We left G2 and G3 to our most recent catch, the Goblin village. Unlike G1, G2 and G3 were barely independent. I figured leaving them to lead a village should do them good. Borrowing Shiki’s words, “It takes fire to forge one’s mettle.”
When the mob woke up from their stupor, the battle was already over. The little green guys groggily stood up, and what greeted them was the scattered pieces of their King. At least, what was once their King. Seeing that, more than a few became alert, grabbing their weapons and taking a fighting stance. Normally, I would’ve had to handle it. This time, however, I left it to G2 and G3. Mostly because public speaking, be it to monsters, wasn’t my forte. But also, it was G2 and G3’s first task as their leader. After all, if they couldn’t as much keep them under control during their groggy states, perhaps it’s natural selection in the process.
I left them to it, despite the trembling and quaking. I whipped my head towards Bria. We were expanding our forces, but I was hardly convinced we had enough to fight the Golden Sun’s army. “Bria, how strong are we now?”
“The first goblin village has 35 goblins, and this one has 30. In addition to our original force, a bit more than 70.”
I slumped to my chair. “And how about the Golden Sun’s? Any news in Castel? Do we stand a chance?”
She stood silent for a few seconds, then started chanting. Her eyes glowed white, a sign that she was exchanging information with the Mossquitoes. After a while, the glow dissipated and her eyes returned to normal. Looking at me, she said, “The last time I checked, the Golden Sun had already made a recruitment announcement for his next expedition. As we already knew, the adventurers had already anticipated it. Just after the announcement was made, more than a hundred had already gathered. This time, I used the Mossquitoes to take a stroll around Castel. Tens of posters about a tournament that will be held in a few days are plastered everywhere.”
“More than a hundred?!” I shot up, my voice booming across the room. “Where did all of those come from? Were there even more than a hundred adventurers in Castel? Didn’t we only see around 50 during our stay there?”
“I believe the majority only returned once the Golden Sun had arrived,” Bria added, unalarmed.
I nodded. “Garr also said something similar right?” I tucked my chin on my hand, clicked my tongue, and sat on my chair. Tsk, we’ll just be their punching bags at this rate. Ugh! Why did I even say those things in the first place?! I ruffled my hair in frustration. Bria looked at me with both curiosity and confusion, but I just ignored her. We need more troops. We can only try to be stronger now. Character window.
|Strength:||52 + 45|
|Intelligence:||53 + 30|
|Agility:||50 + 36|
|Wisdom:||52 + 9|
Huh? Has my additional strength always been that big? Then it hit me.
“Shiki!” I half-shouted in excitement. It was a big achievement, and I was certain I deserved all the praises in the world. Shiki turned towards me. Just as usual, he didn’t show any emotion, but I didn’t let that wittle my excitement. I ran towards him with what I imagined was a very stupid face. I half-exclaimed, half-bragged, “I did it! I used Crescent Slash.”
“I reckon you did, my liege.” His voice was flat, but I was certain that was a compliment in his own Shiki way, so butterflies still appeared in my stomach. “You indeed vanquished both Goblin Kings with it. However, isn’t that just luck? Can you use it at will?”
I grinned and taunted, “There’s only one way to find out.”
Shiki nodded, and we stepped outside. Seeing us, the Nighthowls ran towards us with wagging tails, but I gestured for them to disperse and give us some space. They immediately leaped back and encircled us.
Within the encirclement, Shiki and I stood. A good few meters were between us. That was enough space for an initial charge. Shiki, standing still, drew Kiriwan. “Whenever you wish, my liege.”
As if on cue, my mind started replaying the set of moves I needed to do to activate Crescent Slash. Unlike the fight with the Goblin Kings, however, I had the luxury of time this time around. I shut my eyes and concentrated on visual training. Step, mana, unleash. Step, mana, unleash …
After what seemed like an eternity and a short while at the same time, I blasted my eyes open as I drew Gale from its sheath. “Shiki, I’m coming.”
“Whenever you’re ready, my liege,” he repeated without any hint of irritation.
With that, I charged. Using Wind Walk, I shot towards Shiki. I was going faster than I did while fighting the Goblin Kings, but my heart and mind was way calmer. This time, I was sure of what I was doing. Just as how I played it inside my head, I started pouring mana into Gale. A smile crept on my lips. Things were going well. I continued injecting mana into Gale, and when the opportune moment came, I swung Gale with all my strength.
A jet black slash zoomed towards Shiki, but he wasn’t the slightest bit alarmed. He casually put a foot forward, and held Kiriwan in front of him. When my Crescent Slash had traversed half the distance, he slashed the air. He didn’t charge or rush. In fact, the only movement he made was that slight step, and yet, his Crescent Slash was darker than mine. In addition to that, it even left a misty trail on its wake.
The two slashes met, crackling the space around them. Both of them were suspended in mid air for a few solid seconds. Then, a cracking sound echoed. My slash cracked, then shattered. The pieces of energy in the air slowly dissipated. However, I didn’t have any time to be in shock and awe. Shiki’s slash was flying towards me as fast as it started. Other than that short moment of being suspended in midair, my slash didn’t even manage to slow Shiki’s down. I caught my jaw slacked, but my reflexes kicked in. I ducked and rolled forward in an attempt to dodge. While rolling, I felt an ominous aura zooming above me, sending a crippling chill down my spine. A second after, the sound of a falling heavy object resounded behind me.
My heart sunk. My initial glee was gone. It felt like I was being sucked into an empty void. “So, I failed,” I muttered in self-pity.
“No, not quite, my liege. Contrary, you did great. It might not be visible, but your attack weakened mine. If it hadn’t, my attack would’ve cleared a new path behind.” Shiki let go of Kiriwan, which dissipated into nothingness, and pointed to where his attack hit.
I turned my head behind me. True enough, only one tree had fallen down. For some reason, I didn’t doubt Shiki’s words. With his strength, clearing a new path with a single slash didn’t sound like a tall tale. That thought cheered me up, albeit not as high as before.
We spent the next few days gathering more troops. Since I had mastered Crescent Slash, our battle strategy changed. I no longer faced the monster villages alone. Rihoku and the other Nighthowls accompanied me. There was only one rule: no unnecessary killing. After all, we needed as much force as we could gather.
With this new strategy and the help of Bria’s charm spell, we subjugated two Kobold villages and a War Orc tribe, which brought our head count to a hundred and twenty. While scrambling to gather more troops, a good news reached us. According to Bria, the Golden Sun’s tournament rendered half of his force out of commission. At present, only 50 adventurers were at his disposal. The not-so-good news was that all of them were elites. Plus, they were already preparing to depart.
That meant we also had to rush our preparation. In front of our first goblin village, I shouted, “G1 come out.”
I figured keeping my distance was a wise choice. If something went awry, the Goblins wouldn’t manage to land a sneak attack. And if everything went well, I figured G1 wouldn’t mind traveling a few meters to meet us. I let my shout echo, giving time for them to respond.
A few seconds later, a huge gray figure appeared in front of the village. It was holding a blade that was as long as its arm. After seeing us, it ran towards our direction.
What happened to G1? I drew Gale and assumed an attacking position, ready to use Crescent Slash at a moment’s notice.
Just as it approached, a light hand gently tapped my shoulder. “Calm down, Kaito. That’s G1.”
When the gray figure arrived, it immediately knelt on one knee.
“He is turning to a Hobgoblin.”