Chapter 11 – The two factions’ resolve
The light within the living hall that was occupied at the last minute brightened and then dimmed. Part of the candles’ flames were intentionally extinguished. The dim light illuminated the deep gashes on the wooden floor.
In this remote corner, a silent and chilly atmosphere seemed to fill the air.
The figures that were sitting down could not get used to the light from the remaining candles, but as long as the middle-aged male leader who had a pale face and wore an eye patch did not speak, none of them dared to utter even one sound.
If Sophie was here, he would have probably recognized this man, simply because his appearance did not change much even after a decade. This was the right hand of ‘Black Lord Incirsta’, a vampire lord, the one-eyed Tarkus. He was a member of the Rheinische family, the fourteen generation of vampires. He was considered to be young, but he was a true veteran in the Madara’s army, compared to Incirsta who was like a greenhorn.
But it did not matter to Tarkus. This was merely the beginning of their cooperation with Incirsta.
Tarkus looked at the skeleton soldiers bringing out the stacks of papers and books from the study. He took a moment to watch them before turning back and spoke to the necromancer: “Speak. What report did Rothko want to inform me when he left you behind?”
“Esteemed General Tarkus, my master had found a scout in that manor.” The necromancer bowed his head and answered in a raspy voice.
“And?” He glanced at the necromancer once, and his gaze went back to the strategy map that laid open on the table.
Several disdainful laughs rose from the surroundings.
The vampire general lifted his head, and the faint voices were immediately silenced. He paused for a while, before saying: “I understand, Rothko did very well. But I want him to do better the next time and not waste time on these types of needless distractions. I want him to advance to the Beldor forest before noon.”
The necromancer nodded respectfully and left.
But once it left, there were voices of dissent in the room. This time it was a giant skeleton covered in an old brass armor, the a dark yellow flame flitting in its eye sockets with fury:
“Lord Tarkus, it is possible that this scout has discovered our plans–”
It opened and closed its mouth, but the air that escaped from his hyoid bone suddenly ceased. That was because Tarkus was staring at it with his left eye, and made it stop subconsciously.
A burst of quiet laughter erupted around him, and the mockery contained within the laughs, made the flames in his eyes dance with regret.
“Yes!” The giant skeleton immediately held his chest high and answered.
“Take this location down.” Tarkus’s fingers pointed to a village on the map.
“Before sunrise,” He pointed to the roof: “I want to see results.”
“Yes, Lord Tarkus.”
“Yes!” The two voices replied at the same time.
“The both you attack Verbin, and seal off the Dagger River.”
“Yes, Lord Tarkus.”
“I’ll give you two small squadrons, search and clear this area.”
Tarkus raised his head from the map, and looked coldly at every one of them: “All of you are nobles from Madara. I want everyone to swiftly and elegantly accomplish my every order, precisely as I tell you to. Fortress Riedon, this is our next target.”
He stood up and placed his right hand over his left shoulder: “Madara will be victorious.”
The undead all stood up as well and said gravely: “Madara will be victorious!”
Tarkus lowered his head and his gaze fell upon the map once more. He looked at Bucce’s southern red pine forest, then to the Green village and Beldor forest, to Fortress Riedon and upwards, finally to the River of Jagged rocks (TL: Names, names, names…)
Human scout? He gave a scornful laugh.
Right at the same time, with the full moon at its peak in the pine forest.
There was no wolves howling in this mountainous region, but a wind started blowing in the forest. The chilly wind seemed to pierce through the branches like they were made out of smoke, and everyone shivered from the creeping cold behind their backs. The youths of Bucce had never spend the night in the wilds, and the darting shadows in this foggy forest made them jumpy. Each shadow that moved was like a frightening monster to them.
But a single voice calmed them down.
“Hold this part down.”
“Yes, continue doing this.”
“Pass me the bandage.”
“Hold it down firmly.”
Sophie gave a long sigh of relief and wiped off the perspiration of his brows when it was finally done.
He was relieved to see a faint green color of [+2] floating from the Jonathon’s body.
With his emergency first aid skill reaching ‘Level 0’, the recovery effect from bandaging naturally improved as well. There was practically no difference compared to the game, but every indication that popped up made him feel at ease.
The instruction that he meted out, cleaning the wounds, preventing infection, stopping the bleeding, bandaging and the finer details and techniques, he taught Mackie and Neberto thoroughly. He was in no condition to do it himself, and his own body was just slightly better than Jonathon.
As Neberto finished the last step, Sophie lifted his head up to find everyone staring at him in astonishment.
They only had this conclusion.
Even little Fenix looked back at Freya earnestly and said: “Boss-neesama, it seems that compared to your skills, you kind of suck.”
Freya looked on in an ashen face.
[Indeed, indeed, this shameless cad found excuses to approach near me! Kukuku, hahahaha!]
Her heart ended up concluding this outcome in fury and looked worriedly at Romaine, but she only saw her smug face counting the victory loot on the ground that was taken.
[This damn wench…!]
Only Sophie himself knew that his knowledge came from the skill ‘Emergency First Aid’. Every time when he looked at this skill, the knowledge to perform each step appeared in his mind. And in his memories, the emergency first aid skill came from the first three chapters of [Grierson’s holy bible]. The contents of the three chapters discussed the techniques to bandage. And it so happened that Sophie knew Grierson from within the game, who was Bruglas’s current Grand Priest.
Since he had already read the contents of the book at least a hundred times, his familiarity with it was like a pro-gamer priest opening a smurf account performing bandaging.
Sadly, he had to pay the price when he became a smurf. (TL: The price is Freya’s ire.)
On the other hand, Sophie quickly realized that Bucce’s third squadron consisted of ten members, including Freya. He knew Mackie, Irene, Erik and little Fenix.
Then there was Neberto and Vlad. These two brothers was citizens from the mountainous forced to move from the Bora region. They inherited the native feature of a taciturn behavior, and did more work than they talked.
There was Jonathon who was in a coma and unlikely to wake up.
Finally there was daydreaming merchant Romaine and the girl that was with her that time. Sophie later knew that she was the daughter of a baker in the town. Her name was Bella, with a gentle shy deposition, but at the very least she was a good girl who was kind from the bottom of her heart.
This was the crew that Sophie had to lead. They seemed like outstanding youths, but he knew that this bunch of newbies amongst other newbies, did not know anything on what to do next.
So he considered for a moment before finally speaking: “What plans do you have?”
All the smiles vanished and there was stillness in the air.
“Let’s go to Fortress Riedon.” Irene suggested after a while.
“That’s right, Captain Marden will definitely go there.” Erik followed up next.
He had expected they would say that. And he shook his head.
He looked at them and saw the uncertain expressions in their faces, as if they were helpless to what might happen tomorrow. Freya appeared to fare slightly better, but her white knuckles that gripped her sword tightly betrayed her true feelings.
Only Romaine said as if it was the most obvious thing: “I’m with Brendon.”
This reply made Sophie felt like laughing in frustration, but her straightforward reply garnered his goodwill. The youth paused for a while before saying: “Very well, I do agree that the most important thing to do now is to leave this area.”
“And that means you have something that you disagree right?” Freya asked.
Sophie nodded: “Does anyone has a map?”
Everyone looked at each other. Who would have this sort of thing? Even though they were called militia, they listened to the leader of the guards most of the time. If one was to go directly to the heart of the matter, they were simply just a backup squadron.
Sophie also realized his mistake. Without the permission from the holy cathedral in Aouine, someone possessing a map would be treated as a spy and ‘handled appropriately’. He kept treating himself as a parallel world traveler, and forgot that he was already a member in this world.
And there would never be another so-called ‘player’ here.
“The guards…… should have that…..” Mackie stuttered behind the crowd.
Sophie shook his head, and called ‘duh, isn’t that bullshit?’ in his heart. He sighed and looked back at the merchant girl: “Romaine, give me a sword.”
Sophie took the sword and drew two lines on the ground.
“This is Webster river, this is the pine river.”
He poked between the lines a few times: “This is Bucce, the Green village, and Verbin.”
He drew up a summary with a few simple strokes, but the youths once again felt their horizons were broadened. It seemed that no one could compare with Brendon’s grasp of the world.
“Aren’t these the three towns?” Bella covered her mouth in surprise.
“This is amazing, so our surroundings are like this.” Erik’s looks to Sophie were nearly of worship.
“So Bucce is here right?”
“Brendel, how do you know so much?” Everyone started talking excitedly. They could not suppressed their curiosity.
Of course Brendel knew. If he did not know the three newbie villages, he might as well find a tofu and knock himself to death with it. Obviously he could not respond sarcastically, so he just deliberately said: “Did you not learn how to read a Strategy Map?”
Strategy Map? What was that?
Everyone looked vacantly at each other. Mother Marsha above, even Bruglas militia had to learn this too?
Stars filled everyone’s eyes as they looked at Sophie with deep respect.
But our protagonist’s heart was drowning in mirth. This was something that not even the officers in the regular army forces might know, and it was pretty much impossible for a militia to learn this. But he certainly would not break his own lie, and just pointed at the intersection of the two rivers:
“This is Fortress Riedon.”
“Ah, this is Fortress Riedon?” Romained asked curiously.
“What’s wrong?” Sophie clearly heard giggles from his surroundings, and he asked them.
“It’s like this, Brendon-oniisan. Romaine envied the merchants who went to Fortress Riedon when she was young. She complained everyday saying that she wanted to become a merchant, and one day she ran off saying that she’s going to accomplish a grand business in Fortress Riedon, and you know what-” Little Fenix immediately betrayed her and stopped at the cliffhanger.
Low murmuring laughs sprang up.
“And?” Sophie asked.
“Haha, she lost her way in the forest, and it was Uncle Cecil who went looking for her” Little Fenix snorted loudly with a laugh.
“N-nothing of that sort happened.” Romaine’s eyebrows were way up in her forehead.
Sophie looked at the merchant girl and thought she had not learned from this lesson well enough.
“Alright, let’s get back to the serious topic. Why do you want to go to Fortress Riedon?” He arranged his emotions and continued asking.
“There are troops there.”
“Captain Marden will definitely be there.”
“My uncle will also be there.” Everyone’s tongue started waggling again, but basically what they meant to say was, they had their own relatives, and even though they were separated temporarily, they might have gone to Fortress Riedon, so why don’t they go there?
Sophie had trouble refuting their reply. It was normal of them to think this way, and who would abandon their own relatives? But he also knew that the people who ran from Bucce were very likely to be caught by Madara’s army. Going to Fortress Riedon now was most likely heading into a trap.
He knew that they had to reach the Beldor Forest before the ‘Death God’ Kabias did, then proceed to the Dagger River before Vlad and Ebdon. From there, they had to enter the Forest of Hunted Deer, brushing by the Incirsta’s main army, reaching Ankries and inform the guards of Incirsta’s troops that were advancing.
This was the only way to keep these militia alive and prevent Aouine from being defeated as badly as the original history.
But how was he supposed to tell them?
[Forget it. I’ll just do the same thing as before. I’ll take one step at a time.]
He rubbed his throbbing temples, and changed his mind: “Very well, we can head towards Fortress Riedon and consider our next move.”
He looked up and met Freya’s worried eyes. She apparently did not believe too much of what he said.
“Nothing, it’s just a prediction. Perhaps there might be some changes to the situation.” He smiled at her, but inwardly sighed with great reluctance.
Reality was cruel. It was not up to him to choose when he was so weak. He would have tried his best to think of something and try again, if there was a better chance.
[You Otaku, are you always so naive?]
He derided himself.