Thousands of armored horses galloped forward while the soldiers raised their shimmering swords. Nobody could remain indifferent in the face of such dignified attack, but Gaya didn't even bat an eyelid. Instead, she ruffled her ring finger on the harp strings.
In an instant, the entire world became clear and silent.
The ground sunk in abruptly as though a gigantic object had crashed down from the sky and not a single Cavalry stood before Gaya any more. In the blink of an eye, the shapeless sound wave had smashed them into snowflake-like fine powder. The young lady stood to her feet and the powder fluttered in the gentle breeze.
"Ugly, weak, and not worth a mention." Gaya swept a glance at the ground covered in white powder before her. She snorted and left with her harp in hands.
Everything had ended for her.
But it had just begun for the others.
It was afternoon.
General Dade lowered his gaze to the Cloud Summit Fortress in the distance and he sucked in a deep, long breath to calm his nerves. He observed the soldiers on the Fortress walls. They had pulled back their bowstrings fully and were aiming at his men. However, there weren't any movements in the Fortress indicating their intentions to move out. This was fine for General Dade because his mission wasn't to take down the Cloud Summit Fortress. With his current manpower, he would pay a huge price to take down even this tattered Fortress. Moreover, it was the 'Red Fox' Garcia taking charge of the Fortress and General Dade knew the best ways to deal with a cunning person like him. The best way against him was to observe changes and ensure that the soldiers wouldn't leave the Fortress.
Bu, even so, the explosions and thick billows of smoke left Dade feeling nervous. He stroked his long beard and his stubborn, stone carved-like angular face gloomed. Although he trusted his subordinates, the thick, dark smoke worried the prudent general. No matter what, he was sure that the smoke was the doing of the enemies.
Besides, no matter how many enemies there were, it was rather apparent that they had discovered his true intentions. However, he didn't know how much manpower that rascal, Garcia, had dispatched to stop his 3000 Cavalrymen. With his current manpower, perhaps it wouldn't be enough even if he sent everyone.
Originally, Dade had nothing to worry about the current situation. According to his battle plan, his men would be converging in deep Paphield by noon and he would receive a signal to retreat immediately. However, he felt that something was off as though things weren't that simple. He tried to contact his men, but the Remote Communication Crystal was an expensive item and shouldn't be used by a general like him.
It's afternoon already. Just two to three hours more and they should arrive at the destination according to the battle plan...
General Dade shook his head and scanned the surroundings before returning to his campsite. "Garcia seems so idle. It seems like I must apply more pressure on him..."
"I don't think that's necessary, Old General."
Suddenly, a carefree voice sounded from behind him. General Dade instantly knew that the voice was hostile and he instinctively reached for his sword. However, the assassin was much quicker than him. General Dade grabbed his sword hilt, but a dagger had pushed against his throat. Any slight movements from him and the razor-sharp blade would undoubtedly tear his throat.
"Who... Who... are you?" General Dade's body stiffened entirely.
He possessed strength in the Elite Stage and he had no lack of powerful bodyguards around him. It proved that this assassin was much stronger than him since he was able to sneak up on him that closely. General Dade smartly chose to give up resisting because he knew that the assassin had the strength of at least the Master Stage and it was impossible for his men to take him down. If he put up a meaningless struggle, not only would he die even quicker, but they would also be unable to capture this mysterious intruder. Since the assassin had managed to sneak into his camp without getting discovered, it proved that he could slip away equally well from their encirclement. If he reacted hastily, there would be no purpose other than losing his life.
"Now isn't the time for self-introductions, Old General. I have a request. Order your men to lay down their weapons and surrender to the Cloud Summit Fortress. How about that? This is something that you can easily accomplish, right?"
"I've never expected a holy and righteous Angel to resort to such evil, shameless means."
"That's not right. I'm a genuine human, so you can stop attacking me using race. Indeed, perhaps Royal Highness Lydia dislikes such methods, but we, subordinates, are a pragmatic bunch... Moreover, I don't think that this is vicious. Sacrificing you is better than sending that many soldiers to their death for the sake of the brainless merchants' greedy desires, right?"
"..." General Dade fell into silence.
As one of the generals for the Southern Legion frontline, he knew the situation by the rear at the tip of his fingers. He had heard about the incidents involving the conflagration and the Undead Army, and this was the first time that he was highly disappointed in the Reformist Party. Although both incidents were eventually resolved, he had seen the operations between the impassioned merchants and the nobles. Instead of working hard for the Southerners as they claimed, they protected their benefits and revealed their shameless side.
Not everyone in the Southern Legion supported the Reformist Party. Apart from the imprisoned officers that objected independence from the Munn Kingdom, the other officers that were devoted to the Reformist Party all had different standpoints. Some of them fancied the authority, position, and wealth that the Reformist Party had given them. They abandoned their pride and honor as military officials and kneeled before the merchants and became their hired thugs. Some of them had the same idea as the Reformist Party and they hoped to break away from the Munn Kingdom. The families of the remaining officers were threatened and they had no choice but to succumb to the Reformist Party.
General Dade belonged to the second group. He was a true Southerner and had grown up listening to the Reformist Party's propaganda. In his impression, the King's Party was as the Reformist Party described, ferocious, violent, and dictatorial. Furthermore, the bloody night that Lydia had caused years ago left him stunned. This was why he was determined to join their forces after the Reformist Party declared independence.
But now, he was utterly disappointed after witnessing the Reformist Party's actions. He thought that they would choose to mobilize the frontline forces to curb the Undead Army's threat. After all, no matter what, the Undead Army was the biggest threat at the moment. But he didn't expect that the greedy Southern Parliament members actually made a grave mistake in their decision... They had actually sent inexperienced city guards to battle the Undead Army!
At the end, needless to say, all the city guards died in the battle and General Dade's young brother was one of them.
Due to this reason, General Dade was feeling increasingly disappointed and hopeless in the Southern Parliament. He knew why the Southern Parliament didn't mobilize the troops and had sent the city guards to face the terrifying creatures instead. However, the Southern Parliament's statements to them had been entirely different. They said that this was for the sake of the people in order to save them from the despotic rule so they could leave a peaceful life. But now? They abandoned their people and protected their own benefits!
Are my actions correct?
"... General Dade, sorry to interrupt you, but don't you think you've remained silent for a little too long?" The voice sounded in his ears once again.
General Dade let out a helpless sigh.
Forget it. My mission has been accomplished... No matter what happens next, it has nothing to do with me anymore.
General Dade lifted his head and called out. "Messenger..."
His voice had never been this agonizing.
The fiery sun shone on the city walls brightly.
Garcia leaned listlessly and the liquor flask in his hand was empty.
"This is boring. What's that old fart doing? Setting up camp and not moving an inch? Is he intending to be a permanent resident there? Heh. What's the point of this deadlock? He might as well send some men forward for a great fight. Tch, I've finished my liquor. How troublesome. I wonder how's that little girl's doing on the other side. If that little girl is doing well, maybe I can use this chance to attack that old fart..."
The slipshod Fortress Commander rubbed his hands and let out a cheeky laugh as though he was more like a dirty gangster. But shortly after, he stood up straight and revealed a stern expression. "Heh. That old fart is finally sending out his troops? How daring of him. Messenger, pass down my orders... Eh?"
Garcia's hand gestures came to an abrupt stop. He squinted at the teams of soldiers approaching the Fortress. The soldiers weren't raising their weapons and charging over aggressively. Instead, they were unarmed and crestfallen while their leader raised a white flag high.
"What in the world?" Garcia was dumbfounded.
The dejected, unarmed soldiers entered the Fortress with the escort from the soldiers. Garcia scrutinized the young man who stood beside the dispirited old general who was bound tightly in ropes. "Mr. Rhode, long time no see. What a huge surprise you have there."
"It's nothing, General Garcia. I was just passing by and I saw that your Fortress had been surrounded again. Since I had nothing better to do, I thought that I might as well... It seems that this ending is great too, right?"
For unknown reasons, Garcia found the word 'again' ear-piercing.
"... Yes, it's all thanks to you." Garcia shrugged lightly and approached General Dade.
He shot him a look and gestured to his bodyguards. Shortly after, the bodyguards silently brought the old general away and Garcia turned to face Rhode with a smile. "Mr. Rhode, you've done a great job again. Don't make the other nobles too jealous, will ya? By the way, your troops are..."
"I know. Don't worry, she'll be fine."
Rhode was confident in Lize's abilities. In fact, he had received a 'live report' from Gillian about Lize's battle plan. Got to say, Rhode knew that Lize had this talent in her and she performed impressively this time. Clerics were a strict support class and this meant that an outstanding Cleric had to grasp the characteristics and classes of the members in her team, in order to prevent any mistakes during battle. Due to this reason, many Clerics in team battles took up the roles of adjutants because they possessed pragmatic commanding moves, meticulous observation skills, and sharp reactions. Lize had no lack of these characteristics and during their previous operations, Rhode had discovered that Lize led her Cleric team skillfully without any issues. This was one of the reasons that he had appointed Lize to represent him in commanding the battle.
Rhode felt that he was really fortunate. Indeed, Lize lacked overall views on situations. Perhaps it was due to her small-minded personality that she limited herself to observe the outcomes of the one or two battles. The furthest that Lize could envision in this battle was the Reformist Party trying to launch an attack on Paphield after getting past the defensive line. On the contrary, Marlene was different. As Rhode's adjutant, she wasn't as careful in pre-battle preparations, but she concentrated on the present conditions instead. If both of them were chess players, Lize would be planning her moves in terms of gains and losses while Marlene would watch the movements of the entire chessboard.
Both of them had their merits and drawbacks. If Rhode could make use of their strength perfectly, it would surely be beneficial for future battles. Marlene didn't need his guidance while Lize finally unleashed her potential under pressure.
This was the best gain for Rhode.
"I see that Mr. Rhode is aware of the current situation?"
Garcia had invited Rhode to his room and he asked softly.
Rhode twitched his brows. He picked up the teacup and sipped the fragrant tea. "That's right, Mr. Garcia. I'm clear of the current situation. But, nobodies like us should do what we're supposed to and as for the other matters... Someone else will naturally do it."
"I hope so." Garcia shook his head as he knew what Rhode meant.
At this moment, someone knocked on the door. Garcia knitted his brows and responded. "Come in."
The door opened and Lize entered the room. "General Garcia, we have accomplished the mission. Among the 3,500 enemy Cavalrymen, 2,300 of them are dead and those who survived are heavily injured. My men are looking over them, but there are too many of them. If it is possible, I hope the Fortress can... Mr. Rhode?!"
Lize shockingly detected Rhode sitting at the side. She widened her eyes in astonishment. "You're back? When did you..."
"Only just, Lize. I've heard from Gillian. And you've done well."
Complicated emotions clouded her mind as she witnessed his nod. There were feelings of joy, complaints, and grievances... She didn't know how she should face Rhode. She looked at Rhode vacantly but she couldn't utter any more words. On the other hand, the corners of Rhode's mouth turned up and he approached her, placing his right hand on her shoulder. "Good job, Lize. I'm happy that you're able to face everything bravely and accomplish the mission that I've handed to you impressively."
"Mr. Rhode, I..." Lize blushed to Rhode's gaze.
When she was about to respond, suddenly, a soldier rushed into the room. "Reporting, Sir! We received news that the Thistle Wreath Fortress has fallen into the enemies' hands! The Southern Legion's 20,000 troops have penetrated deep into the Paphield hinterland!"