121. Winners and Losers (8)
Pygni looked at Oskal. “Something suspicious…?”
“Yeah…” Oskal rubbed his chin. “I’m saying something…feels familiar.”
“…Could you be more specific?”
“The strategy to catch an enemy, drunk on victory, off their guard. The audaciousness on the battlefield, bordering on arrogance. And the merciless cruelty he shows his enemies… His actions and decisions are disproportionately provocative and direct. Almost like…they’re disregarding any method or action…”
Oskal’s eyes narrowed. ‘Method…like that of Thoma.’
The Hero Thoma. He was the one who stood against the Demon Lord’s army without the help of the continent, with only Oskal, Akareal, and Salem aiding him. He had no equipment, supplies, funds, or troops, and he was friendly and amicable. However, conversely, he had a different side to him that took a 180 whenever he needed to do something for the sake of ‘victory’.
He earned his own money, built up an army of mercenaries, and used them as bait to infiltrate the Demon Lord’s castle, all to assassinate the Demon Lord… It might be considered a savage and unconventional method, but it had worked. To kill the Demon Lord, he went to the extreme and produced a miracle.
On this point, Akareal and Salem respected him, but Oskal was different. He felt fear toward his companion. Thoma had indeed stood victorious against the Demon Lord’s army and killed the Demon Lord for the sake of humanity. However, wasn’t he also capable of other terrifying deeds using “for the sake of humanity” as an excuse?
“…What are you thinking about so deeply?”
“…No, I only was recalling someone that had similar strategies in the past.”
Oskal shook his head. Pygni leaned back in his chair and spoke, unable to understand.
“Yes, then shall we listen to your thoughts, the thoughts of a great general? If you were the opponent, what would you do? I just can’t figure it out.”
“If it was me…” Oskal frowned as he racked his mind. He simply thought from Thoma’s perspective. If it was Thoma, how would he move? If it was that guy… “…Mmm… Wouldn’t he use the chaos in the midst of battle to hide among the soldiers?”
Pygni’s eyes grew wide at Oskal’s reply, his body turning stiff. It was because he felt a chill crawling along his spine. Oskal didn’t notice his reaction and continued.
“And, I would infiltrate the enemy’s fortress and open the gate. If I did that, it wouldn’t be a siege, but an urban battle. If the enemy has no intention of sieging… wouldn’t they do this?”
On the interior of the gates of the City of Twilight, the soldiers standing guard stared at the top of the wall while trembling with fear.
The roars of Demons and the clanging of their weapons resonated from the other side. The raging noise made them nervous and fidgety, as if the Demons would launch their attack at any moment. At that point, the soldiers recalled the battle yesterday, causing their moods to dampen.
“I-it couldn’t be that those bastards are preparing to rush in, right?”
“No, it was proven that they at least have some intelligence. In the last battle, they employed strategies that humans would use. They must be just trying to scare us.”
“Scare us? Why does it seem like they’re loosening up their body to jump in at any moment…? Also, look! The sky…!”
The Knights turned to the sky. Harpies were constantly surveilling the City of Twilight. They seemed to be looking for an opportunity to land at any moment.
“Those bastards, they’re constantly watching us!”
“Don’t be nervous. That’s what they’re aiming for. If those monstrous bastards have any thoughts in their heads, they’ll prepare more men before sieging such a massive fortress. About…more than 10,000 would need to be gathered to attack?”
“T-ten thousand? You said 20,000 men were slaughtered by a mere 3000…! It’s scary enough right now with 5000, and you want twice that much…!”
“I’m saying that much should be gathered, but those bastards probably don’t have enough manpower. No matter how strong they are, the Demon Kingdom’s just too small, after all.”
As the soldiers chatted with one another while guarding the gate, someone approached them. He wore his helmet low and carried a cloth-covered sword in one hand and a book in the other. Seeing this, the other Knights tilted their heads curiously. Was it time to change shifts already?
“Why have you come?”
The unknown soldier confidently replied to the knight’s question, “I’ve come to inspect the gate.”
The Knights looked at each other, then the other party.
“I’ve come to inspect the gate.”
When he repeated the same words, the Knights swallowed drily. The soldier was standing leisurely while simply watching their reaction.
“What…is your affiliation?”
The Knights reached for their swords’ handles or gripped their spears, ready to attack if the answer did not satisfy them. Seeing this, the other side began to move as well. He, very slowly, walked past the Knights, toward the gate.
The Knights watched him dumbly. It took more than a dozen healthy men to move the bar on the gate, not something he could remove himself.
“Ey! I asked about your affiliation!”
The soldier with his helmet pressed deep, Tom, looked at the bar, then the knights before replying, “If you’re asking for affiliations…I am with the Demon Lord’s army, and my position is an Apostle. My name is…” Tom smiled and loosened the cloth around his sword, “Tom.”
Oskal did not notice the change in Pyngi’s demeanor. Instead, he spoke what he had on his mind before bursting into laughter as he scratched his head.
“Haha! But there’s no way that’d happen. I really should give up my nickname as the greatest general of the Kingdom of Lome. It wouldn’t make sense for a Demon to be hiding among an army of humans. They’d be detected right away. I realize now why everyone says my brain is just made of muscles. Haha!”
“…Shit! Fucking hell!” Oskal heard Pygni’s curse and looked at him with surprise. “R-reinforce the gate security immediately—No, Oskal, go personally…!”
Right at that moment, a deafening explosion cut off their chat. Pygni and Oskal hurried out of the tent in surprise. Their gazes turned toward the gate as they watched the bar supporting the gate crumble down amid thick smoke.
“…Oskal, you were correct,” Pygni muttered through gritted teeth. “That bastard…took advantage of the chaos and infiltrated our army!”
The bar supporting the gate had been snapped in two, while the guarding soldiers were sprawled on the ground. The other soldiers frantically made their way to the gate upon hearing the sudden explosion.
“What is it?!”
Tom stabbed the Holy Sword that had broken apart the supporting bar into the ground and scanned the corpses. As Magic Power flowing through his hands reached the ground, he raised their bodies and resurrected them.
“Buy as much time as possible.”
Undead skeletons. They were a level of Undead that couldn’t even reach the tip of the toes of an Arrtark incarnate. Also, they wouldn’t survive long against the soldiers of the Kingdom of Lome. Still…
“They should last until I open the gate.”
Tom opened Rahon’s Holy Text in his hand. He tore away a page and let it fly, sticking it near the gate. Light poured out of the pagel, and chains made of Holy Power flew forth. They latched onto the gate and began to pull it open.
“Stop him! Fire your arrows!”
“He’s trying to open the gate!”
The soldiers atop the wall nocked their arrows, while the Undead holding shields covered Tom to protect him. During their standoff, the chains of light let out a screech as the gate started to open. The knights of Lome grew pale at the sight.
“Ah!? It’s opening. It’s opening!”
One of the Harpies in the sky, Skarni, ordered her companions, “Give the signal!”
The Harpies that were flying irregularly in the sky gathered in formation and began to fly in a circle. Seeing this, the Demons of the Demon Lord’s army stopped slamming their weapons on the ground. Their eyes turned to the Harpies and then toward the gradually opening gate.
“…The gate is opening.”
The Demons began to grab their various weapons and lowered their bodies in response to Karakul’s words. They dug their feet into the ground and glared at the opening gate.
“The enemy must be terrified after yesterday’s battle. They should also still be exhausted, and hearing our battle cries, they couldn’t have even slept properly. There’s no easier enemy than one exhausted and scared.”
Karakul raised the battle-ax in his hands, turned to the Demons, and shouted, “Chase them out of our land, so they can have a proper rest-!”
Karakul rode on his Silver Wolf and pointed his battle-ax toward the City of Twilight.
“Bare your fangs! Hunt down those bastards-!”
With him in front, the Demon Lord’s army followed. It wasn’t the orderly movement of an army, but a mob of Demons running in to hunt. The earth rumbled under their feet, and the sky shook with their roars. The Goblins aimed the large-scale Magic Cannons and fired, while the Treos flung their boulders.
“T-the bastards are swarming in!’
“Shit! Hurry and block the gate-!”
The soldiers standing pitifully on top of the gate yelled at those inside the fortress.
“Even if we wanted to, these guys…are a pain to deal with!”
“If you’re already dead, just stay dead!”
The Knights that were taking care of the undead grit their teeth and glared at Tom.
“To make prideful knights into undead, this monstrous bastard!”
The archers on top of the wall pulled back their bowstrings and aimed toward the rushing Demons.
The arrows poured down upon the Demon Lord’s army like rain. A large majority of them bounced off the Dwarven-made plate armor, but there were some that hit between the cracks and felled a few. The Gnolls and Goblins, observing the archer’s assault from afar, groaned.
“…Ey, this is okay, right!?”
“W-we trained for it. This is the first time doing it live, but…it…should be okay? R-right?”
The Gnolls and Goblins turned to the Treos.
“…I pray that you arrive safely.”
Their faces turned pale upon hearing the Treo’s response. Still, they mustered up their courage and climbed atop the Treo’s hand, wearing nothing but lighter armor, daggers, and other light weapons like small crossbows or muskets.
The Treos threw them toward the castle wall with all their might. The Gnolls and Goblins screamed while flying through the air. Nonetheless, their fears didn’t come true, and they approached the wall.
“What are these things?”
“A suicide squad? Crazy! They got nothing to throw, so they’re throwing their own allies!?”
The soldiers on the walls looked like they were sick of it all as they watched the Demons flying in before turning back to the swarming Demons. They had decided that the Demons that had been thrown would just die on their own, but…
“Don’t let them go!”
The Harpies swept in swiftly and grabbed their bodies in the air. Although they faltered due to their weight, they eventually managed to place the Gnolls and Goblins on top of the wall.
The Gnolls and Goblins were free-falling in the air, but after the initial impact of having their bodies being snatched, they were able to regain their senses once feet touched the wall, making it a successful ‘landing’.
The soldiers saw the Demons safely land and froze while retreating.
“Kill the humans!”
“Reclaim the wall!”
The Gnolls jumped at the knights with their daggers while Goblins fired off their muskets. Despite lacking in numbers, they were able to fend for themselves against the squad of archers stationed on the wall, and that was enough.
“The gate is still not open!”
The large Demons, Minotaurs, Ogres, Trolls, and the like, charged forward. They grabbed the gap between the gates and pushed with every ounce of strength in their bodies.
“Help the Goblins and Gnolls on the wall!”
The Orcs finally reached the wall. They deployed the ladders and climbed up in a hurry. Mere minutes after the explosion at the gate, the City of Twilight had turned into a battleground. Mixed screams and shouting could be heard on all sides.
“…Just what happened?”
Pygni was dumbfounded by the sudden turn of events. He quickly donned his armor and grabbed his sword. Protected by the Royal Knights and Oskal, he rode on his horse and dashed toward the gate.
Pygni scanned the area. The soldiers of the Kingdom of Lome that had just woken up were either swarming in after frantically grabbing their weapons or were pointing around and shouting commands. He could see a chain made of light around the wall and fingers of large Demons stuck between the slight gap as they tried to force the gate open.
At the same time, he saw Orcs climbing the wall on ladders and Gnolls and Goblins that had flown in through the air—helped by Harpies who grabbed them and neutralized their momentum—being landed safely on top.
All of this contributed to their disadvantaged position. To add insult to the injury, the wall had become a place for the Gnolls and Goblins to safely attack from a distance. Pygni looked at those Gnolls, Goblins, and Harpies with his eye muscle twitching.
‘…Descending… from the air?’
Just how in the world did that make any sense? There hadn’t been any such infiltration method in any battle on the history of this continent!
Pygni grit his teeth and looked forward. There, he saw a man in the Lome army’s uniform standing with the Undead, who were blocking the soldiers. He was…the Devil of Lania.
‘…Just… how far… are you planning on cornering me, Devil of Lania!?’
Pygni pointed at Tom.
“What are you all doing?! Secure the gate with all your—”
Before he could finish speaking, the gate opened, and Ogres, Trolls, and Minotaurs poured in, as if a dam had broken. Behind them were Centaurs and Orcs swarming in like ants. The fearsome Demons had infiltrated the fortress. Pygni could only shut his mouth seeing this.
Tom saw the speechless Pygni, frozen with his finger in the air, and smiled.
“…Now, it’s time for the battle to end, dear King of Lome.”
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