Book 2, Chapter 11

Battle

Thinking over things for a moment, Richard continued, “If the army coming for us is as we expect, we have a chance at success. Our first job is to ambush them once they enter the mountains, killing all their priests in one go before retreating to the base. We can then make use of the natural defence, slowly whittling down their numbers, bleeding them out until they can’t handle the losses anymore and have to retreat. Normally a commander here pulls back their troops once a third of the army is destroyed, unless they have a special mission or fixed target. We should be able to hold on until then. The ordinary soldiers are fine, but our primary targets should be their knights and novices. Attack from the walls and kill them instantly!”

Flowsand spoke up, “I should remind you about the broodmother.”

“The broodmother? It’s still a larva…” Richard found her line of thought strange.

“Perhaps so, but it still has offensive abilities. You remember what it said when it told you it could forage for food itself.”

Richard furrowed his brows, put deep into thought. His mind connected with the broodmother the moment he thought of it, sensing that it had already captured some prey deep inside the forest and was halted there. It was eating, radiating satisfaction through their link.

‘Return to the base early tomorrow,’ Richard ordered, and the broodmother replied with an affirmative.

……

Night fell slowly in this unfamiliar land. The sky was an inky, near-black blue, with only one moon that emitted pale light that was practically drowned out by the resplendent stars that filled the skies. There were far more here that could be seen with the naked eye than on Norland, so crowded that they made the night sky look like the skirt of a lady, adorned with pearls.

The little town of Osfa would normally be in the world of dreams at this time, but there was a large clamour throughout the place. Teams of fully armed soldiers were stood guard right outside, with only the knights able to sleep comfortably on beds within. Their squires were in the town as well, taking over the residents’ homes.

None of the residents of the town were asleep, instead busy preparing supper for the soldiers and aristocrats who’d come from afar. The town had a total population of merely 300, and with about the same number of soldiers suddenly having joined with ten or so powerful people that even the mayor had to bow his head to, the place was naturally in chaos. Forget the knights themselves, even the squires could do as they wished in the town.

The mayor was now stood inside his own small yet intricate dining hall, respectfully facing a few aristocrats who were comfortably bent over their food.

Sat in the middle was a middle-aged man with a thick moustache and bear-like stature, seemingly about forty years of age. He had a vicious scar on his neck, his high-collared linen shirt leaving it exposed. The scar was incredibly eye-catching, like a fleshy red mollusk just resting on his neck.

The knight swallowed a piece of searing hot beef, raising his head to look at the mayor, “Is there still no word from Sir Kojo?”

“No, Esteemed Sir Menta.”

“He might just have met with some trouble. It looks like we’ll have to be more cautious,” Menta said.

“We have priests with us, what’s there to be afraid of?” a malicious-looking man at the other end of the table asked, obviously showing little respect for Menta, “Didn’t high priest Camy say the God of Valour told him that the invaders were quite ordinary? I think Kojo just discovered something valuable from the invaders, and is planning to take it all himself. If he sends word back his share of blessings and credit will be divided with us.”

A hint of anger arose on Menta’s face, “Kojo is just the vanguard! I’m the leader here!”

“Who knows? Don’t forget that the people Kojo brought with him were all elites, proficient in battle on hilly terrain. How could there be no news at all?” The man shrugged before continuing, “Perhaps he won’t be the vanguard anymore once we get back.”

Menta hummed loudly, speaking no longer. He instead brandished his fork and knife, furiously stabbing at the beef on his plate.

A few pairs of eyes were making use of the cover provided by the forest at the outskirts of the town, watching from the branches to monitor any movements. Gangdor leapt off the top of a tree, displaying agility not befitting of his physique. His landing was soundless— if someone wanted to engage in guerilla warfare based on his looks, they were likely to land deep in trouble.

Richard was stood under the tree, making use of the shadows to conceal himself. He had no experience in stealth battles, so he didn’t dare scout as close to the enemy as Waterflower and Gangdor did.

Gangdor approached Richard, “I’m done counting, boss. There’s two knights, fifteen novices, and 280 soldiers, out of which 80 are elites. If we take care of all of them, and adding on those we already wiped out, two thirds of Forza’s elites will be done for.”

Richard nodded, “Good, let’s return. The ambush will be at the place we determined yesterday, Waterflower will keep watch here.”

Gangdor nodded, cooing out like a bird. This was the sound of the local owls, something he’d learnt on the way. Olar showed himself from the other side of the forest, his mostly elven heritage giving him the ability to move around freely. Bards had numerous little skills that allowed them to conceal themselves.

……

The skies began to brighten, and Osfa grew noisy. The knights had tidied up with the aid of their servants, finishing their breakfast. Soldiers formed lines outside the town, joining up with the novice knights to advance into the mountains.

Less than a kilometre after the town they found the end of the path. The horses could travel no further, so the knights and novices got off their mounts and had their servants bring them back to the town. In the meanwhile, the lower-ranked soldiers headed deeper into the mountains. The knights and novices changed into chainmail that was two grades worse than before; although they could bear tens or even hundreds of kilograms of weight, without their mounts it would be difficult for them to navigate the soft earth with that weight. Energy couldn’t be wasted, and what they would lose bearing the weight of heavy armour over such a long distance would be enough protect their entire bodies from one or two attacks.

Besides the two knights with their magic helmets, the most striking members of the troop were the two priests. They were dressed in crimson robes with rounded collars, the only difference between them being the gold embroidery on those of the older one signifying higher rank. The surrounding soldiers were extremely respectful to the two priests, their reverence surpassing what they had even for the knights.

Menta may have had a horrid temper, but he was quite practical when it came to his troops. He’d already sent out the lightly armoured scouts, clearing the path ahead and the places surrounding them. However, the further they went into the forest the longer their formation stretched. The general location of the invaders had already been passed down through the oracle, so they were marching in a fixed path. The knights knew very well about the areas where there was a high chance of ambush. Menta took the lead, while Sir Huber was at the rear alongside four novice knights, protecting the priests.

When they came upon a steep incline, Menta looked at the peak of the slope with unease filling his heart. However, the area was wide and spacious, with an ambush not really a possibility here. The scouts had also signalled that there was nothing to worry about, so he walked over with large strides.

The face of an elven bard slowly showed itself from the top of a large, leafy tree on the slope. He was practically one with the tree, stuck to its thick bark with very little presence of his own. He even swayed slightly to the tune of the wind.

Olar’s gaze fell onto the two priests that had just entered his sights. In the shrubbery at the foot of the tree were the corpses of two scouts, still warm. The bard slowly pulled his bow, the arrow’s tip gradually pointing at the priests. There were two of them? This was an unexpected situation, but the decision was a simple one to make. Shoot the one with the most elaborate clothing, and one couldn’t go wrong.

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OMA's Thoughts

Translated By: Ying

Edited By: Theo

TLC'ed By: OMA