no excuse to intervene, nor did they have the desire to in the first place. This allowed the humiliating investigation to go unchallenged.

Most garrisons gave way the moment they saw Archeron troops, expressing their intent to cooperate. The few who refused were decimated, and in no time Richard had no overt enemies in the area. For two full days, Marquess Brahms suffered in silence as Richard dragged his reputation through the mud.

And things didn’t stop there. Richard set up multiple checkpoints all over the marquessate to screen every traveller thoroughly, which only meant the news of this investigation spread faster than it had to. Willingly or otherwise, Brahms became the centre of gossip for all of Norland, the blatant theft of the divine gold clear to many. Now, everyone was waiting to see just what the response to this deadly counter would be; if he wasn’t firm enough, the Marquess would become a joke for decades.

Anxiety tore away at Brahms’s appetite, but as somewhat of a voracious eater he eventually ordered some guards out of the castle to hunt down some fresh boar. However, the men returned within minutes of being deployed, shaken and empty-handed.

“RICHARD DID WHAT?!” another shout rang out as the Marquess put on a scarlet cloak and walked out of the castle. He was still confident in being able to hold out until reinforcements arrived if Richard were to attack, but when he came across a checkpoint outside he almost fainted from rage.

The so-called checkpoint was only a small wooden fortification that seemed like it would be blown away by a breeze, and manning it were only ten soldiers! Dragonwing Castle still had the military forces to swarm even ten saints, but these were only regular soldiers. Only one of them was wearing a badge, and that badge signified that he was just a captain!

Brahms immediately gathered a hundred elites and rode out to face the Archeron soldiers, “Are you tired of life?!”

However, the demeanour of the Marquess didn’t seem to intimidate the Archerons at all. The young officer stepped forward, “Upon orders from His Grace Richard Archeron, we have set up a checkpoint here to interrogate any passersby. No member of the Crimson Hawks can be allowed to escape.”

Brahms whipped the air loudly, pointing at the castle behind him, “Open your wretched eyes and take a good look! This is my castle, there aren’t any Crimson Hawks here!”

“I know Dragonwing Castle,” the captain answered calmly, “My orders are to control passage and collect proof from everyone passing that they aren’t the bandits.”

Brahms froze for a moment before chuckling, staring the captain down as he activated his aura, “So would you check within my castle if you can’t find anyone here?”

“Hmm… Perhaps. If I receive the orders to do so, I hope I’ll have your cooperation.”

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OMA's Thoughts

Translated By: HH

Edited By: Theo

TLC'ed By: OMA