“Don’t worry, the bandits are nothing to be afraid of.” Saleen was calm. He had seen enough by now to know that the strength of a band of bandits was nothing compared to Aini’s private soldiers, much less Lex’s swordsman’s camps.
The bandits might have the numbers, but Saleen had more than enough weapons to deal with them.
“We should first chase away all the bandits in the town.” Aini could no longer sit still. Compared to Sharman, his goods were more easily damaged. Sharman was only shipping armors while he was shipping beasts. These were not just any beasts, they would be used for domestication purposes. Once they died, their prices would drop drastically.
“Need help?” Sharman asked.
“Leave two-hundred men behind as guards, the others will chase the bandits in the town towards the south. If they resist, just do what you have to do.” These bandits were disguising themselves as citizens. There were no noblemen in these two groups, so they must have a legitimate reason to justify killing someone.
Not only did bandits know how to steal, they also knew how to frame and set people up.
Aini left in a rage. He felt embarrassed that he had not realized that those people in the town were in disguise. Although he did say that they would only kill the bandits if they put up a resistance, in actual fact, his heart was already set on bloodshed.
Aini spent another ten minutes summoning fifty skeletons before leading them together with fifty of his own bodyguards to visit every household to flush the bandits out. The swordsmen disguised as mercenaries had retreated for the time-being.
At the first household, Aini was already making his move. His bodyguards were all light-armored knights and they were armed with guns with a blade at the tip. These weapons were useful whether on horse or on foot. There were four middle-aged men in the house. At this point, Aini could tell that in such times of chaos, it might still be reasonable to expect a household left with elderly and children. These four men were strong and well-built and had calluses on their hands that must have been due to the handling of weapons for many years.
Twelve skeletons rushed in to attack with three of them surrounding one man. Aini’s knights began charging from about ten yards away. A normal horse would not have been able to pick up speed from this distance, but Aini’s knights did not depend on their warhorses’ momentum to attack. With their blade-tipped guns held in their right hands, they attacked in almost a perfectly straight line.
Blood splattered all over. Although the knights were not rushing in with great speed, the four men were already trapped by the skeletons. The skeletons might not have much fighting ability, but they were not afraid of death or injuries. They only needed to hold the enemy for a while.
They had killed the occupants of three households consecutively, none of them older than forty years old. Aini was certain that these men were only of average swordsmen’s standard.
By this time, the bandits disguised as citizens had decided that they would not just become sitting ducks. A group of them gathered on the streets and tried to block Aini’s way.
Aini was overjoyed. These bandits were only wearing quilted armors that had been discarded by the army and not even leather armor. Quilted armors were not durable so once they were past their expiration date, the defence they could provide dropped drastically. These men were armed with an assortment of weapons. Most of them held long swords while some of them wielded epees or even daggers. There were more than two-hundred of them yet none possessed ranged weapons. About ten or so bandits at the front of the group held hunting bows, but their range was only twenty to thirty yards. They could not even penetrate leather armors.
Under Aini’s control, fifty skeletons released a strange howl and rushed towards the bandits. The bandits were brave and had no fear even after seeing the spirits of the dead. They charged ahead with their weapons as well.
Aside from these low-level skeleton soldiers, Aini did not cast any other high-level spells. Just the skeleton soldiers were enough. They slowed down the enemies’ charge and split them into four columns. The effect of weapons on their skeletons were such that swordsmen of middle-grade and above would have been able to turn them into a heap of bones while swordmasters would have been able to kill them all within seconds.
Unfortunately, the bandits had to face a second wave of attack. Aini’s knights charged through the columns that the skeletons had formed and wherever they passed, blood sputtered out with a sound as if gigantic beasts were panting.
The bandits’ hunting bows were of no use against the metallic armors. The fifty knights killed off close to one-hundred men before the mercenaries finally arrived from behind.
“Mob!” Aini waved his hand and a mage stepped from amongst the mercenaries. He took out a scroll and more than ten clumps of spider webs descended from the sky and trapped more than twenty of the bandits together.
Before the remaining bandits realized what was happening, they were killed by the mercenaries’ arrows.
Slightly more than ten of the skeletons survived while the other thirty or so skeletons had been chopped into pieces by the bandits and had returned to the death dimension.
Aini shouted, “Rise!”
With that, the bandits’ corpses rose shakily and walked slowly towards Aini. He smiled and stopped chanting the curse suddenly. The corpses immediately fell back to the ground in a heap.
Aini’s bodyguards were indifferent, but the mercenaries were fearful. One of them said, “Master Aini, is this death magic?”
“Yes, to get rid of evil spirits. Death mages can control the corpses that they have killed and use them to attack the enemy…”
“That’s incredible,” one of the mercenaries said.
Aini smiled. This group of mercenaries were gathered by him so they were yet to officially become part of Lex’s team. These mercenaries were trained by him and Daniel. Considering this was the first time they witnessed death magic, they were quite composed.
Summoning skeletons and expelling corpses were two different things. It seemed like the latter was much more disgusting.
This was also a death mage’s biggest strength. Long ago when the four countries were at war, once a death mage killed the enemy’s soldiers, they would be revived to attack against the next city. There were no exceptions, even those that were controlled by black magicians. Once they died, they became the tools of the death mages.
On the other side of the town, Sharman’s guards were also chasing the bandits away, but they suffered considerable losses.
When Aini returned to the barrack, he found Sharman seething in anger. It turned out that after both of them had split up, Aini was decisive in killing all the bandits, but Sharman lost quite a few soldiers.
Nevertheless, this was still considered a major victory. Aini had the advantage of using spirits of the dead. He could use the skeleton soldiers to carry out the most dangerous tasks because they could be summoned again even if he lost them.
“The town has been cleared. This is only the beginning. We don’t know how many bandits there are beyond the city. Sharman…”
“Humph, I know. I will ask them to follow your orders.” Sharman was not proficient in organized battle operations. There were too many enemies now and it was beyond her ability to command.
“Give your orders now. I will arrange men for patrol.”
Aini grinned as Sharman gathered the commanders of her troops and instructed them to take orders from Aini.
“Telensu town belongs to Baron Telensu. He is a first-class Baron and has affiliations with Qin.” Narnia had already finished gathering the necessary information and passed it to Saleen. This data on officials were usually recorded with spells. Narnia did not manage find them at first because she was searching from the information on Phoenix noblemen.
Baron Telensu’s enfeoffment was supposed to be north of Phoenix but he was in fact a Qin nobleman. This strange twist wasted some of Narnia’s time at first.
“Leave it alone for now. We are just crossing borders. We can look into this when we return.” Saleen hinted at Narnia not to bother too much about it. In any case, Baron Telensu was no longer here. He was probably the empire’s spy. Before Qin empire still deployed some trusted aides in Phoenix, such as Baron Cook.
Emperor Chanake was already dead but these spies continued to exist, even though they longer meant anything to Lex.
Narnia kept quiet as Aini carried out Saleen’s suggestion after a discussion. He turned all the dead bandits’ corpses into spirits of the dead and ordered them to block off the northern side of the town.
The city walls of this small town measured at about five-hundred yards with one door each on the north and south side. A few hundred spirits of the dead blocked off the northern door and they were accompanied by a mage that had hidden amongst the mercenaries and another ten of Aini’s knights.
Night fell and howls began to sound outside of the city. The group of people that were making the sounds approached the northern gate and hesitated when they saw it wide open.
The person in charge of guarding the northern gate immediately signalled to Aini. He could not even afford to take a short rest before being disturbed. He got up and knocked on Sharman’s door to wake her up and said, “I am going to guard the northern gate. If anyone attacks from the south, just take orders from Saleen. I have left one-hundred mercenaries for his deployment.”
Aini had no intentions of disclosing that Saleen was one of the sponsors of the mercenaries. In fact, this group of mercenary soldiers were funded by what Saleen and he had put together.
The battle began abruptly. These bandits clearly did not come from the same place as there was lack of proper command and order. Nevertheless, they were better equipped than those that had been disguised as citizens in the town as most of them were clad in leather armors. Some of them were wearing metallic armors and were all at the level of swordsmen.
There were more than one-thousand bandits at the northern gate and although they were disorderly, they were definitely more highly-skilled than those that had been killed in the town. When a small group of bandits tried to enter the city, they saw a few hundred corpses standing in the streets and staring back at them.
Some of the corpses were still recognizable but others already had their heads cut off. Blood has already clotted and who knew what that white and fluffy stuff was!
While this small group of bandits were still hesitating, the corpses created by Aini had already charged at them in a craze. These corpses were only grade-1 and did not possess much intelligence. They no longer knew how to wield the weapons that they once possessed when they were still alive. Now, they could only depend on the ten centimeter-long sharp nails on their hands to attack.
The nails were covered with poison that was fatal once they made a scratch on one’s skin.
“Death mage! Run!” Someone within the group of bandits shouted and everyone panicked before the corpses were even close. Those that were leading the group were the first to run while some of those at the back were too stunned to move and were trampled by those that were running away.
The strongest amongst the bandits were only middle-grade swordsmen. Once they heard that there were death mages amongst the enemies on top of the disgusting corpses in front of them, all of them lost the courage to fight and were scared off from the city by Aini.
The corpses were not fast so by the time they reached the city gates, the bandits had already fled for at least five-hundred yards and only their backs were left in sight.