Sharman’s aunt laughed and said, “He is a mage. Since both of you have already come to an agreement, if you were to go back on your words, your sister will not be able to help you.”
Sharman was taken aback and said, “What do you mean?”
“At this point, you can only place your trust in him unless he does something harmful to you. If you were to go back on your words, he will definitely take revenge on your sister and maybe even the entire Rolande family.”
“Surely brother Saleen is not someone like that?”
“What do you know? A mage’s pride cannot be taken for granted,” Sharman’s aunt sighed.
“My sister is a mage too, and she is of a higher grade than him!”
“Higher? What grade is Cuisi? What grade is Su?”
Sharman was speechless, but she became happy very quickly and said, “If Saleen is as strong as you say, I will be better off following him than continuing to stay with the family.”
“Of course. Your sister’s status dropped the moment the Emperor passed away. If she had not been given the title of ‘Baroness’, she could still continue to stay on in the family just by being a direct descendant. Now, all the elders are worried that her relationship with the Emperor will have an impact on Holy Rock City’s… Forget it, you know what I mean. Since your sister has gone to Metatrin City, it means that she has decided to be independent. Aren’t the children in other families the same? If you follow Saleen, you might even do better than your sister.”
Sharman was puzzled and asked, “Auntie, why do I feel that he seems to think more highly of me than sister? She is a grade-4 mage!”
Sharman could not understand why this was so. On the Myers Mainland, even if you were a black metal grand swordmaster and could suppress grade-4 or even grade-5 mages, you would never be given the same level of respect as a grade-4 mage. The mage in a team would be able to lead everyone, but a grand swordmaster would never be able to do so unless he has at least reached the level of silver grand swordmaster.
“Silly child. You have been staying in Metatrin City for a few months now, haven’t you realized that Metatrin City has no lack of mages?” Sharman’s aunt laughed bitterly.
Aini personally oversaw the cleaning up of the battlefield. There were a total of ninety-three grade-4 magic nuclei taken from the metal-armored giant lizards. Saleen did not need these magic nuclei and had already promised to give them to Aini. All the magic nuclei would not even have been able to make up for the loss of a grade-7 scroll. Although the skins of the metal-armored giant lizards had mostly been burnt, they could still be used as materials to create high-level leather armors. Not only did these high-level leather armors provide the same level of defense as metal armors, they were also much lighter.
Of course, Saleen did not care for these materials, he already possessed dragon skin. If he wanted more materials, he might as well go to the oceanic ice block to hunt for red krill. Their armor provided better defense, were lighter, and were easier to be enchanted with magic.
On top of the magic nuclei, there were more than five-hundred corpses that were more or less intact. Aini kept them and slowly began to create undead soldiers. The advantage that undead soldiers had over skeletal soldiers was that if they were given sufficient time to train, they would be able to wield human weapons. In berserk mode, they could even be used to attack.
These undead soldiers were much more agile than skeletal soldiers. They could overcome obstacles and even use their nails to climb up straight walls. When undead soldiers attacked a city, bows and arrows would be useless against them. Only huge rocks or pouring hot oil would be effective against them. These two forms of attack would take a long time and would still not be able to defeat a large number of undead soldiers. Ultimately, the only way was still to fight them head-on.
Most of the heavy-armored knights’ armors had been destroyed and largely melted. Aini kept them anyway. Cleaning up the battlefield required one to be detailed and meticulous in order to try to recoup whatever was still available. These armors were made from refined metal that had been mixed with refined bronze, as well as pure iron that was as thick as a finger. Even if they were to be melted, they would still be able to fetch more than one-hundred gold coins.
In comparison, the losses suffered by the bandits were far more than Saleen’s. Saleen only expended two scrolls while the bandits lost three zun grand swordmasters, one-hundred heavy-armored knights, metal-armored giant lizards, and more than one-thousand men. In total, excluding the three zun grand swordmasters, the bandit gang lost more than one-hundred-thousand gold coins.
Wars never built and only destroyed. The caravans were not any better. The metal-armored giant lizards’ magic nuclei could be sold for at most four-hundred gold coins each and were less than forty-thousand gold coins in total. Including the other materials, they would only be able to recoup about sixty-thousand gold coins. The caravans lost about forty men and the money that they would have to pay for their death benefits would be more than ten-thousand gold coins.
Aini’s magic wolves had already been turned into death magic wolves and would be hard to sell. These things were not worth much to a death mage and element mages did not like them either. The entire batch of goods had gone to waste so Aini could only keep them for himself.
There was no other way. No one knew if the bandits would retreat or continue to fight on. If their numbers kept increasing, they could very well have succeeded in breaking through into the camp. By then, Aini would not have been able to escape with the magic wolves and would have to leave them behind. If that was the case, he would not even have any death magic wolves.
Saleen lost two scrolls and some arrows that he had given to Aini, but was physically unhurt. Saleen managed to succeed in convincing Sharman by using the two scrolls, ultimately it was still worth it.
If Sharman was more mature, Saleen would have to give up a lot more in order to pull her to his group. A sixteen year-old zun grand swordmaster was bound to have a bright future.
At the end of the day, the problem lay with the Rolande family. Even if Sharman was only a swordmaster before she left for Metatrin City, her sister was already a grade-4 mage. The Rolande family was willing to let go of such a talent for fear of how Holy Rock City might treat them.
There was a map on the table in Saleen’s barrack. It was not very detailed as the magic map that was manufactured at that time did not include the present northern territories of Phoenix.
There were three routes leading south from Telensu Town. Saleen chose the middle route and proceeded for two-hundred miles before arriving at a bigger city.
“We have to repick the route that we want to continue on. My flying puppets have chased for two-hundred miles, but are unable to tell which direction the bandits were headed towards.” Saleen gestured on the map as the men that had been summoned over were a little muddled.
“You want to chase after those bandits?” Sharman shouted. She has already lost some soldiers and did not wish to go into battle again.
“No no no. The bandits’ battering ram has been destroyed here. Their original aim was to attack a city. Without a ram, they will need to use more soldiers. We will just catch up with them and see how the noble families of Phoenix will deal with this.”
“Isn’t that the same thing?” Sharman muttered to herself.
“It’s not the same thing. If the bandits manage to take the city, we will follow and exact revenge for the noble families of Phoenix. If the bandits fail, then we can just ignore them.”
“You wish to take over a city? We do not have enough men!” Aini cautioned. He wanted to take over Phoenix’s city too. The more places that Saleen controlled, the more benefits the caravan would be able to reap in the future. Right now was clearly not the best time to try and take over a city. There were less than one-thousand men in the caravan, including the servants. Even guarding a small city with a circumference of one mile would be a tall task. That was already taking into account that a death mage like him was present.
“It’s not that difficult. I have already sent a message to Lex. Whichever city is attacked down these three routes, they are only two-thousand and four-hundred miles away from Metatrin City. To get here from Metatrin City, a light-armored knight will only need six days while a foot soldiers will need just about ten days.
“Surely the bandits will succeed in less than ten days!” Aini still did not understand.
“That’s why I want to follow. Once the bandits succeed in taking the city, we will chase them out. We will not guard the city. Instead, we will let the puppets and spirits of the dead destroy whatever defences the city still has. Once we are more or less done, we will leave immediately. If the bandits were to come back and try to repair the defences, they will not have enough time because Lex’s troops will have reached by then. The bandits will be no match for her forces.'”
It finally dawned on Aini that Saleen wanted to destroy the city because no one in the entire north had been able to defeat Lex’s knights on the fields of battle. If Lex were to help the noble families of Phoenix win back their city, there was nothing Holy Rock City could say.
If the noble families of Phoenix wanted their city back, they would have to pay Lex gold coins. The city was not destroyed by Lex so she would not need to pay them anything. She could just take their money and go. The noble families of Phoenix would be left with a city without walls and defense. Sooner or later, this place would belong to Saleen.
Saleen’s plans were tightly linked to one another. If the bandits had an objective that they wanted to achieve, they would attack again sooner or later. If this went on for a few more rounds, most of the noble families of the northern part of Phoenix should more or less have been killed by then.
All the noble families of Phoenix with fighting forces had already left for Metatrin City. The remaining noble families were those that were only eking out a living.
After figuring out Saleen’s intentions, Aini sent out fifteen knights and divided them into three teams to chase after the bandits. They would only need to chase or a few miles to find out which city the bandits were intending to attack.
Sharman could see that Aini and Saleen supported each other very well. She thought to herself, “I have already decided to follow Saleen, surely I need to do something? Aini has allowed Saleen to make use of all his troops, as for mine…”
“Brother Saleen, since I have decided to follow you, I have about one-hundred soldiers with me. I am not good at commanding. Please go ahead and deploy them as you please.”
Saleen did not stand on courtesy and nodded. Nevertheless, he followed military guidelines and only used one-hundred and twenty soldiers and split them into three troops. The remaining thirty soldiers continued to follow Sharman, ensuring her safety. Even the bravest general of an army would be protected by bodyguards when he went to battle.
Under normal circumstances, the strongest officer would have two-hundred bodyguards with him to form the core of the entire army. Leading at the front would be the suicide squads, light-armored knights on both flanks, foot soldiers in the center, and heavy-armored knights bringing up the rear. The officer and his bodyguards were the core of the battle. Even though Sharman was highly-skilled, Saleen would never let her go into battle alone.
The bandits’ strategy of attacking with heavy-armored knights would have been effective against any single type of soldiers, but would be destroyed by any conventional armies.
After Saleen took over Sharman’s soldiers, the servants followed since the wagons were already gone. In this caravan, only the horses that Aini’s fifty bodyguards rode were real warhorses. The servants’ horses could only be used to carry tools and equipment while traveling.
Even so, Saleen was still pleased. He armed everyone with iron crossbows. The soldiers’ crossbows could be hung on their horses’ stirrups to notch arrows while the servants’ crossbows could only be operated manually with a notch wheel so it was twice as slow to notch an arrow. There were still more than eight-hundred men in the caravan. Now that almost everyone was armed with an iron crossbow, they were more than prepared if they were to encounter the bandits again.
Sharman’s aunt did not say anything. She understood the level of wealth of Metatrin City based on how Saleen armed everyone with iron crossbows. Those eight-hundred iron crossbows should cost about one-hundred gold coins, so that was a total of eighty-thousand gold coins’ worth of equipment.
 The elite foot soldiers in this book rode on horses as well, except that they were of poorer breeds. The soldiers were required to carry many equipment and usually travelled along with wagons. When the road conditions are optimal, their travelling time is close to half of that of a knight’s.
Keeping an army was like throwing away money. Although the Rolande family was rich, the number of elite foot soldiers that they kept did not exceed the limits set by the empire. These iron crossbows were only used by elite soldiers. Normal soldiers were only armed with handheld crossbows or bows. Without iron crossbows, one could only watch the enemy’s heavy-armored knights charge all the way towards you before you could engage them.
When it came to business, Saleen was no match for Aini, but when it came to leading armies into battle, Saleen was undoubtedly better. Aini decided to give Saleen command of his bodyguards. As a death mage, he now possessed twelve green-bronze zombies, eighty death magic wolves, more than five-hundred undead soldiers, and more than fifty skeletal soldiers. He was not worried about his own safety.
Aini did not have too many green spirits and would not be able to spare any even if Saleen asked for it. Saleen had another death mage under his command anyway. Aini also knew that Saleen had a death creature that was bonded to him. This creature possessed intelligence, could use death magic, and also needed green spirit.
Aini could only urge his undead soldiers, death magic wolves, and skeletal soldiers to push on along with the caravan.
They could no longer really be called a ‘caravan’ anymore since all their big wagons had been destroyed. The group all rode on horses and slowly headed towards the south. Soon, five small troops returned with reports that the bandits had split into two groups. One group headed down the middle route while the other group seemed to be heading to attack the city on the left route.
“We can ignore the city in the middle. They can hold the fort. The bandits split up their forces to engage the city in the middle so that they would not be able to send help to the other cities.” Saleen made a decision quickly before leaving behind a few servants to rush off to meet up with Lex’s army. As for himself, he brought along two troops from the caravan and headed to the city on the left.
Cexing City originally belonged to a Viscount. There used to be several small towns surrounding the city but after the troubles created by the black magician and the invasion by Qin, these towns were destroyed. The noble families were not able to recover totally from these setbacks and even Cexing City had not been fully repaired.
It was already October and the wheat should already have been harvested. What Saleen saw was that the crops in the fields grew to be only as tall as the wild grasses.
After two rounds of chaotic battles, Phoenix has been reduced to its current state of disarray.
Saleen had been controlling a flying puppet to scout two miles ahead of him, while another ten light-armored knights scouted five miles ahead. Unfortunately, Saleen was only a grade-6 mage so two miles was the maximum distance at which he could control the flying puppets.
When a typical army advanced, they would always leave behind a strength of about a battalion to prevent attacks from the rear. These bandits were formed together haphazardly. Although they had the numbers they lacked a proper command. Saleen’s troops managed to follow them all the way to Cexing City without being discovered.
Saleen decided that they might as well set up camp fifty miles away from Cexing City while waiting for the bandits to attack. He left the task of spying on the bandits to Aini so he sent ahead a grade two skeletal soldier to observe the situation.
Death mages were often envied for their ability to make use of the magic array on a spirit of dead to create a temporal projected illusion that could detect up to fifty miles. Of course, this would exhaust a large amount of magic nuclei, but even so, it was nothing to Saleen. He would only need to go to oceanic ice block one time and he would be able to successfully obtain magic nuclei that could last him for a few years.
Although there were grade-6 mages amongst the bandits, they did not think that a spirit of the dead would be tailing them and did not bother to check for anything behind their own camp. The bandits were facing a small city that was rectangular in shape with city walls that were one mile wide. Luckily, there were already holes in the city walls that were temporarily filled up with mud by the Lord of Cexing City. Although the mud had been added with adhesives, it was still the weakest parts of the entire wall.
Unfortunately, these holes were the only spots that the bandits could attack. The gates of the city still stood very firm. Close to eight-thousand men now surrounded the city. Amongst these bandits were mercenaries and some private soldiers and servants left behind by lowly noble families. In any case, there were very few peasants.
Amongst the eight-thousand bandits were only one-thousand horses so most of them traveled on foot. Clearly, these men had no intentions of occupying the city. They only wished to loot the city and leave.
Saleen waited for close to a day before the last batch of bandits, about one-thousand of them, arrived. These batch were all the leaders of the bandits.
Even the men of the black dragon king bandit gang had sent their leader to the bandits’ giant tentage to receive orders.
The last batch of bandits were wearing brightly-colored clothes and armors and their troops were organized according to the military guidelines of Qin. If these troops wore badges, one might mistake them to be private soldiers of a grade-1 Earl. These bandits did not look poor and all wore full-body armor. Not only were their horses armored, so were the few hundreds slaves that were rushing along with the wagons that carried equipment for attacking the city.
These formations resembled that of the Tanggulasi Empire. Qin did not allow the usage of slaves as soldiers. They only allowed for servants or support soldiers. These support soldiers were not treated with the same respect as normal soldiers, but their death benefits were the same. This was different from slaves, no one cared if slaves died. One could just buy more.
Now that the last batch of bandits had arrived, the total number of bandits attacking the city had increased to ten-thousand and they had also provided the backbone for the troops. The bandits began to construct catapults. Although these were not magic catapults, they could more than damage the city wall that was already not in perfect condition.
Cexing City had less than one-hundred elite soldiers and even if the peasants joined in the fight, there were less than one-thousand in total. The peasants of the north were strong and resilient, but they were untrained so the most they could do was to help to guard the city walls. If the bandits broke through, there was no way the peasants would be able to fight them in the alleys.
Aini’s skeleton brought back news. Saleen had a bad feeling that the city would fall within a day. By using the catapults to break down the city walls, the bandits would not need to expend too much manpower to attack into the city.
“Su, bring ten knights with you and protect this apprentice.” Saleen pointed at the swordmaster that was originally a magic apprentice and said, “I will give you five flying puppets. Once you reach the rear of the bandits’ camp, use the puppets to attack their catapults then retreat.”
These knights were bodyguards indeed. They showed no fear despite that it was ten of them against ten-thousand bandits. In any case, Saleen only wanted them to attack the catapults from the rear. It would not be too difficult. On top of that, they had a silver grand swordmaster with them so they would not need to worry about the enemy’s mages.
Once a mage discovered a silver grand swordmaster, they would hide in the camp and not give chase.
“Bring one-hundred servants and light-armored knights with only crossbows and half-swords and ambush them twenty miles ahead. If anyone gives chase, you will shoot them with arrows from both sides of the road. Retreat after you have used up a box of arrows.”
Saleen gave orders to a high-level swordmaster before turning to the grade-5 mage and said, “Mr mage, this is a grade-6 scroll. You will ambush ten miles ahead. If the enemy reaches you, use this scroll when you have exhausted one-third of your magic chords.”
The grade-5 mage glanced at Sharman, but she chose not to look at him. He had no choice but to receive the scroll and acknowledge Saleen’s order. There was no other way. By Saleen’s side was Cuisi who was even more obedient to his orders and she was a mage that could use a grade-7 scroll!
This grade-5 mage had mistaken Cuisi for a grade-6 mage. What he did not know was that this sweet and dainty beauty was actually a male demon.
“Aini, use your undead soldiers to ambush five miles ahead. If the bandits are somehow able to go past the mage, use all your undead soldiers to attack them so that we can retreat temporarily.
Once Saleen had given his orders, he took out five flying puppets to construct them and fixed some boxes onto their abdominal areas. Within these boxes were magic powder that was explosive. After exploding, it would form ten fireballs to burn any flammable objects in the surrounding area.
The five flying puppets were not fragile and could be hung on the horse’s saddle. The ten knights protected the magic apprentice and left first. Su was leading them and was armed with two swords and a bow. Although Su’s archery skills were not as formidable as Jola’s, the range of a silver grand swordmaster could definitely threaten mages that were grade-7 and below.
The twelve men got onto their warhorses and rushed towards Cexing City. Behind them were two-hundred servants and light-armored knights.
Without any baggage, the knights managed to travel fifty miles in just over an hour. Once the magic apprentice reached the rear of the bandit’s camp, he was overjoyed. The campsite constructed by the bandits was loose and was not joined together properly in many areas.
Su decided to take the risk by leaving the warhorses outside of the camp while the twelve of them brought along the flying puppets and snuck into the camp through the gaps.
Saleen only had a single purpose; to destroy the bandit’s equipment that could be used to attack the city walls. Without this equipment, the bandits would have to use their lives in exchange for conquering the city. As long as the noble families in the city were brave enough, one-thousand men guarding a city could easily kill enemies that outnumbered them by up to five times. If the noble families’ soldiers could deplete the bandits’ forces, Saleen would have a much easier time taking the city later on.
With Su in the lead, the other eleven men did not encounter any bandits on patrol and managed to reach within a mile from the catapults. This was when Su inspected their surroundings more cautiously and realized that there were no mages either.
The apprentice began to mount the magic nuclei and the two-yard long flying puppets began to fly.
With a distance of just eight-hundred yards and the targets were catapults that were fixed on the ground, there was no way the apprentice would miss. The five flying puppets flew at lightning speed and crashed into the catapults without any warning. The magic powder exploded and the fireballs burst in all directions. The catapults were made of wood and began to burn in no time.
“Piece of cake. Let’s retreat.” Once Su confirmed that the five catapults were hopeless, he led the eleven swordmasters into retreat. What Su did not understand was that even until now, no bandits had discovered them yet. Su returned to his warhorse calmly. Saleen’s original plan was for them to lure a group of bandits into chasing them, hence the multiple ambushes along the way. That way they could destroy some of the bandits’ forces.
Instead, they had managed to destroy the enemy’s catapults yet they had yet to discover who did it. If Su and his team left just like that, the bandits would probably take a long time before they picked up on their traces.
“What is this? What rubbish?!”
Su raged. He instructed the eleven swordmasters, “You will all go back first. I will lure some bandits into chasing us.” With that, he did not care to know if the eleven swordmasters agreed with his decision or not. He rode his warhorse and charged into one of the bandits’ camps on his own.