74. Canibar Territory (4)
Magic Knights were the pride of the Kingdom of Aylans. Under their dominance, the soldiers of the Holy Kingdom on the outer wall were slaughtered helplessly against their superb skills in both sword and magic.
The sword was a fast and powerful weapon, but its range was limited. Magic, on the other hand, was an overwhelmingly mighty force; yet, it was weak at close range, due to it being slow.
The Magic Knight was one who compensated for the weaknesses of one with the other. They were experts, their bodies strengthened through swordsmanship and their minds filled with arcane knowledge!
Count Shabel smiled. Now that they had stepped in, the outer gate and wall would definitely be held. At the very least, until the time that reinforcements from the capital arrived!
He was filled with confidence, but his bright smile grew somber before long. A similar thing happened to Magic Knights, who were heading toward their next objective—their bodies froze.
Holy Knights, with their bodies covered in weighty silvery plate armor and red capes that held the image of a cross, were entering the outer wall through a siege tower.
“… Holy Knights? This is earlier than expected. Does this mean they don’t want to drag it out for much longer?”
“Could be…” one of his advisors said. “I didn’t think Holy Knights would pop out so soon either.”
The Magic Knights looked at the Holy Knights and gripped their staves and swords tighter. The Holy Knights, in comparison, watched their determined foes while mocking them.
“Hah, the heretics put their faith in magic—formed through the miracle of God—and got full of themselves. I’ll punish those that mistake magic as something of their own creation.”
“I want to cut the heads of those heretics right now and present them as an offering so bad that it’s making my body itch.”
The knights of opposing factions glared at each other, preparing for the battle that would decide the fate of Canibar.
A day had passed. The outer walls had fallen due to the siege weapons, and the outer gates had been thoroughly destroyed by the battering ram. The outer wall of Canibar now flew the flag of the Holy Kingdom.
The soldiers of the Holy Kingdom slowly entered through the wide-open gates, stepping on the corpses of the Ayslansian soldiers and residents as they set foot in the city. The city burned, and those that couldn’t escape were made into their playthings. The men were burned at the stake as heretics while the women were tossed aside. The rain washed away the blood which filled the streets of Canibar, as if trying to hide the goriness of it all.
Janus, who felt uncomfortable in the humidity of the downpour, frowned.
“We’ve finally broken through.”
He, who had been riding on a palanquin, looked at his damp tent before turning toward the castle, which was the last defensive structure within the region. It was protected by sturdy walls, but compared to the city’s outer walls, they wouldn’t be difficult to break through.
“How was the expenditure of men, and how are the Holy Knights?”
One of the soldiers approached in response to Janus’s question and kneeled with his head lowered.
“Yes, we approximate that 20,000 of the 50,000 were killed. We also have 22,000 sustained medium injuries, with the rest being only lightly wounded. 30 of the Holy Knights are slightly injured, with 10 suffering medium injuries. Unfortunately, 25 Holy Knights died during the battle for the outer wall.”
Janus didn’t like what he was hearing and shook his head. The casualties had been intense, as they had been forced to overextend themselves while trying to break through.
‘It doesn’t matter if the soldiers died, but the Holy Knights suffered that badly as well?’
“That many died? They should have vastly outnumbered the Magic Knights that had been dispatched to this area? Not only the honorary Holy Knights of the Allied Forces, but the true Paladins of the Holy Kingdom also died to those mere Magic Knights? Hah! For them to be so weak…!”
He felt enraged by the fact that 100 or so Holy Knights lost that many men facing 30 or so Magic Knights, along with the baby soldiers of Aylans. Who were the Holy Knights? Weren’t they the knights pledged to God and the Pope? How dare such people be killed by mere heretics!
“What about their bodies?”
“We carefully stored them. Their funeral should be—”
“Toss them into the mountains.”
The soldier froze and looked at Janus in confusion.
“Holy Knights that died to heretics are Holy Knights no longer.”
“… Ah, I understand.”
The soldier nodded and retreated.
“Now… shall we slowly get started on that castle?”
Janus smiled and looked at the last thing standing in his way of completely conquering Canibar.
“Isn’t this dangerous? Hm? Isn’t it!?” Ellin shouted at Tom nervously.
“Dangerous. It’s really dangerous! We’re all going to die! Shit, I should’ve just ran…!”
Halsem looked as though he was about to break into tears as he grabbed at his hair.
Tom was sitting on the sofa with his hand on the table, tapping at it furiously. ‘He’ll come…’ Tom quietly closed his eyes. ‘Why aren’t you coming, Count Shabel?’ Tom was waiting. He was waiting for the count to ‘agree to cooperate’.
‘Are you delaying this long because you can’t say that single phrase, Count Shabel? What you said was without lies, so why are you so hesitant?’
Time was slipping away. Canibar was all but conquered, and only this inner castle in the city’s center remained. Tom could hear the sound of battle from the guest room—the shouts of the Holy Kingdom’s soldiers and their cries to burn the heretics.
‘He will come. He has to come. If he doesn’t, the plan will be ruined.’
‘No, if he doesn’t come, I’ll just make a different plan. It’s still not the worst situation.’
However, the soldiers he had pulled from the Demon Kingdom were already near this territory. As the manpower of the Holy Kingdom had already been reduced and exhausted from the prolonged battle, the Demons would be able to achieve an overwhelming victory.
Still, there was a problem. It was regarding the Demon Kingdom’s ‘nationality’. If an army invaded a defending land without permission, that would be a violation of the Continental Law.
Concerning humans, the Demon Kingdom had been allowed to ignore Continental Law, as they were considered a cluster of unorganized monsters that had never been accepted as a nation. But things were different now. Since they had only begun to set the mold of their transformation into a true nation, they couldn’t break such a hard ‘rule’. They had to follow such laws to truly forge their identity.
‘In order to be accepted as one of the ‘major forces’ on this continent, this is the most effective time.’
If the Demon’s soldiers were permitted to step foot into Canibar Territory under the permission of the Ayslansian Kingdom, their forces would be able to obliterate the Holy Kingdom’s army. This would allow their image as a proper ‘nation’ or ‘kingdom’—with a powerful ‘army’—to spread throughout the continent.
Although the Demon Kingdom was still an unstable nation, defining themselves to the humans in such a way would bring terror and interest of the unknown to the other nations. Only in this way would humans arrive at the table for ‘diplomacy’ to learn more about them. This was how they’d be acknowledged as one of the major forces by the human nations. This was the plan that Tom was thinking of.
On the other hand, if the Demon Kingdom’s forces invaded Canibar Territory without Count Shabel’s consent, it would be treated as an invasion. They would only be labeled with thoughts such as: ‘As expected of a barbaric monster!’, ‘Demons with no planning or foresight!’, ‘A sinister existence with only instinct!’
‘The most apt answer is with Count Shabel’s permission. With his plea, we aren’t invaders, but saviors.’
And with the mighty soldiers of the Demon Kingdom entering the Kingdom of Aylans, they would be able to negotiate at an advantage with the added pressure.
Tom closed his eyes and focused on his ears. He could hear siege weapons slamming against the walls and the castle itself, soldiers climbing on top of ladders, and the screams and shouts as some fell into despair while others laughed in celebration.
The victor and loser were being determined, and within those sounds, someone was approaching. He was running through the hallway, drawing closer to the room. Tom slowly opened his eyes. At that moment, the door to the guest room opened.
“Hah… Hah… Hah…”
It was Count Shabel, his body covered in dark blood and dirt. There were wounds beneath his helmet, and his eyes were steeped in exhaustion. With a deep sigh, his exhausted face drew closer to despair. He gritted his teeth and, with a bit of hesitation, opened his mouth.
Finally hearing those words, Tom smiled.
What Count Shabel was requesting was not to defend against the ‘Holy Kingdom’, but rather to aid the last remaining residents and soldiers within the castle in getting away safely. There was a secret passage within the Canibar Castle that led to a nearby forest, which eventually connected to an escape path.
It was the only way that the current residents and refugees could escape, but for the soldiers to follow them, someone had to stall for time. The castle had been broken through, and to stand against the soldiers and Holy Knights of the Holy Kingdom within the narrow space of the castle, he needed a Hero-grade expert.
Count Shabel quickly prepared a message with his own pen, allowing Tom a meeting with the King and an invitation for Tom and Ellin to meet with the king and queen of Aylans.
‘Even if the Kingdom of Aylans is powerful, it’s difficult for them to win against the Holy Kingdom! It’ll be best to cooperate with another faction!’
Count Shabel had been spending several nights commanding the battle. He was utterly exhausted now. Also, he wasn’t in his right mind after watching so many of his own subjects die.
As his judgment grew hazy, he tried to ease his own anxiety regarding the ‘unknown faction’ and instead sought after it in hope. He saw that allying with a foreign power would allow them to stop the Holy Kingdom to a certain extent. After signing it in his office, Tom smiled while looking at the count.
“I also wish for you to add something.”
Add something at this point? Shabel glared at him with disgust.
“Actually, my subordinates are already here. I wish for you to allow them to enter Aylansian soil and for your kingdom to enter discussions with my kingdom diplomatically.”
Count Shabel frowned pitifully with battle-worn eyes.
‘Subordinate? Could there have been someone that infiltrated by disguising themselves as a refugee? I thought I inspected them properly, but that must not have been the case.’
Count Shabel bitterly nodded and moved his pen. He wrote that he would allow some troops onto Canibar Territory. If they were soldiers guarding a Hero-class expert, they couldn’t be on the caliber of ordinary knights, and help from such men was sorely needed.
“… I’ll allow the troops to enter, but only His Highness can permit diplomatic discussions.”
“Is that so?”
Tom looked disappointed, but the terms were already enough for now. Count Shabel stamped the seal of the Canibar Family onto the paper and handed it to Tom.
With formal documents that granted him a meeting with King Paulie, Tom’s lips curled up.
Karakul looked toward the sky from a forest a slight distance away from the Canibar Territory. The downpour waned, and the dark clouds floating in the air began to dissipate. As though it was still morning, bright light spilled through the holes in the clouds. Karakul turned to the crow sitting on a branch off to the side. Its beak opened to reveal Tom’s orders.
Karakul, who heard its contents, grew wide-eyed as bloodlust filled them. He turned around expectantly, his heart beating fast.
“The signal is here!”
Orc infantry wrapped in plate armor, Centaur knights wielding spears, Gnoll scouts holding crossbows and throwing stones, Goblin logistics, Treo siege units, Minotaur vanguards, and Ogre armored units wrapped in thick plate armor. Almost 4000 men from the Demon Kingdom. Karakul looked over the soldiers and thought of Tom’s command.
“Spectacularly and violently, so the humans can feel our terror. Stomp it all! Break, destroy, and burn everything that isn’t our ally! Even if they beg and cry, close off your ears. Slaughter them all to prove your existence! Prove to all that you’re an army under the Demon Lord, and that the Demon Kingdom is a true nation!”
It was a cruel command, but it was also a command that they were all wishing for. An opportunity to lead those accursed humans of the Holy Kingdom to ruin and let the continent know of their existence!
Karakul’s mouth opened.
“Follow Master’s orders…”
His right hand gripped a 2m long mace, while his left hand held the flag of the Demon Kingdom. Hopping onto a Silver Wolf, Karakul turned back and shouted at his soldiers.
The demons roared collectively. Karakul waved the symbol of the Demon Kingdom on top of the flag.
“Take to the battlefield! Crush”—Karakul’s eyes burned intensely—“all the humans!”
— Ω —