Chapter 4

“The fire has grown large enough. We need to take out as many of them as we can!” Fayde gave his orders to the fox-kin warriors.

They went to work quickly, placing makeshift barricades made of sharpened spikes and vine rope at various paths around where the kingdom forces were slowly being trapped in by the fire. They were only meant to be a temporary measure to slow down the escape of the enemy. Fayde knew they wouldn’t hold them for long, but that was fine. The infantry at the front had already begun their charge into the abandoned village and would soon fall victim to the traps placed within.

Fayde split his forces in half and put twenty of the Foxkin warriors under the command of Allein and Nes. The other half would be under Reia and his direct command. Fayde’s unit would attack the enemy forces directly, while the unit under Allein and Nes would attack their flanks. They would also be responsible for killing any soldiers that try to escape.

However, their main target was the commander of the kingdom forces and luckily for them, all of the infantry had been sent to attack the village and the commander was only guarded by archers and the remainder of the cavalry. Bows would be ineffective in the forest and so they would be using their short swords, which they weren’t very proficient in, and the cavalrymen were mostly useless on foot.

“Fayde, the fog will soon fade, Eill can’t maintain it much longer.” Reia informed Fayde of Eill’s condition, but the fog had served its’ purpose and soon they wouldn’t need it anyway.

“It’s fine, we only need another ten minutes. All of you, let’s go, follow me!” Fayde motioned for the Foxkin warriors who were accompanying him to move out.

Fayde and Reia were about lead their unit through the fire to attack the enemy archers. If they were quick, it would be a simple task for them to wipe out all of them in the chaos.

“Reia, if you see the enemy commander, he’s all yours. Make sure to finish him quickly.”

Reia nodded happily. It was a great honor to be able to take the head of the enemy commander and Reia was happy to end the life of the fool who decided to attack her home.

The flames surrounding the kingdom’s cavalrymen and archers had grown into an intense fire, burning the forest all around them. The smoke was beginning to become insufferable and the soldiers were on the verge of panicking.

“Lord Marball, we need to get out of here immediately! What are your orders?”

Lord Marball looked at the surroundings trying to find a safe path away from the fire. He needed to find a way to regroup with the infantry otherwise his men would be in danger of being routed. Without the protection of infantry, they would take heavy losses in this dangerous situation.

“Do you see an opening somewhere? We need to find a way to regroup with the infantry!”

Roderick desperately looked for a way out of the flames.

“Over there!” He yelled excitedly seeing one path which had not yet been engulfed by the flames.

“Quickly, order the soldiers to get clear of the flames! We need to move too!”

Let’s go, everyone retreat and regroup to the west once you clear the flames! Move, quickly!”

Lord Marball attempted to rush towards the pathway in order to be the first to escape but Roderick stopped him by grabbing on to his arm.

“My lord, let the soldiers go first, this could be a trap.”

Lord Marball thought about it for a moment and then agreed with Roderick and followed his advice. If anyone needed to make it out of this alive, it had to be him. He wasn’t about to go charging in first. That’s what soldiers were for.

“Mage, stay close to me. Roderick, you too.”

The Foxkin under the command of Nes and Allein had positioned themselves along the pathway that was clear of the flames. Two of the Foxkin were using magic to make sure the flames didn’t spread to this area. There were six teams of three positioned along the path clear of the flames.

They were ordered not to attack immediately and to let some of the enemies escape through so as to lull them into a false sense of security. Those further down the pathway would eventually begin the ambush from the treetops first and then the rest would join in hitting the fleeing soldiers from all directions.

The pathway was not straight and there were twists and turns which would help keep the other groups hidden from sight so that the enemy wouldn’t have any chance to respond to the threat. Nes and Allein would survey from the tree-tops in dragon form, and would drop down if necessary to help any Foxkin having difficulty. It was a plan that utilized stealth and maneuverability.

The sixth group at the end noticed the first retreating soldiers coming down the narrow pathway. They were desperate to make it away from the fire raging around them and were completely unaware of the danger that loomed over them. It was clear that they were frightened by the fire and were not on guard for the Foxkin’s ambush. These men were not trained soldiers in active duty within the military, but conscripted freemen and their discipline was sorely lacking. Also, the Foxkin were hiding in the dense tree branches above them.

Once the first soldiers reached the last group, the Foxkin began their assault raining down elemental attacks from above. Some also threw javelins or axes to attack the soldiers below them. All along the pathway, the hidden Foxkin assaulted the retreating enemies throwing them into chaos. It was a complete slaughter. Every soldier that attempted to flee down the path had been brutally killed without even a chance of fighting back.

At the same moment, Reia and I prepared our assault on the the kingdom’s archers who had not yet retreated down the path. Reia and I, as well as the twenty odd fox-kin warriors in my squad, were behind a large fire which was burning uncontrollably. The enemy was not visible, but the fox-kin could tell how close they were with their strong sense of smell, even with the fire raging.

“They are about to pass by.”

Fayde nodded.

“Good. Get ready to blow the flames away and we will all jump through and take them by surprise.”

The fox-kin warriors all readied their spears and axes, waiting for the right moment to strike.

Reia stood and chanted a spell, summoning a powerful and quick blast of wind that immediately dispersed the fire that had been raging in front of them. This spell had many uses and could be used to send an enemy flying backwards. or fling debris at them, but the wind only lasted a brief moment. The wind was powerful enough to clear a path through the flames from which the Foxkin warriors could jump through in order to surprise the enemy.

With a loud roar, Reia, the other fox-kin, and I, jumped through the path cleared of flames and emerged right into the thick of the archers. The archers were caught completely by surprise and had little time to react. Many of them were struck dead immediately as the Foxkin jumped through the flames and attacked.

The Foxkin were like demons emerging from the flames and roaring madly. The archers were stunned and it took only a little pressure to completely break their morale.

With their morale crushed and their inability to quickly react, they fell with ease to the Foxkin warrior’s spears and axes. They were also hit with a barrage of elemental spells that decimated them.

I did not join any further in the attack and instead surveyed the area looking for the enemy commander. Reia, too, was looking around in order to find him as swiftly as possible.

“There!” I was the first to notice him and the both of us dashed towards the enemy commander.

There were two others with the commander and one of them who was wearing a robe pointed his hands towards us and chanted. He released a barrage of ‘Flame arrows’ that rapidly approached us. Both Reia’s sword and mine had already been enhanced by our magic and we cut down the mages magic with our blades. His magic could not even impede us for a moment and we continued our charge towards the enemy commander who inched backwards in fear.

The kingdom soldier who was guarding the commander noticed Reia and I running towards them. He turned to the commander and said something, the commander had a look of panic on his face as he saw us drawing nearer. He was shocked for a moment to see a Human fighting beside the Foxkin and he hesitated before attempting to escape. In that instant Reia had completed her chant and she shot ‘Flame Arrows’ towards the mage who was able to block the spell with a magic barrier.

The soldier who was guarding the commander jumped down and yelled to the commander, “Run my lord, now! Head towards the infantry division, quickly. I will hold them off!”

The commander didn’t hesitate for a moment, he got up and ran, leaving the other two behind.

Both Reia and I slowed down, it wouldn’t do to rush blindly into battle against these two combatants.  

“Fayde, be careful.”

It was unfortunate that I wouldn’t be able to immediately chase after the commander. We couldn’t get reckless here. The mage most likely wouldn’t pose too much of a problem, but the swordsman was another matter entirely.

The swordsman before us unsheathed his blade. The blade gave off a slight yellowish glow. It was clear to me that the sword had magical properties, but I couldn’t tell what properties it had just by sight alone.

“I am Sir Roderick, Knight of the Kingdom of La’gun! State your names!”

I was surprised. I wasn’t exactly expecting this man to shout out his name and demand mine. I chuckled at the fact that it reminded me of some cliché movie. It didn’t really matter to me what his name was, this was a man who was about to die. I always thought it was foolish, but knights seem to think there was some kind of honor in it. I guess I will play along for now.

“I’m Fayde, and this is Reia” I said casually with no intention of taking this Sir Roderick seriously.

“Hmph, a mere peasant and his Demihuman lackey, no doubt. How dare you attack the forces of Lord Marball. Are you aware of what you have done? You have made an enemy of the Kingdom of La’gun! Your tribe of scum will be destroyed once the Kingdom learns of this!”

That’s funny, I’m shaking in my boots.

“Do you think that we did this without realizing the consequences? You aren’t about to do something pathetic like beg for your life right?”

“I hope the two of you are prepared to die. Do you not know who it is you face?”

“No clue, sorry.”

That seemed to enrage him, but I could care less about his feelings. I was only half paying attention to him anyway. I was watching the mage carefully out of the corner of my eye. He seemed to be chanting a spell and I knew I would need to act quickly.

“Reia, now!” I yelled out to Reia, knowing she would understand my intent.

Reia jumped towards Sir Roderick, attempting to strike with a downward slash. He easily avoided the attack, but that didn’t matter. Reia was only a distraction as I rushed towards the mage and swung my sword in an arc. The mage had cancelled his chant and had swiftly put up a magic barrier in order to block my sword.

Normally, a magic barrier should have been enough to deflect my sword, even if I had enhanced the sword with magic. Usually it would depend on factors like the power of the mage or the type of magic used. However, my magic was unique and my ‘Void’ enhanced blade sliced through the magic barrier and cut down the mage. He grasped the open wound on his side caused by my blade, but he couldn’t stop the flow of blood pouring out of the deep wound. Before he could attempt to heal himself, I struck a second time, impaling him through the chest.

After removing my blade, the mage dropped to the floor dead. I could only push any thoughts of regret or disgust out of my mind. We were in the middle of a battle and I couldn’t afford to deal with any emotions that could hinder my ability to fight. Reia was keeping Sir Roderick busy for the time being, but it was clear that she would eventually be overpowered by him in a contest of physical strength. Also, Sir Roderick’s ‘Magic Sword’ was giving Reia a hard time even though she had magically enhanced her own blade.

There was a huge difference between a sword which was a ‘Magic sword’ and one which was only magically enhanced. The ‘Magic Sword’ becomes a vessel for powerful magic and is superior in many ways.  

Without hesitating, I immediately moved to aid Reia in her fight. Both Reia and I began to circle the man, looking for the right opportunity to strike. I attempted to hit him with my ‘Void Flames’ but his ‘Magic Sword’ was able to deflect my attack. The man’s talent was clearly visible, he was definitely at least an advanced sword user. I didn’t see any openings in his stance, this would be a difficult fight. I was confident in our victory, though. Reia and I were also quite strong and this man didn’t seem to know any magic. He most definitely has martial skills in his arsenal, though, and those could prove just as dangerous.

Only a few seconds had passed while we each observed the other, hoping to find a weakness or the right moment to strike. Not willing to wait any longer, I rushed in towards Sir Roderick with a fierce attack. He shifted his stance, parrying my strike and returning a strike of his own which I quickly dodged.

Reia began chanting her magic and as Roderick and I were exchanging blows, she struck, firing several fire arrows at Roderick’s back. With Roderick’s full attention on me, I was certain the fire arrows would hit him. However, when they had almost reached him, Roderick yelled ‘Parry strike’ and spun, deflecting the arrows, leaving a wake of shock energy.

His defensive martial skill didn’t stop there, after parrying the fire arrows, he quickly spun again with a strike aimed at my abdomen. I just barely dodged it.. It was clear to me now that his sword was imbued with lightning property and I had to especially be careful not to be struck by it.

The Foxkin squad that had been following me had just finished mopping up the archers without taking any casualties. They were unable to put up any kind of a fight having been surprised by the fierce attack of the Foxkin warriors. Archers weren’t really trained in close combat even though they carried short swords. However, the Foxkin could easily attack at range with their magic and also possessed spears and axes for close combat. So, the archers with their inferior weapons, training and will, didn’t stand a chance.

After the warriors had finished their battle, they wanted to help Reia and I, but I ordered them to chase after the commander. Once they left, Reia and I began attacking Roderick more aggressively, but he was doing an admirable job holding us off. It was extremely difficult to get close to him because of his ‘Lightning Sword’ and he possessed martial skills which allowed him to parry our attacks.

As our fight dragged on, we were beginning to wear him down. Despite his skill, it was still two on one, and it wasn’t as if our skills were greatly inferior. The truth was, our ability was not far off from his. It seemed that the boost I somehow gave Reia when she leveled up, because of our connection through the Mark, strengthened her abilities quite a bit.

I felt a bit of respect towards this man who fought valiantly to save his lord, even if his lord was a scumbag and a coward.

“It’s a shame we have to kill you, you are a much better warrior than I expected.”

Sir Roderick showed me a wicked smile and said while heavily breathing, “Don’t think your flattery will save your lives! I have no intention of dying here.”

“Reia, it’s time to end this.”

Reia nodded at me in agreement.

“Yes, then let’s end it.”

Sir Roderick grew suspicious, but had no idea what the two of us had in mind. I was unable to hit him with any of my sword skills, and Reia was having difficulty hitting him as well. We had a clear advantage, though, and he was growing tired, but we were running out of time. The fog had already disappeared and the fire still needed to be taken care of. We didn’t want the entire forest to burn down.

I ran at Sir Roderick, putting all I had into a ‘Sword Whirlwind’ attack and then finishing it off with a new martial sword skill I had learned, ‘Seven Sword Slash.’ Roderick was able to block the attacks taking only minor injuries, but my attacks were only meant to be a distraction.

Reia completed her chant, imbuing her sword with the properties of wind. This not only gave her blade a razor-sharp edge, but it allowed her to perform a magic sword skill attack known as ‘Wind Flurry.’ This attack propelled her forward at a blinding speed, quickly unleashing a flurry of piercing attacks directed at her enemy.

I expected that Sir Roderick would be caught by Reia’s attack unaware, having been distracted by my own fierce combo, but he somehow was able to initiate his own martial skill in response to Reia’s attack, ‘Shocking Parry strike.’ This attack was a complete surprise, somehow merging both his martial skill ‘Parry Strike’ with the lightning property of his sword. I had no idea something like that was possible, but I suppose it wasn’t much different from what Reia had done through magic.

His body spun with lightning speed. Reia’s wind and Roderick’s lightning met with a blinding flash that shook the very air surrounding them, sending them both flying at impossible speeds away from each other. Both of their powerful attacks had negated the other and the force of impact sent them both flying.

My eyes had been temporarily blinded by the attack which had also caused a shockwave of light. Once my eyes regained their focus, I saw that both Roderick and Reia were struggling to get on their feet. Reia was bleeding all over and looked like she would pass out any second.

I ran over to her as quickly as I could, grabbing her and summoning the power within me that had healed her the last time. Her injuries this time were severe, but nowhere near as bad as when she was injured in the dungeon. I felt energy from within my body draining out and entering Reia through the Mark that connected us.

I could see her body visibly healing and she was no longer struggling. I didn’t want too much of my energy to be drained out because we were in the middle of a fierce battle and so I stopped the energy transfer once I saw that her injuries had healed enough for her to stand.

Roderick, on the other hand, had only minor injuries. I helped Reia to her feet and walked towards Sir Roderick alone. I began summoning the ‘Void’ within me and prepared myself for a final ‘Void Strike’.

“It’s a shame, really, but this is the end for you Roderick.”

Roderick scoffed while glaring at me.

“Hmph, big words, but can you make it a reality I wonder?”

Roderick readied himself and his sword began to brightly glow. He was about to activate the magic within the sword in order to utilize a powerful attack.

“Lightning Strike!”

“Void Strike!”

Dark energy from the ‘Void’ crashed against the ‘Lighting’ element and the impact of our two powerful strikes colliding, caused a large explosion of magical energy which dwarfed the previous attack that Reia had been struck with. A violent wind caused by the impact whipped the trees in the vicinity, uprooting some of them.

Once the magic dissipated and the violent wind calmed, I could see that Sir Roderick had been thrown back and was lying against a tree severely injured. I hadn’t moved one step from that place, and my body was cloaked almost entirely in black flames. If I were someone else, I would think that what I saw was the body of a demon, rather than that of a man.

My body was tired, I had used up too much of my power, but I pushed on. I walked towards the dying Roderick as black flames trailed behind each of my steps. Once I stood over him, I looked down at him with pity in my eyes. He was barely breathing, but still alive.

“Make it quick, at least give me that much.” Roderick asked, straining his voice.

He was clearly in a great deal of pain.

“You fought bravely, I will make this quick.”

As I continued to look down at Roderick, I felt a pang of guilt. Or was it regret? I had become somewhat accustomed to killing, but it still was a difficult thing for me to do. I didn’t relish the thought of killing others, especially other people.

Roderick noticed the hesitation on my face.

“Do it. I have no regrets.”

“You may not Roderick, but that doesn’t make this any easier for me.”

My eyes met his, and I could see the determination in his eyes. This was a man who was ready to die. That resolve touched me deeply.

I ended his life as painlessly as I could.

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