Starfall Year 831, 14th of December, Southern Forest of the Great Ajax Mountains, Dark Forest Fortress
In the midst of the howling snowstorm, snowflakes the size of a goose's featherfloating along the northern wind. The entire sky was covered by a layer of gray haze.
The snowstorm was so heavy that it obscured the view of anyone who stood in the middle of it. Even the elves with the sharpest eyesight could not see further than tens of meters into the surroundings.
Right outside the fortress, everything had been frozen into a land of ice in front of the city gates. Even so, there were tens of knights who were heavily equipped with heavy armors standing guard in the middle of the snowstorm. They were lined in a row standing on top of the white layer of frost. There was a black flag with golden linings on its sides set up right in front of the knights' formation, floating in the direction of the cold wind.
These knights were wearing bright silver armor. Right by their waists hung a broadsword and an axe. There was a symbol of the head if a winter wolf engraved right on the surface of their breastplates. One of their hands was holding on their helmets while the other hand was holding on the reigns that were tied around their battle horses. The horses were standing right beside their masters looking strong and sturdy. Each of their backs was hung with a leather pad that seemed to be able to keep them warm. Right beneath the pad, the horses were equipped with light armor made of metal. Meanwhile, a silver metal lance hung at the side of each horse.
These were the warhorses from the northern land. They were all well-trained and they craved for meat and blood. They were ferocious. However, they were very tame in the presence of their masters Furthermore, theoretically speaking, according to the weight of the full set armor on them, normal horses would not have been able to move properly after wearing them. So it would be impossible for normal horses to walk across the snowy land. However, these strong knights in silver and their half-dragon warhorses did not seem bothered by the weather at all, moving about normally.
In the middle of the snowstorm, the surroundings were silent. There was no one talking among the men. The knights were standing straight in the middle of the freezing howling wind. They seemed to be waiting for something or someone.
Finally, after a brief moment, the sound of the horn that signaled regrouping was blared. At the same time, a masked knight who stood in front of the others spoke loudly with a low voice of a man, "Knights, regroup! Fall into position!"
The voice echoed across the flying snow into the ears of everyone in the vicinity.
The knights who had lined themselves up nicely in position heard the command of their captain. They remained still in their position. However, their eyes widened. Some of them who were younger could not help but look sideways. Then they attempted to turn their heads to the side for a peek at the direction of the fortress's main gate.
Following the sound of the horses' metallic hoofs stomping against the layer of frost that covered the entire land of the north, two shadows, one big and one small, slowly walked out of the snowstorm.
Everyone fixed their eyes on the tall man without being instructed.
As the man was approaching, his face became visible to the knights. They could see that the man was wearing a full set of armor. He was tall. He also held a helmet in one of his hands while his other hand was holding on a reign tied over a black battle horse. He was walking slowly towards the knights who were lined up in their formation.
However, when his face was completely revealed before the eyes of the knights, the knights were intimidated to the point that they could feel an intense numbness throughout their entire bodies, followed by an intense chill all the way up from their spines to their skull. Every single hair on their bodies were standing straight up. That was pure fear.
Presence! This was the Presence that was much more dreadful than the Dark Tide besieging the city and the existence of the Gold-tier giant beasts that happened and appeared days ago!
Most of them were feeling so intimidated that they began to raise their guard. Although their basic instincts were telling their bodies to flee at once, they were Silver-tier knights after all. These knights held their impulse to flee in place. They were staying still from where they were standing. They were fighting their basic instinct.
Meanwhile, the source of the Presence, that man with red eyes wearing a full set of black armor had arrived before the knights. The ancient Maximilian-style armor was surging with intense intimidating aura. The craftsmanship of a crow could be vaguely seen across his armor shoulders.
Even after tens of knights heavily equipped with full armor and half-dragon warhorses, the warrior did not seem to feel nervous at all, his heart unwavering. After all, he had seen countless incidents that were at least ten times more serious and larger than this one. So he was very used to this sort of situation by now.
The warrior stood by the side of the waving flag. He was looking at the fifty knights in the vicinity. He nodded and praised, "Not bad, the formation is neat."
After seeing clearly that it was their own liege, the knights finally put themselves at ease. Upon hearing the praise, they felt pumped and stood still with burning spirit.
"However, I'm not here to inspect you today."
After that, the warrior in black armor suddenly changed the topic. His face looked deadly serious all of a sudden. Then he said, "I believe that you've known this earlier on. I'm your Count, Joshua van Radcliffe. A day before, I've put up a call to summon you all here. I need you all here only to tell you one thing."
"The battle is yet to be over."
"All of you know that we've been attacked by the Dark Tide a few days back. We've never seen such ferocious Berserk Daemons attacking a city before. They've even used Chaos magic to interfere with our communication systems. Our fortress almost fell. Fortunately, I managed to arrive at the crucial moment. Or else, not much of you would have survived the slaughter."
Upon hearing his word, the nervous knights tensed up even more. The formation of the knights became slightly restless. However, none of them were angry. Some, in fact, looked ashamed. After all, what their liege said just now was true. As the knights that protect the fortress, they did not fulfill their duties. They failed to uphold the oath they had sworn to carry.
Most of the shame, fear, and rage the knights were feeling came from the fact that they felt that they were incompetent. As the knights that held oaths and virtues, they would not deny their failure.
The conversation continued on.
"I'm not showing off my power to you all. I'm just trying to explain to you about how ferocious the Dark Tide can be in realityThe Dark Tide this time is far more difficult than any one you've encountered in the past. Even if you have been a little neglectful, we might get wiped out for good. Once the fortress is breached, the villages and cities right behind you shall lose their best protection. They will almost be totally powerless against the daemon horde!"
Instantly, Joshua looked at the people before him with serious eyes. He raised his voice as well and said, "Some of the people that live in the villages and the cities might be your family, your wife, your child, and your friends. I believe you have chosen to be a knight, training in the art of war and training your bodies to the limit not because you wanted to fill your rice bowls more. You chose to be a knight because you want to be ready to protect them. So let's imagine this. If the monsters manage to breach the perimeter and run across the snow land with their own free will launching their assaults on your families and friends. Imagine the monsters pulling your families and friends out of their houses and tear them apart into shreds. Imagine if the monsters swallowed them in front of your eyes I believe that you would give your lives because of your glory and duty. However, do you wish to see those gruesome scenes?!"
"I swore to protect the fortress until I draw my last breath! I'll never retreat!" Some of the knights lined up in the formation could not stay silent anymore. They were frowning intensely, their faces filled with anxiety. They seemed to be imagining the images that Joshua just described. So they swore on their lives immediately, "I'd rather die before them and get eaten by the daemons alive than allowing those horrible things to happen!"
However, there were also some of them who questioned, "However, my liege, ever since you've killed the giant beast and pushed back the horde, there are no signs of any daemons in the surroundings of the Dark Forest Doesn't that mean the Dark Tide is over now?"
Another knight went straight to the point. "That's right, my liege. We've succeeded in holding down the fortress. Our families should be safe now. So you saying all that Are you trying to scare us?"
"Of course not." The warrior in black armor shook his head and looked the knight who raised the question in the eye.
"Not only what I said was not something to scare you, it has become the truth. There are at least 200,000 Berserk Daemons attacking Moldova that is located not far from where we stand."
Upon saying that, Joshua raised his hand, his fingertip ignited with a red flame.The flame stayed on his fingertip for a brief moment before it vanished, leaving a red trace in the air. Meanwhile, he was using that trace as the tip of a pen and started drawing a simple map in the middle of the air. "The four territories in the north are actually one. When the fortress in Moldova is breached, then our plan to surrounding the entire region of the Dark Forest in Mount Great Ajax will collapse. The ferocious Berserk Daemons would appear and go around our defenses easily, entering into the land where the residents are staying to lay waste to them all."
Joshua drew a large red arrow on the location of Moldova on the map. The arrow sign was obvious, "Over? No. Just like what I said in the beginning, everything has just begun! We shall never have peace if we don't destroy this Dark Tide!"
The disturbance in the formation became much more unsettling. It was not out of fear nor doubt. While the knights were discussing among themselves, a middle-aged knight with gray hair took a step forward. Then he asked Joshua a question with a very serious face, "So, my liege, what should we do now?"
"What should we do? It's simple. We get over to Moldova as soon as we can and give aid to support them in defending the fortress."
Joshua's words were direct and clear. He did not hesitate at all. "It will be much better to battle on others' territories than having the battle on our own territory. Although things did not happen on our land, we can protect our families and sons and daughters."
"That we're going up against 200,000 Berserk Daemons." Another knight walked forward from the back of the middle-aged knight. The feeble-looking knight had a doubtful expression on his face. "50,000 Berserk Daemons were enough to force our fortress into despair. Having 200,000 monsters is like having four times of what we had just experienced days ago. I'm afraid it won't do any good even if all of the fortresses send out their support over to Moldova."
Well, that actually sounded right. Even if they were to take advantage of the magic and alchemy tools available on the city walls, 3,000 men would barely even hold on. Summoning another fifty knights to go up against the horde of 200,000 Berserk Daemons sounded meaningless at all. Even though they were all Silver-tier elite knights, they would not last long with the endless waves of daemons.
However, the warrior shook his head. It seemed that he had a different opinion towards the young knight's words.
"It will be different from the time where you guard the fortress." Joshua explained, "That time, you were at a disadvantage because of your numbers. Also, your average power level among yourselves did not give you any advantage. On the other hand, the daemons had Gold-tier daemons on their side. You only had three Silver-tier officers who were at the pinnacle of their current tier. Under those circumstances, it was really admirable that you could still last for so long. Truthfully however, those Berserk Daemons are not as powerful as you think."
"They have a Gold-tier mage to support them in fending off the daemons in Moldova. That's why they could hold themselves against the 200,000 Daemons until now to send out a distress message. Not to mention that"
Upon saying that, Joshua interrupted and revealed an insane smile on his face. "Because you have me this time. With me leading you, we shall obtain absolute victory."
Listening to the man in black armor talking with such pride and vigor, none of them had any doubt about him. Looking at a man that could fend off 50,000 daemons all by himself, even if there were more monsters in the upcoming horde of monsters, none of them would have any doubt towards his capability. The knights nodded as they think they should. Then they roared out in high morale for the first time after they had gathered around, "For victory!"
"Then get on your horses!"
"Yes, my liege!"
Following the sound of the command, all of the knights lifted their helmets and put them on. They leaped onto the back of their warhorses. They hung the bags filled with dried food supplies by the side of their horses. The horses with the blood of dragons were neighing as white steam was spewing out of the horses' noses and evaporated into thin air.
Joshua had also slowly wore his freezing helmet. In between the V-shaped gap in the middle of his helmet, his two red eyes were glimpsing so bright that they looked as if they were blazing. He leaped onto the back of his battle horse first before pulling Ying onto the back of his horse. Only then, the others only noticed that the second shadow they saw was a silver-haired girl. However, no one was bothered by that at a time like that.
The warrior in black armor gave the command, "Listen to my command. Our target is Moldova. Move towards northeast. Forward!"
Upon that command, he immediately rode his horse and led the knights in the front.
Perhaps, only such a man could lead them towards victory!
The knights were hyped. They could feel their chest boiling in flames that raised their spirits. They cried out loud, "Forward!"
Following the command, the frost across the ground splashed up from the impact of the stomping by the horses. The neighing of the horses was rumbling into the surroundings. In the middle of the snowstorm, the knights were riding swiftly across the snowy land, splashing whatever ice and snow on the ground up, trembling the ground with the heavy stomping by their running horses. They were riding against the direction of the howling wind from the north, like a sharp arrow piercing through the wind at super high speed.
They pressed forward with indomitable wills.