97. Chapter 97
The twin moons were hidden behind a souffle of clouds, blocking the moonlight that revealed the dark night.
Under such a sky, a man poked out a little of his face from behind the bushes, focusing his eyes. The target was sitting at the base of a tree as if becoming one with the tree. It had been quite a time since the night fell, and although the outline was hidden by a cloak, the target was definitely asleep.
A man hiding his breath as he said so. He was named, Rodrigo, one of the forces of Baron Fanfahl, a feudal lord of a small territory who attacked the magical silver mine with the Meisenav family as its leader. Rodrigo, who was assigned near the main camp, was dissatisfied with the placement at the rear in a battle that was supposed to be a victory. Certainly, he would be less likely to be killed or injured. However, considering the supplies and corpse hunting after the war, the most valuable items must be vandalized in the end, leaving the soldiers to scramble only for the remaining items.
Rodrigo was irritated by his role which lack of flavor, but his placement that he thought was a misfortune, as the course of the event had gone differently from what was predicted, led him to get away from the battlefield, which had become a mowing ground for the Dalimarx family.
The forces led by Viscount Barnes and Meisenav’s main family, also the majority of the mercenaries who attacked the branch castle, most of them would never set foot on their homeland again, and some would be under the hands of the Dalimarx family.
Even though lives weren’t taken, those who weren’t able to pay the ransom were forced to work hard at the magical silver mine. As far as Rodrigo knew, humans who had resistance and didn’t have earth attribute magic had to pay the price for working in the depths of the coarse earth. Heat and inhaled mine dust could easily eat away one’s life. If half of them could be released from the magic silver mine, that would be more than good enough.
Luckily, Rodrigo had the skill and experience to get out of group fights, and escape from pursuit, in addition to being positioned closer to the rear. Rodrigo took the other bad comrades with him and successfully escaped while his friendly forces were trampled.
He managed to escape from death. However, that alone wasn’t enough. Risking his life was all for money. Bills, luxury goods to consume, and so on, there would be no end to the need for money.
Baron Fanfahl, whom Rodrigo saw last, fled with his followers and a small number of soldiers. Whether he escaped or fell into captivity, was a trivial matter for Rodrigo, who had no loyalty either way.
The only thing Rodrigo feared was that the promised compensation would probably not be paid. Even if Baron Fanfahl was alive and well, the ransoms of the prisoners, the captured supplies, and the scattered human resources would hurt the baron’s financial power. 40% of the reward paid in advance would disappear in the repair of armor and alcohol. For soldiers, war was a grand stage where they could make a fortune that could never be obtained in peacetime ―― even if there were skirmishes in the stable Archipelago, large-scale conflicts both inside and outside were still, valuable.
Rodrigo couldn’t afford to miss this opportunity. So, he decided to work on his “side business”, along with the seven bad soldiers he had led from the land of death. That said, it was risky to deal with the vigorous Dalimarx and Highserk. The villages of both the Meisenav and Dalimarx territories, were also wary of the violence of the defeated soldiers, and had strengthened their security.
If dozens of people gathered together, it might be possible to devour one village in one night, but Rodrigo didn’t have the ability or courage to command dozens of soldiers. Under such circumstances, Rodrigo’s choice was, to hunt friendly soldiers.
Fortunately, he didn’t have to worry about people who might falsely accuse him. The remnants of Highserk, the pursuit of the Dalimarx family, was just that fierce. Some of the soldiers who ran ahead were planning to follow, up till the Meisenav territory.
Unfortunate death was a constant thing on the battlefield. No one cares if the number of stripped corpses increased. Thus, Rodrigo deceived the men who strayed from their groups in every possible way. He smiled at them friendly and courteously then slit their throat from behind, or attacked them while they were asleep. Sometimes he killed his prey in one fell swoop in an ambush.
Even his bad subordinates who were afraid and reluctant to kill stray friendly soldiers could get rid of their fear after repeated success, and now, they were completely drunk with the delicious flavor of killing their comrades.
The prey that Rodrigo was aiming for this time, was also a soldier who acted alone. Perhaps because of the soldier’s strong vigilance, he fell asleep in the dark night forest without even lighting a fire.
“Don’t aim at the torso, focus on the area around the head. Even if he’s wearing protective gear, he won’t be able to block the impact completely.”
“Okay, leave it to me.”
A small reply came from the archer. The target was probably wearing armor under his cloak. He might be wearing some kind of protective gear on his head too, but the impact of the arrow, as Rodrigo said, shouldn’t be able to be completely prevented, and in addition to the dizziness one would get when waking up, the target must be in a state of confusion due to the severe blow. If he didn’t wear a helmet, there wouldn’t be a need for extra effort.
The archer prepared the bow and slowly pulled the string as to kill the sound. In preparation for failure, seven people, including Rodrigo, were ready to rush in. Rodrigo, who had his eyes glued to the target, had his attention caught by a single branch growing from a tree.
“What, was that…?”
The object swayed gently in an arc of motion. Straining his eyes, Rodrigo grasped what it really was and spat out in disgust.
“What a hideous mask.”
A mask in the shape of a demon was hung from a branch by a rope.
Rodrigo couldn’t understand the point of bothering to hang such an unpleasant mask. There was also the fear, that the target this time, might be a heretic following an evil god, or a necromancer bound by hideous routines and laws.
Just before the arrow that had been drawn to its limit was released, Rodrigo felt something was wrong. The surrounding vegetation was quiet and the night wind wasn’t blowing. Even so, the mask continued to move slightly.
“Oi, wai―― “
Rodrigo, who had put himself on the battlefield more than a few times, followed his intuition and told the archer to stop, but it was too late. Arrows spewed out from the darkness and flew out in a straight line.
Perhaps he was just being a coward or thinking too much, Rodrigo put his lingering worries in the back of his mind and watched the result.
The arrow flew to the target’s head.
If it was a helmet, a high-pitched sound of metal would be heard, and if it was meat, a muffled sound mixed with water would be heard. However, the two sounds that Rodrigo had foreseen couldn’t be heard, instead, a low and dull sound resounded in the forest.
The head of the target, who should have fallen asleep, was moving. Due to the twisted neck, the arrow dug into the large tree the man was leaning against. The sea of clouds cleared and two eyes could be seen from inside the hood. What appeared wasn’t human eyes. The dark and muddy eyes, such was what could only be described by Rodrigo about the golden eyes, completely caught Rodrigo’s attention.
With the arrow as the signal, Rodrigo’s subordinates rushed in as originally planned. How far could one perceive the abnormality in the darkness in an instant? Rodrigo didn’t know, but the man, for sure jumped up as if he was pushed. Then, the man stuck out his one arm. And suddenly there was a blue glow in the darkness.
As if tearing through the darkness, blue flame swirled around the man’s right hand and stretched towards the subordinate who was rushing in. The manifested blue fireball exploded, showing off its functions and effects on the surroundings.
The blast shook the eardrums, and the eyes, which had been accustomed to the dark, burned by the dazzling flames, lowering their function. The halves of the two subordinates who were at the front vanished, and lukewarm meat pieces and viscera were scattered all over the place.
“He’s a fire magic user. Spread out and close the distance, don’t let him shoot you next time!”
Rodrigo immediately gave the order. To close the distance and fight in close combat against magic users, was a natural course of action that should be taken.
By the time Rodrigo’s eyes had gotten used to the flame that was manifested by mana, one of his companions who was supposed to be running was just standing in front of the blue flames.
“Oi, don’t be distracted!”
A friend who didn’t move even a little made a faint watery sound.
Rodrigo twitched his face.
The tip of the halberd bit into the throat of the comrade, and now, he was vomiting fresh blood.
“I-inside in the fire!!”
That man was in the midst of the fiery blue flames, disguising himself as a magic projectile. The mask that was supposed to be hanging was attached to the man’s face. While one of the soldiers who hesitated and tried to move away from the blue flames understood the situation, his throat was cut from the side in instant.
Blood spouted out like a fountain from the severed arteries, evaporating as it touched the blue flames.
Rodrigo’s survival instincts were ringing, but he clenched his teeth, put strength into his stomach, and unleashed the short spear he was holding.
“Go to heeellll!”
The short spear thrust in, but it was deflected by the claw-shaped blade on the side of the halberd. It was a blow that couldn’t be called an effective one, but even so, Rodrigo bought precious time. The comrades who had been restless due to seeing the blue flames regained their posture and surrounded the man.
“Don’t be afraid, let’s get hiiim!”
Receiving Rodrigo’s explosive shout, his companions attacked all at once. The man stuck out his round shield one step ahead and swung his halberd against Rodrigo’s comrade who had closed the gap. In addition to the leaning forward posture, the throat was hidden with a long sword and the upper body was covered with a round shield. It should be hard for the halberd to land an effective hit.
At that time, the mana visualized on the man’s halberd was swelling. Unfortunately, Rodrigo didn’t even have time to raise a warning voice, and the axe blade of the halberd swung down from up, ripped through the round shield, and cut off both of his comrade’s hands.
“Ah, aaAA, gaaaAAHH!!”
Rodrigo took aim at his comrade who had lost his elbow and was screaming. The two remaining comrades were going in, with longsword and mace in their hands respectively.
The man slipped through the mace that was swung all might, and avoided the longsword that was aimed at the head from the back by leaning his upper body. It was as if he had eyes on his back, but Rodrigo didn’t overlook his collapsed posture.
With all might, Rodrigo thrust his spear into the throat of the man who had nowhere to escape.
Rodrigo was convinced that he had taken the man’s life, but a shadow approached him from the side. It was his comrade who had lost both hands.
It couldn’t be, it shouldn’t be. How far did Rodrigo do just to get this brief moment of chance? All shouldn’t be wasted―― But, a harsh reality befell Rodrigo. The poor fellow was caught in the chest by the claw-shaped blade of the halberd and forced into the path of the short spear. Rodrigo was unable to change the direction of the spear that he had unleashed with all his might. When the tip got into his comrade’s chest, it crushed his collarbone and violated the inner of his comrade’s body.
Rodrigo tried to pull the spear back quickly, but the wreckage of the breastplate and broken bones caught the spear, preventing him from pulling the spear back.
Without even trying to correct his broken posture, the man leaned over to the ground and fell down. He grabbed the ground with one hand, wielded the halberd with the other hand, and mowed the ankle of one of Rodrigo’s comrades, who was welding the mace.
Then, pushed the handle into the ground and jumped up.
Rodrigo, who gave up his short spear, pulled out the longsword on his waist. he hadn’t lost yet. He was approaching the man from behind, but his eyes intersected with the man who suddenly turned around.
Exactly at that moment, Rodrigo stiffened. A shock ran through his neck, and it became hot as if he had been burned. Starting with holding his throat, his blood overflowed endlessly.
What happened was, as the man turned around, the thrust of the halberd struck Rodrigo’s throat.
“Uh, guh, aah.”
Due to the blood that flooded the trachea from the artery, Rodrigo spat out blood with a little air. His vision narrowed and went dark. Fell to his knees and threw his limbs to the ground.
By this time, his last comrade had just been cut to death.
The man with the blood-stained halberd was shaking his head. It was like searching for lost items, and not something you would do after killing someone who was missing one hand.
The man walked up to Rodrigo as if to ask if he was still there.
Rodrigo couldn’t believe his ears at the words of the man who looked down at him.
“Oi, don’t die yet”
“Don’, jok, wit’, me…”
The culprit who inflicted the fatal wound encouraged Rodrigo not to die. He couldn’t understand. It might have been an auditory hallucination, he tried to understand the meaning, but his clouded consciousness and darkened vision blocked him from doing so. In the end, Rodrigo didn’t even have time to think about his last moment.
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