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The night passed by without incident. Bloodbane even took the time to leave the front lines and sleep. A maid was left to watch and inform him should anything happened, but the undead army had been shockingly quiet. While Bloodbane slept, the maids also took time to sleep. The one who had ended up getting the least rest was Andromeda, who didn’t want to leave her master’s side for any reason.

As the stars began to fade and daybreak was on the horizon, Bloodbane had left his room and gave the order for his men to line up. Everyone who couldn’t or wouldn’t fight had already been sent through the tunnels to meet up with the fleeing citizens and also inform them of what was happening. It was a small comfort that the vast majority had decided to stay, and there were very few deserters, even once offered the choice to flee in the night. Those that stayed behind were now in the outer courtyard, preparing to begin the first offensive they had taken since this all began. Up until that moment, they had only been able to defend.

Although many of these men had complicated feelings when it came to Bloodbane, they couldn’t deny that it was by his actions that this turnaround happened. They were at least willing to follow him into battle this one last time. Few believed they would come out alive, but they would rather die fighting than live running. That had made peace with the end yesterday when they had already lost all hope.

Once the doors opened, the armies would rush out into the old city and fight to take it back. There was no option for retreat. They either succeeded or they died. Once they were outside the door, a few trusted chosen to stay behind would lift the door back up lock it in place. These were older soldiers who, although they were willing to fight and die, had sustained injuries that made it impossible for them to do so without holding the others back. If those on the offensive failed and were wiped out, their job was to go to the underground escape path and collapse it. Then, it was up to them if they wished to fight to the last one, kill themselves, or attempt to escape.

“Are you sure about this?” Lady Kait asked uneasily as Bloodbane approached the front line, the men who would charge through first.

Bloodbane gave her a look but didn’t respond. He knew what she was asking. She was questioning his decision to attack. Last night, such a move might have seemed smart. It gave the men purpose and hope. It got them through the night. However, when the queen showed up, such hope was burst like a bubble.

Many of these men had grown up idolizing General Nightingale. Some had even personally trained under him. Lady Kait was one such disciple of the general. Even an undead version of him would be hard for them to face. He was the strongest soldier in their kingdom. It was part of the reason his death hit them so badly. To face an enemy stronger than you was one thing, but to face your idols was another altogether.

This didn’t even mention the worst part. The enemy knew what their next move would be. They had even prepared a difficult enemy to impede them. If they were so confident in a victory that they would send the queen to tell them in advance, how could they have any hope of victory? They were so confident that they had even allowed them to rest all night. They could have constantly attacked through the night, making it impossible for the human army to recover, but they didn’t. They didn’t even consider them a threat. Knowing this, how could Bloodbane still think this was a good idea?

There was still time. With a single order, these troops could turn and enter the escape path. It could still be collapsed behind them. The citizens needed strong soldiers to protect them in the future. It was one of the most harrowing and unfortunate parts of the retreat. No one had been left with training to organize and guide them. Yet, Bloodbane would never make that order.

Instead, Bloodbane prepared to run in first, and fight where it was the most dangerous. This entire army depended on him, but he put himself in the most danger. At least, Bloodbane was wearing clothing right now, although it was light leather that only covered his vitals and left his muscular arms and the majority of his body bear. Bloodbane wanted freedom of movement and wasn’t willing to wear the traditional royal armor that would make him save.

As for where his armor came from, it had been hastily made this morning by himself. Andromeda wouldn’t allow him to reach the front lines without having some protection. He had tried to leave his room just as shirtless as before, and Andromeda had blocked his path. When he tried to move her aside, she pulled out her blades and told him that if he wanted to be unnecessarily difficult, she would cut off his privies and he’d need to fight naked.

Bloodbane considered it for a bit. He didn’t like being told what to do. When did Andromeda suddenly become so domineering? He didn’t hate it though. He felt her tantrum was endearing. It was pleasing to have a beautiful woman worrying about him. Most of the slave girls and concubines he had tasted as gladiatorial gifts were broken women who couldn’t summon an ounce of care for anyone. He would humor her for now.

And thus, he prepared himself something while she watched with interest. She even made him disregard his previous clothing and also brought him a washbasin to clean himself. As he cleaned up, she didn’t show any shame and enjoyed every bit of him changing and bathing himself. When he finished, she finally allowed him to go. He slapped her ass as he walked out, letting her know he was still the one in charge, but that seemed to make her even happier.

Bloodbane didn’t have the time to discipline Andromeda for her insubordination, but it would be on his list. He didn’t know why, but he felt a bit excited about doing it. This must be a lingering feeling from his predecessor. He found that the longer he was in this body, the more he found himself a bit changed. His intelligence, vocabulary, and charisma seemed to be growing.

He also found his desire for a woman growing. He knew gladiatorial men who liked to ravage a woman after killing or couldn’t focus before a match unless they had one. Thus, slave women were made available for the champions such as Bloodbane. He had naturally been curious and indulged a few times, but his lust had always been nearly nonexistent. However, when he slapped Andromeda’s ass, an urge to rip off her armor and have his way with her flowed up in him for a moment before he suppressed it.

He decided that this had to come from his predecessor. Was the man perhaps a pervert? Were Japanese Businessmen known for any perversions? That kind of knowledge, if it existed, was buried deep in those memories, and Bloodbane wasn’t ready to touch them and risk losing his sense of self in the process. Thus, he disregarded these thoughts and joined his men outside.

Had Andromeda known the thoughts he had and how close he had come to indulging them before stopping himself, she would have assuredly been extremely depressed before the battle. The image of Bloodbane had somehow been burned into her mind at this point. His glorious, shirtless figure, covered in blood, battling demons that had once hurt her, had imprinted into her heart. Even if she hadn’t been altered by the poison and position of power, her abnormal desire and worship for Bloodbane would still exist.

Although not much time passed, if anything, it was the appearance of Lady Kait that had caused her to grow more aggressive. Lady Kait was a beautiful woman who resembled his ex-wife. At first, she had thought this would repel him, seeing as his wife had cheated on him, but after seeing her sneaking into his tent and getting so close to him under the guise of Lady Kait, she realized that the woman might gain a position in Bloodbane’s bed.

Andromeda was determined to reach that status first. Once her way of thinking had targeted Bloodbane, her desires only amplified. As soon as these battles were won, she would have him in bed. That was her determination.

Thus, the pair ended up in line, ready to begin a battle that could be their last. Bloodbane walked up to the front of his men, turning to look at them. Those that had followed Bloodbane the day before looked at him with respect. Those that hadn’t seen him fighting were a bit more uneasy, but they were willing to follow Lady Kait, and at the least, they trusted in their peers.

“You all know your roles. The enemy has already prepared for us. They know we’re coming. We have only one direction to go. Since you know this, don’t let it cloud your mind. Fight. Kill. Take back from them what they took from you. We will triumph. That is all.”

He reached back and touched the wall. He changed the rock composition, pulling the edge away. At this point, the door had already been tied up and the wheel fixed. The lip that prevented it from opening was merely a safety precaution in case the wheel failed. There still might be a traitor around. Bloodbane needed to find a way to find them, but until that happened, he’d need to have backups that couldn’t be suppressed by such a turncoat.

The men released the chain, allowing the bridge to fall back down. It struck the ground with a bang. As soon as it the ground, the men let out a roar and charged across it. It took several minutes for all of the men to get across. This could have been the most dangerous part. The undead would fight the men, pushing them back onto the bridge. Until every man was across, the bridge couldn’t be raised back up. That’s what Bloodbane thought, but as he crossed the bridge, they entered the old city’s green without encountering a single enemy.

As Bloodbane looked around, the last of the men got across the bridge and then it started to rise back up. The bridge would not fall again unless Bloodbane and his men succeeded in conquering the old city. They could risk the castle being taken.

Bloodbane’s army of men was no completely in the green, lined up and looking around with unease. It was quiet. Other than the destruction from previous battles that marred the once beautiful green and the adjacent buildings, there was no sign the place was invaded by an army.

“This is part of their trap.” Lady Kait hissed.

“That, we already knew.” Bloodbane shrugged.

Lady Kait raised her sword and then bellowed out. “Remember your orders! Spread out! Comb the city! Conquer section by section!”

Bloodbane started to move forward down the main street, but Lady Kait reached out and grabbed his arm, stopping him. Andromeda saw this, narrowing her eyes slightly but remaining silent.

“If they set up a trap, it is in front of us.” She declared.

The plan was rather simple. Rather than attack straight on, they would move west and east. It was clear that they expected a direct attack on the gate to close it and stop reinforcements. That’s likely the trap they had prepared.

There was a single large roar that shot straight down the center of the old city. Once you left the green, somewhere in the center was a large fountain monument and a large cross-section road. This was the most likely place of their ambush. Since they didn’t greet them coming out the door, they were putting everything in that ambush. That was what the strategists had decided.

Thus, the groups moved along the castle moat, claiming section by section. They’d wrap around the city, and then attack as a pincer attack. By the time the undead knew what hit them, the gate would already be closed. As for their trap, it’d be bypassed entirely, and they’d have to regroup, except they couldn’t because they were surrounded.

It was a good plan. It might feel a bit simple, but the undead were simple creatures. It was the plan that took advantage of the terrain and was most advantageous to them. It’s what the humans would do, and it fit with the kind of strategy that General Nightingale would come up with.

“What humans would do…” Bloodbane muttered, and then an idea struck him, causing him to spin around. “The moat! They’re in the moat!”

Before he could even finish those words, hundreds of undead exploded from the water. The men who were watching for a trap in front of them had been cautiously moving along the moat, spreading themselves out. They were immediately grabbed and dragged in. Unable to fight underwater, especially in armor, pools of blood quickly rose from their corpses.

This was a strategy the strategists hadn’t thought about because they didn’t think like the undead. The undead didn’t need to breathe. As long as they got underwater and held onto something heavy like a rock, they could remain there for as long as necessary. A human wouldn’t be able to hide in a moat, let alone hundreds of humans, so such a strategy wasn’t considered.

Shouting and screaming erupted everywhere. Archers appeared on the rooftops and began pelting the soldiers below with arrows, adding to the confusion. The drawbridge had only made it a third of the way up when the dead started leaping out of the moat. They had cautiously waited for everyone to pass them and get a distance from the moat before attacking. Now, they were leaping onto the bridge, adding their weight, and making it harder for them to lift it. At this rate, the undead were going to get into the castle.

“Conner, clear the bridge! Greeves, the archers!”

Although my orders were to those men directly, I was ordering their entire unit. Greeves rangers began to shoot back at the undead. They were at a disadvantage on the ground, but they were the only ones who could take care of the archers at the moment. Thankfully, their aims were extremely good with the position given to Greeves and his subordinates, and he was able to quickly knock them off the roof, keeping the death toll low.

Conner and two other men in robes raised their hands, and several spells flew out, hitting the undead climbing on the bridge. They didn’t just die, but they exploded, throwing back other undead and knocking them back into the water. Still, more undead tried to climb up from the bridge from the sides, hindering the process.

Bloodbane looked around the field, his mind working furiously as he tried to find a way to keep the castle from being pierced. If they lost the castle, they would truly lose everything. That’s when his eyes landed on several large bowls on the outer walls. Since the original Bloodbane had made alterations, these outer walls couldn’t be manned by people, but there was once a time where they were the castle’s primary point of defense. Those large pans would contain oil then. Under them was a place to light a fire, which would cause the oil to boil, and then be dropped on anyone trying to come across. This was to keep people from scaling the wall after getting past the moat.

“Protect me!” I gave such an order to Andromeda as I leaped forward.

Andromeda and her maids followed, created a circle around me. Undead tried to attack, but they were ruthlessly cut down. While we did this, Lady Kait was trying to organize the forces being attacked from the moat, trying to mountain a defensive against an enemy below them. They had been prepared for enemies attacking from the rooftops, but the moat had caught them completely off guard.

 Bloodbane raced out and then lifted his hands, using his Earth Manipulation to its fullest. He created spikes that rose in various places across the wall. These knocked the bowls over and down into the moat. He was relieved to see liquid splash out of them as they crashed down. He had been practicing his Earth Manipulation for some time now, but conjuring from this distance was exhausting. Yesterday, he wouldn’t have even been able to do it. Thankfully, he managed to knock all of the bowls down.

“Conner, light it up!”

Conner looked at him and then understood. He lifted his hand and shot a spark out. The oil that was spreading across the moat caught on fire, igniting all of the undead as well. If there was anything undead despised, it was a fire. The undead quickly became a writhing mass of flame. As the flames spread across the water, I could see them reaching the bridge. With a roar, I lifted my hand. A pillar erupted from the ground just under the drawbridge and rising at an angle. It struck the bridge, shoving it up. An undead who was unlucky enough to be trying to climb on the bridge to escape the fire was torn in half as it slammed shut.

Like that, the door back into the castle had been permanently shut. As the undead starting flooding out of the moat, many of them still on fire, and more enemies began to pour in front of the other side, intending to cut us off, the battle had only just started to begin.

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