"Trust nothing you read in the history books, and even less if they're old ones."



Lorist descended from the mountain, his face covered in soot. His clothes were stained with mud and somewhat torn. Even his short cloak was torn in half. Each flapped like a flag behind him.

“Your Grace!”

“Teacher!”

Lorist smiled when he saw his two disciples. Their cries made him feel guilty. But, thinking back to what the windstorm swordsaint had said, there really was no reason for two people without any real grudges to fight each other to the death.

The old man had said it crudely, but it made sense. Lorist’s forces had won, so he had no reason to rush back. The windstorm swordsaint also didn’t have to tire himself out by holding him on the mountain. Everyone could part on good terms. Lorist would have free reign in the north and the two would have nothing to do with one another in the future. They might even become friends in time.

The only thing Lorist didn’t like was having to ‘decorate’ their dueling grounds. It was even more tiring than actually fighting. The practiced manner in which the old man went about his decorating also called into question the stories about all the previous confrontations between swordsaints. How many had been honest fights, and how many were just decorations? No one had ever imagined that swordsaints, so venerated by the world, would just sit side by side on mountaintops talking about trifles as hundreds of thousands fought to the death beneath.

He nearly broke out in a rage when the old man said they also had to look the part.

“You can see how epic our fight must’ve been. Look at that boulder. It’s cut in half! How can we walk out untouched by dust or dirt? Wouldn’t that rouse their suspicions?”

He didn’t wait for Lorist to respond. He immediately cut his clothes into thin strips and covered himself in dust. Lorist was quite impressed with the old man’s fashion sense. It was centuries ahead of its time. He had little choice once he started, so he joined in. Soon both were nearly half naked under strips of cloth completely unassociable with the clothes they had worn when they ascended the mountain.

Reidy and Jinolio rushed over excitedly. They breathed a sigh of relief once certain their master had not been seriously injured.

“Did Teacher win?”

Bolyde was pale and trembling. He clearly though his master had lost. The fight had lasted some time and the fact that his master had not returned when his opponent had said everything.

Lorist shook his head.

“We drawed. We fought for a while but stopped when we realized neither could of us could win without taking serious risks. I just came down first.”

Bolyde’s face immediately regained some semblance of color.

“Where is Master? Is he injured? Forgive my rudeness. I am just worried for Master.”

Lorist smiled.

“Your teacher is fine. He said he gained some insight from our fight and wants to meditate on it for a while. He’ll come down once he’s ready.”

That old guy had stubbornly insisted on Lorist saying this to his disciples. His disciples would go up to see what had happened and would come across their carefully prepared stage. He’d recount the grand battle and word would spread to the world from there.

“Thank you, Duke Norton,” said Bolyde before he called two other disciples and rushed up the mountain.

“Let’s go back.”

Lorist mounted his horse. Jinolio handed his cloak to him.

“Teacher, was the windstorm swordsaint strong?” asked Reidy as they rode.

“No,” Lorist said with a bitter smile, “He’s not very strong, but he’s as slippery as an eel. He couldn’t hurt me because I am too strong, but I couldn’t hurt him because I couldn’t corner him to land a strike.”

Such was the truth. The two had clashed with their domains to determine the most believable lie to tell. Though the old man was sly and lazy, his cultivation was the real deal. His Windstorm Domain spread out for 25 meters. Within it, stones flew and wind morphed into blades. Lorist’s Slaughter Domain, on the other hand, was like a physical manifestation of murderous intent. Everything inside was crimson and even the bravest turned into cowards. Its range, however, was a paltry 15 meters. It was a great improvement on what it had been when last the two had fought, however. The old man had been very impressed when he saw it.

Lorist had gained something from their agreement. Magrut had shared a lot of what he knew about the world of swordsaints with his younger protégé, such as what exactly domains were and how they worked. Lorist learned that swordsaints were divided into three classes, or stages, based on the size of their domain. First stage swordsaints had domains less than thirty meters but greater than 10 meters in radius. Anything less than that was a demi-swordsaint, not to be confused with a quasi-swordsaint, however. Quasi-swordsaints couldn’t manifest a domain at all, but were far more powerful than blademasters, whilst demi-swordsaints could manifest domains, though unstable, of short duration, and less than 10 meters in radius.

First stage swordsaints moved into the second stage when their domains crossed the 30 meter mark, and the third stage when they crossed the 50 meter mark. Of all the swordsaint still living, only one, the firesoar swordsaint, was in the third stage. Everyone else was still in the first stage. Romon and Khawistan’s swordsaints were comparable to Magrut. The firesoar swordsaint was the last surviving swordsaint from the previous generation, which was why he had such a large domain. The years of chaos of the last century and a half had prevented many new swordsaints from rising. Most of the current swordsaints were of roughly the same age. Lorist was in the trailing end of the current generation, quite possibly its last as well. The firesoar swordsaint was an incredible 260 years old, and few thought he could hold out much longer, if he were even still alive. It had been years since he was last seen.

Domains were also based on the fundamental attributes of their users’ battleforce. Magrut’s was of the rare wind attribute. The firesoar swordsaint’s was fire. His domain felt like an oven. When he exerted its full strength, he could even make bushes and grass burst into fire. Romon’s swordsaint had a wood-attribute domain. Plants grew wildly within it. Khawistan’s swordsaint had an earth attribute. It was great for defense and for limiting the enemy’s movement by constantly changing the landscape within.

Lorist’s was apparently the weirdest of all. Magrut had sparred with most of the known swordsaints, but he’d never encountered something like this. He’d especially never felt the kind of sludging effect he did when his domain clashed with Lorist’s. Usually their domains would overlap and their effect would manifest side by side, it was unheard of for the two domains to suppress each other and to instead slow down the swordsaints inside like they were fighting in a thick sludge.

As Lorist approached Bluwek, he encountered more and more scattered Union soldiers. Apart from some blind fools who tried to rob them of their war horses, Lorist didn’t go out of his way to chase the small fry soldiers down. He had to accept some of the points the windstorm swordsaint made. As a swordsaint, he should carry the kind of grace a swordsaint should have. Troubling a small soldier was beneath his status of a swordsaint. Come to think of it, the old guy was like ‘mortal’ this and ‘mortal’ that. He doesn’t even acknowledge their existence as individuals at all. Maybe he even considers himself as some sort of god.

Now, Lorist finally understood why the windstorm swordsaint seemed so arrogant when he tried to abduct Auguslo and the other nobles years ago. The old guy had been put on the high pedestal for far too long and started growing prideful. Had it not been for Lorist’s own status as a swordsaint, the old man wouldn’t even have bothered with him. To the windstorm swordsaint, anyone who wasn’t a swordsaint was not so different from little ants on the ground. Only by becoming a swordsaint would one be acknowledged as an equal by the old man. It was no wonder he was so casual and loose-lipped about how sleazy he was and how he tricked the Trade Union for his own benefits.

Whatever, there’s no sense in fussing with that old guy. I’ll just do what he wants this time. He should be going to claim Walinya as his dominion from the Trade Union later and probably wouldn’t have anything to do with me in the future. Lorist only felt pity for the Trade Union. Not only did they suffer a crippling loss on the battlefield, it was also quite obvious that the windstorm swordsaint would no longer move according to the merchants’ beck and call after he got Walinya. Whether he would still be in their employ was still unknown. That old man seemed like he was going to isolate himself after he got his dominion and nobody would be willing to invade the dominion of a swordsaint. It was no different from forming an irreconcilable grudge.

A group of sentries were bringing some Free Union soldiers along to chase down the retreating Trade Union troops. Upon seeing Lorist and the other two, they raised their weapons up high and called out their victory cry. The cheer soon spread all over the battlefield. A few Norton knights rushed over and Lorist waved them away to resume their assignment instead of escorting him. He would arrive at Bluwek soon, anyway.

Charade received a report that the premier of the Free Union, Jindoz, was waiting to welcome Lorist back at the citadel gates. The others had followed the rest to take as many captives as they could. Since the Free Union had settled on developing the rural Callisto Hills, they would be investing around one to two million gold Fordes annually into the projects and the most crucial thing that they currently lacked was cheap labor. This was a great chance to fill up that gap.

Since Lorist was able to return unscathed from a swordsaint duel, he hadn’t suffer any losses or conveniences. Charade didn’t really care about it after being told that it was a draw and started telling Lorist about the success they’d had with the battle. He had observed the battle from the beginning to its very end. Had it not been for the fact that others were worried about his lackluster swordsmanship and asked him to stay behind, Charade might have raised his sword and charged into the pursuit in the heat of excitement.

According to Charade, the Trade Union blew the horn for the battle to begin less than 15 minutes after Lorist left with Jinolio and Reidy. Everyone knew why they were so desperate to start. The Trade Union showed their might in the form of multiple formations spread across the plains and they applied huge pressure against the Norton forces, Whitelion legion and the defense divisions of the Free Union, which even saw some tens of soldiers desert.

The unit that launched the attack first was the Trade Union’s so-called vengeance legion that was formed mostly from inner city citizens, surrendered garrison members and Invincible Fleet members as well as some sailors. They hated how their wealth was scoured clean by House Norton when they were kept in the captive camps and hated the Nortons to the bone. They were willing to become cannon fodder than retreat.

They were the ones who pushed the gigantic wooden shield carts that counteracted the ballista attacks. Some of those carts even managed to weather strikes from catapult projectiles outside the range of 200 meters. Most rocks weighing below 30 kilograms didn’t have any effect on those carts. Only when projectiles weighing above 50 or so kilograms would crush the shield carts and cause some damage. That was how vengeance legion managed to approach the Norton formations and put up a short-lived assault. But they were eventually beaten after a few exchanges.

Perhaps because the success of the vengeance legion, the higher-ups of the Trade Union were encouraged, and they instantly threw half of their forces into the fray. Near 100 thousand people marched in multiple square formations and launched their heavy assault. They weathered the ranged weaponry of the Nortons using those gigantic wooden shield carts of theirs and made their approach. Behind the square formations were nearly 100 long-armed trebuchets that were also gradually being moved to the front of the battlefield.

The Norton commanding officers didn’t give much heed to those trebuchets and thought that their firing range only measured to be around 300 meters like their own catapults. They didn’t think that those trebuchets would be set down when they were still over 400 meters away before they were used to launch rocks weighing around 30 kilograms to the Norton ranks. That caused the unprepared Norton units a few hundred casualties and nearly crumbled the units.

Ovidis, who was commanding the catapult units, could only order his catapults to return fire. The worst part of that was that the enemy trebuchets were defended by those shield carts and most lighter projectiles didn’t have any effect unless they struck the trebuchets directly.

So, Howard instructed Ovidis to pack some gunpowder along with those projectiles and ordered the 600 plus cannons and their operators to get ready to fire. At that time, the Trade Union formations were less than a hundred meters away from the Norton forces and would soon go in on an all-out attack to break through the Norton formation.

When the Union forces’ 100 plus thousand soldiers finally began their final charge towards the Norton lines, what awaited them were countless thundering booms, whooshing cannonballs and endless tragedy. The Norton forces had completely swept the enemy forces clean, instantly creating rivers of blood and mountains of corpses. Soldiers from the Union and Norton ranks both vomited from the grotesque and cruelly stimulating sight.

It was then when the gunpowder-packed projectiles flung by the catapults detonated at the enemy’s rear lines. Smoke and fire spread all over the enemy ranks. The trebuchets and shield carts crumbled indiscriminately in the face of exploding gunpowder. Never would the Trade Union ever imagine that the Nortons had that trick up their sleeves. The remaining square formations of the Trade Union near the front of the battlefield crumbled almost right away and some other soldiers at the back were greatly unsettled.

Fiercetiger Loze and Freiyar grabbed the opening to blow the horn for Tigersoar and Jaeger to flank the enemy at that instant. Howard and Ovidis on the other hand led the cannon and catapult brigades forward to deal more suppression fire and to continue flinging more gunpowder bags to the rear camp of the Trade Union. Terman on the other hand mounted a frontal charge against the enemies. Els also led the sentry legion, Whitelion legion and the Free Union’s defense divisions to suppress the enemy.

The result was simple. The Trade Union forces had been completely decimated. The repeated blows from the Norton forces completely crushed the merchant guilds’ legions. Their soldiers escaped in all directions chaotically. The Norton troops thus dove into a delightful frenzy of pursuit and capture.