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Volume 3: Chapter 211 – Living Off of Ingenuity(4/4)
“This time even Pale might be at a disadvantage,” Falun said.
Within the depths of the Forest of Darkness, where the elves lived, were Shure and Old Falun. The former ruled the elves, while the latter gathered and analyzed information on the current situation.
“…The enemy king moves well,” Falun continued.
The two elves conversed each other while playing a game of chess. From an outsider’s perspective, it might seem like the two were merely playing, but in truth, they were exchanging information and discussing the future.
“Shure, as great chief of the elves, as the one who holds the future of the elves upon his back, you must eventually make a decision,” Falun urged.
Falun’s pawn moved to defend the king.
“…Are you telling me to turn traitor? We have yet to lose.” Shure asked.
Shure sent his queen to the front lines to try and change the tides of battles.
“It’s too late once you’ve lost. It is imperative that you take measures so you don’t lose.”
The pawns surrounded the queen and refused to move even a step away from Shure’s camp.
“And it was in that way that we have lived many months and years.”
As Falun sighed, a deep crevice formed between his brows. It was deep, as if all of the troubles he felt had piled up and left a mark. Survival was their greatest problem. Having long life meant that they had more opportunities to watch other races rise and fall.
“Loyalty is the path we should take,” Shure said
“What use is loyalty if we are dead?” Falun questioned.
Shure’s pawns advanced to save his queen.
“…Anger dulls your judgement. Still too green, Shure.”
In a flash, Old Falun’s knight cut down Shure’s pawns, the queen’s head within its reach.
“Pale is a brilliant child. She will not fall so easily.”
But Shure’s queen slipped through a gap made by the knight and extended her sword toward the enemy king’s neck.
“Yes. She won’t fall easily. And that is why we will be able to negotiate.”
Falun’s king fled from Shure’s queen, and at the same time, encroached into Shure’s camp. ”
If the war lasted for a long time and the elves conserved their forces, their value would rise.
Or did Shure wish for a position greater than the Great Chief of the elves? Falun seemed to ask.
“Hmm… A king against a king, huh. You’ve outwitted me.”
Seeing Shure move his pieces silently, Old Falun wryly smiled.
“War is different from chess. The world won’t just move according to our predictions,” Shure said.
“You’ve grown. One day you will surely become a man who can become king,” Falun’s wrinkled face twisted faintly as he laughed.
“You praise me too much, teacher,” Shure said.
“The Holy Shushunu Kingdom is connected to the Elves’ – or rather, to be more specific- Gastair’s forest. It is a bond formed by my younger brother. Their intel says that our water and fire brethren have begun to move.” Seeing Shure nod, Falun continued. “Lady Claudia is moving. Though aged, it seems that tomboyish personality of hers is incurable as ever. Her strategies are a thing to behold. Like a chain of traps. Once caught up in it, there’s no escaping.”
Falun narrowed his eyes as he watched Shure lovingly caress his queen.
“I see. I’d like to have a match with her once.” Shure nodded.
When he glanced outside the window, small birds could be seen chirping under the warm rays of the sun.
Word of the battle princess of the Holy Shushunu Kingdom, Claudia the Lady Impaler’s, movement was brought to Pale. It was right at the moment when her own plans had succeeded too. Pale believed that with her joining the fray, the Red King’s entire army wouldn’t be able to go after the goblins.
Claudia the Battle Princess was too big a name to leave alone. She was the sort of enemy that even if one fought ready to lose his arm, victory remained uncertain. The small countries adjacent to the Holy Shushunu Kingdom feared her like a witch or a fierce god.
After dragging the mixed army into the forest and repelling them, Pale ordered the army to go to Shirak. It was morning, and the veil of the fog covered the surrounding area. It was the perfect time for hiding.
Zaurosh led his human platoons to repair the walls of Shirak Town. They also brought in materials to construct siege weapons and dig out moats around the castle walls. Simple traps like pitfalls could also be seen around the perimeter.
The storage rooms were filled to the brim with quivers of arrows, oil, dried wood, food, and water. The Leon Heart Clan worked day and night to prepare everything that might be needed in a siege.
Pale allowed the centaurs to rest, but she didn’t allow herself the same comfort, as she went to check on Zaurosh’s progress and give them new orders. Afterwards, she analyzed the new information acquired and received the scouts’ reports in order decide what to do the following day.
Despite the two of them working together, the amount work being pushed onto Pale was still too much.
“Brandika is going to appear.”
After receiving the scouts’ report in the dead of the night, within a feudal lord’s residence, Pale looked down at the map.
Though the sleepless nights have left dark circles under her eyes, Pale was smiling. But because her face was so perfectly balanced, the resulting expression drew a terrifying image. Fortunately, no one was around to witness it.
The map was filled with details, and according to those details, Pale and her men have already figured out the location where Brandika’s advance party arrived.
The battlefield was still within her hands.
The way things were going, Pale even started to think that it might be possible to kill Brandika without having to wait for the Goblin King. But those heated thought of hers quickly cooled down as reason whispered to her that such a thing was impossible.
Pale closed her eyes to get whatever sleep she could, the raging battlefield appearing behind her eyelids.
Pale only rested for a little, as they would be attacking once again in the dead of the night.
Brandika must surely know that they have been attacking them every night, so naturally, he must’ve thought of some sort of plan.
Brandika was a brave human king, but it was precisely because of that bravery of his that he would surely appear in the battlefield to settle the problem.
Thus, Pale decided to take the centaurs and a portion of the Leon Heart cavalry to battle.
Led by she who sought vengeance, an army of 700 soldiers, made up of demihumans and humans, rode onwards.
When the watch fires of Razuel were within sight, Pale ordered the army to halt.
So silent was the black of the night that the chief of the centaurs, Tianos, could hear nothing more than the singing of insects and the howling of the monster beasts. Dubious as he was, for Pale had ordered them to stop further from the enemy than usual, he kept as silent as he could as he watched his surroundings.
“When we are near Razuel, at my signal, shoot once, and then turn around. We will exterminate the enemy in the left woods, and then return,” Pale said.
Try as Tianos might to strain his ears or eyes, unfortunately, he could not see nor hear nor sense any enemies hiding within the forest.
“Understood,” Tianos nodded.
But Pale was an elven tactician, so it’s more than possible that she might have her own methods.
After Tianos nodded, he made sure that all of his soldiers understood that. From there, they advanced 500 steps, and then Pale gave the order to turn back.
As soon as the entire army turned around, Tianos finally noticed the presence of humans near them.
“I can’t believe it. They really were here.”
Though shocked, the army couldn’t possibly slow down. Tianos stood at the head of the army and encouraged his men as they faced the enemy.
The centaur warriors followed after Tianos and his bows.
The centaurs specialized in attacking the enemy while moving. Tianos ran as he drew his bow. When he had shot twice, he was finally able to see the enemy within the forest.
Tianos shot another arrow, then he changed his weapon to a spear.
The centaurs jumped over the thickets and swung their spears against them. Without even checking whether they’d killed their foes or not, the centaurs ran. They buried the enemies before them while ignoring the cries of the figures they were fighting. It wasn’t until after they’d passed the forest and took a detour to the right that they finally checked how many they’d lost themselves.
“We’ll continue our retreat like this.”
Tianos nodded and they all went back to Shirak.
Brandika clicked his tongue and confirmed the situation of the north during the war council. Shirak was a good position to move westward from. After Shirak they could go to the western territories or even Cultidian.
As such, Brandika had no choice but to destroy them.
“Well, when you think about it… It really was just a bad opponent for an unorganized mob.”
The mixed army was completely defeated before the relentless attacks every night. So great was the fear of the mixed army for Pale and her men after being toyed around by them that they started calling them ghosts.
Brandika had intended to purge their fear with the trap he laid out last night, but alas, the enemy went above them. The enemy’s instinct that allowed them to see through their cover in the forest was not ordinary.
The enemy corpses were that of humans and demihumans.
They were definitely not ghosts. It was just that the enemy commander was terrifyingly sharp.
“The enemy commander is pretty good.”
It was as if he was fighting with Carlion himself. When Brandika thought of that, for a moment he hesitated and the thought of trying to pull the enemy commander to his side flashed through his mind.
“There’s no need for us to play their game!”
One of Brandika’s subordinate clan leaders woke him up from his thoughts.
That clan leader suggested that they use their numerical advantage and attack. The many clan leaders present in the war council agreed.
Brandika yearned for more talents to support his growing nation.
The clan leaders under him knew that too, which is why they believed that they too would be able to find glory should they succeed in bringing merit. As such, they were very willing to participate in this expedition.
They also had a lot of soldiers to spare. So Brandika thought that it might be a good idea to leave things to his subordinate clan leaders, let them them measure the enemy’s strength, and give them an opportunity to gain merit.
When Brandika did just that, the clan leaders organized an advanced army. Of the 25,000 soldiers that Brandika had under him, he sent 3,000 ahead.
However, unlike the subordinate clan leaders, who were in high spirits, the morale of the mixed army was at an all time low, and it was continuously getting even lower.
Brandika positioned them in the back and began posturing to preserve the border region.
But then two days later, a messenger came, bringing word of the advance army’s defeat, causing Brandika to go wide-eyed. Moreover, one of the towns of the former Pena has broken off from them.
Like this the weakened flank of a newly born country was struck.
“First-class pain in the ass, I’ll give you that,” Brandika muttered to himself.
After that Brandika received the defeated army, punished the person who suggested the plan, then he sent the Knight Commander of the Blue Knights, Allen, with 2,000 soldiers to maintain order in the territory of the old Pena.
“Do I just endure this? They’re really getting the best of me.”
There is a thing called ‘momentum’ or ‘flow’ in battle. From things that one can sense to things that one cannot sense, there are all sorts of reasons why the momentum ends up leaning toward one side during battle, but regardless, the moment one has lost this momentum, no matter what one does, it will always have a bad result.
“The flow is against us,” the guest general, Wyatt, spoke out Brandika’s thoughts.
“Let’s proceed with caution from here on.”
With that Brandika and his men slowly advanced for Shirak. They split their forces and lit up fires everywhere be it day or night to ensure that they wouldn’t be taken by surprise. The days passed, and slowly but surely, the over 20,000 soldiers of Brandika neared Shirak.
It should be mentioned that their camp was also flawless in its defense, having moats, fences, and even the nearby undergrowth pulled out.
Brandika’s army of over 20,000 was like a predator slowly moving in for its prey.
Naturally, the pressure Pale and her subordinates felt was equally grave.
But the days kept on passing, and Pale could not attack the enemy carelessly. The morale of the mixed army gradually recovered, and eventually, Shirak City was within sight.
But when Wyatt saw Shirak, he couldn’t help but groan.
Not much time had passed and yet Shirak was barely recognizable. Castle walls stood up high, and atop them were piles of logs and ballistae. Moreover, several layers of fences surrounded the town, preventing anyone from advancing as a unified army.
It was as if the enemy’s extraordinary general was saying, “Come if you dare!”
“Brute force would be ill-advised,” Wyatt said.
Brandika made a difficult face.
They had been so careful in traveling here that they ended up using more time than expected. Now, even the food supply to feed over 20,000 soldiers was starting to grow sparse.
“Your majesty,” a messenger happily appeared before the confused Brandika. “Lord Carlion is coming! And he has brought reinforcements!”
All the people present immediately became elated at the news. Brandika himself was expressionless just moments ago, but as soon as he heard the news, shock filled him.
Carlion was no longer in the state to be moving. One side effect of the pain relieving medicine he was taking was loss of mobility.
“Carlion is coming?”
“I’m meeting him. Get me my horse!”
Brandika hastily left, taking only a few soldiers with him as he went to meet Carlion.
“Carlion!” Brandika called out.
Carlion couldn’t even ride a horse anymore, so he was riding a carriage. Beside him was, Cell, who was keeping pace with his carriage. When she noticed Brandika, she ordered for the army to stop.
Carlion borrowed Cell’s hand to get off the carriage with much difficulty, then he knelt before Brandika and greeted him.
“My, king… I have come to serve you one last time.”
As Brandika said that, he swallowed his words and grit his molars so hard it was as if he was trying to crush them. He couldn’t help but swallow after seeing the firm resolve reflected in Carlion’s eyes.
Why did you come? What about your body? Don’t push yourself… Don’t die…
When Brandika realized this was his friend’s last wish, everything he wanted to say vanished, and instead, he told him what he wanted to hear.
“I permit it. Take my entire army and crush the enemy!”
“Gladly. No enemy can stand before my schemes. Nor is there such thing as an infallible castle.”
Brandika braced himself for the worst. Carlion was going to die.
And it would be his fault.
To compensate him, he would have to create a kingdom that would last a thousand years…
…No matter who stood in his way.
With the supremacy of the south at stake, the curtains on the last battle of those who lived on ingenuity were drawn.