“I never thought I’d come back to the north…” Anya stopped her horse and looked around at the wilderness, a trancelike expression in her eyes.
“Argh!” “Ahh!” Sharp growls could be heard from goblins in the shrubbery as an enormous malicious intent enveloped the caravans behind her.
If they couldn’t show a sufficient amount of force, these goblins would continue to follow them, looking for flaws in their defences as they waited for reinforcements. When the time was ripe, they’d rush into action and make mincemeat out of everyone in the caravans.
“Go!” Anya naturally knew how to deal with them. She didn’t even have to say anything before several armoured knights rushed ahead. The mounts whinnied as they brandished their swords, causing the goblins to cry out in panic.
“Haha, you green-skinned midgets!” One knight laughed loudly, the dragon-patterned greatsword in his hand driving several dirty green-skinned goblins out of the grass.
*Bang! Bang!* Several of the pitiful little fellows suffered fatal injuries, and the ones that were left remaining began to scream in horror as they lamented their fates. The remaining goblins fled quickly, the tall grass shaking as wave after wave escaped.
A caravan could not survive in the north without the ability to defeat the goblins and ogres of the Endless Plains. They would be swallowed up and exterminated by the other merchant groups, dispatched in a harsh fight that left their bones to rot in the wilderness forever.
Several goblins were then hung at the front of the caravan, screaming the loudest. These wails would be the best deterrent against danger, even if only against other goblins.
Anya intentionally distanced herself from the stench of the green-skinned barbarians, draping a white scarf embroidered with gold across her face.
‘Damn, isn’t there a better method than this?’ Her eyes scanned across the normal-looking servants with a hint of resentment in her heart, ‘With them here, even if we were surrounded by ogre tribes, there’s nothing much to be scared of, is there?”
Of course, Anya was well aware that this place was now the territory of the orc empire. If they were surrounded by the horde here, even several legendaries would not be enough to save them. This was why she decided to swallow her resentment, refraining from speaking.
“There are matters for you to attend to, Miss Anya!” A skinny servant ran over, looking young and immature. However, his eyes revealed a calm resolution that did not match his sweet face.
“What’s the matter?” Anya asked reflexively. “It’s most likely an issue regarding our arrival at the Moonwood,” the youth replied, causing Anya to take another glance at him.
“I’ll go immediately,” Anya promised, and her eyes bored into the little boy’s back with a rare trace of jealousy, ‘What a lucky fellow… Wasn’t he called Lonce? He actually received the favour of the Lord…’
When she’d first laid eyes on him, this child was but a weak boy hiding within the shadows. But now? His temperament and physique had both been transformed greatly, and he was now receiving focused training from the Giant Serpent Church.
‘He awakened his talent as a devil hunter with divine inspiration… That legendary devil hunter will very likely accept him as a disciple…’ Anya looked at Lonce’ back and thought of her own brothers who were sent into the Giant Serpent Church. A wry smile appeared on her face, but she could not complain.
She understood the reason behind such treatment well. The Banes were a business family without any real faith. Given that they had to be converted to Kukulkan’s faith, their devotion could not be compared to what Lonce showed. Even if the heirs to the family were still young, it didn’t seem like they would become zealots.
‘Perhaps the next generation of children can be nurtured…’ Anya deeply understood the fundamentals of the church and what it relied on to exist. Monetary and other help was one aspect, but the most fundamental aspect of one’s relationship with the church was the strength of their faith. Talent and money did not matter in the face of fervour.
Anya knew that the Giant Serpent Church had a unique divine skill which could determine the depths of one’s faith through the light of faith emitted by the worshipper. This sort of analytical ability made her feel that she was in deep danger.
‘It looks like I should deepen my understanding of the doctrine of their god. Sister Barbara might be able to help me with this…’ A blush appeared on Anya’s face as she thought of Saintess Barbara, for reasons she herself did not know.
“Father!” Anya rode to Fagus’ side, continuing the journey alongside him. Their current journey was so important that even the head of the family had personally joined the caravan.
“We have to handle these matters well for the Lord. We cannot afford a single mistake!” Fagus said with a solemn face.
“I understand, Father.” Anya inhaled deeply. Leylin had bestowed a miracle upon their family, taking out Blackmoon and the house backing it in one go. This freed up the Neon Merchant Group immediately, allowing them to put trade with the Blackblood Tribe on the agenda.
No matter how Fagus and his daughter looked at it, the Giant Serpent Church’s actions this time were rather evil. However, they’d boarded this ship themselves, and could only walk the path that Leylin had paved for them. Fagus knew deeply of the horror of a war between gods, and now an innocent like him had been thrown into the mix. Even if he was unwilling, he could only bite the bullet and continue on.
A commotion suddenly sounded out up ahead, and Anya moved to whisper into Fagus’ ear, “Father, we’ve spotted knights of the orc empire.”
“It doesn’t matter.” Fagus looked at the flags they’d put up, a pass the orc empire had given them to guarantee the safety of their caravan.
“Argh…” “Argh…” Bleak howls sounded out as a few knights finally appeared before Anya’s eyes. These werewolves were about two heads taller than the average human, with green eyes and hair. They were riding giant wolves with silver fur.
‘The Mounted Wolves!’ Anya paled as she saw these elites of the orc empire, their equipment being able to contend with human knights. The Mounted Wolves were a nightmare to all the people of the north.
The horses of the caravan neighed restlessly under the wolves’ gazes, stomping their hooves on the ground as white vapour condensed from their breath.
Fortunately, the commander of the Wolves waved his hand after seeing the banner atop it. The wolves made way for the caravan, and they moved ahead despite their fear. The captain even dispatched two riders to protect them at the tail.
“Sigh… Compared to the Silverymoon Alliance, the strategic warfare of the orc empire is actually…” Fagus muttered under his breath, but he didn’t end the sentence.
Anya knew what her father wanted to say. The Orc Emperor Saladin was a wise leader, possessing great foresight. Seeing how the humans flourished with the advent of civilisation, he was mimicking their ways to develop his own empire.
For the sake of food and materiel, Saladin had promised the Neon Merchant Group and Blackmoon Merchant Group to protect them within his borders. Orders had been sent for orc troops to not harass them, and only engage in fair trade. This would in turn attract more merchants, and increase the strength of the empire.
Alustriel and her subordinates weren’t even comparable in this aspect. The only thing that helped them was that they were of the same race, and the orcs were their natural enemies. The benefits of trade with the orc empire couldn’t always get rid of the shadow of war.
On the other hand, the fact that the orcs were buying magic scrolls and powerful equipment told Fagus that they were already prepared for war.
“What do you think?” a tall, and skinny figure asked Lonce, “Are you afraid?”
“No. I have nothing to fear with the protection of the Lord…” Lonce gripped a string of hemp that was tied around his neck. Something seemed to be hidden within.
“Alright then, what do you think of the orcs turning towards civilisation and protecting our caravan?” The tanned man seemed like he wanted to test Lonce’s deductive abilities. This question would be difficult even for an adult to answer.
“I feel like…” Lonce bowed his head and pondered. When he lifted his head again, his eyes no longer filled with perplexment, “The orcs give off a savage and bloody aura. It seems right to improve themselves and march towards civilisation, but I keep feeling like something’s not right.”
Although he didn’t elaborate further, the man seemed to be satisfied with his answer, “You’re right. Gruumsh, the orc god, is a god of savages. This change doesn’t match the true nature of his domain, so it’ll cause a serious problem… How many of the orc gods will want to change their natural disposition to civilisation?”
“Is it very difficult?” Lonce nodded his head. Just thinking about it proved to be extremely astonishing for him.
“It is! Sometimes the gods cannot even choose the change of alignments and disposition…” The figure sighed, “And even though Gruumsh himself approved this change, not many others will. The imbalance in power has caused a fatal blow to the orc empire…”
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