At the break of dawn, the sun peeked out from behind the snowy mountains outside the city of Audis. Following a glimmer of light accompanied by the biting cold wind, the flames that burned in the city overnight were extinguished.
The Shalorian king put a halt to his decadence throughout the previous month, ordering the remaining maids and guards in the palace to change him into a fresh set of clothes. With his gorgeous kingly robe, heavy crown, and magnificent staff, he seemed to have regained his youth. He was high spirited and longed to achieve greatness.
However, he was far from what he was in his younger days.
Most of the maids and guards in the palace had fled last night. Although the guards had been vigorously preventing the escape, the situation had not improved, and some of the guards themselves even joined the deserters.
The Palace Guard was different from the Capital Guard. Among them were many members of the noble class. Most of them were sent to join it by elders of their households to gain experience. Now that it had come to this, who would still stay here to give up their lives?
The Palace Guard had long been corrupt to the bone, but they always appeared pristine and outright from the outside.
"Forget it. If they want to escape, so be it." In the end, it was the Shalorian king who spoke up. The old king had completely deflated. He once naively believed that relying on Audis' sturdy walls and fortifications was enough to resist the Faustians.
However, the full-on attack in just a single night caused Audis to crumble. Not only did the final line of defence break, the ambitious heart of the Shalorian king was also crushed with it.
The maids and servants of the palace could run for all he cared. After all, they were also his subjects. The elderly king didn't want to watch them buried alongside himself.
Yes, this was a funeral, and the Shalorian king decided to ceast to exist with his country.
In the palace, Meister Maris, the Yellow White Sorcerer, busied away making a teleportation array with countless precious materials. It could transport 10 people 20 kilometres away at a time, and could activate five times a day provided it was fed with enough energy crystals. If the Shalorian king wanted to leave, no one would be able to stand in his way.
Faustian casters weren't proficient enough to disrupt this kind of long-distance teleportation.
It was worth noting that Maris had surpassed his mentor, Magister Kareda, with regards to alchemy.
In fact, as early as the start of the siege, the Shalorian royal family had already retreated in an orderly manner. As teleporters were rare to begin with, coupled with the deliberate shielding of the magical fluctuations it gave off, Faustian never took notice.
Just last night, after the Shalorian king gave his eldest son, the crown prince, an exhortation before he watched his child disappear into the portal with his own eyes.
"Your Majesty, Margrave Felippe would like to see you," reported a commander who had just scurried into the palace hall.
When the city fell, the king already knew about the Felippe's convoy, but this time he did not stop him. He felt that Felippe had done enough. From this point of view, the Shalorian king was a rare and wise leader, for he didn't want everyone to join him in death.
To think that Felippe did not leave, and instead came to the palace at this time. Surprise washed over the king. "Let him in!"
The commander hurriedly retreated. Faustian's army was right outside the palace, and fighting had begun in some places. As a commander, his death was almost certain.
Not long after, Felippe strode into the palace.
"Your Majesty!" Felippe marched into the hall. Like the Shalorian king, he also sported a brand-new formal gown.
"Unexpectedly, my old friend, you chose to stay here with me till the end." The Shalorian king sighed.
One of Shalor's three pillars, Margrave Clark, was only thirty years old when he was dubbed the war god. Margrave Campbell was the illegitimate son of the King, and strictly speaking, only Margrave Felippe was a peer of the king. Both were in their fifties.
Felippe didn't say much. He had proved his determination with his actions.
"Follow me! Let's meet the enemy!" After the grey-haired king spoke, he waved his sceptre boldly and strode out of the palace. Apart from Felippe, only a few young nobles and commanders followed him.
Outside the palace, Kenzir was mounted on his warhorse and surrounded by a group of nobles and officers. Gazing at the shimmering eaves of the palace, he seemed all the more proud.
"Margrave Marmen, how's the ongoing situation in the city?" Kenzir waved his whip and asked with a smile.
"The resistance is not very fierce. It's all being suppressed, and now, the palace is the only place that hasn't been fully conquered. Though, some other areas have broken through," replied Marmen.
"Margrave Shia, how about the progress of Gale?" Kenzir asked.
As the main force to attack the palace, Gale was the last to jump into battle. Hence, they suffered the least losses among the three major corps.
"The main gate has been captured, and all the side gates have been surrounded. As of now, the soldiers are attacking the front gate of the palace hall," Shia reported.
The main hall was usually where the king and the officials and nobles discussed matters. Once the front gate was captured, Shalor's palace was basically open to Faustian soldiers.
"Come, let's go there!" Kenzir urged his horse on and led the commanders to the front gate. He yearned to witness the destruction of the Kingdom of Shalor with his own eyes. He dreamt of personally raising Faustian's banner above the palace.
Today was the day when the decisive battle between the two countries would end. Almost all of Faustian's current military elites were gathered on both sides of Kenzir as the group of men marched proudly towards the palace.
When the Shalorian king arrived at the front gate, the remaining Shalorian guards were still engaged in a bloody battle with the siege of Faustian soldiers. Although there was a shocking numerical disparity, the Shalorian troops still fought aggressively. They were the last remnants of Shalor's elites.
Despite the vehement resistance of Shalor's defenders, they could not overturn the Faustian army of several times their size. Overwhelmed, they were not able to stir up even a small wave.
As soon as the Shalorian king approached the front door, he saw a crowd formed by countless Faustian soldiers cleaving and striking at the stubbornly resisting Shalorian soldiers.
Just when these last, unyielding Shalorians were about to be engulfed by the Faustian forces, someone yelled, "His Majesty is here!"
These Shalorian soldiers immediately snapped their heads towards their king.
Originally exhausted, a burst of resolve surged from their chests as they hurriedly interrupted the attack of Faustian soldiers.
"Don't let them pass! His Majesty is behind us!"
"We must block these bastards and protect the king!"
Every Shalorian soldier fought with an unwavering fighting spirit.
When the guards and commanders around the king saw this, they drew their swords and rushed to fight against the Faustians alongside the soldiers.
Although their numbers were still far from enough, the presence of the king himself gave these Shalorian soldiers an adrenaline shot.
Similarly, when the Faustian soldiers caught sight of the old man behind the city wall donning his exquisite yellow robe and crown and wielding his sceptre, his identity instantly dawned on them.
One by one, they charged with their spears and swords raised. They were no less imposing than the Shalorian defenders.
Military merit in the Faustian army were directly linked to one's personal achievements. The more enemies you kill and the higher their rank or status, the more points would be awarded.
Faustian had yet to disclose the number of military merits to be rewarded for the Shalorian king, but it was rumoured that the head of a count had recently helped a soldier claim a thousand points of military merit.
That was equivalent to a thousand gold thalers! The king's head was certainly worth more than a count's, and all of a sudden, the same notion popped into every Faustian soldier's mind.
"I want that old geezer's head!" An extremely vicious-looking Faustian man bellowed with a giant axe. He seemed to be the platoon jarl of a certain division. Before he could finish his sentence, an arrow pierced his face before he fell to the ground.
There were still plenty of capable Shalorian soldiers. There were several mid-rank Knechts alone, not to mention others -- the Shalorian king's head was not so easy to attain.
However, this danger didn't hinder the enthusiasm of the Faustian soldiers in the least.
The fallen man slumped over on the ground became a stepping stone of the soldiers and many more of them dashed up to the front gate for the king.
"Don't let him get away!"
"Hurry! Chase him!"
"There, he's over there!"
The Faustian soldiers fighting here were mostly from the three major corps, with a few from the private noble armies mixed in.
The soldiers of these official corps were unlike the private noble soldiers. They weren't able to do side jobs to make extra money.
While they had more sophisticated equipment and better treatment, the only way for them to be promoted was through military merit. They received little bonuses other than merit too.
Seeing the Shalorian king, essentially a walking mountain of gold, every Faustian soldier gave their best.
The frenzied Faustian soldiers broke through the defences at the front gate in a matter of seconds. There was no longer anything to hold them back.
Behind the front gate was a wide square. On weekdays, all the nobles and ministers would convene and chat with their colleagues there. But now, fresh blood and amputated limbs littered the area.
Numerous Faustian soldiers surrounded the remaining Shalorian soldiers, at the centre of which was the Shalorian king.
His glorious robe was stained with a little blood at some point, and the crown of thorns on his head had also slipped a few inches to the side amidst the chaos. Although he looked unkempt, he still retained his royal demeanour.
Felippe stood guard behind him with a longsword. He wore a thin golden silkworm armour underneath his robe. This armour had once saved his life.
After all, a high-rank Knecht like him was bound to be a prime target of the elites in the Faustian army. The streak across his back from his neck to the left of his waist was proof of that.
Without this precious armour, Felippe would have just been dismembered by the Faustian elites that hid among ordinary soldiers.