Bloodshed and Remorse
A mercenary wearing a goose feather-decorated helmet appeared before Lorist and snickered as the blood of his enemies dripped downwards from his hands. There were 3 bloody guard squad members beside him with one of them lying silent and unmoving while the other two's bodies twitched uncontrollably.
Seeing Lorist approach with a solemn expression, that mercenary ceased his grinning and roared when Lorist was just inches from him as he swung his flail downwards.
Clang! The flail was sent flying onto the ground with a flash, beating up a cloud of dust and making a dent on the ground.
Stunned, the mercenary looked around and thought, where is he? Where did that young fella disappear to all of a sudden? Before he recovered from his shock, a shadow flashed past in the corner of his eyes and a sudden pain filled his mind before he was able to turn to look, causing him to shiver uncontrollably. Opening his eyes in pain, he noticed that his stomach had been cut open with his innards slipping outwards from within.
"Uggh..." The Feathersoar mercenary's vision gradually darkened as he gradually slipped powerlessly to the ground. By the time he landed, he had already lost all signs of life.
Was that the 10th or 11th mercenary? Lorist had already lost count. When he first rushed into the horde of people, he noticed that the situation was far worse than he had predicted given the number of bodies of his troops that were on the ground. With but a quick check of the area, Lorist counted at least 30 corpses that were part of his guard squad and defense unit.
With his silhouette razing like a savage storm to the next crowd where a group of 8 Norton soldiers were struggling to hold their ground against 4 Feathersoar mercenaries who were fighting in a practiced formation, the enemy mercenaries quickly fell to the ground with their throats slit one by one. The 8 family soldiers were stunned, but upon noticing that the silhouette was Lorist, they all cheered "Norton!" in the loudest voice they could as they followed him to the next area to wipe out the rest of the Feathersoar mercenaries.
Wherever Lorist showed himself, the guard squad and defense unit members would fight like there was no tomorrow, having had their morale raised. It was apparent that victory was gradually shifting to Lorist's side.
However, the Feathersoar mercenaries weren't going to back down that easily. Lorist even had to admit that they were far more courageous than the ex-bandit guard squad members and used a more effective fighting style as well. The crucial difference was that all of the Feathersoar mercenaries had awakened their Battle Force and one of their Bronze ranks could easily take on four non-Battle Force users from the defense unit. Had it not been for the guard squad members who also could use Battle Force taking most of the brunt, the losses for the defense unit might be even worse.
Lorist was merciless in his culling and none of the Feathersoar mercenaries who had encountered him managed to escape alive. Lorist was currently struck deeply with remorse as he never would've expected that the Feathersoar Mercenary Crew would still resist despite the threat of more than 20 ballistas. What's worse was that the ballistas ceased to be effective after a little more than ten kills. The soldiers who had surrounded the tents didn't expect that conflict would truly break out as well and were surprised that the mercenaries didn't surrender in the end.
This is all my fault... Lorist suddenly halted and made a backhand slash before pushing his sword through the back of the mercenary who had been staggered by his former strike.
I was far too careless. I really should've planned for the worst and not expect these mercenaries to surrender without putting up a fight. Lorist dashed forward yet again and decapitated a mercenary who was just about to thrust his sword down onto a guard squad soldier that was knocked to the floor. The stump of the severed neck spurted out huge volumes of blood which painted the whole of Lorist's body crimson red.
Lorist didn't bother to evade the blood and let it cover him all over. It was definitely my fault for being so arrogant. My previous victories have made me far too careless to the point that I thought that everything would go according to my plan. I even forgot the most basic principle that anything can happen on the battlefield. I even got held back by the shield-bearers for so long without being able to do much about it.
Back when Grandmaster Ciroba revealed their plot, Lorist was still confident that he had everything under control and since Josk would handle the mercenaries outside the gate. Given that Patt's 280 men had the tents surrounded with Ovidis's ballistas ready to attack, he believed that as long as he was able to take out Adams, he could then swiftly take care of the rest who were resting at the tents.
But what he didn't expect was the two Gold ranked shield-bearers who had stalled him for nearly 20 minutes, during which many things started to turn downhill. Josk, Patt, Ovidis, Shadekampf and Reidy had all played their parts well, but Lorist himself messed up and let Adams attack rampantly while rallying his allies to resist the entrapment of the family soldiers, causing all the previous preparations to go to waste and triggering an all-out battle.
It was the serious casualties of his own men that made Lorist so conflicted and remorseful. Before Charade and Potterfang arrive, he believed that the lack of men was one of the most serious problems the dominion faced. Wildnorth Town still hadn't been taken care off, yet he's planning to develop a city at Morgan Hills to stave off the Kenmayses. The dominion was also under the threat of the barbarians from time to time. Even though Josk went all out and chased the barbarian riders away, it was unknown when they would retaliate and cause even more trouble for Lorist.
One cause of worry for Lorist was the allocation of the workforce. It wasn't that there was insufficient people, but rather not many of them were suited for the job. For example, at Maplewoods Bastide, only 130 or so people of the 2000 plus living there had awakened their Battle Force and among them, 40 of them were aged above 38 and had retired from the family's forces due to various reasons ranging from old injuries to disabilities. The defense unit Lorist had just formed could only reach 120 people with their inclusion.
Lorist was so adamant on teaching every willing youth how to awaken their Battle Force despite the insistence of the old butler not to was because he understood that the dangers the family would have to face would only increase in the future. He had also wanted to move the main base of the family to the Morgan Hills because he had hoped that it would bring them further away from the threat that was Wildnorth Town for the moment. That was the hidden intention that Lorist had told nobody apart from Shadekampf.
During his stay at Wildnorth Town, Shadekampf's task was not like that of Supervisor Kedan to do a survey on the population there but rather befriending the garrison soldiers and family members who had just recently been relinquished of their positions and benefits. After getting a couple of them drunk, Shadekampf obtained a rather surprising piece of intelligence: the four families had up to 600 Battle Force awakened youths at their disposal. Even though most of them were Bronze and Iron ranks, each family had at least five Silver ranks as well. How else would the four families carry out their smuggling operations without any fighters of their own? Otherwise, they would've long been swallowed up by the crooks of the black market or been wiped out by the time they encountered garrison troops of other dominions.
For the last 100 years, the commoner families of Wildnorth Town had put heavy emphasis on their children's upbringing. Even though they only had the former Krissen Empire's military Battle Force technique, which was far harder to train in than higher-ranked Battle Force techniques, given their relatively good standard of living, there was no fear of problems like malnourishment which would hinder the awakening of Battle Force, thus allowing the four families to have more and more Battle Force users over time. One of the main factors the four families managed to prevail and rule over WIldnorth Town was because they had the most number of Battle Force users among the other families there.
Lorist thought that it was fortunate that the four families' smuggling operations were only contained within the Northlands given that there was no way that they would be able to go past the natural barrier that separated the Northlands from the outside world that was Metropoulos River. If the four families somehow managed to reach Morante City and got their hands on any basic or high-ranked Battle Force manual, the Nortons would find it much harder to resist the ambitions of the four families.
By that time, the four families would have sufficient power to wipe out the already weak Nortons and let their descendants marry into the defeated Norton Family. That way, the Norton Family would legitimately be replaced by someone from the four families. Luckily, the four families didn't plan that far ahead and were nothing but short-sighted money hoarders in the end and had all their focus on the petty farmland in front of their eyes and were calculative to the last copper piece. Now that Lorist had returned to the family, the end of the four families was definitely near.
If Wildnorth Town really only had a little more than ten people who have awakened their Battle Force, then Lorist would definitely jump to the chance to wipe them out with whatever people he had that could use Battle Force to clear out all the problems in one fell swoop. However, after he received news of the true might Wildnorth Town had, Lorist thought that if he were able to recruit those men under his banner, then the Norton Family would be able to defy even the orders of Duke Loggins in the future.
However, that was but an afterthought of his. Even though Wildnorth Town was technically under the rule of the Norton Family, they still posed quite a threat to it. Given that the disparity between the family's force and that of Wildnorth Town was rather large, Lorist could only resort to placating them for now as he awaited the arrival of the main convoy. For instance, the incident with the population survey had caused Lorist to be quite annoyed. While the four families were busy letting their own members fill out the spots for the expanded garrison force, they also stopped the garrison soldiers who were kicked out from cooperating with the survey while building their hate for the Norton Family to prevent them from potentially being used.
Among the family members of the deceased Norton soldiers Lorist brought back from WIldnorth Town, less than 10 out of the 1500 of them had awakened their battle Force. It was due to that and many other factors that Lorist decided to endure and wait for his plan to rile up the various families of Wildnorth Town of which moving the ex-garrison members and their families to construct a new town at Poplar Coast was a central part to take fruit, thus allowing Lorist the opportunity to make his move.
As Lorist slaughtered his way through the battlefield, he dwelled quite a lot on his plans. Every time he saw a blood-covered guard lying on the ground, his remorse increased even more. They had all perished because of his inadequate planning. The more he witnessed, the more he started to loathe himself and Crew Leader Adams. What made him curious was the reason Adams still choose to resist despite having been put in a disadvantageous situation. Even if they managed to wipe out the soldiers surrounding the tents, they would still have to face the brunt of the ballistas. Did they really think that they could retake the construction site by themselves?
Two streaks of green arrows flew past Lorist's vision and pinned two Feathersoar mercenaries on the ground. Having seen Josk's heroics from atop the wall, the guard squad and defense unit members cheered loudly and within moments, not a single standing Feathersoar mercenary could be seen.
Lorist shook his head and recovered from his depressed mental state. In the distance, two groups of people could be seen gathering together for some reason.
As he walked in that direction, the people beside him moved aside to make a path for him. When Lorist arrived, he saw Reidy and a Silver ranked Feathersoar mercenary fighting. Reidy had wounds on his left rib and his chest and was bloodied all over. However, he still moved relaxedly whereas his enemy was breathing raggedly with a look of panic on his face. Even the silver blade glow on his sword was flickering from time to time: it seemed that the victor had long been decided.
Lorist left the crowd and headed for the other group. Right after he took a couple of steps away, a cry of agony rang out from behind him that was later followed by loud cheers of praise......