Chapter 219 - All-out War (3)
'The quickest way to end the civil war will be by assassinating Duke Cornwall.'
Just like how the center of the royal party was Prince Elsid, the center of the nobles faction was Duke Cornwall. He was also the person in charge of negotiations with Lairon and the one with a relationship with Fergana.
In other words, it was all over if Duke Cornwall died. Additionally, there was no other noble who could take the king's seat as they would just be torn apart by infighting. The problem was whether it would be possible to assassinate Cornwall.
"It is hard. I have too many skills," Theodore clicked his tongue and muttered.
There were around a hundred knights and 30 magicians of the 4th Circle in the vicinity of the elderly man who seemed to be the duke. Additionally, the man in the silver armor was probably a crusader.
In order to deal with this situation, he needed a magic spell like Abraxas. However, the process couldn't go unnoticed due to the tremendous amount of magic power which would be generated.
Above all, the power of the crusader was unknown.
As a result of observing through Hugin's eyes, Theodore found out that the crusader was called Ruben. There was a long sword at his waist and an impressive shield at his back. It was difficult for someone to find suitable weapons after reaching master level.
It was because a weapon couldn't bear the destructive power of a master class unless they were legendary grade.
They would hit without being damaged...
And cut without being cut back.
For that, it was more useful for masters to move quickly and flexibly, rather than wear thick armor and wield a shield. Low-rated aura shields had long ceased to exist in Andras.
'Maybe this is the difference between a crusader and a sword master...?'
The difference between the two jobs, a sword master who only used Aura Ability and the crusader who used divine power, might be larger than he had thought. Theodore didn't know if his guess was correct and continued watching Ruben.
It was the first time he had seen a crusader, and the crusader's presence was different from the fierceness of aura and the grandeur of magic. Was this called 'faintness?' The crusader seemed to be reachable yet unreachable, like he was both close and distant. In a sense, this might be the essence of a 'god.'
Theodore felt a yearning from Dmitra and Aiolos inside of him.
"Um, the crusader..." Theodore muttered when he heard a voice.
-A crusader, what is this?! Gluttony woke up and exclaimed. -It isn't possible for a new divinity to be born after the collapse of the Pantheon, so how does a crusader still exist?
"Pantheon? What is that?"
-The cradle of the gods. It is a fixed temple for gods who became too close to humans. I heard that it was destroyed at the end of the Age of Mythology... The frustrated Gluttony spoke incoherent words to Theodore.
The existence of a 'crusader' was unexpected in many ways, but Theodore could feel a connection to Gluttony's consciousness. However, that unstable consciousness didn't last long, and the reason soon became known.
-...What... User, are you saying that half-trash over there is a crusader?
If the party involved had heard it, he would be furious at the insult.
-No, it is my mistake. I said too much. Gluttony relaxed and picked his words carefully. -That half-man is trash. If he saw a 'real' crusader, he would commit suicide from shame.
"Wait, then that man called Ruben is a fake?"
-Of course. A true crusader is an agent of the gods, a superhuman who is a demigod.
This time, it was Theodore who stopped breathing. A demigod was like Paracelsus, who had been a grand master during the Age of Mythology. Demigods were transcendents who could smash a mountain with one blow, tear the sky apart, and turn the sky upside down.
If Gluttony was right, not just Ruben but all the crusaders were fakes. If they possessed such a large number of transcendents, the entire continent would've already been unified by the Lairon Kingdom.
As Theodore thought about it, he realized, 'No, the crusader's authenticity doesn't matter right now.'
It was certain that a crusader could exert the power of a master, regardless of whether they were genuine or fake. Right now, Theodore needed to think about how he could lead this battlefield in favor of the royal faction.
"Should I wait for the battle to begin before ambushing from behind?"
It wasn't a bad tactic. A 7th Circle magician alone had the power to collapse an army. Needless to say, an army was unfamiliar with fighting a master magician. However, Theodore shook his head and rejected the idea. It was thanks to Alfred Bellontes' experience which remained in his head.
"The military power is too great for me alone. It is hard to pursue an attack within the estate, and the duke will probably be surrounded even in the rear... It won't work."
Additionally, his senses were warning him that there was another danger besides the crusader. Theodore didn't realize the reason yet, but his instincts unconsciously filtered it out. He went through the standard procedure, thinking of how to defeat as much people as possible and how to mitigate as much damage as possible...
Then at that moment...
"...Eh?" A short question emerged from Theodore's mouth as he watched the two camps. A familiar person jumped down from the walls of Atron Estate just as a crusader walked forward from Duke Cornwall's side.
"A one-on-one confrontation in this situation?"
Baek Jongmyung and Ruben, a sword master and crusader... The masters of the two camps met exactly at the midpoint. At first he couldn't understand the situation, but Theodore soon realized the thoughts of the two commanders.
'The prince is short on power, so he doesn't want to waste his troops. Meanwhile, the duke doesn't want to waste time.'
If the crusader won, Duke Cornwall wouldn't have to fight anymore, and he would win the war. Moreover, there was a difference in the number of masters. Even if the crusader lost, Duke Cornwall had Marquis Fergana, so he would still be even with Prince Elsid.
"This might be a good chance for me."
As the confrontation between the two masters became fiercer, Theodore moved from his spot. He needed to change his position in order to implement his envisioned method.
...How could he let the father of his fellow disciple die?
* * *
Baek Jongmyung, now Marquis Atron, looked a little bit different from before. He wore a chest piece of a mithril-like material as well as all types of artifacts to enhance his body. Baek Jongmyung didn't like it, but he knew it wasn't his place to fight 'unarmed.'
So, Baek Jongmyung pulled out his sword with a slight sigh.
"I don't like competing in a place like this... but I will duel according to the will of my master." Baek Jongmyung greeted his opponent first, "It is nice to meet you, foreign religious guardian. In my hometown, there were people like you who defended the doctrines of God."
"What?" Ruben uttered.
It had been spoken without any malice, but this stabbed at the Lairon fanaticism. They didn't admit the existence of any god other than Lairon. People who didn't serve the will of Lairon would be judged. It was blasphemy that a heretic from the East, a land of savages not recorded in the temple, would dare refer to a 'God.'
Ruben's expression hardened. "A heretic from the land of barbarians... You dare to mention the existence of God with that filthy mouth? An infidel dares speak such rubbish to me, Ruben? I will tear you apart a thousand times!"
Woong woong woong woong!
Due to his fury, power rose from his body like steam. The white power was different from aura or magic. It was the power of a god that had long since vanished from the material world. The power became a golden haze which dyed Ruben's silver armor, sword, and shield. It was truly a fantastic sight.
"First, I will cut off that tongue!" Ruben's eyes became bloodshot.
"...Um, he is insane." As he watched the rabid Ruben, Baek Jongmyung clicked his tongue. He didn't know what mistake he'd made, but Ruben didn't look like he was in a normal state. This was close to the demonic state of madness which sometimes appeared in Eastern martial arts.
Kakiing. Baek Jongmyung started using his Soft Sword.
"Atone with your life, heretic!" Simultaneously, Ruben jumped forward.
The air currents exploded, and a shockwave occurred, causing the soil on the ground to scatter.
The principle behind it was unknown, but Ruben launched into a godly acceleration with just a single step. His speed was faster than that of a flying arrow and was closer to that of a lightning bolt, making the gold armor look like a comet.
His charge contained enough destructive power to smash a gate! In response, Baek Jongmyung stood still while raising his sword. He pointed the tip of his sword toward Ruben, as if responding to a frontal match. He closed his eyes and muttered, "Pierce the Moon Style."
A silver colored aura gathered like moonlight on one point and then...
Chaaeng! A metallic sound rang out.
Two people made a sound at almost the same time. Ruben, who had performed the mysterious acceleration, also received a corresponding shock from Baek Jongmyung's sword. It was probably a coincidence, but the two incidents coincided.
They weren't able to break through?
Ruben was someone who destroyed the fortified walls of a fortress with a single dash, while Baek Jongmyung was someone who killed his enemies with a single blow. Both of them were in shock at having their attacks blocked because they were confident in their own strength.
Baek Jongmyung had fought against several masters in his hometown, so he recovered from the shock first.
'If he blocked my first blow, how about this?'
There was a rain of sword energies. As soon as the sword blurred, a silver showdown between the two masters began.
There were horizontal and vertical slashes.
36 strikes stabbed with the accuracy of a needle stabbing through a hole. It was more powerful than what he had used while competing with Theodore in the past. Once he activated his Aura Ability, this stabbing was close to invincible.
It was faster and sharper than before. The terrifying sword technique contained the essence of the Baek Family. Ruben seemed like he would be turned into a beehive. However, instead of having a triumphant smile, Baek Jongmyung's expression was dark.
Despite attacking relentlessly, he was the one pushed back.
It was as he said.
Ruben stepped forward one step at a time while facing the shower of death, while Baek Jongmyung had to step back. Due to the nature of his Soft Sword, it was necessary for him to secure a certain distance with Ruben.
Once again, Baek Jongmyung's stab was blocked by Ruben's golden shield. It was a stab which contained the power of a master, yet it couldn't pierce through the metal. Baek Jongmyung's eyebrows twitched as he was forced to go on the defense.
'That shield is a problem!' He could tell with his discerning eyes.
Baek Jongmyung was able to tell with one glance that all of Ruben's equipment was unusual. The equipment must be part of Ruben's body. Otherwise, it wouldn't be able to defend against his Aura Ability.
It might be a coincidence or a trap... but the shield which defended Ruben's entire body was momentarily pushed outward by a few centimeters. The gap was only a few fingers wide and couldn't really be called a gap, but it was good prey for Baek Jongmyung.
Baek Jongmyung was troubled for a moment. He wondered if he should take advantage of this gap, and if it would cause him to win or lose.
'I can do it.'
He felt an instinctive anxiety and confidence that he had accumulated over the decades. In the end, the latter won. Baek Jongmyung breathed in and gathered the momentum for a deadly blow.
Piii-ik. The sound pierced through the air. At a speed not even visible by a master's eyes, a single strand of silver struck the gap between Ruben's golden shield and longsword. This was a blow he had trained for half a century.
Baek Jongmyung thought reflexively about his victory because his timing was too precise. Then Ruben's sword shone gold half a beat later.