Pride – Aquido
Almost an hour had passed. The undead assault slowly, but surely, continued to strengthen to the point where even the elites from Tote and the Scarlet Phoenix began to struggle.
Aquido’s Magic was only slightly higher than the elites from Tote. Everyone was at wit’s end. For some reason, Aquido still had a surplus of magic power left, but it would only allow him to use his strongest magic maybe one or two more times.
“You’ve fought plenty enough,” Aquido said. “Fall back.”
“No, leader. We can still fight!”
“You’re barely standing on your feet, you know. Rest for now.”
Still, they made no attempts to fall back. They believed that, depending on their actions, they could restore Zem’s honor. That’s why they couldn’t fall back.
“So you’re gonna let this be your final stop? Am I wrong? We’ve still got a future ahead of us, so we can’t lost a single member here!” Aquido shouted.
He wasn’t confident, but Aquido had no choice but to convince them otherwise. If not, he would once again lose his precious family members.
“Fall back, Scarlet Phoenix and Tote security squad. We’re shifting you out,” ordered a youth. He had suddenly appeared on the battlefield, and he had his long, black hair tied behind him in a ponytail. They couldn’t be certain of his identity as he wore a sinister, white mask over his face, but based off his voice and silhouette, it was Judo.
Which meant the woman behind him was Carla. Grey should have ordered Judo to coordinate with Sagami Co. and Carla to heal the wounded. It could even be considered a violation of his orders for them to appear on the battlefield.
“Oi, oi. We can still keep going,” shouted Mos, the leader of the Millard territory’s Tote security squad leader.
“Which is exactly why. A lot of time has passed since the start of the battle, and there’s quite a few who have sustained wounds. I want you to focus on healing the injured.”
Mos stared at Judo for a short while before saying, “You’re fine without us, right?”
“Yeah, that Hero wasn’t all talk it seems, we siblings and Aquido should be more than enough,” Judo said while staring at the Hero, who continued to fight far away with blood streaming down his entire body.
Honestly, Aquido didn’t know how powerful Judo and Carla were, but even the Tote security squad were ridiculously strong, so they probably had enough power to take control of the battlefield.
“That Hero killed Zem and threw false suspicions onto Grey-sama. Please be careful.”
“Yeah, I understand. And it’s about time we set off the traps, too.”
Judo scanned the surrounding plains which were crammed with undead.
The undead’s number had been reduced, but they were still wildly attacking, and they would penetrate through the fields in 20 minutes. If he set the traps off right now, he would be able to catch them all.
“But didn’t we need Mos and his squad’s earth magic to set off the traps?” Aquido tried asking.
“I’ll take over so there shouldn’t be a problem,” Judo answered.
Take over? Didn’t they need dozens of people to finish setting up the traps?
Which meant that Judo and Carla would make up the difference. Aquido considered Mos and his squad as the strongest magicians in the world. He wasn’t being partial towards those on his side, rather, it was simply the truth. If this battle ended safely, they would be relentlessly scouted.
And these two people had enough Magic to compete with dozens of people from Mos’s squad. The more he thought about it, the more confused he became about the siblings. Could he really consider the fact that they were Grey’s subordinates a coincidence?
“It’s the orders from the vice president. We’re temporarily retreating from Sutherland. Let’s go!” Mos shouted to his squad and the Scarlet Phoenix before retreating back towards the north gate.
“We’re fine here,” Judo said. “Go back to Sutherland with Mos and them to heal the injured. This is an order.”
“……I understand. Be careful!” said a member from the Scarlet Phoenix.
Having finally been convinced, the Scarlet Phoenix and Tote security squad exited the battlefield.
As the two siblings walked forward, the people in front naturally formed a path around them. It wasn’t just the groups of commoners and mercenaries, but the expeditionary force and soldiers in the army as well. Aquido didn’t need to be told how abnormal this was. If only he could have Zem see this scene—.
“Aquido, don’t just stand there,” said Judo. “After all, the real battle starts now.”
He was right. The battle hadn’t even begun to end; it was too early to get lost in thought.
The Tote security squad, the Scarlet Phoenix, and Yukihiro the Hero had all been exterminating the undead, too, and the soldiers and mercenaries were eliminating any stragglers.
With people withdrawing from the front lines, a larger burden now fell onto Aquido’s 15th division. He had to start helping quickly.
“First we need to have the soldiers in the trapped areas return to their units,” Aquido said.
“Exactly. Carla, I leave it to you.”
“Hurry it up. Once I have all the soldiers fall back, I’ll begin that plan.”
“When you say all the soldiers, surely you’re not including those guys as well, right, onii-chan?”
Carla gazed over at Duke Cyrus, who was furiously shouting from the comparatively safe back line, as well as at the wounded soldiers still wielding their swords. Judging by how fatigued they were, Cyrus would have started dropping orders left and right if they weren’t Yukihiro the Hero’s personal guards. And so, the Tote security squad and the Scarlet Phoenix retreated from the battlefield, and the undead began to up their aggression. Even the Hero, in his lonesome, couldn’t hold the front lines. Soon, many of Duke Cyrus’s soldiers would die.
“I am,” Judo replied.
“They merely hold a position where they must follow that pig’s orders. Just like how we had to in the past.”
Carla pursed her lips and let out a small groan.
“If we abandon them here, we’ll revert to the helpless versions of ourselves that we once were. That’s the kind of feeling I have.”
Carla looked down, her fist trembling.
“Hurry up and finish this job, and then let’s return to Boss.”
Judo patted Carla’s head before whistling with his fingers to signal the far-away executives to have all the soldiers evacuate for a while.
With the Hero holding their anchor, the 15th division and Duke Cyrus’s soldiers began their retreat. As if they wanted to devour each and every last member, the undead merely chased forward like a tsunami. Their numbers were overwhelming and would have continued to swell if not for the Hero.
Among this commotion, Carla was kneeling forward.
Aquido protested, “W-wait! To try to stop them all by yours—”
“《Flash》” Carla emotionlessly cut him off.
In the blink of an eye, Carla turned into a streak of light wrapped in blue static and sliced through the neck of the undead dragon that was chasing after the retreating soldiers. The undead dragon’s neck was beautifully sliced and burned with a blue flame as the dragon slowly slumped onto the ground.
Immediately after, a giant black pillar of lightning slammed into the dragon’s body and instantly carbonized it.
After a short while, six black pillars of lightning slammed into the undead who were chasing after the retreating soldiers and carbonized them in an instant before roaming about in search for their next prey.
The seven black pillars of lightning and Carla, who had transformed into a streak of blue light had turned the undead back to dust.
Even still, the undead paid no heed to their ashen brethren and simply shrieked, attempting to swarm the retreating soldiers. However,
“《Rain of Lightning》”
Carla’s voice echoed as a myriad of lightning bolts rained down from the sky, evaporating the undead.
It had been only a short while since the soldiers had begun their retreat. The undead that should have been wildly charging forward had been spotlessly annihilated, and their charge had been put to a stop for now.
“Well done, Carla. Now stop yourself!” Judo shouted. Carla, who had been instantly slaughtering the undead, raced forward and stopped in front of them. Carla was panting, completely out of breath, and Judo was crouching over just a step further.
Judo placed his right palm on the floor.
In response to his chant, a giant magic circle appeared beneath the undead. The ground transformed into sand, lifted into the air, and the resulting gaping hole surrounded them like castle walls.
Then, the undead fell into the depths of hell as if it were only natural.
The sounds of flame pillars and explosions that seemed to be playing tricks on your ears reverberated out of the hole. It then rapidly expanded until a never before seen blazing hot flame pillar erupted into the sky.
The heat of the explosion was something else. If not for the stone walls, the resulting heat wave probably would have caused many injuries.
“No……waaay,” one soldier managed to squeeze out.
Even with the dirt wall, the remaining heat threatened to singe their skin. There was no way the undead had survived that heat. While the soldiers doubted their eyes, they were at least sure of that fact.
Although, while all those undead were completely annihilated in that short instant, Aquido still couldn’t believe his eyes.
The sand, which had formed walls, once again changed shape and filled the giant hole. And, accompanied with intermittent explosions, the northern landscape returned to its previous form.
“We’ve annihilated a large portion of the enemy’s strength. Let’s begin cleanup!!” shouted Count Hartwig, who had pointed his sword forward while still on horseback. His led his army forth in an all-out-attack against the undead, whose numbers had been reduced to less than a tenth from before. In response, Margrave McBurn and others from the expeditionary force joined in and surged forward like an avalanche.
The army in the back joined in, and after about an hour, the undead were hunted for the most part.
“Victory to the empire!!” proclaimed Emperor Georg. He thrust his sword into the air, and a tsunami of cheers spread over the plains north of Sutherland.
“It’s finally over……” Aquido muttered.
He slumped over on his knees and heavily breathed not in joy, but in relief in the fact that the battle had ended safely.
Despite the empire’s complete victory, the incident hadn’t fully come to an end for the Scarlet Phoenix. Grey was still captured, and Zem’s honor still hadn’t been preserved after all.
Still, with the help of the expeditionary force and the Commerce Guild, they now had the proof that they had been here. And having seen a portion of the Millard’s power, neither those in the army nor the court nobles should recklessly through their weight around Aquido and the others.
“We’ve probably gotten over the most difficult part,” thought Aquido.
“Hohho, well done,” said Sieg. He waved his hand and began to walk over alongside Margrave McBurn and the lords from the expeditionary force.
“Sieg-sama, please don’t make me do such a hard job again,” Judo complained. He wiped the sweat off his forehead and plopped onto the floor.
It probably wasn’t fatigue, but rather the heavy responsibilities he had been carrying. The continued existence of both the empire’s army and Sutherland itself depended on Judo after all. It was completely understandable.
“Now just leave the rest to us and return home.”
Margrave McBurn let out a gentle laugh to show his gratitude.
“Will do. Carla, Aquido, let’s go,” said Judo. He nodded once and lightly tapped his lower back.
Aquido stood up as well and began to stretch.
By coincidence, he managed to notice something. In the corner of his eye, he noticed a man wearing foreign black clothes approaching from far away.
That clothing should have been the uniform Judo had been handing out to the Sagami Co. employees recently. Which meant that man was an employee?
But if that were the case, he should have been coming from Sutherland’s north side. He was coming from where those undead had seemingly endlessly poured out of.
A freezing chill ran down Aquido’s spine and spread throughout his body. It was vague and thus hard to explain, but if he had to, he would say it was a sensation similar to when he had first met the abnormal existence known as Grey.
Aquido’s husky voice cracked, and the two followed his gaze before stiffening.
Of course. Before they knew it, a purple aura began to shimmer around the man before it blew into the air and morphed into a whirlpool.
“That’s—not good!” shouted Aquido, suppressing his urge to scream. To Aquido, that monster seemed to dye the entire empire the color of death.
“Oi, what the heck is that?”
Once one soldier finally noticed, the rest soon followed.
Then, Aquido’s fears turned to reality.
The ground beneath the man with black clothes bulged and transformed into a colossal being.
“Ua……” one soldier muttered in both amazement and despair.
“An undead dragon!? No, that’s too big!!”
It had an elegant figure over ten times as large that made it clear it was on a different level from a normal dragon.
“Those three horns. Could it possibly be……the legendary Ancient Dragon……?” muttered Sieg the Great Sage.
Aquido had only heard of that name once.
The Ancient Dragon—The king of the dragons that’s lived since ancient times. Dragons, who had higher intellect than humans, lived several thousand years. Their Magic and intellect were incomparable to humans. If you angered one, they could easily demolish a country or two. They were the kind of existence that was merely speculated about.
“Sieg-sama, McBurn-sama. Order the army to retreat!” Judo yelled.
His shouts fell on deaf ears, as Sieg the Sage and Margrave McBurn continued to stare at the dragon in a daze.
This time, Judo’s howling had reached their ears, and time seemed to move again.
Sieg the Sage mounted his horse and raced forward to Emperor Georg, while Margrave McBurn and his subordinates ordered a retreat.
“Carla, we’re going to attack with our most powerful spells! We’ll leave the army’s rear to Aquido and the Hero!!”
Judo and Carla were certainly powerful. However, that statement only held true when calculated in terms of a human. Their prospects were in the pits against a creature whispered about in myths. They would be fortunate to be able to buy some time.
“Don’t worry. The very concept of sacrificing myself for this country makes me want to vomit. If I judge the scenario dangerous, I’ll fully retreat back to our building!”
“As if I’d let you♬” an annoying male voice resounded inside his head.
At the same time, the ground just head of the fleeing soldiers bulged, and a large, undead serpent the size of several estates as well as a strange, undead bird emerged from the ground.
The word, “pandemonium” fit perfectly here. Everybody frantically ran about, trying to escape from the serpent and the mysterious bird. Of course they did. There was no way humans could win against such a large creature after all.
“Thanks to you beetles, my plan’s been all ruined. It seriously pisses me off, so I’ve decided to let my pets loose♫” the voice said.
The voice which echoed inside his head felt uncomfortable, and Aquido sensed an endless pit of malice within.
“If you don’t want to die then spread out and prepare to fight! Don’t group up!” shouted Emperor Georg, and the soldiers and mercenaries scattered apart like spiders.
“Now, Little Pi, Nyoro, eat to your heart’s content♪”
The mysterious bird and the giant serpent howled in response and began charging towards the empire’s army.
With just that single howl, the soldiers were forced to kneel.
Judo immediately turned around, but Judo and Carla were already in an intense battle with the Ancient Dragon. He didn’t have the time to help them.
The Hero was already exhausted and unable to move.
“I’ve got to do it……”
He pointed his palm towards the mysterious bird and the giant serpent.
“Countless Holy Spears!”
An innumerable number of spears of light appeared in the air and rushed forward, piercing the two creatures.
Having been stabbed by spears of light all over, the two creatures cried out in anguish and glared back at Aquido with bloodshot eyes. The attack had only amounted to light wounds, but Aquido had managed to anger them.
The creatures paid the soldiers no heed and rushed towards Aquido.
Aquido could teleport once a day but could only go several dozen meters—a drop in the bucket. Most of all, this ability was a closely guarded secret in Sagami Co. He couldn’t just betray Grey in an attempt to save his own life. Additionally, even if he were to disappear, those two creatures would probably aim back at the soldiers. Worst case scenario, the soldiers would be wiped out.
It wasn’t as if Aquido had any attachment towards the empire, nor did he consider himself a saint. He really couldn’t care less about the fate of the empire’s soldiers.
However, Aquido running away equated to admitting to their reputation. That was the last thing he would do.
“Sorry, guys. I’ll wait on ahead.”
He sprinted forward in the opposite direction of the empire’s army. While the bird glided through the air, blowing away the soldiers, and the giant serpent trampled the soldiers, they flew forward and roared as if to turn Aquido into a piece of meat.
The sounds of rumbling and gliding gradually neared. In just a few seconds, Aquido would be inside their stinky bellies. Given the circumstances, escaping from the battlefield wouldn’t bring about criticism from Grey nor from anyone else. Even still, he hadn’t even the slightest intention of teleporting away. If he had to say, the only reason he chose this counterproductive death was because of his pride. Still, Zem and the other members who had died before him held this “pride” in high regard, and those in the Scarlet Phoenix regarded it as even more important than their lives.
“It’s almost time.”
They had already caught up. He couldn’t accept being eaten from behind. He’d resist to the end and die a pitiful death.
He turned on his heel to see the giant serpent and the mysterious bird up in his face.
He readied his sword and glared at them.
“Come, I’ll slice you in three and have you for dinner!!” he shouted.
“Hm, I’m all for trial and error, but if you eat these rotten monsters you’ll hurt your stomach.”
An absurd statement. And yet the voice shook his entire body.
Then, Aquido was flung back, and he spun around in the air before collapsing onto the ground.
The two creatures grazed the youth before them before slamming into some kind of transparent wall.
“Now, I have an endless number of questions about your ecology, but one of you is more than enough. Return to a corpse.”
The masked youth raised his middle and pointer finger, when the creatures suddenly floated into the air. They twisted and turned, kicked and writhed, but they only floated higher.
He then slowly closed his fingers. As if in response, the creatures high up in the air compressed as their bones were crushed, and their flesh smashed.
They wailed in pain.
Finally, the masked youth completely closed his hand, and their bodies turned into a sphere of meat.
A wave a relief crashed into Aquido, and the consciousness he had been strenuously tying together quickly began to unravel.
“Don’t say that. I had a lot of work on my side too. But, how should I say it. Forgive me.”
And amidst this laughable conversation, Aquido’s consciousness faded out.
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