A cloned brain flew over and landed in front of Richard, who leapt onto it in one graceful movement. Nasia did the same from behind him, after which the drone promptly flew towards the borders. Being much faster than the astral chrysalis and flying chrysalides, they reached the base when the reinforcements were still more than a hundred kilometres away.
However, by that point Salwyn’s vanguard was less than ten. To make matters worse, only 3,000 soldiers had managed to reinforce the base while the rest of the troops had been delayed along the way. The base was rather crude as well, the few walls of pitiful height with shallow pits scattered all around.
The soldiers that had just gotten here were making efficient use of their time, wolfing down their rations with big bites. A young mage from the Deepblue had come up with a recipe of ground meat, fish and vegetables mixed together that could be washed down with cold water or cooked as required, the result dropping supply requirements by a third.
Shadowed by Nasia, Richard walked around the base and re-organised his soldiers as normal, ensuring that he wouldn’t have any problems commanding them. Even knowing that they would be fighting nearly twenty times their number, these soldiers were fearless once they knew he would lead them; over the years, he had accomplished far too many miracles for anyone to be able to doubt him.
The troops were still resting when the earth began to tremble. Salwyn had come quickly, far earlier than even Richard had expected and having beaten the reinforcements by an entire hour. However, this had come at the cost of a constant march; the Iron Triangle soldiers likely had low stamina, and Richard even believed that the infantry could barely even stand.
A black flood appeared on the horizon, Salwyn’s vanguard. Standing in front of his own troops and gazing at the distance, Richard noticed the prince himself leading the force. All traces of luxury and elegance had been washed away, the man now kitted out in black armour with the aura of a soldier instead of a king. The only thing that could even connect him to the past self was the same carefully trimmed moustache.
Salwyn charged another kilometre before seeing Richard standing in front of the formation, pulling the reins tightly and getting his mount to twirl around a few times before it stopped. Seeing him come to a halt, the rest of his soldiers followed suit.
The two sides were several kilometres apart, but it felt like sparks would erupt where the two’s gazes met. A general by Salwyn’s side bellowed, “Your Highness, they have such a small force! How about we just go at them right now?”
The prince’s face twitched, but he eventually raised a hand, “No, all troops are to rest. Sub-legends on guard!”
“But the cavalry can still fight! Can we not deal with 3,000 footsoldiers?”
“3,000 footsoldiers led by the Crimson Duke himself? Richard Archeron?” Salwyn countered.
The words Richard Archeron immediately terrified everyone present. Richard’s name had become a taboo in the Iron Triangle Empire, a legend who nobody was willing to bring up. Every heroic general willing to challenge him had died in the Bloodstained Lands, and the jewel of the crown Salwyn had only barely escaped across their encounters. Even the campaign on Bluewater with vastly superior forces had ended in failure. The other famous general of the Empire, Rislant, simply didn’t dare take the stage.
The imperial cavalry slowly retreated and joined up with the infantry, dismounting to rest. Seeing this, Nasia’s eyebrows furrowed with confusion, “Why do they seem so afraid of you? Just which part of you is that amazing?”
Richard burst into laughter, “Like I said. As long as I’m standing here, they won&rsq
“Hmph! They’re just stupid. Don’t think you’re great because you’ve won against a bunch of pigs. It’s going to be a hard battle later, don’t let your guard down.”
“I never let my guard down.”
“Keep bragging!” she refused to have any of it. When he just smiled wryly without refuting, she continued, “This bet is still foolish.”
“Heh, maybe if you’re only looking at it on the surface. Think of the big picture; the Iron Triangle Empire is just a stepping stone and not the ultimate goal; I’ve given them a shortcut to survival, and they accepted it without hesitation. That means they don’t have the confidence to face me in open battle. Imagine the morale of their army if they can’t even accomplish something so easy; once I beat Salwyn here, they’ll probably surrender after two more battles.”
“Perhaps,” she shrugged, starting to wander around the base observing the troops’ weapons, armour, rations, and the like. She was incredibly curious about everything in the world and refused to let go of any details, especially when it came to war.
Half an hour later, the imperial troops had reorganised themselves and began to press forward. Salwyn was still at the front, only stopping a kilometre away and allowing the flanks to march in to envelop the rear.
“You let your guard down, Richard!” his voice resounded through the sky.
Richard chuckled, “I don’t recall you caring the first time we battled.”
The prince’s face immediately flushed red, “I hope you stick to your promise.”
“Let’s see you get through my defences first.”
Salwyn didn’t say anymore, waving his hand for his army to surge forth like a flood.
Richard waved an arm and sent two fireballs hurtling towards the incoming infantry. They quickly swelled to about half a metre in diameter, swirling as they flew forward. In the distance, Salwyn and his other mages immediately shrank back for a moment; they had never seen anything like it before. The fireballs Richard launched were a pale red on the outside, but the core was an eerie flickering blue that caused one’s eyes to hurt if they even looked at it.
Salwyn wasn’t an outstanding mage by any means, but based on his extensive knowledge he quickly realised the danger of these strange fireballs. However, his troops were formed up too close and wouldn’t be able to scatter in time even if he gave them the command, not to mention the chaos that would cause. It was only when the fireballs reached his formation that he realised another strange thing about them: they had flown an entire 300 metres!
Just how could they fly so far? The dozen mages of the imperial army flew into the sky, each using their best spells to try and intercept. This had been their main assignment when they were dispatched; they were to melt away enemy attacks. A barrage of ice, acid, fire, lightning and a dozen other spells exploded on the fireballs, but once the smoke dissipated the mages were appalled to find that only the thin layer of red on the surface had been worn away. The blue cores continued to shoot forward.
“RUN!” someone cried, the mages spreading in all directions and allowing the two shimmering fireballs to land amidst the troops. The explosions were strangely silent, spreading about ten metres or so before beginning to dissipate. The troops affected went stiff as the blazing blue flames caught on their bodies, everything starting to melt away. Even the weapons and armour weren’t spared, leaving behind only a puddle of red that cooled to black.
In no time at all, two holes had appeared in the imperial formation. Over a hundred warriors had disappeared.
“Th-This is… Grade 8 spell!” a mage trembled. The rest didn’t even dare to look at Richard; the ability to boost a grade 3 spell all the way to grade 8 showed just how accomplished he was in magic. All of them were considered grand mages in Faelor, one even sub-legendary, but they couldn’t compare.
All colour drained from Salwyn’s face; he had never seen a fireball with so much power before. None of his mages would be willing to take Richard on now; before his mana was gone, anyone standing in his way would be committing suicide.
“CHARGE!” a general bellowed, “He’s just one man, he can’t cast that many spells!”
The troops immediately came to a realisation and charged towards Richard as quickly as possible. Nobody even thought about conserving the little stamina they had, only one goal in their minds; they had to get through this path of death as quickly as they could!