54. The Demon Kingdom (4)
The Gnolls’ hides lit on fire. They screamed as they scattered in every direction. Due to the fleeing Gnolls, the other demons around them caught fire as well.
The Orcs placed stones along with a pouch filled with poison into the catapult. When the combination was thrown, fist-sized stones rained down upon the demons’ formation, causing widespread damage. The pouch of poison following behind sprayed everywhere, causing the demons’ skins to turn black.
“What is this liquid that stinks like rotting meat? Also, my body! Why can’t I move?! P-poison?!”
The demon began to convulse and its eyes rolled back. It collapsed on the spot.
“Shit! Don’t you have any honor! We’re demons too!”
The demons on Bludifer’s side shouted back at the Orcs, outraged. They glared at them as they watched their kin die.
The Orcs, in response, just aimed their crossbows toward them.
“We’re no different than you! Show mercy! Are you asking us to die?!”
“If you don’t want to die, then turn back!”
Despite the Demon Army continuing to shrink in size, they continued to draw closer to the Orcs’ fortifications. As the flames were extinguished, their charge became faster. They put down ladders to avoid falling into pits, using them as bridges, and they broke apart the spears protruding from the hill as they ascended toward the Orc’s position.
The Orcs put down the first wave of demons that tried to rush through the barricade with their spears. Then they formed a shield wall. The ones in the rear drew their axes and swords and checked over their equipment.
“Shit! They pushed through the traps and climbed the hill!”
Gnolls jumped up and smashed their scythes against the wall of shields, but as their bodies were too light, they lacked the raw power needed to break through it.
Suddenly, a voice called from off to the side.
“Ey! We broke through over here!”
“Those Gnoll bastards… they must have climbed up the mountain!”
The Orcs quickly turned to their side to defend their flank.
Gnolls were dexterous and had outstanding stealth techniques. They had managed to climb up the mountain with ease and had taken the opportunity to strike where the Orcs’ defense was weakest due to the lack of barricades.
Karakul looked over at them with surprise.
‘Damn… they were faster than I thought!’
He believed that it would take them at least a quarter of a day to scale the mountain ridge like that, but the Gnolls had managed it in mere hours. The Gnolls’ mountaineering ability and their decisiveness exceeded Karakul’s expectations.
Some Gnolls, concealed in the forest, used slingshots to launch stones up to the top of the mountain. The Orcs, donned in tough plate armor, didn’t receive any critical damage from this, but their movements couldn’t help but be dulled by the relentless assault. Even with a helmet on, the constant banging of rocks against their heads rattled their skulls.
“Shit! Shoot toward the mountain range with the crossbows!”
The Orcs aimed their crossbows toward the forests on the mountain range, but they couldn’t see their targets. Their eyes couldn’t see anything more than shadows weaving between the trees.
“So fast! Shit! The movements of these damned Gnolls aren’t a joke!”
The Minotaurs shoved their way through the Orcs’ barrier with their massive bodies. Despite heavy equipment weighing them down, the Orc formation shattered in an instant and they were sent flying through the air.
Minotaurs trampled the Orcs beneath their feet.
They were crushed beneath their hooves along with their armor.
“Shit! The front has fallen as well!”
“Commander! What do we do! Commander!”
“Shit! I think I’m going to die! I was stabbed… in the stomach!”
“Holy water! Drink the holy water!”
“How do we stop this?!”
Frenzied shouts of many Orcs could be heard.
Karakul could only stand there blankly. The front, the sides, every direction had been broken through. Regardless of how good their equipment was, despite using holy water and poison… all of it was meaningless before the sheer numbers and power of the demon army before them.
He knew exactly what would happen now.
The battle was going to continue to drag on, and the Orcs, with their limited numbers, would soon become exhausted. The morning would turn into night, and soon it would be evening. At that time, the Vampires would begin to move. If they stepped in… there would be no way to stop them.
“… If you’re going to just stand around slack-jawed like this, all of your kin will die.”
Karakul spun around in surprise.
Tom was standing there smiling. He was wearing the white outfit and armor of an apprenticed Holy Knight. He was carrying the Holy Scripture in his hand, and the Holy Sword with which he killed Hero Ludin was hanging from his waist.
“… Is there no way for Master to step in personally?”
“I am only here to watch you command.”
“… It’ll all be resolved if Master steps in.”
“The Vassal of Arrtark isn’t omnipotent. To take its form, I must be dead or be in an unconscious state right before death. I can provide something similar to a Hero’s ability or temporarily borrow Arrtark’s strength, but…”
Tom pointed toward the Demon Army’s formation.
“… It’ll be hard to cut through that powerful army and approach Bludifer.”
“… I see.”
These were half-truths. Even in his current state, Tom didn’t have the strength to stand against a demon army specialized for battle.
‘There is a way to force my way through and provide them with the possibility of victory.’
He did have a way to cut through the Demon Army and reach the palanquin in which Bludifer was staying in. However, there was no guarantee that Bludifer would die from exposure to sunlight. Even if Tom succeeded in doing this, Bludifer was different from the other Vampires, so he didn’t know if it would work.
‘That’s right. He has strength comparable to a Demon Lord. If Bludifer stepped in himself, our defenses would have been crushed already. The fact that he hasn’t…’
There were two possible reasons that he could see. First was a matter of pride. He might have decided that a fortification of his level was not worth risking the danger of the sun to deal with himself and so he chose to spectate instead. The other possible reason was that he was wary of the Devil of Lania and was waiting for him to appear first.
This would make sense because Tom found himself in a similar situation. Tom was waiting for Bludifer to show up. So both sides were in the same position waiting for the other to play their strongest card first.
Tom turned to Karakul and spoke.
“Don’t try to rely on me too much.”
Karakul shut his mouth.
“Try to make use of your experiences up until now. The experience that you have accrued defending against the Hero’s forces. The Hero deployed by the continent had picked out incompetent members to join him, but you were still the one that fended them all off. Think about your decisions. Think about the things that were most important.”
“… What is the most important?”
Karakul recalled something that happened a few days ago. The Hero Ludin had sent his own allies to sacrifice themselves in order to win no matter the cost. Because of that, even if it was reckless, Karakul and his Orcs would have been slaughtered if Tom hadn’t stepped in.
‘… Result oriented.’
Ludin had sold out his own kin to win, no matter the cost. Karakul had felt that he was pathetic for doing so, but he also sympathized with him. The cruelty of using whatever method for the sake of victory no matter the consequences was not easy to commit to. It might have been an act that had cost his allies their lives, but the Hero had made that decision without hesitation.
‘… Just what am I doing?’
His kin were dying. The Orcs were being cut down. Despite his own words that he wouldn’t show any mercy to his enemies, he was letting it happen.
Karakul stepped up with his axe in hand. He stepped on top of the barricade to look at the situation. Many Demons from the Demon Army were rushing toward the fortification. If no one stopped them, they would breach it and every Orc would die.
Kulbo approached Karakul and shouted in a panic.
“Brother Karakul! What do we do?! The bastards are pushing in! They’re stronger than we thought! These bastards… they’re relentless!”
“… The Magic Cannon that we took from the Hero’s Allied Forces. Prep it.”
Kulbo’s eyes grew wide.
‘Hero! The method that you employed, let me use it as well!’
“M-my god! Are you planning on using it?”
“If we don’t, we’ll be breached.”
“B-but… that’s extremely dangerous! If we fire it, everyone will be slaughtered! Especially those down there that are rushing forward, clustered together like that!”
“They are a treasonous force!”
Karakul spoke while glaring at Kulbo.
“I wish to save my kin! If I want to succeed, I don’t need to have any concern, sympathy, or mercy for my opponents! Do you understand?! Kulbo! If you’re a leader of the Goblins, don’t hold anything back to protect your people!”
Karakul screamed at Kulbo, who was standing right in front of him. Kulbo recoiled, feeling deflated.
“I will take full responsibility! It doesn’t matter if I am hated! I will no longer hold anything back. Fire all of the ammunition that we have! We shall kill them all with the weapons left behind by the Hero! All those that defy―! Bring down the iron mace upon all those that dare sully the name of the Demon Kingdom!”
As a commander, as a ruler, and as a chief, he felt that this was his duty.
“I will be left doing nothing if I keep fearing the eyes of the other species!”
Tom looked at Karakul and smiled. He was prepared to be hated by the other demons to protect his own kin.
Karakul stepped onto the battlefield himself. He leaped up and swung his massive double-bladed axe. The horn of a charging Minotaur was struck by the axe and broke apart before the rest of his body was split asunder.
The eyes of the Orcs lit up hearing Karakul’s cry.
“Don’t retreat! Don’t let the bastards flee! Fight on! Orcs! Stand with me!”
The Orcs roared in response to Kararkul’s shout. Kulbo whimpered as he shouted toward the other Goblins.
“Prepare the Magic Cannon right away! The one that the Hero’s forces used! We should be able to use it too, right?!”
The Magic Cannon was moved. The goblins, who were several times smaller than it, struggled as they tried to push it into position. But they managed to set it up at the rear of the fortification. They pointed it upwards by leaning it onto a rock, ignoring accuracy altogether. For a wide-ranging attack like one from this Magic Cannon, it would kill no matter where it shot within this narrow canyon.
The Goblins loaded the magic stone into the cannon as quickly as they could. They aimed it toward the other side of the barricade and the side of the mountain range.
“Magic Cannon armed!”
The Goblins cried out. Their hands were precise and dexterous. If they had more physical strength, they might have been comparable to the smithing species, the Dwarves. They were able to aim and load the magic cannon much faster than the humans had been able to.
“I don’t know anymore! Fire!”
The goblins pulled the trigger at Kulbo’s command. A bright light sprayed out from the magic cannon. The cannon was kicked back from the explosion as the ball of light shot up into the sky. The beautiful cluster of light drew an arc in the sky like a meteor before gradually falling down to the ground.
“… What is that?”
Bludifer frowned in confusion as he looked up at the light from his position on the opposite side of the battlefield. But a moment later, his eyes grew wide.
He jumped up from his seat. He had seen this once before. He recognized it as the weapon of terror that the Hero’s forces had used, known as a Magic Cannon. Its might was on a different level than any siege weapon he had seen thus far.
“That crazy―! Are they insane?! They’ll kill all the demons!”
Bludifer’s eyes were wide. He followed the projectile with his eyes for a moment or two before turning to look at the area in which he expected it to land.
The sun was still in the sky. Once the explosion reached him, the palanquin tent shading him from the sun would be blown away.
The pure ball of light exploded in the air. It spread out like embers and began to slowly fall to the ground. The demons that had seen it for the first time instinctively felt the danger, as they could feel the heat emanating from it on their faces just from looking at it.
Chaos ensued. The Gnolls fled. Centaurs ran. Minotaurs and even the Treos stumbled back, but they couldn’t properly retreat due to the smaller demons right behind them. They clumsily collided with each other.
Within this confusion, the light touched the ground and exploded.
The explosion continued ceaselessly, even causing the ground to tremble. The earth shook horrendously and the mountain range itself began to crumble.
It was carpet bombing.
Thousands of demons were swept up in the explosions and flames. Screams of pain echoed out across the battlefield. The number of demons shrank drastically in the blink of an eye.
“What… was that?”
Ellin, who was in her position defending the fortification with her Great Sword, muttered to herself dumbly.
She knew very well what it was. The Magic Cannon. However, it was a useless weapon in her opinion, whose effectiveness didn’t match its overwhelming might. It had terrible accuracy, and the speed at which the projectile dropped from the sky was slow, making it easy to dodge by any soldier with half-decent training.
However, when it was fired in every direction, demons lacking proper equipment were swept up in the sea of flames and burned to death.
Karakul let out a rough sigh as he surveyed his surroundings. The demons were flailing in the flames and dying. Over 500 of the 5000 demons were killed in a single barrage while 800 more were struggling painfully in the flames. A thousand more were stricken with fear, hesitating about whether or not to attack. Karakul gritted his teeth, looking at the aftermath of this horrendous tragedy of his creation.
The Orcs were standing dumbfounded instead of fighting as they watched the scene.
“Orcs!” Karakul shouted at them. “It is time to begin our counter-attack!”
The Orcs turned to look at Karakul.
The sun was still up. The Vampires could not move and the morale of the Demon Army was at its lowest. That meant that there was an opportunity now. They realized that they had to end everything while the sun was still in the sky.
Someone suddenly jumped out of the flames with a roar. He charged forward even though his massive body was covered in flames. He didn’t think to head up the stony hill, but lowered his head and charged forward instead.
The entire hill was completely crushed, destroying the barricade. The Orcs standing on top of the barricades were thrown off causing them to fly up into the air before rolling onto the ground.
Allen, the chief of the Minotaurs came to a halt. His mouth spat out black smoke as his entire body was enveloped in flames. His bloodshot eyes glared at Karakul as he landed on the ground.
“Karakul! You bastard! You dare do that to demons! You killed our kin!”
Karakul gripped his axe and stumbled to his feet. Allen’s dense muscles twitched as he approached Karakul.
Karakul tried to swing his axe, but bull hooves stomped on it and knocked it out of his hands. A massive hand picked Karakul off the ground.
“You bastard! Regardless of whether it was to save your own kind, you dare to commit this evil that only humans would unleash?”
Karakul glared back at him and spat at him.
“Don’t make me laugh! I don’t care about dirtying my hands for my people! Isn’t that the reason that chiefs exist?! Allen! Didn’t you kneel before those damn bloodsuckers for your people?!”
“But what you’ve done crossed a line! You’ve truly fallen, Karakul! You are not an honorable warrior!”
“Don’t speak of things like honor on a battlefield, Allen!”
Allen gripped tighter. The sound of Karakul’s bones cracking could be heard.
“Kneel and beg for forgiveness to my kin that you killed in hell!”
When Allen tried to twist Kararkul’s body with both his hands, Ellin leapt forward.
She swung her greatsword toward Allen. Her blade met Allen’s horn and bounced off, but she twisted her body to land on Allen’s face and extended her hand. Her hand, shaped as a gauntlet, began to grow sharp as it extended. Doppelgangers could turn their entire body into armor or weapons, however, when they did, the manifested items acted similarly to a person’s bones. Once the weapon or armor was broken, the pain of its breakage transmitted directly back to the owner.
Her sharp nail dug into Allen’s eye. Ellin looked squeamish as the sickening sensation of her fingertip entering his eyeball could be felt directly.
‘Gross! I want to puke!’
The eyeball exploded spraying blood everywhere. Allen cried out and released Karakul.
“Moooooo―! Ellin! Even you dare to side with Karakul!”
“I only serve Her Highness!”
Ellin quickly dropped from his hand and landed on the ground. She grabbed her greatsword and retreated. It was too much for her to handle Allen alone. Her opponent was 6th in rank, but that was only because Minotaurs had limited political influence. In reality, he was much stronger than Karakul, only following the Treos and the Trolls as the most powerful demons.
“C-commander Karakul? Hurry and get up! It’s going to be really tough on my own!”
Karakul shook his head and lifted his fallen axe from the floor in response to her pleas.
— Ω —