Hivodir’s forces had joined up with the Trent Rietta liberation army and were fighting to recapture Rinwaal. Wind Edge was in chaos after losing support from the Evil Beast handlers, and, alongside Rinwaal’s militia, attacking it from the back, they finally managed to breach Rinwaal’s gate.
The attacking army surged into the city and merged with the liberation army. The momentum urged the neutral parties to support Clifzah’s side, and with newly increased force the army surrounded Riwaal’s palace. It was evident, that the recapturing of the palace was just a matter of time.
“Where’s the military officer’s reinforcements?”
“They have been recalled, but the mob has gained complete control of the western gate so it will take them some time to reach the palace.”
On top of that there were rumors that the main body of Benefost’s army had fallen for a Darkness God Corps’ trap and was completely annihilated. This further reduced the possibility of receiving reinforcements – the situation was desperate.
“…you, why don’t you cool off your head somewhere?”
“Fufufu, that’s unusual. Look at those people that you called lazy and indifferent. Aren’t they lively now?”
Fortress was standing on a veranda overlooking the city. She spread her hands towards the people below, where she could see her soldiers clashing with the commoners who could use divine arts. If this fight continued on, this country would become exactly as Count Elfdras had envisioned it.
“Beautiful, this is so beautiful! We have truly awakened the fighting spirit of the country that Count had desired so dearly.”
“But we can’t control such force, creating an empire will just remain a dream… What about our promised glory?”
“Empire? Glory? They were just the icings to the cake. Our main mission was to awaken the nation.”
He looked ecstatic and stated it as if it was an achievement, and effortlessly dodged a wind blade that someone from the ground had launched toward him. Airzah doubted that he was in his right mind after being driven into the current situation. Usually Fortress was a man of little emotions, who constantly had others guessing about his true intentions.
“Anyhow, it seems that we have lost the palace, I’m escaping from here.”
Fortress laughed, surveying the streets, filled with people.
[“He has completely lost it…”]
Airzah shook his head and briskly left the headquarters.
Western highway, the battle between the Darkness God Corps and Wind Edge. The Wind Edge army had barely escaped annihilation by the surreal divine art that had made the earth swallow a large part of their forces. Benefost’s squad was slowly advancing towards the lone captain of the Corps, standing in the middle of the highway.
The Remaining Wind Edge forces consisted of eighty of Benefost’s elite guards and sixty remaining mercenaries that had joined the force for money and fame.
By numbers alone, they were stronger, however they could not carelessly charge forward. Their fellows who had gotten too close to the enemy captain were swallowed by the earth, however the remaining soldiers had nowhere to return either. For a while they were just standing and glaring at Yuusuke.
They understood that what happened before was caused by the man in front of them. Their main force, the Evil Beast handlers, were rendered helpless ever since the battle of Rinwaal, clearly displaying the superiority of Fonclanc’s earth arts users, capable of reproducing the flutes in such a short time span. Not one of them realized, that it was all accomplished by single person.
Since the Darkness God Corps were able to prepare such a trap in the middle of the road where the visibility was good, the mercenaries believed that encircling them by trekking through the forest would be even more dangerous – not one of them dared thinking of taking such an approach.
“Commander, shouldn’t we retreat from here?”
“… we will not do that.”
Benefost’s gaze was fixed on the black clad man in front of her. She was analyzing her surroundings, trying to understand if he could repeatedly cast such a divine art. At the very least it was certain that if he could bury three hundred people in the middle of the road, he would certainly have other tricks up his sleeve.
Was the Captain really a threat that could stand alone on the highway in front of an enemy army, or was he buying time? If it was just a ploy, then with every second his allies got closer to reaching their objective. Even considering the small platoon behind the lone man, the Wind Edge were still almost five times stronger.
[“What are our chances if we charge at him…?”]
While Benefost was considering whether to give the order to attack or not, Yuusuke suddenly swung his arm forward. The Wind Edge’s soldiers tensed up, but before they could notice it, three men, clad in travelers’ clothes and a young artless were standing beside the Darkness God Corps captain.
Yuusuke brought them in front of him via shift map and motioned towards the Wind Edge’s forces, asking to confirm that Benefost was amongst the soldiers, as well as to try to convince them to surrender.
Valerie was dumbfounded by the sudden teleportation divine art, but somehow manage to nod in confirmation.
“Lifon, I’ll leave the wind arts to you.”
Her voice, now enhanced by Lifon’s wind arts, rang though the high road, ordering Benefost to surrender. Lifon’s range was slightly smaller than what a specialized communication type wind user could achieve, however Valerie opted to listen to Welsh’s suggestion and rely on someone from her own party rather than request Yuusuke for assistance.
Not much later, Benefost’s reply echoed from the other side.
“—Forgive my insolence, milady, but I can’t surrender here—“
Currently her forces were engaged with Cliffzah’s liberation army, backed by Yuusuke’s allies from Fonclanc. The uprising has already begun, there was no way that she would betray her allies based on a fleeting request.
Benefost’s reply sounded too unbelievable to be true (like a lover’s suicide), and shook Valerie enough so that she would turn to her companions for support.
“—Benef, listen, I joined with the Darkness God Corps on my own will. Whatever happened before, I promise that you will not be harmed—“
Valerie explained that they were under the protection of the Darkness God Corps, about their trip to the port town, and the news about the mutiny that had reached them while they were in the town.
“—…Does that mean that you are not a prisoner, milady?—“
“—No. I only heard from Odo about the adjutant general and finance official…that they were trying to kill me.—“
They continued talking like that for a while. Some of the soldiers, who were members of Wind Edge were visibly shaken. This story was quite different from what Benefost had heard from the adjutant general and the financial officer.
“– So that’s how it was…I’ll have to punish those two later. But I still cannot stand down here.—“
“—I have told you that already. There are some things that have been set in motion which cannot be stopped.”
The Wind Edge was continuing to fight even as they spoke. Putting their weapons down now just because the circumstances had changed would be spitting in the faces of those who continued to fight and to those who had already fallen, is what Benefost wanted to say.
“—Too many have died here already! Do you want their deaths to go down into history as nothing but a waste of lives? –“
Benefost had affirmed her determination as she readied her weapon.
It seemed that talking had failed, so Vermeer and the rest gathered around Yuusuke.
“Should I order the platoon to move here?”
“Yes, it seems that this battle is unavoidable.”
There were still more than one hundred soldiers left on the opposing side, moreover they were the Wind Edge elites. Yuusuke was still desperately trying to find a way to avoid clashing with them, but it seemed unlikely that there were any words that could sway Benefost.
“We managed to create some discord between them, so it might be possible to coerce Benefost to settling this conflict with a duel, but…”
“…can you trust this kind of person?”
After all it was a person who did not give up even after losing a big part of her army to his traps. Her troops were not dead, just trapped. If a battle dragged out for long enough there was a possibility that they would be able to rejoin the battle
While the prison was made of customized earth it could still break when faced with the relentless attacks of those imprisoned within. The mercenaries also seemed to understand Yuusuke’s intentions so they had moved to the rear and cast defensive arts around themselves. Yuusuke knew he had to finish it now, while the morale of the enemy was lowest.
“I’ll finish the battle as fast as I can, “said Yuusuke, turning towards the worrying Valerie.
Benefost was like an older sister to her, “if possible, could you let her live,” was written all over the girl’s face.
Yuusuke was also not fond of bloody battles, so whenever possible he would try to find a peaceful solution for the conflict. He had grasped Benefost’s personality and her dedication towards her soldiers from the earlier exchange, and considered that when preparing his attack.
“Lifon, can you also let me talk to her?”
Yuusuke decided to try something that might make the enemy hesitate. His plan was to tell them that the disappeared soldiers were alive and locked in a distant place by his divine art, however if they continued attacking him he would not hold back like that anymore.
“—If you want to fight us, prepare to die—“
Yuusuke watched them, waiting for their bloodlust to die down after learning that their friends were alive and losing their reason to stake their lives in this battle. However…
“Captain, Captain, telling them that will only have opposite effect!”
Vermeer interjected, that their enemy were mercenaries who were not swayed by such words. Meanwhile, Benefost answered Yuusuke’s bluff.
“—It’s an honor for me to fight the famous hero of Fonclanc—“
“Ah, you’re quite slow.”
[“I’ll ask for his opinion next time”]
As Vermeer said, Yuusuke’s speech didn’t have any effect on the mercenaries, and Benefost’s forces calmly continued their deployment. Mercenaries adhered to their orders, and merged with Benefost’s personal forces.
In total, the remaining forces numbered around ninety.
Seeing that there was nothing he could do, Yuusuke opened his customization menu while telling Vermeer’s platoon and Valerie to leave him. He didn’t plan to lose, but he wanted all of them to be prepared to escape using shift map in case something went wrong.
Surprisingly to him, Yuusuke was completely calm. When he had first used his powers in battle, he didn’t even see his surroundings because of the tension, agitation, and anger that were storming in his heart. However over time he experienced many things that made him realize how unsightly his style of fighting was, and with it he realized that he wanted to change. Maybe his first kiss with Sun also had an effect on that.
Smiling bitterly, he shook the unnecessary thoughts away, directed all of his attention towards the customization menu, and walked towards the enemy ahead of him.
The Darkness God Corps captain was slowly walking towards Wind Edge army, and suddenly shocked everyone when he instantly teleported half of the distance.
Twice had that man teleported like that, and her troops were still intimidated by his actions, but Benefost had already accepted that it was his Divine Art and did not feel any more pressure from it.
“Wind Edge Military officer, Benefost. I challenge you!”
Quietly, Benefost grasped her favorite long spear and raised it over her head. Using the bardiche like weapon she shot a wind blade toward Yuusuke. She could control the size of the blades, which made her extremely versatile in close combat.
If one had to rate her skill, it would be close to the flame spear that Krielov, commander of the Fire God Corps, wielded.
The Wind Edge elites moved towards the edge of the highway so they could get away in case the road decided to swallow them as well. It was a good and safe move, however Yuusuke was already adjusting his offensive type map item.
Suddenly, fifteen meter high pillar shot out of the ground, along with the three armored giants that were burried in the ground from their torso down. The tower was based on the lookout tower in the Deernook and the armored golems were upgraded versions of the golem that was used to win over Thalys.
The tower was also inaccessible during normal means and needed shift map for people to get in and out of it.
“This… is this the real power of the Captain of those Corps?!”
Benefost froze for a moment, but managed to recover swiftly enough to notice the shining particles under her feet and immediately jumped out of danger. She expected another hole to appear there, but instead the ground started to spin.
The area with a lot of spinning areas started to look like something out of a nightmare. Some of the elite soldiers got caught in the trap and fell over. The next instance the giants brought their hands down on the helpless soldiers.
“Hold the lines, the back lines cannot react fast enough.”
“Damnit. Why are these golems so agile?”
The giants assaulted the Wind Edge elites with speed that was impossible for something so big. Ten unlucky soldiers that had tripped on the spinning ground were hit by the giants and blown away into the forest, some of them even hitting the trees.
Meanwhile Yuusuke was observing the annihilation from the top of the inaccessible lookout tower, carefully manipulating various parameters to control the battle. Those who had managed to avoid the giant’s attack were trapped in the earth prisons. The strategy denied Wind Edge any windows to regroup or mount a counterattack.
“Get behind the giants! Use your wind arts to topple them over!”
Benefost noticed that lighter people could avoid the spinning areas if they used movement enhancing wind arts, and gave appropriate orders to those that still continued to fight.
After buffing themselves, her elite soldiers could stand on those areas, although their movements were hindered by the unstable surface.
[“As expected of someone who lives for battles.”]
Yuusuke, quite impressed that Benefost immediately managed to spot the weak parts of his traps, responded by adjusting some of the parameters on his screen.
However, the spinning traps had yet another trick to them – they were aligned in rows, to allow Yuusuke to easily grasp the locations of his other traps.
Some of the more nimble elites managed to reach the golems’ blind spots and started destroying them, yet before long the area around the giants started to pile up with pieces from their bodies.
With every golem Wind Edge was gaining some ground, but the entire 600 x 6 meters area was simply too big for them to gain the initiative.
Using the moment when the giant had struck its fist down, Benefost ran up its arm and struck its shoulders with all of her strength. Her long spear, reinforced by wind arts, left a huge gash in the giant’s body, and before long its left arm broke off and fell down.
The giant was only a huge gimmick so it couldn’t maintain its balance and collapsed as well. Her allies erupted in cheers, and Yuusuke had to direct his focus at the mercenaries, who had managed to reach his tower and started hacking away at its base.
The fallen giant also served to raise the morale of Benefost’s elite troops, who increased their efforts to topple the remaining two golems.
Eight more giants had emerged out of the pillars of light. There were too many of them for such a road, but the main purpose of the golems was to intimidate Benefost, showing the clear difference in power to her and her underlings.
“Do not falter! The number of golems is showing his impatience. If we cut through them we will win the battle!”
Benefost rallied her troops before they could lose their spirit and jumped to one of the new giants before it could start moving.
Yet the damage that she did to the immobile golem was repaired in a flash. In a corner of her vision she also glimpsed the giant that she had destroyed just a moment ago swinging its arm towards her.
Benefost was in the air and could do nothing to avoid the fist.
She couldn’t breathe. The hit and the subsequent crash had drained all the strength out of her body. “So this is how I die…” was the only thing she could think, looking at the giant’s fist raised above her head to deal the final blow.
Yet that fist never came down.
“…King Cliffzah’s liberation army has reclaimed the Rinwaal palace.”
The message was sent in all directions, to all cities, villages and neighboring countries. Inevitably it also reached the point on the highway where the battle was being fought.
After a moment to process the news, the Darkness God Corps and Benefost mutually agreed on a truce. The mercenaries that had been trapped underground were also released thus ending the battle of the western highway.
“Oh wow, we did manage to reach a peaceful solution after all,” sighed Yuusuke from the top of the lookout tower, and began to clear the traps and golems off the area. He removed the giants one by one, returning the soil to its original place.
Finally the road was returned to its previous condition. Trapped soldiers hurriedly dispersed to nearby villages and the port town.
Other members of the Darkness God Corps and Fonclanc knights confirmed the situation and started disarming the fifty-some Wind Edge members that remained in the area. The disarmed Wind Edge elites used their movement enhancing arts and moved towards the forest to aid their fellows, who were hit by the giant golems. Around half of them had sustained some sort of injuries during the battle.
Benefost had been heavily wounded during the battle and had to be healed, so everyone’s eyes naturally turned to Yuusuke when any significant problems occurred. Said Hero was settled a short distance away from the battlefield, surrounded by Fonclanc knights, Valerie and her two attendants standing beside him.
Yuusuke turned his head towards Benefost, who was standing behind a group of Wind Edge members. She was standing proud and was wearing an informal uniform that didn’t cover any more than her battle clothes. She came to Yuusuke to acknowledge her defeat and to plead for him to spare the life of her troops.
“They were only following my orders. I take full responsibility for them.”
Saying that, Benefost raised a knife to her neck, before her confused allies could barely raise their voices in shock.
“Please wait, Benefost–sama.”
“Don’t come any closer. I used you to kill many of Trent Rietta’s people. I have to pay for that!”
Restrained by her subordinates, Benefost looked towards the Captain of the Darkness God Corps and Lady Lerie. She had calmed down and was fully prepared to kill herself and finish her own war.
“Milady, you look well.”
Yuusuke managed to teleport in time and grab Benefost’s arm before she had managed to harm herself. Shocked by the teleport, she had hesitated for a bit, allowing Yuusuke to stop her. The Military officer only responded with slightly perplexed expression replacing the calmness that she had shown before.
“…Yuusuke-dono, am I not even allowed to die? Can I not die a proud warrior’s death?”
Yuusuke looked directly into her eyes, trying to spark hesitation within her determined eyes. He talked to her about war, about the fact that all of this was just a piece of someone else’s plan, and that while her reasoning and way of thinking was indeed natural, right now Valerie needed someone who could protect her more than ever.
“All of your subordinates are safe, the organization, that you and Valerie were part of, will be made to take the full responsibility for that. Isn’t that enough?”
“That… But, nonetheless…”
A shade of hesitation had appeared in Benefost’s eyes. Yuusuke clung to that and continued to push her by telling her his own past.
“Although I am hailed a Hero, I am not the only one in the palace.”
He was not doing this out of his own wish to protect someone. The crimes that the Elfdras family had committed were grim. Valerie was the head of this organization, and she would need someone to support her, to explain of how much she was involved in controlling the organization, to testify on her behalf.
Benefost had released the grip on her knife, abandoning her volition to die.
In truth, Yuusuke had informally confirmed Valerie’s situation with Esvobus and Cliffzah during the siege of the city, however he had to induce some sort of anxiety in Benefost if he wanted to have any chance of persuading her.
From the looks of Valerie, her adjutants, and Wind Edge soldiers, he had splendidly performed his task.
“Thank you, thank you! I have no means to express my gratitude to you!”
Tears of joy rolling down her cheeks, Valerie grasped Yuusuke hands, thanking him, and then jumped onto Benefost, hugged her with all her strength. The woman, ignoring the pain from her remaining wounds, caught her lady without even flinching.
“You did well, Yuusuke-san.”
“Hahaha…it was really tiresome.”
Yuusuke smiled bitterly at Sun.
Yuusuke’s next mission was to escort the Wind Edge members to Rinwaal for the upcoming investigation. They were not brought in for trial, but rather for questioning about the key figures behind the modified evil beasts and the corrupted Fonclanc officials.
After helping the heavily wounded soldiers to board the Darkness God Corps carriage, the combined army departed towards Rinwaal.
Reifold had seen the entire battle from below the shadows of the forest. After the party had left, he had suddenly went out on the road.
“It seems that Yuusuke-kun has emerged victorious.”
King Esvobus, knowing Yuusuke’s worth, sent Reifold to watch over him in case of an encounter with Wind Edge. Knowing that Yuusuke is not a fighter type, Reifold expected him to either retreat or lose the battle when faced with a much stronger enemy, but instead had witnessed the young man grasp an impossible victory.
Sanc Adiet’s reinforcements, together with the liberation army, had been strategizing a plan to amass a huge army to chase after stragglers on the eastern coastal highway, this time reinforcing their army with veteran divine arts users.
While the Darkness God Corps were resting after the battle, the reputation of the anti-Darkness God Corps faction within the palace had plunged. Unable to scheme against the corps openly, these faction had started to join each other.
“He’s somehow managed to break through. What shall I do now, your majesty King Homurakabe? (flame wall king 炎壁)”
Just like that time at Gearhawk fortress, Yuusuke had grown tremendously in the face of mortal danger, and easily surpassed the expectations that the King had of him.
Airzah, along with ten-some evil beast handlers, was escaping along the coastline, hiding beneath the cliffs.
“Hey, you’re too slow, hurry up!”
He had abandoned Fortress and escaped the royal palace when it was retaken by the liberation army and was escaping east, aiming towards Rudea mines. Once there, he would trek on the highway and reach the organization base before the enemy from Rinwaal got there
Once there, he hoped to take all the valuables from the settlement and then lay low for a while. Airzah was convinced, that with his ability, the remaining evil beasts, and his connections with the black market, he would thrive in the underworld.
“One of the beasts is falling behind. Don’t lose it, idiot. “
Starving, the handler was barely standing, and was unsteady on his feet. Of course, in such state he struggled to control his beasts. Moreover, each handler was leading three beasts now, when they were trained to deal with only two of them at any given time.
Airzah, ignoring the complaints, commanded them to handle three beasts this time, arguing that they should have no problems if they only had to move them.
[“Isn’t it this guy’s fault we have to escape in the first place?”]
The soldiers started blaming their three commanders for tearing them away from their leisurely life at the organization base and throwing them into a bloody fight for survival. These thoughts were interrupted by the former finance official spitting out another urge. On top of destroying the organization he had now become a fugitive as well.
[“…if we take his head—“]
Dim light reflected in the handler’s eyes as he softly blew his magic flute.
“It hurts! It hurts it hurts it hurts! What the hell are you doing?! Explain yours—aaaargh STOP! STO—“
Finally given some food, the beasts eagerly bit the warm flesh. Handler looked unfazed as the beasts had found the neck of their food, and when Airzah tried to defend himself with his hands.
“Hey, hey, it’s useless? There are still the other beasts.”
The handler laughed in a low, almost gurgling voice. Of course his beasts were stronger than the the finance official. The man tried to grasp for his flute, but it slipped from his hand and fell into a crevice between the rocks.
“Oh, how sad. Guys, go eat your meal over there!”
Ensured that he was now safe, the handler approached Airzah’s body, grabbed his head by the hair and pulled it up. The remaining beast handlers joined their fellow and allowed their beasts to feed of the remains that were now torn into six parts.
“Ouch! Stop it, you can’t eat me! Hey, get off me. I am your –“
Still hungry, the beasts attacked their masters. After a while the waves were washing away the blood from the empty beach.
It’s hunger sated, the shadow of disaster had disappeared in the darkness that had swallowed the coast..