The meeting point of the knights and the southern treemen formation was scorched. The burnt area had spanned across a hundred kilometres in length and possessed a jaw-dropping width of several thousand metres. The surprise attack had wiped out most of the treemen in just the blink of an eye. The entire place was nothing but burnt coal, red-hot stone and violent flames. Everything was turned to ash.
There were thousands of Ritters surrounded by nearly two hundred thousand slaves and twenty thousand high-rank Knechts right outside the scorched radius. They gaped at the scene of destruction before them.
“Master Odis has finally joined the battle!” cheered a Himmelritter. He stood atop a cliff, hands tight around the hilt of his sword. Yet, one would soon notice that it was not just a cliff he was standing on, it was his blade. Level-three Himmelritter Eugen was at the pinnacle of most lifeforms and the demigod was merely a step shy of becoming a level-four lifeform.
The Hall of Knights had deployed two of their best elites to the Botanian battlefield. Apart from Eugen, the other was the Man of Bronze, Agus, who possessed a colossal size in his true form. Knightly demigods of the Three Western Isles were scarce and while Eugen and Agus had rarely interacted, some friction was still inevitable.
“Hmph!” Agus refused to respond, choosing to flex his knuckles instead. The only thing he could do now was to proceed towards the Holy City with his unit. What had pushed level-four Odis to unleash an attack whilst keeping the Botanian spatial barrier open? Did this mean doom for Botania or was the Three Western Isles not progressing well enough for his liking?
Agus and Eugen were tasked with the southern treemen formation a month ago. Rightfully, the knights should’ve enjoyed a ridiculously smooth counterattack under the lead of two demigods. Yet, everything had changed when an unassuming banana Botanian had appeared. It’d sent the entire assault into a stalemate.
Most of the elite knights recognised the banana Botanian. It was the sole survivor of the Beam of Destruction! The Sanctum’s meticulous calculations had shown that the beam packed a force equivalent to that of a level-four lifeform’s attack. The appearance of the banana Botanian was alarming to the Three Western Isles as they scrambled to devise an appropriate plan that was almost as complex as the ones meant for the World Tree and sunflower priest.
Agus had battled the banana Botanian multiple times over the month. Apart from the banana’s seemingly indestructible handles and impressive agility, there was nothing else worthy of Agus’ concern; the banana had yet to achieve demigod status. Even so, its dangerously sharp handles were sufficiently powerful to breach past most defences of level-three lifeforms. The combination of its agility and speed proved to be problematic too. Even if the banana had failed to defeat Agus, it could still easily avoid the subsequent chase with the help of the treemen army.
The banana Botanian’s appearance had foiled many of the Three Western Isles’ plans. Their overall advancement had been stalled for a month ever since Eugen was fully occupied by relentless attacks from multiple level-three Botanians.
Out of the near thirty level-three Magisters and Himmelritters mobilised for the current conquest, only two demigods and four Himmelritters were sent to dominate the Holy City. The remaining level-three elites were mostly scattered around in Wilderia and Fertilia to oversee the serial invasions of Botanian cities and territories.
As more Botanian territories fell into the vice grip of the Three Western Isles, some of the level-three elites were already preparing to invade Aqualilia. Yet, the lack of a uniform strategy had allowed the number of level-three Botanians in the Holy City to outnumber the Three Western Isles’ elites. The dormant level-three Botanians were mostly awakened there, after all. These newly roused heroes were promptly sent to the frontlines by the World Tree and Goldy before they could even grasp the current events.
This had largely frustrated Odis, who’d been watching the war unfold from above. His irritation was the motivation behind the colossal blaze that rained from the sky three days ago, much to the horror of the Botanians and surprise of the Three Western Isles. The scorching blaze was as hot as the sun had melted away anything within its reach, effectively perishing the impressive treemen formation into nothingness. Only a few Botanians and the treemen at the edges had managed to escape the predicament.
A single blast from a level-four elite was already terrifying enough. The impact of wide-range attacks could only be described as a catastrophe, which was why the denizens of many planes worshipped level-four lifeforms as gods.
Frankly, the Botanians should consider themselves lucky that Odis was just a knight. If he’d been the founder of the Sanctum, level-four Archmagister Banam, the colossal blaze would’ve been the least he could do. He could likely devastate the whole of Botania at the tip of his finger. Zauberian casters were at the forefront of mana utilisation, after all.
Soon enough, an order to attack was finally issued by the Hall of Knights. The demigod Himmelritters began marching thousands of Ritters and two hundred thousand slaves towards the Holy City. The high-rank Knechts were left behind to scavenge the scorched area for spoils. The treemen that were about as strong as level-one lifeforms left were incredibly precious nucleus cores and magic metal ores in their burnt remains.
The World Tree had learnt of the breach as soon as it happened because the treemen were connected to its roots that spanned a third of the continent, its powers exceeding that of a level-three demigod, especially within the Holy City.
The World Tree’s exhausted voice rang. “Withdraw those on the northern front and gather them here.” It had suffered a critical hit following the destruction of half the treemen formation; the damage was similar to that of having half its exposed roots completely wilted away. While the blow wasn’t lethal, it was still damaging. The wilting of its leaves was merely the beginning. Severe indications like the degeneration of its trunk and branches were bound to happen.
The fall of the southern defence meant that the northern formation wouldn’t last long either. The withdrawal of the Botanian frontlines was perhaps their best chance at preserving their remaining resources.
“Very well,” said Goldy slowly. The utter destruction of the southern treemen formation would place the remaining Botanian troupes in great danger. The retreat of the northern Botanians was only apt.
“Is this the end of us Botanians?” Alanta kneeled miserably. This time, no one dared to answer.
The World Tree’s branches trembled, almost as if it was trying to suppress its agony. Fehrann and Noss clamped their eyes shut in painful silence.
“That’s not all. We need to bring all Botanians into the Holy City too!” The sunflower priest’s eyes shot open. “We can make it through if we centralise our resources!” Goldy flailed its arms around, looking downright manic.
“That’s impossible! How are we even supposed to gather the whole of our surviving population here?!” Fehrann was quick to question. Apart from Aqualilia, most of Fertilia and Wilderia was already trampled by the invaders. How would the surviving population travel across dangerous lands to reach the Holy City?
“Forget about the general population, I’m specifically talking about the Botanians lords from all three continents!” Goldy exclaimed hotly. “We must not forget that the Botanians outnumber the invaders by more than hundred-folds! The joint effort of the lords and remaining treemen army can definitely protect the Holy City from their reach!”
As Goldy continued to weigh its options, the more the thought seemed plausible. It was about to scurry off to relay necessary orders.
“You’re insane! What about the regular folks? How are they going to fare without their lords’ protection?” Fehrann wasn’t too convinced by Goldy’s peculiar idea.
“There will be those that will sacrifice them for the better good.” Goldy’s answer was bone-chilling.
Fehrann froze. “Are you even the same Goldy that loved and appreciated all life? How can you say something like that?!” The sunflower priest felt like a stranger.
Botanians possessed an innate love for peace. The mental torment posed by the invaders on Goldy was pushing it closer to the brink of insanity. Alanta and Noss stared helplessly at the escalating argument between Fehrann and Goldy. They had nothing helpful to add either. Logically, Goldy’s proposal was indeed their best shot at survival now. Yet, doing so would mean giving up on the lives of the regular Wilderians and Fertilians.
At that very moment, the sullen World Tree finally spoke, “We should let the lords decide for themselves.”
The Holy City was Botania’s last hope. It was no doubt a tough decision to make between wanting to protect the civilians or to secure their final resort.