The walk to Fort Pride took about two hours, taking into account adjustments. Eventually, Lydia worked with the designated Scout, and together they navigated our group through the territory without incident. If we were seen, we were in the appropriate armor, but it would still be difficult to explain our presence. In that situation, it’d be better just to surprise attack the enemy before they could signal an alarm. Thankfully, that wasn’t necessary, and before too long, we were crouching on a hill that overlooked the fort.
Lydia, Shao, and the Scout were sent out to try to study the soldier movements and work on a way for us to get in. Since I could communicate with Lydia and Shao through the Slave Communication, it seemed like the best way to do it. Shao could aid in helping them hide in the shadows, while Lydia and Tibult’s Scout surveyed the land.
“Your brother, just in case, does he look like you?” I asked Otto quietly.
“Octius looks nothing like me!” Otto snorted. “He’s tall, muscular, and handsome. You actually remind me of him. Don’t give me that face! I’m just saying what is clear to see…”
Calling me tall was a bit incorrect, although I did appear to gain a bit of height since I lost weight. They say that being heavy compresses your spine or something and you’re a bit shorter. It also could be because of my levelling. Maybe the True Hero job felt it was better if I was taller. I hadn’t really thought of it, but I used to be 5’ 7’’, and now I’m probably closer to 5’11’’. As far as declaring me muscular, well, I guess I could see my abs recently, so maybe that was true too. I would definitely say I’m not handsome, though. Then again, I have been catching the eyes of a lot of women. I coughed awkwardly.
Although Otto had lost weight, he hadn’t gained anything in height. He was a short, 5’6’’ man before, and it didn’t look like things had changed much with time. He didn’t look muscular or healthy, but a bit stringy and wiry. If his brother truly was a handsome man, it was clear that it didn’t run in the family. He had a face that looked a bit weird. His lips were big, and his nose was a bit small. When he was fatter, his small nose gave him a snot-like look. It was better now that he lost weight, but he’d never be an attractive man.
“As for hair, he had long blond locks. His eyes are blue. Most Osterians are brown or red haired, so he’ll stand out.”
He does sound a bit like an ikemen, it seems. That wasn’t what I pictured at all when I thought about some border general who was keeping the giant Osterian at bay alongside his militaristic father.
“Master! It’s a trap!” Lydia’s voice suddenly cried out through Slave Communication.
“The Scout is a turncoat!” Shao declared at the same time.
I spun around as I heard a creak behind me. Otto, who didn’t catch the warning didn’t even have that chance as a foot landed on his back and a sword was pressed to it. The nine guards Otto had brought besides the scout had all drawn their swords. In a swift motion, they had each immediately put their blades up. Two soldiers per person other than Otto. I was on my knees with two swords on my neck.
“Wh-what are you doing?” Otto cried out, “Put your swords down.”
He was still talking quietly, afraid of setting off alarms. As it was, the alarms of the fort weren’t going off, and in fact, no one down there was acting like they were triggered. I couldn’t hear any rapid movements or yells. It was possible that Shao and Lydia had silenced the Scout before he did anything, but that didn’t explain why these guys were remaining silent and keeping low. It was then that I realized this wasn’t treason, it was mutiny!
“Once we got out of sight of the city, we planned to cut your throat and be done with you!” the leading soldier spat. “Then, you had to go invite some amateur party of some wimpy noble and disrupt our plans.”
“Y-you’re betraying Aberis?” he spoke in disbelief, still not getting it.
“No!” He shook his head. “We’re saving it!”
“Once you’re dead, we’ll happily save your brother. We’ll say you died in the attempt. We know your father won’t resurrect you, but you’ll still go down dying to save a better man than you. That’s better than the dog’s death you deserve!
“You’re an incompetent fool! You don’t know the first thing about leading troops! You’ve leaked intel to the enemy, cost the lives of countless brothers, and even led to the capture of our general! How could we ever follow a screw up like you?”
“…” Completely caught off guard, Otto shook, not knowing what to say.
Deep down, he had to have been thinking many of the same things himself. Perhaps, he just thought the men under him were so well trained that they’d ignore his transgressions. Maybe he thought that at some level they respected him just for his title. However, any of those thoughts had been stripped away at that moment.
“Where do we fall in this?” I asked calmly.
“You’re just an idiot noble from the west who showed up at the wrong time!”
“If you kill me, I’ll just reincarnate in the Capital.”
He sneered. “I know. That’s why we’ll hand you over to them. They can torture you and give your women over to their armies to play with. When we get back, we’ll inform them of your betrayal. You’ll be branded treasonous. In fact, how about you were the one who stabbed Tibult in the back? You two have a history, and that tigerkin was a former slave of his! Yes… it’s all too believable. Perhaps your presence has made this even easier for us.”
The other men chuckled too. As for me, I let out a long drawn out sigh and closed my eyes.
“Since that’s how you feel,” My eyes snapped open. “Then I won’t have to be gentle! Girls!”
I grabbed onto the grass tightly. The ground shook as Terra slammed her foot into the earth. Her foot was now embedded about a foot under her. Miki reached out and grabbed her hand.
“What are you doing?!” the men with the swords on her neck shouted as their balance was slightly disrupted.
“Bracing myself!” she declared.
Of course, I had relayed my orders to the girls the second they drew the swords on us. The conversation had just been buying time for them to get ready.
Celeste winked and then disappeared. She had been remaining in her human form the entire trip here, so the guards were caught off guard when their blades at her throat were suddenly pressed against nothing. Their fairy flew up into the sky like a shooting star in reverse. Her shout, however, was not quiet.
A massive wind struck the party. As soon as the men with their swords left Terra, she threw out her hand the direction the wind was going. “Earth Wall!”
A wall rose from the ground, the Tempest Gale slamming into it with a resounding boom. Moments later, nine guards were carried along, slamming into it like insects hitting a windshield. They didn’t burst, but that was likely only because of the protection of their armor. Terra maintained her balance as Miki clung to her. I ended up sliding back, clawing at the ground. I had reached out and grabbed Otto, keeping him from being carried away too.
The wind felt like it lasted for a minute, but it had to be less than ten seconds. When it was done, there were nine unconscious men lying in a pile next to a crumbling wall.
“No time!” I cursed standing up. “New plan… attack the fort! We’re going in and out!”
The fort definitely heard that, and the sound of activity was growing noisier and noisier. It wasn’t at the stage that they sounded the alarms. Alarms were for an attack. This was just a distant noise. However, they’d be sending men to check on it.
“Yes, Master!” Terra nodded.
“Clear the areas, wait for them to activate the alarm, and then start an attack. Make them think they are being attacked externally.”
“Y-yes!” Celeste nodded.
“Miki, Otto, you’re with me!” I grabbed and dragged the stunned man to his feet.
“We’re going in to get your brother!”
“N-now? But they know we’re coming!”
I snorted. “They’ll think we’re coming. What they don’t know is that we’re already there! Portal!”
Miki, who was used to this kind of thing, jumped right into the portal. As for Otto, he was still confused to the point I had to shove him through. We came out in a hallway inside the fort.
“Master…” Shao gave a curtsy.
“Good job infiltrating the castle so quickly.”
“Forts have so many shadows…” she chuckled.
“She deactivated the alarm. As Master ordered, it will buy us a bit.”
As she said, it would only give us a bit. Specifically, the time it took them to find out the soldiers they sent to trigger the alarm didn’t trigger it. Right now, they are all running around confused out there. However, these kinds of things had fail safes. A single Magician could activate an alarm in an instant. At best, we had minutes.
“And his location?”
“The dungeon should be this way!”
Shao began to lead us down the hallways. Twice, we found patrols of guards. Miki managed to cause one group to fall asleep without a fight. The others got drowsy, but in the end, it required Shao to knock them down.
We moved very swiftly, Otto following behind quietly with his eyes wide and his mouth open. He seemed very shocked by our movements, but to me, this didn’t feel much different from moving around a dungeon. Keep quiet. Keep low. Be constantly on the lookout for patrolling monsters. Don’t allow yourself to get caught in a corner and avoid groups. Don’t make a noise and take them out quickly lest you attracted more.
This was actually a bit easier. First off, death wasn’t permanent, so if we did slip up, there was always a second chance. Secondly, it was well lit in here. Some levels of the dungeons had light, but we were just as often travelling only by the light of my light spell and the occasional light orbs I created. Having clear visibility made identifying enemies easy, especially when combined with my Detect Life.
Only a few minutes later, we came to the guard room preceding the dungeon block, at least according to Shao. There was a group of Osterians in there. I found myself annoyed that the alarm hadn’t gone off yet. At least some of them would leave to investigate.
I gestured for everyone to hide, and Shao used her shadow magic to assist as we snuck behind a hanging tapestry which seemed to hide a murder hole.
“Shao, can you go get that alarm going? It looks like Lydia and the girls are doing too good of a job,” I hissed.
“Hehe… my pleasure, Master. Don’t worry about me. I can get out of here, no matter how bad it gets.”
She slipped away, leaving just Miki and me. Once the alarm went off, I’d have Miki work her spirit attacks and cause the remaining guards to pass out.
“So, what about Deek?”
I suddenly heard someone say my name. It was a voice I was vaguely familiar with. Instantly, I turned my ear to the door.
“Wh-what about him?” another voice nervously said.
“Alysia, don’t you like him?”
“H-he’s from Aberis! It’s not likely I’ll ever see him again.”
“Hehe… we can sneak across the border and capture him. He can be your prisoner.”
“Don’t be ridiculous!”
“I already told you! I only see him as a rookie. Our relationship is purely just mentorship!”
“You… enough! I’ve already said… I want a man who is strong! The only man I’d ever give my heart is the man who defeats me in combat! Since I’ve never been defeated…”
“Ahhh… that guy will have it rough. Who can beat the Captain-General of Fort Pride?”
“Master! I’ll get their attention now!” Terra’s voice came up over Slave Communication.
“Did you hear that?” one of the girls said.
I could hear it too. It sounded like a long whistling noise. My eyes ended up travelling out the murder hole that overlooked the castle walls. It was there I noticed a massive boulder falling from the sky. It was moving incredibly fast as if it wasn’t just a boulder being tossed, but also being pushed by the wind! My face went white. When I said, we were going to attack the fort… I did not mean it literally!
A boulder slammed into the wall in a massive explosion. Half of the fort’s wall collapsed to the ground as the fort shook with a resounding boom. On the good side, there was no longer a need to trigger an alarm. Everyone knew.