Fayde struggled to keep his balance while riding a spotted brown and white horse. He had memories of riding a horse in his past, although the memories weren’t truly his. He had somewhat come to terms with his strange existence, but there was still an uncomfortable feeling at the back of his mind. Its incessant nagging was a constant reminder of his ambiguous origins.
Regardless, he could at least ride well enough not to fall off.
“It would be humiliating if I fell while riding at the head of an army of three thousand Demihuman warriors. They practically worship me at this point, but the pressure is just too much. I’m just an average guy… actually, no that’s wrong. I’m not sure what I am…”
Reia, who was riding at his side, observed Fayde carefully. These days, she had barely left his side. She could tell that he was under an enormous amount of stress. It wasn’t just the fact that he was troubled by his connection with the Void, but his mental state seemed to be under constant duress.
He would sometimes mumble or blurt out incomprehensible things. At other times his demeanor was aggressive or emotionless. She couldn’t make much sense of it, but she was at least relieved that they were usually only temporary states.
Overall, his mood had improved greatly and it seemed he had settled the issues he had with Allein in his heart, but there was still an unexplainable darkness in his eyes.
He didn’t seem much like the jovial, yet slightly sarcastic, man that he used to be. Instead, she felt that there was a raging inferno rising within him, biding its time, until it finally broke free from the restraint of his ever wavering will.
“I will be his strength…” Reia thought as she gritted her teeth, “No, not just me. Laila.. Allein too. And there are many others, all of the Demihumans who have put their hopes in him…”
She knew she wasn’t alone and neither was Fayde.
“How nostalgic…” Fayde reminisced about the last time he had made his way through the forest after defeating the Human army sent to attack the Foxkin.
“Nothing has changed, the forest is still the same, isn’t it?” Reia asked while looking up at Fayde on his horse.
Fayde chuckled, “Well, there are a lot less monsters now that our army has passed through. Shar, the last time we were here, that was when you first became my prisoner. Well, that hasn’t changed but I think you will soon see things my way.”
Shar gave Fayde a wry smile and rolled his eyes, “There are still two armies and a city to conquer before that happens!”
“It’s only a matter of time. There isn’t an army in the North that can stop us, but enough of that. We have finally passed through the forest into the Kingdom of La’gun. The town of Enrain is not far now. As planned, Shar and I will go on ahead and infiltrate the town. We’ll contact Orban and assess the Kingdom’s situation. Even though I’ve been gone for quite a long time by this point, no one is aware that I am Great Khan, so there shouldn’t be any issues with infiltrating the town even if security is tight. Either way, if necessary, I can just fly away. It’s not like anyone there would be a threat to me.”
“What about Shar? Are you certain that no one will recognize him?” Reia asked thoughtfully.
“We already discussed this, I doubt anyone will recognize him. Most of the townspeople have never seen him, only heard of his reputation. The same goes for the town guards. Orban will recognize him, but he still won’t be aware of the circumstances. It will be fine.”
Reia nodded in agreement and raised no other concerns.
When Fayde had first informed them of his plan, everyone had raised objections. It seemed absurd for a Great Khan to personally infiltrate an enemy stronghold. After Fayde explained his plan to them, they were mostly convinced even if they still felt uncomfortable about it.
It wasn’t as if his life would be in danger and it was true that Fayde and Shar were the only two who were still Human, or at least appeared Human, among them. They were the only ones capable of entering the town without incident and Shar was still technically a prisoner, so he couldn’t go alone.
“Let’s go Shar. Reia, make sure you wait at least half a day before marching towards Enrain. If all goes well, we should be able to take the town with very little resistance. I would prefer if we could take it without suffering any casualties.”
As Fayde turned his horse and headed towards Enrain, Shar also urged his horse on and followed closely behind him. It was quite early in the morning and the sun was still busily rising as the two quietly rode towards the town.
Shar was having a difficult time coming to terms with all of this.
He knew very well that the Kingdom wouldn’t be able to resist the Demihuman invasion. He doubted the entire North could, although he was sure that the Demihumans would take significant losses if they tried to conquer the entire North. He didn’t think Fayde was that foolish, so then what exactly was he concerned with?
He felt pity, pity at the rotting corpse of the country his father and he himself had put their lives and efforts into supporting. He also felt regret at the thought of the former king’s dream falling to the wayside.
“No, in truth, that dream is already gone. The current king has no intention of following through with his father’s vision. Truthfully, Fayde envisions that dream more than the current king.” He thought to himself.
No longer willing to ride in awkward silence, Fayde turned to Shar and said, “I know you are conflicted by all this. I don’t wish to cause more harm than necessary. If possible, I would like this invasion to go without a single death. I bear no ill will against the kingdom, but this is a necessary step. It’s not just for the sake of the Demihumans… It’s for everyone’s sake, including my own. I need as much strength as possible. You may not realize this yet Shar, but you will soon come to realize the reason. There is much that lies hidden in this world and if we want to survive, both Humans and Demihumans must unite their strengths.”
Shar remained silent for a time, not knowing how to respond to Fayde’s words. He just quietly observed Fayde riding on his horse.
“Just what are you Fayde? Are you even Human? There is still much I don’t understand, but his power is undeniable. No Human could possibly possess such power.”
There were many strange phenomenon and unexplained circumstances that he just couldn’t explain so he would just have to trust Fayde’s words.
“Are you so certain I won’t betray you?” Shar finally replied.
Fayde chuckled, “Of course, but even if you did, what could you do?”
“Indeed… what could I do..” Shar mumbled.
They traveled for most of the day before finally arriving at the western gate of Enrain. Shar was surprised to see a large crowd of people waiting to enter the town. The people had wagons filled with all manner of personal possessions and it looked as if they had fled their homes.
“How could this be?” Shar thought. “Has the war reached here? That can’t be possible… did the Kingdom lose the battle at the border?” He was greatly concerned by what he saw.
“Hmm, looks like things aren’t going so well for the kingdom.” Said Fayde out loud, mimicking Shar’s thoughts.
Shar and Fayde rode closer to the long line of refugees waiting to enter the town. It was a chaotic scene and there were probably a few hundred people trying to enter. They were most likely from farming settlements in the region as most of them looked as if they might be farmers.
They were the only two on horseback and many of the poor looking farmers stared at the two with hesitation and slight fear.
Even though Shar and Fayde had dressed somewhat plainly, it was difficult to hide their regal bearing. Fayde had already become accustomed to his new status as Great Khan, and Shar had been an important minister of the country. There was no way that this wouldn’t be noticed by the people around them.
They were also riding strong and healthy horses, which was not something these poor farmers could ever hope to afford. Even if they could afford a horse or donkey, they would not be as healthy looking as the two horses these men rode.
“I didn’t think we would draw attention to ourselves as soon as we got here.” Fayde said lightly to Shar who was riding next to him.
“I think you underestimated the poverty of the peasantry. Unfortunately, while their lives have certainly improved with the policies of the former king, it was only marginal. Most people struggle just to survive each year. It was most likely too much to expect that we wouldn’t stand out. Of course, we weren’t expecting this either.” Shar nodded towards the chaotic line of people as he spoke.
“True enough, this is peculiar. Well, we might as well as play the part. I feel bad about it, but we don’t have time to waste. Let’s see if we can use this to gain entry more quickly.”
Fayde and Shar continued to move towards the city gates. The throng of people made way for them as they feared being trampled. The nobility weren’t known for their kindness and while they couldn’t be certain that these two strangers were nobles, they weren’t willing to take the chance.
When they finally made their way towards the gate, they noticed the reason for the chaotic scene. There were way too few guards at the gate and they were having difficulty controlling and managing the crowd. Fayde also noticed that some of the guards weren’t town guards at all, but adventurers.
“Hmm, what’s going on?” Said Fayde.
Before Shar could respond, one of the men at the gates who looked to be the commander, called out to the two nervously, “Halt, Milords. I apologize, but everyone must be inspected before entering the town. There are no exceptions.”
Even though the guard commander spoke nervously, his eyes were resolute..
“No need to be nervous, I understand. I see adventurers among you, does that mean the adventurer’s guild is taking part in securing the town?” Fayde responded calmly.
“Currently the town is under strict martial law, the adventurer’s guild is also tasked with the security of the town in this situation.”
“I see, so that must mean Orban is involved. Is there any way you could send him a message for me? It’s of the utmost importance that I speak with him. Here, a token of my good will.”
Fayde threw the guard a pouch filled with coins that clanked as the bag flew through the air and into his waiting hands. He was initially surprised by the pouch of coins, but after checking the contents, he smiled and put the pouch away.
“It might be possible to pass along a message.” The guard commander said in a much more calm voice.
“Tell Orban that a man who once had the name Peter has returned and is looking for him. He’ll know what that means.”
“Alright, just wait here. I’ll send someone to pass your message along.”
The guard walked over to one of his subordinates and whispered into his ear. His subordinate entered the town at a run and the guard commander motioned for Fayde and Shar to wait towards the side of the crowd so as not to interfere with their inspections.
It wasn’t long before an adventurer arrived and spoke with the guards at the entrance to the town. He walked over to Fayde and Shar and led the two through the inspection point at the gate. There were some unhappy glances from the peasants, but no one complained as they made their way into the town.