Everyone present was stunned and unwittingly turned their heads towards the middle-aged man dressed in rags who was jumping up and down within the valley ahead.
"Isn't that... Grandmaster Ciroba?" stammered Adams.
It was indeed Grandmaster Ciroba... But wasn't he in confinement? Why would he appear on this hill? Would his cries and rambles cause Lorist's plan to fail?
Grandmaster Ciroba continued to scream with all his might. "They are the enemy! The men of the Norton Family! Why aren't you attacking? Eradicate them... Ugh..."
Ovidis who was equipped with metal armor came up behind the architect and knocked him out cold with the pommel of his sword, causing silence to return to the valley once again.
"Hehe... Hehehe..." chuckled Lorist. "Gosh... That Grandmaster Ciroba is showing symptoms of his, uh, sickness again... He never calms down if he doesn't get to scream like that..."
Adams looked at Lorist with a gaze of a hawk and said, "Is that so... But I don't think he looks like a sick person. Can you also explain who that man wearing the metal armor is? I don't think mercenaries can afford something like that..."
Adams ordered his two attendants, "Capture him."
Capture me your ass. Lorist backed away and instantly drew his sword. Since we've already been exposed, let's launch the ambush now. Most of the mercenaries have already entered the tents anyway... As for the remaining thirty or so mercenaries who are still outside the walls, given that Josk is up there on the walls watching, I doubt they would be able to escape. The people outside wouldn't know what was happening inside here anyway.
At that moment, most of the men of the Feathersoar Mercenary Crew had dismounted and were enjoying their meals. Some of them even went into the tents to take a short nap. Apart from Lorist, Adams and his two attendants, there were only seven to eight mercenaries who had just entered the valley and were still mounted, causing Lorist to not have any worry at all as he believed that he would easily be able to handle them.
As for Adams and his attendants, Lorist felt that they wouldn't even survive more than ten bouts in a fight with him, and that was after he had taken into consideration the two shield-wielding attendants who were usually more trouble to deal with.
At the empty space at the right corner of the valley were the carriages that had been driven into the valley. The coachmen of the carriages had parked them according to their types and untied the horses before bringing them to rest and feed. Lorist knew that those coachmen were the slaves of the Kenmays Family who had received formal training on coachmanship and were put in charge of transporting the Kenmays Family's goods.
Apart from the coachmen, each carriage also ferried 2 to 3 slave laborers which the Kenmays Family had sent over to increase the speed of the construction as well as to help out just in case any carriage met with any accidents during the shipment. As each carriage only had one coachman, should the carriage be damaged in the middle of the shipment, the slave laborers would be able to help out with the goods as opposed to having the coachman abandon the cargo.
Now that the horses had mostly been brought away for feeding, the slave laborers that came with the carriages slowly gathered into small groups and sat silently on the ground while waiting for the rest to gather together, as their food would only be served after that. Some of the laborers obtained the position from their managers and brought a few waterskins to the well beside the stable to temporarily quench their thirst.
While the coachmen and laborers was on Lorist's mind, he doubted that they would pose much of a threat as they weren't armed and probably wouldn't put their own lives at risk for the Kenmays Family. That was also with the case with the slave laborers who were already at the construction site when Lorist took over it: they didn't really care about the sudden change of who was in charge and continued to do their share of work as they usually would.
Lorist drew his sword, balled his left hand into a fist and lifted it high up in the air. That was the the signal for the beginning of the ambush.
A few of the guards on the walls noticed the signals and raised their horns to their mouth. A loud honking soon followed and resonated throughout the whole valley.
200 or so guards equipped with dual-layered metal armor appeared from deeper within the valley and surrounded the tents. Ten or so ballistas could also be seen being pushed up a hill in the distance. Combined with the ballistas that were hidden on the walls, there were around 20 of them which all had their aims trailed towards the tents with their lines of fire crossed.
Like Lorist had expected, the coachmen and slave laborers panicked for a bit before they settled down and some coachmen even continued to feed the horses like nothing was going on. However, some of them would turn their gaze over from time to time while the laborers who were sitting neatly in rows on the ground had their eyes opened wide with excitement as if a play was going to be enacted live in front of their eyes while they chatted away about the surprising developments that had just transpired and their anticipation of the battle to come.
"Just surrender and cease any futile resistance. Lay down your weapons and I will definitely treat you fairly," Lorist said as he slowly approached the two shield-bearer attendants.
"Who exactly are you?" Adams asked.
Lorist sidestepped to avoid entering the range of attack of the two shield-bearers and said, "I am Baron Norton, the Norton family head. If you surrender, on my name and title of the dominion lord, I will ensure your personal safety as well as your right to keep your belongings."
"Hahaha... Baron Norton, instead of saying that we've fallen into your trap, isn't the opposite the case with you right here at our fingertips? I really don't understand why you dared to show your face in front of me. Is it courage or just plain old idiocy? Go! Capture him so we can turn this whole situation around..." roared Adams with delight.
Wanna catch me? Think again. Since you don't want to do this the easy way, you shall pay for the consequences of your actions. Lorist dodged the shield charge of the shield-bearer on the left, swerved his body, and reappeared at the right flank of the shield-bearer, before his sword pierced towards his enemy's right lower rib like an agile snake...
Here we go, thought Lorist. After he dispatched this shield-bearer, he would only be left with two enemies who would easily be at his mercy.
Clang! A longsword was suddenly swung in front of the right chest of the shield-bearer and intercepted Lorist's sword. That sword had belonged to the shield-bearer on the right who had appeared before Lorist before anyone noticed. At that moment, the swords of both the shield-bearers shined bright gold as their blade glows materialized.
Sol! These two are Gold ranked shield-bearers! Lorist was stunned for a moment and thought, I didn't hear anything about the Feathersoar Mercenary Crew having any Gold ranked experts! And they're shield-bearers to boot! This will be troublesome.
However, Lorist did not mind it too much as he had already killed a couple of Gold ranked fighters in the past, so two more shouldn't pose too much of an issue for him. Even though his opponents were shield-bearers, they were only slightly better at defense than those Lorist had faced before and should probably require just a little more time for Lorist to handle them.
However, Lorist only got to know the true obstacle those two posed to be after fighting for a while: the two shield-bearers had extreme synergy and frequently alternated the attacking and defending roles. Even though the attacks were not much of a threat to Lorist, their defense was almost impregnable and managed to fend off most, if not all, of Lorist's strikes. During that period of time, Lorist had been entangled with the two shield-bearers and it would definitely take far more time before the victor could decided.
When the horns were blown, the outer part of the gates were spurred into total chaos.
The 30 or so Feathersoar mercenaries who felt that something was amiss instantly rushed towards the valley, but they were blocked by the carriages which were still on their way inside. The coachmen driving the carriages had panicked and left the carriages for a safe place to hide at. Without the coachmen, the horses had all huddled together and even caused a carriage to be flipped over, blocking the entire entrance. None of the mercenaries were able to find their way in given the situation.
Given Josk's understanding of Lorist's tenacity, he wasn't worried at all for his safety. Even though their trap had been partially-ruined by Grandmaster Ciroba, Josk still felt that nothing would go wrong given that Lorist was present. That's why he didn't pay any attention at all to whatever that was happening within the walls and believed that the mercenaries would surrender without much resistance. But what he didn't expect was that Lorist would be held down by the two Gold ranked shield-bearers.
Given that Lorist had not briefed Josk about the possibility of that situation happening, Josk decided to make sure that no one would be able to escape from the walls and called for the 30 or so mercenaries outside to surrender, dismount and discard their weapons.
However, none of them heeded his words with some even attempting to shoot Josk with their bows, only to be shot off their horses by Josk himself. In but a single moment, 7 mercenaries had already lost their lives, causing the remaining 20 or so to give up and surrender.
Lorist was still pestered by the two Gold ranked shield-bearers and couldn't be bothered to care about what was happening around him. On the other hand, Adams was secretly admiring Lorist's skill with a sword and believed that he had no way of besting him in single combat. He also didn't think that he would be able to help out in the battle between the three and gathered the 7 to 8 startled mercenaries who were still mounted to go aid their comrades near the tents.
The guards who were wearing double-layered metal armor had all awakened their Battle Force while those who wore only one layer had not. None of them had expected that Adams would attack them from the rear, given that the ballistas on the walls and a hill further away had the whole tent area covered and probably would've killed anyone who attempted to leave. Faced with Adams's sudden assault, the guards' formation crumbled within moments.
That was especially the case given Adams's Three Star Silver rank. As he brandished the sword in his hand which was covered with a silver blade glow, more and more enemies standing in his way were mowed down helplessly.
"Kill them all!" roared the mercenary leader.
All of a sudden, the 70-odd mercenaries within the tents armed themselves swiftly and rushed towards the guard soldiers that surrounded them.
"Fire!" shouted Ovidis from atop the hill. Ten gigantic ballista bolts were unleashed instantly, pinning down 8 mercenaries to the ground, causing most of them to die instantly with the rest writhing and crying in pain. Following that, the ballistas on the wall also fired and killed six other mercenaries near the tents.
But, the ballistas proved to be quite limited in its ability to turn the tide of battle as ally and enemy soon meshed together within the chaotic sea of people.
"To hell with this!" cursed Ovidis as he rushed down from the hill to join the fray.
Jim lifted his two-handed axe and started descending from the walls. One of the mercenaries near him noticed and asked, "What are you doing, Jim?"
Jim replied, "To help, dumbass! If the Feathersoar Mercenary Crew prevails, do you think we'll be spared?"
With the aid of the mercenaries on Lorist's side, the guard squad began to fare much better against the counterattack of the Feathersoar mercenaries.
Adams was forcing Patt into a defensive position when he noticed Jim join the battle. Enraged, he cursed out uncontrollably but Jim and the rest didn't pay him any heed and merely continued to take on the Feathersoar mercenaries.
Lorist was started to feel more and more annoyed at the clingy shield-bearers who troubled him to no end. In the beginning, they underestimated Lorist and fought at a more relaxed pace. But once they started to grasp his real strength, they changed their fighting style to full-on defense and focused their efforts on keeping Lorist occupied so that he wouldn't be able to aid his allies.
At that moment, Lorist was fighting with both his swords, but even with that, he had only managed to land a light wound on one of the shield-bearers which didn't even hamper him. Starting to feel restless, Lorist thought, I can't afford to be messing with them any longer. Here goes nothing!
Before, one of the shield-bearers rushed towards Lorist from behind while the other one slashed his sword in front of him, causing Lorist to be unable to retreat to the back and having to dodge the relentless sword strikes coming from the front. However, right now, Lorist had stopped all efforts to dodge and instead bumped into the shield behind him while unleashing his charged up internal energy, sending that shield-bearer 5 to 6 meters away into the distance. He then parried an incoming attack with the shortsword in his left hand before he turned his body to face the attacking shield-bearer head-on.
Seeing Lorist leap at him with crazed fervor, the shield-bearer raised his shield quickly in front of his body and believed that as long as Lorist was unable to get past his defense, he would be able to hold out until his partner comes to aid him out of this predicament.
However, infused to the brim with internal energy, Lorist's longsword pierced directly through that shield and penetrated the torso of the shield-bearer.
"Little Brother!" The shield-bearer who had been knocked away screamed out in agony and discarded his shield before he rushed straight forward with both his hands brandishing his longsword at Lorist.
Like a spinning top, Lorist spun his body and barely evaded the incoming attack as he didn't have the time to draw his longsword from the body of the other shield-bearer. Seeing an opening, he swung the shortsword in his hand towards the neck of the other attacker...
The two Gold ranked shield-bearers currently laid on the ground on a pool of their own blood, which soon seeped deep into the ground and left nothing but a large crimson mark.
It was apparent that Lorist felt extremely exhausted from the way he swayed as he stood on the ground. However, he still couldn't afford to catch a breather as the battle was still going on. Expending quite an effort to retrieve his longsword from the body and shield, he headed towards the tents without delay.