Carlion smiled a little when he saw Shirak’s multi-layered defense . The enemy’s insight to ignore their feints and go straight for the main army caused the name of a certain person to flash through his mind .
As Carlion felt the tenacity of the Elks Clan that they failed to defeat, he muttered to himself, “Indeed . There was such a person within the Elks Clan, wasn’t there? The tactician that supported Touri’s rapid rise to power, the Silent Moon, Pale Symphoria . ”
The guest general, Wyatt, advised that it would be a poor plan to attack, but Carlion insisted that they attack swiftly .
One reason was because they didn’t have time . That was true both for him and the Red King .
The other reason was because the enemy tactician, Pale, was probably waiting for reinforcements .
Shirak Town could only fit so many people . At most, just 2,000 . Stopping the Red King’s massive army with just those didn’t match what he’s heard of the person known as Pale Symphoria .
Carlion believed Pale wasn’t the sort of person who couldn’t tell the difference between recklessness and bravery .
And if she was so calm, there must be a good reason why .
“Let’s see what you got,” Carlion said .
Carlion believed that it would take at most 5 days to defeat Shirak .
The battlefield was a place full of misinformation and wrong decisions . It was within such a battlefield that Carlion wove all sorts of plans as if in an attempt to prove who the greater tactician was . He even included his own death within the details .
Before Carlion stood Saldin’s platoon, which was burning with fighting spirit .
“Use them as you please,” Saldin said enthusiastically .
He was really glad to see Carlion standing in the battlefield once more .
“I want you to get the enemy’s attention, then go in and out of their range to figure out what their range is,” Carlion said .
“Saldin, don’t just charge in recklessly, okay? Make sure to focus your attention in leading the cavalry . Give orders to the mixed army as well . Tell them to harden their defense and approach the town . Their job is to pull out the fences,” Carlion said .
After seeing off Saldin and his cavalry, Carlion continued to give one order after another .
“Our platoon, which is under the king’s direct control, shall move east . Be wary of your surroundings and gradually move to the north . ”
Carlion had split the main force into three and mobilized them, then he sent out smaller platoons to serve as feints . The forces of the Red King looked like a swarm of ants as they came from every direction except the north .
The various commanders kept pace with each other through Carlion’s commands, as well as their own slight touches . Like this they gradually approached Shirak like a pack of beasts eyeing their prey .
But the counterattack from Shirak was not just adequate but also without waste .
They ignored the platoons that were only acting as diversions and attacked the platoons with long-ranged attacks when they reached a certain distance .
Arrows shot toward the approaching forces of Attibel, but these arrows were not just mere arrows, for they were powerful enough to penetrate their shields and armor .
“There is a powerful archer among the elves and the demihumans . There is no mistaking it now, is there?”
Carlion was sure of it now . The enemy was Pale .
The movement of the platoons had gotten a little chaotic after receiving the counterattack of Shirak, so Carlion gave some orders to fix that, but then the mixed army, which was closest to Shirak, received even more long-ranged attacks .
“Send the heavy infantry to the front, then after an hour, line up the spears . ”
Pale looked down at the swarm of enemies below from atop the walls of Shirak .
Pale quietly thought to herself .
It is said that the elves’ long ears allowed them to read the flow of the wind . And because of that ability to read that invisible flow, they could become exceptional hunters . They could even find their way in the depths of the forest, where humans would lose their way .
But even without that ability, Pale’s beautiful face as her hair fluttered in the wind, deep in thought, could pass for a painting and none would complain . It was so strange how despite all the ruckus and jeers down below, her surroundings were so quiet .
“One hour later, they will gather their troops and advance . Lure them to our traps, then shoot simultaneously . For now, Lord Tianos’ battalion can rest . We will hold out with Lord Zaurosh’ battalion alone,” Pale said without averting her eyes once from the direction of the enemy camp . Her eyes narrowed a little as she gave those orders .
“Understood . We will hurry the men to prepare the arrows… Lord Pale, you should also rest,” Zaurosh said .
Zaurosh of the Leon Heart Clan was known to be a skilled general within the eastern parts of the continent . As someone who led a giant clan himself, he could easily prepare the things Pale needed with just a few words . Even better, the quantity he prepared was always correct .
Pale nodded and dragged her body to her room .
After closing the door, all alone, she closed her eyes . Reflected upon the back of her eyelids were the countless corpses of her comrades brutally murdered in cold blood .
“…It won’t be long now,” Pale muttered .
So filled with spirit was Pale that it seemed sleep would be difficult to find, but she still intentionally closed her eyes . Even as she slept, the fire of battle continued to burn within her .
Her battle continued yet .
Strategy is deception .
Carlion believed that, which is why he moved his soldiers in a way that surmounted his enemies expectations and tried to close the distance to the castle walls as fast as he could .
The main force was made up of the mixed army, the forces of the Red King, Saldin’s cavalry, and the guest general, Wyatt’s, platoon . They advanced while clearing the fences and traps along the way .
The forces of the mixed army and the Red King approached the fortress from both sides, while Saldin moved straight toward it .
Brandika wryly smiled when Carlion asked him to become a decoy, but he still accepted his role .
“In that case, I’ll give you the best decoy you can ask for,” Brandika laughed as he positioned his army in the center and exposed himself . “King Brandika of Attibel is here!”
Brandika looked imposing as he sat atop his hipparion steed and he raised Valdis (Long Double-Edged Battle Axe), while announcing his presence and calling for flags to be raised on both of his sides .
“What a troublesome person…”
Carlion laughed from atop a small hill when he saw Brandika’s antics, but immediately after stiffened . Death was already a familiar companion to him . It was there beside him, just standing, always there, ready to take something important from him at a moment’s notice .
But that was precisely why he needed to enjoy what little time he had left, as it was simply too long for a man to spend his life suffering .
To Brandika and Carlion, stealing a country and fighting on the battlefield was a sort of game to acknowledge each other .
“That’s right, Carlion . That’s exactly right!”
Seeing that neither had changed since the day they met, Brandika and Carlion laughed to themselves, even though they were far away from each other and in the middle of a battlefield .
The mixed army and the Red King drew a curve like a sickle cutting grass as they approached the fortress . Saldin’s cavalry slipped through the rain of arrows descending from both sides .
“Raise your shields and cover each other to defend against the arrows! Vanguards, advanced forward and let the enemy know you know no fear!” Brandika raised his voice and gave orders .
Since he was the decoy, he decided he would enjoy it to the fullest .
The soldiers in the vanguard raised their voices in response and advanced fearlessly despite the descending arrows . As the army directly under the clan leader, if their activities were to be acknowledged, honor was sure to await them . After all, the king possessed absolute authority and wasn’t a noble . As such, the king didn’t have a family backing him and was currently sharpening his fangs .
If they could just get the king’s attention, honor and glory was as good as theirs .
Thanks to all the resources they had at their disposable, owing to being such a large army, the decoy plan was successful .
Most of the arrows shooting from the fortress focused on Brandika’s forces . Moreover, by spreading themselves toward the front of the fortress, they were able to defend against the arrows .
The mixed army and Saldin’s cavalry took advantage of that opening to destroy the defenses of the enemy while approaching the fortress .
Brandika advanced while clearing out the fences, pit falls, and abatis, but one time, the arrows suddenly stopped .
At that, the soldiers glared suspiciously at the enemy camp, but then in the next moment, they heard the screams of the cavalry that had gone ahead . When they turned toward the cavalry, they saw the arrows coming for them .
“Arrows are coming!”
As soon as they saw the cavalry ahead fall, the soldiers behind were ordered to turn around .
Arrows of death covered the sky as they descended onto the soldiers furthest in front, penetrating shields and armor alike as they left the soldiers covered in their kind .
“Don’t falter! Keep going!”
But the clan leaders subservient to the Red King continued to push on . For as long as Brandika had his army positioned in the center, there was no such thing as defeat, but the mixed army was different, as their situation could be said to be complicated .
The mixed army was originally a gathering of clans .
It was fine when Pena and Elrain were waging war against each other, and it would’ve been fine if one side won, but Pena wasn’t at war . King Raksha had merely ordered them from the capital to protect the border region, but then the Red King and the elders started fighting . And then before they knew it, they were suddenly incorporated into the army of the Red King .
Despite not fighting, apparently, a victor had already been concluded . Or at least, that’s how the situation felt to them .
If they were actually truly incorporated into the forces of the Red King, then the morale of the army might have remained high, but as it stands, the Red King was only commanding them through proxy of the authority that Pena had over them .
The thing is that as far as Brandika and Carlion were concerned, they already had enough strength . As such, they weren’t particularly interested in taking in the mixed army . If anything, what they wanted now was a bunch of fodders that they could safely throw away .
If the battlefield were a brawl, then strategy was knowing where to hit your enemy to make them fall . The mixed army was a perfect way to test the waters .
And the mixed army itself knew that, which is why morale within the army was at an all time low .
Be that as it may, Pale had no intention of going easy on them .
She would crush any and all who stood in her way if it meant the destruction of the Red King .
“After me, three volleys!”
Pale drew her beloved bow, and as she ascertained the flow of the wind, let loose an arrow .
The arrow breezed through the air and descended into the head of the uninspired mixed army, penetrating a shield and an armor, and then the very body of a soldier itself, before finally ending its journey as it stuck itself into the ground .
But it wasn’t over just yet, for right behind that arrow was a cloud of arrows that covered the sky .
Pale watched hell unfold with her especially sharp hunter eyes, then without so much as lifting a brow, moved on to the next target .
After taking the wind out of both sides and the center, Pale followed with another attack, not giving the enemy even the slightest chance to pick themselves back up .
“Ready the catapults . The target is the middle army,” Pale said .
Pale calmed her heart that was burning with vengeance with a breath, then quietly, as if to remind herself, she thought loudly repeatedly within her mind the plan needed to defeat the enemy .
“All units prepare,” Pale ordered . “Fire . ”
In a flash, giant stones flew through the air with a weight far beyond that of arrows . Their target was none other than the cavalry at the middle . Shirak only had five catapults, but the fact they were even able to bring them here was because of the Leon Heart Clan .
The catapults were powerful but inaccurate . When the stones landed on the ground, it was clear as day that all of them missed their target . Still, that was more than enough to strike fear into the hearts of the nearby cavalry .
Saldin could tell that his subordinates were scared, so he raised his voice and scolded them .
“You think these large stones could actually hit us!? Don’t cower! Onwards!”
Saldin took the lead as he said that, and his subordinates stifled their fear as they followed from behind .
“Arrows! Turn to the left!!”
Pale shot more arrows, but Saldin read the trajectory of her attack and guided his cavalry away .
“Like hell that’ll hit, you dimwits!”
The arrows descended with great precision, as if to block Saldin’s path, but the arrows still failed to catch Saldin and his men .
There were more area now without traps, so the cavalry had more space to move around in . The volley of arrows were certainly scary, but it wasn’t hard to guess where they would be landing .
So long as the soldiers could move freely, it wasn’t easy to get hit by the arrows . That was especially true for the cavalry . After morale returned to Saldin’s cavalry, he pulled back and returned to his position near the center of the cavalry . Although he enjoyed leading the charge, he had to prioritize giving orders . That was the advice Carlion had given him, so he left the head to a subordinate and assumed his leader role .
“…Arms at the ready . ”
Despite failing to catch the enemy, Pale continued the attacks .
Again the arrows missed, but now, the cavalry was gradually closing in . If they could just secure a path for a charge and confirm that there were no traps left, then they would be able to easily attack them .
Currently, there were no traps in the path the cavalry had taken, and that path was gradually being expanded, allowing the enemy to have one foot in Shirak .
“What, a retreat!?”
But then Saldin saw a flag from the main force that signalled for a retreat .
“Just a little bit more and we would have them— No, that’s not it! I know! Carlion!”
Saldin gritted his teeth as he gave the order to retreat . Immediately after, he found out that Carlion’s call was correct, for a portion of the cavalry up ahead suddenly became disordered .
The reason Pale had continued attacking despite not hitting them was so that she could lure them to a trap . Although each attack did little, each attack brought Saldin and his men ever closer to Pale’s trap . Pale’s lips relaxed a little as she took another arrow from her quiver .
“The enemy can’t move . Aim well . ”
Pale kept her voice as calm as she could as she drew her bow toward the trapped cavalry . In the next instant, the arrow weaved through the air and shot through the back of a soldier on horseback .
The middle guard and the rear guard of the cavalry had no choice but to abandon the vanguard and turn around .
Saldin moved the cavalry outside the range of the arrows, but the sound of the wind reached his ears, and he knew that the catapults have been fired once again .
They had to turn around from Shirak in order to retreat . As such, their flanks were currently exposed . Pale mercilessly attacked that opening .
Several of the rocks mowed down the soldiers on horseback, and those that were hit directly were utterly crushed .
Somehow someway, Saldin was able to escape the range of the arrows . And although they’d lost 10% of their strength in just one clash, his cavalry was still in good health .
When the people in Shirak saw the Red King running, they all cried out in cheers .
Amidst the cries and tumult, Pale watched the enemy and muttered to herself, “In just one strike, they managed to clear so much . ”
Similarly, from atop the distant enemy camp, Carlion watched the fortress and smiled . “Not bad . ”
He was the one who called for the retreat of the entire army .
Right now, Shirak showed no signs of falling, but neither Carlion nor Pale appeared worried .
“—But that’s not enough to make this fortress fall . ”
“—But that’s not enough to keep that fortress from falling . ”
And in some sense of irony, both tacticians believed that they would win in the next battle .
After a day of battle, the battle continued into a second, a third, and even a fourth day, but Shirak held firm . Still, Carlion’s skillful command of the army allowed the forces of the Red King to slowly surround Shirak, as they cleared more and more of its defenses and killed many men and officers .
“Carlion, rest already . ”
“Oh, Ms . Cell . ”
Though Carlion could feel the hour of the end drawing closer and closer, the smile never faded from his face . His dark room was illuminated solely by the twin red moons .
“Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like I’ll be able to get up,” Carlion said .
The battle has greatly sped up his body’s exhaustion . Now, even if he wanted to move, he could no longer put any strength in his legs . At most, he could make them twitch .
“Doesn’t it hurt?” Cell asked .
“The doctor’s medicine makes it so it doesn’t,” Carlion replied .
“…You hallucinate too, right?”
“The swaying plants look like enemy soldiers to me . ”
“And yet you’re still going to fight?”
“Yes . Making that castle fall and opening a path to the king’s dominion is my duty as his retainer . ”
Carlion’s body was already broken .
The only thing supporting him now was an extraordinary tenacity .
“What is pushing you so much? I can’t understand it . ”
“I just want to bring victory to my master . That’s all… That’s all . I want to prove that… we weren’t mistaken…”
As Cell watched Carlion, she suddenly turned and bid him farewell .
“Then do what you want . ”
“Sorry to trouble you so much . Tomorrow, we will win . ”
As Carlion saw Cell quietly leave, his lips twisted .
“…The victor must keep getting stronger . Otherwise would be inexcusable to those we’ve trampled until now . No . That’s not it . I won’t permit any other path than to become stronger . ”
No longer able to sleep because of his medicine, Carlion looked up at the twin red sister moons .
The next day, in a rare turn of events, Carlion appeared before the soldiers on horseback and spoke .
“You’ve all fought well until now . Today, we will decide this battle . Today, we will purge the monsters that seek to rule over this land and revive the world of humans! Justice is with us! The right to rule belongs to humanity! Now, prove that with our might!”
Cheers resounded as fists and weapons were raised up .
To the Red King, this was a just battle . The world belonged to the king they chose . This was not a king chosen by the nobles or by those in authority . This was a king chosen by the adventurers who risked their lives everyday, conquered dungeons, and expanded the territory of the humans .
“For the king!”
Victory to Brandika! Glory to Attibel!
At Carlion’s signal, the Red King advanced through the blood-stained road .
Hastily made catapults threw stones at the enemy walls . At impact, cracks formed at the walls and the area atop the walls shook, causing the archers standing there to lose accuracy .
Carlion escorted the supreme commander of the entire army, Brandika, until the vanguard . Naturally, they expected the enemy to attack, so Saldin and his cavalry were already ordered to deal with them . Beside Brandika was the Wyatt the Herculean to whom the defense was left .
A rain of arrows came for Brandika, but Wyatt’s shield deflected them .
“Onwards! Entrust everything to Carlion’s plan!”
Brandika brushed aside the approaching arrows from atop the hipparion .
“…Any further will be dangerous,” Wyatt said as he continued to defend against the rain of arrows .
Brandika smiled and shook his head . “My tactician told us to go . Trust him . ”
Brandika repeatedly showed himself as he brushed aside the pouring arrows with his Valdis .
Because of that he was clearly seen from atop the walls of Shirak .
When Pale saw him, that cold mask of hers shattered, and the realization that the object of her vengeance was within reach dawned upon her, causing her to shift from her identity as a commander to that of a mere member of the Elks Clan .
Strung to the limits, an arrow of vengeance cut through the wind .
“In the name of the fierce winds (Storm Bullet)!”
The compressed wind broke through a wall of air as the blue-silver steel (srilana) arrow shot for Brandika . But though that arrow was surrounded by a small storm, Brandika still managed to deflect it with his Valdis .
His hands went numb from the impact, but when he saw the archer that shot it, a fierce smile appeared on his lips .
“Hah! The Elks Clan!”
Knowing that the arrow she release failed to reach, Pale took out three more arrows .
As calm as Pale was, regardless of whether it was the clan leader of the enemy before her, she normally wouldn’t be so obsessed with killing him . But the enemy this time was the sworn enemy who took what was precious to her . The violent emotions that stirred within her no longer allowed her to remain as a calm tactician .
The three arrows gathered into what was almost a single line, a truly exceptional feat especially considering the state of her mind, but even then, her arrows failed to reach her sworn foe .
Almost as if her antics were no more than mere tricks, Brandika easily cut them down with his Valdis .
“Why won’t it reach? Even though my enemy is right there! Even though Brandika is right there!!”
The corner of Pale’s eyes were wide-open and blood was flowing from her lips which she bit . But Pale ignored that and continued to glare at the Red King’s clan leader .
Pale finally came back to herself when she heard that yell .
Saldin’s cavalry was already approaching for the walls .
But Pale still found it hard to give up on Brandika . She glanced one last time at him and grit her teeth so hard it was as if she were trying to crush them, but then she averted her eyes .
“Abandon Shirak . We’ll escape from the north . The Leon Heart Clan will take the lead!”
“Understood . ”
Pale had already turned around by the time Zaurosh replied and was once again looking at Brandika .
“…Next time . I will kill you!”
As Pale renewed her resolve, she planned her escape with the elves and the centaurs .
Smoke bellowed from the northern distance . Pale’s sharp eyes told her that the Red King’s reinforcements were coming .
“Germion Kingdom and Grave the old enchanter…”
As she saw even the coat of arms upon the flags, she shelved her feelings deep inside . The retreat would surely be difficult . Just being able to come back with half would be considered a success .
This timing of the enemy’s reinforcements and their position…
She had to acknowledge it . No . She was forced to acknowledge it .
That the enemy tactician was indeed the greatest tactician under the heavens .
With the defenses of Shirak weakened, Saldin and Brandika made their last attack . They passed through the gates and entered the town, but the place was already in flames .
Seeing the houses burning, Saldin cheered .
“We’ve won! We’ve won, Carlion! As expected of you!”
“Alright! Just as Carlion planned, we’ll take over everything under the heavens! Pursue the enemy!”
Brandika passed a sidelong glance at the flames and prepared to pursue the enemy .
Carlion watched the flames from a distance, sighed, and looked up at the heavens .
“A second and a third arrow will be released, Pale Symphoria . Taste it to your hearts content, the pursuit of the Red King… GUE, HA, GOA…”
Carlion tried to keep back what was welling up from within him and searched for his king, but try as he might—
“O king, my king… IT Seems the time to bid farewell has come . Please… Conquer everything… under the heavens . ”
—blood came pouring out of his mouth .
His eyes hazy, he saw Brandika’s figure when he first met him . He saw himself as well, walking alongside Brandika .
But even if he couldn’t stand beside him, with the exception of Brandika, the one who contributed the most to the Red King, who used up everything he had, was none other than him .
The tactician known as the Genius Tactician died in a pool of blood he spewed himself .
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