Two light cavalry soldiers were guarding the main gates of the camp. From afar, they could see a rider approaching quickly. Curious about what orders that rider might have received, one of the guards got closer to check it out. However, upon closer inspection, he noticed that the rider wasn’t one of his comrades and quickly raised his pike to intercept him, only to have it broken by the Silver ranked rider’s blade glow. Had it not been for the fact that the the enemy was in a rush to escape, the two light cavalry guards might have been killed already.

The rider on the stolen mount whooshed past the two light cavalry soldiers who had been dismounted and successfully went out of the camp. Cursing as they tried to prop themselves up from the ground, the two soldiers then got back on their horses with one readying his crossbow and the other taking out his javelin, but they could do naught but watch as the enemy galloped out of their firing range.

Lorist quickly arrived and took the javelin in the soldier’s hand before continuing on the chase. At that moment, he was about 40 meters apart from that Silver ranked rider and he wasn’t confident that he would be able to hit his mark from that distance. Seeing the distance between him and the enemy increase gradually, he decided to try his luck by throwing the javelin.

Suddenly, his horse staggered and started wobbling unstably as if it were about to crash. Greatly startled, Lorist quickly got both his feet out of the stirrups, jumped and somersaulted in the air before landing and rolling on the ground, escaping the fate of tumbling to his death with his mount. Seeing his horse on the ground, Lorist threw his javelin down angrily. Sol, why is my luck so bad… The horse he had taken at a whim in fact belonged to one of the two soldiers he was chasing to the camp before. It’s no wonder the horse slowed down right after exiting the camp early on, having been exhausted beyond its limits.

Seeing the Silver ranked soldier escape from his grasps, Lorist started fuming with rage. The silhouette of the man seemed like a dot hundreds of meters away. Sounds of horses galloping could be heard from behind: they were the light cavalry troops who had reacted to the sudden deaths of two of their comrades. However, they were far too late.

At that moment, Lorist heard the twang of a released bowstring and saw a green stream of light traveling out from the wilderness about a hundred meters away from the camp. As if he was struck by lightning, the escaping Silver rank got knocked off horseback and landed heavily onto the ground. His horse continued running for a while before stopping and turning back towards the camp.

Lorist stopped the few scouts who had just arrived from entering the forest to search for the source of the arrow and pointed towards the place where the Silver ranked soldier fell. “Go inspect that area and bring him back over here. Be careful, that Sol-damned bastard may be playing dead for all we know. I’ve already had one of my men die at his hand.”

Once again looking towards the spot in the forest from which the green ray of light originated, Lorist saw a man holding a large green bow with some leaves and twigs covering him to serve as camouflage and felt that the man was paying attention to his every move.

Waving towards the direction of that man, Lorist made a gesture of invitation. However, that man made no response and slowly retreated into the trees, eventually disappearing completely from sight.

Letting out a breath of relief, Lorist thought, what an impressive archer… For him to be able to shoot someone from 80 meters away and also manage to knock him off his horse for about 6 meters… The strength of the bow is indeed great. The velocity of the arrow was also incredibly fast given that Lorist could only barely see its trail through dynamic vision.

While Lorist himself wasn’t worried about that mysterious archer attacking his base, he was still concerned for the wellbeing of his light cavalry troops. That man was possibly Josk, the Gold ranked knight that Soria had mentioned a couple of days before. After all, Lorist found it hard to believe that just anybody could have such fine archery skill as that man did. It was a shame that person’s identity couldn’t be verified as he didn’t accept Lorist’s invitation.

The cavalry troops have secured the body of the Silver rank and were on their way back to the camp. When they approached, Lorist really didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. The cavalry troops were too cautious and each of them made sure to shoot the corpse with their crossbows twice to make sure the Silver rank wasn’t playing dead, effectively turning him into a huge human pincushion.

The cause of death of the Silver rank was pretty obvious: there was a long, green arrow that entered the man’s right upper torso and re-emerged from his left armpit. Pulling the arrow out and ripping a piece of the corpse’s clothing off, Lorist wiped the blood off the arrow and noticed a small, unclear inscription that read ‘Joe’. As expected, that man who carried the green bow was in fact Josk, the Gold ranked knight.

Once again looking at the arrows embedded in the corpse, Lorist sighed and said, “Gosh, don’t you guys have eyes? He’s already long dead, yet you wasted so many crossbow bolts on him and even ruined his armor. Oh well, just cut his head off and display it by the road of the main camp entrance. After stripping the body of anything that’s still usable, toss it in the pyre and burn it with the other corpses.”

After returning to the large tent in the middle of the camp, Yuriy came over and reported that he has already swept the camp once more with his troops and discovered three more enemies who have been hiding, two of whom was captured alive with the other one killed. There were no casualties apart from two of the troops incurring light injuries. Including the one who died and the other heavily injured from being ambushed by the Silver ranked rider as well as those who got hurt from the initial assault, the whole of the light cavalry troops only have 3 casualties, 7 heavily-injured with 10 others with light injuries in total.

However, Yuriy mentioned that they also discovered quite a number of women who were badly abused during their search numbering around 30 of them in total. There were two completely nude women who had their necks snapped from the tent the Silver rank rushed out of previously.

Nodding silently, Lorist pointed towards the large tent behind him and said, “There are two others within. Ask the prisoners who are locked up in the middle of the camp about the women’s origins and have someone assigned to look after them. When Charade and the rest of the convoy arrives, we’ll have some herbalists take a look at them and save the ones who can still make it and end the suffering of those who are already beyond saving.

“Other than that, cut off the heads of the enemy horsemen and put them up on stakes to be displayed all over the camp outside. Strip them of their equipment and burn their corpses after that. Make sure to note the number of people we have killed. Bring the prisoners we captured alive over here, I want to question them personally.”

Lorist’s interrogation method was pretty straightforward. First, he stripped them naked and had Reidy bring a hammer over. Those who refused to answer each time would have one of their toes hammered flat. After the first stubborn one was made an example of, the remaining five were so terrified that they answered whatever question they were asked with swift cooperation.

True to Lorist’s hunches, the ones who attacked the convoy were indeed part of Count Cobry’s troops, his elite pike cavalry troops to be exact. This time, the count had mobilized two pike cavalry companies and one garrison regiment in total, amounting to almost a third of all his forces, with the aim of completely wiping out the insurgents based within his territories as well as enslave young and strong men to work as hard laborers. The people leading this undertaking was his 11 illegitimate sons, three of which were Gold ranks with the rest being Silver ranks. However, three of the sons had already perished under Lorist’s hand.

According to the prisoners, the brown-haired man and the middle-aged man with the chain mail as well as the Silver rank who stole a horse and attempted to escape were all the sons of the count.

As for the camp, the prisoners said that it was a long term encampment that served as a bridgehead[1] and was normally guarded by a company of garrison troops. It was used as a place for the main force to resupply their rations and provisions. As the main force had to cross the mountains during the most recent expedition, they had their garrison troops that were supposed to be stationed there follow along and only left a company of pike cavalry troops to guard the encampment.

On Grindia, there was a particular way in which the military was organized. The one at the top of the hierarchy were legions, which consisted of divisions of several types of troops, such as heavy-armored divisions, pike infantry divisions, etc. And each division could in turn be further subdivided into regiments, companies and squads, in decreasing order of size. Commonly, a squad numbered around 80 to 120 troops. 4 to 5 squads formed a company, and 4 to 5 companies constituted a regiment, with a division containing at least 4 to 5 regiments in total. For example, in the Whitelion Legion, one of the three main armies of the former empire which Potterfang used to serve in, the total amount of soldiers numbered up to 80000.

The forces of Count Cobry were mainly bolstered by the pike cavalry troops, which have received quite a generous amount of support and funding. In total, there were five companies of pike cavalry troops, each consisting of four squads of 120 soldiers each. For two of the companies to be sent out for the expedition was already quite a large force.

The prisoners also mentioned that the main force that had went to wipe out the insurgents would return in a day or two because they only brought 15 days’ worth of supplies with them and it was already the 13th day. The brown-haired commander even sent one squad of pike cavalry to receive them when they return with the two other squads that having left to hunt due to having nothing better to do. The ‘hunt’ that the prisoner referred to was the patrolling of the surrounding area to capture refugees to force them into labor. The 400-odd people who were kept locked up in the middle of the camp was the result of such ‘hunts’.

However, never would the pike cavalry have expected that Lorist’s convoy’s military might far outranked their own, leading to their total demise as well as the ones who stayed guard at the camp, resulting in the camp being captured by the convoy.

Lorist questioned them very detailedly and asked a final question, that was, why did the hunting squad not check their targets properly before deciding to attack it?

Only then did the prisoners understand the reason that prompted Lorist to come slaughtering his way in with the rest of his troops and started cursing their dead comrades unceasingly. However, one of the prisoners who looked in his thirties stayed quiet and looked at the Norton Family’s flag with a meaningful gaze.

Noticing the prisoner’s odd behavior, Lorist asked, “Have you seen this flag before?”

The prisoner shook his head and said, “No I didn’t, but one time when I was summoned by the count to his room, I saw two boxes which had the same symbol inscribed on it. Also……”

The prisoner suddenly quieted down.

Lorist asked, “Also what? Feel free to tell me about it, I promise to spare your life if you do. As for the others……”

Lorist made a gesture to his subordinates, signalling them to give the other prisoners a swift death.

The prisoner kneeling in front of Lorist was scared out of his wits upon hearing the agonized pleading of his other comrades. He quickly mentioned that he only joined the pike cavalry troops recently and used to be a mercenary and only joined by coincidence because one acquaintance of his who was a member of the count’s forces had invited him.

According to the prisoner, when he was drinking with his acquaintance and a few other pike cavalry soldiers, he heard about the count’s rise to fortune and power. Back during the day before the First Prince publicly rebelled against the empire, the count was already partners in crime with the First Prince in some shady business. Word was that during the days Count Cobry was said to be cooped up in his territory and nurturing his illegitimate sons, he was actually having some of his grown up sons disguising themselves as bandits to pillage traveling merchant convoys to gather funds and resources in preparation for the First Prince’s rebellion as well as amass a huge wealth for himself in the process. When the former emperor was at his sickbed, the First Prince had requested for the garrison forces of the Bodolger Province to be strengthened to keep a bandit called Redbeard at bay; Redbeard was actually the identity the count took up when he was pillaging merchant convoys. Every time before he started a raid, he would put on a large, red, fake beard to disguise himself. The hunting group that Lorist had encountered today were actually part of the forces Count Cobry led to pillage the merchant convoys as Redbeard. They probably recalled the days when they disguised themselves as bandits and decided to relive it and attacked the convoy without much giving it much consideration.

Lorist also asked the prisoner to describe the size and design of the boxes he had seen in the room of the count before making a sketch of them and showing it to the prisoner for confirmation, to which he nodded with certainty.

After that, Lorist ordered that the prisoner be locked up and started pacing around outside the large tent, seething with anger. He drew his sword and completely pulverized the bed that was within the tent.

Astonished at Lorist’s sudden outburst, Yuriy waited for him to calm down before asking about the reason why he was so mad.

Lorist thought quietly for a moment before saying, “Those two boxes were ordered and made by my Third Uncle from Morante City. Originally, he had intended to use them to store the dowry he prepared for the woman he wanted to marry and bring back to the dominion. Who would have expected that the trip would be his last! I could never forget the look my uncle had when he brought me to retrieve the boxes. I could tell that he truly loved that woman from the look he had on his face when he looked at them. That’s why I’m so familiar with the design of the boxes. Count Cobry, you truly have did it this time. Just you wait……”

Lorist’s voice sounded so venomous that it caused Yuriy and Reidy to shiver a little upon hearing it.

Even though Lorist had only met his Third Uncle once every three years after he found himself in the noble youth’s body, the concern and care his uncle had shown him made him feel cherished and warm. It truly saddened him that the first piece of news he got of his uncle after 7 years of silence had been that of his death. Now that he was certain of the main perpetrator, there was no way that he would let that person scotch free. He decided to put the journey to the back of his head and focus his priorities on settling his grudge with Count Cobry.

At that moment, a light cavalry soldier came to report that Charade and the rest would be arriving soon as the Norton Family battle standard was visible from the camp from afar.

Yuriy and Reidy breathed a sigh of relief and led Lorist out of the large tent towards the main entrance of the encampment.

Charade came to Lorist with another piece of bad news the moment he arrived. He said that the pike infantry company of the convoy vanguard had encountered another attack from a squad of pike cavalry troops after Yuriy and Reidy had left with Lorist and the light cavalry scouts to storm the camp. It was fortunate that the senior students realized that they wouldn’t be a match for the enemy if they faced them head on and got the convoy into a defensive formation by arranging the carriages into a circular defensive perimeter to buy time until Terman’s knights arrive to reinforce them. Coupled with the crossbowman company under Malek’s command, the convoy successfully fended off the enemies with only 30 of them managing to escape. However, the pike infantry company had lost 22 people with the remaining hundred injured.

Sounds of chatter and curses erupted from within the camp. Lorist handed the other matters for Charade to handle and instructed Reidy and Patt to boil him some water so that he may take a bath and wash off the coagulated blood on his body that was causing him much itch and discomfort.

After dinner, the large main tent was brightly illuminated with the whole main cast of the convoy present within.

“……47 of the soldiers’ family members died with another 130 of them injured, all 21 of the pikemen who were in charge of the security of that part of the convoy perished as well and Chivos……” Charade’s voice turned deep at the mention of that name. Chivos was one of the senior students of the academy that had been sent to communicate with the enemy’s pike cavalry squad but only ended up trampled to death after the ambush.

“Including the second assault we suffered, a total of 43 infantry pikemen died with 58 others sustaining heavy injuries, 7 of which ended up handicapped and will be unable to recover fully with the remaining 86 sustaining light injuries. Yuriy reported that the light cavalry troops suffered 3 casualties, with 7 heavily-injured and another 13 lightly-injured with none of them crippled. Terman’s knights on the other hand only had 6 people who got light injuries with no casualties in their unit. That concludes the report on the damages and losses of the troops.”

Lorist followed up with introducing the rest at the meeting about the situation of the prisoners as well as the possibility that Count Corby was possibly the one who had caused the demise of Lorist’s Third Uncle and the rest of the Norton Family’s merchant convoy.

“I believe that you guys are well aware that the original plan of crossing this area without getting into huge conflicts will no longer be possible. Based on the modus operandi of the count and his troops, it can be seen that they are nothing but inhumane fiends who cannot be reasoned with and have nothing but thoughts of slaughter in their heads, as can be seen from the death of our beloved comrade, Chivos. For his sake, and those of the innocent family members and the brave soldiers of the family who perished, I have decided to avenge them! We will not rest until we stomp the Cobry Family flag under our feet!” said Lorist resolutely.

The whole tent was silent after Lorist stopped talking, but quiet chatters and murmurs gradually built up. Some of them approved of Lorist’s decision while others were still a little hesitant. According to the testimony of the prisoners, Count Cobry’s forces could possibly far exceed that of the convoy’s. Was this truly a battle the convoy could afford to fight in?

Just as the group of people within the tent were discussing the matter, a light cavalry soldier rushed in from outside and reported to Lorist that a knight called Josk wanted to meet him and said that he came at the invitation of the new master of the encampment.

Lorist slapped on his thighs and said, “Quick, invite him in! No, let me go out to receive him…”

[1] Strategically important area around the end of the bridge to secure it. Source: Wikipedia