Whap! Whap! Lorist slapped himself hard on the face and wallowed in deep regret. He didn't think a rank 3 blademaster like Duke Fisablen would run without hesitation after crossing swords only twice. He had also been far too hasty in that he didn't conquer the other three city gates first before coming to seek out the duke.
Darn it! It's like having a duck fly away before I even cooked it! If that old fellow manages to get away, my strategy will be greatly affected!
Seeing the duke ride away with several dozen people, Lorist realized his legs would never catch up to them. He hurriedly shouted at the duke.
"Fisablen you asshole! Is your zodiac sign the rabbit? Why do you run so quickly?! Come back and fight me if you have any guts! Don't just run away! Some rank 3 blademaster you are! Wait, is your level even real?! Don't tell me you're just faking it!"
Upon hearing those words, a number of guards were angered and turned to chase him down. Duke Fisablen shouted something as he turned around. Most stopped disgruntledly. But three who couldn't or didn't listen to the duke's orders continued their charge.
Duke Fisablen stared coldly at Lorist without caring about those three guards. He gave a few orders to the guards at the south gate and left the city.
The three that charged at Lorist got into an arrow-shaped formation, with the guard captain swinging his silver-blade-glow-infused sword down at Lorist. The two guards behind him wielded spears that also had silver blade glows. It looked incredibly similar to a poisonous python and went for Lorist's flank.
Lorist suddenly fell backwards. The sword missed his chest by a hair's breadth. The mount's hooves landed right next to his head. The three guards didn't think he had such a move up his sleeve. The mounts lost their target, causing the two spears to pass above him. Lorist leaped up and landing as lightly as a feather on the left spear. He pivoted onto the warhorse. With three flashes of his sword, the three guards were beheaded and thrown off their horses.
He flicked his sword clean and sheathed it before he hooked the falling spear with his foot. He twirled it around and hooked the other two horses' reigns. He pulled harshly and turned all three around.
"Hiyah!" cried Lorist as he rode towards the south gate, now with three horses in tow.
He resolved to chase the duke down no matter what.
The moment the duke arrived at the gate, he gave the order to fire. In response, several dozens of arrows descended from the top of the walls. Lorist looked up and saw a dozen spear-wielding guards firing at him while a few more turned were turning a sentry ballista around.
He cursed and spun the spear in his hand, deflecting the arrows. Currently, the sentry ballista was almost turned around. He jumped off his mount and flung the spear at the walls like a javelin. It pierced the three guards moving the ballista like lightning bolt. The three were nailed to the walls with audible squishes and squelches. They could only cry out in despair as the spear punctured their abdomens.
The other guards looked at them with shocked expressions before they cast their bows, shields, spears, and other weapons away and ran screaming, no longer caring about manning the gate or walls.
Lorist got back on the saddle and prepared to continue chasing the duke down, only to see his mount slump from an arrow it had taken in the chest not too long ago. It was currently stumbling towards the front with hints of blood coming out of its mouth.
He had no choice but to jump off. One look told him it was no longer salvageable; the arrow had pierced about a foot into it. It was already on the brink of death. Fortunately, he had two other mounts. He quick
After an hour, the duke and his cohort's mounts began to slow. Lorist switched his final mount and spurred it onward. The change let him finally close the distance a little. Earlier, the people at the front had only been only as large as peas, now, they were of the size of a thumb. He estimated he had probably closed the distance from 300 meters to about 200, and it seemed it wouldn't take too long for his targets' mounts to wear out even further.
He could hear horses galloping behind him. He turned around and saw forces with Count Felim's banner coming up behind him. It was none other than their light cavalry. Much to his surprise, there were only a couple of men but each brought with him three or four spare horses.
"Your Grace! Your Grace!"
A familiar voice rang out. Lorist took a closer look. It was Reidy and Els. They had six mounts with them besides their own.
"Where did you get so many horses?" asked Lorist.
"We found them at the camp stables, Your Grace. There are about ten thousand. They must be the First Frontier Legion's reserves. Count Felim said you went after Duke Fisablen by yourself, so he had us follow you to bring more mounts. He also sent Knight Bonawar and a regiment of light cavalry over. Count Felim and Terman's knights are behind them," yelled Els.
As there were too many horses around, much of what he said was drowned out by the galloping had he been softer.
"How's the capital?" yelled Lorist.
"I'm not sure, Your Grace. When we left, the four gates were already taken. I believe Count Felim wants to leave the city to Sir Potterfang."
Lorist didn't say any more. He pointed at Duke Fisablen's group in the distance before picking up his pace again.
After yet another hour, the duke slowed even more. No matter how they were whipped, they couldn't run any faster. The best they could manage was a decent trot. Lorist's group fared much better, but they were similarly tired by such a long chase. Lorist and Els switched mounts again and closed another 100 or so meters. They could even see their targets' panicked expressions clearly.
It wouldn't take them more than ten minutes to catch up.
Hehe, Duke Fisablen, I'll see where you can run now! thought Lorist with an insidious and excited expression.
However, the moment they approached a mound, Lorist was completely flabbergasted. The duke's group ahead hurried their mounts the best they could towards a pasture nearby where hundreds of other saddled warhorses were grazing peacefully.
"Sol! Where'd those horses come from?!" cursed Lorist as he saw the duke switch mounts.
A hundred or so men wearing the armor of House Fisablen saluted the duke. He didn't dally and rode away after saying a few words and pointing at Lorist. The soldiers ran at Lorist, weapons raised.
The countless light cavalry troops behind him drew their swords and spears and engaged the enemy. The Fisablen soldiers were terrified when they saw so many cavalry troops coming from behind. They swallowed their battlecry and stared at the oncoming cavalry blankly. In the last moments, before they drown in the sea of horses and men, they understood why the duke was in such a hurry. They had so foolishly thought Lorist was the only one giving chase and even tried to take him down.
"Why's there a patrol here?" asked Lorist curiously.
"Your Grace, Twilight Lake Town is roughly 15 kilometers ahead. The patrol was probably sent from there," reported Knight Bonawar of House Felim loudly.
"Oh, Twilight Lake Town..." Lorist recalled the report Tarkel sent him.
There were two regiments of roughly two thousand men stationed at the town. They were likely part of Third Frontier Legion. As they had participated in Melein's conquest two years earlier, they had incurred some casualties and part of their ranks were not yet replenished. They currently numbered 37 thousand men and were stationed in Southern to protect the road between Winston and the four duchies, Twilight Lake Town was loaded with construction materials for the three citadels Duke Fisablen intended to build.
"Forward! Give chase after we switch mounts. Duke Fisablen must die today!"
Lorist grit his teeth and switched to another mount. He chased the duke once again, now about 200 meters ahead, followed by Reidy and Els.
The 15 kilometers was covered quickly, and the stone-and-timber walls of Twilight Lake Town came into view. The guards there had already blown a horn to alert the rest to open the gates for the duke.
Lorist drew his sword and pierced his mount with it. It cried out in pain and rushed forward with every ounce of energy it had like a mad beast. He approached the group in front more and more as the seconds ticked by.
When the last of the duke's guards entered the town, the guards manning the walls quickly prepared to close the gates. Just before the door shut, Lorist appeared and pulled on the reins of his horse whilst simultaneously spurring it on with his feet. The horse read and kicked off. It soared through the sky and rammed into the gates. A loud bang echoed out over the pain and reverberated through the walls as the gate was knocked open. The guards operating it from behind were sent flying. They coughed out blood as the crashed into the ground several seconds later.
Lorist jumped to the ground and walked through the gate, his mount breathing its last desperate breaths behind him. He pointed his sword at the duke and called out.
"Old turtle! Why aren't you running?! Don't tell me this's all you got! You better surrender now!"
While Duke Fisablen's expression darkened considerably, he didn't leap at Lorist with rage. Instead, he pointed at him and said something to his guards. The extravagantly dressed men beside him waved their hands and yelled out some orders. A few hundred cavalry clad in Fisablen armor approached him, shields and spears raised.
As it happened, fighting in the midst of chaos was Lorist's favorite pastime. He calmed himself as the blood-colored world filled his vision. The cavalry galloping towards him turned into mechanical mannequins. He launched forward. Like a gentle breeze, the sword in his hand raked past their ranks with a bright glow as it claimed one life after another with startling ease.
Corpses littered the ground and blood flowed in streams down the streets. When there was no one in front of him, Lorist woke from the blood world. Much to his dismay, unfortunately, apart from the Fisablen soldiers, whom now stared at him with terror, no one else was present. The duke had once again left.
"Good... Good Sol! Fisablen you coward! Won't you fight me properly even once?!"
Galloping sounds once again echoed into Lorist's ears as Els, Reidy, and Knight Bonawar approached. The soldiers, who'd faced his wrath and saw their duke escape with a few others, intelligently dropped their weapons to surrender. They were spared in return.
"Should we give chase, Your Grace?" asked Bonawar respectfully.
He had finally witnessed what the duke of House Norton was capable of and understood why his lord adored him so much. Lorist had massacred the guards all by himself and even scared a rank 3 blademaster away. Nearly half of the 700 plus soldiers of the town had been killed by Lorist alone, 297 in total. It was no wonder they dropped their weapons and surrendered the moment Bonawar arrived. He had thought he would have to fight a bloody battle first.
Lorist shook his head exhaustedly. He had tired himself out with the massacre.
"Forget it. Have our troops occupy the town and deal with the remaining soldiers. We'll head for Southern when the rest arrive. Our men must be worn out as well. We'll achieve nothing even if we continued the chase. Let's all have a good rest."
"Understood, Your Grace."