Author’s note: this is probably the longest chapter by far. Phew. I don’t know how you will react to this chapter though ? I’ll post chapter 65 and the epilogue later tonight so you guys won’t be so depressed lol.
He was now in the Alastriona camp, sitting around the fire with the rest of his troops, the allied forces, and the Alastrionan army. The night was cold, and they should be getting rest, but every sound they heard in the dark night twitched them awake, thinking of invisible enemies prowling in stygian blackness. Many of the men were getting sick, and the priests and priestesses who remained in the war, would be drained of mana in just a day.
“They are truly a prolific continent,” Great General Cassius said as he sharpened his sword, the flickering flames of the bonfire making ghastly shadows against the tent walls.
“It has been twelve years,” Luce sighed. “Have we ever rested properly during the twelve years of war?”
“None that I recall,” Alasdair said. “The bags under my eyes are getting heavier and darker from the lack of sleep.”
“I’m sure your daughter would love to see you like that,” Alaric chuckled. “I’ll tell her her father turned into one of those pandas from the East!”
Alasdair threw a pebble at the laughing Alaric. “Shut up. I don’t even want to remember the family I left behind. My daughter must be a beauty just like her mother now.” He sighed as a glob of water floated over his palm, slowly forming into two faces: one of his wife’s and the other of his infant daughter’s.
“I miss my family too,” Zephyr confessed. “Every day, I miss them.”
“Huh?” Alasdair turned to Zephyr. “You didn’t tell us you have a child?”
Zephyr blushed. “Well, I didn’t think it was proper to boast.” He pretended to fix his glasses as he looked at Luce’s face out of the corner of his eye.
Alaric cleared his throat, wanting to change the subject quickly when he saw Luce’s face darken. “So, ah…why did you come to our camp again? What about the dragons you had mentioned before?”
“Since the dragons appeared and defended our northern border, we left them to wreak havoc on the enemies. Seiran, my wife’s chamberlain, is actually a Dragon Master,” Zephyr said proudly.
“Dragon Master?” General Cassius repeated. “I have never heard of a person who can tame or control those sacred beasts before. What kind of person is he?”
Zephyr recalled the white-haired man in his memories. “I have actually never known him to be a Dragon Master up until that day. He flew on top of the dragons as if they were his pets, and with just one sweep of his hand, the dragons incinerated the enemies with one breath.”
Alasdair rubbed the goosebumps on his arm. “We should employ those dragons then! They could obliterate the whole northern continent!”
Zephyr shook his head. “They only work when they are within range of Seiran. Seiran does not want to leave my wife alone for even a second, and that time that he left to meet me at the borders was just a one time thing. He is my wife’s right-hand man, and the one who swore to protect her with his life. I do not want him to leave for the war, as well. Who would protect my wife in the castle if he’s not there?”
In the corner, Luce clenched and unclenched his fist, as he felt a stifling feeling in his chest. He had not felt this emotion in a very long time, and every time he heard the words “my wife”, it was akin to a stab at his already fragile constitution.
Alaric looked over at Luce, and wanted to change the course of the conversation to an even safer route, as it seemed an aura of melancholy had surrounded Luce’s corner of the tent.
“Ah–” Alaric started.
“So Zephyr, do I have a niece or a nephew?” Alasdair asked with his eyes sparkling.
Alaric wanted to strangle his brother for being so tactless. He threw sharp glares at him, but his ignorance was like a max-leveled barrier.
Zephyr smiled at Alasdair. “My son Callel is fifteen years old now. He took his mother’s blonde hair, and my grey eyes. He is a very handsome boy.”
“Ahh, a nephew!” Alasdair said excitedly. “I can’t wait for this war to end. I miss my sister, and I want to see my nephew already!”
General Cassius slowly went over to his son’s part of the tent, and thwacked his son’s back with a heavy hand.
“Help me make dinner,” Cassius said as he picked up his son’s limp arm. He could not bear to see the heartbreak in his son’s eyes anymore.
Luce nodded absently as he was dragged out of the tent by his father.
Zephyr watched him go. He didn’t mean to boast at all about his son, and he did not feel great about knowing it had affected Luce so much. He still knew, deep within his heart, that his wife loved Luce more than she did towards himself. Still, it calmed his heart to know that his wife was his, even if it was just for this lifetime.
War negotiations by the King Altair had been made since the start of the war, to dissuade the northern continent’s kingdoms from further attacks.
However, King Altair’s letter was merely scoffed at by the northern continent’s High King Cribal, as he and along with many other kings of his continent, knew of the riches they would obtain if they won the battle.
Finally, after diplomatic negotiations failed for the umpteenth time, both sides agreed to prepare for the last and decisive battle after twelve years of carnage.
Inside a certain tent in a particular place in time, nocuous tones slathered over several voices could be heard.
“Is the poison ready?”
“Yes, Your Majesty.”
“Kekeke, how ironic it is that an apothecary can also create such a potent poison.”
“Yes, Your Majesty. Medicines and poisons are quite similar. This poison, after almost a decade of manufacturing, is quite the best. After hearing of this person with an almost limitless mana pool, this poison will surely curb his mana regeneration and kill him on the spot. There is also a Mage that can slow one’s vitality, and I have told him to direct his magic on this certain person.”
“Your Majesty, this will surely do the trick. This man, who is a knight of Alastriona, is said to be the most powerful knight of the lot. He has killed many of our men without even breaking a sweat! He must be killed no matter what.”
“Kekeke, this last battle shall decide who wins. Who said there should be no reinforcements in this battle?”
“Kekeke, they did, Your Majesty.”
“Did we agree, Kekeke?”
“Yes, Your Majesty—ouch! I mean, no, Your Majesty.”
“That is good. Kekeke. We shall win this war at all cost. So what of underhanded tactics? What is pride and honor? As long as we win, no?”
“No, Your Majesty—ouch! I mean, yes, Your Majesty. Kekeke.”
King Altair, who commanded the battle, chose a flat open plain where he could deploy his larger forces. He did not want to be caught in a narrow battlefield where concentrated mana would easily wipe them out.
The central continent’s army numbered 80,000 cavalry and 20,000 infantry, many of whom were battle mages and Knights. While the northern continent’s army numbered 32,000 cavalry, 1,500 archers, and 31,000 infantry.
King Cribal placed himself in the center of his best infantry, as was the tradition among northern kings.
King Altair had also pushed himself forth, arriving at the battlefield before sunrise, despite the protestations of his people and his family. They all wanted him to remain in the castle, but he was adamantly against it. What good was a king if he could not even protect his subjects on the battlefield?
The central continent’s army was divided into two, with the right side under the direct command of King Altair, and the left of Great General Cassius. They were both surprised that the enemy army numbered less than what they imagined. Was this perhaps a ploy to be caught off guard? They felt an unease in their hearts, knowing that this last battle must be won at any cost.
The battle began with King Altair ordering his infantry to march in phalanx formation, the men lining up in ranks in close order, locking their anti-magic shields together to form a shield wall that would make front assaults difficult.
King Cribal, without any seeming formation whatsoever, raised his hand and shouted, “Defeat the enemy!” And his army rushed forward in every direction, colliding with the phalanx at the front, and crushing both flanks of General Cassius’ and King Altair’s army.
Everyone was in an uproar, as this was not what they expected the final battle to be. It was as if the central continent’s army was a piece of candy that the enemy army swarmed over with relish.
Everything was in chaos as multiple spells nullified each other, screams of anguish pierced the dry air, and the loud clinking and clashing of sword against sword, and armor upon armor, rang out in the open field.
The war seemed like it would never end.
Corpses upon corpses.
Geysers of blood showering and splattering militant faces.
The effluvium of death reeked all around.
Luce twirled his ice sword in his left hand, freezing enemies as soon as they were about to touch the tip of his sword. With his fire sword, he melted them on the spot, not taking even a minute.
“Be careful, son,” General Cassius reminded him from the side, as he coated his sword with mana, slicing an enemy through his thick armor. He took the enemy’s sword from his scabbard, and used it pierce another enemy that was about to strike Luce’s unguarded back.
“Thanks father,” Luce said gratefully.
“A father does what a father does,” General Cassius smiled at his son, knocking an enemy mage’s front teeth with a mana coated fist.
The battle went on, and at noon, since the enemy army was outnumbered by King Altair’s army, their numbers dwindled at a fast rate.
There were also many casualties in King Altair’s camp, despite the many priests and priestesses who came with them to heal. At noon, their mana was almost next to nothing, as they spent the hours healing the wounded without rest. Half of King Altair’s troops were defeated, leaving many of the surviving soldiers in a haggard state. Despite the enemy’s small number, they were an army to be feared, as they slashed and slashed, chanting spells with no regard to their depleting mana. They did not seem to care about their lives, and only cared about defeating the enemy and taking them down with them. It was simply a suicide.
Luce sat on the ground as the sweat dripped over his face, his hair clumped together with blood. He gasped for air, feeling his body turn heavy as lead, as a spell that an enemy Mage had casted upon him slowed his vitality for an uncertain period of time. He had been hacking at everything in his way, until his vision turned red.
“Damn it,” Luce muttered under his breath.
“Are you okay?” Zephyr lifted Luce’s arm and helped him stand up. “The enemy has halted their attacks for now and called a temporary truce. I can bring you somewhere to rest.”
Luce lifted his lips into a half smile. “Thanks.” He looked into the horizon at the small remaining forces of the enemy. “I wonder what they’re waiting for?”
Zephyr gave Luce a leather flask for him to drink. “It’s water.”
“Thanks,” Luce said as he slowly lifted the flask to his lips with much difficulty.
“You’re welcome.” Zephyr attached the leather flask to the buckle around his waist after Luce was done drinking.
“Also,” Luce said, “Thanks for looking after my–the princess, Alenaire. I mean–Queen Alenaire.” He stood up on his own, feeling that his body was not as heavy as it previously felt it had been, yet his head ached as if a thousand nails were being driven into his skull.
“It’s only natural,” Zephyr said, his lips twitching into a mirthful smile. “She is my wife, after all.”
“Right…” Luce looked away, pretending to dust off an invisible lint on his armor. “Still, I have to thank you. When the war is over, and we can all return to our homes, I hope you both will live happily.”
“We will,” Zephyr assured him as he fixed his crooked and half charred glasses on his sooty face. “I will make her happy in your place.”
Zephyr looked at Luce intently, as the latter looked back with a bit of surprise registering in his eyes.
Luce chuckled, shaking his head as he patted Zephyr on the shoulder. He did not have enough words to counter that statement, as any sort of retort had died in his throat.
Suddenly, the ground began shaking.
A cloud of dust appeared on the plains, accompanied by the sound of thundering horse hooves.
King Altair’s men all gaped at the enemy’s reinforcements that was approximated to be a staggering 200,000 men, four times more than the remaining force King Altair now had.
Zephyr and Luce both shouted expletives as the men on horseback approached, their swords raised in the air as they all shouted in victory.
“This was not part of the plan!” Alasdair cried out in dismay. “Father had an agreement with King Cribal that this last battle would end with no reinforcements on both sides! It’s unfair!”
“Life is unfair,” Luce said, remembering the words Alenaire had uttered in the past.
“Prepare your positions!” General Cassius shouted over the panicking mass.
As soon as the reinforcements arrived, another bloody stage unfolded. The enemy lines were now buttressed by the new soldiers who were still full of health and vitality, as they thundered over to King Altair’s already exhausted men with reckless abandon.
Zephyr parried a sword that came his way, and he looked over his shoulder quickly to see how Luce was faring. Luce was fighting seriously, his eyebrows drawn together in concentration as he called out all his four elements to help him in the battle. This took a toll on his already weakened body, and depleted his mana rapidly, but he had no choice. He had to protect his kingdom.
Zephyr saw something glint towards him, and by reflex, he evaded it by leaning his head to the side, and it whizzed passed, striking Luce who had just finished killing off ten men at once. Because Zephyr’s body had ensconced the arrow’s view, Luce did not have enough time to react at the last minute.
“Agh!” A grunt sounded from behind Zephyr, and he turned around to see that Luce had been struck between the scales where his armor breastplates joined.
“Dammit!” Zephyr immediately threw his sword, piercing the archer who had attacked. He then grabbed a random corpse’s sword while he quickly made his way to Luce’s side.
“Dammit!” Zephyr saw the arrow had pierced Luce’s chest, and he was heavily bleeding from the wound. Zephyr wanted to bandage him up, but upon seeing the many enemies on horseback coming their way, he had no choice but to place him back down the ground and face the riders. At the very least, Zephyr thought, he could protect Luce while he recuperated and recharged his mana, fighting off the flesh wound.
“Dammit!” Zephyr bit his lip as he stood up again to face the new enemies that surrounded them.
“DAMMIT!” Zephyr grabbed a long spear on the ground and slashed horizontally at the enemies on horseback, decapitating five men, blood spurting like a geyser from their necks, as they did not expect this man to move so swiftly. Zephyr threw the sword in his other hand, hitting an enemy in the middle of his forehead. But this victory of his was short-lived, as a hail of arrows immediately descended upon him, piercing him between the gaps of his armor without remorse.
Luce remained conscious through it all, as the deep pain in his chest kept him awake. He tapped the ground with his fingers, releasing his mana. Through the back of his eyelids, the surroundings appeared before him in sepia tone, as he used his earth element to trace every movement, every fiber of flesh that came in contact with the ground. He saw Zephyr fall, his eyes lifeless. He saw Alasdair, Alaric and King Altair struggle as the enemies flocked towards them, intending to kill the King of the kingdom they desired so much.
He saw his father, as he was struck from behind by an axe much larger than he. Luce’s heart almost stopped at this sight, and he felt an unbridled rage flow through his body. His fingers clutched the earth as he forced himself to calm down, as he could not think properly through eyes clouded with anger.
He took deep breaths even as the pain in his chest struck him sharply with each movement.
Lastly, in his mind, in his memories, he saw Alenaire.
The one that he loved and would keep on loving for all eternity.
He had promised her he would protect the kingdom, and he would do so at all costs.
He sat up and pulled the arrow from his chest, a jet of blood surging into the air. He knew the arrow was coated with poison, and he could already feel it rampaging through his bloodstream. He did not have much mana left either, as the poison hampered his ability to refuel his mana.
What was he to do now with the little mana he had left? He did not even have enough mana to materialize his weapons and keep them for a long period of time. So how was he going to fight?
Luce cupped the blood that gushed from his wound. If he were to make a weapon out of his blood, would it suffice? At least the material was there, as blood was like water, and he only needed little mana to sustain and give it directives. He could also use the earth as a medium, but he had not enough mana for a large scale effect, and it could also endanger his comrades in the process. Calling upon the wind was too much for him as well, as the air was dry and stale, with not even a cool brush against his cheek.
Luce closed his eyes as he pretended to be dead on the ground. He needed to have proper concentration for the method he chose to do.
His blood seeped out from the wound on his chest slowly, as if the air itself extracted the liquid from his heart, swirling around until it formed a dark red orb above him. It slowly dispersed into minute particles, the small particles itself churning at a breakneck speed, awaiting a signal.
Luce saw the hundred thousand enemy troops behind his eyelids, and he sent each of the churning blood red particles towards them.
The particles reacted swiftly and smoothly, crossing the air and cleanly puncturing a hole into their foreheads, spreading poison into their brains. A hundred thousand men fell of their horses and dropped to the ground all at once, crying out in agony.
A ball of excess blood still hovered above Luce, waiting until it was perfect. Once it had stopped being fed, it quickly looked around the surroundings, detecting enemies that had escaped the previous particles’ path. The ball of blood scattered its tentacles, entering through open mouths that were stuck in a perpetual scream. None of the enemies were left alive, as its master had decreed.
With one last and thorough sweep of the enemy camp, the ball of blood rushed back to its master, and hovered in the air hesitantly until it dropped heavily onto a heart that would no longer beat.
The sun had not even set, and yet the plains were dyed with a red that could parallel the sunset.