Book 4, Chapter 90

The War Has Begun(2)

Magic-based purification spells were much weaker than those powered by divine energy, but the grand mage couldn’t afford to care. He nearly emptied his mana pool to neutralise the poison that had yet to dissipate; all the other grand mages had sustained much more damage in the battles than him. Still, even the injured mages rushed out to try and help.

Once the chaos in the camp calmed slightly, Raymond took another look at the tent with the injured troops. Everyone seemed to be in incredible pain, but the injuries were still only superficial. Once they were bandaged up, they would regain the ability to fight after a few days even without clerics or priests.

At that moment, a herbal doctor walked over to Raymond and lowered his volume, “Lord Raymond, we used all the antidotes but there are a few hundred more who need it. I recommend we take down a native city here, we should be able to take some.”

Raymond didn’t respond for a long time, a struggle playing out in his mind. He eventually pointed at the warriors who were lying down, “Didn’t these ones get the antidotes? Why isn’t there much effect?”

The medic smiled wryly, “These winged serpents have very potent toxins, and our antidotes aren’t designed for them. Just the fact that they aren’t deteriorating further is good enough.”

Raymond nodded, no longer looking at the warriors. He instead headed back to camp, splitting the archers into two watches. They were given orders to shoot any flying beasts on sight. He then returned to his own tent, smashing his fist into the table and gritting through his teeth, “RICHARD!”

His instincts told him this had to be Richard’s work, but he had no idea how the Archeron youth had gained control of so many poisonous winged serpents. However, this style of guerrilla warfare was far too different from what the natives had used so far.

……

In another tent far away, Richard was pacing around as well, constantly weighing his options. Raymond’s camp was silent again, but they were much more alert than before. The bats he had sent over were shot down by a barrage of enchanted arrows, even the elites unable to escape. The only information he had was from some elite bats in the distance.

It took a great deal of effort for him to make up his mind, but the moment the decision was set he contacted the broodmother, “Have all the winged serpents replenish their poison. We’ll be attacking just before dawn.”

Surprisingly, the broodmother objected, “Master, the opponent is already on guard. The toxic serpents have almost no defence from the enchanted arrows; an attack would kill more than two-thirds of them.”

Richard’s brain rushed frantically, forcing him to massage his temples to suppress a throbbing headache, “How did the poison do?”

“I optimised the poisons for Norland’s antidotes as per your request. Ordinary antidotes can only suppress the poison, unable to expel it. Without purification spells, those affected will die in a few days. Only those level 12 or higher can purge their blood of it with their internal energy.”

He immediately smashed his fist on the table, “Good, then! Do as I said, put a hundred regular winged serpents at the vanguard to attract attention. Every poisonous serpent is going out tonight; don’t bring them back if their poison sacs don’t empty!”

……

A gigantic hive-like construction deep within the Land of Turmoil wriggled slowly, as though it had a life of its own. Winged serpents were flying over one after the other, halting at the hive to absorb toxins like they were drinking spring water. The feathered snakes were hung all over the outer walls of the organic creation, making it seem like it had been pulled out of a nightmare.

A short while later, the serpents that had replenished their poison flew out from the worm nest. A new batch promptly took their pace, starting to recuperate.

All done by midnight, the serpents were led by a cloned brain into the distant darkness. Over a hundred wind- and electricity-type serpents were the first to go out, followed by 300 or so poisonous ones. It was like a black cloud streaking through the skies.

Richard sat quietly in his tent, all command handed over to the cloned brain. He knew that most of these winged serpents would not return— Norland’s archers were incomparably better than those of Faelor. However, this would deal the enemy a heavy blow.

This kind of sacrifice was the exact reason the broodmother’s battle drones were created. However, although Richard was calm as ever, he knew he was deceiving himself with that thought. There was a much simpler reason for which he was unwilling to sacrifice the humanoid knights, one that came as a part of their name. Unlike the serpents who were just like any other beasts, those drones just looked more like himself.

Wasn’t that why he grew enraged at the death of each one of the humanoids? Wasn’t that why they were the first drones he designed himself, even if they were soulless drones just like anything else? How much of his benevolence in war was for a love of life? How much was for a love of his races? How much of it was for the most deceiving thing of all, appearance?

Richard suddenly felt like he had two enemies in this war. One was the large army knocking on his doors, and the other was himself. While waiting for the serpents to reach their destination, he kept wondering just how much of himself he had to invest into his wars. This was something that his blessings could not calculate for him; it was more philosophy than science.

……

In the dead of the night, only a short while before twilight would begin once more, a few enraged shouts rang out in Raymond’s camp. Resplendent magic arrows flew into the sky and pierced the bodies of a few winged serpents who lost all signs of life immediately, but this caused the rest to abandon formation and rush forward.

The drones were shot out of the sky one after the other, glimmering streaks of light crisscrossing over the darkness. Yet, the dark cloud approaching the camp grew thicker as even more serpents joined the fray. They flew down at high speeds, charging into the camp as they sprayed their vicious poisonous mist.

These archers who dabbled in magic were running out of mana to enchant their arrows with. A few of the higher-levelled ones had already given up on aiming, just shooting explosive bolts into the sky. However, there were far too many snakes to kill immediately, and it seemed like they held none of the fear regular beasts did. They completely ignored the rain of arrows around them even as their companions died one after the other, working with full might to spit out as much of the poison as they could. Even if they were struck down, they struggled their mouths open to squeeze out every last drop.

These things were crazy! The magic archers started to panic. Even as the winged serpents continued to fall to the ground, poisonous mist shrouded the camp once more. A few minutes later, when the skies were clear of the beasts, most of the camp was also filled with concentrated mist. The grand mages had banded together to protect the supplies and the central camp, but they were forced to wait until the last of the snakes fell to rise into the sky and disperse the mist with gales.

It wasn’t long before the first rays of the sun peeked over the horizon. Raymond looked at the bodies of the winged snakes expressionlessly, listening to a report from one of his generals. The numbers sounded rather dry and distant, but each death pierced his heart.

His expression slowly changed, “The soldiers who took the antidotes haven’t recovered?”

“... Sadly, no. And by the looks of it, only those at level 12 or higher can recover from this naturally.”

Raymond suddenly began to cough violently, an unnatural green rising over his face. The general was alarmed, shouting out, “MY LORD! Were you poisoned?”

“I’m— fine. There’s no… poison that can kill me.” When the Joseph youth straightened up once more, he seemed paler than ever. However, a look of determination covered his face, “Gather all the poisoned soldiers and leave 500 behind to take care of them. The rest are to pack their tents, we leave immediately!”

The general trembled and immediately left to carry out the order.

Raymond commanded his army forward over the next few days, defeating three dukedoms with tens of thousands of men each in one go. However, he didn’t linger around these places at all, continuing to head towards the Bloodstained Lands. He had less than 10,000 men now, but their morale had soared higher than when they had first entered the plane.

At the edge of the Land of Turmoil, in a weathered land with pillars of stone littering the landscape, he finally saw the enemy of his life. Richard had amassed over 50,000 men on this small piece of land, a powerful fortress blocking the path. 

When he saw Richard standing up high on a stone stronghold atop the hill, he knew that he had played into his enemy’s hands. Only 9,000 of the 30,000 men that had first entered this plane still remained, two-thirds of the powerhouses injured or dead. The army had no priests or clerics, no path back unless they got through this defensive line. If they tried to turn around, they would be whittled away by the natives.

Looking at the setup of this battlefield that Richard had chosen, Raymond finally realised the Archeron youth wasn’t only a talented runemaster. As far as strategy went, this was a general who was no worse than himself. As for tactics, the courage to sacrifice hundreds of precious winged serpents to exploit the lack of clerics put Richard a step ahead.

Although they were far away from each other, a mage’s sight enhanced by magic could cross astonishing distances. Two pairs of eyes locked onto each other viciously, nearly sparking with rage!

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OMA's Thoughts

Translated By: Ying

Edited By: Theo

TLC'ed By: OMA