Book 4, Chapter 164

Test

The sabre only made it halfway out. As his shout was stymied, Sua looked down to see a powerful hand pressing down on his own. The general looked him straight in the eye and said slowly, “The Marquess has ordered that we are not to fight Richard. Since he is not attacking, we should retreat.”

Sua went beet red and tugged at his blade a few more times, but it didn’t make it past halfway. Eventually, it was forced back into its sheath as well, the general’s voice now growing cold, “Baron Sua, if you insist on disregarding orders I will have to relieve you of command.”

Sua finally grunted, furiously pushing the sabre completely into his sheath and staring at Richard with eyes full of fire.

Richard was already ignoring him, sizing up the general instead. What he hated most were the steady opponents. They weren’t unpredictable geniuses, but with a wealth of experience they rarely committed mistakes. It took more troops and ingenious commands to defeat these sorts of enemies with minimal losses.

The elite shadowspear knights had now all walked past the mound, and the rune knights followed. The two opposing companies eyed each other with rage, just the gazes almost sparking in the air. However, the situation was quite obvious by now. Sauron’s rune knights might not lose out in terms of morale, but their equipment, mounts, runes, levels… everything was inferior. Nearly half of the seventy rune knights were grade 1.

Richard’s 500-man strong army strutted past Sua’s force as though they were out on an excursion before heading into the distance. There weren’t any defensive flanks throughout the process, not even any rear guards. Richard himself was at the very back of the formation, even his followers all ahead of him.

‘Just one rune knight charging in…’ Sua couldn’t help but think of such a thing. It was very tempting; a lone mage away from the army was an easy target. However, the general was watching closely and wouldn’t allow him to do anything that broke the rules.

When the two completely parted ways, Richard was just as regretful as his enemy. Sadly, there were still competent generals amongst the Archerons.

Having bypassed Sua, Richard officially entered the Azan Peninsula. Gazing at the beautiful scenery, he suddenly recalled the first time he had stepped foot in these lands, under the care of a man he would later know was called the Devil King. Now he was less than a hundred kilometres from Blackrose Castle, but there was one last obstacle along the way.

Earl Goliath.

……

Goliath’s camp had been built on a flat plain. Besides a small region of forest nearby, there was no useable terrain around. This was a place ripe for cavalry battle, but infantry actually made up a bulk of his soldiers.

The camp wasn’t particularly large either, with the temporary fences more to demarcate a border than as a defensive measure. The troops within the barracks looked very relaxed, some even joking around, but they were performing their duties with no confusion or errors. These were true veterans; even with an imminent battle to the death, they were still relaxed and wouldn’t let their emotions get the better of them.

All the tents looked about the same, those of the officers and rune knights only slightly larger than the rest. There was no real difference in materials or splendour either, the larger dimensions purely because Goliath was much taller than most people. Food wasn’t much different either. Goliath and his subordinates normally ate with the army, and the only special treatment for powerhouses was that they ate more than the rest.

It was currently a little past noon. The soldiers had just finished lunch and there was still a fragrant aroma permeating the air. The Earl was walking around freely in the camp, striking up conversation with some of the soldiers.

A scout suddenly charged into the camp, heading straight in Goliath’s direction. He didn’t even take the time to get off, gasping for breath as he screamed, “My Lord! Richard has already entered the peninsula, he’s only 12 kilometres away. They’re advancing quickly, we might only have half an hour to prepare!”

“Half an hour? That’s enough,” Goliath sounded calm. Countless eyes gathered on him as they awaited orders, the rune knights all returning to their tents to put on their armour, but no order was forthcoming for some time. The Earl stood quietly where he was, pondering over something as he allowed the precious minutes to wash away bit by bit.

“My Lord, you need to make a decision!” Someone eventually reminded him after ten minutes, but he turned a deaf ear to the suggestion. It took another five minutes for him to regain his senses, “Have the soldiers get in formation, rune knights too. Leave some servants to cook, Richard’s been marching all this while and probably hasn’t had lunch yet. 500… no, a thousand portions should do.”

Everyone nearby froze for a bit, but Goliath seemed to have made up his mind so the subordinates immediately set off.

……

When Goliath’s small camp entered Richard’s eyes, he froze for a moment. He had to look over and around once more just to confirm that he had seen correctly, because the camp could only accommodate 3,000 soldiers at best.

There were 2,000 men standing in front of the camp in formation, and with the expansive plains all around there was no sign of anyone else. In the distance was a small forest, but it was foolish to try and ambush a small troop of elites. After all, the rune knights would just break through any formation if they wished to flee, to it was better to just pile soldiers onto them to wear them out. He couldn’t imagine Earl Goliath would be so foolish as to separate his troops.

Nevertheless, he spurred his mount forward and greeted Goliath who was standing in front of the formation, “I’d never expected to see you here, Earl.”

“I can’t check your talent from far away,” Goliath answered.

Richard dismounted from his unicorn, complex emotions swirling in his heart as he gazed upon the bold and powerful man he had once seen in Faust. If not for Alice and Goliath saving his life back then, he would be nothing more than a pile of bones now. However, that same man he owed the favour to was now standing between him and Blackrose Castle.

Richard took a look behind Goliath to size up the army. There were no signs of any hidden military strength, with three saints, a grand mage, and fifty rune knights. The rest of the 2,000 soldiers could be considered veterans, but be it in terms of equipment or level they were far from comparable to the shadowspear knights.

Richard himself had only brought 500 men, but each one was an elite amongst elites that were incomparable to the grade 1 rune knights that the earl had amassed. Goliath sighed softly; he still remembered when people thought Gaton’s boasts were arrogant, but those people had all learnt their lessons.

Richard smelled the aroma of the food and smiled, “That’s quite the standard of food for an army of this size, must be expensive. You treat your soldiers quite well. But I don’t understand, why are you mixing with those buffoons from the so-called council? You should know the family head is a position to be won, not given.”

Goliath chuckled, “I have nothing to do with them. I’m here for myself, to see my little nephew. Since you say the title of the Archeron head is to be won, why don’t we fight it out? If you win, I’ll admit I’ve gotten old and give up the seat. If you lose, kid, go back and train a few more years.”

Richard smiled, “Sounds like a test that’ll cost lives.”

Goliath nodded, “That’s why I sent all my other soldiers back home. I don’t want the family to fight itself to the death when we can control the scale. My men should be dying on foreign planes or fighting other families, not in civil wars.”

“Are you really an Archeron, Earl?” Richard couldn’t help but ask.

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OMA's Thoughts

Translated By: Ying

Edited By: Theo

TLC'ed By: OMA