The Shalorian king, upon receiving word on the mobilisation of Faustian's army, braced his old, frail body, and personally boarded the watchtower of Audis despite ceaseless opposition from the ministers.
"So, this is the army that defeated ours." The elderly king extended a scrawny right arm and pointed at the Faustian army outside the city.
At this time, the Faustian army was still being mobilised, but its orderly, glorious manner was in sharp contrast with the anxious Shalorian soldiers within the city and atop the wall.
No wonder the king let out such a heavy sigh. At least half of the Faustian army outside the city were veterans who had participated in several battles. There were also many highly experienced veterans enlisted in the army for several years, like Locke.
The Shalorian garrison in the city, on the other hand, was mainly composed of recruits, save for the 20,000 men from the original garrison and the troops Felippe brought back during his retreat.
This group of recruits, comprising refugees, farmers, and citizens, would already be useful even if all they could do was stab. Demanding them to be calm and of strong will was unreasonable.
Trailing behind the king as he scaled the watchtower were Shalor's nobles. This was the southern gate of Audis, also the most defended one. Most of the guards in the city were stationed here.
The armoured guards gave the nobles a sense of security. In fact, since the king's accession to the throne, he had invested alarming fortunes in the Capital Guard yearly. This puzzled many Shalorian nobles and who initiated wave after wave of opposition.
But now, it seemed that the king truly had foresight. The reason why Lion surrounded the city two months ago and still couldn't attack it was thanks to the well-equipped Capital Guard.
Shalor did not specialise in metallurgy; what they exported were food, crystal cores and magic items.
The vast plains of Bideslane and the surrounding hills were ideal for growing food. Every year, after stashing away half of the food to sustain Shalor's own need, the other half was sold off to neighbouring countries. This was also the main factor that prompted Faustian to lay their hands on Shalor five years ago.
Faustian in the west, the Ligia Union in the south, and the Kingdom of Karaman in the northeast were not heavy industrial countries. Occasionally, when Shalor's harvest was splendid, the savvy nobles and merchants would also send food far away and sell it to the Overempire in the northwest, Aomor, in exchange for more precious items.
What's more, they owned Morphey Forest, a complete treasure trove. Compared to Faustian, Shalor's landmass was a good quarter less, for the dense woods occupied an entire province of Shalor.
While Morphey Forest was within Shalor's territory, it was an inaccessible place where monsters roamed rampant. Even after prolonged expeditions, they still had not ventured into the centre of the forest. It was said that this was a forest housing ranked monsters.
The ranked monsters, corresponding to human levels, were among the ranks of Ritters and Magisters. Under normal circumstances, ranked monsters would be more powerful than humans of an equivalent level, because, in addition to their robust bodies, they also had ample magical abilities.
However, it was precisely due to the existence of such a magical trove that Shalor had attracted casters from many surrounding areas to live here. The crystal cores and blood, bones of major monsters, and other items produced in Morphey Forest every year encouraged those lesser-known casters to gather here and go nuts.
Today, most of Shalor's guards were heavily armoured soldiers. This kind of Shalorian warriors, donning sturdy armour and wielding a giant spear, weren't proficient in open-field and siege warfare. What they were adept at was defensive warfare.
On the city wall next to the Shalorian king were nearly 200 men of the Capital Guard. Their armour was so strong it could resist the rolling stones flung by a catapult. Ordinary arrows, shot from below the city, might not even be able to punch through their armour.
It was also thanks to such confidence in the guard that the Shalorian king and the nobles mustered enough courage to walk up the wall right before the upcoming siege.
"Where is Meister Kareda now?" the king asked the head attendant next to him. He was his absolute confidant.
"Meister Kareda is rushing the creation of magicrystal ammunition with Meister Maris," replied the attendant.
"Summon the meister, Shalor needs him right now. It is enough to have his Lehrling, Meister Maris, to work on the ammunition," ordered the king in a calm voice.
The attendant was taken aback. However, as he saw the solemn expression on king's face, he bowed and went off to demand the presence of Meister Kareda.
The name Kareda did not carry much prestige amongst the Shalorians. In fact, many Shalorians had not even heard of this name. However, this name held a thunderous effect among the high-ranking nobles.
How did Shalor harbour the most powerful mana among the surrounding countries? Apart from possessing ownership of Morphey Forest, it was safe to say that most of their reputation came from a caster named Kareda who settled down there.
The Faustian army outside the city was mobilising with increasing speed, becoming more orderly as time passed. Many commanders on the walls of Audis could now predict the time of the Faustian army's upcoming attack.
At this moment, a grey-robed old man strode towards the city wall with crisp steps. He had a bald head where a measly few silver strands of hair and flaunted a black sceptre much taller than himself. He gazed forward with indifference.
At this moment, regardless of their status, the king and other nobles turned to greet him. "Meister!"
Kareda did not respond to the greetings from the king and the nobles. He slowly walked up to the wall. His steps were unhurried but every thud of his feet seemed to deliver a silent but heavy blow to every person's chest.
Although Kareda did not exude any energy waves at all, let alone a vicious aura -- he appeared to be nothing more than an ordinary old man -- it was this sort of temperament that warned every prominent figure to not underestimate him despite their statuses.
Finally walking up the wall, Kareda squinted into the distance. With a little coldness in his eyes, he spoke at last. "This is Faustian's army?" The deep tone that escaped the old man's mouth shook countless ordinary soldiers standing on the wall to their bones.
"Is it true that Mist and Wenley died in the hands of this group of soldiers?" Kareda continued. Besides the shock-inducing effect, there seemed to be a desolate and gloomy tone laced in his voice.
Meister Kareda, the legendary Magister of Shalor, was forgotten by the ordinary folk, but why? It was because this master was, in fact, 400 years old. When the legendary magister first emerged in Shalor, it was not many years since the founding of the nation.
The age of 400 had already significantly exceeded the upper limit of human lifespan. A caster at the level of an ordinary Lehrling simply would not be able to reach this age.
That's right, Kareda was the first person in the history of Shalor to break through the shackles of life and become an official Magister.
This old man reached peak Lehrling at the age of 89. Casters at this age would basically have given up hope of attaining a higher level.
However, this legendary Magister resolutely left his homeland to study when he was 90, and he was never heard of since.
Everyone thought he reached the end of his life, perhaps even falling in battle.
But no one would have expected Kareda's return to Shalor as a Magister two whole centuries later. Ever since then, he had settled in the country for more than a century.
Thanks to Shalor's patronage of him, their national magic strength was greatly boosted.
Within the past century, Kareda had tutored dozens of Lehrlings, three of whom had obtained some of the highest achievements.
They were Mist, the Hand of Fire, Wenley, nicknamed Bite of Winter, and Maris, the Yellow White Sorcerer.
It was a pity that Mist and Campbell were defeated alongside each other in Eilis, and Wenley was killed in Gordon Heights two years ago. Now, only one proud disciple of Kareda was left -- Maris, who was not good at battle but keen on alchemy.
The nobles remained motionless, suppressed by the Magister's domineering aura until the king finally sprung to his feet and announced in possibly the firmest voice he could muster, "Meister! We Shalorians will surely make these Faustians pay the price!"
The current king, although not a talented monarch, was still considered conscientious during his reign. Facing the Faustian invasion, he counterattacked firmly, leaving Kareda a good impression.
The old man did nothing but nod slightly at the king. Standing at the apex of strength, worldly power could no longer restrain the detached elite.
In the eyes of ordinary people, Magisters were symbolic of the arcane and unfathomable. With the limited imagination and experience of mortals, they would never be able to grasp the strength level of a Magister or a Ritter.
There were only two such elites in Shalor -- one was Kareda, and the other was the late war god, Margrave Clark.
The Faustian army outside the city was still growing in size, and the encirclement around Audis was becoming denser and denser. The sharp-eyed soldiers could even see the catapults and other large-scale siege engines being loaded -- the battle was about to commence.
Master Kareda stared at the Faustian army outside the city with a sullen face. Without warning, a storm began to gather over the walls of the city. If one looked closely enough, they would find that the eye of the storm was right above Kareda.
The spectacular scene didn't just amaze the Shalorian nobles on the tower; even the Faustian army outside the city was plunged into slight commotion. Although many of the soldiers had witnessed mysterious magic before, this level of astronomical change was still rather atrocious.
The horses neighed loudly in a panic, swinging their heads and stomping their hooves anxiously. As the division jarl of Falcon's Cavalry Division, De Sandro kicked his beloved horse to compose itself.
By his side, a stern Marmen watched the storm unfolding not far away. Turning to him, he said, "That guy might be making a move! This time, it's up to you."
De Sandro did not offer a verbal response. He calmly rode his warhorse and drew his longsword. As if unaffected by the surrounding atmosphere and environment at all, the horse under his lap visibly calmed down.
Atop the city wall, Kareda took a deep breath, and scoffed in his mind, Screw this kind of non-binding treaty. Who cares if I break it?