Marlene's long slender fingers streaked across the air and brought about a trail of lightning. Countless lightning bolts descending from the sky and struck the soldiers, stopping them from advancing. Marlene stared at the enemies before them and took half a step back. She raised her right arm and pushed forward. The line of a dozen fully-armed soldiers before her charged toward the enemies in big strides, lifting their pike-like weapons. The gears at the weapon tips spun quickly and magical radiance emanated along the weapons and coalesced at their tips. Then, a deep, ear-piercing explosion boomed and countless dazzling golden rays erupted like a storm, penetrating the ground. The powerful airflow engulfed the petals and leaves and the high temperatures melted the soil and rocks on the surface. The dazzling brilliance of the continuous undulation formed a golden ocean. In the blink of an eye, everything ended and there was nothing left.
\"Phew...\" Marlene heaved a sigh of relief.
She gazed at the battlefield that had changed beyond recognition and nodded in satisfaction. She turned around and displayed a smile to the soldiers. \"Well done. Our mission has been accomplished. The enemies won't launch another attack anytime soon. Form up and return to camp.\"
The soldiers laid down their weapons and saluted to Marlene respectfully. At this moment, a young lady who was about the same age as Marlene and clad in white light armor scuttled over, handing a canteen to Marlene. \"Good work, Miss Senia. You must be feeling tired. It seems successful this time.\"
\"Thanks, Laili. The prototype weapons are decent in might and range, and they're much safer to use now. However, the high consumption of Magic Crystals is still a big problem. We have participated in seven battles since we arrived at Flourishing Blossom and we have consumed Magic Crystals worth 500,000 gold coins. It seems like the Final Pike requires more modifications.\"
\"I see, Miss Senia. I will report this matter to the Patriarch.\" The young lady nodded hurriedly before curling her lips. \"By the way, Miss Senia, the Fortress Commander looked for me earlier and he hopes to invite you for dinner. But, don't worry! I've rejected him for you! That uncivilized man is like a toad dreaming about eating swan meat. Hmph... If he isn't Grand Mage Amund's subordinate...\"
\"We shouldn't be bothered about that matter, Laili.\"
Marlene interrupted her and looked up to the azure sky. Her nostrils were assailed by the breeze that carried a burnt smell. The dark green grassland had been burned horribly like ghastly scars on the human skin. Marlene sighed subtly and turned around. \"How's the front line doing?\"
\"Yes, here's the report, Miss Senia.\" Laili handed an envelope over.
Marlene opened it up and scanned the contents quickly. \"Interesting. The Southern Legion has mobilized nearly 10,000 soldiers to besiege the Cloud Summit Fortress? There were quite a lot of soldiers here in the Flourishing Blossom too... I see. It seems like the Reformist Party isn't that foolish and the unrest in the South in the past few days must have made them desperate. They used to complain about our jobs, but now, it's time for them to experience it themselves. This isn't an easy job... Yes, these aren't the main forces of the Southern Legion...\"
Marlene mumbled to herself and chuckled. \"Laili, how many soldiers from the Southern Legion are attacking the Paphield defensive line?\"
\"Yes, Miss Senia. According to the intelligence report, there are 5 legions and a total of 43,000 soldiers.\"
\"There are 7,000 enemies attacking the Flourishing Blossom while the other 8,000 are heading to the Cloud Summit... In addition, there are 6,000 infantries of Gerdal and the Southern Navy that sealed off the Grief Strait. This is strange. More than 20,000 soldiers aren't accounted for. I don't believe that 20,000 soldiers would simply disappear in the vast defensive line. But...\" Marlene stopped mumbling and her eyes glinted. \"It seems like our mission is accomplished, Laili. After you head back, do up a report on the Final Pike and I want to see it after dinner. If everything is according to our expectations, we can leave this place and head to the frontlines.\"
\"Frontline?\" Laili tilted her head and blinked curiously. \"Miss Senia, isn't the frontline here? Where are you heading to?\"
Marlene smiled at her servant. \"This is nothing more than a monkey's playground, Laili. There should be a limit for passing time and the enemies don't seem to be stopping anytime soon. Although they seem to have the intentions to fully attack the Paphield defensive line, their lack of manpower is their shortcoming... These are simply baits and as a matter of fact, the Southern Legion's true goal isn't to mess with us here. Even though we don't know who thought of this plan, this time...\"
Marlene paused as though something cropped up in her mind. Laili gazed and asked curiously. \"What's with this time? Miss Senia?\"
\"It's nothing, Laili,\" Marlene shook her head with a smile. \"It's just that... I think he got it right again.\"
\"He? Miss Senia, which 'he' are you talking about?\"
\"Heh. That's a secret,\" Marlene said and hugged the report in her arms. She turned around and headed toward the campsite with Laili. \"Alright, Laili, you should get prepared too. We will be heading off immediately after inspecting the conditions of the equipment. The adjustments to the Final Pike has completed and the Reformist Party's attack on the Flourishing Blossom has ended. It seems like they're no longer viewing this place as their main target, so we have to move immediately. This time, I will give him a surprise.\"
The sun shone brightly for the best time of a lazy afternoon nap. But for Garcia, he wasn't in the mood for one at all. He leaned on the Fortress wall anxiously and looked at the flag fluttering in the distance at the horizon. Then, he widened his mouth for a huge yawn, raising his arms above him and stretching before standing up straight again. At this moment, a soldier climbed up the wall frantically.
\"Reporting, Sir. We spotted enemies ahead.\"
\"I have eyes. How many of them?\"
\"Seven companies of infantry. A total of about 3,500.\"
\"Heh,\" Garcia let out a sneer and picked up the liquor flask hung around his waist.
He tilted his head upward and poured the liquor down his throat. He burped in contentment and placed the liquor flask back. But this time, he widened his narrow eyes.
\"I've never expected that they respect me this much. 3,500 of them. Heh, makes me really want to head out and wipe them all out. By the way, who's the guy leading them?\"
\"It's General Dade!\"
\"Eh? Hmm...\" Garcia's expression changed slightly, but he quickly returned to his usual self and waved his hand lazily. \"Okay, head back and inform our people that it's time for them to shine. Also, tell the nonsensical nobles that if they want me to write their honorable names on the postwar report, they'd better work hard for it!\"
\"Yes!\" The orderly left immediately.
Garcia rubbed his stubbly chin and gazed toward the troops at the distant horizon with knitted brows. He muttered under his breath. \"This is getting troublesome. Never did I expect that the old fart will actually lead the troops himself. Isn't he responsible for the feint attacks? If this old fart is in charge of encircling and pinning us down, who will be the one leading the breakthrough? Based on my understanding on him, I don't think he will simply find anyone to fill in the gap.\"
Garcia's expression gradually became stern.
That little girl... will do fine, I guess.
There wasn't a trace of wind in the unbearable, humid forest. Sunrays spilled in between the leaves like a massive, dazzling carpet spread across the forest. Lize hid in the shrub and observed the horizon through the small opening. She was extremely tense and her heart was pounding. She felt as though the lightweight Cleric robe on herself had become as heavy as a lump of lead.
Anne laid on her stomach beside Lize like a meek little puppy bathing in the sun and narrowing her eyes in contentment. If she weren't swinging her arms and legs, they would have suspected if she had dozed off. The other Clerics were also hidden in the shrubs silently. Some of them were excited while others were nervous or expressionless.
Time is almost up.
Lize squinted at the sun and counted the time inwardly. There was no signs of enemies before her and everywhere was in complete silence. At the far end of the horizon, there was only twisted air from the heat wave.
Am I wrong? It shouldn't be... Lize was confident that she had made no mistakes. She had scanned through the map several times to figure out the possible routes that the enemies would break through from and even consulted Commander Garcia and the soldiers. If the enemies wished to pass through in the shortest time possible, this path would undoubtedly be the best choice. But now...
Suddenly, the row of shrubs beside hers swayed. Joey peeked out and made his way to Lize swiftly. He laughed cheekily and said, \"They're here, Miss Lize! Just as you've predicted!\"
\"How many of them?\"
\"3,500. Heh, it seems like Uncle Marfa was right... He has jinxed it. It's gonna be really troublesome, but if your plan works, we will be in for a good time. Heh, if news of 200 men wiping out 3,500 Cavalrymen spreads out, who would dare to look down on Starlight?\"
\"What about the flag? Is there a two-headed lion?\"
\"Ah. There isn't. The flag has a blue background with white edges and a white pigeon in the middle.\"
\"White pigeon?\" Lize stared blankly.
There indeed was something wrong in the situation. She, Gillian, and Garcia thought that the enemies would leave this important breakthrough mission to the most capable General Dade and he would surely choose to go into battle himself. After all, the feint attack was only a pretense and it was considered more of an overt plot rather than a conspiracy. Therefore, it would be the same no matter which commander was responsible for pinning down the Fortress troops. But now, it wasn't General Dade who lead them? Who exactly was he?
\"No matter who he is, we will still need to fight this battle, right?\"
\"That's right. How long more before they arrive?\"
\"A few more minutes. They're not far from here.\"
Lize came to her senses and nodded with might. She clenched her tiny fists. \"Joey, inform Randolf, Mr. Marfa, and Miss Gillian that the enemies are arriving soon. Get them to act according to our plan.\"
\"Understood. Leave it to me.\"
\"Ah. By the way, Joey, your traps... will work, right?\"
\"Don't worry, Miss Lize. No matter how dumb I am, I wouldn't be dumb enough to risk my life,\" Joey said cheekily before diving into the shrub and disappeared to nowhere.
Lize shifted her attention to the front once again and she felt as though the ground was trembling a little and she could hear warhorses galloping. But she quickly realized that this wasn't her misconception. Because at this moment, Anne jumped up to her feet. She widened her eyes and pressed her right hand on her shield on the ground as though she was a beast about to dash toward the front. Lize looked toward the direction where Anne was scanning.
Shortly after, black figures emerged one after another on the empty horizon. Thousands of well-equipped Cavalrymen urged on their horses using the whips in hand. The flag with the blue background, white edges, and a white pigeon was fluttered in the wind. It was apparent that this was the mark of the commander. They're almost here, they're almost here... Lize grew increasingly nervous. She stared at the Cavalrymen while calculating the Cleric's spell range, the Cavalrymen' charging speed, and the position required for the upcoming battle. The Cavalrymen were closing in and Lize could clearly see the patterns on their armor and the steam bursting from the warhorses noses as they sneezed. But even so, Lize waited for the most opportune timing. These Cavalrymen didn't seem to notice their presence as they were fully focused ahead. To them, perhaps time equaled their lives and they didn't have any more to waste.
Shortly after, about half the wave of Cavalrymen had rushed past Lize and the young lady made a firm resolution.
She stood to her feet and raised her right arm.
Get ready to attack!