The corpse lying in the pile of snow had almost been frozen into a popsicle, but its physical features could still be vaguely seen. The corpse should be of someone about forty or fifty years old who looked fit and strong; He had good facial features, and his eyes gave it off that he was a local. He was wearing thick layers of fur clothing, holding a short bow in his hand, and it was obvious that he was a hunter from Lantonilan.
Brendel could actually identify the other party, but before he could reply, Freya, who was squatting next to the corpse, said in a somewhat sad tone, "The fatal wound is an arrow wound in the back, just like the corpse we found before, but this one should have died on the spot.”
“All the corpses we encountered before should have been wounded around here, but that hunter’s wound was less severe, he must have escaped from here and got attacked by a frost demon before he ended up dying.” Laurenna looked at the corpse in the snow pile and said somewhat angrily, "You nobles of Aouine are really too much."
"The nobles of Kirrlutz are almost as bad, not to mention the fact that our enemy's identity is a cultist in the first place, and there's your share of blame in that." The dark-haired knight replied coldly from the side of her horse.
Laurenna gave her a look and held herself back from saying anything in return.
"That's not really a bad way to put it," Brendel thought to himself, but he did not strike up a conversation. Instead, he raised his head to everyone and said, "If the battle took place around here, then this should have been Arreck's camp in the first place, everyone spread out left and right to search the area and see if you can find any clues."
Before he could finish his sentence, as if to echo his words, a whistle sounded in the forest. It was the signal for his guards to contact each other.
Everyone turned that way and saw the young girl on the white horse trotting all the way out of the forest. Hpamila, still wearing her linen robe in this cold weather, turned around and pointed in a certain direction in the forest with her wooden staff, "My lord, many bodies have been found over here."
"Arreck has really done it." Maynild shook her head lightly.
Freya who was standing beside Brendel felt her heart sink, she could not help but clench her teeth. She had a slight expectation that they would still be able to save those hunters, but she did not expect the other party to be so determined.
Laurenna, who was standing beside her, turned pale.
"Take us there." Brendel replied with a sigh. He still remembered the worried and winged looks of those hunters' families when they left Shallow Water Town, for these families, their husbands and fathers might be the only pillars of a family. There were even some single-parent families, where all that was left were helpless children who were waiting at home for their father's return, but might never hear from him again.
He could not help but feel a slight chill in his heart at the thought of it.
It was as if Hipamila could hear what was in his lord's head, as the priest of Himilude was meant to exist in this world to protect the world. The young woman was not one of those maidens in the Holy Cathedral of Flame who know nothing, she was well aware of the suffering of the people and thus could not help but lower her eyelids slightly.
She tugged on the reins, turning her horse's head and leading the crowd towards the forest.
After passing through a small patch of sparse cedar forest, the view became clear and a clearing that was thought to have been felled appeared before everyone. But everyone slightly choked when they saw the scene in front of them, the collapsed animal skin tents that sprawled across the forest seemed to remain as they were that day, and in this camp that seemed to have been trampled on once, the scene of the brutal battlefield was restored before everyone's eyes.
Over twenty corpses were piled up in the center of the camp, with bits and pieces scattered around, dried blood everywhere in the snow, and broken arrows stuck everywhere in the camp.
Brendel saw Medissa's unicorn standing right next to the pile of corpses while the little Silver Elf princess scooped up snow from the ground with both hands, which turned to glistening ice flowers in her hands. She placed these bouquets next to each corpse, looking very calm.
"My lord." she saw Brendel before she patted the snow on her knees and stood up, "I remember in the last war the Silver Elves would send a bouquet of lilies to all their valiant warrior companions, and the next time they went to war, the warriors would wear these bouquets on their chests to avenge their fallen companions."
"Don't worry, Arreck will pay for this, certain people see the lives of others as ants, these people have long since been abandoned by Marsha." He replied coldly, "Chaos cannot shelter them either, let’s watch, as the bloodshed will be paid for with bloodshed."
"Are there any left alive?" Laurenna could not help but take in a breath of cold air at the sight and whispered a question. But anyone could hear that the good and honest lady from Kirrlutz was merely suppressing her anger.
Medissa shook her head, "At least in this camp, they're all dead."
The camp was slightly quiet.
Although Brendel, Freya, Maynild and even Scarlet included had all been in many battles, and life and death on the battlefield were already common to them, but it was a fight in which both sides had gambled their lives, and there was a slaughter in front of them. These hunters from the area around Lantonilan each had their own families, they were fathers, husbands, or sons of their families, and they may have entered this forest with hope for the future, wishing to make a better life for their loved ones.
But all hope for the future is ruthlessly snuffed out here. But just for the sake of some people's inexplicable pursuit, those people have no respect for life at all.
As Freya watched this scene, she seemed to think of Bucce that was burnt in the fire. The kingdom's people were struggling in the midst of disaster, while his nobles merely watched indifferently and even fueled the fire.
How similar everything that happened at different times and different places was.
She gritted her teeth, her clenched fists almost turning white.
Laurenna at the side seemed to have noticed the future Valkyrie’s mood swings, and with a slight fondness for Freya in her heart, she said, “Let’s sort out the bodies of the hunters, preferably find a way to bury them and take them out when we leave here. At least to let their family know what's going on here, they have the right to."
The words of this female knight from Kirrlutz impressed Brendel. Although he had known that Laurenna was known for her integrity and kindness, the other party was, after all, the daughter of a great noble family, and he did not expect that she could consider things so carefully.
He was looking at her with great surprise. But seemingly noticing his gaze, Laurenna turned back and explained to everyone, "Knights will respect their fallen companions, at least they wouldn’t leave their dead comrades in the wilderness. Though these men were not our companions, we promised to bring them back, dead or alive, at least to their families."
With one hand pressed to her chest, she faced everyone and replied somewhat seriously, "I hope I can keep my promise."
"That's right, I'm with sister Laurenna on this one." Medissa nodded her head slightly in support of such words.
"Me too." Freya let out a soft breath and replied.
Brendel looked over at the other bank of the Nugan River, but there was not much time left for them. The princess was on her way to Castle Vallendaren, and Eikkel and Makarov's party had apparently arrived first. In the south, Count Radner was meeting up with the Bloodstaff's army. The timeline from convincing Count Viero to form an allied army to heading south and ambushing Count Radner, as in history, left him with only a month.
That meant he could be in the forest for two weeks at most.
The blazing summer sun which had become very faint in the Stained Frost Forest Labyrinth was now overhead. With some further delay and he might have to spend the night here.
He looked at Maynild at the side, and the knight neither expressed her approval nor her opposition. But having grown familiar with each other’s personalities over these days, he knew that this was a sign of acquiescence.
Brendel eventually nodded his head.
It was good that everyone present understood that they were pressed for time, and with a nod from Brendel, they each consciously began to clean up the battlefield. Due to the abundance of manpower, digging out some holes in the snow to bury the bodies was actually not a difficult task. And since the remains of these hunters were expected to be retrieved and taken away sooner or later, the guards under Laurenna's command only dug out a few large, hassle-free pits, which were covered with snow and marked prominently afterward.
The others, Medissa and Freya, searched farther afield for any possible survivors. Although Brendel thought it was unlikely, he had seen earlier from the arrow wounds of the hunters this time Arreck had brought with him were veterans who had fought with him for many years and it was unlikely to make such a cheap mistake.
Just as Brendel was thinking this, the voice of Ciel suddenly came to him.
"My lord, guess what have I found out?"
"What?" Brendel asked, startled.
"Ciel, although it's still cold here, it's summer now, and spring is long gone." Brendel froze for a moment, then replied somewhat unenthusiastically.
"No, no, you've mistaken my meaning. My lord, I mean I have found a woman alive." Ciel hurriedly yelled.
Peja was found in the Nugan River, and Ciel happened to see her washed downstream with the drift ice, hanging from a branch that poked into the middle of the river.
In this weather, with the river's temperature near zero Celcius, Ciel found the woman nearly drenched and submerged in the icy water, with a long knife wound on her back. The knife wound seemed to be blistering white from the loss of blood and the rolled flesh.
The young wizard's first judgment would have been that the woman was dead in such a state, but that was not the truth. When he fished the woman out of the middle of the river with a spell, he found that she still had a heartbeat.
Then what happened after that was known to Peya.
But for the young girl herself, she could not remember anything about what happened before she jumped into the river. She only remembered the day the nobles had turned on against each other, and the oldest hunter in the group had been stabbed right through with a sword by that middle-aged swordsman.
Then there was a scuffle and the swords-
It was as if it was a terrifying scene that could only happen in a nightmare. The most powerful hunter in the group, the leader with silver strength who was said to have once served as the army's sword instructor in the Manoweir region, was no match for that middle-aged swordsman by a single round.
She would never forget that scene, the noble knights laughing as they closed in on them, and then the screams of familiar men rising up.
She remembered one knight trying to hold her down, holding her hands back. She remembered the vulgar, angry voice of the other while running his hands over her body.
If it had not been for that ring, she had no idea what horrible things would have happened after that.
What happened after that seemed to be faint in memory, the wounds on her back hurt so much and her body was getting weaker and weaker. But instead, her heart grew more and more worried about her brother, the pursuers were getting closer and closer, and after that, it was dark before her eyes.
‘I cannot die……”
It was like a long nightmare in which every face was distorted. The faces of the townspeople who had loathed their sister and brother were covered in blood. Then the faces of the caracal laughing knights. Finally, she saw her brother stabbed by a bullet and pinned to the snow, red blood spreading out from under him like a thousand tiny red snakes.
The young woman opened her eyes abruptly.
She was sweating before she could see a female face through the faint light of the fire outside the tent. She immediately recognized the other mountain folk, only a mountain folk could have such long fiery red hair, and the young girl was hugging her knees and leaning on a spear.
"You, who are you ......" Peya seemed to want to ask the question, but she immediately felt her throat as if it was on fire. Finally, only some meaningless hissing syllables came out, but instead, the pain was so intense that she groaned.
"My lord said that it would be best for you to be quiet and get some rest. You're badly hurt, but the point is that you were unconscious in the icy river for I don't know how long, and now you're running a fever, but we don't have any herbs on hand."
Scarlet had rarely opened her mouth in front of strangers since leaving the Grey Wolf Mercenaries, but when she did, she finished her sentence in one breath as if she were reciting a boring report.
After she finished, she quietly looked at the woman in bed, her eyes shining from the firelight outside.
Peya was slightly startled but felt the kindness of the other woman. She lay back down, her mind a mess, but finally calmed down a bit.
She frowned slightly as if trying to remember what had happened.