Chapter 209: Deployed
“I’m going with you!” Ellie’s voice sounded from behind.
I stopped in my tracks and the guard beside me halted as well. Turning back to lock eyes with my sister, I struggled to hold down the words, ‘it’s too dangerous.’
Sylvie had already read what I wanted to say but she stayed quiet beside me.
“You promised, remember?” Ellie’s gaze remained resolute as she walked to me.
“A massive horde of corrupted beasts,” I muttered softly.
“You’ll be with me,” she answered immediately. “And I’ll have the protection of the Wall.”
‘I understand your dilemma but this is a good opportunity,’ Sylvie chimed in. ‘I’ll be with her as well and casting arrows from the top of the Wall is little more than target practice for her.’
But what if the beasts break through?
‘I know you won’t let that happen,’ she answered with a soothing wave of confidence.
The guard beside me scratched his head and kept shifting his gaze toward the exit impatiently. “General Arthur…”
“We’re going,” I stated as I began walking toward the training ground exit once again.
Looking back over my shoulder, I called out to my sister. “What are you doing? Let’s go.”
Ellie visibly brightened as a contagious smile blossomed on her face. She followed after me in a full run. “Come on, Boo!”
Immediately outside of the training grounds there was an unfamiliar mage with a large sparrow-like bird perched on his shoulder, stood, waiting. After making eye contact, he respectfully inclined his head. “Greetings, General Arthur. I am Officer Julor Strejin. A member of my squad surveying the Beast Glades was the one to spot the horde. I will be briefing you of the situation at the Wall.”
“Officer Julor,” I acknowledged with a nod.
Without wasting any time, the officer began informing me of everything that I was expected to know. Two other mages—both highly-accomplished adventurers before joining the army—would be accompanying us as additional support to the Wall. The best estimate on the size of the beast horde was somewhere close to twenty thousand. Although a majority seemed to be from D-class to B-class, there were several A-class and even quite a bit of S-class mana beasts spotted.
“Unfortunately, we weren’t able to get too close because of the Alacryan mages, but we spotted at least a dozen S-class mana beasts,” Julor stated solemnly.
I looked back at Ellie. “A dozen S-class mana beasts. And the fact that they’re corrupted means they’ll be even stronger and more fierce.”
Ellie’s face paled but her expression remained firm. “I’ll be okay.”
My determined, talented, yet sheltered, sister has definitely never seen a mana beast besides the tamed bonds in Xyrus when she was younger. I doubted she could even fathom how scary an S-class beast was but here I was, leading her straight into not only one, but a dozen… along with several thousands of other beasts.
‘They’re only mana beasts, Arthur,’ Sylvie comforted.
Right, I responded back mentally.
I turned to Julor. “Any signs of retainers or scythes, Officer?”
“None,” he replied confidently. “Which was why Commander Virion deemed that just sending a single lance was necessary.”
“Okay. How many days do we have until the horde reaches the Wall?” I asked.
“By the pace that they’re marching, we expect them to arrive in no more than two days time,” he answered before shooting a glance at where Sylvie and my sister were. I could tell he was about to say something but he held his tongue.
We walked in silence for the remainder of our small walk until we reached the docking room. It was relatively quiet inside the usually-bustling space. Besides the several workers strapping saddles on giant hawk-like mana beasts, I could only see Virion with a small entourage when we had arrived.
“Arthur!” Virion called out, his once-cheerful disposition had faded, instead replaced by war-weary eyes. Beside him were two mage soldiers and a few maids behind them.
“Commander.” I saluted before walking up to the old elf.
“I’m sure Officer Julor informed you of the situation so let me quickly introduce you to the two mages I’ve chosen to support you at the Wall. “This is Callum Hembril. He’s young, barely past thirty, but already an accomplished fire conjurer in the solid-yellow core stage.”
The chestnut-haired mage stepped forward, his long coiled bangs covering his forehead. He had an inquisitive look on him that he quickly covered with an amiable smile. “Callum, as introduced by the commander. Pleasure.”
Virion stuck a thumb back at the figure a few feet behind Callum. “This big lug here is a dark-yellow core augmenter, but he’s been out on the fields of the Beast Glades for over forty years.”
The barrel-chested man that stood almost a foot over me and twice my girth was covered from the neck down in heavy plate armor that glowed dully. He had short hair and his lower face was dark with stubbles. With a piercing gaze that seemed to be assessing every inch of my body, he stretched out a hand toward me. “Gavik Lund.”
I shook his hand that seemed almost as wide as Boo’s paws, before turning back to Virion. “So, what’s the plan?” By those mounts getting ready, I’m assuming we’re traveling by air?”
“Mhmm. Those are Callum’s and Gavin’s mounts,” Virion informed. “The closest teleportation gate is in Blackbend City and the train hasn’t yet been fully finished. It’s fortunate that the Castle’s location is relatively close to the Wall.”
I turned to my bond. “I can fly myself. Do you think you’ll be able to carry Ellie while holding Boo?”
Finally grasping the situation, Boo let out a moan of protest.
“If the trip isn’t too long, I’ll be able to manage,” Sylvie answered, ignoring my sister’s giant bond.
“Wait, the little kid and her pet cub is coming along?” Gavik asked with a scowl. “Commander, is that wise? There will be a massive army of mana beasts.”
“She’s an adept conjurer that’ll be valuable to have stationed on the wall,” I cut in. “And since when was it okay to refer to a general’s sister as a ‘little kid’?”
Gavik, despite being about three times my age, blanched.
“My… apologies,” he muttered. “Didn’t know she was your sister, General Arthur.”
Virion’s expression was laced in worry, but he didn’t comment on Ellie going with me. Instead, he waved over the attendants that were standing behind him. They walked up carrying a large wooden chest with runes etched into its entire surface. “Anyways, before you leave, I prepared a little something. It’s not much, but I think wearing something a bit more eye-catching might help with the level of morale at the Wall.”
Virion placed a hand on the lid and the runes lit up before opening with a click. Several compartments popped out of the chest to reveal an entirely new outfit for me.
“Jand, Brune, help the General get dressed,” Virion ordered. Before I could protest, his attendants had grabbed me and led me to the side of the room where a dressing stall had been conveniently set up beforehand.
The male immediately began undressing me while the lady attendant started working on my hair. After brushing it, she tied the back neatly and trimmed my bangs.
I should cut my hair soon, I noted mentally. My hair had gotten long enough to reach past my shoulders. If it wasn’t for my height and relatively broad shoulders, I could easily have been mistaken for a girl from the back.
‘And from the front,’ my bond added, her thoughts invading into mine. ‘You’re prettier than some of the noble females I’ve seen in the Castle.’
I groaned internally. Yeah… I should definitely cut my hair soon.
As soon as my hair had been tamed, they got to work on the outfit. I wore a black high-collared shirt that conveniently covered the burn marks on my neck that I had gotten from the first retainer that I had fought against. Trousers that felt surprisingly thick despite its lightness fell tight below my knees, which were designed intentionally so that the thin dark-gray greaves could comfortably slip over my shins.
The attendants then equipped braces of the same material and color of my greaves over my arms before slipping on tight, fingerless gloves over my hands.
While the appearance of the outfit was a tad over the top with its intricate trimmings and engraved armor on my shins and forearms, Virion knew precisely what sort of armor would best suit me. While protection was minimal, the braces and greaves would allow me some form of defense while leaving my movements unimpeded.
“The last touch, General Arthur,” the male attendant announced as he carefully draped a waist-long mantle over me that was lined in white fur.
I walked out of the dressing stall, and despite the thicker layers of clothing I had changed into, my body felt freer and lighter than it had before. Callum and Gavik had already hopped onto their mounts, ready to depart.
“Ah! Much better,” Virion said with an approving nod.
“Where’d my brother go?” my sister teased as she looked around the room.
I rolled my eyes, making my way back to the commander, who was wearing a gray fur-lined coat that fell just below his ankles over his usual loose robe. “You really like your furs.”
“That mantle is an old piece of mine that I wore back when I was younger,” Virion said, his eyes growing softer as if he was reminiscing of the past. “Although it doesn’t look as good on you as it did on me, I’ll let you have it.”
I raised a brow in surprise. “Thank you for the outfit.”
He smirked. “Thank me by keeping the Wall from falling.”
The large bifold doors that took up an entire wall opened, letting in a constant rush of air as the floor below us slowly slid out toward the large exit. I motioned for Sylvie and my sister to follow as I made my way toward the edge of the castle. My bond soon caught up, walking behind me with Ellie and Boo in tow.
I relished the beautiful sight of the sky below us. “I forget sometimes how high up the Castle is in the sky!”
“Tell me about it! At least we can’t see how far up we are because of the clouds below,” my sister shouted over the sound of the wind.
I let out a laugh. “Just be sure to hold onto Sylvie tightly!”
“I won’t drop you,” my bond reassured.
Boo let out another groan.
Sylvie shook her head. “I won’t drop either of you.”
The sight of Callum and Gavik on their mounts whizzed by. The tamed mana beasts dove off the edge of the dock before reappearing into view with wings spread out.
“Let’s go!” I shouted as I ran toward the edge.
Sylvie began glowing as she transformed into her draconic form. “Jump, Ellie!” she shouted, her voice a pitch deeper than it was before.
I watched the obsidian dragon sail above the clouds with Ellie on her back and Boo in her clawed hands.
Using the sound of Ellie’s screams as the cue, I jumped off the edge as well, following the rest.
How are you holding up? I asked my bond, whose speed seemed to be getting slower.
‘It seems that, despite all of my magical and physical capabilities, I wasn’t designed to be an efficient mode of delivery,’ she replied, looking down at the large bear that had fallen asleep while dangling in Sylvie’s arms.
Several hours had passed since our departure and besides the gorgeous views of the sky and clouds, it was a boring journey. We had settled into a comfortable speed heading southeast with Callum and Gavik leading just a few dozen yards ahead. After my sister’s initial excitement—and Boo’s terror—of flying had died down, the two had fallen asleep, one on Sylvie’s back and the other in her hands.
Ahead, Callum conjured a bright flare and signaled that we were descending. The two mages then led their avian steeds below the sea of clouds, both disappearing from view.
Looks like we’re almost there. You’ll be able to get some rest once we land, I conveyed to my bond before following after Callum and Gavik.
The shroud of wind I had cast over my body kept all of the moisture from the clouds away from me but Ellie wasn’t as fortunate. As I watched Sylvie descend through the thick layer of water vapor, I couldn’t help but chuckle at the sight of my sister awake, drenched and grumpy. Boo’s thick fur was drench and matted down to his skin, making him look scrawnier than what I had imagined.
I shot a smirk at my sister, but her gaze was glued below, jaw agape.
‘Arthur. Look down,’ Sylvie sent along with a wave of concern.
I peered down, the layer of mist thin enough for me to finally see through. And what I saw was truly a sight to behold.
I could only describe it as a sea. A sea of black and gray that was made up of what could only be the corrupted beasts. We were several miles above ground and the beast horde was still more than a day away, at the least, but already my chest clenched in suspense.
Callum and Gavik had both stopped their descent to behold the sight below, exchanging concerned glances with one another every few seconds.
The Wall, the fortress housing close to several hundred mages and soldiers, responsible for keeping this beast army at bay, looked tiny—insignificant—in comparison.
I could feel heart speeding and my blood boiling to the extent that my hands were trembling.
Sylvie’s presence seeped into my mind, snapping me out of my reverie. ‘Arthur. You’re smiling.’