Chapter 285

“Prepare for battle! Prepare for battle!”

The knights and soldiers of the Arangis Duchy ran around crazily.

“Sir Lyle! T-the sailboat is undermanned!”

A soldier shouted urgently.

Most of the troops had been mobilized to conquer El Pasa in boats and galleys, and only a few soldiers were left on the captured fortress and the sailboats.

“Y, your grace…!”

The knights became pale when they saw the approaching fleet from the sea off Malta Island in the distance. The enemy ships seemed to fill the entire area around Malta Island.

“You stupid men! Just fill the numbers with the remaining soldiers! Lure them this way and attack them with the ballistae! Bring back the forces from Paul and Stein territory as well!”

 “Yes, yes!”

The troops began to move hurriedly at Arigo’s shouts. Soon, a galley and two sailboats started to turn back. They had been waiting to enter the Gulf of El Pasa.

“What happened to the sea griffons?”

“They are on their way back!”

“Tell them to attack the approaching fleet first!”

“Yes, your grace!”

Arigo bit his lips as he looked around the wall. The soldiers were busy relocating the large ballistae that had been pointing towards El Pasa.

“Why now…”

An unlucky man would manage to break his nose even if he fell backwards. What were the chances that the imperial fleet would arrive today, at this exact moment? If they had arrived half a day later, or even a few hours later, everything would have been settled already.

“Dammit! Have the heavens abandoned us, Arangis…?”

Arigo mumbled harsh swears unbefitting of his status. His gaze remained on the sea griffons as the creatures passed over the wall and headed towards the sea. It was excruciating to see the dozens of ships and the imperial griffons rising into the air.

***

“What is going on?”

At John Myer’s words, Count Cedric shook his head with a frown.

“I am unsure as well. This is strange; this is very strange.”

Starting with the sea griffons, a portion of the Arangis Duchy’s fleet was now returning in the way they came from. Of course, only a small portion of the boats and galleys had turned around, but it was most fortunate that the sea griffons had disappeared. There was no doubt that the flying creatures were the most threatening power of the Arangis Duchy.

“This… we might just…”

“Be able to stop them.”

Count Cedric and John Myers spoke as they turned their heads and shared a gaze. Understanding each other’s thoughts, the two men nodded before turning their gazes. Their eyes were headed towards the enemy ships nearing the port. The ships were passing through the burning, sinking remnants of El Pasa’s ships.

“The enemy only consists of infantry! Archers, get ready!”

“What are you all doing!? Bring the oil bottles and the long spears! All troops, prepare for battle!”

The troops of El Pasa came to their senses at the two men’s shouts. The enemy troops had finally arrived at shore and began to gather at the port. The soldiers of the Arangis Duchy got into ranks and files in an orderly fashion. They were clad in black leather armors and numbered approximately 2,000.

“Hmm! This is a winnable battle.”

“I agree.”

The gazes of Count Cedric and John Myers turned fierce. It was commonly agreed that the number of attackers should be at least three times higher than that of the defenders to occupy a castle or a fortress. The troops of El Pasa only numbered about 700, but they could definitely stand their ground. Most importantly, the variable known as the sea griffons had disappeared.

Count Cedric slowly raised his hand.

“Marksmen! To your positions!”

“To positions!”

More than 200 archers lined the walls. They were of different races and possessed various appearances.

Boom! Boom!

The enemy soldiers were advancing toward the wall with their wooden shields raised high. Count Cedric lowered his hand in a sharp movement and shouted vigorously.

“Fire!”

That was how the prelude to the battle, later known as the El Pasa Blood War, began.

***

Fwoooosh!

“Ugh! This is quite annoying.”

An imperial griffon knight frowned as he clung tighter to the body of the griffon. The rough sea breeze made it much more challenging to handle the griffon compared to land. Moreover, it was difficult to keep his eyes open.

Kiyaah!

It was apparent that the griffon was unable to fly smoothly due to the unfamiliar environment.

Beep!

“An enemy?!”

The griffon knight leaned sideways to observe the surroundings. Dozens of griffons were emerging from the fortress wall, where black smoke was rising.

“Sea griffons…!”

He flinched slightly when he saw the proud sea griffons of the Arangis Duchy. He was unafraid of any enemies. However, his current opponent was the sea griffon unit of the Arangis Duchy, called the strongest in the inland sea.

The enemies were on a different level compared to those he had fought thus far, and the battlefield environment was unfamiliar. He gulped unknowingly.

“Well, we should face them with standard tactics for now, right?”

He prepared to command the griffons to raise altitude, gazing at the dazzling white griffon at the forefront of the triangular formation. It was a basic tactic of battling with griffons to ascend to a higher altitude to shoot down crossbolts at the opponents, before engaging in a direct battle while aiming at their rear.

But the situation quickly overturned his expectations.

Beeep! Beep!

“Huh?”

His eyes widened when he heard the whistle and the flag being used by the rider on the leading white griffon. The order given by the captain leading them was a low-altitude flight.

“Why the hell? Ugh!”

However, he had no time to finish pondering. He was forced to follow the instructions.

An officer’s orders on the battlefield were absolute, especially more so if the captain was an imperial prince who would become the master of the empire in a few years.

***

“Hmm!”

With a thin smile, Ian lowered his griffon closer to the surface of the water, then turned his head to confirm the formation of the other griffons. All the imperial griffons were flying low, almost touching the surface of the water.

Fwoooosh!

It was a spectacular sight to see dozens of griffons flying close to the surface, as the seawater sprayed and soared, creating a long stream behind the creatures.

“They are quite faithful.”

Even though an unexpected order was issued in an urgent situation right before battle, the elite of the imperial army followed the orders without fail. Of course, it could also have been due to his position as soon-to-be crown prince.

“You will find out soon…!”

Ian turned his eyes again.

The sea griffons floating high in the sky looked like small birds. But soon, they began to descend like a thunderbolt.

***

“What am I seeing? I have never seen anyone act so idiotic.”

Baron Langone, the 2nd battalion captain of the Arangis Duchy’s fleet and the captain of the sea griffon unit, smiled mockingly. It was true that he had been taken aback and nervous when the imperial fleet first made its appearance.

The 2nd regiment was considered the strongest in the imperial navy, and their griffon unit was not an opponent to be taken easily. However, they had suddenly switched to a low-altitude flight. It was as if they were desperately screaming, ‘please hit me with your crossbows!’.

“I do not know which idiot is commanding the griffons, but thank you! Huhahahah!”

Baron Langone waved his signaling flag while bursting out into laughter.

Fwooosh!

All the sea griffons folded their wings and flew toward the blue surface.

***

“More, just a little more…”

As the sea griffons drew closer, a glimmer appeared in Ian’s eyes.

“Now!”

Fwoosh!

The moment Ian waved his flag, the imperial griffon knights immediately stopped in their place.

Kwaaaaaaaah!

When dozens of griffons spread their wings at the same time, the water soared like a barrier in front of them. In an instant, a tall pillar of water soared nearly 30 feet and instantly obscured the enemy’s sight.

***

“Huh?”

Baron Langone drew a sharp breath when he saw the sight. He had been preparing to issue an order to fire when the enemies suddenly stopped.

“What, what…!?”

Due to the huge, soaring pillar of water, the targets had disappeared from his line of sight. The other riders were also unable to hide their abashment and quickly pulled on the reins to stop the griffons from descending.

Swaaaaah…!

The column of water died down, leaving behind a small rainbow under the sunlight.

Everything had happened in literally a moment. But in a sense, it was quite a long time.

Fwoosh!

“Heuk!”

Baron Langone became shocked when he saw the imperial griffons break through the column of water and soar high into the air. But he was also an experienced griffon rider.

When he saw the direction of the enemy’s flight, he was immediately able to grasp their intentions and signaled in response.

“You dare attempt to go after our rear? How cheeky!”

He gritted his teeth as he led the sea griffons to chase after the imperial griffons. The imperial griffons were flying just a little bit higher than them.

The distance between the two groups of griffons was about 330 feet, and stupidly enough, the imperial griffons were ascending in groups of several griffons, rather than flying in a line.

“Haha! Being higher in the sky is not always advantageous!”

Baron Langone burst into laughter as he pointed his crossbow at the back of a rider on the rising imperial griffon.

At this distance, as soon as he pulled the trigger…

The imperial griffons suddenly gathered towards a single point. Their formation had shifted.

”Ugh!?”

Intense sunlight blurred his vision, and Baron Langone had no choice but to instinctively clench his eyes shut and turn his head.

Keugh!”

The same was true for the other riders chasing after the imperial griffons. Moreover, the sea griffons themselves were forced to instinctively change their flight directions at the sudden light.

That was their biggest mistake.

“Fire!”

Shortly after switching to a linear formation, the imperial griffon riders once again switched directions and started to descend. At Ian’s command, they let loose the bolts from the crossbows.

Papapapapat!

Dozens of quarrels poured down with terrifying momentum.

“Ahhhhk!”

“Kwaaack!”

The imperial griffon knights stood at the apex of knights. As elites, their skill with the crossbow was truly astounding. The quarrels accurately penetrated the bodies of the Arangis Duchy’s griffon riders, and dozens of bodies fell helplessly from the griffons’ backs.

“Charging!”

Kiyaaaahk!

At Ian’s order, the imperial griffons exposed their sharp beaks and claws and clashed with the sea griffons, who had lost their masters.

Thud! Boom!

A heavy sound erupted as the creatures collided.

Kweeeek!

The sea griffons were unable to overcome the force of the imperial griffons heavily descending on them with sharp beaks and claws. They started to fall down with broken wings or spilling guts.

Kuaagh!”

Baron Langone let out a grotesque shout. He had belatedly come to his senses, and a quarrel was sticking out of his shoulder. More than half of the sea griffons had been annihilated in a single round of quarrels and collisions.

“Formation…! Everyone, figh…”

Thud!

Another quarrel flew through the air and pierced his head. Baron Langone died without even being able to scream, and a dazzling white griffon passed by the sea griffon and its dead master.

“You should be honored to have died at the hands of an imperial prince.”

However, the dead were unable to hear the voice of the man who would become the emperor of the Aragon Empire.

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