Book 3, Chapter 86

Undercurrent

Having understood their location, Richard looked at the time. It was seven in the evening. “Alright, gather all the captains at eleven. I want to discuss our plans for attacking Camp Bluesquare.”

“Eleven?” Viscount Zim thought this timing very interesting. Wasn’t that the time for them to rest and sleep? If they did not rest, how would they have the energy to fight the next day?

However, Richard nodded, “Eleven! Also Zim, come over at eight-thirty.”

He then finished off an entire five kilograms of roasted boar ribs before returning to his tent, starting to ponder over the map. His followers disappeared one after the other. The camp quickly quieted down; outside of the patrolling soldiers, everyone slowly entered a world of dreams. With a battle imminent, even the most rebellious ruffian would rest earnestly; who did not treasure their minuscule lives?

Richard analysed the map for a while before taking a look at the time and reclining on his bed. A bird’s eye view of Camp Bluesquare immediately appeared in his consciousness.

It was late in the night, but the camp was still brightly lit. Fully-armed soldiers guided groups of slaves to carry huge amounts of stones and sandbags up the walls to fortify the defences. Ballistae were being brought out of the warehouse.

The ballistae were an entire three metres long; atop a city defence tower, they could shoot as far as a thousand metres with immense power. Camp Bluesquare had four such ballistae, one on each corner of the walls. Only two were functional currently; the other two would only complete assembly by midnight.

The ballistae were a huge investment on Earl Lambert’s part, and had just been transported to Camp Bluesquare. Each ballista had two bolts with tracking enchantments, the bolts alone worth 100,000 gold each. If not for how important the camp was, Lambert would rather rely on normal tactics like slave soldiers and human millstones to withstand the siege. In the Bloodstained Lands, such ballistae were more valuable than human lives.

Nobody in Camp Bluesquare had noticed that there was an abnormally large number of bats scavenging for food that night. There were even a few especially large, strange bats mixed in. The images were transmitted to Richard’s mind through the soul link, giving him every detail of the camp’s defences.

Next to a ballista that had just been installed, a dozen or so fierce-looking half-naked slavers were guiding two mature trolls that were nearly four metres tall with their whips. The trolls dragged the heavy cuffs on their limbs, occasionally glaring at the surroundings and roaring as they revealed long fangs, but the only result of such defiance was a firm beating.

Behind the slavers, a few martial artists with an imposing aura stared at the trolls. Each was level 13; if their armour-cutting axes were whirled around, even these trolls wouldn’t be able to endure the blows without broken bones.

In the end, the two trolls were still chased to the entrance of the city and were forced to a huge capstan. After which, with the pushing of the two trolls and twenty barbarian slaves, it slowly began to move. A city defence giant crossbow that had already been assembled finally began to creak and pull the bowstring that had been tanned and processed from a dozen or so rhinoceros hides.

Seeing that the trolls were pulling at the ballistae and not a portcullis or the like, Richard sighed in relief. However, he immediately recalled the terrifying cost of a portcullis; who would use such a structure in the Bloodstained Lands? Something like that would only exist in imperial capitals or other large cities, or in forts that could not afford to be lost.

The bowstring was pulled taut, and following the order to release a furious howl rang out. The entire ballista bounced off the ground a little as a giant bolt disappeared into the night sky.

One of the bats in the sky immediately flew in the direction the arrow had disappeared, finding its final position in a moment. The test bolt had actually covered a total of 1,200 metres! This range left Richard feeling slightly alarmed.

With few exceptions, not even a grand mage could cast spells at this distance. If matched with enough tracking arrows, these ballistae were a hard counter to spellcasters. If one could pay for it, they would even get bolts enchanted with increased flight time; that would increase the range to a whopping 2,000 metres!

Thankfully these ballistae were very expensive. Most of the materials were spent on increasing the power and range, with little thought given to durability. As long as their main body was struck, these things would quickly turn into a pile of parts. From this point of view, they were far less troublesome than magic towers. If not for that, Richard really would have considers detouring around Camp Bluesquare. However, leaving an enemy camp with such a huge military force behind was something no commander with even the slightest of intellects would do.

Within the camp, a few gnomes quickly darted to the side of the giant crossbows and started calculating something. One of them with a white beard suddenly jumped on top of the thing and started shouting loudly, commanding the soldiers to transport metal ingots to strengthen the base of the ballista.

“Gnomes?” Richard was startled once more. This was an intelligent race that had spread through many planes. They weren’t tall and naturally flawed in terms of strength, but they made up for it with outstanding wisdom and agility. Some said they were closely related to dwarves, while others said they were like humans, both races native to countless planes.

Gnomes were natural alchemists with exceptional magic talent. Their innate agility also made them great candidates for assassins as well. Richard had learnt that there were gnomes on Faelor, but it was said that their empire was even further west of the Ashen Plateau; between them were the near-unsurpassable Dragon Mountains.

This was his first time actually seeing members of the race in Faelor. It seemed like these ballistae had come from the hands of these gnomes; no wonder their power was unordinary. These ballistae were even approaching Norland’s standard! Richard still remembered that most of the exquisite alchemical facilities in his own laboratory back in the Deepblue had come from gnomes; the rest were custom-made items from the elven empire.

‘I need to keep these midgets alive!’ Richard decided immediately. He wanted them in his possession.

……

It drew late into the night, and the last two ballistae were eventually done with their test shots. Camp Bluesquare eventually entered a state of rest; their scouts had already determined the location of Richard’s camp, and from the distance between them war would only start the next day at noon. Or there would be no war at all. After all, Earl Lambert and Richard hadn’t conflicted directly before.

Lambert himself was 500 kilometres away, taking a copper tube from the claws of a carrier eagle. Having retrieved the information and studied it a few times, he quickly moved to his study and looked over the map of the Bloodstained Lands on the wall. He stroked his beard, deep in thought. Camp Bluesquare had been marked out clearly on the map; two of his four major slave transportation routes passed through there.

Within the study stood an aged great mage, one of the Earl’s trusted aides. The mage read through the information back and forth a few times before speaking, “Richard really did only bring 10,000. We have 4,000 soldiers capable of defending Camp Bluesquare. While that number is not ideal, Richard will need to pay a huge price if he wishes to attack the camp. I’m sure he will consider this carefully; after all, too many casualties and he won’t be able to advance westwards even if he gets the camp.

“However, it seems best to throw the Red Cossack men out as soon as possible. They are his mortal foes, I’m sure he will just ignore the camp and move on if the defences are solid and there are no Red Cossacks within.”

“Red Cossack doesn’t make a difference,” Earl Lambert hummed, “Richard isn’t someone who only pays attention to his enemies. However, if he wishes to attack Camp Bluesquare, let him try! My army is different from that trash!”

Hearing the murderous words of the Earl, the great mage involuntarily shivered. Lambert had personally taken at least several thousand lives, chopping off the heads of a slave or two whenever his mood was good or bad. In his own words, the moment a human head touched the ground was the most splendid moment in life.

The Earl was obviously in a very bad mood now; Richard had really brought an army to Camp Bluesquare’s doorsteps, and clearly he had no good intentions.

“My Lord, His Highness Salwyn is still awaiting your word,” the mage asked carefully.

Lambert’s expression grew all the more terrible and he hummed again and again, “I’m not going! Does the fellow think I don’t know what he’s planning? The Bloodstained Lands are really a gold mine, but not everyone can strike it rich here. How many years have I spent, how many lives to get to my current position? He’s a prince without a title and he wants a piece of the pie? What right does he have? Tell him to find a way himself. He can forget about using me!”

The great mage nodded, “Alright. I know how I’ll answer.”

The mage then retreated from the study. Lambert did not care about how late it had gotten, still standing in front of the map staring hard at the mark on Camp Bluesquare. Actually, deep in his mind the Earl was not anxious. He had already made preparations, and on top of it all that person was still in the camp. If Richard came, he would only leave badly injured.

……

At that very moment, the lights were still on in the castle of the Marquess of Strength Yang of the Iron Triangle Empire. The table at the centre had been replaced with a holographic map that was extremely precise, currently displaying the terrain of the southern part of the Iron Triangle Empire and the Bloodstained Lands.

Salwyn was stood in front of the map, using a long, retractable mithril pointer to accentuate his explanation, “I expect Richard’s army to break through the first 100 kilometres very quickly. This will establish faith in the nobles of the Sequoia Kingdom, prompting more to enter the alliance. Our army will be split into three. The light infantry will be under the command of Sir Aer, setting up defences at Bloodflag Valley. You’ll need to withstand Richard’s attacks for at least three days!”

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OMA's Thoughts

Translated By: Ying

Edited By: Theo

TLC'ed By: OMA