Book 3, Chapter 73

Grit And Steel(3)

All the surviving enemies were a part of Odom’s heavy cavalry, violent and bloodthirsty with the spirit of true knights. They would fight to the end unless ordered to stand down, and the only one who could do so was already dead.

Richard pulled on the reins of his warhorse, raising his hand and ordering the surrounding warriors to retreat. The shield wall completely encircled the last dozen or so knights, the blood of humans, barbarians, and drones covering the entire area. With the horses all dead, these knights stood back to back as they faced these enemies that were nearly a thousand times their number.

“Surrender,” Richard gave them one last chance, but the only reply he got was spit on the ground right in front of him. He sighed, giving out one last telepathic order. A sea of axes drowned out the knights, ending the battle.

He stopped his warhorse atop a small hill, silently looking down as his soldiers cleaned up the battlefield. The dead were still in the same positions as right before they passed, blood staining the land. Odom’s body had been carried out and laid flat on the field, his armour filled with dents and burn marks. The twenty to thirty crossbow bolts all over his body were perhaps the best descriptors of this battle. Richard’s enchanted crossbow bolts were something nobody, not even a saint, was supposed to be able to withstand easily. However, Odom had taken twenty of them before he fell.

The busiest of the lot right now were the priests and clerics. Their powers were the only chance for many of the wounded warriors to survive, so Flowsand, Kellac, the other fallen clerics and even Caesar were treating them tirelessly. The great power of the Church of the Eternal Dragon was clearly evident.

Io was stunning as usual, his powers seemingly not depleted at all. He walked between the wounded, sacred light flowing out of his palm. Countless soldiers looked at him with hope glittering in their eyes like he was a god amongst mortals.

Richard didn’t feel as angry anymore.

When he received word about the defeat, Sir Hogan turned his troops around without a second of hesitation, ordering the retreat. Richard’s desert warrior cavalry finally showed itself, all unwounded. They surrounded the pure infantry soldiers, perfectly kiting around them like proper horseback bandits. However, Old Hogan led his troops calmly without allowing any disruption to their formation. Although they left hundreds of their comrades behind, they eventually made it away.

The battle with Odom had been more difficult than Richard had expected; he had to allow his soldiers to rest for a while after the battlefield was cleaned up. Although the broodmother’s drones did not care for wounds, they were still out of energy; will alone was not enough to overcome the body’s weakness.

During the entirety of Richard’s trip back to Norland, the broodmother had constantly been creating the elementary humanoid warriors in the bloodstained lands. There were now more than 500 of them, with ten being elites. With the armour Richard had given them, they were instantly worthy of Odom’s envy.

Once they came out of hiding, the broodmother’s drones had completely flipped the tables on the battlefield. 500 humanoids, a large number of throwers and 200 barbarians gave Richard a definitive upper hand in terms of soldiers, while the chasm between their spellcasters and powerhouses was even wider.

Richard had lost about 100 men with 200 more injured, collectively killing 700 enemy warriors. Outside of a minuscule number of deserters, almost all of Odom’s cavalry had been destroyed. On Richard’s end, the many clerics on healing duty would ensure the wounded warriors were fit for battle with a few days of rest. Although there were still more than a thousand soldiers in Fontaine’s lands, they had completely lost their elite forces.

The soldiers that had been a part of the intense battle entered the land of dreams at midnight. After recuperating in his tent, Richard began work on a rune. He had sufficient materials and many designs, so the only thing he needed was time.

Richard held his breath as the pen entered his hand, carefully carving the first line onto the hide. The line was long and crooked, covering more than three metres if straightened out, so it was difficult to complete in one go. However, this line was critical to the rune’s design, directly affecting the energy absorption mechanisms.

His hands remained stable as a rock, the deviation no more than a millimetre. This was a level of precision no normal person could achieve just from training, even more so when one also had to maintain a steady flow of mana at the same time.

Richard succeeded on the first try.

He heaved a sigh of relief, it was a well-drawn line that completed a third of the rune. He gently lifted the pen, preparing to change its ink; it had three different compartments that were completely isolated from each other, and the owner could select any one to draw with. This solved the age-old problem of inks being contaminated.

Richard’s heart warmed at the sight of the pen, thoughts floating to Flowsand. However, that immediately led to the battle priest Io who shone as bright as the sun.

Richard suddenly sensed the air being lit up by his breath. He felt like Io would be beside Flowsand right now. What was he doing there? And where was Flowsand?

The second question didn’t take much to answer. All the wounded warriors were already treated, so Flowsand had to be in her own tent. In that case, was Io there with her?

“No way!” Richard tried to convince himself. However, a deep voice rang out in his mind, ‘You’ll find out when you go check.’

‘I trust Flowsand!’ he exclaimed in his heart.

‘You barely even know her,’ the voice wouldn’t give up.

“Get lost!”

‘Why are you losing your temper? If you want to prove me wrong, just go check. You’re afraid of finding him there, aren’t you?’

Richard fell silent, putting the pen down. He wasn’t in the right mood to continue runecrafting, and he knew that he would fail even if he tried. This was the first time in his life his work had been stopped by emotion. His success rate was high, but so was the quality of the materials. Every failure wasted thousands of gold; every single coin was valuable right now.

He whipped out the Lifesbane blueprint, scanning through it once more. This was a rune close to perfection, not as straightforward as a normal grade 3 structure. The most difficult part was an array that seemed to be designed to link two of the same kind into one entity.

This array was extremely difficult to create, and he had never seen any such thing in another grade 3 rune before. However, it wasn’t a huge challenge; as long as his condition was good enough, he would be able to succeed within five tries. The issue was with his mana pool; he would need to be level 15 at minimum, able to cast grade 8 spells.

The design of all the other parts was wonderful as well. Richard was inspired by every nook and cranny of this rune.

However, tonight was not the night to do anything. Richard stared at the blueprint for over ten minutes without processing anything. ‘A lot of things could happen in this time,’ the voice rang out incessantly in his mind, ‘You might be able to stop it if you go now.

‘You’re still not going? It’s okay if you’re interrupted.

‘Even if it won’t make any difference if you go now, what about the second time…’

*Bam!* Richard threw the blueprint onto the table, standing up. If he didn’t go take a look, he would just waste time.

When the tents were being pitched, Richard had specifically had separate tents prepared for Flowsand, Io, and Kellac. It was normal procedure for powerful mages and clerics to receive special treatment, so these orders were quite ordinary. Gangdor and Olar, in charge of logistics, had never disappointed him when it came to executing on such things.

But…

Richard recalled that Flowsand had a faint smile on her face when she introduced Io. Thinking it over again, there were a lot of hidden meanings in that; never before had he heard a priestess call a priest her partner. Io’s expression floated into his mind once more, the expression of someone bright as the sun looking down on him. Thinking back to it, he saw a deep sense of animosity in those eyes.

Io seemed to have endless power, turning the battlefield into heaven. He shone so brightly that Richard felt like his own status as a royal runemaster meant nothing. As for other things like appearance, they weren’t even on the same playing field.

In all his life, RIchard had only felt like he lost in appearance to two people: Nyris and Io. Nyris was a true friend, his appearance enchanting, but Io was different. The battle priest was majestic, someone extremely attractive to women. Even an elf like Olar looked like a peasant in comparison.

Richard finally decided to head out of the tent. He would start drinking if he continued to stay, and the outcome of that would be completely unknown. However, he returned the moment he took a foot out, grabbing his sword before heading out once more.

He ran into Gangdor the moment he left the tent, almost bumping into the man. Just as Gangdor was about to joke about the matter, he sensed something was off. Richard seemed like he was about to kill someone! His smile faded away, “What’s the plan for tomorrow, boss?”

“Send Odom’s body back for now,” Richard answered thoughtlessly, “We’ll group up and attack Twilight Castle later in the day.”

Gangdor scratched his head in confusion, “Won’t that give them time to escape?”

“Let them.”

Gangdor simply nodded in answer to that, turning around to look for Olar so they could discuss plans for the attack. Before he left, he looked at Richard’s sword for a moment as various thoughts sprang into his mind.

Previous Chapter Next Chapter

OMA's Thoughts

Translated By: JT

Edited By: Theo

TLC'ed By: OMA