Episode 129. The Difference Between Duels and War (2)

The Noctein Kingdom had suffered massive losses in their eastern territories, but they continued to match the Adenburg forces on the Istein Plains.

Both sides expected a close battle, as both armies had troops of similar quality and quantity. However, the battle soon became a one-sided domination by the Adenburg forces.

It was all due to a difference in morale.

Until the start of the duel between Drachen and Lafayette of the Burning Flame, there had been minimal differences in morale. It was true the Nocteins had a deep fear of Drachen, but they did not feel the need to worry about him so long as the Knights of the Azure Sky were around.

They were wrong.

The second of the Knights of the Azure Sky, the griffin rider they had put their faith in, had become tied up by the Adenburg mages’ spell before even having the chance to fight properly, and only the third-ranking griffin rider remained.

It was at this moment that the Noctein soldiers realized that the heavens would become the source of their nightmare once again. They could not realistically expect Roland to properly check Drachen, considering his crushing defeat in their first duel.

And as they anticipated, Roland was not a match for Drachen. He was pushed back immediately from their first engagement, and soon, the duel became truly ridiculous, like a small sparrow being chased around by birds of prey.

As the situation devolved, the Noctein soldiers once again became terrified of Drachen. They could not focus on the opponents in front of them, not knowing when the wyvern would dispose of the griffin and begin crushing them instead.

It was natural that they could not properly show off their fighting abilities in this state.

“Where are you looking at!”

The Adenburg forces did not miss their opportunity.

“Push them back!”

They fiercely targeted their enemy’s weaknesses.

The Noctein infantry formation collapsed in an instant, and the war situation deteriorated. Everyone now expected a quick Noctein defeat on this dark battlefield.

At that moment, the Noctein mages came to the forefront.

“Fire Rain!”

“Tornado!”

They had already completed all of their preparations, and as soon as they finished their incantations, a bombardment of fire and wind fell upon the center of the advancing Adenburg soldiers.

“The Noctein battle mages have begun to move. The Royal Mages must respond now!”

Before Commander Mangsk could even finish giving his commands, the mages stepped forward to intercept the enemy spells.

Whoosh.

A translucent membrane appeared between the soldiers and the incoming spells. The blazing fireballs were unable to penetrate the barrier and disappeared after impact, and the tornadoes likewise scattered.

However, the magical attacks did not end there. After being silent and hidden all this time, the mages began to recklessly pour deadly, large-scale magic on their enemies.

Spells, each individually capable of exterminating an entire infantry company, repeatedly rained down, and each time, the soldiers trembled at their impending doom. They could not help but freeze and lose the strength in their legs at the sight of phenomena transcending human limitations.

“Soldiers of Adenburg! Put your faith in the Royal Mages and advance! They will protect you!”

Commander Mangsk encouraged the terrified soldiers.

“You bastards! Do you think the spells will disappear because you’re staring at them? Stop wasting your energy and push forward!”

“If we’re going to die anyways, let’s take at least one more person with us!”

The front-line commanders echoed Commander Mangsk’s words in an attempt to boost morale. Just in time, the allied spells intercepted the Noctein magic and began to rain attacks on the opposing ranks as well.

Encouraged, the Adenburg soldiers pushed back against the Noctein troops with their swords and spears in hand. A similar scene unfolded among the Nocteins.

Each side put its trust in the mages and desperately fought for victory. However, no matter how talented the mages were, they were incapable of stopping all incoming spells.

The pouring magic blew up everywhere on the battlefield, and countless soldiers were swept away in the explosions.

“This is hell.”

Despite watching the battlefield with a stone-like expression, Commander Mangsk groaned.

Combined, there were nearly 70 mages on this battlefield. They were capable of producing a hell in this world that the commander, despite his grizzled battle experience, had never before witnessed.

Fires, storms, and lightning bolts came from all sides, and each time, dozens of soldiers fell away screaming, the sacrificial lambs that could not be protected by their mages.

“So this is the true power of these superhuman beings.”

The moment the mages stepped onto the battlefield, the soldiers’ fates were out of their hands.

Their lives and deaths were solely dependent on the mages – there was nothing they could do to remedy the situation.

This battlefield already belonged to these superhuman beings.

“Ah…”

Despondent, the commander sighed. He could not be pleased with the favorable war situation, knowing that deaths mounted every time the mages uttered a word or made a gesture.

“Commander! The Central Knights are awaiting the order to charge!”

“So they want my orders as commander…”

“Huh?”

The deputy blankly stared at the commander as he bitterly muttered to himself. Belatedly realizing his mistake, the commander responded politely.

“I give my permission to charge. The Adenburg Central Knights will show those Noctein dogs what real knights are!”

Hearing his command, the knights pulled out their swords and shouted.

“Central Knights, forward!”

The knights showed no hesitation in rushing towards the magic-filled battlefield.

They jumped into the skirmishes between thousands of soldiers. They led a devastating charge that no cavalry unit would dare to replicate, and their attack easily proved to be a success.                                   

“Our targets aren’t these small fries! Mages! Find the mages!”

They strained their eyes to locate the mages, not caring about the hundred soldiers they had instantly torn apart.

Whoosh!

At that moment, as though to answer them, flashes of light rose from through the Noctein ranks. The Royal Mages’ tracking magic had finally begun to activate.

“There!”

The Adenburg knights quickly scattered in all directions, headed towards the conspicuous signals marking the enemy mages.

“Damn it! Stop them!”

“Protect the mages!”

Urgent shouts came from the Noctein command.

“It’s over.”

The lay of the land gave little room for complex tactics, and there were no variables to turn the tides in this large-scale battle between similarly sized forces atop the open plains.

The only path to victory was to break down the enemy with sheer strength, and all that was needed to achieve this was the fighting spirit to endure this despair-inducing situation.

The enemy could not overcome their impatience.

Despite being fully aware that efforts to track the mages would begin at the first sight of magic, the Noctein command could not patiently watch the battlefield situation deteriorate and deployed their forces first. In doing so, they had sealed their fate.

The Noctein mages were forced to shrink back once exposed, and the allied knights persistently chased after them. Few mages were actually slain in combat, as they were defended by enemy knights, but this was more than enough to solidify Adenburg dominance on the Istein Plains.

In the time that the feeble mages were distracted by the knights rushing towards them, the Adenburg forces were given their much-needed relief from the onslaught of enemy magic.

And with this, the allied mages were able to go on the offensive. Unable to receive protection, the Noctein soldiers were burned and shocked to death in an instant.

This signaled Adenburg’s victory, and Noctein’s loss.

Thud!

A massive monster fell on top of the soldiers that barely survived the magical bombardment. It was Roland and his griffin.

Roar!

The rider was unconscious and did not move, but the powerful griffin spread its mangled wings and desperately struggled to rise up once again.

Crunch.

A purple shadow fell on top, as the wyvern grabbed the griffin’s white head with its strong claws and pressed it against the ground.

Roar!

The griffin roared and struggled, but could not resist the wyvern’s powerful claws with its already ragged body. In the end, the beast lost its fighting spirit and lowered its head.

Shriek!

The wyvern shrieked fiercely and boasted of its victory.

***

Of the mobilized Noctein infantry, only about 20 percent survived, and even among those, there were few escaping the battle unscathed.

Despite these unfavorable circumstances, their superhuman beings remained largely uninjured. Only a few of their mages had been killed in the Central Knights’ attack – they left the battlefield before the end of battle, and the Adenburg knights decided not to chase them.

There was no reason to overexert themselves after a guaranteed victory.

With the Noctein defeat, the Knights of the Azure Sky were left abandoned. The unconscious Roland was captured, while Lafayette declared a temporary surrender.

This marked the end of battle.

***

News of the Battle of the Istein Plains soon reached the royal capital.

‘Commander Mangsk and the Western Army Annihilates the Nocteins on the Istein Plains!’

‘The End of the Long War!’

Each day, the newspapers came out with a provocative title for the Battle of the Istein Plains, and the most notable aspect was the duel between Earl Drachen and the Knights of the Azure Sky.

‘Drachen, the Tempest Knight, Emerges Victorious Twice over the Knights of the Azure Sky!’

‘The Knights of the Azure Sky Are Relics from Old Times; Drachen is the True Divine Master of the Skies!’

They reveled at the devastating defeat of the griffin riders, the renowned treasures of the Griffindor Kingdom.

The duel became the topic of discussion all throughout the capital.

“Oh, what great fortune for the kingdom. It’s truly a blessing that a man like Earl Drachen was summoned to our Adenburg Kingdom and not elsewhere.”

“Exactly! I was worried that the west would fall into chaos as Adenburg’s Shield aged, but now we have an even greater guardian.”

The nobles at the capital were amazed and full of admiration that the duel of the century ended in a victory for Earl Drachen.

Theodore Tiberius Ro Adenstein, King of Adenburg and head of the House of Adenstein, likewise received information on the Battle of the Istein Plains.

“Drachen is stronger, so of course he won.”

However, unlike the others, King Theodore was unsurprised by Drachen’s victory over the Knights of the Azure Sky. It seemed he expected this from the very beginning.

“Of course griffin riders are no match for a dragon rider.”

In fact, he even disparaged the Knights of the Azure Sky. It was a surprising attitude.

“I wonder how many times he’ll have leveled up by the next time we meet.”

Seon-Hyeok had never once disclosed his stats or level after a certain point. Despite this, King Theodore spoke as though he perceived everything.

“I’m sorry that I lack the skills to answer your curiosity yet.”

Ophelia, the princess, bowed her head and spoke as she disclosed Seon-Hyeok’s new accomplishments.

“If you would like, I can send an inquisitor to evaluate Earl Drachen’s abilities.”

King Theodore shook his head.

“It would be much more accurate for me to see him with my own two eyes. I do not wish for a poor evaluation to ruin my future fulfillment.”

“If only I had awakened…”

Shockingly, the royal princess spoke of awakenings as though she was a foreigner.

“Ophelia, my beloved daughter. Do not be hasty.”

Theodore’s expression did not change as he listened to his daughter.

“All with the blood of House Adenstein will have their moment of awakening. Whether it is sooner or later, you will come to have the same ability that I do.”

“I simply hope that day comes sooner rather than later.”

“When that day comes, you will be able to see for yourself the endless potential of the foreigner, Kim Seon-Hyeok.”

King Theodore spoke as though he had checked Seon-Hyeok’s status with his own two eyes. His daughter accepted his statement without question.

“And you will soon come to know why I value him so much and give him preferential treatment.”

Theodore’s eyes were not on Ophelia as he spoke. They were trained at something invisible a bit above them.

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