His breathing was ragged and sharp pain ambushed him every time he moved his leg, but Raven never stopped moving. He used one of his swords as a walking stick.
The situation could not have been any worse.
The Great Forest truly lived up to its reputation.
A swarm of mosquitoes and flying insects were constantly intruding on the nerves. The smell of quizzical soil pierced the nose, and the canopy formed by the sky-high broadleaf trees were so dense, that one could not simply identify their location.
At the least, Raven was able to follow the path created by the trolls and the lizardmen on their way to the river. Moreover, it was fortunate that his location was well-hidden by the cluttered forest.
Walking nonstop doubled the pain he felt, but Raven did not stop.
The flock of crocodiles would buy time, but he could not rest easily.
The lizardmen were one of the most dangerous hunters of the Great Forest. They excelled in finding and chasing traces of game in the jungle.
In particular, they could detect even the finest temperature differences at night to pursue creatures. Raven had to widen the distance between them as much as possible before sunset.
Around two hours passed.
A wide, deep, crevice unfolded in front of Raven.
“They came through here.”
Raven examined the tracks of the lizardmen and the trolls. They had come from the right side of the cliff, so Raven proceeded to take the left path.
The cliff had been formed naturally over hundreds of years by the rain and the wind, and it was quite narrow, but the path allowed for one person to cross.
Raven did not go down immediately, but carefully examined the surroundings.
Several mountain goats cried in alarm when they saw Raven and skillfully hopped down the cliff. Raven finally proceeded to climb down the cliff very slowly and carefully.
He climbed down the cliff for around the time it took to eat a meal, but he only managed to climb down about 200 feet. There was still around 300 feet until the bottom of the cliff, but Raven stopped his descent.
He could see a dent on the side of the cliff, presumably the home of the mountain goats. Raven had found what he had been looking for.
Raven took a deep breath and unpacked several pouches from his waist. Salt, emergency ration, and water were contained in the various pouches.
Raven drank a little bit of water and took some salt.
Water was quite common in the Great Forest, but most of it was murky and dirty, unfit for humans to drink. Therefore, he had to save his water until he came across a drinkable source.
The emergency ration consisted of hard, black bread and raisins. If he portioned it well, he would be able to last five days.
After inspecting the items one by one, Raven carefully took off the leather boot on his left foot.
The pain struck again.
Even so, Raven thoroughly inspected his swollen leg. Fortunately, it seemed that the bone had not broken, and was only slightly cracked.
Raven snapped the toughest-looking branch nearby and tied it tightly to his leg with a piece of his ragged cloak. It would probably heal overnight with the Troll King’s powers.
After he finished treating his leg, Raven leaned his back against a solid rock, but he never let his guard down.
The wind descended down the cliff, carrying with it the cries of the mountain goats. They must have gone back up the cliff after Raven disappeared from sight.
After about an hour, the cliff became noisy again.
“Only mountain goatsssss down the cliff! He must have ran towards where we came fromssss!”
He could hear the lizardmen shouting awkwardly in the human language. The mountain goats were easily frightened and very cautious, but they were carelessly running under the cliff. It meant that no one was there.
The tracking team continued their search along the direction where the trolls and lizardmen had come from.
Soon, the top of the cliff became quiet.
But Raven did not dare move a muscle, and he continued to motionlessly pay attention to the top of the cliff.
It was only after some time had passed that Raven carefully poked his head out and looked up.
He could only hear the sound of the empty wind. He could not feel anyone’s presence.
Raven finally exited his temporary shelter and slowly climbed down the cliff. His leg did not pain him as much as before – it seemed to have healed quite a bit during the short hour of rest.
Eventually, he was able to climb down the cliff safely and reached a narrow valley before the sun set.
Raven soaked his head and face in cold water, then continued to move.
The forest was still dark and sinister, filled with the cries of unnamed creatures.
“A thousand people searched for half a day and you couldn’t find him? You incompetent fuckers!”
Baltai could not hold back his anger and screamed as he threw his helmet.
He continued to yell while staring at his petrified subordinates with red, bloodshot eyes.
“Find him! Find him and bring him to me! It doesn’t matter if you kill him, so bring his head to me!”
“B, but the sun has already set…”
One of the officers spoke in a cautious voice. It was considered dangerous to enter the Great Forest during the day, and it was a suicidal act to enter at night.
No sane human would think to venture into the Great Forest at night. After all, it was filled with dangerous monsters such as orcs, goblins, and cannibalistic monsters such as ghouls, zombies, and manticores. In addition, even though the trolls and the lizardmen were cooperating with them, the monsters were not entirely credible.
Even if the monsters were helping them under someone’s command, they could turn into enemies at any moment.
Baltai silently stared at the officer who had spoken up.
“You know what? You are right. Going into the Great Forest at night would be suicidal.”
Baltai grinned, and the officer sighed with relief before opening his mouth to speak again.
With his mouth hanging open, the head of the officer tilted sideways. Soon, red blood spewed out and his body collapsed with a half-detached head.
A deeper smile appeared on Baltai’s face as he gazed over the remaining subordinates.
“But if you don’t go in right now, you will die by my hands.”
The men gulped loudly at the cruel, brutal smile of Baltai. If they were demons of the demonic army, Toban Baltai was the devil himself.
“So if you don’t want to die, then go get him! Have a battalion chase after the escaped soldiers! You fucking retards!”
Baltai stepped on the head of the fallen officer, which burst grotesquely, and his men rushed out of the tent.
Baltai fumed for a while after his subordinates left, then flopped down on his seat. After taking large swigs of a strong liquor, he threw the bottle at the remains of the subordinate.
“Gah! If we don’t catch him, we’re done for…”
An army serving under the emperor had attacked the troops under the command of an imperial duke. If the truth became known, they would definitely receive the death penalty. Baltai had completely turned his back on the empire now. There was no going back.
Everything rested on dealing with Pendragon.
Then the Duke of Arangis would solve the entire situation.
The fleet was already crossing the strait and advancing to El Pasa. Once El Pasa was occupied, Valvas and Vadgar would crawl on their own accord, and soon, the entirety of the South would be under the thumb of the Arangis Duchy.
Of course, once the imperial army crossed the sea, a massive war would break out, but that was a problem for the future.
The current situation was already unstable in the imperial castle, and if the war became prolonged, the imperial castle would eventually give up and try to end the war after drawing an appropriate line.
Within a few years, a new royal family, a new empire would be established over the south and the inland sea.
And he would become a high lord over a territory in the South.
“Fuck... Just Pendragon, all I need to do is get that bastard…”
Baltai was drunk on the thought of the rosy future, but his ugly face distorted once more at the thought of Alan Pendragon. If he failed to deal with Alan Pendragon, he would just be daydreaming.
Duke Arangis would never forgive him.
Baltai had endured for more than ten years, being dragged around from battle to battle like a mere dog. If he failed, he would not even be able to save his own life.
“I have to catch him no matter what. Even if I have to sell my soul to the devil… I have to kill him…”
Baltai’s eyes glowed eerily as he made a determination.
Viscount Moraine jumped up from his seat.
His hands and feet shook with shock and anger when he saw the remaining troops. Five days after leaving the base, only hundreds of troops had returned with miserable expressions. Moreover, the news that was delivered from the survivors was truly distressing.
“The demonic army… attacked along with the monsters? Besides… Sir Isla and Duke Pendragon are missing?”
Viscount Moraine spoke in a hoarse voice, and a knight responded with tears. His head was lowered and one of his arms was bandaged.
“Please kill me! His Excellency the Duke was trying to save us….. so he lured the demonic army along with Sir Isla.”
“What about Mister Karuta? What happened to him?”
“Karuta helped us escape safely then returned to help the duke and Sir Isla. Regarding what happened afterwards… Keuk!”
The injured knight was unable to continue his words, his tears silently wetting the floor.
“How could this be…”
Viscount Moraine was in disbelief. He could not bring himself to face the truth, no, he did not want to believe it.
A knight rushed over and spoke after kneeling on one knee.
“Commander! Sir Isla and Karuta just returned!”
“Huh! Is that true? Where, where are they!?”
“Their injuries are pretty serious, so they are being treated right now!”
Viscount Moraine jumped up and quickly moved.
Viscount Moraine called out Karuta’s name as he ran towards him. Everyone else hurriedly stood up and saluted. But Viscount Moraine ran past the soldiers towards the orc warrior, who was sitting on a bed while being treated.
“W, what happened there? Why did the demonic army… N, No, what about His Excellency…”
“Calm down and ask your questions slowly, one by one.”
Orcs were known to be quick-tempered, so it was clear from Karuta’s response that Viscount Moraine was panicking. He quickly came back to his senses and dragged a chair in front of Karuta.
“What happened to Duke Pendragon? Don’t tell me…”
Viscount Moraine trembled as he imagined the worst situation.
“Pendragon scarecrow should be fine. He went into the Great Forest by himself.”
Viscount Moraine became relieved and exclaimed with surprise. Karuta continued.
“He was trying to save this friend and I. As strange as it may be, the scarecrows from the demonic army were only after Pendragon. Of course, they sent soldiers after us, but they didn’t seem too eager to catch up.”
“What in the world…”
An incredulous expression appeared on Viscount Moraine’s face, and he blurred his sentence. The demonic army had attacked the coalition and targeted only one person?
‘There’s something more…’
As a veteran of war, Viscount Moraine realized the strangeness of the situation. There were quite a few suspicious things.
“Pendragon asked me to relay a message to you as he ran into the Great Forest.”
“His Excellency did…?”
Viscount Moraine sank into thought, then lifted his head at Karuta’s words.
“Pay attention to El Pasa.”
Viscount Moraine’s curiosities were resolved by Karuta’s word, and a shocked expression appeared on his face.Previous Chapter Next Chapter