The constant beat of the drums echoes through the corridor along with the footsteps of more than a thousand soldiers. The march of the Lonlanzas is locked in step with the beat, creating a low rumbling sound, but the militia just ignores the drums, adding a rustling distortion to the mix as their steps fall at random times.
Gradually, the taunting of the monsters rises in volume as they begin to notice our approach. Our own soldiers psych themselves up and taunt right back at them, though the war cries of the elves sound rather soft and pleasant instead of threatening. I don't let them roar too much just yet; they won't be part of the second phase, so they should conserve their energy for just a little longer.
The four companies of Lonlanzas march in a perfect line at the front of our army; the militia is split between each flank of the Lonlanzas in a disorganized column, blocking both sides of the corridor; our ship follows close behind the center of the Lonlanzas for moral support; the Engineers wait on our ship for when they'll be needed; the three companies of Arquirandos follow behind us; the Elementalists are behind them, too low on mana to contribute to the opening moves of the battle; and the commoners not fit for battle stay far behind, safe from any stray ranged attacks.
The middle of the Lonlanzas orderly opens up, and our Skirmishers pour out, led by Alissa mounted on Aoi. She strongly dislikes her current role, but it's inevitable since she's the perfect choice for leading our Skirmishers. I took her extra points in magic out and put all eleven points in [Mounted Archery] instead so that she can maintain her deadliness while mounted.
Hana follows her on foot with a longbow in hand. She has enough "Endurance" to fight all day long, and she doesn't really fit with the Arquirandos, so this is a rare opportunity for her to shake the dust off of her nine points in [Bow Use].
The Skirmishers start running forward, charging in a collision course with the Goblin Skirmishers. The Troll Clubbers run to our left flank, towards the militia, then I get the ship to rise higher so that the spotter for the Arquirandos can see the Clubbers perfectly.
I notice that the Trolls are mounted by Spriggans carrying javelins and a few Hobgoblins mages. The Spriggans are sure to harass us with projectiles while the mages will try to stop us from reinforcing our flanks with cheap spells like [Earth Wall].
The skirmishers of both sides meet on the field, launching their projectiles at each other at the same time.
"DOWN!" Alissa yells, and her troops crouch, then they hide behind their thin, small shields.
Aoi folds her wings to her body and turns her head away to protect her eyes, her only true vulnerabile spots, while Alissa just activates her [Wind Shied] for a moment. The small arrows rain onto Aoi's wooden armor, making plinking sounds, but none of them find a nook or seam to pierce through. If they were using orc longbows, then I wouldn't let her just tank these arrows like that.
The Goblins are definitely the loser in this exchange, and their numbers start to decrease rapidly under the barrage of deadly accurate arrows and javelins from the elves.
The Clubbers suddenly turn, now aiming at our Skirmishers, and the Goblins start to retreat.
"Destroy them," I order.
The commander of the Arquirandos nods and promptly walks to the port side, then he starts yelling orders.
The whispers of bows launching their arrows reaches my ears, and the small black projectiles shoot forward with deadly accuracy. They whisper again and again until over two hundred arrows have been sent into the air, then they all land with perfect accuracy exactly where they're needed.
The first salvo arrives in front of the Clubbers, then the arrows release a very crude [Earth Wall], making the floor become spiky and uneven.
The Clubbers jump across the wall of spikes, only to fall onto lava that sticks to their feet. The [Lava Jet] arrows continue to spray it everywhere, even getting some on the Trolls' furred coats. They have fast regeneration, but it's very slow for burn wounds, so heat and fire are their weaknesses.
Their charge is completely disrupted as they all start to panic, then a rain of normal arrows falls into their backs, killing both riders and Trolls in droves.
Alissa's Skirmishers don't chase after the Goblins, immediately changing targets and dashing towards the Clubbers instead. They reach them when the Clubbers are just getting ready to charge again, then Aoi and Hana crash into their formation.
Over one hundred Trolls versus the three girls and the Skirmishers. They would've been instantly crushed, but Alissa's [Mesmerizing Butterflies] are making the monsters hesitate.
Then a few small pots of burning oil crash over some of them, breaking them out of their trance.
*FOOOOOOM* Hana and Aoi breathe fire as they run through the enemy formation, and chaos breaks out again, then the girls fly away while the Skirmishers pelt the enemy with accurate arrows at their foreheads.
A dozen Clubbers retreat while a dozen more run in all directions in a panic, with the rest of them falling to their deaths. There's still another division of Trolls that were held back in reserve, but nearly half of all the enemy Trolls are now gone.
The Goblins double back and try to hit the Skirmishers from behind, but Aoi and Hana land in the middle of them. Fully armored and with perfect sight of every monster aiming their way, they easily keep them busy until our Skirmishers return and counter-attack.
The girls fly away once more, and Aoi eats a Goblin's head while retreating, earning herself a brief scolding from Alissa.
Twenty elven Skirmishers in exchange for nearly a hundred Trolls and even more Goblin Skirmishers. Not a fair trade; my Skirmishers are worth much more than them.
The Goblins soon break into a rout, and our Skirmishers give chase. The enemy line raises their square shields, letting the Goblins through, then they close their crude shield wall again.
I see tusks protruding out of the helmets of the orcs at the center, those are Tusk Warriors. They're a sort of elite orc unit, and they're positioned exactly where I wanted them.
I can't hold back my smile.
Twenty Arquirandos mixed in with our Skirmishers fire their powerful longbows, and the arrows pierce through the enemy shields, but they don't wound the enemy warriors since their shields aren't strapped to their arms.
Then the arrows unleash [Discharge], and their first line of shields collapses. Our Skirmishers fire all their arrows as fast as they can, then they move away before the enemy can counter attack.
The Hobgoblin mages try to block the [Charge]d arrows with elemental walls, but our Skirmishers just move down their line and fire on the unprotected shield wall again. Their Orc Longbowmen then start lobbing their arrows at our Skirmishers, so it's time to retreat.
The monsters taunt our soldiers as they run away in an orderly retreat, but that's just an effort to keep their morale up. We were clearly the true winner in this exchange.
The Lonlanzas are far enough from the enemy lines that we can take a short break before the next phase begins.
I get up from my seat and stand beside Yunia at the bow. I grab her gauntlet, and she turns to face me.
I frown in worry and say, "Yunia, I want to try maintaining [Bind] with you. I won't be comfortable with you entering the fray without it."
She narrows her eyes subtly. "Now?" She asks, confused.
I nod sternly. "We have a few minutes until we'll depart, so it's better to do it now than never."
She seems a bit troubled and looks away, embarrassed.
Ciel appears on her other side and smiles softly at her. "From what I understand, you're ashamed of certain parts of yourself, but so are we," she advises.
"You can bet on that last part!" Roxanne exclaims and smiles wryly.
"It's true…" Yunia whispers with a faint smirk, then she closes her eyes and breathes in deeply.
"You'll be opening your heart to us, but that doesn't mean that we'll abuse your weaknesses," Ciel tries to comfort her.
She narrows her eyes at me and glances at Roxanne, who immediately looks away, trying to appear innocent. "I highly doubt that," Yunia responds in a dangerous tone.
I smirk and blush a little, then I rub my neck awkwardly and clear my throat. "If you really dislike our teasing, we'll respect your wishes and stop when you ask," I reassure her.
She goes quiet and looks ahead in thought. "I don't dislike it, though…" She whispers.
I pat her gauntlet reassuringly and follow her gaze. She's looking at the slowly approaching shield line. She'll be fighting them on the front line in just a short while.
"In truth, I'm scared of this battle…" She mutters and swallows heavily. "Do it, Wolfy. I'll deal with the shame later, and we'll both feel better with me under [Bind]."
I nod emphatically, then I cast it on her.
I grab her soul with my ethereal hand and drop it into mine. My mind immediately becomes crowded as the jumbled mess of her feelings and thoughts escapes through her [Bind], but I've become quite adept at controlling it, so it's not so bad.
Yunia starts focusing on the feeling of safety and comfort that [Bind] provides. We'll always be watching her from now on, supporting and protecting her. She imagines not only my arms wrapped around her but all of ours. She remembers our cuddle puddles and the group hugs we've shared, and that brings her a feeling of true comfort, calming her heart.
She sighs and holds her burning cheeks. She feels silly and ashamed for a wide variety of reasons, but now's not the time to unpack and deal with them, so she clenches her fist and steels her heart. The time to fight has arrived, and the confidence coming from each of our hearts is resonating together, amplifying our ferocity and determination.
Yunia jumps off the ship, and I ease her to the ground with [Telekinesis].
The Arquirandos are almost in range of the enemy, and there's not much time before the two sides meet, so we have to deal with the Grim Giants before they crash through our lines.
The second phase is starting.
Aoi lands on the deck, and Alissa hops off and makes her way up to the bridge. The three golems relinquish control of the ship to her and come down to me.
I look over the cracked [Fly] gem we salvaged from the Gull and strapped down to our deck. It's completely filled with mana and ready to use, and the Engineers have recovered their MP, so it's time to depart.
Alissa raises the ship higher into the air, reaching eye-level with the Giants, then the enemy mages and archers organize themselves, waiting for our next move.
I cast [Spirit Eyes] on myself and scan over the battlefield. I can only see two Ice Wraiths, both of them at the flanks of the enemy army.
They won't expect this.
I give a large flask to each of the four Hollys at the railing, then they dart forward, each one shooting towards their own Giant.
"In range!" The commander on the ground announces.
"Continuous volley, heavily staggered enchantments," Yunia calmly orders.
We'll drain their mages of mana.
Sixty arrows are fired every four seconds onto the entire breadth of the enemy line. Their shields can't protect them against enchanted arrows, and their mages can't cover all of their troops at once, so they'll either waste their mana, or their numbers will slowly thin out. This situation also provides us with cover to execute our plan.
The four Hollys reach their target Grim Giants undetected, then they hurl their flasks at their faces and commit suicide by throwing themselves at their eyes. The Sneeze-'n-Wheeze gets into their eyes, mouths, and noses, then an allergic reaction immediately sets in.
"Charge!" I yell, then Alissa accelerates the ship and flaps its wings while six wind elementals force air into our sail. Gify pops out of existence and hides in the back of my mind.
The four Giants start stomping on the ground, which disrupts their allies near their feet, but they manage to avoid crushing any of the monsters. They try to rub their eyes, but their stone helmets are in the way, so their gauntlets merely grind against their eye slits, and the first Giant doesn't notice our approach.
The other two Giants merely watch us, dumbfounded and simply too stupid to react. Alissa activates the forward [Wind Shield], and we collide with the first Giant's head, pushing him backward.
The bigger they are, the harder they fall, and that applies to weight, too. The heavy stone armor makes it easy to tip the Giant over, and he slowly tilts back as his arms reach forward, trying to grab us.
"STOP!" I yell, and the elementals obey, then I turn around and pull a big, glowing stake of stone out of my "Items." Temporary matter breaks down when I store it in there but not this pseudo-conjured material.
The Giant finally loses his footing and falls as if in slow motion. His stone armor crashes against the ground with a loud boom, crushing a small group of Hobgoblin mages under his massive form.
His helmet cracks, giving us the opportunity we needed.
"STAKE, UP!" I order.
The golems and the Engineers all cast [Telekinesis] on the stake, lifting it up, and it immediately starts to wobble in the air. There's no time for finesse; this situation calls for a brute-force solution.
"LAUNCH!" I yell and point forward. Alissa deactivates [Wind Shield] just long enough for the stake to fly off, and the bottom of our hull is pelted with a few arrows and spells, lightly damaging it.
The stake arcs through the air and points down.
"PUUUUUUSH!" I bellow, and the stake accelerates.
The tip strikes the Giant's forehead and sinks through the cracked helmet, splitting it apart. The stake continues down and enters his skull, turning his brain into mush.
One down, five to go.
Ciel suddenly launches towards an uninjured female Giant approaching on our left. The other uninjured one to our right simply glares at us menacingly but doesn't budge from its position. Behind that unmoving Giant is the Orc Lord and his retinue, so he won't attack unless he wants his Lord to be assassinated by us.
Ciel throws a javelin with a roll of vine secured to it, hitting the joint of her approaching Giant's knee, and the javelin sinks into the padding. Her new points in [Throw] are already putting in work.
"BACK!" I yell, and the wind elementals force a strong gust backward into the sail of our ship.
While we retreat, Ciel flies in circles around the distracted female Giant rushing at us, wrapping the specially made glowing vine around her legs. The monsters on the ground try to get out of the way of the Giant, but they're too slow, so a few dozen of them are crushed by her charge.
We don't try to fly away at full speed, so she quickly reaches us and slaps at the back of our ship to push us forward, sending us deeper above the enemy lines.
We charge against her to keep her in place, allowing Ciel to tighten the bindings.
"NOW!" Ciel yells.
"ROXANNE!" I order.
"[EXPLOSION]!" She casts.
The forehead of the Giant's helmet explodes, pushing it back and stunning it for a moment, which allows us to escape her reach.
The Giant tries to take a step forward, but its legs are tightly tied together, so it trips, falling face-first onto a small group of Hobgoblin mages.
I immediately pull out another stake, and we repeat the process.
Two down, four to go.
I summon three more Hollys and send them out with flasks of Sneeze-'n-Wheeze again towards the already affected Giants.
The enemy mages and archers all switch to target us, draining our [Wind Shield]s continuously, so we have no time to waste. Ciel rushes towards a blinded Giant while we slam against another.
I pull out another stake, and we finish ours off even faster than the previous two.
Three down, three to go.
I use the ambient mana to refill my MP through [Redirect Mana], then we fly towards the two blinded Giants. The last one still remains unmoving while we kill his brethren.
This time, the Sneeze-'n-Wheeze wasn't as effective, so the blinded Giants both quickly recover from it, and their bloodshot eyes stare at us angrily.
One of the two Giants tries to walk forward and trips because it was bound by Ciel's rope, but the other one reaches us before we can form a cloud of Sneeze-'n-Wheeze in front of him. He grabs our ship, trying to crush it, and while the [Wind Shield]s do hold, it's draining so much mana that it's frightening Alissa.
Lina tries to throw some flasks at him, but our Shield messes with her aim, so the Giant simply turns his head away to protect himself, wary of anything that we might throw at him.
Time for plan B.
I reach for the cracked [Fly] gem on our deck and draw out all of its stored mana with Redirect.
"DON'T MOVE, GET DOWN ON THE DECK!" I order, and everyone obeys.
A fuckload of Wind-attuned mana immediately rushes towards me, and I try to control it, but it refuses to stop. It's nowhere near the amount we used when we killed The Lady, but it's still enough to make even the Giant hesitate.
His huge, covered face turns towards us to see what we're doing, making me smirk, because that's exactly what I wanted.
I can't compress the Wind mana efficiently, but I quickly learn that it's easy to keep it spinning around me like a tornado.
I get another idea and slightly change my plan. I compress the spinning Wind mana into a wide disk, then I raise it above me.
Ciel sends me her knowledge of the spell [Wind Storm], and I try to build its "structure" using the mana I'm controlling.
Deep scratches start to appear all over the ship and our armor, and I realize that this is about to kill us all.
The giant pulls back his head away from us, afraid of all the mana, which exposes his neck to us.
I'm so thankful that you're all fucking idiots.
Alissa deactivates our [Wind Shield], and I launch the mass of mana.
We only hear the whistling of the wind as the malformed spell inflicts deep scratches into the Giant's helmet. Then it absolutely shreds through the padding at his neck before digging into the flesh underneath.
Blood sprays everywhere as the Giant is decapitated in the most gruesome way I've ever seen. The enemy mages on the ground take hold of my spell and immediately interrupt it, but they're too late to save the Giant. His ginormous corpse falls down and crushes even more of our enemies.
Four down, two to go.
I immediately pull out another stake, and we prepare to launch it.
"[Wind Shield] is about to run out!" Alissa warns me through [Bind].
We hurriedly throw the stake out, but Ciel's bound Giant stirs and moves slightly, making the stake hit the side of his ruined stone helmet, which merely wounds him.
"Roxanne…!" I order.
She leans on the railing and aims with her staff towards the center of the Giant's head. She can't chant to gather her mana for a single large spell since it would just get interrupted by the enemy, so that leaves her with only one option.
"[EXPLOSION]! [EXPLOSION]! [EXPLOSION]! [EXPLOSION]! [EXPLOSION]! [EXPLOSION]!" -The [Wind Shield] runs out, and the ship starts getting pelted by spells. -"[EXPLOSION]! [EXPLOSION]! [EXPLOSION]! [EXPLOSION]!"
"DEAD!" Alissa reports and accelerates the ship forward as fast as possible.
"TO THE HOLD! RECHARGE THE GEM!" I order, and everyone obeys. We jog inside in a practiced, orderly fashion, and the hold quickly fills with glowing elves.
I hold Roxanne steady and guide her since she's temporarily blind from overuse, and everyone, except for Alissa and I, uses up nearly all of their MP to give the [Wind Shield] enough juice for one last job.
We fly past the enemy army, then we turn towards the left wall.
Alissa activates [Wind Shield] at full power, and the ship pushes against the ceiling where it meets the wall. The gravity-defying sand loses its magic and starts falling all around us.
We slowly move the ship towards the right side of the corridor, leaving a long wall of sand in our wake, making it now very difficult for the enemy army to retreat.
The anvil has been set; now it's time to strike while it's hot.
The Lonlanzas reach the enemy lines, and the third phase begins.
Hall of Fame of Patrons
The patrons who support Rupegia shall have their names sung by the bards for they deserve the glory and honor. Their names are:
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