Book 2, Chapter 37

Retribution

While the higher-ups under Forza were searching for a reason to stay put, Richard had already found his way to a different manor. A fireball sent the place’s main security, composed of several strong, young soldiers, straight to their graves. He then calmly pointed forth from up on his horse, and a group of soldiers with only shields and swords rushed in.

These were the prisoners who’d surrendered earlier in the night, given weapon and shield but no armour to protect them. However, most of the defenders had been swept away by Richard, so the chaotic mob managed to overrun any resistance with sheer numbers.

The lord of the manor, an elegantly dressed knight, finally appeared, but he’d spent too much time putting on his full body armour. Gangdor and Waterflower saw him as he entered the battlefield imposingly, and a minute later he had been taken prisoner.

Half an hour later, Richard moved out with a large number of troops once more. They passed through two other manors, capturing the knights that ruled them before finally arriving at their destination at dawn. This was Woodtown, Sir Menta’s home. Now, Kojo’s wife would have several peers of similar status alongside her.

Once they’d captured Woodtown, Richard left the soldiers and captives who were too tired to continue behind. He had two mounted knights escort them back to camp, alongside two raptors, while he himself took the team from Norland and headed to Sir Hubert’s territory of Sequoia Town. A true battle broke out there, with more than thirty guards and warriors from knighted lineages joining the desperate struggle. As valiant as their sacrifices were, however, they were completely in vain. Flowsand’s presence had rendered them unable to severely wound even a single one of their foes.

With Sequoia Town captured, Sir Hubert’s family was taken prisoner as well. A total of 28 guards had been slain, shrouding the town in an atmosphere of deep sorrow that won Richard’s respect.

However, there would be nothing more. Richard left the place at a predetermined time, not delayed in the slightest. The desperate resistance had left them little time for looting.

Within a single day Richard had taken out half of the Baron’s forces, capturing three knights, killing one that refused to surrender, and even making off with two of the dead titled knights’ wives. If it was just one family, Forza could still feign ignorance. However, with three households raided, not doing anything would be the end of his reign.

After raging for an entire afternoon, the Baron finally sent out his standing army to pursue the invaders. Five hundred soldiers left his capital at dusk, led by five knights as they rushed to Joven to attack the invaders who had already moved on. Forza was not a genius, but he wasn’t stupid— he knew that the numbers of his men did not make up for their skill. In the meanwhile, the invaders’ strength was quite clear. They had at least fifteen strong warriors that were more powerful than his knights, and a mage nearing level 10.

A damned mage!

Mages in this bountiful hinterland were even rarer than priests and shamans. Any mage close to level 10 would be more esteemed than the baron himself. Such high status did not just come out of their destructive prowess on the battlefield— there were many goods and equipment that only a mage could acquire. Things such as magic equipment and enchantments were very valuable.

Because of such prestige, power, and wealth, many wanted to become mages. However, the traditions of this plane placed heavy emphasis on one’s lineage, with the requirements on one’s ancestry being extremely strict. A mage around level 10 could only accept around 10 apprentices, with no guarantee as to how much these apprentices would be able to learn. Thus, any aristocratic family with the means, even royal families as well, gave any of their children who had the slightest aptitude over to these veterans, filling up that limited quota. Even if some commoners had greater talent, many never had a chance to step foot into that world.

Over time, these traditions reinforced the scarcity of mages and made them even more valuable. And the more valuable they became, the more scarce they were. The invaders had a powerful mage on their side! This threat was greater in Forza’s eyes than the rest of the invaders combined. There was a saying on this plane— only a mage could deal with a mage.

Of course, the one who’d come up with that saying was a mage himself. But his status as a grand mage made the saying unquestionable.

While priests, clerics, and powerful warriors could match mages in theory, without many battles to analyse there weren’t many efficient tactics for such confrontations here. The accepted practice was to find a way to exhaust the opponent’s mana before they tried to kill him.

Forza may have had the funds to build a church to the God of Valour, but he couldn’t afford a level 10 mage. He’d asked for help from Jayleon because the Earl had three mages at level 10 or higher. That would be the most traditional of tactics, using a mage to deal with another.

Forza was counting the days in his ornate, beautiful study. It would take five days at the latest for the Earl’s reinforcements to arrive, and if he was lucky the vanguards could make it here in two. At that moment, he would be safe.

However, the cost of such safety caused Forza to shudder. Earl Jayleon was infamous for his greed, and surely hadn’t passed up the chance to extort a heavy price. Having lost nearly all his fighting forces, Forza had been in no position to bargain. He would lose at least five knights’ worth.

That wasn’t just the land, taxes, and manpower. It was also five powerful, loyal, knights.

Had he known such a day would come, Forza would never have provoked these ‘insignificant’ invaders. The word had a precise definition amongst oracles, indicating that the invaders weren’t higher than level 10. However, these very ‘insignificant’ people could cause losses great enough to threaten him and his knights.

Forza regretted the choice to use force. The much wiser option would have been to give them some benefits, and a map that led them to the Direwolf Duke. If not that, at the very least the church’s paladins should have formed the main force. Forza hadn’t had a good night’s sleep in a few days. Dark blue eyebags were already hanging from his fleshy face.

One could look down on the city harbour from the Baron’s study. The lighthouses and the Church of Valour were the most eye-catching buildings in the night, with a magnificent beacon tower taller than even the lighthouses themselves built in the church building. The beacon was lit whenever an oracle was received, or during a festival. The brilliant light would be visible for miles, and would not be extinguished for ten days.

Forza subconsciously gazed up at the magnificent church, and suddenly found the dancing flames blinding. He snorted heavily, pulling his curtains closed to prevent all light from entering his window. His only prayer now was that his army would not encounter the invaders, for he was extremely clear as to what such an encounter would bring about.

The vicious intruders could break the morale of these normal warriors with a single flurry of blows. There was an untold reason he had sent his soldiers out at night— should they scatter, more of them would be able to escape under the cover of darkness. Such was Baron Forza’s last military maneuver.

The prayer was only partly effective. His men had barely left the barracks, walking only five miles when they were discovered by a prowling raptor that immediately sent a telepathic message to Richard who was far away.

A knight had discovered the beast in the long grass, but had taken it to be an unknown monster that had descended from the mountains.  He had no interest in hunting at the time, only thinking of swiftly bringing his troops to Joven and guarding it. The Baron had given him a secret missive before he left— explaining to him that his only task was to safely wait out these last few days before the Earl’s reinforcements arrived.

The beast seemed reluctant, and tailed the troops from afar for nearly two miles before disappearing into the night.

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OMA's Thoughts

Translated By: Joshua

Edited By: Theo

TLC'ed By: OMA