TL: Edited July 31 2017.
Chapter 11 – The two factions’ resolve
============ Tarkus’s POV =============
The light within the living hall which was occupied at the last minute brightened and then dimmed. Part of the candles’ flames was intentionally extinguished. The dim light illuminated the deep gashes on the wooden floor.
In the remote corner, a silent and chilly atmosphere seemed to fill the air.
The figures that were sitting down could not get used to the light from the remaining candles, but as long as the middle-aged male leader who had a pale face and wore an eye patch did not speak, none of them dared to utter even one sound.
If Sophie were here, he would have recognized this man, simply because the latter’s appearance did not change much even after a decade.
That pale man was the right hand of ‘Black Lord Incirsta’; the Vampire Lord, One-eyed Tarkus. He was a member of the Rhein family, and belonged to the Vampires’ fourteen generation. He was considered to be young amongst them, but he was a true veteran in Madara’s army.
In comparison, Incirsta, was still like a greenhorn, but that sentiment did not matter to Tarkus, as it merely marked the beginning of their cooperation with him.
Tarkus looked at the skeleton soldiers bringing out the stacks of papers and books from the study. He took a moment to watch them before turning back and spoke to the necromancer: “Speak. What report did Rothko want to inform me when he left you behind?”
“Esteemed General Tarkus, my master found a human scout in the village’s manor.” The necromancer bowed his head and answered in a raspy voice.
“And?” He glanced at the necromancer once, and his gaze went back to the Strategic Map that laid open on the table.
Several disdainful laughs rose from the surroundings.
The vampire general lifted his head, and the faint laughter was immediately silenced. He paused for a while, before saying: “I understand; Rothko did very well. But I want him to do better the next time and not waste time on these types of needless distractions. I want him to advance to the Beldor Forest before noon.”
The necromancer nodded respectfully and left.
But once it left, there were voices of dissent in the room. This time it was a giant skeleton covered in an old brass armor, the dark yellow flames flitting in its eye sockets with fury:
“Lord Tarkus, it is possible that this scout has discovered our plans–”
It opened and closed its mouth, but the air that escaped from its hyoid bone suddenly ceased. That was because Tarkus was staring at it with his remaining left eye, and made it stop subconsciously.
A burst of quiet laughter erupted around him, and the mockery contained within the laughs made the flames in his eyes dance with regret.
“Yes!” The giant skeleton immediately held his chest high to show he was alert and answered.
“Take this location down.” Tarkus’s fingers pointed to a village on the map.
“Before sunrise,” he pointed to the roof: “I want to see results.”
“Yes, Lord Tarkus.”
“Yes!” The two voices replied at the same time.
“I want you both to attack Verbin and seal off the Dagger River.”
“Yes, Lord Tarkus.”
“I’ll give you two small squadrons, search and clear this area.”
Tarkus raised his head from the map and looked coldly at every one of them: “All of you are nobles from Madara. I want everyone to swiftly and elegantly accomplish my every order, precisely as I tell you to. Fortress Riedon, this is our next target.”
He stood up and placed his pallid right hand over his left shoulder: “Madara will be victorious.”
The undead all stood up as well and said gravely: “Madara will be victorious!”
Tarkus lowered his head, and his gaze fell upon the map once more. He looked at Bucce’s southern red pine forest, then to the Green village and Beldor forest, to Fortress Riedon and upwards, finally to the River of Jagged Rocks.
[A human scout?]
He gave a scornful laugh.
============ Brendel’s POV =============
Right at the same time, with the full moon at its peak in the pine forest.
There were no wolves howling in the mountainous region. A chilly wind started blowing in the forest, which seemed to pierce through the branches as if they were made out of smoke, and everyone shivered from the creeping cold behind their backs. The youths of Bucce had never spent the night in the wilds, and the darting shadows in this foggy forest made them jumpy. Each shadow that moved was like a frightening monster in their eyes.
But a single voice calmed them.
“Hold this part down.”
“Yes, continue doing this.”
“Pass me the bandage.”
“Hold it down firmly.”
Sophie gave a long sigh of relief and wiped off the perspiration of his brows when it was finally done.
He was relieved to see a faint green color of [+2] floating from Jonathon’s body.
With his emergency first aid skill reaching ‘Level 0’, the recovery effect from bandaging naturally improved as well. There was practically no difference compared to the game, but every indication that popped up made him feel at ease.
The instruction that he meted out, cleaning the wounds, preventing infection, stopping the bleeding, bandaging and the finer details and techniques, he taught Mackie and Neberto thoroughly. He was in no condition to do it himself, and his own body was just slightly better than Jonathon.
As Neberto finished the last step, Sophie lifted his head up to find everyone staring at him in astonishment.
They only had this conclusion.
Even little Fenris looked back at Freya earnestly and said: “Captain Freya, it seems that compared to your skills, you are quite the amateur.”
Freya looked on with an ashen face.
[Indeed, indeed, this shameless cad found excuses to approach near me! Hehehe, hahahaha!]
Her heart ended up concluding this outcome in a fury and looked worriedly at Romaine, but she only saw her smug face counting the victory loot on the ground that was taken.
[This damn lass…!]
Only Sophie himself knew that his knowledge came from the skill ‘Emergency First Aid’. Whenever he looked at this skill, the knowledge to perform each step appeared in his mind. And in his memories, the emergency first aid skill came from the first three chapters of [Grierson’s holy bible]. The contents of the three chapters discussed the techniques to bandage. And it so happened that Sophie knew Grierson from within the game, who was Bruglas’s current Grand Priest.
Since he had already read the contents of the book at least a hundred times, his familiarity with it was like a pro-gamer priest opening a smurf account performing bandaging.
Sadly, he had to pay the price when he became a smurf. (TL: The price is Freya’s ire. Also, smurf means an experienced player creating a new account to trick people that he’s a newbie.)
On the other hand, Sophie quickly realized that Bucce’s third squadron consisted of ten members, including Freya. He knew Mackie, Irene, Erik and little Fenris.
Then there was Neberto and Vlad. These two brothers were citizens from the mountainous forced to move from the Bora region. They inherited the native feature of a taciturn behavior and did more work than they talked.
There was Jonathon who was in a coma and unlikely to wake up.
Finally, there was daydreaming merchant Romaine and the girl that was with her that time. Sophie later knew that she was the daughter of a baker in the town. Her name was Bella, with a gentle, shy deposition, but at the very least she was a good girl who was kind from the bottom of her heart.
This was the crew that Sophie had to lead.
[They seem like outstanding youths, but they are really newbies amongst newbies. They don’t know what to do next.]
So he considered for a moment before he spoke: “What plans do you have?”
All the smiles vanished, and there was stillness in the air.
“Let’s go to Fortress Riedon,” Irene suggested after a while.
“That’s right; Captain Marden will definitely go there.” Erik followed up next.
He had expected they would say that. And he shook his head.
He looked at them and saw the uncertain expressions on their faces as if they were helpless to what might happen tomorrow. Freya appeared to fare slightly better, but her white knuckles that gripped her sword tightly betrayed her true feelings.
Only Romaine said as if it was the most obvious thing: “I’m with Brendel.”
This reply made Sophie felt like laughing in frustration, but her straightforward reply garnered his goodwill. The youth paused for a while before saying: “Very well, I do agree that the most important thing to do now is to leave this area.”
“And that means you have something that you disagree right?” Freya asked.
Sophie nodded: “Does anyone has a map?”
Everyone looked at each other. Who would have this? Even though they were called militia, they listened to the leader of the guards most of the time. If one cut through the sophism, they were just a backup squadron.
Sophie also realized his mistake. Without the permission from the Holy Cathedral in Aouine, someone possessing a map would be treated as a spy and ‘handled appropriately’. He kept treating himself as a parallel world traveler and forgot that he was already a member in this world.
And there would never be another so-called ‘player’ here.
“The guards…… should have that…..” Mackie stuttered behind the crowd.
[Duh. Isn’t that obvious.]
Sophie shook his head and sighed. He looked back at the merchant girl: “Romaine, give me a sword.”
Sophie took the sword and drew two lines on the ground.
“This is Webster River. This is the Pine River.”
He poked between the lines a few times: “This is Bucce, the Green village, and Verbin.”
He drew up a summary with a few simple strokes, but the youths once again felt their horizons were broadened. It seemed that no one could compare with Brendon’s grasp of the world.
“Aren’t these the three towns?” Bella covered her mouth in surprise.
“This is amazing, so our surroundings are like this.” Erik’s looks to Sophie were nearly of worship.
“So Bucce is here right?”
“Brendel, how do you know so much?” Everyone started talking excitedly. They could not suppress their curiosity.
[Of course I know. If I don’t, I might as well find a tofu and knock myself to death with it.]
But he could not respond with sarcasm here, so he deliberately said: “Did you not learn how to read a Strategy Map?”
[[[Strategy Map? What was that? Mother Marsha above, even Bruglas militia had to learn this too?]]]
Everyone looked vacantly at each other.
Stars filled everyone’s eyes as they looked at Sophie with deep respect.
But his heart was drowning in mirth. This was something that not even the officers in the regular army forces might know, and it was pretty much impossible for a militia to learn this. He continued his lie and just pointed at the intersection of the two rivers:
“This is Fortress Riedon.”
“Oh, this is Fortress Riedon?” Romaine asked curiously.
“What’s wrong?” Sophie clearly heard giggles from his surroundings, and he asked them.
“It’s like this, Brendel. Romaine envied the merchants who went to Fortress Riedon when she was young. She complained every day and said she wanted to become a merchant. One day she ran off saying that she’s going to accomplish a grand business in Fortress Riedon, and you know what-” Little Fenris immediately betrayed her and stopped at the cliffhanger.
Low murmuring laughs sprang up.
“And?” Sophie asked.
“Haha, she lost her way in the forest, and it was Uncle Cecil who went looking for her—” Little Fenris snorted loudly with a laugh.
“N-nothing of that sort happened.” Romaine’s eyebrows were way up in her forehead.
Sophie looked at the merchant girl and thought she had not learned this lesson well enough.
“Alright, let’s get back to the serious topic. Why do you want to go to Fortress Riedon?” He arranged his emotions and continued asking.
“There are troops there.”
“Captain Marden will be there.”
“My uncle will also be there.” Everyone’s tongue started wagging again, but basically what they meant to say was this: Their relatives were separated temporarily and might have gone to Fortress Riedon, so why would they not go there?
Sophie had trouble refuting their reply. It was normal for them to believe it was so, and who would abandon their own relatives? But he also knew that the people who fled from Bucce were very likely to be caught by Madara’s army. Going to Fortress Riedon now was most certainly heading into a trap.
He knew that they had to reach the Beldor Forest before the ‘Death God’ Kabias did, then proceed to the Dagger River before Vlad and Ebdon. From there, they had to enter the Forest of Hunted Deer, brushing by the Incirsta’s main army, reaching Ankries and inform the guards of Incirsta’s troops that were advancing.
This was the only way to keep this militia alive and prevent Aouine from being defeated as badly as the original history.
But how was he supposed to tell them?
[Forget it. I’ll just do the same thing as before. I’ll take one step at a time.]
He rubbed his throbbing temples, and changed his mind: “Very well, we can head towards Fortress Riedon and consider our next move.”
He looked up and met Freya’s worried eyes. She apparently did not believe too much of what he said.
“Nothing, it’s just a prediction. Perhaps there might be some changes to the situation.” He smiled at her, but inwardly sighed with great reluctance.
Reality was cruel. It was not up to him to choose when he was so weak. He would have certainly tried his best to think of something, if there was another chance.
[You, why are you always so naive?]
He derided himself.