Feeling the heat of the afternoon Alivai sun on his face, Gladis slowly regains his conscious.
A foul smelling odor permeates through the air, forcing him to gag and wake up from his slumber.
His whole body felt like a Lothan war elephant was on top of it, and his limbs refused to move. His body without strength, Gladis slowly forced his eyes open with the last ounce of strength he could muster.
As his vision returned and the blurriness of rest faded away, his awareness also came back.
A sharp pain shot throughout his body.
Trying to move his body again, this time instead of the numbness of an elephant on it, there was intense pain. Gladis tried to open his mouth to force out his anguish, but all that came out was a low whisper and more agony.
Giving up on trying to move, he slowly scanned his surroundings with his unsteady eyes, trying to figure out what had occurred.
His eyes locked onto a figure in the distance atop a small protrusion of elevated ground: clad in armor as dark as night, tattered cape of blood-red flapping energetically, a beam of light grasped in his right hand, and what looked to be a hilt oozing with miasma inserted into the ground where the figure knelt.
At once, Gladis recalled who the armored one was. His hair stood up on end, his voice left him, and a cold chill crept into his skin. His mind went blank, crying out in fear for what seemed like an eternity before realizing that the beast was dead.
Upon closer inspection, the armored one had what looked like three swords going through his body, along with three spears. No motion could be felt from the entity. Fallen on the ground around the entity, were a mountain of knights, mercenaries, and paladins.
Finally able to breathe again, Gladis slowly breathed as sharp pain shot throughout his body. His fogged memories of why he was there became perfectly clear.
The monster that manifested such fear in him was undoubtedly the being called Rhultal.
All Gladis knew, was that Rhultal was the Lord of Andarg. A province in the Honos continent ruled by the Gulsian Empire, and that seven years ago, he declared his independence from the Gulsian Empire. Unable to withstand the humiliation, the Emperor sent his armies and assassins to take back Andarg and get rid of Rhultal, but none succeeded. In seven short years, Rhultal quickly overwhelmed the Gulsian Empire, cut down all those who would stand in his way along with the Imperial family, and established a new order in the Honos continent.
The reason why Gladis was here now, was because he had been a part of the expedition sent by the church of Hianl along with a congregation of armies, put together through the secret unification of the seven continental empires and kingdoms.
The three kingdoms of Alsus, Kolot, and Ruess.
And the five Empires: Valelin, Gulsian, Quiln, Ferilti, and Throbbo.
They spanned the seven continents in this world—Lovis— of which they were the absolute powers.
One year before the overthrowing of the Gulsian Empire, the alliance had been formed. All for the sake of taking out Rhultal before he can overtake the Honos continent, and build up a force big enough to move onto other lands.
Unfortunately, before the alliance could gather up their soldiers and form a cohesive army big enough, the Gulsian Empire had already fallen.
The Alliance had a combined force of over a hundred thousand soldiers comprising of knights, swordsmen, archers, war elephants, war hounds, magicians, and mercenaries from the alliance, along with around five thousand elite Paladins and Priests from the church of Hianl that had influences all over the world.
Finding out that the Gulsian Empire was no more after finally reaching the Honos continent. Instead of allying with the new ruler—for fear of the continuation of his conquest—the alliance slaughtered everyone and everything that had a relation to him, as they made their way to the capital where he resided.
After reaching the Honos capital of Veratoraliz two days ago. It was then that the real battle started.
Gladis was the commander of a band of mercenaries dubbed ‘The Red Swords’. Named for their swords when painted red with blood yet seemed to shine with every motion, and their savagery in battle, resulting in the band coming out fully covered in blood from head to toe.
Yet, even with his reputation and abilities, Gladis could not believe what he was seeing during the battle.
Arriving at Veratoraliz with the 100,000 soldiers and mercenaries, expecting a standing army of at least 50,000 strong waiting to challenge them, all that came out of the capital to face the army was a lone man.
From his looks, he was exhausted and half dead.
Eyes like they had seen all the deaths in the world enough for a thousand lifetimes, long hair of silver down to his shoulder making him look older than he really was. An uninterested but handsome face with a sharp nose and strong cheekbones, yet the overall feel and look on his face depicted that of one longing for death.
Legs almost dragging but sturdy and resolute as he walked out the gates of Veratoraliz. Body covered in a deep black full body armor, where no matter how you tried to view it, had no reflection or depth to it. Even the current afternoon sun was not able to gleam a single reflection. Those who viewed it felt as if they were staring into an abyss with no end.
Behind him, a ragged red cape could be seen—with plenty of holes, tears along the sides and bottoms, and from the looks of it, could have been a cloak at one point—was flowing gently around his armor as if it was alive.
On his left waist, a shabby scabbard measuring a meter long and two fingers wide with an intricate hilt and pommel could be seen.
On his right, too short to be a sword, a dagger’s hilt could barely be noticed.
The man walked haggardly towards the army stopping a good hundred paces from those in the front.
As those in front tried to ascertain his identity via shouts and commands, a sudden gust rushed toward them, and through the whole army. An ordinary gust of wind it was not.
All those in the front fell back in fear. Some lost the nerves to even move due to the sudden bloodlust, while those in the back felt their hairs stand on ends.
Before those in front could recover from their paralysis, in a sudden flash of light, hundreds of those in the front-lines were missing their heads. As if the outpouring of headless bodies spewing blood was the trigger to begin the battle—no one even noticed when the man had made his move, or even when he drew his blade and decapitated the few hundred soldiers in the front lines.
The concept of “seeing is believing” did not apply to this battle.
Those in the front who engaged as the battle heated up failed to understand what was happening, and while unable to understand what they saw in front of them, hundreds upon thousands of them were being wiped out by a single man.
The flash of light earlier was the sword the man had pulled out.
The man looked to be holding just a hilt, but every time he swung his sword, flashes of light could be seen. The sword reverberated silence with every swing, and after each attack, as if the blade of the sword could extend, soldiers behind those who’d been slashed also writhed in pain and collapsed as if they had also been cut.
Like lightning, the lone assailant easily carved through the front lines and moved inward towards the body of the army.
In fear of friendly fire, archers and mages could do nothing but watch in horror as the events unfolded.
As if alive, the red cape fluttered happily in the air while the man, even in heavy-looking armor, easily moved about the battlefield with lightning speed. Moving between packs of soldiers and jumping towards new targets, looking as if he could fly.
Other times, just disappearing altogether then reappearing amidst streams of blood and screams. With every slash, tens upon hundreds of soldiers fell by his sword. Attacks at him were avoided by a hair’s breadth or simply failed to make any damage to the abyss like armor.
War hounds were released, but like the soldiers, were unable to do anything due to the speed the assailant was moving at. Just the blood lust emitted were enough to quell and make any hound with any sense of self-preservation run as far away as possible. War elephants on the other hand, ended up killing soldiers in a panic while running away from the monster that was devouring lives.
Gladis’s mercenary company had been stationed in the middle of the army, so he was able to spectate what was happening.
It was not something that he had ever seen before in all his career as a mercenary.
When he signed up for the expedition, it was just to subjugate a rogue mage lord and his supporters sowing trouble in the Honos continent—to restore order back to the Gulsian Empire. Yet, the one they were fighting was no rogue mage, or could not be classified as one.
The battle has been going on for what seemed like hours, yet there was no end in sight.
Screams could be heard from every direction, and people ran for their lives. Those in the front lines became overwhelmed by fear, running towards the back hoping to escape. Weak minded soldiers broke ranks, making it harder for the soldiers to defend against the impending doom.
As the soldiers fell left and right, the man easily made it to the middle where the mercenaries and knights had conglomerated.
The knights keeping to their oaths and upholding their honor, dove in to help combat the monster that was unleashing his wrath.
With the resolution to uphold their reputation as “The Red Swords”, Gladis ordered his men into battle.
The battle was a blur, everything had happened too fast.
As soon as he dove in, all that he remembered doing was dodging and trying to make his way to the monster in black armor. The closer he got, the harder it was to dodge. His arms, body, and legs were getting sliced by forces unknown to him.
Running towards the target, Gladis’s savagery flipped itself on with the anticipation for battle. Without regards for his own safety, he quickly got into proximity of the target. With a quick kick, he lunged forward with an overhead sword slash.
There was no impact.
All he saw was the top half of his sword being sheared off, and then next thing he knew, he was falling on his face. All his strength had vanished.
As he tried to get up, those running up to fight—or fleeing from it—trampled him. Luckily, his armor was sturdy and protected him. Unable to get up, all he could do was try to turn around.
Then he saw it again. A blinding flash of light searing his eyes and then everyone who was running or standing near the demon got severed in half. Still lying down, he turned to look at the one armored in darkness, but his strength from getting trampled and from the mysterious attack earlier complete drained him.
Before Gladis blacked out, all he saw was the incoming force of the knights and paladins.
With everything accounted for, Gladis calms down and revels in his pain that he is still alive.
‘After I passed out, the knights and paladins must have subjugated him’ – was his assumption. ‘I wonder if I am going to die here. Can’t even feel my body, all I feel is pain now.’
Laying there contemplating his luck, and his chances of survival for what seemed like a lifetime, Gladis heard the sounds of bodies being dragged and people chattering.
Hope welled up inside him.
With all his might, Gladis manages a weak scraping howl of a yell for help hoping that survivors would hear his plea and come assist him.
Reluctant footsteps edged closer and closer to his proximity. As soon as the figures came into view, Gladis noticed that they were not part of the church, nor were they wearing anything remotely similar to those of the alliance. As they got closer, and he could see them clearly, his face of hope slowly degraded into that of anger.
Who was standing in front of him were not a part of the army, but bandits who came to loot the battlefield.
“Oh, look! We’ve got a live one!” exclaimed one of the two looters
“Big brother, can we kill him and take his things?”
‘This can’t be happening! NOT LIKE THIS!’ – Gladis was shouting hysterically in his head.
“That sounds perfect. I’ll even give you the honor of putting him out of his misery.”
“Thank you big brother.”
The bandit slowly pulls out his knife from his waist.
Seeing the glee in the other man’s eye, Gladis knew that this would only end one way. Resolved to his fate, he mustered all his strength into one last action.
“Ha-wha-t happ-ened…. to…. the…. army…..”
“Will you look at that? He can still talk!” The elder brother spoke in astonishment.
The elder brother bandit looked straight at Gladis. Resigned to his death, Gladis tried to give as much of a forceful look back as he could.
“Well, you sure have spirit. But as you can see, there’s no real hope for you. Even if we could help, we don’t want to. So best we can do, is put you out of your misery.”
“I guess as a form of goodbye and thanks for your patronage with your items, I might as well-”
“Big brother, we don’t have to do that, he’s going to die anyways.” The younger bandit interrupted.
“Quiet, what did I tell you about manners?”
“You told me nothing, but to do as you say.”
“Good. Now do as I say, and be quiet.”
The bandits had been following the army ever since the alliance landed on the Honos continent.
Seeing such a force, the bandits instinctively knew they would be able to make money by scavenging whatever is left behind in the wake of the Army.
Their instincts proved true, and many bandits looted to their heart’s content, following the slaughter of villages and towns along the way to the capital of Veratoraliz. While some retreated with their hauls back to the mountain, many knew that such a force would only bring in more profit as they edge to their destination.
The smart ones decided to follow the army until their final destination.
Hiding in the woods and away from retreating soldiers, they saw the whole battle.
It had turned out that by the time the mercenaries and the knights engaged the demon, two fifths of their fighting force consisting of the foot soldiers, war hounds, elephants, and front lines had already been depleted.
The fifth consisting of the archers, mages, and arbalesters was useless due to the fact that if they had engaged, it would have done more damage to allies than to the lone enemy.
The other two fifths consisting of the knights, paladins, and mercenaries also engaged.
But, that was when the demon had shown his true skills.
The bandits saw the second flash of light that the demon used—which Gladis also saw before he got immobilized and fell unconscious—but what he did not see, was the horror that occurred afterwards.
After Gladis had fallen, the demon armored in darkness was even more ruthless.
After the paladins, mercenaries, and knights joined the fight, the demon pulled out his dagger. From it, a black smoke weaved through the battlefield.
Unbelievably, like a giant hand hundreds of meters wide, with every slash of his dagger, a massive number of those in the front got blown away like paper dolls by the smoke.
Though those in front were unaware, the bandits and clerics in the back could clearly see what looks like a giant shadow looming right behind the demon.
Every time he swung his dagger, a giant incorporeal fist swings in the same direction mimicking the dagger. It was like watching a god tearing away the wings of insignificant insects with little to no effort.
The battle had lasted all the way throughout the night into the morning of the next day.
While it was cutting down the soldiers, the priests, magicians, and archers started to harass the demon while trying to help those on the verge of death. Instead of fighting the front soldiers, he swiftly turned towards those in the rear who had incurred his wrath, decimating the whole rear guard in a matter of hours.
Whether through sheer luck, strategic planning, or exhaustion of the other party, the remaining paladins, knights, and mercenaries were able to slowly whittle down the demon as his fatigue grew over the ceaseless fighting.
Someone managed to break through his armor and another even managed to slice through his hand that had held onto the dagger.
Eventually, the knights were able to pierce the demon’s legs with spears which slowed his mobility. A third spear through the vertebrate fully destroyed his mobility, resulting in the mountain of corpse.
Even when immobilized, the dark one fought to the point where no one wanted to approach the mountain of corpse. With deserters and so many dead, the army had been reduced to a measly few hundred of the most steadfast from the previous hundred thousand.
Eventually, the remaining paladins, seeing their inevitable ends. Invoked the Tri-Form Secret skill of Thullga, the God of Sacrifice. Sacrificing all their lives to pierce the three blades into the demon before morning, sealing his strength and sapping away his life.
The knights and mercenaries who did not flee during the battle and survived after the Tri-Form skill, were so exhausted, that when the bandits came out to loot, none were able to put up any resistance and were massacred.
“And that’s what happened to the remainder of the army. Heheh. Sorry.”
“Big brother, are you done? I want to test out this sword.”
“Yea, go ahead.”
Seeing the younger bandit bringing up a sword and raising it over his head, Gladis was resigned to his fate. He had been unconscious for too long and his body refused to heed his commands. There was nothing more that could be done, and no one who could help him.