The fortified walls that had appeared before them caused Patt and Shadekampf great surprise.
"Three gold rings... This is the Kenmays Family's insignia... Don't tell me that our family..." said Patt as his expression turned exceedingly gloomy.
"Huh? Shadekampf, why didn't you tell me that there's a barrier wall over here?" asked Lorist as he rode over.
"Milord, this is indeed the dominion of our family. How-however, the barrier isn't constructed by us... When Patt and I were first sent to seek you out at Morante City, this fort wasn't here. Also, there's no way the family has enough resources to build something like this," stammered Shadekampf.
"Oh, so you're saying that this fort was built within our lands but not by us?" Lorist felt a bad omen as this was a situation he had not conjectured even once when he was thinking about the family's current situation.
Commonly speaking, something like this happening would signify that the Norton Family had already been defeated by a foe and had their lands conquered by them. From the sturdy and slightly rugged look of the fort, it seemed to have been completed months ago. Right now, there were two options Lorist could choose from. Either he stealthily leaves the area, or start an all out war to take back the family dominion.
The guards on the walls have already noticed the group below that was flying the flag of the Norton Family. One leather-armored man pointed towards the convoy and started to call out loudly for battle preparations.
"One, two, three. Huh, they really did put quite a lot of money in their fortifications. They've actually equipped a simple barrier wall like that with three ballistas, how unexpected..." mumbled Lorist as he checked out the defensive infrastructure the barrier wall had.
"Which family uses that three-ringed insignia?" Lorist asked.
"Milord, that would be the Kenmays Family with whom we've had conflict back when they attacked us for the copper mines in our dominion..." said Shadekampf.
"Then does this mean that the Norton Family has been defeated by the Kenmayses? Otherwise, there would be no way for them to build this fort here," said Lorist with a wry smile as if he was about to leap into battle at any moment.
"No, I don't think so, milord," said Patt as if he had thought of something else.
"Hmm? What's on your mind?" Lorist asked.
"Milord, if your family had lost to the Kenmayses in an all out battle and lost control of the dominion, then there wouldn't be a need for the Kenmayses to build a barrier here as the dominion would already be theirs. I haven't heard of anyone who would make a barrier in their dominion. Isn't that just causing more trouble for themselves?
"Also, back then when the former family head led our family's forces against that of the Kenmays', they mainly relied on hired mercenaries which don't have much battle prowess. Even if the family army is decimated, there is no way that the Kenmays would be able to take our our family's bastide. Additionally, the Wildnorth Town isn't that far off from the family bastide, so no matter how shitty their garrison is, they wouldn't shrink out on a matter like this that their survival depended on. Should the family truly fall, they will definitely follow as well. That's why they would definitely not sit back and watch the Kenmays Family take over the castle.
"I think that Viscount Kenmays built this wall here to cut off the family's communication with the outside world for some reason. They must be planning to lock us in the desolate Northlands and force us to one day lower our heads to them," inferred Patt.
"What you said makes sense. When we take this fort, we will know the truth right away," said Lorist as he nodded.
"Milord, you're going to launch your attack now?" said Shadekampf, astonished. "But we haven't made any preparations yet. Without siege ladders, how would you be able to conquer the fort? There are three ballistas on the walls you know..."
"Siege ladders? I don't need any. Look, the walls are only 4 meters tall and there are only roughly 30 small fries guarding it. It would be giving them too much credit to even bother constructing siege ladders. While the three ballistas are certainly powerful and would definitely prove to be a threat to large groups of people, it would be far too slow to operate for it to be able to hit me, as I can easily avoid the bolts. Patt, tell Ovidis to ready the guard squad and ask them to follow suit right after I make my way up the walls," said Lorist.
"Yes, milord," Patt replied, before he said, "Milord, you should be careful. Why don't I accompany you up there as well?"
"Hehe..." Lorist started laughing out loud. "You should know my abilities better than anyone and getting up this wall shouldn't be much of a problem to me. However, you're in full armor, so the weight should give you quite some trouble when you try to get up. Additionally, if I go alone, the ballistas will have fewer targets to shoot at. Don't worry, the guards up there are nothing to me."
After that, Lorist rode alone straight towards the walls. When he was within 70 meters of it, a loud twanging sound rang out as one of the ballistas on the wall fired. Lorist quickly pulled his horse to the side and avoided the bolt that flew past his flank and buried itself a few inches into the ground.
Within but a short moment, Lorist had already gotten so close that the ballista wasn't able to aim at him anymore, at which point he took out a javelin from his quiver.
Whoosh! Three javelins were thrown by him towards the wall and all of them embedded themselves firmly onto the surface, causing the guards on top of it to laugh out loud, thinking that Lorist had failed miserably in an attempt to shoot them.
What they did not expect was that when Lorist arrived at the wall, he started to travel along its sides, causing a few of the guards above to try to shoot him down with their longbows to no avail as the walls had blocked off the ideal firing angle entirely.
Lorist then turned in the other direction and started removing his boots from the stirrups and knelt on top of his mount. When he saw the javelins that he had embedded into the walls, he jumped and grabbed the lowest javelin with both his hands like an agile monkey and used the momentum to perform a spin to launch himself up to the top of the walls.
Upon witnessing the crazy circus stunt, the guards by the walls were all thrown into stupor with their mouths agape. By the time they had snapped out of it, Lorist had already steadied his footing and started to draw out the longsword on his back.
After the officer in command cursed and called out a few names, the few guards beside Lorist lifted their pikes and shields and leapt towards him, thinking that they would be able to defeat him with sheer numbers.
With a few sword flashes, the five guards who had rushed over all had their throats cut open as they fell towards the ground with blood spurting out of their necks. Swiftly leaping over the dead bodies on the ground, Lorist rushed towards the leather-armor-wearing commanding officer.
Cursing in disbelief at the sight of the five fallen guards and seeing Lorist coming in his direction, the commanding officer quickly drew his sword and picked up a shield from the ground as he retreated backwards gradually while shouting for the other guards to fight Lorist together with him.
Two other pike-wielding guards stealthily approached Lorist from behind and thrusted towards him at the same moment. Delighted that an opportunity like that had shown up, the commanding officer manifested his blade glow and just before he was about to attack, he saw Lorist suddenly fall back like a gust of wind and circle between the two thrusting guards. His sword flashed once again and both the guards dropped their pikes and fell as croaking sounds resounded when they tried to scream with their slit throats from which blood was gushing out.
Panicked beyond reason, the commanding officer turned tail and ran. You think you can escape? Quickening his steps, Lorist quickly caught up to the the officer, who suddenly turned his body while shielding himself as he swung his right sword-wielding arm diagonally downward.
Where's he, thought the guard in surprise after discovering that his sword slashed nothing but thin air. He took two steps to recover from his stance and just as he was about to look for Lorist, he felt a cold blade pressed to his neck as a raspy voice sounded from behind him, "Drop your sword and surrender and you'll be spared."
With a clanging sound, the frozen officer dropped only his shield and slowly turned towards Lorist.
With a press of the blade to his neck, Lorist indicated for him to drop his sword as well. The officer gradually lifted his longsword into a throwing position and tried to draw Lorist's attention to it away from him. All of a sudden, he jerked backward and freed himself from Lorist's hold and quickly tried to escape.
However, he didn't know that he wasn't as quick as Lorist's reaction and the longsword eventually found its way through his neck.
"You truly have a death wish..." cursed Lorist.
He only wanted to ask that officer about the fort, but he didn't expect that he would resist even though his life was clearly at stake. Lorist didn't have the time to deal with fools who didn't know what was good for them and decided to kill him to save himself some trouble. Turning back to the corridor of the walls, he saw eight bodies littered around the ground with the remaining tens of guards having long escaped from the walls.
Looking at the direction the guards were running towards, Lorist cursed, "Sol..." He noticed that the Kenmayses didn't intend to build just a border fort here, but rather a whole city. 300 meters away from the walls he stood on was another even taller and better fortified wall.
Hearing Ovidis and some of the guard squad members shouting from the outer side of the walls, Lorist said, "Wait a second."
He then got down to the inner side and opened the gates. The first one to enter was Josk.
"Milord, that was far too reckless of you. You should've at least waited for me to disable those ballistas, you know," said Josk as he came over while carrying a ballista bolt in his hands.
"Am I not in perfect condition now? Don't worry, you'll have your chance later. Look ahead, there is another wall there," said Lorist as he pointed in the far direction.
"No problem, leave it to me! Hiyah!" Josk gave his mount a kick and subsequently sped towards the direction of the wall with Ovidis and the guard squad following behind.
"Sheesh, Joe... I didn't ask you to attack it now! Sol, he's pretending not to hear me again and is even increasing his speed..." said Lorist in an irritated tone.
The walls further ahead was far taller than the previous one and it looked far better fortified as well. It was quite worrying for Josk to just bring a squad of men and rush in like that as they may incur heavy losses from attacking recklessly.
Intending to go out of the walls to retrieve his mount, he discovered that it had already returned to where the convoy was. At that moment, it was being pulled by Patt as he slowly approached the walls with Shadekampf and Reidy, who was currently driving a carriage.
Lorist waved for them to hasten their speed, but Patt, Reidy and Shadekampf thought that he was cheering for his solo victory at the walls instead. So, they cheered and waved back cheerfully.
Pissed beyond reason, Lorist thought, normally these fellows are quite witty, but all of a sudden they turn into idiots when you really need them. I really wonder how those geniuses manage to confuse my beckoning for a victory cheer...
When they were finally within shouting distance, the three only realized their mistake after they heard Lorist's enraged roar. Patt quickly brought the horse over and Lorist gave him a deathly stare. Just as he got onto his mount and prepared to rush to the second wall, an excited guard approached him from the direction he was about to head to and said, "Milord, milord! We've successfully taken over that wall!"
"Wha-" mumbled Lorist as he almost slipped off his mount.
"What are the casualties?" asked Lorist anxiously.
"Casualties? There are none, milord," said the guard before he hesitated and continued, "There are no casualties among the enemy too."
Lorist was confused. The heck does that mean? If both sides have no casualties at all, then how have we managed to occupy the walls? Is this a children's game or what?
With a wall as tall as that, the defenders only have to keep shooting from above to chase the attackers away. Even if Josk's marksmanship was unparalleled, with him being on flat ground, he would still be quite disadvantageous when facing off guards who are stationed up high. Also, with only one bow, it wouldn't be hard for the defenders to suppress Josk and pressure him away with pure numbers.
Even though Lorist managed to take over the former wall by himself, that was actually due to his bet that the enemy would be caught off-guard by his solo assault. The other factor was the element of surprise that he had employed by swinging himself up onto the walls that was only 4 meters tall.
"How did Knight Josk pull that off?" Lorist asked curiously.
"Oh, milord, Sir Josk only shot three arrows. The first one broke their flag pole, the second one destroyed one of their ballistas and the third shot through the mercenary captain's two-handed axe. The moment the mercenaries discovered that Josk was a Gold rank, they surrendered right away," said the messenger.
It was absolutely ludicrous: Lorist could imagine the face of the mercenaries that were stationed there as they discovered that Josk was a Gold ranked archer who was leading a troop of fully-armored soldiers heading their way. It was no surprise that the mere Silver and Iron ranked mercenaries knelt down to surrender without bothering to resist.
But back when Lorist first killed off the 5 guards that rushed at him, the commanding officer thought that he was merely an Iron rank with excellent swordsmanship and didn't even try to launch a sneak attack and resisted him head-on. Even when the Silver ranked officer was at knifepoint, he would rather take his chances to escape than die an embarrassing death in the hands of an Iron rank.
Upon realizing the reason why the officer had not chosen to surrender, Lorist wore a brilliant smile on his face while actually trying really hard to restrain the frustration in his mind. Thank goodness I didn't attack the second wall, otherwise the mercenaries wouldn't surrender until almost all of them are killed. Josk on the other hand only had to show his abilities as a Gold rank to make the enemies surrender. He only had to relaxedly unleash three arrows to cause them to stop all resistance...
"Cursed Battle Force... Cursed Blazing Battle Force... Stupid hereditary Battle Force technique of my family..." mumbled Lorist in annoyance.
"Oh, milord, Sir Josk asked for your presence over there. It seems like he has discovered something important," said the messenger as he recalled the other matter he was tasked to report.
"Okay, I'll be on my way now," said Lorist as he calmed himself. He turned to Shadekampf, Patt, and Reidy and said, "Let the convoy settle down. We'll set up camp over here today. Make sure to shut the gates and have someone be stationed on the walls, alright?"
"Yes, milord, we understand."