Chapter 214: Welcoming Gift
“We need to go warn the others!” Tess stressed, mana enveloping her body as she prepared to jump off the cliff.
I grabbed her wrist. “I’ll warn everyone. You need to go get your teammates. You have a mission.”
“That beast horde is more than a day early, Art! The people here aren’t prepared for this. I should stay and—”
“That’s what I’m here for, Tess,” I cut in firmly. “You have your orders from your commanding captain. I won’t go as far as to order you to leave, but if things are looking bad here, I suspect the troops requesting for backup in Elenoir might be having it worse.”
There was a tense moment of silence. Tess’ brows furrowed and her jaws tightened in frustration, but she finally relented. “Fine. I’ll gather my team and report to Captain Jesmiya before leaving.”
“Good. Even if you are at an advantage in the forest, be careful,” I replied with a gentle smile.
“That’s what I wanted to say, dummy,” she said before grabbing me by the scruff of my mantle and pulling me into a kiss.
As she let go and walked toward the edge of the cliff, I found myself subconsciously touching my own lips in a daze.
Tess smiled at me, her flushed cheeks betraying her bold move. Tugging on the chain of her leaf charm, she locked gazes with me. “Remember the promise.”
I smiled back, all too aware of how hot my face had become.
“I promise,” I replied, holding up my half of the charm dangling around my neck.
And like that, Tess jumped off the cliff, sailing down like an emerald comet. I watched her go while convincing myself that what I said to her was for the best. I didn’t want her to stay here. Even if she was one of the few mages in this continent that wouldn’t slow me down, I knew that I wouldn’t be able to go all out without worrying about her.
At least in the Elshire Forest, she’d only have to be careful of stragglers lost in an environment that she could freely navigate through.
“It’s for the best, Arthur,” I mumbled to myself. After a moment, I reached out to Sylvie and informed her of the situation before leaping off the cliff.
Despite the bombshell that was thrown, the people of the Wall handled the news rather well. That didn’t mean they didn’t panic, but with the tight leadership and the fact that most of the people present were either trained soldiers or veteran adventurers, they were quick to adapt.
Trodius was especially quick to think on his feet. Quickly gathering the mercenary adventurers, he assigned them to help out at different parts of the walls that needed fortification.
Workers continued their efforts inside the underground routes leading out from the Wall with the help of some of the soldiers. Jesmiya immediately sent out orders for each of the units making up her Trailblazer Division to be dispatched into appropriate positions in preparation for the horde.
The Bulwark Division, composed of a bit less than two thousand soldiers, had complete confidence and trust in their captain. Perhaps it was because we were on the defense and had the massive wall to protect us, but even knowing that they were vastly outnumbered, they were ready to march outside the Wall without hesitation.
In the span of an hour, archers and conjurers were positioned on every floor of the Wall behind arrowslits. Melee troops—both warriors and augmenters alike—were being filed into formation just behind the entrance leading out into the Beast Glades, prepared to advance into battle against the approaching beast horde.
As for myself, I waited inside the meeting tent with Sylvie. Trodius was buried behind several stacks of paper on his desk, leaving me with a blissful few moments of peace as I checked the contents of my dimension ring. The only useful thing I had in it was Dawn’s Ballad, cracked and broken but still better than any other weapons I’d used.
I took it out, inspecting the cracks and splinters scattered across the translucent teal blade.
I really wish this damn weapon inside my hand would manifest already, I cursed in my head. ‘Now would be as good a time as any,’ Sylvie agreed.
“General. Please, reconsider. Allow us to accompany you,” Gavik’s deep voice resounded.
I looked at the burly adventurer and the curly-haired mage beside him. “As I said before, your job will be to support the troops here.”
Callum spoke up, frustration evident in his voice. “Commander Virion had personally picked the two of us to assist you in battle. If something were to happen after sending you by yourself—”
“I’m not looking down on you two, but the chances of something happening to me and Sylvie only increases if you two come with us,” I stated, not taking my eyes off Dawn’s Ballad.
“Please excuse the intrusion. Father, I brought the weapons you asked for,” a clear voice rang.
I looked up to see a tall woman with bright red eyes and dark skin that seemed even darker with the splotches of soot. In her toned arms were two swords, one longer than the other.
“Ah! Come in, Senyir.” Trodius waved the woman over, a rare smile on his face. “Arthur, this is Senyir Flamesworth. My daughter and the master blacksmith of the Wall.”
Tess had referred to a little girl’s master as Senyir back when we were touring the Wall together. Tess even seemed to have a good relationship with her, but even so…
The very mention of the word ‘daughter’ coming from Trodius’ lips annoyed me. Memories of Jasmine as she told me her life story resurfaced, leaving a bad taste in my mouth.
Still, I kept my personal feelings of the senior captain down and introduced myself to the woman.
“Arthur Leywin. Pleasure to meet you,” I said, sheathing Dawn’s Ballad.
“Senyir here is one of the finest blacksmiths in Sapin, on par with even the master smiths of Darv due of her excellent control and implementation of fire magic during the forging process,” Trodius boasted.
‘Your anger is leaking onto me,’ Sylvie conveyed gently.
I can’t help it.
“I heard from Tessia that you prefer thinner blades,” Senyir said as she handed me the longer of the two swords. “I’m sure it’s nowhere near the same level compared to your weapon but my father informed me that you’ll be in battle for an extended period of time. Having multiple backup weapons won’t do you any harm.”
“Thank you,” I replied, drawing the sword from its unadorned steel scabbard. With a sharp ring, a pale gold blade about the width of three fingers came into view. After testing its balance with a few swings, I began channeling mana into the blade.
The thin sword hummed as fire, wind, water, and earth all began to swirl around the blade in harmony. I continued injecting mana into the sword until I could see the blade beginning to deteriorate.
“Not bad. I think it’ll suffice,” I mustered, expunging the magic surrounding the new sword and putting it back into its sheath.
Senyir couldn’t hide the disappointment in her face as she accepted my words with a bow. “I’m honored.”
Putting the longer sword into my ring and fastening the shorter one onto my hip alongside Dawn’s Ballad, I turned to Trodius. “Have the ground troops ready to advance as soon as I leave.”
“I’m aware of the plan, General. Don’t worry about us and come back in one piece,” Trodius replied. “We’ll be waiting for the signal.”
Without another word, I walked past Senyir Flamesworth and stepped out of the tent, only to be met with a thunderous cheer. Around us were soldiers, merchants and adventurers alike clapping and roaring my name.
“Your presence is what is holding this Wall together, General,” Trodius said as he stepped just behind me.
It was overwhelming, to say the least. But rather than feeling joy or pride at being the center of attention, I was overcome with horror because within the crowd, I spotted my father.
He wasn’t supposed to be here. If they were down here, that meant the rest of the Twin Horns were somewhere around here as well.
No. They were supposed to be in Blackbend City, away from this battle.
Sylvie squeezed my hand. ‘Arthur. Everyone is watching.’
I didn’t care. I wanted to run to my father right now and tell him to leave—leave with Mother and the Twin Horns who were surely here.
But I couldn’t. One look from my father stopped me in my tracks.
The man who had raised me alongside Alice stood amongst the unit of soldiers that would be fighting outside the protection of the Wall.
He had such a determined expression that, even as a general, I couldn’t dare stop him. I feared that if I stopped him and everyone here, they would never forgive me.
It’s okay, Arthur. If everything goes to plan, most of these soldiers will make it out alive and your dad is one of the stronger ones out of them, I said, hoping to calm myself down.
Swallowing the angst and the dread building up inside me, I saluted the crowd, locking gazes with my father.
He saluted back and, despite the fight that we had not long ago, he smiled at me.
I exchanged glances with Sylvie, and with a nod, she shifted into her draconic form. This spurred on another wave of cheers as I got on.
My hands were trembling as I finally felt the gravity of the situation. I had brought my sister here. My parents were here as well as the Twin Horns. They, as well as the lives of everyone here cheering, depended on me.
‘You’re not alone, Arthur,’ Sylvie said as she spread her obsidian wings. ‘Nothing has changed from when you made the decision to bring Ellie along.’
She was right. Despite the beast horde arriving a day earlier, the preparations had been made on-time. Both my mom and sister had the Phoenix Wyrm pendants to keep them safe and I had even given Ellie a transmission scroll to reach out to me. But even then, I couldn’t help but feel uneasy.
Was it because of the promise I had made with Tess? The pendant hanging around my neck seemed to weigh down on me, but it wasn’t just that. The timing of everything happening seemed… off.
Focus, Arthur. You’re going into battle.
Gripping the spikes on Sylvie’s neck, I muttered, “Let’s go.”
My bond reeled her head back and let out a deafening roar, shaking the entire ground. Some of the merchants stumbled and fell to the ground but it only rose the morale as the crowd responded back with a cheer of their own.
We ascended with a single beat from Sylvie’s broad wings, clearing the height of the wall in just a few seconds. I had a view of both the approaching beast horde as well as the people below us that we were responsible to protect.
‘Are you ready?’ Sylvie asked, her excitement flooding into me.
Not as ready as you are, I sent back with a chuckle.
Sylvie’s laughter rang in my head before the world around us turned into a blur. With her seal released, every inch of her body was brimming with power. Each stroke of her wings made gales behind us until we were soon approaching the army of beasts.
With mana enhanced vision, I could make out the Alacryan mages scattered within the beast horde, riding the larger beasts.
“How about we send them a little welcoming gift?” I suggested.
‘My thoughts exactly,’ she responded, arching her wings to hover. Space began to distort as mana gathered into Sylvie’s open maw.
A golden white sphere formed and grew larger with every passing breath until it was even larger than me.
The sphere erupted into a beam of pure mana. There was no sound to be heard from the attack, only pure destruction as the blow marked the start of the battle.