A deafening explosion boomed and startled General Michae. He tugged the reins to his warhorse and widened his eyes astonishingly at the river valley in the distance where a glaring column of light had rushed into the sky. He held his breath as a burst of broiling heat blasted against his face and deep rumbles expanded like the mourns of a dying beast.
The silver-whitish light column faded away and the senior general shuddered with a chill traveling down his spine. He had a bad feeling. "Move on!"
Everything is going according to plan.
Rhode shifted his attention to the Stronghold soaked in the scarlet sunset. The silver-whitish radiance cast deep, long shadows of the granaries on the vast golden fields. This was the pulse of life for the South and destroying it would lead to their total collapse. General Michael led a huge group of soldiers away from the Stronghold and some were left lingering by the perimeter, with no more than a hundred men left and their defenses were as strong as nothing.
"Alright, playtime's over, Master," said Celestina in the spiritual communications. Rhode sketched out her doubtful and dissatisfied expression in his mind judging from her tone. "Do you really think that this will work? I seriously can't understand. We obviously had the upper hand so must we even put on this show before them? Even though I'm personally passionate about torture and cruelty, I wouldn't be that dumb to do this, so what's the point of ending in mutual destruction with them?"
"Because justice will not be victorious if we don't do this," Rhode shrugged heavily and ridiculed with a smirk. "Humans tend to perceive evil as exceptionally powerful and use it as a sign of threat and warning. But even the strongest of all evil must be defeated. They can't imagine how the evil that ruled the world would be defeated, so it's most logical and reasonable to accept the foolish mistakes that they made."
The truth was that Rhode had left the river valley when the Undead Army attacked and sneaked into Grosso Plain, lurking like a hungry wolf near the Stronghold, waiting patiently to pounce on its prey. The Necromancer that appeared at the river valley was merely a disguise using his transformation talent, turning his summoned spirits into a splitting image temporarily. Although this disguise would be dispelled once harmed, Rhode was confident that the miscellaneous troops wouldn't have the guts to attack. In fact, it turned out exactly as he had predicted. The soldiers were scared stiff as soon as they faced the Undead Fighters and totally disregarded the extra in the form of the Necromancer. This was also due to Celestina stealing the limelight, of course...
"Cheap, boring, and foolish ideas," Celestina let out a snort and cut off the comms. Rhode regathered his thoughts and gazed at the Stronghold before him. He held his hands down and the two magical daggers around his waist slid out of their sheaths, meeting his palms obediently. The Reformist Party soldiers must be feeling so glad to have escaped from the whips of deaths. This big reunion of a result is fine too since it's the Hollywood's main theme, isn't it? Justice must win and evil must fail. This is a battle between righteousness and evil...
Or maybe, this is a battle between humans?
Rhode squinted and threw this irrelevant thought to the back of his head. He bent over and bolted toward the Stronghold while concealing himself within the shadows secretly. Darting across the straw piles stacked in the fields, he arrived at the Stronghold perimeter, drawing a breath through his teeth as he looked up at the 4 meter tall wall.
"Hmm?" A patrol noticed a moving figure at the corner of his eyes and he stooped over the tall walls curiously.
An ice-cold, razor-sharp blade pierced his neck. The pitiful patrol gaped, but he couldn't force out any noise for help. Rhode slashed his left dagger downward and punctured his right dagger into his back.
With a faint sound of a heavy object dropping on the ground, the world was silenced again and Rhode dove back into the darkness swiftly. Two patrols strode over, pressing their hands on the sword hilts while scanning the surrounding anxiously for the cause... And at this moment, Rhode emerged behind their backs like a specter. Shing!
Michael's adjutant laid down his liquor glass and approached the open window anxiously. The final rays of the setting sun had lowered beneath the horizon, making way for the dark sky like a dense layer of black yarn enveloping the land. He felt the nip in the air even though the Light Dragon Soul's protection was ever present and the glorious moonlight shoneg sacredly. He turned his gaze to the vast golden fields around the Stronghold and frowned as he imagined it as a battlefield stacked with piles of bones.
How is General Michael doing?
The adjutant paced on his jittery feet. No matter what the silver-whitish light column that he had witnessed earlier was, it surely meant that something had happened in the river valley. Even though General Michael went there to back the situation, the enemies were the powerful Undead Army and what if he lost? I have less than a hundred men with me in this Stronghold and if we are attacked...
He felt his throat was as dry as bone and he realized that his liquor glass was empty. He twitched his mouth and sighed hopelessly. There's no point letting my imagination run wild. I might as well do my part...
"Soldier!" The adjutant opened the door and yelled. A nearby soldier would usually respond by scuttling toward him quickly, but this time, no one was there.
The adjutant extended his head out of the doorframe only to be greeted by the empty corridor and the dim, trembling, and crackling candle flame.
A horrifying thought came to his mind. He recalled that there weren't any soldiers patrolling along the top of the walls. Could it be...!
He slammed the door shut and scampered toward the window. However, he stopped abruptly three steps in. He discovered with the corner of his eye that a man wrapped in a pitch-black robe was in his room. Even though the man's face was covered by a mask, the adjutant quickly detected the sinister, murderous intent spreading from him.
"W-Who are you!" He shrunk back and drew his sword while yelling to trigger his troops.
The mysterious man in black robe laughed grimly. "You don't have to know who I am and you don't need to rely on your men, Mister. Only you and I are left in this Stronghold and you shall be joining them soon."
The adjutant's heart pounded fiercely as the situation that he feared the most unfolded before his very eyes. His heart was filled with incomparable fear. He dispatched his men to seal all the entrance after General Michael had left the Stronghold so how the hell did this man sneak in? Besides... How did he kill all the soldiers?
An ice-cold chill flew up his spine. The whole Stronghold was in a peaceful silence, but this pitiful man had never felt this desperate and hopeless.
I have to leave, I have to...
He inched his way toward the door, looking fixedly at the man in the black robe while the latter watched him like a circus monkey. The adjutant was only thinking of escaping this place and reporting the entirety to General Michael. As long as he could flee from this place...
"Heyah!" The adjutant growled, tossed his sword at the intruder and darted to the door...
A shimmering blade punctured his back and through his chest. He widened his eyes helplessly, extending his arms to the door that was just within reach.
"This is the last one." Rhode pulled out his dagger and flicked off the filthy blood before sliding back to the sheath. The lifeless corpse dropped to the ground and Rhode tossed the mask and black robe away from him. That was all for disguise.
"Let's begin this fireworks party!"
Rhode unrolled a sinister smile. He stepped to the edge of the balcony and extended his arm. A scarlet card emerged above his palm.
[Detected Enchanted Field Card - Sulfur River]
The scarlet card exploded in a glaring blaze. The raging flames blasted skyward and formed a massive ring of fire.
[Warning. As the Dominator skipped the Core Card for this summon, activating the card consumes 1% EXP/second. Continue?]
The flames engulfed Rhode entirely. His vigorous powers drained rapidly and the EXP bar below the system interface slid bit by bit... Runes of flames erupted one by one, lining up, twisting, and revolving into larger, mysterious runes. Rhode gritted his teeth and withstood the immense heat and pressure. The massive ring of fire spread gradually and shrouded the entire Grosso region.
It's about time.
The scarlet ring of fire slowly expanded toward the horizon. The Sulfur River was the best choice in destroying everything, but its downside was the overly long duration required to maintain its form and there mustn't be any interruptions during the process. This was why Rhode lured General Michael away and eliminated all the soldiers in the Stronghold. He was entirely motionless when he guided this Enchanted Field Card, and he didn't wish his plans to fail at the final moments like some idiot BOSSes in many games and novels. The flame runes within the ring of fire that were arranged in a regular pattern had deformed as though they were pulled forcibly and unevenly like meaningless lines.
Rhode raised his right arm and clenched!
Bam! The scarlet card smashed into bits and the flames blasting skyward withdrew immediately. The entire fire ritual circle bloomed and faded away. The flames that illuminated the land was as though a dream that had never existed.
"Phew..." Rhode laid his arm down and let out a long sigh. He leaped and blended into the shadows, leaving the Stronghold silently. At this moment, an array of fiery lines emerged in the pitch-black sky. The fiery lines were as though doodles from a toddler. But they slowly connected and outlined a pattern of a glorious flame river.
It poured from above and plunged into the golden fields in a loud crash. Thick billows of smoke engulfed the entire Stronghold and granaries and the glittering blaze spread across, devastating the golden fields.
But this was only the start.
The pure elemental flames of the river devoured the Stronghold entirely and the remaining manmade flames couldn't put up a fight against its pure, overwhelming force. At this moment, the middle of the land in the distance gleamed. Scarlet flames spread apart in all directions quickly.
Rhode heaved a sigh of relief as he looked down at the submerging Grosso Plain. He patted off the filthy dust on his clothes and vanished into the dark shadows.
This was only the start for Rhode.
But it was the start of the end for the Reformist Party and the South.