Turning the clock back a few minutes, the army was putting on a valiant effort against the beast horde with the assistance of Lady Seph. Every so often, a downpour of radiant golden light fell from the sky, giving the warriors the added strength that they needed to continue their defence. Bit by bit, the soldiers chipped away at the endless tsunami of beasts, roaming out from the woodlands of the Uncharted Wilderness in droves. Spirit abilities flew about the battlefield severely destabilising the mana concentration of the environment causing some of the weaker attacks to be utterly neutralised or completely misfire, thus ending up in cases of friendly fire. In a nutshell, it was just mayhem in the front lines.
“Scouts! Is there an estimate on the remainder of beasts?”
Commander Alwig burnt a nearby Rogga Minotaur into a crisp before asking one of his close associates.
“Yes! We have approximately killed forty thousand beasts!”
“Forty thousand?! That means that there is still sixty thousand out there?!”
Biting his lip while hollering out in annoyance, Commander Alwig quickly did the math. In a typical purge, forty thousand beasts killed wasn’t something to be scoffed at, in fact, that number might have broken the previous record. Adding to the fact that the fatalities on the Himmel Army’s side were rather small, killing forty thousand beasts was actually a cause for celebration. However, there were still sixty thousand beasts hiding inside the thick forests, waiting to pounce out and feast on the bodies of the fatigued soldiers.
“How many men remaining do we have that are able to fight?”
“About seven thousand! Three thousand have either perished in battle or had been delivered into the medical bay!”
Three thousand men for forty thousand Spirit Beasts. If Lady Seph weren’t here casting Divine Rain, the casualty count would have been much more significant, and Aldrich’s Keep would have fallen an hour ago. Yet, even though the esteemed healer has been doing her best to give the soldiers a boost every few minutes, after a while, the lethargy seemed to have caught up with the army men, forcing them to become much more sluggish than they initially were.
That was one of the drawbacks of Divine Rain. Although it recovers a large number of Spirit Users injuries and stamina, it was unable to treat the mental stress that the soldiers have been through for the extended period of time. Their minds needed a break from all the adrenaline that had congregated in their bodies and the overall fatigue that came with killing beasts and seeing their fellow men die before them. Taking a brief look around the rusted army, Commander Alwig clicked his tongue and barked out:
“Goddamnit! Order our men to slowly back away from the fields and return behind the walls! We are going to switch to the turtle defence!”
“But, sir! The walls have started to fail, if we use the turtle defence, we would barely last!”
In Aldrich’s Keep, there was a popular tactic that they had always employed during the purge, and that was the turtle defence. By relying on the enhanced powers of the Guardian Rock, they could hide behind the walls and shoot out barrages of arrows and abilities to decimate the beast horde. However, since the mysterious laser earlier on had utterly disintegrated the Guardian Rock, the army was forced to create a defence line high up into the fields since the walls could come crumbling down at any moment.
“There’s no helping it! If we continue on this all-out assault, we will all die here in the fields anyway! Pass down my order! We are returning to the Keep!”
Transmitting the commands laid down by the blonde knight donned in silver armour, the army slowly retreated from the Uncharted Wilderness and headed straight for the collapsing Keep. There were no reinforcements from the Himmel Empire inbound or any external help that they could rely on to fight against the overwhelming numbers. All the army had was themselves. Thus, if the casualties were to pile up, it was only a matter of time before Aldrich’s Keep falls.
“Anmac! How are you faring?”
Up high in the sky, Lady Seph, who had used her self-rejuvenation ability to revert herself back into her younger body, worriedly asked the aged general. Since he summoned his Spirit, the elderly man had been endlessly slashing down enemies by the hundreds and even cleared out the strongest beasts in the horde.
“Seraphim, something’s not right!”
“What do you mean?”
Taking out a Tier 5 Spirit Beast with one swing of his scythe, the wizened bronzed man jumped up from his position and levitated next to the beauty in the sky. For a while now, he had his suspicions on the battle situation, and an unsettling feeling had been building up in his chest.
“These beasts, instead of trying to eat the carcasses of their fellow animals or the dead bodies of the fallen soldiers, they are just charging ahead. In all my years supervising the Keep, this phenomena has never happened before.”
Typically, the reason why beasts act the way they did was to survive. Food, an essential part of survival, was always the primary motivating factor for them and therefore, a bloodied graveyard such as this one was kind of like a free-for-all buffet. Yet, all they did was charge blindly, regardless of their own safety. Even if they were controlled, their natural instincts would take over at some point as the urge to munch on the corpses would grow ever stronger.
“It’s as if they’re not only wired to attack us, but they are also running from something…”
“A hundred thousand Spirit Beasts running from something?! Hold on!”
Closing her eyes, Lady Seph released a torrent of light from the inner depths of her body as a blinding radar-like explosion scanned the nearby vicinity. Peering deep into the Uncharted Wilderness, the seasoned healer hoped to find for some clues on what could have caused the beast horde to feel such fear, and she didn’t have to look for long.
Two robust and mighty mana signatures could be felt in the distance, gradually approaching the crumbling walls of the Keep. One was gentle and mild, yet once Lady Seph probed a little, she felt a tremendous backlash striking her spiritual body. The other was violent and reactive, like an acid bath that corroded any that came near it.
“What the fuck…”
“What?! What did you see?!”
Lady Seph’s entire being paled in shock as she felt that all hope was lost. Seeing his long-time friend in that state, General Anmac couldn’t help but ask.
However, before he got his answer, two raging roars, each with their own distinct flavour, sounded out from the Uncharted Wilderness causing the ears of those with lower cultivation levels to bleed.
“SERAPHIM! What was that?!”
“Two fucking Tier 9 Spirit Beasts, Anmac! TWO FUCKING TIER 9 BEASTS!”
Lady Seph wasn’t the type to have an emotional outburst, but in this situation, who could blame her. One Tier 9 Spirit Beast was enough to flatten the entire army, and now they had to face two at the same time. Not to mention, the sixty thousand beast horde that had abandoned their wave idea and all scurried out of the woodlands, burying all in their path.
“What?! Goddamnit, things just never go the way they are supposed to!”
Seeing that the army had already begun their retreat, General Anmac continued to stand in the frontlines with his trusty silver scythe in hand. Taking big swings at the numerous beasts, the aged Spirit Emperor hoped to take out as many enemies as he could so that his men could safely retreat before the two Tier 9 Spirit Beasts came out. Unfortunately, there was no way reality would be so kind to him.
Two menacing shadows bolted out from the darkness of the woods and made their appearance on the battlefield. Standing at over two hundred metres tall, a Gargantuan Treant stomped its foot on the burnt floor causing an earthquake to rumble through the area. From the bottom of its feet, new plant life immediately started growing and vines wrapped around the dead corpses and carcasses, absorbing them as nutrients. On its body, all sorts of trees and ferns could be seen growing out. Moving at a snail’s pace, the two cut holes on its face that represented its eyes stared fixedly on the crumbling walls of the Keep, ignoring the small fry that was laid on the floor.
Behind it, a hundred metre tall chimaera swung its serpentine tail as it spread its wings out wide. Its lion head gave out a large yawn, baring its razor-sharp teeth for all to see. Behaving like it was the sovereign of the area, the chimaera calmly moved its blood red paws and headed towards the scrambling army.
However, before they could decimate their opponents, a young blonde woman, who was flying around in the sky, screamed out at them, causing the two Tier 9 Spirit Beasts to stop in their tracks.
“I know you guys can understand me! Why are you doing this?!”
Lady Seph amplified her voice so that both the Gargantuan Treant and the Blood Red Chimaera could hear her. Once a Spirit Beast reaches a certain cultivation level, they would gain the intelligence of a regular human. For a Tier 9 Spirit Beast, understanding and conversing with a human was a piece of cake.
“Human woman… Move aside… No kill…”
Two voices started to echo through the desolate fields, shocking every single soul in the area.
“Akai… Mission only… Break walls…”
“Fine… Move aside, woman. I won’t kill you today…”
The Gargantuan Treant only had one objective, to destroy the walls of Aldrich’s Keep. Evidently, the Blood Red Chimaera had the same mission.
“I’m afraid I can’t let you do that…”
General Anmac flew up high into the skies and blocked the path of the two Tier 9 Spirit Beasts. As the highest authority in the Keep, he had to uphold his duty to the best of his ability. Letting the beasts overrun the place he swore to defend was something that he would much rather die than see.
“Seraphim, this is no longer your fight! Leave this place!”
The elderly man seemed to have aged decades after saying those words. Initially, he thought that with Lady Seph around, Aldrich’s Keep would have a much better chance of fighting off the threat, but never in his wildest dreams did he expect two Tier 9 Spirit Beasts to appear alongside the hundred thousand strong beast horde. Right now, it wasn’t a battle to defend the Keep, it was a battle to survive annihilation, and that was not a battle that the seasoned healer had signed up for.
Gaping while staring at her old friend, Lady Seph felt her mind go blank. The only reason that she was here was because of the debt she had with General Anmac. Otherwise, there was no way she would have fought for the military. If it were the olden days, she would have gone all out and assisted her partner in any means she could. However, now that she was no longer in the military and had a disciple to care for, she couldn’t go throwing her life away for a cause that she loathed.
“Fine… Don’t die…”
Gathering a large amount of mana, Lady Seph sent a healing light down the wizened man’s way, hoping to give him a slight boost.
“Hahaha! I won’t!”
Now that she had been released from her bond, Lady Seph promptly treated. Biting her lip, a single teardrop dripped down her beautiful face as the woman rushed back towards the Keep. She knew… This battle was over.
“Ignorant fool… Akai… Do what you will…”
“RARARA!!! Finally something fun!!!”
The hundred-metre tall chimaera laughed out loud as it went into its battle position. It had been stifled over the years, and now, there was a playtoy laid bare for him to enjoy. The Gargantuan Treant, sensing that an opening had shown itself, jumped up high from its position and aimed its landing on the now decrepit western walls. General Anmac wanted to stop it, but a lime green snake whipped itself across the air.
“Come here, human man! Your opponent is me!”
Using its tail to halt the general’s attack on the Gargantuan Treant, Akai frolicked around, taunting the Spirit Emperor. However, the elderly man’s eyes were still fixated on the colossal monster, that was flying straight down at the western wall.
Breaking down half of the walls with that single hit, the Gargantuan Treant opened a path for the array of Spirit Beasts that waited patiently at the foot of the fortification. Continuously breaking down the crippled walls, the Tier 9 Spirit Beast didn’t stop until over two-thirds of the barrier had been opened. All those who were unlucky enough to be near the walls had instantly perished from the shockwave, while those far away, could not escape the earthquake that ensued from the impact.
Yet, Midori wasn’t done.
Recovering from its crouched position, the Gargantuan Treant serenely made its way to the other end, as if it was taking a stroll down a familiar park. The sentries on the other wall used all sorts of arrows, ballistae and even catapults to deter Midori’s path but it was to no avail. Sending out a torrent of vines, the Tier 9 Spirit Beast instantly opened a hole through the thick concrete walls and bit by bit, tore the eastern wall apart.
“*BOOOOM!!!* *BOOOOM!!!* *BOOOOM!!!*.”
Sounds of concrete blocks falling onto the floor reverberated through the fort as the Gargantuan Treant continued his slow decimation of the eastern walls. Until eventually…
The last piece of concrete fell from the walls, opening a direct path from the Uncharted Wilderness to the abundant lands of the Himmel Empire. The beasts surrounding Midori howled and growled, seemingly in celebration of that act as they marched their way past the fallen Keep.
The legend of Aldrich’s Keep, the impregnable fort that stood for centuries, was finally broken on this day.