A week passed, and I led an army composed of recruits from Chalm out onto the battlefield. I’d like to say that the mood was good, but the honest truth was that their morale was exceptionally low. Rumors had spread across the army about the fight in Deeksville. At this point, everyone knew how strong the girls were, and at least half of them were on the opposing side. More than that, they knew they were fighting an army supported by Prince Aberis, and opposing a man who looked like Deek.
The only reason I even got the army out here was because of their desire to protect their city, their trust in me, and their uncertainty regarding these events. It would have to be enough. Once the battle started, there was no going back.
As we stood out on the field that I had spent a great deal of time preparing beforehand, a portal opened on the other side. Deek and his armies began to walk through. Maybe, I could have stormed him with our army rather than letting them prepare, but this wasn’t that kind of battle. After all, Deek could have just as easily opened a portal into the middle of the city and taken the fight to the streets. We both knew what the other was capable of. We needed to fight fair, because if we allowed ourselves to cheat, no one would win.
Ultimately, we both cared about Chalm, and that was why we started down this path. I just hoped that things went according to plan. After his army finished lining up, I surveyed the field, only noticing a group in the distance.
“Who is that?” I asked, pointing at the group standing in the distance almost like spectators.”
“That’s him.” Bernice spoke breathily. “That’s the Demon Lord Aberis.”
“I see. I thought his army was currently in the gorge. That’s the most defensible position.”
“They are, my lord. However, it looks like he came out to observe things.” Astria sighed.
“It’s worse than that, look!” Shao pointed. “He has Calypso… and right next to her, Siti!”
“What?” I looked harder in that direction, and I could see that the group did include the two of them.
Calypso appeared to be in chains, kneeling at his feet like a dog. Meanwhile, Siti was standing behind him, no expression on her face.
“This is bad.” Astria hissed. “He’s had a blue mage all this time. That entire march was just an intimidation tactic. He could have shown up on our doorstep two weeks ago if he had wanted.”
“Then, let’s be glad that he didn’t.” I sighed.
“You don’t understand, Master.” Astria shook her head. “After your battle with Deek is over, he can open up a portal and bring the army over to finish you off. The gorge was half a day away. We thought, at the very least, after this battle, we’d have a day to prepare for a battle with Aberis. Now, he can attack as soon as we are at our weakest!”
As she stated this, all of the other girls began grumbling.
“This doesn’t change anything.” I responded in a low voice.
The next part I gave as a Slave Communication. “You will have to trust me. I know what I’m doing. Spread out in the army and take control of your individual units. When the time comes, we charge their forces. You do what I do. You attack who I attack. This order is absolute. Do you understand?”
The girls all looked at me tearfully but nodded. “Yes, Master.”
As the girls rode away, I muttered under my breath. “This better work.”
“It’s the demon lord! Siti is a blue mage. She can make a portal for him!” Lydia cried out.
“This doesn’t change anything.” I sighed. “All of you. Listen. Take control of your respective units. Follow me. Do as I do. That is a Slave Order. Anyone who doesn’t follow my orders will be severely punished!”
In truth, the morale of the troops was at an all-time low. They were going into a battle they didn’t want to face. Even the arrogant and prideful nobles saw this battle against civilians to be pointless. It wasn’t that they didn’t think they’d win, it was just that they felt the entire battle was a waste of resources, especially with the real enemy on our doorsteps.
The girls gave me pleading eyes, and I could only shake my head. “You’re just going to have to trust me.”
Although my voice wasn’t convincing, they all nodded and returned to their spots. I reached out and grabbed the horse offered to me by a knight. I could see Deedee similarly mounting a horse. Basic Horse Riding had appeared in Hero at some point. After all, how could you have a hero ride on a white steed if he didn’t know how to ride? At the very least, it was enough that I wouldn’t embarrass myself. She’d have the exact same riding skill as me.
With my eyes locked on her and her eyes on me, the pair of us lifted our hands as one. The girls had tried to convince both of us to stop numerous times over the last week. Yet, we still had ended up here. This was just part of the plan.
“Go!” I heard her yell as well.
Both of us dropped our hands at the same time and then kicked our horses. The armies wouldn’t march against each other if we didn’t lead by example, so it turned out we were riding out in front of everyone else. The rest started moving forward, one step at a time. However, as we started to pull away from the main army, they started to quicken their pace. Still, the acceleration was slow, and it soon looked like Deedee and I would face off long before everyone else.
“One last thing.” I messaged the girls. “If I should fall in battle, do not seek out vengeance. Immediately join Deedee…”
It was an order I had forgotten to give earlier. It was the only concession I could offer. Now, I just had to reach Deedee. The sooner I got to her, the sooner this battle would turn, and the less harm would come to everyone else. Behind me, I could hear shouting and roaring. With the heat of battle in front of them, the army was finally growing more animated. This may not be a battle any one of them wanted to be a part of, but this was a battle their leader had asked them to fight.
Our horses would reach each other first. I pulled out my sword. She did as well. Our eyes met, and the pair of us nodded to each other. It was time to make our move!
Deek’s horse veered to the side, and mine followed.
“They’re going to battle side by side on horseback!” Celeste cried out.
With the two armies racing toward each other, the leaders suddenly veered to the side, riding alongside each other as they slowly merged. We got closer together. Thirty feet. Twenty feet. Ten feet. We were riding right next to each other.
“Hyaa!” Deek snapped his reigns, and the horse began to speed up.
Laughing, I kicked and increased my speed as well. The momentum of the armies, which had already been reserved, slowed a bit as everyone stared in confusion. Both leaders were riding out of the battle, seemingly ignoring each other. No, they weren’t ignoring each other, they were riding together. Did they expect the girls to fight without them? Then, a specific order exploded in their mind. It was the last order both had given them.
“Follow me. Do as I do.”
“Turn!” Lydia bellowed out.
Celeste’s melodic voice boomed with the help of her wind magic, making sure it reached every ear. The confused army started to turn, but as their eyes fell on a target, a burst of understanding flowed through them.
Morale was an interesting thing. It could flip on a dime, and sometimes the lowest lows would generate the greatest highs. An unwilling army being forced to fight their own allies had reached an all-time low. Suddenly, the battle was flipped on its head, and instead of fighting friends, a clear foe was presented before them. As the armies merged, forces that were fighting against each other a moment before were now fighting side by side.
They also came to another realization. They knew each other intimately. For weeks, their leaders had stressed that they learned everything about their opponents. They knew their weaknesses, and they had concentrated on making the other army’s weaknesses their strengths. The two sides complemented each other perfectly, and with the guidance of the girls now riding alongside each other, the army seemed to snap together like clockwork. Two incomplete armies had suddenly formed a whole.
Directly in front of them was an enemy army. They didn’t know how it had gotten there. They didn’t know when it appeared. However, the darkness and evil of this army radiated from it. There wasn’t a single familiar face among them. This was the Demon Lord Aberis’s army. There were monsters and demonic knights, and they all looked shocked. Just as suddenly as they had appeared before their charging army, the charging army had suddenly appeared in front of them.
While the demonic army was filled with confusion over what just happened, Deek’s army wasn’t confused at all. Follow him. Do as he does. Trust him. That led them to this moment, facing an enemy they could all agree on. Their excitement surged, and their speed amplified. Their excitement, their bloodlust, and their excitement grew more and more.
“Th-that’s the gorge!” Lydia called out as they approached the enemy army in a flood.
“How… how is that possible?” Terra shouted. “It’s nearly a half a day away!”
“Space…” Astria’s eyes widened. “We’re in bent space! When Xin closed up the dungeon, she rearranged it. It stretches under our feet now. He did like Calypso did, making it horizontal instead of vertical. Then, Deedee used the dungeon to compress space, causing this surprise attack! This… this was his plan all along!”