“Hold the lines! Stand your ground!”
Commander Alwig glowed in a brilliant red light as he wielded his Flaming Claymore Spirit over his head. The beast horde inching forward with every passing second, there was little time for motivational speeches and elaborate planning. All the commanders of the Keep could do was gather their troops and use pre-established techniques that were successful in previous purges. However, with the horde reaching over a hundred thousand strong, there was no telling if those tactics could work. The rattling of armour and shivers of the men didn’t go unnoticed by the blonde knight.
“O’ brave warriors of Aldrich’s Keep! Before you lay a challenge, one of the likes this fort have never faced for hundreds of years!”
Projecting his voice the loudest he could, Commander Alwig addressed the scared soldiers with a resolute face. His androgynous features and shining armour made him look like a character straight out of a fairy tale, causing all to glue their gazes on Alwigs medium build body.
“Yes, the enemy outnumber us! Yes, the walls have been destroyed! Yes, some of us might not be able to survive this day! But remember who we fight for!”
Every single trooper stared at Commander Alwig, not moving their eyes for even a single second.
“We don’t fight for the Empire! We don’t fight for those who live in the capital! Hell, you don’t even fight for me or any of the commanding officers! Who you fight for is for your friends and family living safe and sound behind those walls!”
At this point, the blonde knight was livid. Every time he opened his mouth, saliva spewed everywhere and the pale complexion that he once had, was now reddened by all the hoarse shouting.
“If we fall, if those walls fall! The first victims are the ones who live near the border! Our mothers! Our fathers! Our wives! Our children! Our best friends! Our fellow villagers or townsmen! Do you want that?! Do you want to see these vicious beast terrorise our homeland?!”
“Are we going to let those Spirit Beasts run all over our bodies and invade our land?!”
“Great… Alright, men… Let’s kill these fuckers.”
Putting on his silver helmet, Commander Alwig pointed his flaming claymore into the sky. From his point of view, the beast horde seemed to look like a tsunami of bodies stumbling over each other to get the first piece of the pie and the wave was coming in hot. Gathering more mana than he ever did before, the blonde knight’s silver armour looked like it turned red as it reflected the crimson light that his flaming claymore was producing. At that moment, the heavens darkened as a shadow started to form in the clouds.
“Stand your ground and brace yourself! The Commander is using his sixth spiritual ability!”
One of the officers barked out while turtling behind the shield that he had. From the sky, a flaming ball the size of a carriage started to fall at a blinding speed as it headed towards the centre of the horde.
Taken aback by the sudden change in the sky, the numerous beasts halted their advance and immediately panicked. Growls and screeches filled the desolate battlefield as they all scampered away, in fear of getting crushed by the flaming rock headed their way. Even Shin and the other Frie clan members, who were safely behind the walls of the Keep, felt fear as they saw the descending rock. Running away was a basic survival instinct, and the Spirit Beasts followed it to the letter. Once they saw an imminent threat that could potentially take their lives, they ran. However, it was all too late.
The crash from the meteor sent shockwaves through the Keep and nearly knocked the troops off their feet. Thankfully, they were long prepared and knelt down to lower their centre of gravity, preventing a potential collapse of the defence line. The beast horde, on the other hand, was experiencing an entirely different story.
Decimating a significant portion of the beasts, the meteor that Commander Alwig summoned caused a giant crater and an ocean of flames that burnt everything it came into contact with. Moans of pain sounded out from the horde, but the warriors felt no compassion for the creatures that threatened their livelihood. Standing up from their crouching and kneeling positions, the defence line filled with heavy shields and clanking armour appeared once more.
“Long-range battalion! FIRE!!!”
Once the first blood was drawn by Commander Alwig, one of the other Spirit King commanders ordered the backline to release their attacks. Archer’s released their nocked arrows, catapulters cut the rope withholding their boulders, and many of the long-range weaponry developed by the Empire’s best military craftsmen fired out. Since Commander Alwig threw the horde into disarray, the majority of the ballista fires connected with their target decimating the first wave of beasts.
“Hmmm, that subordinate of yours is not bad…”
“Hohoho, he is going to be my successor. Of course, he’s the best of the best!”
“Well, if he’s the best, why didn’t he give some prior warning before firing that stupid ball from the sky?”
While the troops on the ground were celebrating the Commander’s destructive ability, Lady Seph, who had been floating in the air, was not pleased that she had to employ evasive manoeuvres because of the blonde knight. Although the meteorite didn’t come anywhere close to both the general and the seasoned healer, it was still an annoyance to get out of the way.
“Looks like that boy needs some education after this battle…”
Staring down menacingly at Commander Alwig, Lady Seph spewed out an array of venomous words.
“Go easy on him. We still need him in one piece.”
“Hahaha, don’t worry! If he gets injured, I can just patch him up… Over, and over…”
Seeing Lady Seph in that state resurfaced some unpleasant memories that the wizened general had, and he unconsciously added some distance between them. Mentally sending a prayer to his successor, General Anmac shook his head in fear.
“Oh, look. Your precious successor seems to be suffering.”
Once Commander Alwig used his sixth spiritual ability, he went down on one knee while heavily wheezing from his nose and mouth. The dominant aura that he once possessed disappeared and he could barely stand.
“Well, it is a powerful ability that he had recently comprehended when he promoted into the Spirit King realm. I’m sure he will be up on his feet after he recovers a little of his lost mana. Well, if you were to give him and the others a boost, I’m sure he would welcome it with open arms.”
Mischievously winking at Lady Seph like a playful boy who loved to prank his peers, General Anmac hinted for the beautiful blonde woman to use her ability.
“Now’s not the time, Anmac. When I deem it to be right, I will do it. After all, that’s the contract we made.”
While the two Spirit Emperors were leisurely chatting mid-air, a terrifying battle was unfolding beneath them. Elemental long-range attacks and physical weaponry surged from behind the defence line and took down any beasts that were treaded near the vanguard. Flying Spirit Beasts were also not spared from the onslaught as the airspace was strictly guarded by Rank 40 Spirit Spectres that had gained the ability to soar in the skies after promoting. One by one, the army chipped away the first wave of Spirit Beasts without a single casualty amongst their ranks. However, a gut-wrenching screech from beyond the fields halted the premature celebrations of the warriors.
“Now’s no time to celebrate! Get ready, the second wave is about to arrive!”
The long-range battalion restrung their ballistae and catapults while archers nocked their bows once more. Due to Commander Alwig’s preliminary strike, the soldiers of Aldrich’s Keep managed to survive the first wave mostly unscathed. However, they wouldn’t be lucky the second time. Now that the blonde knight was desperately attempting to regain the lost mana that he had spent, it was up to the rest of the Keep to defend the lines.
Many of the Spirit Users with high cultivation levels stood up when it mattered most and fired a plethora of abilities at the beast horde thinning down their numbers bit by bit. However, none of the attacks was as flashy or destructive as the flaming meteor that Alwig had summoned. After the second wave ended, a third wave began to form. After the third wave, the fourth wave gushed out of the Uncharted Wilderness, leaving no time for the warriors to rest.
The defence line was seemed to be facing the aftermath of a seaquake, where waves of ocean water would come barging into the shore. However, instead of regular water, the waves contained ferocious Spirit Beasts of all tiers, and they all thirsted for their blood.
“Damn it! Defence line! Brace for impact!”
It had now reached a critical point. The defensive line was now the first people to make contact with the Spirit Beasts. Up till now, they could rely on long-range attacks and the barrage by the Spirit Lords and Spirit Kings. Nevertheless, neither arrows nor mana was infinite. It would come a time where the archers would find no ammunition in their quivers and the Spirit Users shooting out the endless assault would become drained. Unfortunately, it was only at the fourth wave that it happened.
Tightly holding their ground, the vanguard valiantly raised their shields perpendicular to the ground, preventing any Spirit Beast from crossing their line. Spearmen and pikemen stood behind the ones wielding their shields and aimed their weapons at the throats of the beasts that made it to the defence line. The endless clash between the two sides sent a tremor that had the same magnitude as a miniature earthquake, forcing the troops to retreat ever so slightly. Blooded flowed down the battlefield like an endless river and the carcasses of the beasts piled up into mini-hills that allowed other Spirit Beasts to gain the high ground. Some of those that managed to reach the high vantage point leapt off and evaded the defensive line altogether. However, they were unable to get far as warriors from behind the vanguard, picked them off one by one.
“Hmmm, that entity that I met doesn’t seem to be that keen to appear in the battlefield huh?”
From the start where she appeared alongside General Anmac high up in the sky, Lady Seph had continuously been monitoring not only the battlefield but the woods from which the Spirit Beasts are running out from. No matter how hard she looked, the feeling of unease that she once had never appeared and there were also no signs of members of the Black Mask syndicate making an appearance.
“Hoho, does that mean that you are finally ready to act?”
General Anmac gave a wry smile as he addressed the young woman levitating next to him. At the same time, the first casualty from the Keep had been claimed. A leaf troll stampeded its way past the first shield bearer and tossed over five spearmen in the process. Many of the other beasts experienced the same thing. Since the warriors were heavily mana-drained and physically fatigued, it was much easier to break down the defensive line than it was before. Numerous soldiers fell flat on the floor with broken bones and torn tendons. Some even embraced the sleeping beauty act and lay unconscious on the ground, awaiting the kiss from their prince charming to wake them up.
“Hmph, with this our slate is wiped clean, Anmac! You can’t ask me to do this kind of shit anymore!”
“Hohoho, I might not have enough years left to cash in that favour anyway…”
“A resilient roach like you trying to die? HAHAHA! Don’t joke with me at this hour, Anmac.”
“Hahaha, the new generation will always have to take over someday! If this is my grave, I would more than welcome it!”
“Shut it. Even if you are on death’s door, as long as I’m here, no ghost will dare claim your life.”
“Oh, you’re making me blush!”
Finally deciding to ignore the old fool, Lady Seph gently closed her eyes and grasped her two hands together close to her chest, like a nun offering a prayer in a chapel. The Iofiel Angel behind her glimmered in a radiant holy light, seemingly forming a second sun in the sky. As her chanting grew stronger and more frantic, so did the light illuminated from the thin, petite body of Lady Seph’s. And finally, at the right time, she said those magical words.
Lady Seph cast her most extraordinary ability, the ability that had made her famous in the first place. Billions of divine raindrops, coloured in the most brilliant of gold, poured down from the heavens and onto the bloodied battlefield below. Whenever the drops of heavy golden dew dropped onto the savage Spirit Beasts, they felt a sharp pain entering their bodies. On the other hand, when it fell onto the brave warriors of the Keep, they felt the fatigue from the bodies leave and their mana slowly recovering. Those who were injured mystically seemed to have had their pain alleviated as all the wounds on their body disappeared. Soldiers who have fainted became wide awake as if nothing had ever happened to them. In fact, even Commander Alwig, who spent a significant portion of his mana, felt like his mana replenishment rate had doubled, nay tripled after getting bathed in that holy deluge.
“Lady Seph is with us! We have nothing to fear!”
Taking advantage of this situation, one of the commanding officers hollered out to boost the dwindling morale of the troops.
“NOTHING TO FEAR!!!”
Fighting with the same vigour as they did at the beginning of the fight, the warriors stood up from their rested bottoms and continued to mow down the waves of Spirit Beasts that kept coming at them.
“Haha, they’re such a cheery bunch aren’t they?”
Ecstatic that her ability had caused so much change, she proudly rubbed her nose as she addressed the wizened old man by her side.
“Well, let’s hope they won’t get too overconfident… Seraphim, I know this ability takes quite a toll on you. How many more times can you cast it?”
Worried about his comrade’s own health, General Anmac couldn’t help but ask.
“Hmmm? In this state about twenty more times? Don’t forget I have grown tremendously since Yara Pass. Something like this is easy compared to facing that leader of the Black Masks.”
Stuttering on his words, General Anmac struggled to come to terms with the new information he had been given. Back at Yara Pass, the most that Lady Seph could do was two, maybe three Divine Rains before she was out for the day. However, after not meeting her for a period of time, she had actually improved that much. Thinking back to the days where people would compare her to Hippocrates, the elderly general realised that no matter what age a person was, a genius was still a genius.
“You know, I would hate to be the enemy general if you were my opposition…”
“Yeah, you might as well surrender and meet all my demands. That way you could save yourself from the embarrassment of losing too tragically!”
“Hah… Seems like calling you here was really a good call…”
Mentally praising himself for having such incredible foresight, the general saw the possibility of the Keep weathering up this storm, grow larger with the presence of this legendary healer.