TL: First of all, sorry for the long absence. I was trying to complete updates of my other series (which will come in about an hour or two) as I want to announce something kind of important.
TL: This will be the final non-ad chapter. The next update I make or before that, well, you might spot ads, unless you’re using ad-blocker or the likes…… Hopefully, ads will cover the cost of the server and pay for my coffee/artbooks so I don’t need to worry about that? I guess I’ll see how successful it is.
I hope you enjoyed the ad-free site for the 10-11 months, cough, maybe when I get a job I wouldn’t need to put in ads?
TL: The raws had this, Chapter 114 – (1) (2) (3), instead of chapter 114 115 116, hence the strange chapter naming. I’ll be fixing the grammar mistakes and other issues tomorrow, so if you spot anything keep on posting.
Chapter 114-1 – At the edge of the Dark Forest
Amandina and Scarlett traveled to an abandoned orchard near Firburh.
The abandoned orchard was renovated several months ago, with the crumbling walls fixed with wooden logs made into an enclosed wall and extended the area of the original orchard’s size, making it bigger than before. Trees were planted around the area, making it enough to hinder visibility to what was inside the orchard.
In addition, there were hidden scouts placed at specific points. The corners of the wooden walls were made into watchtowers, allowing quick access to alert the makeshift training camp of any situation.
This was the place Brendel chose to train the future White Lion Infantry secretly.
The orchard was divided into two sections. The south-eastern corner took a quarter of the orchard, and provided the mercenaries and adventurers a place to sleep in. These men were specially chosen to protect the first batch of White Lion Infantry, as well as maintaining order.
Brendel had considered adding them to form a new army, but it largely depended on whether Cornelius was vested enough in training them.
The latter was currently in charge of training the White Lion Infantry.
Originally, he was a little displeased that Brendel transferred him out from the city, but after arriving to the orchard and seeing what the new army meant, he realized that Brendel regarded him highly, and he was not being shunned.
He immediately became enthusiastic about his task and arranged the army’s affairs orderly. Even though his abilities to command on a battlefield was middling, he was talented in handling internal affairs few could match due to his meticulous personality.
Amandina and Scarlett’s carriage went deep into the area and they found several mercenaries waiting for them. When the girls descended from their carriage, they saw youths waiting and chattering amongst themselves in the open ground near them.
Amandina walked quietly towards the shade of a nearby cedar tree. Scarlett, who was in charge of her safety, stood silently beside her. Most of the trees around them were evergreens found in Trentheim, and even in winter there would be dark green leaves that were covered in snow.
Sixty youths were specially chosen from the natives in Firburh, and the mercenaries had them gather in orderly rows on an empty plot of land.
Some of the youths had not seen much of the outside world because they were formerly craftsmen and farmers. A few of them were descendents of the gentry in Firburh, while the rest were made up from young adventurers and mercenaries. When the youths spotted the girls, they realized there was a young noblewoman who had come to the orchard, and it caused a commotion to happen.
“Look, it’s the female aristocrat who repaired the walls!”
“Why is she here?”
“She’s the daughter of the lord, right?”
“What are you talking about, the lord is as young as she is!”
“Isn’t the lord who took over a middle-aged man?”
“No, that’s the lord’s commander.”
“I see, then she’s the lord’s fiancee?”
“That’s a logical deduction.”
The loud voices wormed into Amandina’s ears, and she was forced to listen quietly. Her eyes went to Scarlett for a moment.
“…… What is it?” Scarlett returned her glance, her ponytail whirling behind her as her head moved quickly..
“Nothing,” Amandina said, and averted her gaze.
The White Lion Infantry was one of her lord’s plans, which was started ever since Firburh was taken over. However, creating a powerful army was far more difficult than just pouring resources into it. Brendel intended to train this batch of youths to become the backbone of the White Lion Army, and eventually allow them to reach the level of commanders.
They were going to be his personal knights.
All of them had one common point, they were no older than twenty, and some were only thirteen. They were like blank pieces of paper, full of potential.
They were highly curious and restless about their future. It had been only three days since they entered the orchard and had only received simple training. The mercenaries had already roughed them up a little to remind them of discipline.
The majority of them were still rash and naive, save for the few descendants of the gentry and the young mercenaries who had been trained well. These exceptions stood there motionlessly, but they were alert to their surroundings and did not get involved with the chatter.
Thus they easily entered Amandina’s eyes.
“Some of these young men seemed like they are trained. Who are they?” She asked.
“A few are descendants from the owners of the nearby lands. The others are young mercenaries.”
“The gentry? But why would their descendants come here?” Amandina thought it was strange.
“It seems like they snuck out of their homes.”
[Ah. So they are seeking excitement? I wonder if the mercenaries checked up on their background.]
But it was unlikely for them to be spies. It was incredibly risky for them because they would be entering the Dark Forest, and there would be no way for them to report their activities.
As for those who joined Brendel’s faction purely for excitement, she hoped they would not regret their decisions.
She took out a pocket watch— It was something that Brendel used a few months back when he led the refugees out of Fortress Riedon. Even though it was not worth much, it was something that allowed him to time the enemy’s movements accurately. She took great care of it and did not intend to change it.
She flipped open the cover.
[It’s nearly eleven.]
When she raised her head, she indeed saw a mercenary running towards her; he stopped before her, placed a hand over his chest and bowed.
“The preparation is almost done, my lady.” He said.
Amandina nodded, and he bowed again and ran off. Her eyes shifted over to the four caravans that were a short distance away. These caravans certainly could not compare to the nobles’ carriages. The latter were led by four horses and they were built to look like artworks rather than a mode of transport. The former was of much poorer quality and used by merchants or farmers to transport goods.
The mercenaries obviously did not care how good the carriages were, and busily handed out number tags to the youths.
It was a method that Brendel copied during his stint as a worker in Schafflund. These tags were also made of wood, but inside them were magic imprinted by Tamar. A Crimson Crystal imbued with detection magic would easily verify their authencity.
In order to prevent tampering, these Crimson Crystals that the mercenaries had would lose their effectiveness after a while, and they must be replaced at fixed intervals. Brendel was the only person who had a crystal to detect the identification permenently.
The youths got onto the caravans after they received their tags, and soon enough the orchard was completely silent as though the noisy chattering was an illusion.
Amandina finally let out a relieved sigh.
“Alright, let’s send Brendel off.” She said to Scarlett. “Tell the other drivers to move out in separate directions. Our lord’s movements are supposed to be a secret, so we should be careful as we possibly can.”
The red-haired girl nodded, slightly impressed at the length to what Amandina was willing to do in order to meet up with Brendel.
“Do you want to go with him?”
“To the Dark Forest.”
Amandina jerked once, but she did not answer.
============ Brendel’s POV ==============
When Brendel left his horse carriage, he could feel the lazy sunlight on his back. The youth could not help but stretch out his back like a cat. He turned around and looked at the Dark Forest; the sunlight pierced through the black needle leaves and shone down in a dazzling manner to his eyes, and the grass received the remainder of the thin light rays.
“I knew this wouldn’t be anything good, you little brat.” Grumbling came behind Brendel’s back.
Brendel turned around to see a gloomy Kodan jumping down from the carriage. The latter’s attire had changed to a guard’s uniform when he left the city. He carried a longsword, dagger, short bow, and a quiver filled with arrows. He looked more like an adventurer instead of a traveler enjoying a trip.
The old man took in a deep breath. Even though the Dark Forest was a dangerous place the air was unusually refreshing. The scent of the forest was invigorating despite the cold weather. Kodan looked at the ground and saw that his boots were standing on a thick carpet of grass. It was as though the snow had hardly affected the vitality of the vegetation.
He stomped the ground as hard as he could and the impact immediately caused creatures to scurry out.
“Centipedes, snakes, rats, and scorpions……” The old man shook as head as he spoke: “This is truly a ghastly place.”
“I heard that you fought at the kingdom’s borders during the November War.”
“Don’t remind me of that experience.” Kodan glared ruefully at Brendel.
Kodan’s army were forced to retreat into the Dark Forest and fight there during the November War. That was the only time when the commanders did not care about strategies at all; both factions fell into bloodlust like two dying animals tearing at each other throat, but neither of them could deliver the finishing blow.
The savage war exceeded everyone’s imagination. Hundreds of men who went out as companies, ended up with only tens or even single-digit survivors. The battlefield covered over tens of miles, and corpses could be spotted everywhere in the wild.
The stench of rotten blood and meat made the borders a living hell, especially when one compared the small skirmishes that happened during that era.
Brendel understood and did not talk about it anymore.
Carglise was the third person who jumped down. He pulled Mordenkainen out from the carriage and dragged him about.
“Let go of me!” The Elementalist yelled, and his duck familiar also quacked in protest, but there was no way for him to oppose a swordsman with his strength, especially when it came to Carglise who’s also a Silver-ranker.
Carglise ignored his yells, looked around with interest and breathed in deeply: “So this is the Dark Forest?”
“Why, does the place disappoint you?” Kodan snapped.
“It resembles the forest in Mount Graham, yes.” Carglise looked curiously into the deeper sections of the forest. The poor lighting made the area look like it was a dark oil painting.
“Hmph, I hope you don’t regret what you said.”
“Regret? Well, at first I was regretting it a little, but now I’m not,” he shook his head before grinning at Kodan, “entering the Dark Forest and treating it like an adventure, why didn’t I think about it before?”
[That’s because you’re just a little crazy brat, and you haven’t met this utterly insane brat who’s standing next to you.]