TL: I’ll see you guys at the end of the month for the bonus chapter. Commission is still open.
Chapter 38 The lord, the youth, and the hunter
=============== Raban / The Nightsong Tiger’s POV ============
The edge of River Gris was slowly becoming brighter as the sun rose.
The Nightsong Tiger and Raban were hiding amongst the dense foliage of the forest, silently staring at the noble’s boisterous army from afar as they continued their march into a used path. It was not a strange thing; even soldiers from Aouine’s formal armies were not disciplined enough to curb chattering.
The Nightsong Tiger and Raban’s mercenaries were obviously different, mainly because they were attempting to ambush them and had to be silent. Hundreds of mercenaries were lined near River Gris’s edge and waited for Lord Macsen’s last soldier to enter the ideal spot for their ambush.
Their crossbows and longbows were already aimed at their chosen targets.
“Even though their scouts don’t seem like much,” the Nightsong Tiger said as he watched their enemies, “they reacted quite well, and merely lacked a little experience in a real battle.”
Raban glanced at the man next to him. No one knew what The Nightsong Tiger’s real name was, and Raban had never heard of a tiger species with Nightsong in it.
[Lacked a little experience? You’re the only person who would say that!]
He had seen much as a former Karsuk’s cavalry commander, and Lord Macsen’s scouts were good enough to be placed in any of Aouine’s regular armies, but the Nightsong Tiger and his men simply overwhelmed them with sheer skill.
The Mercenaries of Lopes charged towards the enemies’ scouts swiftly, leaping onto the horses and killed them in a single stroke from behind. They even discarded the bodies without startling the horses. Even now, these murdered men were still warm to the touch as they slumbered forever on the forest ground.
The level of coordination they had made Raban feel they were not mercenaries. The fact that the Nightsong Tiger was considered as a low-ranking subordinate and not treated as a retainer made him wonder what Brendel’s real identity was.
His crude appearance belied his intelligence, as he saw more subtleties and recognized Brendel’s capabilities earlier than Cornelius and Jana did. At the same time, he was curious as to why the latter had to come to this impoverished and rural area.
He accurately discerned Brendel’s great ambition, which was why he surrendered to Brendel early.
He had gone through many difficulties to create a group of mercenary of his own because he did not want to be a common man. He hoped to look for someone who he could serve, but the people he judged worthy did not cast a glance at him, and those who did were bastards like Graudin.
It was until Brendel came along to give him this chance and they struck a chord with each other.
Raban continued to ponder over Brendel’s identity while Lord Macsen’s army advanced in the forest—
============= Lord Macsen’s POV ==========
Lord Macsen had slowed his speed down ever since he passed through River Gris. It seemed like the rebelling citizens were not present, but his careful personality made him cautious.
He continued to let his men proceed slowly and be alert of any strange movements, but the slow march had caused them to chat even louder due to boredom. Even if he restrained his private soldiers and mercenaries by telling them to cease their noises, it would only work for a while, and it caused him to be in a slightly foul mood.
However, he was satisfied when he saw his knights who were clad in full armor beside him. They were his old subordinates, seasoned warriors who accompanied him since he was a young man, and maintained vigilance by surveying their surroundings with their hands holding their swords lightly at all times.
The squires who rode on top of the gigantic Dragon Beast at the back of the army carrying the various flags even appeared to be more disciplined than the hired soldiers and mercenaries.
As Lord Macsen thought about the upcoming battle with a grimace, he was soon distracted by the sounds of a galloping horse.
Somewhere in the back were fifty soldiers who had been distributed to his son. He thought his son would suffer from undisciplined men. However, when he looked behind, he discovered they were far more subdued than he expected.
[What new tricks did this brat think of this time?]
Lord Macsen’s eyes sought out for his son, and the corner of his eyes twitched when he saw Carglise urging his horse towards him, accompanied by several soldiers.
Carglise reined in his horse’s speed once he got close to his father. He rode on the horse with an outstanding knight’s upright back, as if he was a sharp blade that pointed upwards. He combed his slightly disheveled hair and expelled the air in his lungs with a huff.
“What do you want now?”
The youth gave a meek smile and asked: “How long has it been since the last time our scouts returned?”
Lord Macsen paused for a moment, and suddenly realized that it was a problem. However, he was not keen to admit it and responded with a somewhat displeased tone: “Does it concern you? They are just a little late. Perhaps they have traveled a little too far ahead because they are a little too spirited—”
Carglise’s eyes narrowed and glanced at the forest ahead.
“Well, I somehow doubt that,” he said.
“What are trying to say, you damned brat?” Lord Macsen said.
Carglise let out a laughing snort and stared at his father with a teasing expression.
“Everyone claims that Lord Macsen is a cautious person, but it seems like that’s not the—” He realized that his father’s face was becoming darker and darker, and the youth inwardly exclaimed in alarm before he changed his tune quickly: “But you’re a little too bold, father. There’s a clear problem with the scouts’ delayed return, and yet you still allowed the army to advance into the forest.”
Even though Carglise spoke up, he was not exactly worried. His opponents were comprised of citizens and perhaps a few mercenaries after all. He did not believe they would be superior to his father’s private soldiers.
“A veteran like myself getting taught by an upstart like you?” Lord Macsen’s retort came with a snap: “When I had my first battle, you weren’t even born yet!”
“Yes, yes, father. Please stop the army for now.”
Lord Macsen glanced at his surroundings and also became a little worried. It was a stage that he could come down from without embarrassment, so he raised his hands and ordered his adjutant to relay his orders.
After a brief moment of chaotic disorder, the army stopped.
But the moment the chatter died down, Carglise immediately discovered a problem. He quickly raised his head up and surveyed the trees, frowning deeply.
He was not only the person who discovered the oddity, as the knights similarly realized the same thing.
The forest was completely silent.
“Retreat.” His expression was grave as he stared into the forest ahead.
=============== Raban / The Nightsong Tiger’s POV ============
Raban similarly frowned. The noble’s army was just a short distance away from the ambush area. If they continued to march in a little more, he would be able to lead his mercenaries to gain a preemptive strike, but their current position would only allow for a stalemate instead of an advantage.
He stared at them and noted down every single detail he could spot. In the end, he chose to wait a little longer. During his stint amongst the Karsuk’s cavalry, the most important trait he learned was being calm, and it had allowed him to see the situation clearly and lead to a victory.
But this time he was wrong.
The Nightsong Tiger had sensed the unusual atmosphere in the air. After that young rider entered the main army, the entire army stopped their march, and he suspected that the enemies had discovered their mercenaries.
Regardless of what the enemy realized, he knew that he had to make an immediate judgment.
The Subterrane Dwellers were in place approximately a hundred meters away, armed with heavy crossbows. Tagiv had wanted to get these weapons ever since they fought with Graudin, but the latter was not foolish enough to give away military provisions to his enemies.
Naturally, it was different when they entered Brendel’s army.
A hundred meters was a little far for humans to charge in, and even Iron-ranked fighters needed a few seconds to traverse on open ground, not to mention in a forest. The Subterrane Dwellers were a different story, though.
“Send out the signal—” The Nightsong Tiger made his decision and gave the order.
“Wait,” Raban did not understand, “they are still too far away for the crossbows to reach them.”
“We have absolute numbers and strength. The ambush is nothing more than a strategy to conserve our men, but if the enemies realized we are here, then things might take a different turn. Remember the crucial point for this battle; our lord wants to capture Lord Macsen.”
Raban took a moment to realize it was indeed so.