Clear, metallic sounds rang out into the air, and the southern nobles and the landlords were unable to hide their admirations as they observed the bout between Isla and Raven from atop the castle walls.
“This is truly amazing.”
“I have heard unending rumors about His Excellency Duke Pendragon’s skills as a knight, but this is really…”
“As a fellow knight, my heart is boiling deep with passion.”
The knights from the 7th regiment had directly experienced the two men’s skills, so the bout was nothing new to them. However, it was a different story for the southerners who belatedly joined the coalition.
Most of them were seeing the skills of Duke Pendragon and his knight, Elkin Isla, for the first time.
When they were passing through Aranka, Duke Pendragon had fought and won against the traitorous nobles and soldiers of the detached force by himself, but not many were present to witness the unbelievable sight.
All the traitorous nobles were forced to give up their entire wealth and troops to the coalition in exchange for their lives, and they became confined to their respective mansions and castles. In addition, all of the soldiers had been made into slave soldiers.
Moreover, when the coalition defeated Lord Blago’s forces, the forces belonging to the southern landlords and nobles guarded the rear, and the actual battle was fought by troops belonging to Duke Pendragon, including the griffons and the orc warriors, as well as the 7th and the 11th imperial regiment.
“To think he would possess such great swordsmanship, on top of being a brilliant tactician…”
“His Majesty definitely had a good reason for sending His Excellency Duke Pendragon to the South.”
“That is right. Nevertheless, he refused to take the position of the commander-in-chief, saying that he was not adept in commanding a great army. He truly is a dragon among men, would you not agree?”
“Haha! I could not agree more!”
The nobles and the landlords continued. They had pleased expressions as if they were looking at their first love.
“But still, the commander of the United Southern Army is none other than the commander of the 7th regiment, right?”
“That is also very reassuring. Viscount Moraine is well renowned throughout the inland sea. Pirates shiver and run with their tail between their legs just by hearing his name. He is definitely a trustworthy commander.”
Viscount Moraine had accumulated quite a reputation as a commander of an imperial regiment. His prestige was not lacking by any means, so the southerners all nodded their heads with satisfied expressions.
“Is that all? Look at the soldiers we brought.”
Everyone turned at someone’s words.
“Line! Hold the Line!”
“First and third lines, cross! Raise your shields!”
“Second and fourth lines, spears!”
Soldiers were busy training, matching the knights’ shouting, whistle, and flag movements with disciplined maneuvers. The soldiers were grouped together in square formations throughout the large training ground, which was 300 yard wide.
The soldiers numbered near 2,000, and they had been brought by the southern nobles and the landlords standing on the walls. When they first joined the coalition, the appearance and demeanor of the soldiers had been vastly different. However, now, they were all equipped with a cylindrical chest plate, a spear, a spherical shield, a dagger, and a scabbard hung on their waists.
“The Gold King indeed. I cannot believe he managed to arm thousands of troops at once…”
“And the crops and livestock from nearby are being purchased to fill our supply of food, so it is good for everyone.”
It was not a small feat to arm thousands of troops and feed them every day. A high lord from the mainland may be able to maintain 2,000, 3,000 troops at most, and even they would leave about half of their troops to be managed by their subordinate lords and knights.
The cost of maintenance was enormous.
However, Karl Mandy bore the costs of arming and feeding a large army numbering close to three imperial regions combined. Indeed, his title as the Gold King of the South was not lacking.
In addition to boosting the morale of the coalition through providing weapons and armors, he supported the local economy through his actions. The local landlords and the nobles welcomed the coalition with open arms.
“The only left thing left is for them to fight properly…”
“Tsk! I sure hope so.”
Everyone clicked their tongues with a slightly darker expression at someone’s words. All of the soldiers were armed and looked quite presentable, but many of them were still clumsy in many ways.
There were dozens of units formed from 100 men, and all of them were engaged in training at the same time. Thus, many soldiers were often confused by the voices and the whistling of other commanders training next to them.
Soldiers with a red star shape drawn into the left chest of their armor seemed most prone to making mistakes, and all of them were the children of the southern nobility and the landlords.
However, the knights in charge of each unit had no mercy even when they were dealing with nobles.
A soldier collapsed on the spot after being struck on the shoulder with a scabbard.
“You idiot! If this was a real battle, all of your comrades would have died because of you!”
“Why are you responding to the voices of the other commanders!? The battlefield will be even more noisy and chaotic than it is now!”
“Keep an eye on the flag! Concentrate!”
“Every mistake you make will cost the life of your comrades!”
“I, I will correct it!”
Beating and shouting were present everywhere.
Even though the training was difficult enough for voices of complaint to erupt, the soldiers gritted their teeth and continued to endure the training.
The children of the noble families held on due to their pride. They could not give up when their fathers were watching. The commoners had far more realistic reasons for enduring.
The volunteered soldiers from common backgrounds felt that the quality of their lives had improved vastly after joining the United Southern Army.
Those who had worked as private soldiers in the past had been able to receive three meals a day, even though it was hard bread and simple porridge, and they had been given rusty weapons and old leather armors. Unfortunately, ordinary farmers lived a hard life where they could barely afford one or two meals a day.
However, after joining the coalition, they received new weapons, shields, and shiny armor. Moreover, they were provided with soft bread and meaty stew every day. Most importantly, they had joined the army to protect the land of their ancestors from the threat of evil monsters. Even though the training was truly hellish, they could stand back up with their willpower.
“But I am glad that they have been improving consistently compared to the beginning.”
“Yes, in about ten days, we will have a strong force.”
It was thanks to the difficult training that the soldiers learned how to adapt their formations according to their commanders’ orders. It was a considerable result for only 15 days of training.
Of course, individually, they were still quite powerless, but they were fighting against monsters in large groups. If they were able to maintain their positions and follow their commanders’ orders, they would be quite formidable in a large-scale war.
“I heard that the 7th regiment was one of the strongest in the imperial army. It seems the rumors were true.”
“It figures. The soldiers and the knights have gone through many battles.”
Everyone nodded with an expression of agreement. One person spoke while looking at the sun that was just starting to climb over the castle walls.
“By the way, isn’t it about time to get started?”
Then, Raven walked up to the group while wiping his sweat, having finished his sparring with Isla.
“Ah, Your Excellency Pendragon.”
The nobles and the landlords bowed their heads to show respect, and Raven nodded before speaking.
“The commander-in-chief will soon form the primary scouting party.”
“Yes, Your Excellency.”
Even though they answered in a tense voice, their expressions brightened and contained a hint of expectation. Fifteen days had already passed since they established a base about 20 miles from the Great Forest.
In the meantime, they had cleaned up the nearby areas, exterminating the small number of monsters. But the soldiers of the southern nobles and landlords had not gotten to participate, as the griffons and the Ancona Orc warriors of the Pendragon Duchy had taken care of it.
However, they would have a chance when the scouting party was formed.
Finally, they could engage in formal battle.
“Let us go.”
“Yes, Your Excellency.”
Everyone moved with spring in their steps as they followed behind Raven.
“The primary scouting party will have His Excellency Duke Pendragon as its commander. The members will be as follows: A portion of the Pendragon Duchy’s troops, all of the slave soldiers, and two companies from each of the 7th regiment, 11th regiment, and the allied infantry. All those mentioned will be a part of the scouting party.”
The southerners started to murmur at Viscount Moraine’s words.
The scouting party was a unit that advanced ahead to analyze the situation and the movements of the enemy. It was common practice to select a small group of elites to form the scouting party.
Naturally, it made sense to have a larger number of soldiers in the scouting party as they were fighting against monsters. However, Moraine had addressed almost 1,000 people just now, which was too many to be called a scouting party.
It also meant that their mission would be more dangerous than initially perceived.
“Is there a reason to send so many people as the scouting party?”
A nobleman carefully spoke on behalf of everyone.
Viscount Moraine replied with a small nod.
“Firstly, the purpose of the scouting party is to wipe out all the monsters in the surrounding areas before advancing to the Great Forest. And…”
Viscount Moraine continued after glancing sideways.
“It is the primary scouting party’s duty to carry out the emperor’s orders given to Duke Pendragon.”
“His majesty’s… command?”
Some people showed confusion.
Raven took a step forward and clarified.
“That is right. His majesty has ordered me to have the demonic army join the coalition.”
The eyes of the nobles and the landlords widened in surprise. All of them knew about the demonic army. The demonic army was a part of the imperial army which was shunned by others. It consisted of heinous criminals such as murderers and traitors, and they had been fighting the monsters near the Great Forest for nearly a year.
Even though they had come to battle against the greatest trouble in the South, the southerners felt reluctant towards them.
However, the demonic army fought quite hard, and the activity of the monsters in their area was significantly reduced compared to other places. Strangely enough, however, all the families that cooperated with them or were located in their vicinity were destroyed or devastated.
In the first place, the demonic army was composed of felons, and with the series of uncanny events, no one possessed any good intentions towards the demonic army.
“I know what all of you are worried about.”
Raven spoke while looking around the changing expressions of the nobles and the landlords.
“For one, the demonic army is part of the imperial army as long as they receive the orders of His Majesty. Moreover, after fighting the monsters around the Great Forest for a long time, they are sure to be knowledgeable about methods to fight the monsters. It will be beneficial for them to join the coalition. Above all, I will be commanding them myself.”
“If that is the will of the commander-in-chief and Your Excellency…”
Their eyes still contained concern, but the nobles nodded for now.
No matter how wild and vicious the demonic army was, if the Duke of Pendragon was taking command of them, it was worth having hope.
Raven inwardly gave a cold smile as he observed their faces, although it was not directed towards the southerners. It was a smile meant for someone who would be shivering in anxious anticipation.
‘You just wait, Baltai…’
Revenge was waiting for him – for him, not as Duke Pendragon, but as Raven Valt.Previous Chapter Next Chapter