The devils seemed to have spotted the human's movements ahead of time as countless eagle devils took flight into the starless sky. The flagship of the Royal Aouine Fleet, HMS Victory, kicked off the battle with its cannonade and a test shot upon an eagle devil. The shell exploded in a shower of light when it hit the eagle devil. The crossbowmen on the side of the ship watched as the flurry of wings and feathers practically blocked out the intense light from the explosion. Those shells were like stones thrown into the sea.
There were endless enemies.
The wizard watched the effects of the shelling through the porthole in the door, the light from the flames of the explosion turning his face pale. He took a sheet of paper filled with tables to record the charge as well as the amount of infused magic on it. The messenger took the paper from him and spread the orders.
A moment later, the entire fleet let out a roar, and countless shells whistled towards the dense group of eagle devils. A flash of light from another explosion blossomed between these monsters, the shockwave of the explosion virtually forming a tidal wave of blood, pushing countless feathers and limbs forward. Mutilated chunks of corpses fell as though they were rain.
The dormant earth was awakened by the roar of the rainy night. The rumbling sounded as though it surged from the forests that stretch from Bunuo to the Silver Sheath Cliffs, the imaginary blood flowing through huge veins beneath the surface. Each and every soldier felt the ground beneath his feet shuddering slightly, like a living thing. The flash of the explosions overhead shone a clear light between the sky and the earth, giving a panoramic view of the pitted battlefield near Fort Bunuo. Flags were being raised one by one on the edge of the battlefield, when an army of humans appeared.
The Allied Forces of Mankind went on the offensive.
The goal of the Aouine and the Kirrultz people was to capture several villages near Fort Bunuo in order to entice the devils to put more troops into the frontal battlefield. However the fireballs of the Devil Warlocks at the top of Fort Bunuo caused great trouble for the entire battlefield, and the battle progressed slower than expected.
Freya, along with the sergeants under her and the Lantonilan knights, moved briskly along a patch of woods in the middle of the battlefield, and they soon arrived near Fort Bunuo. Their goal was to capture this ancient fortress. Freya immediately ordered an attack after observing the terrain, and hundreds of Lantonilan knights immediately attacked the gaping hole in the crumbling walls of the fortress.
The Imps guarding the hole were not their match; these scrawny inferior devils were notoriously timid and cowardly in the Sulfur River. They had neither magic nor any fighting skills and the higher devils didn't even acknowledge them as devils. The higher devils merely treated them as things to be exchanged, like food or coin. After a few of their companions had been killed, these ostensibly cruel and terrifying monsters revealed their true nature and escaped. The knights quickly killed their way to the top of the fort. The maiden from the countryside of Bucce, who led them, was delighted to see the rapid progress of the offensive on her side. At this rate, it would take them less than fifteen minutes to conquer Fort Bunuo.
But it was right then that a Devil Warlock appeared and unlike the human wizards. These Devil Warlocks were muscular and gnarled and had huge horns protruding their heads. They wore very little ornaments like the lower level devils. This Devil Warlock held a burning ball of fire in its hands, and as soon as it threw the fireball, it exploded among the knights who had rushed to the forefront.
The blast waves from the explosion sent the knights of Lantonilan tumbling, and a flying stone even cut Freya's face, leaving the maiden's face bloody. However, she didn't care about the fiery pain and immediately shouted, "Everyone, follow me and charge up there with all your might, don't give it another chance to cast its spell!"
Upon saying that, she took the lead and climbed the shattered rocks and gravel to rush up towards the gap. Two lesser devils summoned by the Devil Warlock lunged at her left and right, but Freya raised her shield and threw them backward. Her heroic act greatly boosted the morale of the Lantonilan knights, who shouted the female knight’s name as they forged on ahead to the top.
Freya immediately caught the attention of the Devil Warlocks, and soon more Imps surrounded her, forcing her to slow down. The surrounding knights quickly overtook her and rushed up to the top of the wall. However, another huge figure appeared on top of the wall.
It was a Minotaur.
The monster from Jorgendy Ridge had appeared without warning. It was apparent that it had already been lying in ambush behind the fortress walls since the start, and merely waited for the human knights to throw themselves at it. The creature was at least as tall as three people, holding an axe larger than itself. When it stood, it was like a massive windmill. It also swept the huge axe forward like the blades of a windmill, the Lantonilan knights in front of it let out a scream right before they were sliced in half.
The Minotaur roared and rushed down the collapsed wall, sweeping all the humans and devils in front of him off the wall. The human knights were no match for it at all. The creature quickly arrived in front of Freya, raising its axe and swinging it brutally at her.
"Look out, Freya!"
Bessie shouted at Freya to warn her but at that moment, she was tensed up. She had never seen such a huge monster except for that terrifying wind elemental in Mar Highlands, but the feeling of watching from a distance was different from the feeling of a close physical fight. Furthermore, the dark and heavy surface of the huge axe put immense psychological pressure on her.
If the axe hits, I’m dead. No, I can't die here. Brendel is still out in front and I have to help him take this fort, only then would the devils turn their attention to the main battle.
Everything she learned in the Royal Cavalry Academy suddenly came to her all at once. Even at the very last moment, her heart was calm. It was as if there was some special power flowing through her body, a feeling exactly like the moment she got the Lionheart Sword.
When the Minotaur’s axe came down on her, Freya dodged the attack by ducking down, then she leaped forward, instinctively grabbing the axe's hilt where it connected with the axe's head.
The Minotaur didn't even have time to think and just raised the axe as high as it could. Freya let go and leapt upwards to land on the axe’s head, which was over a meter in width - large enough for her to stand on. Then, she took another leap and landed on the back of the Minotaur’s neck.
This series of movements was completed in a flash, and everyone hadn't had time to react, but the Minotaur finally realized that the prey before him had somehow gotten onto its back. It let out an angry moo and reached out to grab Freya, who was behind it.
However, Freya angled herself to the side and side-stepped the monster’s mat-sized hands. At the same time, she gritted her teeth and raised her Lionheart Sword. A bright light radiated from the sword, so brilliant that it was like an ice-blue flame, illuminating the entire fort and the bright eyes of this maiden from the countryside of Bucce.
It was like a recreation of the scene from that day. A pair of silver wings of light unfurled behind Freya’s back and the War Goddess’ pattern reappeared as the female knight clenched her legs around the Minotaur’s neck. With her hands gripping the sword, she thrusted it down the spine of the monster.
With a thud, the flashing Lionheart Sword plunged into the Minotaur’s neck like a knife slicing through tofu.
The Minotaur then let out a loud wail. It dropped its axe as though it had gone mad, and started slapping its neck. This time, Freya could not dodge it. She heard a loud crack from her back and sharp pain soon followed. Her organs almost shifted. Darkness consumed her vision. Her body fell backwards, but her hand still gripped the hilt of the Lionheart Sword tightly and she took advantage of the situation to pull the sword out. The black blood of the Minotaur started gushing out.
Freya coughed up a mouthful of blood, but she still raised her Lionheart Sword and drove it into the back of the Minotaur’s head. This time, the monster could not withstand such a heavy injury and fell forward, making a loud thud as it fell on top of the collapsed fortress walls.
Everyone was in shock.
"Freya!" Bessie, who had charged forward with Freya, ran towards the body of the Minotaur like a madman. The non-commissioned officers of the Royal Cavalry Academy already had a layer of comradeship with each other. In addition to that, she and Freya were one of the few women there, so they were even closer.
However right now the maiden from the Bucce countryside was dizzy. Despite it all, there was one thing on her mind.
Can't stop yet.
She had learned everything from Ciel long ago. Even when Brendel was ahead, she knew what he was going to do, and she knew what she herself was going to do.
Absolutely no more being that useless Freya that was Bucce’s Militia Captain.
She wanted to change Bucce along with everyone's fate.
Brendel could help her.
But she was no longer that same ignorant country girl; she had learned so much. She even had a vague feeling that she might have seen what Brendel had seen and that’s exactly what Her Royal Highness was after. Not just an ideal, but a wonderful vision.
When will Aouine be able to escape its predetermined fate? Bessie had said that until the kingdom became twice as strong, these tragedies would happen over and over again. However, Brendel had told her it wasn't just a nobleman's task. Her Royal Highness had told her that everyone must defend their dignity with their own sword.
"Freya!" Bessie came to the maiden's side and helped her up.
The knights of Lantonilan couldn't help but let out a cheer when they saw the blood-covered female knight. Freya gritted her teeth and raised the Lionheart Sword in her hand high.
The sword's shining blade was more like a banner, and this banner was reflected in everyone's eyes. It was the Lionheart Sword, a banner of victory, as if to symbolize Aouine's rectitude and unyieldingness.
"Freya! Freya!" With a fever in everyone's hearts, the knights shouted the name of their temporary commander and charged the walls.
There were no more Minotaurs on the fortress walls. Even an army of devils couldn't possibly use such a high-ranked creature like this as cannon fodder. After all, this was not the battlefield of the War of the Holy Saints that took place thousands of years ago.
Freya watched as the black and red torrent rushed into Fort Bunuo. However, there was merely calmness within her.
"Bessie, help me up."
"What the hell, you're all hurt like that," The short-haired maiden complained. "I promised the Lord Commander to take care of you, now I might not even get to keep my precious magic."
Freya couldn't help but cough up a laugh, knowing that Brendel would never hold it against her for that reason. She felt herself ache so much, but never for a moment was she so relaxed. Something in her heart had left her, but her maturity doubled.
"I seem to have suddenly understood something, Bessie."
"What did you understand?"
In another time and space, Aouine's future war goddess smiled faintly. At that moment it finally dawned on her that those words weren't being said to her; it was just Brendel talking to himself.
War will always happen, and we only have the choice to accept it.
We were born in a very awful generation and we cannot choose our generation. But we can try to change it.
Maybe it won't change anything, but at least the memory of the many people we have fought alongside to make it happen is precious enough.
Do you know the word "companion"? No matter how far you go, there are plenty of people with you. You will never be alone.
She, he, and everyone will move forward with Aouine.
Till the end of time.
The situation on the battlefield changed, and the devils finally began to notice that the human attack on the front was fierce beyond their expectations. Although losing Fort Bunuo wasn't something too terrific, it showed that the weak opponent on the other side still had the ability to fight back.
They began to devote the army behind Jorgendy Ridge to the frontal battlefield, seeking to crush the last hopes of these wretches in one fell swoop.
And far away in the mountains near Ampere Seale, the knights looked up at the flashes in the sky - which resembled fireworks. However they had nothing to say. Everyone understood what they saw. The flashes lasted for around fifteen minutes. Babasha finally brought her companions back.
Just as Brendel had expected, those were the witches who had secluded themselves all over Aouine, whose strength was around Babasha’s level.
They all showed their respective loyalties to Brendel and even took an oath, while avoiding the attention of the others.
Time was running out and Brendel had no time to placate these new subordinates. Under his orders, everyone packed up and headed north. The knights were forced to go through the forest in dark and rainy conditions. They even waded through a couple of overflowing mountain streams. Fortunately, other than the princess, everyone in the pack had the abilities that surpass a silver-ranker, so the bad weather was but a minor issue.
They crossed a few low altitude hills and marched north for more than twenty minutes. They arrived at the location in relatively little to no time. The secret gate was located in a valley surrounded by twelve hazelnut trees, just as Brendel remembered it. But as they emerged from the woodland, they saw an empty stretch of land with neither gates nor anything that could be considered man-made.
Everyone stopped and couldn't help but cast a puzzled look at Brendel.
Brendel didn't speak, but internally, he knew what was going on. However, he was quite cautious and only waited as Babasha explained, "This is an illusion that only a witch can undo."
And so it was.