"Where are you from?" asked a hoarse voice.
It came from a man who was clad in full blood-red armour that revealed only his eyes, which were just as bloody.
"We are the men of Viscount Marxip."
The brute felt relieved when he heard the question. The Shalorian accent was distinct, so he assumed that they were allies.
Despite the disaster of a war, the Shalorians were still relatively united. Of course, this didn't include the Faustian sellout that was just killed.
"Viscount Marxip? The Lord of the Southern province?" the armoured man mused. "There is indeed such a lord still resisting the Faustians, and he seems to be a nobleman under the finance minister."
The brute didn't dare reply. To put it lightly, the members from Marxip's faction no longer mattered to him. A plan was already forming in his mind. After returning from this mission, he would make his way to another country after receiving the reward. No matter where he went, he would have a good future as a mid-rank Knecht.
"You have good qualifications, are you interested in joining Blood Red?" asked one of the members.
"Uh, about that..." the brute choked.
Blood Red had suffered heavy losses in the past few years. The lower-level Red team was completely defeated while the elite Blood team had only three units left. The elite team was mostly made up of members who recently transferred from the Red team in recent years. He definitely saw a lot of potential in their team, though they wouldn't mind adding a new recruit with potential to their ranks.
"Herr, I... I am after all one of Viscount Marxip's subordinates..." the brute stammered a little, without the arrogance he had before.
The armoured man was clearly much more ruthless than the shadow guard. The shadow guard seemed to him to be at least a mid-rank Knecht elite. The brute intentionally went easy on Lane and the others to let them escape. Just as Lane didn't want to be entangled by him, the brute didn't want to confront Lane, who was stronger than him. He was only being paid to do his job, so he didn't need to interfere unnecessarily.
The brute couldn't see through the armoured man. He seemed to be filled with dense impetus and looked to be a high-rank Knecht.
"What? You want to turn me down?" A streak of crimson light flashed through the man's eyes.
"Don't waste any time! Leit, don't let the Faustians escape!" said another, "Don't forget our mission."
His voice was much clearer and had an air of authority. Leit toned down the murderous tone in his hoarse voice in response.
"Got it, Kashir!" Leit replied.
Although Leit was stronger, he still respected any input from Kashir, a jarl of the Blood team. Listening to Kashir was the reason his unit was one of three surviving ones among the seven Blood units. It was not enough to only have courage on the battlefield. One would need some brains as well.
"Where did they go?" asked Kashir, after stopping Leit.
The brute licked his lips.
"They've gone that direction," pointing his finger southeast.
He had seen Lane retreating that way. He was only interrogating the shadow guards to keep up airs for the other viscount's men. After all, they were Viscount Marxip's private soldiers, while the brute was just a contractor.
The brute was taken aback by the bloodthirstiness of Leit. If a middle-rank Knecht could single-handedly slay over ten people, then the high-rank Knechts would be capable of killing over a hundred, given a little more time. In other words, Leit alone could destroy half of them. On top of them, he had other Blood soldiers with him, as well as Kashir, who was no less powerful than him.
Kashir glanced at the direction and instructed his men to charge. Leit spat on the ground and glanced at the masked men surrounded by them.
"Let's go!" Leit urged his men.
The dozens of people of the Blood team quickly swarmed through the forest like locusts.
After the men left, the brute heaved a sigh of relief.
"Who were these people? Such an intense murderous air they have."
It was a pity that his question went unanswered. The masked men were merely part of Marxip's private troops, so they shouldn't even have come into contact with the secretive Blood Red anyways. Perhaps their lord, Viscount Marxip would know something.
"Currently, Viscount Marxip has one of the largest resistance forces in the south. There is no need to provoke him because of one man," Kashir explained to Leit as he deftly navigated the forest, "The finance minister will not be a problem. He couldn't care less about Blood Red. But Viscount Marxip is now short on manpower. The more people we have, the better chance we stand."
Everyone in Blood Red was loyal to Shalor. Years of war, lost brothers, friends, and relatives had fostered a seething hatred in them towards the Faustians, which indirectly deepened their loyalty and patriotism to their country. Marxip was the nobleman who resisted at the forefront at this time. Compared to other nobles who lived luxuriously in the capital and bided their time dreaming about fleeing with their families to other countries, people like Marxip gave the Blood Red members a good vibe.
As the jarl of the Blood team, he certainly knew the extent of corruption that had taken over the royal capital and the rest of Shalor. Thanks to the investigations of the Blood team, the vile intentions of many ministers in the royal capital were known to the king, but nothing had been done about it. There was nothing much he could do about it, other than to defend his land.
Of course, Leit knew what 'hope' Kashir was talking about, and then he fell silent, only to use his impetus to speed up the pace. Now, their mission was to find the Faustian princess and fight for the survival of their country.
At the break of dawn, a voice could be heard calling from a cave.
"Princess, let's go!" said Lane.
Not long after, a slightly dishevelled Angelina hobbled and limped out. Although they only had half a night of rest, Angelina did feel rejuvenated. However, her legs and feet were still sore, and the aches in her joints had not completely subsided.
Regardless, she perked up and said, "Herr Lane, let's go."
Locke and Solon were walking side by side in the jungle. They had been in the Bering Mountains for two days now. They were to locate a carriage with the royal emblem and pick up the Faustian soldiers. It was a group of soldiers in black uniforms, which should be quite easy to spot.
As things often were, this was simpler said than done. Even with more than 500 people in their battalion scouring the forest for two whole days without any breaks, they had yet to find anything. But there were no complaints. Compared to fighting on the frontlines, traversing the steep mountain and old forest was much more preferable. It was late autumn and winter was approaching. Thankfully, there were no annoying bugs in the jungle. Over the past two days, the soldiers sustained themselves with the meat from the spoils of their hunt.
Cardoj announced this morning that their battalion would be divided into a three. One team would be led by Wyr, another by Cardoj and Mond, and the final team would consist of the remaining platoon jarls headed by and Solon. They were going to sift through the forest and spread out in a net-shaped formation. A few hours had passed since the teams had been divided at noon. Locke was waving his longsword, cutting away the branches blocking the path as he talked to Solon.
Locke was very disappointed. He was hoping to see some monsters in the Bering Mountains. Unfortunately, there were none. Perhaps all the monsters in the Bering Mountains went into hibernation, or ran back to Morphey Forest for refuge from the winter. So far, Locke had not even seen a single hair of a monster. This would've been his best chance to meet them in the safest way possible too. As long as the monsters were only as strong as a low-level Knechts, only two squads were needed to skin and tear them apart.
"Monsters are more intelligent than wild beasts. Some of them have mastered a skill that would allow them to avoid danger by magical means," Solon explained. "We are a large group of people. Our men's bloodthirsty spirit is enough to scare the ordinary beasts. The magically inclined monsters will know to stay out of our way."
It was true indeed. In the past two days, aside for a blind deer that appeared in front of Locke that later turned into his dinner, no other beasts appeared.
Locke also shook his head, accepting the fact that he would not be meeting any monsters soon. Solon patted Locke's shoulder. He knew that this subordinate had a burning curiosity.
Unlike the dispirited Locke, the rest of the platoon jarls envied Locke's treatment. Solon, who was usually snobbish and unwilling to speak to the common folk, got along with him so amicably. Seeing Locke's close relationship with Solon, it was evident to the other platoon jarls that Locke earned a soft spot in Solon's heart. Yoshk was in the baron's team, while Karl was here with the team led by Solon. Karl couldn't help but smile in admiration of the young man he once recommended.
As a matter of fact, Locke didn't flatter Solon or make himself his vassal. He was treating Solon just like another brother in his squad. They were all young people and had mutual interests, such as beautiful women and exciting encounters. After Locke and Solon exchanged some meaty banter about the two battalions, they formed a very close bond. Locke certainly had his own thoughts about Solon that he kept to himself, such as how sullen he was. Of course, he dared not say this to others.
Solon reciprocated his friendliness.
"Someday, I'll take you to the colosseum in Bideslane, where you can see all the monsters and beasts you want!" Solon promised Locke.