The Pegasus was definitely eye-catching, but the man riding on top of it was even more so.
Dukeram was the leader of Empire, which reigned supreme over all guilds, so his Charisma stat was extremely high.
Even without his exceptionally high Charisma, Dukeram would surely stand out.
In any case, Dukeram held a flag in his right hand, and a severed head in his left. He raised the severed head for all to see, revealing a gray-haired, strong-minded face.
Dukeram flew over the Arabas army. Those with keen eyesight were able to identify the old man.
"Did you say General Hamil?"
"What's going on!?"
Once the man's identity was revealed, the soldiers felt like they'd all been struck.
After all, Hamil was known for his firm, unwavering loyalty that was tougher than even adamantium! And yet, that man's severed head was being held by their supreme commander.
What the hell was going on!?
"This is the 2nd Corps Commander, Hamil! He's a traitor that has been feeding information to our enemies!" Dukeram's voice rang out.
"He betrayed us?"
A majority of the soldiers thought, 'You're accusing General Hamil of treason? No way!', and began cursing Dukeram out.
"Who do you think you are!?"
"How dare you speak ill of the general!"
"You're the traitor!"
The soldiers' loyalty towards their general was absolute.
At that moment...
"No, the Supreme Commander is right. We were colluding with the enemy!" the man said tearfully.
"That's right. We sent the enemy military secrets!"
"I'm a criminal!"
The Empire Guild dragged these people out of nowhere, and they began confessing to their crimes. None of them were uninjured.
They were all grievously injured or seemed mentally unstable. There were traces of torture all over their bodies.
"Is that Lord Pike?"
"The Lord of Darren Oasis is there too!"
"T-The desert nobles are over there!"
"Do you understand!? Hamil and the nobles conspired against us and secretly sent information to the enemy. That's why we lost." Dukeram's voice resounded throughout the desert.
"Aah, no way!"
"Why did you do such a thing!?"
"You bastards! My friends died because of you!"
The troops' morale was already at rock bottom. It couldn't go any lower than this.
Or it shouldn't have been able to, at least. However, the news of Hamil and the nobles' betrayal made them feel even greater despair.
"Aah, this country is screwed!"
"Damn it! Shit!"
Countless soldiers dropped their weapons and plopped onto the floor. Some of them rushed at the nobles in rage.
Of course, these events would only prove beneficial to the Baiyan army.
"Forget about them. Just kill them all!" Kabula's voice rang out.
The Baiyan soldiers, who'd stopped due to Dukeram's sudden appearance and the chaos that ensued, got a hold of themselves.
They resumed their one-sided slaughter. The Arabas troops were no different from training dummies.
"Kill him too!" Kabula pointed at Dukeram.
The archers and Desert Mages joined the fray.
Arrows filled the sky and pillars of sand surged from the ground.
At that moment...
Dukeram raised a flag into the air.
The wind blew, showing the flag in all its glory. Rakan's symbols, the honorable sword of victory and the shield that prevents defeat, were drawn upon it.
The flag radiated intense light. That light rippled and then spread out, covering the entire battlefield.
Upon contact, the arrows fell to the ground, and the sand pillars dispersed into regular sand. That wasn't all.
The light passed through the Arabas troops as well, filling them with power. It felt as though something was brimming within them; it was like hope that they could come out of this battle victorious. And this hope successfully raised the troops' morale.
It was astonishing. To think that he'd be able to raise the morale of all of these troops instantaneously!
What exactly was that flag?
It was one of Rakan's sacred treasures: The Flag of Great Victory! As shown, it would protect the flag bearer and restore their allies' morale to full.
How in the world had Dukeram obtained one of Rakan's sacred treasures?
The Flag of Great Victory was stabbed through the heart of the nine-headed hydra by the great Rakan Paladin, Dekard, during the arduous sealing process.
With the help of his guild, Dukeram undid the seal, defeated the hydra, and achieved a great feat. That's how Dukeram had become a Master, as well as how he'd obtained the Flag of Great Victory.
Obviously, the sacred treasure should be returned to the Rakan Church, but the Empire Guild had been keeping it in storage to use at a time like this.
Anyhow, the Flag of Great Victory raised the morale of the weary Arabas troops.
"Brave sons of Arabas, from this day forward, we know no defeat!" Dukeram declared strongly.
The sitting soldiers stood up. For some reason, they felt obligated to do so; they also picked up the weapons that they'd thrown away.
"We can win!"
We can win. That's exactly how the soldiers felt right now.
"W-What's going on? These bastards!"
"They had given up completely! Stop resisting and just die!"
It was no longer a one-sided slaughter. Brutal battles took place all over the battlefield.
"It's our turn now."
"Finally, I don't have to hold back."
The Empire Guild's members were the best of the best. However, they had been ordered to not give it their all in the previous battles.
Everything had been planned. It was all for this moment!
"It's the Empire bastards."
"Toothless tigers, just die already!"
Storm and Breaker faced off against the Empire Guild.
The Empire Guild wasn't considered the strongest for no reason. Four of their eight squads were rampaging across the battlefield.
"Just as planned." Empire's vice-captain, Jegal, watched all the events unfold and smiled evilly.
All those losses? They had been expected.
The nobles' communication with the enemy? They obviously knew about it. They even goaded them on.
They wanted to get rid of them all. The battlefield was the perfect place to kill political rivals, after all.
He was no traitor. However, the Empire Guild had eliminated him because he'd get in the way of their plans in the future.
'He definitely would've been against Mr. Dukeram becoming Emperor.'
There was no one more loyal than Hamil. Thus, he wouldn't stand by and allow the puppet king to cede his power to Dukeram.
He held substantial military power, so he could even incite a civil war by siding with the puppet king. Whatever the case, he would definitely get in their way. Thus, they used this opportunity to kill him.
They had also planned to launch their large-scale counteroffensive here, in the Grendal Desert. Obviously, they had prepared a trump card that would guarantee victory.
"Please activate the transfer magic circles."
Several transfer magic circles were required to move a large number of troops. It took a considerable amount of resources, manpower, and time. And they couldn't be set up quickly either.
Thus, Jegal had already set up several transfer magic circles beneath the Grendal Desert's sands. He also made sure to maintain them too.
It was time to use the magic circles. The soldiers that guarded the border between the Arabas and Dellas kingdoms, as well as the missing members of the Empire Guild, would come through.
Of course, the guards would have to be recalled as soon as possible, but a brief absence shouldn't pose too much of a threat. After all, they were only needed for this battle.
"Activate the magic circles!"
Then, Jegal's subordinate left his side and vanished.
Countless people appeared atop the sand dune behind the Baiyan army. They were carrying Arabas flags!
On that day...!
The Baiyan army was almost completely annihilated.
Dukeram killed their supreme commander, Kabula, and the 2nd Corps Commander, Balkmas, lost a foot. The Storm and Breaker Guilds took considerable losses too.
It was a rout. They couldn't recover from these losses.
These false victories that the Baiyan Kingdom had accumulated all came crashing down on their heads. It was like a sand castle on the beach that'd been washed away by the current.
Thus began Arabas's, no, the Empire Guild's true invasion. The Baiyan Kingdom was well on their way to ruin.
* * *
Kang Oh had asked Eder and Sephiro to gather information on Talastrum's Demon, whether it be through their connections or otherwise. However, they weren't met with any success.
"My information brokers asked me who Vladi was," Sephiro said.
"The elves didn't have much information for me. Neither did the Altein Central Library," Eder said.
"Well, I guess it can't be helped."
From the start, Kang Oh hadn't been expecting much. He had just tried to get as much information as he could.
"Are you going to hunt it now?"
"Yes. I'm ready now."
He'd reached his limit on stolen stats, tested Shumir out, and bought an AA-rank item called 'Arnea's Mysterious Belt' to use for Gluttony.
Plus, he kept Sraka's Hell Greatsword inside his inventory. If need be, he would use Gluttony on the SS-rank sword.
'If Vladi is stronger than my expectations, that is.'
He'd restocked his healing and resistance potions, and had some of Eder's antidotes and bandages in his pocket.
Blacksmith Hoffman had sharpened his demon swords for him, and Tailor Dink had restored his leather armor to optimal condition.
Above all, the Cassio Ring was radiating red light. His Resurrection ability was good to go.
'I'm all ready.'
Kang Oh headed for Talastrum all by himself. After all, he had to face the demon alone. There was no reason to bring Eder and Sephiro with him.
He appeared in Talastrum via the transfer magic circle, and then headed for the temple where Vladi was sealed.
Kang Oh showed the Champion's Token to the soldiers and warriors there, and they let him pass without issue.
"Good luck, Challenger!"
They even cheered him on.
Kang Oh softly waved his hand. He sure was popular. It would've been nicer if they laid out the red carpet for him.
He finally reached the entrance of the temple. Somehow, Kuharap knew he was coming and was waiting for him there.
"Are you ready?"
"Completely." Kang Oh grinned.
Kuharap placed his hands on Kang Oh's shoulders, his face completely serious. He gave off quite a somber vibe.
"I pray that our great forebears bless you." Red light, like that of a red sunset, flowed from his fingers and into Kang Oh's body.
He suddenly felt warm.
[You have received the Tuslam Champion's blessing.]
[Because you are not a Tuslam yourself, the blessing loses effectiveness.]
[All stats have increased slightly.]
[HP, MP, and Stamina have increased slightly.]
[All resistances have increased slightly.]
[This buff will remain while you are within Vladi's seal.]
"Go on in." Kuharap pointed at the temple's doors.
Kang Oh plugged the nine round holes with the Tuslam Tokens. Then, he placed the Champion's Token into the star-shaped hole.
As it hadn't been opened in 100 years, the old door 'creaked' as it opened.
He peeked through the door, but could only see darkness within. However, it felt like the darkness was welcoming him, as if gesturing him to come on in.
Kuharap softly placed his hand on Kang Oh's back. He was basically saying, 'Don't be afraid.'.
'Afraid? The darkness is like my home now.'
Kang Oh took a step forward. Then, something peculiar happened. The darkness stretched forward and dragged him inside, as if it had become a hand. Soon enough, the darkness completely devoured him.
[Entering the Temple of Deep Darkness (Talastrum's Demon's Seal).]
The door was shut tight. Now, there was no going back. This door wouldn't open until he killed the demon.Previous Chapter Next Chapter