Episode 116. He who Rules the Heavens Rules the Battlefield (4)

The Noctein knights were driven into a corner once they lost their mages in vain. It was not that they were afraid of retribution from the noble family. There was no scenario in which the royal family would act against the knights, considering they had just lost their mages. And as expected, when they gave their report, the royal family did not reprimand the Blue Wolves.

“The Red Wolves and the 4th mage unit are already heading east. Once they arrive, get revenge for the mages and regain your wounded pride.”

The noble family expressed their regret and anger at the painful losses, but above all, they feared for any additional casualties to their remaining knights.

“That damned Drake Knight.”

The knights were not comforted by the news of reinforcements or the unwavering consideration of the royal family. The Knights of the Blue Wolves were simply enraged at the fact that they lost 30 mages under their watch, and that their pride had been hurt in the process.

They began to ramp up their offensive to exact vengeance for their tarnished reputation and pride.

“Kill them all! Take no prisoners!”

The Adenburg infantry were incapable of stopping the enraged superhuman knights. When they tried to block incoming attacks with their shields, their shields were torn in half along with their bodies. When they lunged forward with their swords, they lost their heads before their attacks could connect. The Adenburg soldiers died helplessly.

In less than two hours, the Adenburg soldiers could no longer be seen on the battlefield.

“We’ve wiped out four companies’ worth of infantry. Any who tried to run away was slain as well.”

Commander Rochstadt gave a cold command upon receiving his subordinate’s report, dissatisfied even after slaughtering hundreds of infantrymen.

“Onto the next battle!”

This was just the beginning of their revenge. Commander Rochstadt planned to take the lives of all the Adenburg soldiers as payment for the lost mages, and the Knights of the Blue Wolves, accompanied by the cavalry archers, moved swiftly in search of more enemies.

***

Seon-Hyeok gritted his teeth at the sight of the corpses strewn upon the plains. It was not the first time he had seen lifeless bodies. Over the course of several wars, he had witnessed the deaths of countless allies, and he had the experience now to remain steadfast at the sight of such horrors.

Even so, his expression became distorted at the sight.

“Damn it…”

It was because he noticed familiar faces among the dead bodies. They were those of the infantry commanders and soldiers forced to flee from their positions not long ago following the Blue Wolves’ advance.

I shouldn’t have told them…

It was his fault for telling them that the enemy had retreated. After all, it was natural for soldiers willing to give up their lives for their comrades to return to the front lines when given the all clear. If he had let them retreat all the way to Fort Kalstein, the infantry would not have lost their lives in vain within just two short days.

Of course, it was not actually his fault. The situation just made his emotions complicated. Their only interaction had been the short conversation on that day, but the deaths of acquaintances always weighed heavier on his mind.

This is why war sucks.

No matter how many times he came face to face with death, Seon-Hyeok could not get used to it. It was truly sickening to have those he had talked to and laughed with disappear as though they never existed.

However, Seon-Hyeok had no intention of wallowing in his sorrow.

He was no longer the fresh recruit crying over his comrades’ graves. He was one of the inexorable monsters at the center of this endless cycle of hatred.

It was because he knew this well that he was willing to be the instrument for their revenge.

“Rest in peace.”

The ground suddenly rose up and embraced the fallen soldiers. With that, hundreds of graves were completed in an instant.

“Are you okay?”

When he returned and got on Redvern once again, Aria Eisen, normally unconcerned about others’ actions, asked unexpectedly.

“Not at all.”

His response was cold.

“So I’m going to ensure that it won’t be fine for the bastards who caused this either.”

It was not difficult to envision who the perpetrators were, considering the infantry were literally sliced in half by the incredible sword energy of their opponents.

There was not a war horse in this world capable of evading the flying Redvern. It was even more true of the Noctein cavalry and their heavily armored knights.

Seon-Hyeok’s eyes gleamed at the sight of the Knights of the Blue Wolves riding and kicking up dust in the distance.

“We’re moving too fast. In this state, even the simplest of spells will fail.”

He had already practiced with her a few times, so it was not difficult meeting her demands. He had Redvern first accelerate and overtake the Noctein knights.

“Stop.”

At his command, Redvern spread its wings wide and settled down in midair. After gauging the distance between them and their enemy, he turned back towards Aria Eisen.

“Sir Eisen.”

“Then I’ll get started.”

She rolled up the sleeves of her mage’s robes and stretched out her hand while quietly mouthing words.

***

Commander Rochstadt suddenly felt a shiver down his spine. He reflexively turned back at this unidentifiable, ominous feeling.

He could not see anything to be concerned about, both on the ground and in the air.

“Am I being paranoid?”

“Is something wrong?”

His deputy, riding just behind him, spoke up out of concern.

“No. I just had a strange feeling.”

“Are you worried about the Drake Knight?”

The knight did not respond. If he did, he would look weak in front of his subordinates.

“All of our knights are on the lookout. We won’t be ambushed again.”

The knights assured him that they would completely destroy anything that approached, whether it was a wyvern or any other being. Normally, Commander Rochstadt would laugh, seeing his knights in such high spirits. However, he could not bring himself to this time.

The anxiety gripping him felt like a dagger pressed up against his chin. No matter how hard he tried, he could not shake off this ominous feeling.

But at some point, this foreboding feeling became even more substantial and gripped at the core of his being.

“This…”

How did I only notice this now?

Knight Rochstadt felt an uncomfortable energy sticking to his body. It was a strange sensation, but he was fully aware of what was behind this feeling.

“Magic!”

It was the phenomenon resulting from a mage targeting an enemy. He immediately unsheathed his sword and called forth his sword energy. However, it was already too late. The magic had been cast by the time he reacted.

Whoosh!

The first spell resulted in an explosive flash that blinded the knights on high alert.

Thud!

The second grabbed at the legs of the galloping horses, and the blinded knights helplessly fell from their mounts. However, as soon as they were unceremoniously thrown to the ground, the knights exhibited their unnatural strength, immediately jumping up and drawing their blades.

This was when the third spell revealed itself.

Shriek!

Something rushed in with an ear-splitting noise, and Commander Rochstadt naturally believed it to be the Drake Knight. He gritted his teeth, gathered his energy, and threw his sword towards the source of the sound.

Thud.

He pumped his fist and celebrated at the sound of the sword moving through something.

Clang.

However, his elation did not last. What he heard was not a pained scream, but a piercing clanging noise. It was the sound of glass shattering, and Commander Rochstadt knew full well that the Drake Knight was no glass statue. It was confirmation that his sword did not penetrate his intended target.

Crack.

Something changed before he could even realize what was amiss.

“Careful!”

The moment he belatedly came to his senses and tried to warn his subordinates, something small and sharp grazed past his armor. He felt neither shock nor pain, and all the unidentified object managed to accomplish was to leave a small scratch on his armor. The attack was so insignificant and weak that he almost laughed at himself for urgently warning his fellow knights.

Crack. Crack.

But it was not just one projectile flying towards his body. It started one at a time, but soon became a torrent of objects beating at his armor.

“Ugh.”

Of those, a few dug into his now-exposed flesh. Commander Rochstadt belatedly decided to cover himself with a shield, but his shield was still tied to his horse, which he had already dismounted from.

“Ah…”

The moment he realized this, an unidentified object soaked his body like a shower.

“Ack!”

“Ack! My eyes!”

He could hear the screams coming from his subordinates in all directions. The knights, despite having been trained to obstinately endure pain, screamed and shouted like little girls.

He desperately rubbed his eyes, trying to figure out what the hell was going on. As he fought through the pain and squinted, the pitch black world gradually became brighter.

“What the hell…”

When he regained his sight, the scene that unfolded in front of him was a literal hell.

Horses rampaged about with their skins horrifically melting off, and the riders and knights screamed in a panic, swept up in the chaos caused by the heavily armored war horses.

He belatedly looked at his own body. The bare flesh he could see between his now red and rusting armor was rotting away. Green liquid could be seen staining his discolored skin.

“Poison?”

When he poked at the strange color, the sensation in his fingertip quickly disappeared. It soon darkened, just like the rest of his rotting flesh.

***

Ironically, the power of Aria Eisen’s Venom Spear ability was amplified after being shattered into pieces by the enemy knights’ sword. The spear, once broken in midair, flew off in all directions and rained death upon the knights.

However, despite peppering their enemies with magical debris, the damage dealt to the knights was relatively insignificant. Only twenty or so knights were unable to withstand the assault, and even they were mostly apprentice-rank knights. Only two of the fully fledged knights, clad in their colorful, extravagant armor, fell to Aria Eisen’s spell.

They boasted the vitality expected of knights having trained their bodies to the utmost limit.

“The real effects start now.”

Aria Eisen spoke up confidently when Seon-Hyeok looked down at the scene with disappointment.

“They’ve been covered with an acid-like poison, so their skin will rot and melt away.”

She said that she assumed it would be impossible to neutralize all of these knights at once, and thus opted to poison and debilitate them slowly.

“The lucky ones will survive after cutting off the affected skin, but those properly hit by the flying shrapnel won’t survive the night. Whether or not they do, however, they’ll suffer a pain they will never forget.”

There was not a hint of remorse or skepticism in her voice as she giggled. Aria Eisen simply seemed thrilled by the successful casting of her magic, and the suffering her enemies would have to endure.

“Hm.”

Her appearance now was completely different from her usual eccentric self, and feeling uncomfortable, Seon-Hyeok unknowingly turned away. He was not sure whether all mages were like her, but it felt like there was something inhuman riding the wyvern with him.

“Will you charge in? I don’t know if my body can endure it, but I want to experience it.”

She spoke like a snake eyeing its prey, and he simply shook his head.

Most of the knights capable of getting up after Aria Eisen’s attack were vigilantly standing on guard, trying to find the source of the magic. If he tried to follow up and attack, there was a good chance he would be decapitated before getting the chance to use a single skill.

“Next time.”

Seon-Hyeok promised to make a bigger impact next time as he turned Redvern away and left the battlefield. However, he did not intend to end his contribution in this conflict with a single stealth attack. After that day, he continued to shadow the knights, and the moment they dropped their guard, he had Aria Eisen rain down magic once again.

“Targeting complete!”

“Senior knights, intercept the attack! Knights and apprentice knights, work together to protect yourselves!”

The bizarre spells developed by Aria Eisen rained down over the knights’ heads. She was a savant at linking together spells, and the knights were at a loss as they tried to hold back alternating attacks imbued with the frigid cold and explosive flames.

“Ugh. Those cockroach-like bastards.”

But even as their bodies froze and burned, the knights endured the spells until the end. It was only the pitiful war horses that fell, unable to withstand her assault.

As they continued to trail and bombard the knights, at a certain point, the Nocteins conceded and began to move on foot. No matter how much they boasted of their cavalry’s prowess, they could not continue to weather the losses of their precious war horses.

“They’re really resilient.”

Seon-Hyeok could not help but voice his admiration. He knew it would not be easy, but the knights’ vitality far exceeded his expectations.

Even so, he was not disappointed. In the first place, his goal was not the extermination of the knights. Preventing the enemy from actively participating in battle out of fear of aerial bombardments was enough of a success.

Nonetheless, he did not intend to sit back in satisfaction either. His enemies had yet to pay the price for spilling the blood of the Adenburg infantry.

“Time to change tactics.”

Seon-Hyeok told Aria Eisen that going forward, they would be launching repeated, small-scale attacks in place of a single, powerful blow. The mage, after being excited about the prospect of casting her magic, pouted and asked why.

“We’ll drive them crazy by not letting them eat or sleep in peace.”

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