Chapter 223 - Babarino Plains (2)
The Babarino Plains was one of the most spacious areas in the Soldun Kingdom as well as a useless wasteland covered with weeds. The Soldun Kingdom was famous for their lack of farmland, so they had tried to cleanse the barren land for centuries. However, there were no visible results yet.
Apart from a few small hills, there was no curvature in the topography. The Barbarino Plains was such a place.
However, today, there was a new record for the land. It was because there were more people entering the plains today than there had been in the past hundreds of years.
There were soldiers armed from head to toe with steel and leather, while flags flapped in the faint breeze. The procession of the royal army and nobles army which numbered 80,000 people in total stretched out under the horizon.
The crown prince's army which left Marquis Reista's estate was on the right side, while Duke Cornwall and Marquis Fergana were on the left side. They were several kilometers apart, and the commanders looked at the formation of the other side.
"That old raccoon, he seems to have decided. He didn't leave anything behind and will end it all here."
"It seems he has emptied out everything."
"That formation is... 'Sword and Buckler.' It is obvious he intends to push us step by step."
'Sword and Buckler' was originally an expression referring to a weapon which was a combination of the sword and the shield. However, its meaning was slightly different as a combat formation. It was a tactic of separating two units from each other, one to stop the enemy's vanguard and the other to pierce through the enemies who lost their momentum.
This was a classic but infrequently used method. However, Duke Cornwall pulled it out to use without hesitation. There was no need to explain his intentions.
'Sword and Shield' was a tactic which had been used since the ancient times on the premise of getting rid of the inefficient troops to stop the enemy's vanguard.
Prince Elsid muttered with a frown, "A formation based on losing a significant number of troops... He really is only thinking about victory, that duke. He is already beyond obsession."
A strategist could understand casting stones for victory. Dropping two stones in order to get three was a natural act for them. However, it was an unacceptable attitude as a ruler. The duke wasn't planning to win efficiently. Instead, he wanted to throw away his followers?
"This is why we can't lose this fight. Everyone, follow me until the end."
Upon hearing Prince Elsid's determined voice, Marquis Piris and the other subordinates in the area prostrated themselves on the ground.
"Your words are right, Your Highness!"
"We need to win for the people!"
"Until the end, Your Highness is Soldun's king!"
Everyone here knew they were in a disadvantageous position. Even so, they didn't hesitate to kneel. This was because they felt a sense of crisis and discomfort from Duke Cornwall. This unbearable person absolutely shouldn't be king!
Each of them gathered under Elsid because they had similar thoughts. Duke Cornwall... If he were a better person, then today's situation might be drastically different. Elsid was greatly happy with their replies and raised his right hand. However, it wasn't just to secure visibility that he was on the hills.
"Good! Then we will surely get rid of those insurgents!"
It was because the people believed him. Setting aside strength and weakness, justice ought to win. After all this time, the people realized the 'ruthless reality', but embers of hope still burned within them. If a god really was watching them from the sky like the fanatics claimed, then Elsid couldn't turn away from them.
"First Corps, raise the flag and march!" A loud voice echoed, and a rider moved. Then a sudden earthquake hit the Barbarino Plains as the soldiers saw the red flag fluttering and moved as well.
Kung! Kung! Kung! Kung!
They pounded the ground with their spears and crushed the reeds. Power seemed to overflow on the plains every time they took a step.
This was an army, and this was war.
As the saying went, the roar of tens of thousands of soldiers could overtake the sound of thunder. Perhaps due to the topography, it felt like even the thick clouds on the horizon were pushed back.
"From now on, we will quell the rebels!"
It was the beginning of the decisive battle, which would later be called the 'Babarino Plains Great War' or 'Elsid's Civil War.'
* * *
However, unlike the grand declarations, the battlefield didn't move. The army was just stepping forward before retreating again. Just like the calm before a storm, a silence fell on the plains where 80,000 people stood. Much like how a swan floating on the surface seemed calm, the unseen area was actually turbulent.
"Second Corps, retreat quickly to the left slope!"
"The military forces of Duke Cornwall's group are approaching! Right?!"
"No, not yet! Fourth and Fifth Corps, keep advancing! Don't show a gap until the enemy rearguard is revealed!"
The strength of the individual was most important when engaging with a few elite troops, but it wasn't an exaggeration to say that the strategist or leader determined victory when it was a large army of thousands.
Elsid and his commanders were doing their best to try and open a gap in the duke's army. The problem was that the difficulty was ridiculously high.
"Damn, the difference in troops is so absolute...!"
50,000 and 30,000... This numerical gap was huge. The duke was prepared to abandon 20,000 people. If they attacked carelessly, Prince Elsid's army would suffer damage which would be difficult to recover from.
They couldn't step forward or retreat.
The difference in options changed the movements of the two groups, as Duke Cornwall's army gradually started to move forward. If the commanders of both sides were capable, the side with the superior numbers would have the advantage.
This meant the disadvantage on Elsid's side would increase over time. He despaired as this disadvantage was increased by the topography.
'Is this my limit?'
A one second delay would kill 10 people. Elsid knew this fact and made a decision quickly. Then with a heavy expression, he turned to the rider next to him and said, "Raise Meltor's flags! Prepare for a barrage!"
This was the only card which could change the flow. The firepower of Meltor's elites was a 'shield' which could sweep away the entire army before them. Elsid had wanted to annihilate the rearguards as much as possible, but he couldn't afford to wait any longer.
...Flap. The four-color flag of Meltor blew in the wind.
Orta saw the signal and nodded. The Crown Prince's response was perfect. If the other side made a mistake, he would be able to dig into that gap. However, the duke was pressing too hard, and it would be impossible to change the flow.
"Concentrate your magic power. Prepare for a barrage."
The 64 war mages responded, then...
Magic power gathered, and the clouds overhead scattered. If enough 5th Circle magicians combined their strength, it would be enough firepower to reach the level of a master.
The magic circle laid out under the feet of the 64 war mages glowed, and the magic power distorting the atmosphere coalesced. The terrifying magic which had yet to dissolve started to melt the land.
Simultaneously, 'Cobalt Sun,' the tactical magic developed by the red tower, appeared in the sky. This was the cleansing fire magic which 64 war mages completed! Despite the fact that the heat was quite a distance away, the soldiers on the Babarino Plains looked up at the turquoise sun rising in the sky.
The moment the magic power reached its peak, Orta declared, "Fall."
Shortly after that, the Cobalt Sun fell. Naturally, it fell toward the heads of Duke Cornwall's 10,000 soldiers. Just looking at the magic power, it was at the same level of the 7th Circle 'Inferno' magic. If it exploded at the center of the troops, at least 3,000~4,000 people would turn to charcoal.
It was at this moment that...
♪ ♩ ♬ ♬ ♩ · · ·! ♩ ♬ ♬ ♪ ♪-!
The magnificent sound of music emerged from somewhere.
"This?" Orta knew what the music was, and his expression stiffened.
The music was the Sacred Order's Hymn. Unlike the magicians who pursued different paths, 'teamwork' was required for the priests of the Sacred Order. It was possible for them to generate this power by harmonizing when singing the same song.
The power was huge, and it came from 'religion,' not rationality.
Unsurprisingly, a golden shield appeared over Duke Cornwall's group. It was a shield made by divine power which had the ability to negate magic. Unlike the Magic Society that tried to break all reason, divine power explored reason. Their logic was that everything was divine, and they just needed to worship and follow. That blind faith formed the shield.
"Annoying," Orta murmured as the two powers collided.
This time, the clouds were torn. The Cobalt Sun's path was interrupted, and it exploded as soon as it hit the golden shield. A storm of light barraged the soldiers' ears and eyes. Shattered pieces of armor and weapons scattered everywhere, while soldiers became masses of charcoal. The divine shield couldn't stop the Cobalt Sun perfectly.
However, this much couldn't change the flow of the battlefield. It wasn't a great amount of damage as it was just a few thousand people out of the duke's 50,000 troops. Moreover, Elsid's purpose of removing Duke Cornwall's vanguard failed.
"...No, it isn't completely pointless," Elsid muttered as he looked down at the epicenter. The effect of the barrage wasn't small. The shield might've blocked most of the damage, but the soldiers shrank back and the forward momentum was significantly reduced. Even if it didn't reverse the situation, it bought them some time.
Then while Elsid and the commanders were trying to think of another way to break through...
Dozens of strands of lightning struck the sides of Elsid's army.
Lightning magic truly contained a mighty destructive force. The armor that the soldiers wore was useless as the lightning bolts hit them.
"M-My eyes, what is this?"
"Kieeek, kuk... Kuock."
It was a tremendous power. As a result, gazes naturally moved toward the source of the lightning. This was clearly the magic, Lightning Splash. Unlike Thunderbolt which focused on one point, this was a 6th Circle magic intended to spread out. It was a lightning spell famous for its difficulty to be controlled.
The magician who could use it would be truly powerful, and there was only one person on Duke Cornwall's side who could use it.
"This is a silly fight." Fergana touched his mustache with an uncomfortable feeling as he watched the soldiers in front of him. "If it wasn't for my daughter, I would've stayed still until the end."
As the two masters of the Soldun Kingdom, Earl Mersen and Marquis Fergana were loyal to it. So, if it wasn't for a certain person, he wouldn't be standing in the midst of this complicated situation. Even today, the old raccoon had mentioned his daughter while Fergana had been trying to enjoy his tea.
'Damn you, old and greedy...' Marquis Fergana made a tsk-ing sound before raising his magic power again. It couldn't be helped. He needed to return home quickly.
He was the 'Thunder Noble' whom everyone was afraid of. The marquis used the lightning magic he had developed since young and had risen to prominence with. However, he had to cancel the magic he prepared.
A chill ran down Marquis Fergana's spine as a flash of light shot past his head, destroying a few strands of his hair. If he had been a little slower in dodging, he would've died. He might have been born and raised in the Central Continent, but he knew about the founder of this magic.
It was the war hero Alfred Bellontes' Magic Bullet!
"Who?" Marquis Fergana's relaxed expression disappeared as he glared in front of him.
His intuition warned him that this attack was dangerous. No, the figure who sent the flash was dangerous. It had been a long time since he had entered a battle, but his intuition hadn't disappeared.
"It is nice to meet you, Marquis Fergana." Theodore's red robe flapped as he flew forward without hesitation. The four-color pattern with the '4' in the center of his robe was a symbol that only belonged to Theodore.
It was his first time revealing his official position, so Theodore confronted Marquis Fergana while filled with half nervousness, half excitement.
"As the captain of Meltor's magic division, Quattro, I-Theodore Miller-will deal with you."
"Theodore Miller? That name..." Marquis Fergana was puzzled for a moment before nodding. "Indeed, Meltor's young hero. Ascending to this position before the age of 30... It is a scary achievement."
"You're overpraising me."
"It isn't a compliment. I hope you realize that all your possibilities will be crushed today."
The conversation between the two magicians ended there. As soon as Fergana finished talking, he went into combat mode. Fergana's opponent was a genius who had become a master at a young age, so he couldn't spare any power. Marquis Fergana used his Sorcery without hesitation.
Strands of lightning emerged. The blue lightning sprung up on the surface of his luxurious robe, starting with weak static before becoming a lightning storm. This wasn't made from electric magic. Marquis Fergana's magic power was being replaced by actual lightning.
Theodore thought for a moment about the principles behind it but soon realized it was worthless. Sorcery was a result of magicians interpreting the world. No matter how much Theodore thought about it, he wouldn't be able to receive the same answer as Marquis Fergana had gotten.
So, he stepped back instead of worrying about it. There was a swirl of lightning before him, so there was no reason to try a melee. The lightning was fast and powerful. In a magic battle, there were few attributes which exceeded lightning.
'...Is it worth a try?'
All the forces inside Theodore were saying that...
He could overpower that lightning bolt.