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Blood. Fire. Screaming. Death. To another man, this would be a world of panic and fear. To Bloodbane, there was nothing more familiar. His mind worked clearest, and everything made the most sense when he was thrown into such a world. However, when to this world, he was used to forging it alone. He didn’t have to think of others. He only had to think about what was in front of him.

“Fall back! Form a defensive line!” Lady Kait shouted, waving her sword in the air as she tried to rally the troops.

“No!” Bloodbane came to his sense, cutting an undead creature in half with brute force. “Push forward! Alpha formation! Spearhead the enemy!”

“Our people are confused and dying! We must reform the line!” Lady Kait shot Bloodbane an angry look.

“Our people were confused and dying before,” Bloodbane responded. “And every second we remain in this courtyard more will die. They outnumber us, and they will keep coming, and keep killing. Our only chance is to break through and knock out the gate. Only then can we take a breath!”

Lady Kait wanted to argue with Bloodbane, but his voice rang out with clarity, and there was a bit of truth to it. The enemies were attacking from every side. They were surrounded. If they tried to dig in, there was a chance they’d become trapped. Their men would only hold out so long, while the armies of the dead could continue to grow exponentially, eventually overwhelming them without them being able to even make a move. Their best chance at victory was to keep moving.

She gave a nod and then pointed her spear at a man holding one of the alarm trumpets. “Order forward march! We move!”

“Y-yes” The young man rose a horn to his lips and gave a long solid blast, the order to march forward.

Bloodbane didn’t bother to wait to see if the men did as they were ordered. Rather, he raced out in front, the first in line to blow forward past the enemy. A half-circle of maids formed around him, and the girls. Archers from the roofs opened fire on him, but the girl’s weapons were blocking every arrow. Behind them, the rangers returned fire, working with such precision that it seemed unbelievable. The magicians, the smallest group, remained in the back, slowing the undead and preventing them from giving chase.

Seeing such a procession work its way through the undead, the remaining soldiers felt themselves gain hope. Under Lady Kait’s assistance, they reformed and marched behind Bloodbane’s group. He had become the arrow point while they were the shaft. It might seem to some like they were just hiding behind the others, but they gave them the backing and support needed to be reckless and more importantly, focus on the front.

Lady Kait’s soldiers watched the sides and back, using the magicians to blow away the worst of the enemies as they started to press in. Like this, the column was able to push forward into the city. This wasn’t the original plan, but this was their best chance while being pressed from every side. It wasn’t long before Bloodbane forced his way through to the fountain monument in the center of the inner city. This had been the place that the strategists had worried they’d be ambushed before the undead had emerged from the moat and caught them off guard.

The undead seemed to give way as they entered the town square. A large statue stood as an island in the middle of a fountain. That statue appeared to be of Bloodbane himself. It wasn’t of the current Bloodbane, but of his great grandfather. However, their appearances were close enough that it might as well have been him. Bloodbane brought forth his weapon, ordering the men to continue forward past the fountain. This time, he made sure they kept a good distance from the fountain too. There was still a bit of fighting going on in the rear, but the area at the front was too quiet for Bloodbane’s taste.

As he passed the statue, he held up his hands to stop the march forward. Those that had accepted his power stopped immediately whether they were looking in his direction or not. It was almost like there was a subconscious connection that sent out his orders to them. The other soldiers without a position of power took a few moments to settle down.

Bloodbane looked around cautiously, trying to figure out where the ambush would come. He knew that he was wasting time too. The undead they had left behind were still pressuring from the back, and the magicians would only be able to help for so long. Just as he was reaching a conclusion, there was a sudden boom. A wave of dust washed over the army as a loud cracking sound filled the air. Bloodbane let out a roar, using his Earth magic to throw back the dust. He was able to get a sight of the statue coming down.

“Watch out above, the statue!”

Those that had been granted powers were quick enough to move, leaping with Bloodbane in one direction. The Bloodbane monument was coming down right in the middle of the army, but Bloodbane wouldn’t believe for a second this wasn’t done on purpose. Some soldiers managed to jump to one side or the other, but for those that were too indecisive, they could only be crushed as the statue hit the ground.

At that moment, innumerable tentacles erupted from the fountain. Some came from Bloodbane’s side, while some came from the other side. They had thrown more tellaris in there. The men who had fallen too close to the fountain while escaping the monuments collapsed were grabbed by tentacles and immediately dragged away. Bloodbane could hear the sounds of shouting and screaming on the other side of the courtyard, but his vision was blocked off by the collapsed monument.

If the tellaris wasn’t enough, the attacks on the rooftops began again. Orcs, trolls, and undead began to swarm into the courtyard from every side. Bloodbane bared his teeth and then lunged forward, meeting the enemies before anyone else could even regather their wits. He had broken their charge, giving those on his side enough time to grasp the situation and reorganize. Other than the maids and rangers, he only had a few dozen soldiers.

He recognized most of them as the same men who had fought alongside him on the inside. Given a choice, they had decided to remain by Bloodbane’s side instead of reintegrating into Lady Kait’s regiment. They were also almost exclusively wielding his weapons. They had all trusted in what the king had made to protect themselves. He could only give a small nod of approval. These were good men and they deserved a reward. Whether they could earn that reward depended on whether any of them survived the battle.

The special weapon Bloodbane had developed was wrapped and hanging from his back. That was something special for later. Currently, he was wielding a blade much like his men, although it was three times thicker and wider than their blades. While using it, it quickly had accumulated knicks and cuts, but Bloodbane had found that as long as he could get a few breaths, he could use his magic to restore the blade, repairing small pieces of damage and restoring its sharpness. In this way, he was constantly fighting in battle with his best.

Thus, as long as his stamina held out, and stamina was never something Bloodbane was lacking, he was able to cut down enemy after enemy. His valiant fighting rose the morale of his troops, and while he didn’t know this, they were fairing better than Lady Kait’s troops on the other side who were nearly ten times their number.

“Master, what are we going to do?” Andromeda asked as a seemingly endless crowd of enemies was pouring through.

General Nightingale must have planned this all out. He desired to cut off the head from the body. Perhaps, he had assumed that head would be Lady Kait. Lady Kait would have been at the head had Bloodbane’s charge not been so effective. They wouldn’t have known much about Bloodbane’s change and even based on his encounter with Queen Leah the night before, there would have been no reason to believe there would be a different outcome.

Thus, Bloodbane fell back on the mind of his predecessor. In particular, he had to consider how Lady Kait would react to this event. Assuredly, the plan would have been designed for her. If it was Lady Kait on this side, the first thing she’d want to do is reconnect with her troops. Thus, she would try to maneuver herself down the side path to the left, and then try to make it back with her troops. Meanwhile, the troops were taught to bunker down and hold in the event of leadership being compromised.

However, that was ultimately not what happened. Lady Kait was with the army, and I was the one cut off. If that was the case, then what would happen then? Kait would likely act the same way. She’d take the same pathway in reverse with the intent of meeting up with me. When she did so, she’d trigger the trap and be in just as much trouble as before.

Although she’d have a larger group and could probably fend off the attack, it would be devastating to the forces. Even if Bloodbane wanted to force his way forward and take on the General solo, it would ultimately fail if he no longer had the troops to back himself up. Bloodbane didn’t have enough positions of power to strengthen his army, and too many of his troops were vulnerable. He needed men more than anything else, and those behind him were about o be lead into a trap.

As if to mock his efforts to plan, three giants stepped into the courtyard. Bloodbane didn’t believe this was part of the plan. Rather, than plan had been changed after someone realized Lady Kait was on the wrong side. They planned to flatten Bloodbane before she could arrive with reinforcements. This kind of sudden change meant one thing. It meant that Nightingale had an eye on their progression, even right now. Rather than fight alongside his troops like Bloodbane, he was hiding somewhere watching and relaying commands.

Why was it Nightingale and not some spy relaying progress reports? Bloodbane had memories of Nightingale. As much as he disliked those memories, the original Bloodbane had once called Nightingale a friend. They had first learned the sword together. However, where Bloodbane had no disposition for fighting and even came off as cowardly, Nightingale was a natural leader. They had grown as close friends, with Bloodbane never realizing the hatred and resentment Nightingale felt for Bloodbane, who was handed so much simply for being born in the right bloodline.

They were both intelligent strategists. One could say Bloodbane was smart because of his memories from another world. Nightingale was smart because of his ingenuity. Of course, Bloodbane had also helped him reach his peak intelligence, teaching him lessons and critical thinking skills that outstripped the men of this world. Rather than close the gap in their friendship, this only increased Nightingale’s resentment for Bloodbane.

At the time, none of this had been obvious to the former king, but in hindsight, Bloodbane could see the disdain and mockery in Nightingale’s eyes. He could see the man feeling he should have been king from the beginning. Perhaps it was this that had to lead him to advance on Leah, having an affair and sleeping with his wife. It was just one of the things Nightingale could take from Bloodbane. Whether he had any true love for Leah, only he would know.

Thus, Bloodbane felt he had a good grasp on Bloodbane. He was a man doomed by his jealousies and inadequacies. The previous Bloodbane had even felt pity and regret for this friend, even after being betrayed. The current Bloodbane felt nothing. Nightingale was a fool, and he died a fool’s death. He just hadn’t realized how dead he is yet. Bloodbane would need to remind him.

Yet, he wouldn’t be able to do anything while the general hid and watched from the corners. Nightingale would keep scheming to put Bloodbane into one disadvantageous situation after another. He would delight as he trashed Bloodbane’s plans one after another and push him into a corner. Even if Bloodbane could take care of the giants, there would be something else. Nightingale would only show himself when his victory was assured. That’s why Bloodbane couldn’t depend on a simple strategy. He had to do something else, something that Nightingale would never see coming. He’d have to flush him out, and then destroy him.

“Master!” Andromeda called out, snapping him back to the current reality.

The three giants had locked onto their small group which was still holding back the goblins, trolls, and undead fairly successfully. There were a few injuries, but no deaths as of yet. The archers did a good job protecting the soldiers. Every time a soldier was spared a bad end thanks to an archer’s shot, they were given another chance to become a better fighter and not let it happen again. That’s what Bloodbane believed.

“Hold.” Bloodbane gave a single cold order, but Andromeda shivered orgasmically like he had whispered something sweet into her ear.

“Yes, Master…” She moaned before her hawk-like gaze shot out across the enemies. “Protect our king.”

Her voice was light, but it was heard by the maids and the rangers. The other could only follow in-suite as they followed their commands. Bloodbane put them out of his mind and then turned to face the statue. It had been dropped to cut the head off the army. In that case, the best option would be to suddenly remove this obstacle. Bloodbane should be able to move this, although it was a lot more Earth than he had ever tried to move before.

Perhaps Nightingale had already guessed Bloodbane might be able to get through it with his earthly manipulation, so he had sent the giants to keep that from happening. Either way, whether he had miscalculated Bloodbane or miscalculated his army, Nightingale was going to experience something from Bloodbane he never would have thought he would. He was going to experience defeat!

Bloodbane put his hands on the rocks, but he didn’t immediately start manipulating them. Instead, he started to use formulas that had been sitting in his head. Although Earthly Manipulation was only at level 8, the original king had given a great deal of thought to his ability. He had read numerous books on earth magic and even had theorized new ways that it could be used.

All of that information was available to Bloodbane, and while he was creating the weapons the previous night, he had pondered on a lot of it. Since unlocking Summon Earth, Bloodbane had been wondering if the skills were so simple as they seemed. Given the situation, he decided that now was the time to truly try something big. Small cannulae were carved into the statue, slowly making intricate runes. These runes were instantly filled with mana, spreading out through the entire rock figure.

Bloodbane didn’t think about whether this was something possible. He had to make it work. This is what he had to accomplish. He took control of the metal and rock, and then ever so slowly it began to shift.

Behind him, a fight was raging on. One giant had fallen, pelted with hundreds of arrows until he collapsed. The maids and rangers were currently working on one, while Andromeda chose to single-handedly fight the other. This wasn’t the first giant she had felled, although the previous one had been hurt by Bloodbane and was killed with the assistance of Lady Kait. This left the mento form an arc around Bloodbane, protecting him from the smaller fries. It was at this point that they were starting to take casualties. Every brave man that fell took several enemies with him. However, there were too many, and those with a position couldn’t help.

The line was pushed back more and more, and soon the men would be backed against Bloodbane. Yet, they had already survived enough. Cracking and groaning noises sounded out through the courtyard, cutting through the sound of men dying and monsters screaming. The giant pile of rocks slowly started to shift and move. Bloodbane stood there, his body covered in sweat as he panted for breath, his arms raised.

Rock and sand fell to the ground as a form seemed to sit up. That form continued to work its way to its feet until it stood up in the middle of the square. That form was none other than the statue of Bloodbane. It had become alive and started moving. Of course, that wasn’t the truth of it. Bloodbane had injected mana throughout it, using them like strings to manipulate a giant statue marionette. The mana use was incredible, but Bloodbane wouldn’t give up. The statue stumbled slightly, and Bloodbane could see a tellaris trying to grab its feet. It reached down into the fountain, grabbing one tellaris with each hand.

Standing back up, it chucked them into the sky, throwing them past the inner wall. It was any guess if they made the outer wall before slamming into concrete. It lifted its foot and slammed it down into the fountain, squashing the final tellaris with a single foot.

As this was going on, Lady Kait’s group, which had started retreating through the side path had turned back. Lady Kait’s eyes were wide in shock, but she knew not to question her good luck. With a cry, she gestures, and the army began to move across the courtyard that was no longer blocked by the statue, charging toward Bloodbane’s group.

The two giants looked up at the statue that stood nearly four times their size. If they were as tall as buildings, the monument had been designed to be seen across the entire city. They then looked at each other before turning to run, but they only made it a few feet before the statue reached out and grabbed their legs, picking one up with each leg.

It then swung them, their bodies slamming into the ground, squashing dozens of trolls and goblins in the process. The giant’s bodies were swung haphazardly, clearing the way of enemies in a moment. The creatures that still had minds and wills of their own fled in terror as the giant Bloodbane began to step forward, sweeping the courtyard clean of enemies.

“Men… forward!” The much smaller Bloodbane lifted his blade in the air, and then pointed toward the gate, although to everyone present at that moment, he seemed just as large.

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