Book 5, Chapter 68

The Final Battle

Lying at the foot of the Godnest, the City of Saints was built on a shelf of rock that split it into two different sections. The upper shelf was covered in buildings made of snow-white granite, clearly the residence of the higher classes, while the rest of the city was a much duller grey for the servants.

There was a church in the upper level, but less than ten of the 3,000 people living on the shelf could enter it. Amongst these were the three priests and two leaders of the city knights.

The city was sparsely populated, with only 20,000 residents in total, but there were a few guardian tribes settled right outside. These tribes were the source of the totemic warriors that dominated battles in the Resting Orchid Plane, but in all of known history they themselves had never been mobilised to fulfil their duty.

Today, Richard was giving them that chance. 15,000 men were marching towards the Godnest fully intent on taking over the City of Saints, and amongst them were even local soldiers conscripted from the defeated empire. The snaking army was quickly discovered, and a thousand totemic warriors met them on the battlefield.

It didn’t take long for the battle to be won. Every individual fight was bloody— none of these warriors were the type to surrender— but Richard’s main forces were barely even touched. Putting aside his principles for the sake of the danger he felt, he hid the shadowspear knights, rune knights, and his followers amidst a wave of conscripted soldiers and had them take most of the enemies by surprise. All 1,000 totemic warriors had fallen, but even the mere 2,000 they had taken down were mostly other locals.

Right after the battle, Richard engaged with the main forces of the City of Saints. Most of these warriors were around level 9, a little inferior to the first batch of humanoid knights from the broodmother, but they had an advantage in numbers and were all buffed to some extent. Even the powerhouses of the city had come out to fight, with the injured Stardragon appearing once more.

This war was extremely difficult. Senma, Asiris, and Lina were helping him with finer control of his army, but Flowsand and her heavenly guardians weren’t nearly as effective as they normally were. The vicinity of the Godnest greatly weakened the effects of their divine power, rendering them no more powerful than equivalent mages in terms of buffs. Even the equipment of these opponents was not much inferior to Richard’s own soldiers. Overall, the only real advantage lay in the rune knights.

Facing the disciplined formation of the enemy, Richard first ordered the local soldiers under him to attack. The morale of these was extremely low when facing the warriors of their holy land, but once the first wave of a thousand was culled ruthlessly at the cost of mere tens, the next batches finally abandoned their faith and started to put more effort into the fight. The warriors of the City of Saints fought just as mercilessly as the shadowspear knights, killing the second batch of their own brethren with little remorse. The casualties on their side were greater this time, but that was still below a hundred men lost to take out a thousand.

It was at this point that the true battle began. Richard placed fifty rune knights in the middle of the battlefield and had his followers start hunting on the outskirts of their throwing range. If ever faced with too many enemies to handle, they could quickly fall back into the range of the javelins and recuperate; after all, even Stardragon himself wouldn’t dare to take on an entire volley. 3,000 soldiers were deployed to fight head-on, with another 3,000 each on both flanks. 

The enemy was not flustered in the slightest. These soldiers had never feared a disadvantage in numbers, and the faith buried deep within their bones let them act fearlessly even in the face of death. The tightly knit formation was like a morning star; no matter how many ways Richard’s conscripted soldiers tried to attack, they always suffered great casualties with little success. Even worse was the fact that magic wasn’t working well either. Richard had tried to launch a few chain lightning spells in the midst of his own battles, but what should have killed dozens only took out two soldiers before it lost its effectiveness.

However, Richard had his own way to break apart that white and silver defence. A quick command to an officer caused a loud warhorn to sound, and a wide path that could fit five knights riding side by side was opened up on the frontlines.

The enemy commander’s eyes narrowed as he realised just what Richard was planning. He knew the charge of the invaders’ rune knights was formidable, but instead of scattering his men he allocated the strongest soldiers to face the gap and hold the line. He personally took command of this defence, gripping lance and shield tightly as he approached the centre of the gap.

As expected, a cloud of dust picked up as the Norlanders’ ultimate weapons postured for their charge.

The leader of the rune knights removed his helmet for a moment, gripping his lance tightly as he looked at the warriors of the City of Saints. He couldn’t help but shudder at the realisation that the front line of the charge would likely die, but in the face of such danger the leader could not afford to be in the back. The Archerons always led the charge, and even Richard was starting to follow that tradition despite being a mage. As a knight of great renown amongst his fellow warriors, he could not shrink back.

He raised his left hand, gently brushing it across his breastplate. Despite the leather, metal, and fabric separating him from his heart, he could feel the warmth of an ink painting in his inner pocket. It was something one of his comrades had drawn for him, and despite the art not being fantastic it captured the essence of a middle-aged couple with three children.

It was a common family, but a happy one that was envied by many. It was also his home, the source of his endless valiance. His sons were already bragging about their father being a rune knight, talking endlessly about how they wanted to follow in his footsteps. The middle-aged man sighed. After this battle, he would likely be dead. Those boasts would then be mixed in with sadness, but the pride would still remain. 

And yet, things were different now. Every battle in the past he had wondered how his children would live if he died, his heart would clench at the thought of his wife having to fend for herself. He was only a mercenary, living a dangerous life with little reward; there was no money for them to be taken care of. Now, he knew that his children would brag about Brolin Archeron to fellow knights in training as they grew up in Richard’s care. His wife would not have to worry about work if he were maimed or killed, for his current lord would ensure she would live out her life in peace.

Richard didn’t have Gaton’s charisma, but that did not mean he didn’t command as much respect on the battlefield. Both generations of Archeron heads would fight to realise their dreams, but they would also ensure those alongside them would fulfil their own. Gaton’s presence gave everyone a strong sense of confidence; defeats were only temporary, and victory was guaranteed. He had proclaimed that his subordinates and their families would never go hungry so long as he had a grain to eat. However, Richard’s promises were more valuable, and at the same time more realistic. Money had already been set aside to compensate the families of the dead and injured, with the most exceptional soldiers having a chance to enter the aristocracy. A different way of commanding faith, but not one that was inferior.

Brolin suppressed his feelings, clenching his fist and knocking it against his breastplate as he bid his family goodbye. He then put his helmet back on, waiting for the command to charge. His comrades were already in formation around him, ready to cave the enemy lines in. The first ten rune knights would be in the greatest amount of danger, but no true Archeron feared death.

“It’s about time... “ Brolin muttered under his breath. His experience in war told him that this was the moment when his side had the greatest morale, able to crush their opponents in one go.

However, the order never came down. Knights did charge, but it was the shadowspears instead. Brolin watched wide-eyed as the shadowspears passed through their formation like water, picking up pace to start a full-speed charge straight into the defensive line.

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OMA's Thoughts

Translated By: OMA

Edited By: Theo