Book 3, Chapter 90

The Bloodstained Path

Flowsand was the first to regain her cheer, “Don’t think so far ahead. Didn’t we win this one?”

“That’s true!” Richard laughed. He was their leader; if he was in low spirits himself, how would he guide the rest?

Zendrall walked out of the group and pointed to the still-towering Tidor, “Master, this corpse…”

Richard creased his brows, “Tidor was a true fighter…”

“Most saints are true fighters!” the necromancer emphasized. However, these words caused Rolf’s face to warm up for some reason. Seeing Richard still wanting to say more, Zendrall hastily added, “My Lord! If you want to respect true warriors, I will never have any death knights!”

Richard hesitated for a moment before finally letting out a sigh and nodding his head. On this plane where a crisis awaited at every step, the first priority was to grow his might. He could not lessen his followers’ chances of survival just because of his respect for his enemies.

Zendrall immediately grew excited. A wave of his hand and four warriors of darkness walked out from a spell formation, carrying Tidor’s corpse outside the barracks area.

Richard leapt onto his horse and began patrolling through Camp Bluesquare, assisting his troops in the clean-up operations. At the same time, he issued for one of his elite humanoid warriors to enter the command tent back in their own camp.

The spacious tent was filled with intoxicated laughter. Most of the noble commanders were immersed in their drink, jokes, stories, legends, and even boasting. Even Zim was skipping around, bragging about his own valour and wisdom as well as the number of young noblewomen he had won over.

“Sir Richard orders everyone to head to Camp Bluesquare,” the elite humanoid stated stiffly, “My Lord says it might rain tonight, so everyone should reach the camp at the earliest so they can avoid catching a cold.”

The drone’s voice was strange and completely monotonous, sounding absolutely terrible. However, its words resonated in the ears of the noble captains. There was no reaction from anyone for a moment, but those who were yet to become fully drunk suddenly leapt up and exclaimed, “He already conquered Camp Bluesquare?!”

A moment later, many of the captains were aroused from their trance. The army packed up, setting off for Camp Bluesquare. As the tipsy nobles saw the embers yet to be extinguished all over the camp, each and every one of them couldn’t help but look dumbstruck. Everyone capable of standing here knew at least some things about leading an army into war. They quickly calculated how much time had passed since Richard left their camp, glancing at the remnants of the camp’s defences as they watched more than 2,000 prisoners of war being herded outside the barracks to be held captive. For a moment, it felt like they were in a dream.

He won just like that? Richard had only been gone for a short while, with only enough time for a tryst with a young lady in the forest.

They still didn’t know that Tidor had died in this battle as well. The death of any saint was bound to become a topic of conversation in high society for a long time. Defeating a saint wasn’t all that hard, but killing them was. This was particularly true in small-scale duels; if the saint was set on escaping, one would need several times their power to pin them down. However, things grew complicated in the ever-changing battlefield. All sorts of terrain, tactics, magic, and weaponry became variables that could seriously injure or even kill a saint that was not careful enough. Thus, Faelor’s saints rarely appeared in the line of fire on a battlefield. Even if they did, it would be to contend against the saints of the enemy.

Regardless of the astonishment, Camp Bluesquare had already landed in Richard’s hands. Barely a day had passed since the start of the project; there were nine more until the day came when they would be given a chance to make their decisions.

The army rested and reorganised at Camp Bluesquare for a day, most of that time spent on checking the loot and dividing it. The gains were in the form of the prisoners of war, slaves, the one remaining ballista, and Camp Bluesquare itself. The camp’s value lay in the fact that it had a water source.

Although Richard had basically conquered the camp on his own, he still split the gains strictly according to their initial agreement. This won a chorus of cheers from most of the aristocrats; it had not yet dawned on them that they would no longer have any reason to refuse a dispatch of their own soldiers.

Throughout the next day, these captains who did not manage to see the battle were constantly discussing the results. 5,000 attackers matched against just under 4,000 guards, leaving more than a thousand dead and two thousand captive. Only a few hundred had escaped, while less than a hundred people had died on Richard’s side. Two or three hundred had sustained minor injuries; most of the casualties were caused to the infantry that had entered the city halfway through the battle. In fact, most of the deaths and injuries had come from the one ballista bolt that had exploded mid-air. And yet, despite that, the ratio of casualties was completely beyond their imagination. With their current military knowledge, these men would never be able to deduce exactly what had happened.

Richard naturally knew of the discussion as well, but he dismissed it with a laugh. These fellows were just used to wars in Faelor, and didn’t know how formidable the collective power of a large-enough troop of high-ranking warriors empowered with buffs could be. The power of magic had already been rooted in the heart of Norland’s people long ago. If not for that, rune knights would never have emerged.

Richard had a total of 700 level 9 warriors on hand, as well as 200 level 8 throwers.

……

Dawn of the third day, the army continued on their journey. After an entire day’s march, they arrived at the Groundbreaking Canyon.

This place produced cloudiron ore in abundance. There were tens of influences here of all scales mining the ore, with armed confrontations almost every month. Those who could survive this place were not to be trifled with.

At the same time, the terrain of the canyon was extremely complex with countless creatures roaming the caves. It was said that the depths of the caves connected to the dark regions, which was why there seemed to be an endless stream of underground creatures charging out. Although they were mostly cavemen without much intelligence, they were each comparable to an able-bodied man in the prime of his life. They knew how to use simple tools and weapons as well. Once their numbers grew large enough, they would become a headache. 

Once they entered the vicinity of the Groundbreaking Canyon, Richard let his troops rest for a day. Morning of the fourth day, he led his troops in a charge right into the canyon. He advanced steadily through the battle striking hard while moving carefully with every step. Companies went into battle one after the other, the rows of heavily armed warriors backed by spells like gigantic meat grinders as they mercilessly destroyed the horde of weak enemies.

If one were to look over from the sky, Richard’s army seemed to be a current of steel that rolled forward in an unhurried yet unstoppable manner. Spurts of blood kept staining the ground in front of the current, leaving a bloodstained path behind.

Richard was in the midst of the frontlines, taking charge in the most meticulous and detailed manner. Every squad of warriors who grew tired or was injured was quickly replaced by one that was rested.

This was a battle of attrition, taking five long hours before they could finally make their way out. Richard had remained the most precise alchemic machine throughout, not making a single mistake in his commands with the tone of his voice the exact same as when they had begun. Even the occasional deaths of the unskilled soldiers of the other nobles were compensated for, the meat grinder not stopping for one moment.

When the army was done, the valley floor of Groundbreaking Canyon was already covered in dark red blood.

On the seventh day, Richard’s army entered the Khanba Gobi. This was already more than a hundred kilometres away from Bluewater Oasis, the homeland of the desert warriors. Here, they were ambushed by roaming horsemen.

Richard had transferred the entirety of his elite cavalry to the frontlines by this time, also bringing along the barbarian soldiers whose mobility was not one whit inferior to cavalrymen. With less than a thousand men facing off against 5,000 desert horsemen, an adrenaline-pumping battle ensued in a battlefield that stretched across tens of kilometres. By the time his troops broke through the desert people’s formation for the third time, the enemies lost all morale as they abandoned more than a thousand corpses to flee in all directions.

On the tenth day, Richard’s army had arrived at the Cracked Canyon. This was the base of the orcs in the Bloodstained Lands, with tens of thousands of powerful orcs living here. When he ordered his troops to enter the battlefield, an endless horde rushed towards them!

Every adult orc was a decent warrior. The youths and elderly weren’t weak either, with every individual able to fight on some level. However, Richard showed these orcs the power of an iron wall strengthened by magic.

He arranged all of his troops in extremely tight formations, the front rows resisting the attacks with all their might while the spellcasters in the back poured magic onto the enemy. Fire and acid burned the enemies, while the clerics constantly cast vitality spells on the mages to restore their mana quicker.

Rows of flames burned incessantly. In situations like this, Fireball and Wall of Fire were extremely effective spells. Richard had already changed out Nature’s Beckon for the latter in his Book of Holding. These barely-armoured orcs could not resist such powerful magic, relying purely on their valiance to step through the sea of fire and suffer the burns as they charged into the line of battle against the human infantry.

The orcs had basically no equipment or strategy, forget clerics and mages. Their shamans were dancing crazily, but the boost to the warriors was essentially negligible. Richard had even cast a detection spell at the beginning of the battle to analyze their prayers, finding that Faelor’s ancestral worship was weaker even than magic. It was no wonder that the ultimate goal of these ancestors was to become a true god.

This was truly an arduous and extraordinary battle. Flesh, blood, and weapons scattered all around as the enchanted flames seemed to never flicker, the radiance of the spells gradually seeming dim. Individual power was crushed here; assassins like Waterflower and Phaser didn’t dare leave the protection of the frontlines lest they get torn into pieces by the angry orcs.

A war like this was Io’s stage to shine. Never before had the battle priest achieved such glory, a wave of his hand able to rescue countless warriors. Without the boost from his spells, the heavy infantrymen who were already struggling with extreme fatigue for so long would have been left unable to withstand the orcs’ wild and violent attacks.

This was the first time Richard didn’t feel like Io’s radiance was an eyesore.

In fact, his own role in the battle was no less significant than Io’s. However, he didn’t want others to notice that, deliberately ignoring it himself as well. Throughout the entire battle, he had merely been repeating a single spell: Wall of Fire. With the empowerment of the Twin of Destiny, the wall had doubled in size and burnt longer with more strength. Given the vitality spell and his own rune, his mana restoration was incomparably rapid. On top of that, the second leaf from his elven bloodline had shown its ability: accelerated mana restoration.

The walls of fire were an effective weapon that reaped countless of lives. Richard’s gift of Truth was constantly collecting statistics on the orcs who had died to his spells, and the numbers shown in front of him were cruel.

When even the fearless orcs began to cry in anguish at the casualties, Richard issued the order for the final attack. His cavalry flanked behind the enemy on the battlefield, striking right through the rear of the orcs and wiping out the exhausted shamans. This blow set the outcome in stone; the orcs finally collapsed.

The enemies fled everywhere, but Richard had no more energy to press the attack. However, even if he could he did not wish to. Everyone was silent after the battle, staring at the tragic scene of the battlefield. The scorched bodies of the orcs had piled up in layers, with it being near impossible to count exactly how many there were. The corpses of humans and orc alike mingled together at the intersection of the frontlines, soaked in acid, burned by fire, tainted by blood. There was almost no distinguishing between the two.

This was the first time that Richard did not insist on clearing the entire battlefield on his own. He instead left without giving any orders, allowing those under him to handle the situation on their own.

In this battle, the young great mage had fully displayed the combination of his own magic and the power of his command, but he left with a grave number. From beginning to end, he had cast more than thirty walls of fire. The number of orc warriors that died to these enchanted flames: 1061.

……

After the battle, all of the nobles agreed to leave and pitch their tents a little further away from the Cracked Canyon. A few unlucky ones were chosen by ballot, responsible for cleaning up the orcs’ camps.

In the end, they brought back a heap of idols of all sizes, something Richard had specifically demanded and appointed Olar to supervise. The elven bard was responsible and diligent, bringing back every one that he could.

Most surprising was that one of these statues was of a beast god, containing formidable power. Flowsand evaluated that it was at such a high standard that it could be presented as an offering.

After taking the Cracked Canyon, Richard began to rest and reorganise the military as he settled down in the camp. This was the first battle in which more than a thousand of his men had died, with 2,000 more injured. It was clear just how tragic the battlefield was; he wanted to wait for the reinforcements to catch up so he could select new warriors to replenish the troops. He also had to wait and see if these nobles wanted to back out.

The results were beyond Richard’s expectations. Despite the tragic war at the Cracked Canyon, not one of the nobles was willing to withdraw their soldiers. They also unanimously requested for Richard to slow down the pace of the march so they could request reinforcements from their families.

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OMA's Thoughts

Translated By: Hestia

Edited By: Theo

TLC'ed By: OMA