Along with a loud roar, a huge log became lodged inside the castle wall. Dozens more followed along and struck the wall and the other buildings, threatening to tear apart the entire structure.
“Retreat! All forces, retreat!”
The soldiers rushed down the stairs at the words of a commanding knight from the 11th regiment.
“Everyone get on the boat! Hurry up!”
A dozen small boats were situated under the wall, and the troops of the 11th regiment boarded the ships in an orderly manner despite the loud explosions and falling rocks. Soon, dozens of boats filled with tens of soldiers departed from the fort and sailed toward the port of El Pasa.
“Is this it?”
An officer of the 11th regiment bit his lips as he grimly stared at a side of the wall that had just collapsed. The fortress had been built on the natural breakwater to protect the entrance of the Gulf of El Pasa. In the first place, he dared not think the fortress would possibly stop the grand fleet of the Arangis Duchy, which numbered just less than 300 vessels.
However, the soldiers had fought their hardest at the fortress, and they were not disappointed. There was a reason why they had spent half a day fighting to delay the Arangis Duchy’s fleet.
The officer encouraged the rowing soldiers as he looked towards the port, where dozens of small and large vessels were lined up like a barrier. The real battle would continue on land, not on the sea.
“The enemy fleet has taken over the fortress! The guards from the fort have just arrived at the harbor!”
“I understand. Let us move on to the next phase of the plan.”
John Myers nodded calmly. He was once the domineering leader of the Winter Storm Pirates, but he was now the temporary captain of the Pendragon Duchy’s naval fleet.
“Are you all ready?”
“Get loaded! Load it!”
The previous members of the Winter Storm Pirates vigorously shouted while blowing on whistles.
The signal was quickly delivered to all dozens of ships lined up, and around 100 make-shift ballista began to be loaded with sharpened logs.
“Unfortunately, we are no match for them in a frontal naval battle. In the end, we have to fight them in our own courtyard.”
John Myers murmured to no one in particular. The ships lined up across the harbor were a mix of merchant ships and battle ships. The merchants had willingly volunteered their ships to protect their city, and the sailors had also volunteered to fight. However, even though the sailors were familiar with the rough sea, it was still not enough to fight against the Arangis Duchy’s fleet in the open sea.
John Myers had been a pirate for decades, and he was fully aware of the fact. As such, he had decided not to engage in a full-fledged battle in the sea, but to maintain the troops at their current location. Inside the bay, the combat sailboats would not be able to enter all at once, so he would only have to deal with small boats or galley ships.
“They will be coming soon.”
John Myers observed the entrance of the bay, which was filled with flames and thick smoke.
It was then.
A boat could be seen through the thickening smoke.
“An enemy ship… Heup!”
An observer started to shout from the top of a watchtower, then let out a gasp. From a small boat carrying dozens of soldiers to galleys two or three times larger in size, more than fifty ships became visible through the black smoke. If one considered the other ships that would be advancing through the smoke, the number would be…
“This, this is…!”
The soldiers of the 11th regiment and the divisional fleet were shaken.
Thousands of troops.
Moreover, they were the elite of the Arangis Duchy, the most powerful force in the inland sea. The soldiers and sailors gulped loudly, unable to hide their anxiousness. However, the gaze of John Myers was without a single tremor as he calmly gazed at the boats advancing to the harbor using the ominous smoke as a cover.
A red flag was waved from the top of the watchtower following the whistle.
Dozens of ships received the signal and let loose the ballistae.
The log projectiles were almost 10 feet long, and all of them were launched simultaneously.
A dozen boats at the forefront received the full brunt of the missiles.
As the sharp logs detonated into smaller pieces, the soldiers of the Arangis Duchy screamed. The boats became riddled with holes and began to sink at a rapid pace, and the soldiers hurriedly jumped into the water.
The knights of the 11th regiment scurried around the deck while shouting. Soon, flaming arrows were fired, coloring the sky a deep red. However, not many soldiers were capable of utilizing the longbow, which meant that the impact was insufficient.
The attacks of the Arangis Duchy’s fleet began. Moreover, they utilized a method of attack most feared by John Myers and the forces of El Pasa.
Even though a large portion of them had been decimated by Soldrake’s Dragon Breath, not all sea griffons from the Arangis Duchy’s expedition had been killed.
Dozens of sea griffons started to fly toward the skies of the harbor at high speeds. Then, they began to drop large rocks on the ships.
The rocks were as big as a man, and those hit by the stones were killed immediately.
John Myer’s gaze quivered slightly. The sea griffons were targeting the ships with the ballista.
“They’re using their brains.”
He had been wondering why they had withheld the sea griffons, but it seemed they had been waiting to pinpoint the exact locations of the ballista.
Numerous red lights rose from the boats of the Arangis fleet.
They were flaming arrows. The number was several times more than the arrows fired from the allied forces a moment ago.
John Myers grew wide-eyed at the sight. He immediately turned his head and looked at the rocks that destroyed more than half of the ballistae.
All of them were dyed black, most likely with oil.
“Abandon ship! Everyone, abandon ship!”
He shouted like lightning. However, as soon as he shouted, the flaming arrows poured down onto the decks of the boats, and huge flames erupted upon contact.
The blaze engulfed the decks.
Soldiers and sailors jumped into the sea while screaming. Their bodies were lit ablaze like torches. In an instant, about 10 ships became entirely buried in flames. As the fire ate away the wood, some of the masts fell down and caused more damage.
“Abandon ship! Get off the ships!”
Even though the whistles issued the order, it was not properly recognized because chaos had already befallen the ships. However, all the soldiers and the crew members jumped from the ships to avoid the strong fire.
John Myers disembarked the ship by sliding down a net, then raised his voice to the troops fleeing in disorder.
“Regroup at the second line of defense!”
At his shouts, the troops of the 11th regiment and the ex-pirates ran up to the walls that were erected on the inner area of the harbor. After a while, a group of troops filled the top of the walls. All of them were like wet kittens or had soot all over their bodies.
But there weren’t many of them. Compared to the advancing forces of the Arangis Duchy, it was rather pathetic.
But John Myers did not despair.
“Please prepare yourselves.”
“Do not worry.”
Someone spoke while taking their place beside John Myers.
It was Count Cedric, the Governor-General of El Pasa. He was accompanied by a robust man with a thick beard covering half his face and a white cloth wrapped around his head.
The soldiers from the 11th regiment and the men with the turbans got into formation at Count Cedric’s words. Count Cedric was adorned in imperial armor. He was currently serving as the commander of the 11th regiment, and not as the governor of El Pasa.
The men with the turbans were warriors from Agadir, the allied city of El Pasa. Their appearance was slightly different from the empire’s people.
“The troops from Gapusa went to the second wall.”
John Myers looked over the soldiers with trusting eyes, then turned his gaze at the words of Count Cedric. About 100 tall men were lined up on the second castle wall, armed with spears and bows. Their upper bodies were bare, exposing the many tattoos painted on their black skin, and they had various rings in their noses and ears.
They were the warriors of Gapusa, renowned for their belligerence and ferocity. They had been sent as reinforcements to support El Pasa from the city of Gapusa.
“Here they come!”
Someone’s desperate shout caused the heads of John Myers and the captain of the Agadir troops to turn their heads at the same time.
From the other side of the rising smoke, dozens of sea griffons made their appearance. They were akin to winged demons in the eyes of the allied forces.
“Ready your weapons!”
John Myers and Count Cedric shouted simultaneously, one in the imperial language and the other in Agadirian. Hundreds of long bows and crossbows pointed toward the sky.
The creatures flew towards them while letting loose a vicious roar. No one actually believed they could shoot the sea griffons out of the air. Nevertheless, they needed to make it work. If they were lucky, they would be able to kill at least a dozen of the griffons, which would provide them a good chance of victory.
As the two continued, the archers lifted their weapons toward the group of sea griffons that were flying towards them without hesitation. Sweat droplets formed on the archers’ foreheads as they saw the griffons rapidly closing the distance.
John Myers was about to issue an order to fire, then stopped midway with wide eyes.
The sea griffons had been flying towards them in formations of three or four. However, they had suddenly circled around and switched directions.
The commander of the Agadir troops also took on a confused expression. The sea griffons had turned around and started to fly back the direction they had come from.
“What is happening…?”
The commander turned to John Myers.
But no one was able to answer.
“Yes. As we expected, the White Dragon was not in El Pasa. We should have launched an all-out offensive from the get-go.”
Arigo spoke while looking at the smoke and flames rising from El Pasa, and his advisor Manuel answered while bowing his head.
“Hoo-hoo! We will be able to take control in half a day. Even though the 11th regiment is standing in the way, they are composed of random nobodies.”
Arigo was confident.
Without the dragon, El Pasa was nothing.
Who could fight off the elite soldiers of the Arangis Duchy, the monarch of the inland sea? All that remained now was to take control of El Pasa, then expand to the neighboring towns and other coastal cities that dared to rebel against them.
“What about the sea griffons?”
“Yes! They have departed once again!”
As the knight answered with vigor, Arigo turned his head back towards the bay. His troops were finally about to reach the port.
It was then.
“Y, your Grace!”
Someone shouted in an agitated voice while dashing towards him.
“What is going on?”
Arigo’s eyes were fierce. The soldier in charge of communication prostrated before Argio before speaking.
“There is a huge problem! A fleet is… an imperial fleet has been spotted in the Strait of Malta Island…!”
An expression of disbelief appeared on Arigo’s face.
“I can see rising smoke!”
“I see it as well.”
Ian replied calmly to the observer’s cries.
“We are lucky. I thought it would already be occupied.”
A knight of the 12th regiment chimed in. He was originally the 12th regiment’s officer, and he had come in lieu of the regiment’s commander. He was the nominal vice commander of the fleet.
“It’s not luck, but heaven's will. The goddess has blessed Aragon and the 12th regiment, and our victory…”
Ian turned around after speaking with a cold smile. His long cape was embroidered with the crest of the royal family and it fluttered in the wind.
He raised his voice.
“All troops, prepare for battle! Defeat the rebels who dare rise against the Empire and His Majesty the Emperor! Soldiers of the golden lion! The emperor and the goddess stand behind you!”
Knights and the soldiers of the 12th regiment shouted with envigored fighting spirit. They would be fighting alongside their prince, who would soon rise to become the absolute of the empire.
There was no greater honor for the imperial army.
It instilled them in a greater fighting spirit than any material reward could bring.
“…Is what I said, but it is only proper for you to take command.”
“Your Highness, no, commander…”
The knight was taken aback when Ian looked back towards himself and whispered. Was he planning on staying behind in the ship in safety? But his worries turned out to be needless.
Ian unsheathed a treasured blade of the royal family, which was personally bestowed on him by the emperor before he set out on the expedition. He opened his lips.
“I will be participating in the battle. Ready my griffon.”
The vice commander could only blink in surprise, and Ian continued with a smirk.
“What are you so surprised about? Ah, I suppose no one really knows how a prince of the empire has to live.”
Ian continued as he approached the imperial griffons standing by on deck.
“If you cannot deal with a warhorse and a griffon, you will automatically be disqualified from the position of the crown prince. It is one of the most important reasons why our great empire has thrived all this time.”Previous Chapter Next Chapter